Harry Harrison has been a fixture in the Outer Banks music scene for quite some time. Annually, bringing us his unique take on the classics and, to my mind, some of the most engaging, tuneful, intelligent original songs written in the past 30 years. From his Power Pop compositions to his in-your-face rock and roll, he’s a stylistic chameleon, musically.
What has been the hardest part of dealing with the pandemic?
The hardest part for me has been maintaining a healthy mentality. I get babadooks when I don’t have things to do … and in my malaise, I turn to the hooch. Some might say it’s been the ruin of me….
What have you been doing during the shutdown?
I jog and I cook for two. In between meals I watch television, or read, or try to write something. But cooking takes up much of my time. #covid19globalcookbook for my pork chop recipe.
Have you started or completed any projects?
Yes. Lots of stuff. We’ve made a YouTube version of Harrison and (Matt) Wentz Presents. It’s called “Harrison and Wentz Presents: ABQVOMT (A Bewitching Quarantine Vlog of Mystic Tropicalia).” It’s an hour-long show and we’ve done an episode every other week since quarantine, with some great special guests. I don’t rightly know what a vlog is…. But subscribe to it. It’s great.
Also, Dr. Wentz and I have been working on a Harrison and Wentz Presents album of original tropicalia inspired music, which we’ll be finishing soon. I want to call it “Harrison and Wentz Presents: A Bewitching Night of Mystic Tropicalia, The Album.” Or something clever like that.
There’s also been a thing called Club Songwriters where a bunch of people contribute a song following a specific prompt every other week. It’s been really fun. I think I’ll use some of the stuff I’ve turned in for that as a starting point for the next HH GOAT album. I also released a free album on Bandcamp to download. It’s called “Covid-19 Emergency Relief Package: Abandoned Tills Tracks and Other Rations.”
What have you missed the most?
I miss having the option of living in happy ignorance. Used to be I could still my mind and leave it unbothered by the prospects of my fate, or the fate of my friends and family, or the fate of the world. Before all this hullabaloo I was starting to get the hang of healthily compartmentalizing certain anxieties. Now, everything’s all de-compartmentalized.
What concerns you going ahead?
The way I see it, folks should try to learn from history. I’m not at all book learned and I’m no big fancy important feller in this crazy world. I’m no Tom Hanks. But, even a peasant like me knows he doesn’t want to live through or die during a rerun of the Spanish flu from back in 1918. I worry about the good people living outside the cities, where COVID has hit the hardest, not appreciating how dire it can get, and thusly, not taking precautions.
Is there any music that has helped you get through this? Or, what have you been listening to?
I like the three new Bob Dylan releases. I put those on, strap on a mask, and jog until they’re finished. I jog my memory, and I jog my feet, I jog right out the door and into the street – about 25 minutes altogether. Then the clubsongwriters.bandcamp.com stuff too.
What makes you smile or laugh?
My friends and family. “The Simpsons” “golden era,” on which I’ve been developing a comprehensive philosophy. Harrison And Wentz Presents ABQVOMT on YouTube. And the great Ring Lardner.
Who or what keeps you centered?
I’ve never been centered. But when I need comfort I turn to the good book: “The Life and Times of Little Richard” by Charles White.
What has encouraged you during the pandemic?
I did a fun contest with Holy Crap Records where you perform a fifteen-minute set on Facebook Live and you progress depending on how many likes you get. I didn’t win last time. My sister did. But I did okay. I’ll be doing it again in June. I don’t expect to win that one either. It isn’t serious. But stuff like that, and stuff like this. The usual things, art, music, literature.
What has discouraged you during the pandemic?
Right before the pandemic I learned my dad has COPD, which makes him vulnerable. My stepfather also got very sick down in Charleston, which was discouraging because he smokes like a fish, but he’s since recovered. There’s been lots of other discouraging stuff living in NYC, but you can get all that in the news.
What has surprised you the most?
I’m surprised and delighted by the people who maintain positivity and good humor, and the people who heartily appreciate irony and absurdity in the face of the unknown.
How will you keep yourself safe when work resumes? Is that solely your responsibility?
Well, the way I figure, it’s everyone’s responsibility. This isn’t prime time for conspiracy theories or agendas or ego trips. Viruses don’t care about you or who you think you are or what you think you know. The guidelines are innocuous enough. Maintain six feet when you’re in public, 15 feet if you’re exercising. Wear a mask and gloves. Wash your hands. Stay inside as much as you can and try not to go crazy. Most of the guidelines are common decency even when there isn’t a pandemic. It’s not like you have to lock yourself in a cell. Just be judicious and do the best you can. I feel shame for the times I haven’t been as careful as I should have been. I’ve messed up a few times. If shows continue through summer, they will all be outside, and I will be wearing a mask. I’m getting tests done tomorrow. I encourage people to do the same and quit touching each other. I’m prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice.
Are there new insights you’ve gained or new activities that you’ve engaged in that you’d like to maintain going forward?
So far, I’ve led an indulgent and reckless life, albeit not a dull one. I’d like to mend my errant ways, be more compassionate toward the people close to me, and learn to live virtuously, like Pierre Bezukhov.
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