A bit of a Phoenix, Manchester’s Harijan are back on the ska punk scene. Having blazed a trail some years ago, they’re now right in your face and they want to be heard.
Harijan gigged a lot between 2003-2010. They were heavily involved in the Manchester punk and ska scenes during this time. In 2019 they returned for a few gigs and then recorded their debut album, released on TNS. They are planning on sticking around for a little longer this time around.
They have a heavy, edgy ska-punk infused with reggae, dub, ragga and metal riffs style.
Harijan’s charismatic and characteristic vocals power through the tunes to provide big catchy hooks with social and cultural commentaries on inequality, poverty, addictions, mental health, class struggles and socialism. Delivering their skank-inducing tunes with an energetic 9-piece outfit.
They’re a formidable and intense live force.
We wanted to hear a bit more.
We caught up with Rick, Andy, Alex and Mike from the band. That’s four out of nine, so not a bad turnout.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Andy: We’re all over the show. I’m in Bolton, chillin’.
Mike: I’m in Manchester.
Alex: I’m a place called Westbury, just south of Bristol.
Rick: I’m in West Yorkshire at the moment, social bubbling.
Mike: Which is why it was a stupid idea to get back together, really, because we’re now spread all over the country. We don’t do things in a straightforward, normal way.
P3dro: Tell us a bit about the band. We know you have been around for a while.
Mike: We started off around 2003 and gigged until about 2010 which is when we called it a day. And then we re-formed in 2019.
P3dro: What was the trigger for re-forming?
Andy: One of our original members – Tim Grey – passed away a while back so we got together again to do a gig in his memory with a few other bands. We thought it would be a one off thing, but we were buzzing being all back [together] so we carried on from there.
Mike: It was a gig for Manchester Punk Festival and as part of that, there was a stage dedicated to Tim. He had been a producer before he was even a part of Harijan, so there was a stage of bands he [had been involved with]. So, that was the catalyst, really, to get the band back together. We were just gonna do that one gig, but as we all enjoyed doing it we’d started to get ideas about recording the tunes. We did a few more gigs and then recorded the album.
P3dro: Yeah, the album was released in December last year. What a time to release an album!
Andy: Yeah, we’d recorded it the year before.
Alex: Yeah. December, into January 2020.
Andy: So, it was a year before we’d even got to the vinyl.
Rick: Luckily we’d finished it about a month before the lockdown started for the first time. So then it went to the producer for mixing. And it took as long as it took to get it pressed on vinyl. But we were dead excited to see it and to have it after 17 years, or so since we formed.
Andy: Yeah, a year wasn’t that long to wait, really.
Mike: The pandemic meant we were in no rush to get it out there. We did take our time. It took a bit of time to get the artwork together, so there was no pressure to get it out quick. But we got there eventually.
P3dro: What’s the reception been like to the album?
Mike: Really good.
Alex: Yeah, really nice. A lot of nice words.
Mike: Yeah, there have been some really nice reviews about it. It’s almost sold out. There were 300 vinyl and a couple of hundred CDs. But the main thing was to give something back to our fanbase. We should have done it ages ago. It’s not just about us, we’re part of a very tight knit scene of a few bands we’re very close with, so it was nice to document the tunes and get them out there in good quality.
There was loads of shit videos of us on YouTube. But there’s now this nice finished product, so it was good to get it out.
Rick: Just to make quite a lot of the bands we have been friends with happy is quite special. All the support we’ve had from those people, back in the day.
P3dro: You mention the Manchester scene. We’ve seen one review that mentions you as a pioneer of the Manchester ska / punk scene. How was it back then? Is there any kind of scene going on now?
Rick: It seems pretty decent now, especially on the back of the Manchester Punk Festival. That’s why we were really glad to have been able to play that stage in honour of Tim in 2019. I think, back in the day the scene was starting to flourish. TNS had started to put gigs on. And then there was Ska Bar and it all happened at the same time. We’d just happened to have got a set together.
