DJ Harvey’s life has long been a musical mash-up. Following punk, disco and acid house in the UK, hip-hop in New York, and a residency at London’s Ministry of Sound, his latest project is—strangely for a man better associated with willing on communal bliss in clubs from Montreal to Melbourne—a rock band. Showcased here in a new George Trimm-directed video for single "Last Ride," which stars longboard surfer Joel Tudor, Harvey's group Wildest Dreams is a groove-laden psychedelic odyssey, gleaned from a lifetime of selecting vinyl cuts and a fascination with the darker edges of a hippy culture emanating from his adopted home of California, where he has lived for nearly 15 years. We spoke to the 49-year-old "DJ's DJ" as he nursed a coffee at his beloved Venice Beach, watching 'Big-Wednesday' waves glide across the horizon.
Tell us about the star of the video, Joel Tudor.
DJ Harvey: He’s my buddy, and maybe the best longboard surfer that has ever lived. He basically re-introduced longboard style in the mid-90s when it was very unpopular: he took it back to its roots in the same sort of way that I’ve done musically with the Wildest Dreams record. He’s riding a seven-foot retro single fin board, which is the kind of thing that was being ridden in the 1970s before the short-board revolution started.
What made you start this band up?
DJH: This kind of music is roots music for me. My babysitter played me “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix when I was about eight or nine. I remember them going, “I think it will be a bit heavy for you.” Sonically, no one can escape from how powerful that record is. I was just like, “Wow! I don’t know what heavy is, but I love it.”
With Wildest Dreams, you’ve adapted to your musical surroundings as an adopted Californian in a similar way as you have in the past, with hip-hop in New York for example.
DJH: As an East-Anglian Englishman, I looked to California as a promised land when I was a kid. It had skateboarding, surfing, hot rods, tattoos, the Mansons, the Beach Boys, pornography, the plastic people and the movie industries. It was everything I was into, the dark side of the hippie thing. I aspired to Hollywood babylon: hippy satanism, psychedelia and Frank Zappa and The Mothers, all that wonderful stuff.
Can you trace a lineage from that time to Los Angeles today?
DJH: If you walk down the boardwalk of Venice Beach you hear nothing but Led Zeppelin and The Doors—the local gangsters, the Venice 13, sing along to LA Woman. It’s Californian folk music. But I often feel that some of the greatest of that music was actually made by Brits. It’s almost imported to LA, in many respects: Keith Moon was in a surf band, and The Turtles, Cream and 'Zeppelin were English. So much of it was actually originally made by people who could only dream about being here.