Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Aaron Harris of Isis

Aaron Harris is the drummer for Isis, longtime bike geek, and beer fan. I have gotten dropped by him on more hills than I care to remember.... Despite this he was ready to spend some quality time with WWDIS!

WWDIS: What came first music, skateboarding, or bikes?
AH:Music was first to come, then skateboarding, then cycling. My Dad is a drummer so there was a drum set in our basement when I was a kid. He also has a huge record collection so there's was always good stuff to listen to. Zeppelin, Floyd, ELP, The Police etc. I used to go down and play along to my favorite records. That's how I learned to play. I guess it was in my blood a little because I've never taken a lesson except for recently from a friend of mine who's playing I dig.

WWDIS:Where you into bikes back in Maine or mainly skating?
AH:Both actually. I grew up in the suburbs of a town called Bath on the coast of Maine. In order to skate, I would have to ride my bike about 8 miles in to town to meet up with my skater friends. There was also tons of killer mountain biking around. My Dad had a knee operation and was advised by his doctor to cycle in order to recover and strengthen his knees. I would join him in the evening when he got home from work. We'd do 8 to 10 mile rides. It seemed like a lot at the time, ha ha. He had an old Univega and I had a Giant MTB.

WWDIS:What did you start out riding?
AH:I started on a MTB. When Greg LeMond was winning the tour I started getting in to road bikes, but we didn't have enough money to get me one. I did have a T-Shirt from his "Z" racing team. I thought I was pretty cool. It wasn't until 96 when I moved to Boston to pursue music that I got my first road bike. There was a small single speed/fixed gear culture that was happening at that time with a lot of the art kids. My roommates were both studying at Mass Art, so I got involved with a lot of what they were doing. I found someone in the classifieds selling an Atala with old Campy Record on it for pretty cheap. Unfortunately I didn't realize fully what I had at the time. I took it to a local shop in Boston to have it dressed out as a single speed. The shop kept most of the stuff that was on it and I didn't think twice about it. Oh well, I did have some of the gold Campagnolo track cranks put on which were pretty dope! My roommates and I would get together most nights and ride all over town. It was really fun! I started to feel the "need for speed" and started saving as well as working part time on the weekends at a bike shop to save up for a nice road bike.

WWDIS:Favorite bike past/present/future?
AH:My favorite was probably my first road bike that I had been saving for. It was a blue steel lugged Bianchi with a Camagnolo "Daytona" group. I worked and saved for so long to get that thing. It was the first really significant thing I had bought. I cherished that fucking thing! I would clean it after every ride, constantly upgrade things on it, look at it in the sunlight. It was like what I imagine an expensive piece of jewelry is to a girl or something like that. I had some great rides and races on it. In fact, the only race I ever won was on that bike. I never won shit on my super light Aluminum Pinarello I eventually upgraded to, ha ha.

WWDIS:What are you riding currently?
AH:I have a Pinarello "Galileo" with Campy Chorus 10sp and a Trek XO Cyclocross with Ultegra.

WWDIS:Still racing?
AH:I haven't raced in years unfortunately. The touring makes it near impossible. I'm always stuck in the battle where I'm riding a lot at home and getting up near race condition, then going on tour and flushing it all right down the drain. Staying fit on tour is almost impossible. The only exercise you get is the two hours you're playing and in some places you're breathing heavy cigarette smoke. Also a couple cases of beer backstage staring you in the face isn't very good for your fitness. I've always had intentions of getting up early to run or find a gym, but when you're going to bed at 3am, half in the bag and you have to hit the road by 10am to get to the next gig, it doesn't really work out. I guess I could give up beer, but that's not going to happen ha ha!

WWDIS:How was it bringing a bike on tour?
AH:Really fun! When we were touring with Tool we had a bus and a trailer with tons of room. We started the tour in Vancouver and continued down the west coast. When we got to LA we still had about a month to go so I grabbed my Trek Cyclocross bike and threw it in the trailer. I would ride around the stadiums after sound check or go explore some of the towns. I found lots of great rides because the stadiums were always a bit outside of town and there was lots of open road and bike paths to ride on. The best part was Justin, the bass player of Tool, also had his MTB with him, so we'd go ride around town and sometime stop for a pint on the way back to the venue. We would be riding along side thousands of people heading to the show dressed in Tool gear, but little did they know, the bass player was riding along right next to them. I would ride behind him just to see the reactions as he rode by. Most of them never even knew, HA!

