Interview Date: 03/13/2008
Run Date: 04/09/2009
Sure, it’s gotta be pretty weird to grow up with the knowledge that your dad was “The Quiet One” in the world’s most popular band, but let’s not count out how bizarre it probably was for Oli Hecks to know that his best friend’s father had been a Beatle. Even so, Dhani Harrison has proven to be a heck of a musical comrade for Hecks. The two of them are the core of thenewno2. In the wake of the release of their new album, You Are Here , Hecks spoke with us about how “Rock Band” has proven to be a heck of a marketing tool, where his group’s name came from, and what kind of expectations he has for their record in today’s economic climate.
Oli Hecks: Hey, is that Will?
Bullz-Eye: Yes, it is.
OH: Hi, this is Oli Hecks from thenewno2.
BE: Hey, how are you doing?
OH: Very good. How are you?
BE: Not bad.
OH: Good. So I was told to give you a buzz…
BE: Yeah, absolutely. So how did you and Dhani meet up for the first time? I’m not really familiar with the full background of the band.
OH: Oh, okay. Well, we met up initially just as childhood friends, really. We’ve known each other since we were, like, 15. So since then, we have been kind of playing music and jamming, and then started doing this thing, really. So, yeah, a long time. Like, 15 years or more.
BE: So when you first started playing music together, did you actually think in terms of, “One of these days we’re going to have a band,” or was it just something to do for fun at the time?”
OH: I think initially it was to do with fun. We were just working out…we started to realize we both really had similar taste in music. I think that’s really what made us decide, “Hey, we can do something with it,” because we did have a really sort of common interest in terms of the type of music we liked. Then we started to realize we had the same interest in the kind of music we liked to make. So I think that’s what triggered it: the way we saw totally eye to eye on that. And then, obviously, just playing more and more together. And then, yeah, it kind of just carried itself, and then I think it was really after university that we decided to have a go at it and start trying some recordings, see how it goes, and see if we could get a good sound going.
BE: So here’s the old standby: who would you say are your personal musical influences?
OH: It’s pretty wide range. It could go from anything. Old rock and roll, like Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry. All that stuff, I love that stuff. Buddy Holly. And then everything up to Cream, Jimi Hendrix, you know, Led Zeppelin, The Who, all that stuff. And then the big influence of music, I think, is also the Bristol sound from England in the 90’s. The sort of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky and a bunch of trip-hop stuff that was going on at that time, we were always into. So there’s kind of influences from everything. Also stuff like indie music. Obviously, the Beatles as well are in there. So, really, just a whole range.
BE: When I was listening to it…well, it’s definitely not what you would call overtly pop.
OH: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to define it, but, yeah, it’s not straight down the line, that’s for sure. But it’s not so far left that it’s unintelligible. It’s somewhere in the middle of that.
BE: I understand that the name of the band comes courtesy of “The Prisoner.”
OH: Yes, that’s right.
BE: Which as it happens, they’ve just remade for AMC. so it’s good timing with that.
OH: Oh, they are? I didn’t know that
BE: Yeah. Ian McKellen is going to play Number 2.
OH: Oh, wow. Okay, cool. I’ll have to look it up.
BE: All I’ve seen is clips, but it looks good.
OH: Oh that’s good. Cool.
BE: So which of you came up with the name? Were you a “Prisoner” fan?
OH: Dhani came up with that one. At the time, we had been watching a lot of it. We caught a bunch of “Prisoner” episodes on DVD, the whole collection. On and off for a few years we always watched them. We watched it also with friends, and we all kind of got into it, and then that’s when I think he got the idea for the name. That was a long time ago, but, yeah, it definitely came just from sitting around watching it a lot, really.
BE: And it just stuck over the course of time?
OH: Yeah it stuck, and also it looked good written down, because we wrote it out. That’s why we left out the dot after the “no” and then the 2. Also because then the website would be dot 2 dot com, and it’s just kind of awkward. It always looked good written just all lower case, so that kind of helped cement it, I think.
BE: And then based on Wikipedia, which is always 100% accurate…
OH: Yeah, of course.
BE: …you designed the website.
OH: Yeah, that’s right. The initial one, and then it’s been a little bit updated. But, yeah, I designed the website and did the art work for it. We do all our album art work, which I did the recent cover and videos, too. So, yeah, there’s a big visual side to stuff that we do.
BE: And you guys were credited with the Beatles’ Love, the album design for George’s Brainwashed, and things like that. Was that the two of you together doing that?
OH: Yeah, that was both of us. We shot the album cover and we did all the packet design for that thing. And we’ve done other stuff for…after that, we did a lot of DVD mini designs for stuff like “The Concert for George.” We worked on the packet design for that, also. And also the box set that they came out with, his Dark Horse Years, we designed all that. So we did a bunch of that around the time that we started recording. So we were kind of doing graphic work and music at the same time.
BE: And you guys have been recording for awhile now. I mean, I know that the first EP came out back in 2006.
OH: Yeah. We’ve been recording for awhile, and before the EP, we had done a bunch of recordings of some other songs, and then we kind of settled on those four for the EP. Then after that, we had a period of writing a lot and recording on our laptops and then bringing it together. Eventually, that became the session for the record. So, yeah, we’ve be doing recording on and off for quite awhile. Yeah, definitely.
