Michael John Harris (born 12 October 1967) is an English musician. He is generally credited for coining the terms 'Blast beat' and 'Grindcore' to describe his ferocious drumming attack and the genre he helped create and popularize. Since the mid-1990s, Harris has worked primarily in electronic and ambient music, his main projects being Scorn and Lull. According to Allmusic, Harris's "genre-spanning activities have done much to jar the minds, expectations, and record collections of audiences previously kept aggressively opposed."
|Birth name||Michael John Harris|
|Born||12 October 1967|
|Genres||Hardcore punk, extreme metal, electronica, experimental, Grindcore, Deathgrind|
|Instruments||Drums, drum machines, turntables, synthesizers, vocals|
2017 – present
|Labels||Earache, Ohm Resistance, Ad Noiseam|
|Associated acts||Napalm Death, Doom, Extreme Noise Terror, Fret, Scorn, Lull, Matera, Painkiller, Bill Laswell|
Beginnings and Napalm Death
Harris was born in Birmingham, and started out in the 1980s as a drummer working with various punk rock and grindcore bands (most notably pioneering grindcore band Napalm Death). As a drummer he is generally credited with popularising the blast beat, which has since become a key component of much of extreme metal and grindcore.
Harris' recording debut was as Napalm Death's second drummer, joining after founding member Miles "The Rat" Ratledge left the band in November 1985. His first live appearance with the band was on 18 January 1986, opening for Amebix. Harris was the driving force behind the band's seminal Scum album and the second release From Enslavement to Obliteration. A subsequent review of From Enslavement to Obliteration in the punk/indie fanzine Flipside went as follows: "This sounds like someone is literally firing a fully automatic rifle while a bassist and guitarist try to keep up."
After the release of the EP Mentally Murdered, Napalm Death became more interested in the death metal scene and their sound started to move away from the British grindcore sound. At this point Bill Steer and Lee Dorrian departed the band due to creative differences, later, Harris was the sole band member who remained in the tumultuous group through many line-up changes, eventually leaving in May 1991, just after the tour for Harmony Corruption.
While in Napalm Death, Harris also played drums for Doom and Extreme Noise Terror, and participated in a side project with Mitch Harris called Defecation, which produced two records, Purity Dilution and Intention Surpassed, through Nuclear Blast. Harris contributed only to Purity Dilution.
Post Napalm Death
After leaving Napalm Death, Harris founded Scorn with Napalm Death's original bassist/lead singer Nic Bullen. Scorn released several well-received albums and EPs in the early 1990s, creating a unique fusion of experimental heavy metal, electronic music, and dark dub music. Bullen left Scorn in 1995, but Harris continued to release albums under the Scorn moniker, exploring dark and minimalist industrial hip-hop territory, with a focus on extremely low and loud bass frequencies. Harris' work presaged the grittier aspects of the dubstep craze of the mid-2000s. As with the tendency for people to put a name to anything, Scorn has also been referred to as beginning the 'Dark-Hop' sound. After two albums in this style still on Earache Records who didn't quite seem to know what to do with this new sound, Scorn and Earache parted ways, leading to a somewhat nomadic existence since then. Scorn has been associated with KK Records, Invisible Records, Hymen and most recently seminal US drum and bass label OHM Resistance, to which Harris had earlier ties to with other projects. In 2007, Ohm Resistance released the first album of all new material in 5 years in a smattering of 12" have also been in the works of late on labels such as the UK's Combat Records and Record Label Records in the US. 25 May 2010 has seen the release of the newest album under the Scorn moniker, Refuse; Start Fires, again through OHM Resistance. This newest Scorn is the first studio release since the Bullen-era to feature another player on many of the tracks, with Harris incorporating a live drummer. In November 2011, Harris announced that the Scorn project was "put to bed". Scorn returned in 2019 with an EP entitled ‘Feather’ released by Ohm Resistance.
Somewhat concurrent with Scorn, Harris began Lull, a beatless dark ambient project. Though not as prolific or popular as Scorn, one can argue that this project in its own way is just as influential. Lull was at the front of the so-called Isolationist movement that also included people such as Thomas Köner. Under this moniker, Harris has released full lengths on Sentrax and Release Entertainment (part of Relapse) as well as various 7" releases and compilation tracks, most of which were collected and re-issued on CD by the late Manifold Records. After a number of years of inactivity, Lull has returned with a remix for Franziska Baumann on Soleilmoon Recordings, contributions for the 3-CD compilation Nekton Falls on Celestial Dragon and Fabriksampler V2 on Pharmafabrik, and the CD Like a Slow River on Glacial Movement Records. No albums were released since 2008.