Mike: When we first started, there wasn’t a scene, so to speak, so, maybe that’s why we’re credited with some of those words from the early days. We were one of the early bands who were [doing things] with TNS in the early 2000s and it just kind of built up from there.
But, Manchester’s a big place as well, so there are a few things going on. It’s gone from those very early, small gigs to things like the Manchester Punk Festival. Which is different sections of scenes going on and it’s all built up. It’s a cool scene in Manchester. We’ve always been labelled as ska / punk but there are all sorts [of other things] going on.
Andy: It’s massive. I’m really excited about the Andy Baker compilation.
Mike: There’s been a bit of a resurgence of the ska scene in America as well over the last couple of years. But we’ll see how strong things are when we come out of this pandemic.
The Manchester punk scene has been really healthy over the last 10 years. Really good, really strong.
P3dro: Have you always been a 9 piece band?
Alex: No. We’ve gone through various [line ups]. We started as a three piece and then quickly into four. Then we gradually added bits of brass. I think we’ve covered everything from six to ten at various points.
Mike: It took about two years for us to get to nine. But that’s been it for the majority of the time.
P3dro: And how does that work on stage?
Rick: It’s a squash!
Andy: A lot of ducking and diving.
Rick: A lot of bruises from guitar heads and the like.
Mike: Yeah, it’s cool. We all like going for it, basically. Especially when you have four brass players and me singing, then we all go for it, even if it’s a small stage. We mainly play smaller stages, anyway, so we’re quite used to it.
Andy: We all make sure we’ve eaten a mint before we go on!
P3dro: You’ve mentioned TNS Records. They must have been a pretty good fit for you guys?
Andy: Yeah, we’ve been with TNS from the start. There was no real discussion about it. It was always gonna be TNS.
Mike: We go back from the very early days, from when they first decided to put on a few gigs. And this is all in the context of pay to play gigs, dodgy promoters. There was no real punk scene to walk into, so we’ve always been with TNS right from the early days. As they grew, so did our band grow. There was no other option, really.
P3dro: A lot of your songs are pretty political, shouting about things we all ought to be shouting about, do have any particular message? Do you feel any obligation to get a message out there?
Mike: Yeah. Music, first and foremost is about having fun, escape and relax and whatever. When you go on a night out and have a few beers, it’s not like you’re at a political rally, but the history of music generally has been to deliver a message. But, yeah, we are political and the themes we dig into are an idea of unity. It would be nice to address the inequality in the world. So, why not, if you have a platform to talk about things. Why would you not talk about it?
P3dro: Have you ever written a love song?
Mike: No! On the album there’s a song called ‘Synchronicity’ which is a bit psych and was a bit out of our comfort zone.
Rick: Isn’t that like a love song to the universe, though?
Mike: Pretty much, yeah.
P3dro: So, what’s next for the band?
Andy: We’ve talked about doing new tunes. There are a few riffs kicking around. To be honest, when we finished the album, I thought that might have been it, but we’re all buzzing off each other, so hopefully we can get in a studio again.
Alex: We’d do a few gigs as soon as it’s safe to do so. We haven’t had a chance to play since the album. We had a couple of months to record the album, thinking we’d be able to play after it, but then what’s happened happened. So, we’re all looking forward to playing live again.
Rick: The last gig we played was another one in memory of Tim, about a year ago and a day before his birthday. So, that was special. The threat of lockdown was in the air, but no one knew how it was gonna land.
But, that was brilliant and it brought a hell of a lot of people together. As soon as we can, we’ll be back out there again.
Mike: We put a lot of work into that album, so we’d want to get out there and promote it. It would be nice to get in a practice room again and make some new tunes, as well.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Mike: The Fractions new release.
Andy: The John Player Specials. Their album’s sick. Also, Mike did a bit in a band called Black Star Dub Collective – they’re wicked as well.
Rick: Rasta4Eyes. They helped us put together some lockdown videos with the nine of us all playing in our various living rooms.
Mike: Also, The Autonomads and The Co-operators.
Alex: Let me throw in Kurt, our producer. He’s just put out a solo album that I think is mint. He performs as Bug Bear. It’s a beautiful album.