BE: So how did the album You Are Here do when it was first released in the UK? I guess it came out over there first, and then was released here.
OH: Um, I think it’s been pretty positive. All the feedback that we’ve had has been positive, really. Surprisingly. I think I read like one negative thing that just said, “Gay, gay, gay, gay.” That’s the only sort of message that I have seen that is negative. Everything else has really, really positive, which is great. Everyone has been pretty nice in the reviews. We haven’t had anything bad yet, which is great. So, yeah, it’s been really, surprisingly good all around.
BE: How much of the whole “George Harrison’s son” aspect have the reviews centered on? I mean, is it pretty heavy?
OH: Yeah, they definitely touch on that. But, actually, it’s been good, because they sort of touch on it, but then they do also…surprisingly, a lot of the interviews actually have talked about the music and how it is sort of setting it apart from that whole stigma attached to it. Because how the music is so different from what you would expect, or most people would expect him to play because who his dad is, because it is so different from that. I think people have recognized that ,which is nice.
BE: Yeah, I was talking to our music editor actually yesterday, as I was listening to the album and just telling him that it’s not consistently that you ever really even think of the similarity between Dhani and his dad. I think “Crazy Tuesday” is where I really heard it the most.
OH: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I think there’s bits where obviously his voice can get really similar. That’s just like the genetics, I guess, of him being his dad. But, yeah, you can definitely hear it in his voice at times, I’m sure.
BE: The physical resemblance is downright spooky, I’m not going to lie to you.
OH: Exactly. There are moments where it’s like that, for sure. Definitely. I can hear it, too.
BE: I know you’ve known him for ages, but how weird was it for you to grow up knowing that your best mate’s dad was a Beatle? It’s got to be bizarre.
OH: Yeah, well, I always knew because we knew of each other since we were really young, but we never really met until we were older. So I was always aware of it through a mutual friend. I had really brief encounters when I was younger, but we never really sort of became friends until we were teenagers. So not that you get used to it, but it was never…because it was introduced at such a young age, it was never sort of a huge impact. And then, obviously, just knowing him, he was really down to earth and normal, anyway. He always sort of played it down, so I never really sort of got totally knocked back by it, even though it is a major thing, you know, the Beatles and everything. It just sort of became, you know, “He’s just my friend’s dad,” really. It’s not a point once we hung out a lot. Yeah, that’s kind of how I look at it’ really. But you can’t deny the fact that he was in the Beatles, obviously. There’s all sorts of ways of looking at it.
BE: Actually, I brought up “Crazy Tuesday” a minute ago, and that was one of the free download songs for “Rock Band 2. “How did you guys get involved in that, and how much interest do you guys have in the business side of things?
OH: In terms of “Rock Band”?
BE: In general, I guess, but…were you guys actively, personally trying to get involved with the game?
OH: Yeah, that was Dhani that got in touch with those guys, and then he’s been developing something with them. But the whole business side is…definitely we’re involved with everything. Any sort of thing like that that happens, we’re involved with. So, yeah, that’s been great having the song in that. That was fun. We played it, and I remember the first time I played it with Dhani, and he only got…we put it on, like, “expert,” because it’s our song, we figured we would be pretty good at it. I think Dhani only got like 65% on the vocal…which is pretty funny for an expert. But, really, it’s great having that, and that’s definitely something that, business-wise and just strategy-wise, is trying to get the music out on that label. Opportunities like that are definitely not to be passed up. It’s really the growing thing that’s happening, and it’s a great way to get music to kids, and interactive, I think, is the way everything is going. We’re definitely always open to all of that stuff. I think it’s the way it’s really going.
BE: Are you guys going to be touring behind the album? I know you did a date on Conan O’Brien’s show.
OH: Yeah, I think so. We did Conan O’Brien. We’re going to do Coachella, which is the next thing coming up, and that’s in April. Then we’re doing Lollapalooza, and I think between Coachella and Lollapalooza we’ll probably be going on tour of some kind. That’s the plan. So it would definitely be a summer tour of some sort, which we’re all kind of looking forward to. It will be good.
BE: Excellent. Now, given the industry, what are your expectations for the album?
OH: I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it goes this year because the album is out and it’s all up to fate. It’s going to be interesting once we do go on tour and get to play and see more people. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this year and if it takes off. You know, how people respond to it. It’s hard to tell. The fans that we’ve actually managed to pick up so far seem to be incredibly loyal and really, really into it. The ones that we’ve built mostly through the internet. So I think, from that feedback, that can really help it to grow to by word of mouth. I think once you have even a small fan base, it’s amazing how they really want to help and they put it all over the internet and help. They really want to post it everywhere. So I think it will grow this year, for sure. I’m pretty confident. But it’s going to be hard to say, though. You never know. I think this year is definitely going to be a push forward, just from having played on Conan and playing a couple of festivals and doing a tour. This is definitely a step up from last year. And with the album coming out digitally…it’s going to come out on CD at the end of this month, so we’re trying to support it and boost it all after that. I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting. I’m not sure exactly how far it will go, but hopefully as far as it can.
BE: Alright, well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, man. Like I said, I’m certainly hopeful for the success in the States, but don’t give up after the first album. Lord knows around here it takes awhile to build some headway.
OH: Yeah, exactly.
BE: Cool, man. Well, good luck with it.OH: Alright. Thanks a lot, Will. Take it easy.