You may know him from The Cat Empire but Harry James Angus is no ordinary musician in a band. Recently hosting a night of mythically whimsical storytelling, he stands as one of Australia’s most renowned musicians. Reinventing famous Greek myths into hearty jazz, it’s no wonder he never fails to captivate an audience. Performing at The Tivoli during Brisbane Festival, the crowd was kept on their toes. His awe-inspiring talent was complemented by his brief commentary in between songs, speaking about the chronicles that his songs were inspired by. Harry James Angus is a must see act!
Who was your first musical inspiration? Why? Who inspires you now?
My early musical influences were pretty thin. There was one Beatles tape, a lot of Disney, and Les Miserables. There were drunken singing sessions with my extended family. It really took me a long time to find my own tastes in music. I remember pretending to like a lot of stuff I didn’t really like. Around the age of 15, I first heard Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldgridge, Thad Jones, Clark Terry playing the trumpet, and I saw that there was something there for me. These days – it’s a mixed bag but some Australian artists I’m really into at the moment are Mojo Juju, The Jazz Party, Laneous, Ainslie Wills and Mildlife.
What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?
You’re not as awesome as you think you are on stage when you’re drinking too much. Reality is more artistic.
What has been one of the most defining moments in your career?
When I turned my head as I sang and saw James Brown in the shadows at the side of stage, nodding his head – a surreal moment, I still barely believe that it happened.
How has your music practice changed over time?
I think I am more honest now, and digging into who I really am, instead of pretending to be someone more impressive.
My top business tip for new artists is…
Don’t waste time on business. Practice, write, make sure every time you get on stage you have something special.
My biggest career mistake has been… What would you do differently now?
I would get more singing lessons. I wasted years ignoring vocal technique because I thought that was boring. But it’s fascinating, and there’s so much to learn.
In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is… What do you think can change that?
There is no music industry. Well, there is, but it’s just a collection of businesses trying to promote and make money out of music. That’s great. But there’s no industry because there’s no product. The big factories pressing millions of plastic CD covers… they’re gone. Rolling Stone journalists getting flown to Tokyo to interview the Beastie Boys… that’s gone. No more free lunches from big record labels. There’s just music, floating around on the internet, and a bit of wax, and music the art form seems to be flourishing.