He Got What He Wanted

DJ Harry brings the music of the String Cheese Incident out of the mountains and onto the dance floor.

"I showed up and really fell for it," he says. "It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It's a small community where everyone knows everyone, and everyone that's there wants to be there, which is different from a lot places. There's just a unique vibe that I haven't been able to find anywhere else." Life in the mountainous valley burg did not quash Harry's newly found enthusiasm for the glistening electronic pastures of house music, however. "I started spinning at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon," he says, referring to his residency at the club many consider to be one of Colorado's finest party joints. "Once again, no one had heard of house music. They'd come down off the mountain and go to the Saloon and hear me playing, and they didn't know what it was. But they were really into it.

"[Dancing to] house music was a vehicle for them, like being on the mountain. There's the high adrenaline rush, the physical exercise and the way it takes your mind to the next level. People don't always think about those aspects of house."

Harry also found a few gigs spinning at parties for the Telluride International Film Festival, but it was his connections at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon that eventually led him to the String Cheese Incident. "I used to go see the String Cheese Incident on Friday nights at a place called the Depot in Telluride. They were playing bluegrass at that time, which is good ol', down-home, let's-dance-a-jig music. It served the same purpose as what I was doing, which is to dance -- you know, having a hoedown with your friends."

There's no trouble with Harry: The String Cheese Incident found an unlikely collaborator in DJ Harry.
There's no trouble with Harry: The String Cheese Incident found an unlikely collaborator in DJ Harry.

Details

String Cheese Incident
7 p.m. Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1 at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison. $30-$35, 303-830-TIXS

DJ Harry
8 p.m. Friday, July 13, LoDo Music Festival, 20th and Blake streets. $18-$22, 1-800-965-4827

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Harry met the band through the Saloon's manager, Jesse Aratow. "He ended up being the road manager for String Cheese Incident in 1998, and he'd seen what I'd done down there at the Moon. There was a period there where if you didn't get in by 11:30 p.m. or midnight, you didn't get in, because it was that packed. It was just the thing to do."

Aratow relocated to Boulder a few years later, and Harry followed in 1999; the following year, he asked the house-music buff to join the band on the road for a gig in Oregon. "He asked me if I wanted to spin after a show last July, and I said yeah, because the band had that same kind of vibey sound that I played with my records. I decided to remix a couple of their songs on my own. So I played these during the after-show, and the band liked it, the management like it, and I ended up playing in front of 4,000 people that night who seemed to love it, too."

Harry decided to capitalize on his ties to the increasingly popular grassroots unit. The resulting String Cheese Remix Project goes far beyond the kinds of remix EPs that are normally mixed for rock and pop bands, where popular songs are simply fiddled with a bit to make them accessible to different audiences. The Remix Projectmanages to achieve a sonic signature that has elements of both the String Cheese Incident's jammiest moments and house music's deepest vibe. The symbiosis is eerie, given the jam format's reliance on live instrumentation and house's use of machine-generated backdrops. The sound falls somewhere between the jazzy feel of Vienna's Kruder & Dorfmeister and the organic California rhythms of San Francisco's Dubtribe Sound System. And the CD's co-release by the venerable New York techno label Instinct and String Cheese's Boulder-based label, Scifidelity, leaves no doubt about the quality of the content.

The samples Harry used for the String Cheese Remix Project derive from both album tracks and shows, with a heavy emphasis on live material. "They multi-track each show," said Harry, "so they've got a huge number of recordings. I worked with their archivist, who told me which shows were really hot. He'd say, 'You've got to hear this version of "Round the Wheel" from July 21.'" Harry's version of that song appears alongside others such as "Rollover," "Absolution" and "Texas" on the nine-track CD.

"I listened for certain hooks that would catch my attention, because that's what I know from house music. There are not a lot of vocals in house, so the instrumental hook has to be really potent. So I would listen for the hottest spots in these archives and just yank that spot out. People have commented, 'I recognize that show, man. That show was just on fire.'"

In Colorado, the disc marks a kind of meeting of local musical minds. It was produced and distributed by Scifidelity with the help of local electronica producers Brian and Doug Cavender and Ben Pound. Pound and the Cavenders, who have been members of the Denver dance-music scene since its inception in the early '90s, provided Harry with technical assists and drum programming to flesh out his house-music chops. As a result, the assembled tracks could find a cozy home at the Snake Pit or Pure -- if Denver's sometimes finicky DJs were willing to wrap themselves around the live-music origins of the jamming hooks and rhythm beds. It might even establish a detente among neo-jam-grass fans and those in the club-chic realm. For Harry, the first step to that kind of success was receiving the approval of the String Cheese bandmembers.

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