Detroit bred house DJ/producer Quentin Harris has come on strong in recent years, championing a classic, soulful house signature that’s liberally doused with nonstop grooves for the dance floor. Currently riding high on the global success of his uplifting anthem “Stronger” featuring Jason Walker, we checked in with the NYC-based maestro and talked to him about the array of artists who’ve influenced his music.
Thomas Harris (my father)
There was so much music being played in my house when I was growing up. I don’t really remember a moment when there wasn’t some form of music being played. My father was very eclectic when it came to music: Tracy Chapmen, Iron Butterfly, Van Morrison, James Brown, Madonna, Lightning Hopkins, Soulsonic Force … just to name a few of the artist he loved. Being exposed to this melting pot of music definitely had the biggest influence on me. From him I learned that music all comes form the same source and there is no right or wrong music.
I was influenced heavily by Quincy Jones even without even knowing it. It was from Quincy Jones that I first begin to understand what the word “producer” meant. I first saw his name on the Roots soundtrack which my father played religiously. When I got older I realized that Jones was involved in scoring films, TV theme show songs. and of course producing Micheal Jackson.
I always feel that the people who are most influential are the ones who go against the norm and become successful at what they do that they are often copied or referenced and we still don’t know about half of the stuff that they have done. Well, maybe not until we see a documentary on them. Teddy Riley is the first producer that I could hear a definable sound that was fresh sounding but yet still felt like it was familiar. The creator of the New Jack Swing, which was the merging of hip-hop and R&B, set the tone for most of the late ’80s and ’90s. He produced Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick’s Classic “The Show” and Micheal Jackson’s Dangerous album. I don’t think I have to say much more.
The first time I heard his music I knew that he was a lover of sound and clearly understood that everything can be an instrument. Nothing seemed to be off limits for him. Cartoon samples, baby noises, and even turning the theme song to the TV show Knight Rider into a hot beat! But I think his most amazing work was producing Chris Cornell of Soundgarden’s Scream solo album. It was harshly panned by fans who didn’t think that Chris should be working with a hip-hop producer. That album is an genre defying masterpiece! It’s takes you on a journey from start to end. Timberland is a BEAST!
Pharell Willams gets my respect because I knew from the first time I heard the Neptune’s music that he was using the same piece of gear that I used to make music, an Ensoniq Ars-10 sampling keyboard workstation. I loved his minimalistic approach to his music and then I started to notice something else. What I noticed is that everything thing has been done before. We are all influenced by something. Sometimes it is very obvious and sometimes it isn’t. Pharrell is the hands down king of referencing. He is so good at it that I coined the term Pharrelling it. I think a lot of his music can connect to another song form the past either in feel or “This sounds like but it isn’t that but it feels like (insert song here).”
I had the pleasure of knowing James Yancey (a.k.a. Jay Dee) and learning a lot from him and even being produced by him. His beats are so amazing that when I heard him I wanted to start making music because I was in awe of the way he manipulated sound. He showed me how to make a single tone bass from sampling the feedback from the ground wire from a turntable. The things I saw him do with a SP1200 which only has 10 seconds of sample time blew my mind.
Prince is the first artist that I heard and I knew that I wanted to have a career in music. As a child I owned a 45 or his first single “Soft & Wet.” I couldn’t have been no more then 6 but I knew I loved his music. It spoke to me in a way that even at that young age I really connected with it. As you are reading this you are probably thinking I’m nuts but I was a very advanced child. I knew that he played a ton of instruments and pretty much did everything himself. I knew what that meant even if I wondered how could one person play all of the instruments and do all of the singing on a record. I would soon find out how in about five more years. They say you have to stand for something or fall for anything. Prince was a student of music and believed that the music business should be fair. I of course agree.
For all intents and purpose he introduced the world to Quentin Harris. I won’t deny that. For the ten years or so that he and I worked together, I went from dancing on his floor at Shelter for years to having my music blaring out of the speakers every Saturday night into Sunday morning. He has influenced me in how I listen to music, and more importantly the song and how important good songs are. Unfortunately in clubland a song is hard to find these days. I hope that changes.
The modern commercial club dance remix as we all know it was created by David Morales alongside the legendary Frankie Knuckles with the guidance of Judy Wienstien. Before David’s “Re-Production” of Mariah Carey’s “Dream Lover,” a “remix” was more like a re-edit of moving parts around but never working from just the a cappella — or in Daivd’s Case having Mariah cutting new vocals to a new dance track. David influenced me on the way he could make pop records and underground records. I hate when people try to make me choose the kind of music that I make. I love all kinds of music. No one has done this better then Mr. Morales.
My hometown has had the most influence on me. First my dad was there (which I already told you about), but the music that came out of Detroit and what was played on the radio when I was coming up helped shape me as a musician, producer and DJ. Motown, techno, Anita Baker, Kid Rock, Bob Seger, J-Dilla, Marshall Mathers, The Electrifying MoJo (a radio DJ who would play a whole night of Prince or Micheal jackson or new wave music), ghetto tech and Miami bass music’s second home. I love my hometown of Detroit and all of its grittiness, rawness and openness.