Michael John Harris
(commonly known and credited as Mick Harris or occasionally M.J. Harris) is a prolific British
Mick started out in the 1980s as a drummer working with various punk rock and grindcore bands (most notably pioneering grindcore band Napalm Death); as a drummer he is generally credited with popularizing the blast beat, which has since become a key component of much of extreme metal and grindcore. Since the mid-1990s, Harris has worked primarily in electronic and ambient music, his main projects being Scorn and Lull. According to Allmusic, Harris's "genre-spanning activities have done much to jar the minds, expectations, and record collections of audiences previously kept aggressively opposed."
Beginnings and Napalm Death
Harris' recording debut was as Napalm Death
's second drummer, joining after founding member Miles "The Rat" Ratledge left the band in November 1985. His first live appearance with the band was on 18 January 1986
, opening for Amebix
. Harris was the driving force behind the band's seminal Scum
album and the second release From Enslavement to Obliteration
. After the release of the EP Mentally Murdered
, Napalm Death
began to become more interested in the death metal
scene and their sound started to move away from the British grindcore
sound. At this point Bill Steer
and Lee Dorrian
departed the band due to creative differences, Later, Harris was the sole band member who remained in the tumultuous group through many line-up changes, eventually leaving in 1991, just after the tour for Harmony Corruption
While in Napalm Death, Harris also played drums for Doom and Extreme Noise Terror, and participated in a side project with Mitch Harris called Defecation, which produced two records, Purity Dilution and Intention Surpassed, through Nuclear Blast, but this last one just with Mitch Harris.
After leaving Napalm Death, Harris founded Scorn
with Napalm Death's original bassist/lead singer Nic Bullen
. Scorn released several well-received albums and EPs
in the early 1990s, creating a unique fusion of experimental heavy metal, electronic music, and dark dub music
. Bullen left Scorn in 1995, but Harris continued to release albums under the Scorn moniker, exploring dark and minimalist industrial hip-hop
territory, with a focus on extremely low and loud bass frequencies. Harris' work presaged the grittier aspects of the dubstep
craze of the mid-2000s. As with the tendency for people to put a name to anything, Scorn has also been referred to as beginning the ‘Dark-Hop’ sound. After two albums in this style still on Earache Records
who didn’t quite seem to know what to do with this new sound, Scorn and Earache parted ways, leading to a somewhat nomadic existence since then. Scorn has been associated with KK Records
, Invisible Records
and most recently seminal US drum and bass label OHM Resistance
, to which Mick had earlier ties to with other projects. In 2007, OHM Resistance
released the first album of all new material in 5 years in a smattering of 12” have also been in the works of late on labels such as the UK’s Combat Records
and Record Label Records
in the US.
Somewhat concurrent with Scorn, Mick began Lull
, a beatless dark ambient project. Though not as prolific or popular as Scorn, one can argue that this project in its own way is just as influential. Lull was at the front of the so-called Isolationist movement that also included people such as Thomas
Koner. Under this moniker, Mick has released full lengths on Sentrax and Release Entertainment
(part of Relapse
) as well as various 7” releases and compilation tracks, most of which were collected and re-issued on CD by the late Manifold Records
. After a number of years of inactivity, Lull has returned with Like a Slow River
on Glacial Movement Records
Also around the same time as Mick leaving Napalm Death, he was contacted by John Zorn
who wanted to create a new group consisting of Zorn, Harris and Bill Laswell
on bass. This trio became Painkiller
. – a free jazz
trio. The group released 3 successful albums in the early to mid nineties. Guts of a Virgin
and Buried Secrets
were released by Earache Records
and contained mostly short aggressive tracks reminiscent of Napalm Death
at times, but with the added elements of both John Zorn’s sax and Bill Laswell’s bass and all the history the two had behind them. 1995 saw the third (and last proper) release, the two disc set Execution Ground
(also released in Japan on Toy's Factory
with a third, live disc), on the Subharmonic
label. This release saw the trio spread out in three long tracks that retained some of the aggressiveness of the earlier albums, but added a much more spacious, dubby and (at times) ambient feel to the recordings, arguably much influenced by Laswell’s production work at the time. The second disc contained ambient re-workings of two of the tracks. In the years since, some live recordings have been released and the trio tends to play a few shows a year, but since the later half of the ‘90s, different drummers have been behind the kit as Mick stopped drumming live. Rumors of the original trio reforming have been cropping up in recent years, particularly in light of Mick’s recent gigs with the group Black Engine
Quoit and Hed-Nod
In addition to the projects he is most well-known for, two other monikers make occasional appearances. Quoit is a name used for a drum n bass project that has released three full-lengths, assorted 12”s, a 7” and the occasional remix.
HedNod is/was the name for a series of beat and bass releases tengentially related to the Scorn sound, but in a lighter vein. A series of colored 12” releases were put out on the Disques HushHush sub-label HedNod. Buying into the series in advance also got subscribers a CD of extra HedNod tracks not found on the vinyl releases. In 2005, all of the HedNod sessions were released on one double disc set called (logically) the Hednod Sessions. Though inactive as a project since the initial 12” releases, the project sees the possibility of reactivation in the near future if conditions are right.
In the mid ‘90s, Mick started his own record label called Possible Recs. Which leaned towards a drum n bass sound with some exceptions. The short lived label released a batch of 12”s from PCM, Ambush, Quoit, Scorn, James Plotkin’s Jupiter project and Eraldo Bernocchi's Interceptor and SIMM projects. Additionally, the label released full-length albums in both CD and 2x12” format by Quoit and SIMM. Unfortunately, shady distribution and the normal music business ethics of bottom-feeders put a fairly quick end to the label.
Along with these (mostly) Harris-helmed projects, many remixes and other random collaborations have appeared through the years. Mick has released and/or produced albums with/by Mark Spybey, Submerged, Bill Laswell, Eraldo Bernocchi, Martyn Bates, Sielwolf and a host of others. He’s also done extensive remix work for Almemegretta, Sielwolf, PSI Performer (Anthony Rother), TMK, Franciszka Baumann, Pigface, Ambre and a host of others. Live performances generally under his Scorn moniker have been a constant through the years.
Mick Harris has cited Discharge
, Miles Davis
, John Coltrane
, Brian Eno
, and Jon Hassell
as prominent inspirations.