When writing his new album, Darren Hart’s ideas spilled out like liquid lightning – some were done in a day, and he had to learn to trust that that didn’t mean the song wasn’t as good as something he’d worked on for longer.
Because the truth is, right now he’s absolutely chockers with ideas. “I want to do another [album] straight away; I’m trying to capitalise on the creativity that’s building in me right now,” he says.
Despite what his press shots might tell you, Hart (AKA Harts) is quick to reveal a smile – his intense looks belie a very tranquil manner, and an ease in explaining his approach to the incandescent, disco-funky, technically astonishing and beautifully stirring tracks on Smoke Fire Hope Desire. “These songs started as a groove with just the rhythm section – drums or bass,” he says, “so it was very similar to how hip hop guys work; they just work on beats, beats, beats, and then they get artists to collaborate and turn those beats into songs. That’s exactly the process I went through with this one.”
A shining talent on bass, drums, keys, guitar, and voice (all of which he solely plays on Smoke Fire Hope Desire, as well as self-producing), you’d imagine Harts’ childhood environment must have been full of instruments – but it didn’t happen at home. “They weren’t available,” the musician says simply. “I didn’t grow up in a musical household or anything. I got into music when I was around 15, in high school. I used to stay back after school and book out the music room, just so I could play [drums].”
“My parents hated it – they hated every aspect of me doing music at that time,” he continues. “Only recently did they actually accept it. It’s hard for a parent… the music industry’s so hard. It’s never a given. If you don’t understand how to actually navigate the business… you can still make music for the love of it and that’s fine, but if you want to make a career out of it, you can’t. I actually did quit for a couple of weeks. I was looking for other jobs and stuff. Then Prince called me.”
Prince had seen some of Harts’ videos on YouTube, and got in contact to invite him to Paisley Park to jam, learn, record. Harts’ understanding of music is now coloured with notions he absorbed from Prince, and his speech is peppered with purple wisdom. When speaking about his very percussive approach to bass – his style is a fascinating marriage of rhythm and melody – he says that ‘bass’ should be spelled ‘base.’ “That’s something Prince actually told me. He said that in those exact words: ‘Bass should be renamed ‘b-a-s-e.’”
He recognises the Prince Effect, gratefully and graciously. “Prince changed me. There’s so much stuff embedded in me now. I’m like ‘Where did I get that from? Oh, Prince said that, that’s why.’ He gave me so much straight-up advice, and I understood exactly what he was saying.” Harts believes that because Prince had been articulating these things for so long, he’d condensed them down into these maxims that stick in your brain, much like b-a-s-e. And he wouldn’t have minded Harts sharing them; in fact, it was his wish to further interest and excitement in traditional musicianship in young people. “He’s trying to spread the word through musicians,” Harts says. “That’s one of the reasons why he pulled me up, because he wanted to get in touch with my audience, the younger audience. He wanted the real musicians and real music to make a comeback in pop music so badly. He encouraged a lot of people like me… to spread the word, to bring peoples’ attention to what could be done. It’s really hard to explain. But he could have articulated it perfectly.”
Smoke Fire Hope Desire is out September 16 via Dew Process/Universal.