AS one of the UK’s most prolific producers, Joshua ‘Hervé’ Harvey has been a huge influence on bass and club music over the last decade.
Whether you know him best as Hervé, Action Man, The Count of Monte Cristal, Speakerjunk with Trevor Loveys, The Count & Sinden or as one of his other numerous pseudonyms or from the releases on his Cheap Thrills imprint, you are guaranteed to have thrown down to a track carrying his fingerprints.
With Cheap Thrills celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer, we caught up with him to chat through some of the highlights from the last 10 years and what’s still to come.
Let’s jump straight in – you’re celebrating 10 years of Cheap Thrills, we can’t believe it’s been that long! Did you ever imagine when you released your first EP on the imprint that you’d still be going ten years later?
No way! I wasn’t thinking more than a month ahead back then, I was so busy I barely had time to think. I just knew with Dave (Switch) going off into a more production route that it was time to branch out with my own label. There was no grand plan apart from signing great artists and maybe getting excited about doing a year end compilation, which we did and was a real success. it was pretty wild having all these countries come and ask to re-release the whole compilation in their territories
The Cheap Thrills back catalogue has featured some pretty iconic club tracks over the years, are there any in particular which stand out for you as being a defining ‘Cheap Thrills’ moment or release?
Yes, definitely. Fake Blood’s “Mars” is obviously a big one. Hervé and Kissy Sell Out – “Rikkalicious”, I loved the riff that Kissy did in the breakdowns, reminds me of playing at festivals as the sun begins to set. A track that came later so is not on this compilation, “Together”, was also a big spike for me and the label. Much like my track Cheap Thrills, it was just a rough and ready club banger that blew up and got signed by a big label. I remember playing Together for the first time at The Coronet in South London and two thousand people just went bonkers to it. I knew then it “had legs” as Switch used to say.
It’s so weird how simply writing about these songs is triggering a rush of emotions and memories and making those early years seem so long ago, like a film I watched when I was a kid.
The music industry has changed a lot in the last decade – from a label perspective, have you had to adapt the way you approach a release?
We started in an age of all-vinyl releases, now it’s all about streaming and downloads. About five years ago Matt joined the label and really turned it around. He brought a much more organised business head to the way we worked. We started releasing less and earning way more, for the artists and the label. We started working our catalogue a lot more as it had so much good stuff that had just been buried over time. Streaming has obviously had an impact and is taken into account on even the more underground releases, there are playlists for everything!
Back when you started the label, some people referred to the electro house sound as ‘Blog House’ due to the way it was shared and promoted through online blogs and websites. How did you embrace this platform, and do you think that it helped set the blueprint for the way music is promoted online today?
To be honest I paid no attention to it at all, I just wanted to make music. I don’t think my sound was electro house or that any of the Dubsided guys’ was either. I always felt electro house was more northern European, more rigid.
There was much more room for various sounds back then, unlike now where it is all ultra conservative house music, techno or bass house.
But back to the point – yes, I think it clearly was some kind of blueprint. You only have to look at Mad Decent to see the evidence.
Back to the anniversary – we hear there is an album on the way to mark the occasion? What have you got in store?
Well, the album is 10 classic Cheap Thrills tracks from the early catalogue and ten new exclusive tracks. We will be releasing a few of the exclusives as singles and later following up with an album of remixes. If you’re hoping for new music from Hervé, Fake Blood, Speakerjunk and The Count & Sinden, you won’t be disappointed.
And then hopefully in the Autumn we will do some anniversary shows.
There are some pretty exciting names on there which are going to bring back a few memories for people we’re sure, is this a return to the classic Cheap Thrills sounds from a decade ago, or have you tried to take things in a new direction?
I think some of the same influences are present in the new stuff that were there in the older stuff, but it is much more now production-wise.
Obviously, people like myself and Fake Blood have a super distinct sound no matter what time period we are in and there is a certain “vibe” to anything I do as the Count of Monte Cristal. I suppose you could say it’s in keeping with the spirit of the older stuff while not sounding from that era.
The first single from the album, ‘Cellphone’, feels very familiar somehow – what’s the story behind that one?
Yes – there might be a slight nod to one of my previous tracks, ten points if you can guess which one. To start with though, it was just the beat and a mangled “cellphone” vocal sample for a while, then I came across Cactus on another track and really dug his voice. Next thing I know, he’s in the studio and the track is complete! He did a superb job with the vocals and the remixers I got on it really, really brought their A-game (Tom Symonds, Wittyboy and Tru Fonix).
Despite the number of different artists featured on this album, some people might be surprised to know that you are behind a considerable chunk of them. While many artists spend their entire careers focusing on one ‘name’, you’ve always been a prolific producer under multiple aliases – was this a conscious decision from the start?
Back in the day when you bought records you always scanned the credits (I did, anyway!) and I just saw names like Armand Van Helden, Shut Up And Dance, Todd Terry, Andrew Weatherall and Joey Beltram appearing under many names. I suppose cos I always liked their records I just assumed that’s how you did it? It’s how I enjoy expressing myself. I’ve been told many times to just release under one name to enhance my brand and all that guff, but I wanted to be an artist for freedom, to do what I wanna do and make what I wanna make. I hope that explains it?!
Between them all – is there a particular alias or sound which you prefer to produce as?
Hervé is basically me, so most times I prefer working under that name. It depends on my mood though and what I want to create.
As Hervé, we understand you’ve got a few projects in the pipeline for the rest of the year – what should we be looking out for?
My Boy Racer EP series (first one is out now). I’ve been having a lot of fun making these tunes and I’ve got a bunch of collabs/singles to finish off. I’m hoping to do another track with Zebra Katz soon and I’m working on another downtempo album. Also, I’ve been recently doing some straight-up house stuff which I’ll probably put out under a new name
And how about from the label? What’s in store for Cheap Thrills over the next ten years?
Man, I don’t even know. One chapter of life closes and another one begins a new adventure!