Dhani Harrison Composes a Future ‘In Parallel’

Dhani Harrison turns a love of design into a futurist's audio dream

Dhani Harrison by Josh Giroux
Josh Giroux

Dhani Harrison is a futurist -- if not in principle, then in style. 

Having composed scores for the movie "Beautiful Creatures" and television series like "Good Girls Revolt" and "Outsiders," Harrison brings a certain industry-minded approach to his own songwriting -- and not in terms of insider music industry knowledge, but in terms of industry at large.

Although he is the son of famed Beatle George Harrison, he didn't grow up on a track to musical stardom. Instead, he studied physics and industrial design at Brown University, which led to the beginning of a career as a car designer at McLaren Automotive.

"When I was young, I really was into design ... Physics and math was just something I took for the support of my design work. I never got around to doing the 9-year aeronautical engineer degree, because I’d probably be doing that still," Harrison told me over the phone earlier this month. 

He was well into his 20s by the time he realized he could really combine his father's legacy with his love of design.

"I was making a record in L.A. and making a record in Switzerland with my father ... My design transitioned to being album artwork. I never really gave it [design] up; it just sort of transitioned," he said.

Although most of his songwriting has manifested collaboratively in the band Thenewno2, Harrison's new solo album, "In Parallel," is nearly all him, save for Davide Rossi (Coldplay, the Verve, Black Submarine) on strings and a lot of digital simulations.

"I never used any amplifiers making this record. It was all just the simulators in my computer. I used a lot of outboard guitar stuff, but I never mic’d an amp for this record. No amplifiers were harmed during the making of this record," Harrison explained.

As such, there's an inherent sense of futuristic design that permeates the record -- a sense that Harrison's industrial design work has transitioned seamlessly into audio design work.

"When you’re starting with nothing, it's like a blank piece of paper. To finish with something, a product or a record or theme from a movie, it's like going from a to b. It's a similar creative process even though it’s a totally different medium. I don’t really think the way I approach music is any different than how I approach problem solving," he said.

Part of that problem solving with "In Parallel" meant approaching the record like scoring a movie, according to Harrison. That approach has always made sense to him because "you don't have to explain what's going on; you just have to feel it."

"I always liked the idea of scoring to a movie that’s never been made. There’s a lot of movies out there that will never be made, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to listen to their soundtracks," he added.

As much of a technically-minded futurist as he might appear to be, Harrison is equally adept at the same things his father was: feeling, intuition and self-care.

"It’s just baby steps. It starts in the home -- get up and do meditation. Constantly look after yourself, because the world doesn’t exactly look after its subjects. There are so many things to distract you in a day, so it's important to carve out your day in the morning ... The further we go into the future, the more people will realize that they are creating their reality on a daily basis. Whatever frequency you are on, that’s what you’re going to attract. In the future, people are going to be more proactive about what frequency they will be on, and if you approach it from that frequency point of view, then that’s having control over your life. Purify your food, water, air and your vibe -- just try to get the vibe right," Harrison said.

Dhani Harrison headlines the Belly Up on Monday, Nov. 27. Get tickets here.

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