Also around the same time as Harris leaving Napalm Death, he was contacted by John Zorn who wanted to create a new group consisting of Zorn, Harris and Bill Laswell on bass. This trio became Painkiller – a free jazz-extreme metal trio. The group released 3 successful albums in the early to mid nineties. Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets were released by Earache Records and contained mostly short aggressive tracks reminiscent of Napalm Death at times, but with the added elements of both John Zorn's sax and Bill Laswell's bass and all the history the two had behind them. 1995 saw the third (and last proper) release, the two disc set Execution Ground (also released in Japan on Toy's Factory with a third, live disc), on the Subharmonic label. This release saw the trio spread out in three long tracks that retained some of the aggressiveness of the earlier albums, but added a much more spacious, dubby and (at times) ambient feel to the recordings, arguably much influenced by Laswell's production work at the time. The second disc contained ambient re-workings of two of the tracks. In the years since, some live recordings have been released and the trio tends to play a few shows a year, but since the later half of the '90s, different drummers have been behind the kit as Harris stopped drumming live. After rumours of the original trio reforming cropping up in recent years (particularly in light of Harris' recent gigs with the group Black Engine), The original trio did indeed play one last gig in France on 23 June 2008. The show also featured Mike Patton and Fred Frith as guests. At the current time, there are no plans for any more gigs by the group in any form using that moniker.
Quoit and Hed Nod
In addition to the projects he is most well known for, two other monikers make occasional appearances. Quoit is a name used for a drum n bass project that has released three full-lengths, assorted 12"s, a 7" and the occasional remix. Hed Nod is the name for a series of beat and bass releases tangentially related to the Scorn sound, but in a lighter vein. A series of coloured 12" releases were put out on the Disques HushHush sub-label Hed Nod. Buying into the series in advance also got subscribers a CD of extra HedNod tracks not found on the vinyl releases. In 2005, all of the Hed Nod sessions were released on one double disc set called (logically) the Hednod Sessions. Though inactive as a project since the initial 12" releases, the project sees the possibility of reactivation in the near future if conditions are right.
In 2017, Mick Harris returned after six years of total silence under the name of Fret with a new song called Lift Method that was released through Soundcloud. It was his first Fret material in 22 years. A new album called Over Depth was released in October 2017 as double vinyl / DL through Karlrecords.
In the mid-1990s, Harris started his own record label, called Possible Recs., which leaned towards a drum & bass sound with some exceptions. The short lived label released a batch of 12"s from PCM, Ambush, Quoit, Scorn, James Plotkin's Jupiter project and Eraldo Bernocchi's Interceptor and SIMM projects. Additionally, the label released full-length albums in both CD and 2x12" format by Quoit and SIMM.
Along with these (mostly) Harris-helmed projects, many remixes and other random collaborations have appeared through the years. Harris has released and/or produced albums with/by Mark Spybey, Submerged, Bill Laswell, Eraldo Bernocchi, Neil Harvey, Martyn Bates, Sielwolf and a host of others. He's also done extensive remix work for Almamegretta, Sielwolf, PSI Performer (Anthony Rother), TMK, Franciszka Baumann, Pigface, Meat Beat Manifesto, Ambre and a host of others. Live performances generally under his Scorn moniker have been a constant through the years.
- Finlayson, Angus (11 October 2017). "Mick Harris: Greetings from Birmingham". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- Rosenberg, Axl (10 April 2019). "Napalm Death's Mitch Harris Warns That New Defecation Releases Are a "Total Scam"". Metal Sucks. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- Dee, Liam (2016). "The Brutal Truth: Grindcore as the extreme realism of heavy metal". In Bayer, Gerd (ed.). Heavy Metal Music in Britain. Routledge. p. 61. ISBN 9781315586441.
- https://soundcloud.com/karlrecords/fret-aka-mick-harris-lift-method. Missing or empty
- Smith, Mark (12 July 2017). "Mick Harris returns with first new Fret material in 22 years". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 7 August 2019.