“Step inside my mind,” Dhani Harrison jokes as we enter his office in Santa Monica. It’s crammed with an endless amount of toys, weird gadgets, and the walls are lined with custom art from his previous projects — his band thenewno2 — and celebrating his father, the late George Harrison.
Harrison’s office is next door his studio where he recorded his latest album and first solo endeavor, In///Parallel which was released on October 6th. After our conversation, Harrison mentions he never really leaves those two buildings also throwing in that he lives just around the corner making things even easier. He works here, his friends stay here, his mother Olivia also her own office here, and at the end of any occasion — this is the where the after parties usually take place. That was evident when we walked in and saw giant gold balloons spelling out his album title with the album’s cover plastered everywhere — a deserving celebration had just happened.
When Harrison leads us into his mother’s office, he points out a picture of two penguins and proudly says, “My mother took that photo.” I ask if his mother considers herself a photographer and he quickly responds, “She’s more of an explorer,” directing me to the picture of Olivia Harrison out in the middle of an icy landscape.
It’s apparent that Harrison is one of those people just filled with stories waiting to be told. While music has always been a prominent aspect of his life, it became a main focus after his father’s death when he and ELO’s Jeff Lynne collaborated to finish George Harrison’s final album, Brainwashed. In 2006, Harrison found his own voice in the form of thenewno2, a project helmed by him and Oli Hecks. Now, 11 years after the start of thenewno2, Harrison has finally taken the leap to solo artist. But that leap wasn’t entirely intentional.
In///Parallel accumulated over the last couple of years. In between composing films scores and other projects, he would pull certain sounds he liked until he created this arsenal of songs and also enlisting the help of his musicians friends — many of which stayed in the very office space where we chatted. “I built sort of a wrecking crew for this record,” he says of the process. The wrecking crew included the likes of Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, violinist Davide Rossi, and vocalist Mereki.
After working on these tracks for over a long period on his time and then again with his wrecking crew, Harrison insists that he thought it was going to be a follow-up record for thenewno2. It wasn’t until his friends pointed out to him, this was 100% a Dhani Harrison record.
In///Parallel is more atmospheric and looming than anything else Harrison has released. While it can be seen as the next evolution of an artist as he “finally” branches out on his own, this feels more like flexing a different muscle that Harrison has yet to show the public. His skills as producer and songwriter were already present, it was just discovering the right mindset to unlock it.
“I think I just got to a place where I was really viewing myself as a third person,” he explains. “I’ve been through so much in my life and I would just get to the point of…looking at myself bouncing on this little boat and think, ‘That’s an interesting story.'”
Harrison reiterates that he spent a lot of time alone for during most of the creative process of In///Parallel. He disconnected himself from the world and reconnected with nature and meditation. “When you quiet down your brain, you can actually hear.”
There is a spark in Harrison’s eyes as begins to talk about the sounds he hears when his brain finally quiets down. He references Paul McCartney’s epiphany of dreaming the melody and lyrics of “Yellow Submarine” and that exhilaration of discovering a new song in the ether, which seems to happen to him constantly. Through this concentration of actively listening to his own subconscious, he realized his own reoccurring motif. “I was getting snippets of this record but not only that — I was getting snippets of everything I’ve ever done,” he describes. “There’s always been a continuous theme throughout all my records of waiting, of patience.” But what exactly is Harrison waiting for?
“I guess it’s to learn the lesson we’re suppose to learn here,” he says after a brief pause. “Look, there is not a dull moment in my life. If I could have one day without something catastrophically horrific happening or someone dying or having to go on TV…” He trails off and tells the story of having dinner with his friend and realizing it was the anniversary of his friend’s mother’s death and continues with how he learned of a death in the family right before our interview. He takes another pause and says, “We’re only a week out from losing Tom.” Tom, of course, being Tom Petty. Despite all of the tragedy and “horrific” moments that seem to follow Harrison, he doesn’t let it weigh him down but rather motivate him. “You just have to write it all down as quickly [as you can] before you forget it.”
While Harrison disconnected himself from the world during the making of In///Parallel, the album eerily touches upon some relevant topics, especially with the current state of the world. With songs like “#WarOnFalse” being written before the concept of “fake news” being added to our daily lexicon, Harrison found a direct line to everything that has been happening. “I never thought 2016 would be eclipsed by 2017,” he says with a defeated chuckle. “You don’t have control of your brain when you’re going into the day. They’ve got you instantly. You read some dumb shit and then you argue with someone and they’ve divided you and then it gets to the point where you see a mass shooting and it’s so bad that you turn it off and you’re completely pacified.” Harrison thinks that if we take a moment to not get so caught up with the constant flow of information being thrown our way, that maybe we can take a moment to recollect and then move toward making the changes we need to make.
There is a political and social movement happening right now. There is also a musical revolution happening as a response. “People are getting back to being people,” says Harrison. “People have to get organized and realize that they can’t change anything unless they change themselves first.”