WWDIS:Do you get to see much bike related stuff when on tour in Europe?
AH:Yeah, tons! It's such a huge part of the culture over there! You can stop in a rest stop and see Tom Boonen on the cover of the new papers! Riders are like celebrities over there. In Belgium the even have a song about Boonen! I've also gotten to see lots of races right from my hotel room or the clubs. One club even had a Mapei jersey signed and framed in the bar. Last tour, I walked out of my hotel room in Italy and got to watch a local race. I've never seen any of the tour unfortunately. We always miss it by a day or two, god damn it!

WWDIS:What do you miss about riding in Boston (choose carefully-freezing rain, snow, pot holes, shitty drivers)
AH: I miss the country side. Out here in SoCal, the terrain is amazing, but not the same as home. Those country roads around Boston were where I fell in love with cycling. It's not as popular here in LA, and unless you head for the hills you're really having to battle with the traffic here. LA has some of the best riding in the world, I mean shit Armstrong trained here, but is has such a huge car culture. It's not set up for cyclists at all! I also had a lot of people to ride with there in Boston and people to share the culture with. I haven't found that here. I ride alone now which is cool, but not as rewarding. It's nice to ride with someone who challenges you. I miss that.

WWDIS:How does it compare to the West Coast?
AH:It doesn't from what I can tell. You can find 10 mile climbs right outside of town here in the Santa Monica mountains. Also the weather is great all year so you have no excuse not to ride.

WWDIS:Isis has been around for over a decade, what keeps you going?
AH:I think probably the fact that we're still growing and that we're the type of band that's able to explore ourselves musically. We're very much an underground band, so there's still lots of ground to cover and things to explore, people to expose to what we do. I like to work hard and to grow. We don't have any techs on tour and still do pretty much everything ourselves. I like that and I think that if things weren't so much our responsibility, I would get bored and things would seem "routine". I'm glad that we've chosen to continue to operate this way and that we're still reaching new audiences.

WWDIS:What are some of the best bands you played with/toured with
AH:Man, there's so many. Dailek, Tool, Jacob, These Arms Are Snakes, Cave In, Botch, Neurosis, Jesu, Mogwai. We're lucky that we get to choose who we bring on tour. We always try to make the tours interesting. There's nothing worse than sitting through a bunch of shitty bands so you can see the headliner. Touring with good people is also important to us. You're spending months with these people so it should be the best that it can.

WWDIS:Side projects? Production? What are you up to besides Isis?
AH:I played on, recorded and mixed the new Zozobra record "Bird Of Prey" It comes out in July on Hydra Head Records. I've been doing some engineering/producing stuff on the side. The other guys in ISIS have side projects that they're involved in. Engineering is like my side project. I've been working toward it for years. Things have started to really come together and I'm loving it!

WWDIS:Favorite music on the bike?
AH:I like mellow stuff actually. I feel that it calms my breathing and distracts my mind from all the physical pain ha ha. There's this female classical singer named "Hildegard Von Bingen" that Cliff, our keyboard/guitar player introduced me to. It's just her singing in a foreign language in what sounds like a huge room. I don't know anything about her, but I really like to listen to it while riding. It's really beautiful and epic. It's the only thing of that genre I listen to. It sounds crazy but It's great for conquering climbs!

WWDIS:Campy or Shimano (like I have to ask....)
AH:Campy! It's timeless. The shit is so beautiful. It's not good for your wallet, but it looks and peforms like no other! Someone put it to me best when they said "Campy wears in, not out" which seems to be true. It's expensive, but it's not disposable. Some of the other companies seem to have stuff that works great for a while and then craps out. Shimano has some great shit, but I'm kinda committed considering I have a giant tattoo of the Campy logo on my arm!

WWDIS:Favorite rides West or East?
AH:Favorite would be a 40 mile ride I sometimes do through the Malibu Mountains. It's fucking brutal in every way. How can you go wrong with that!

Thanks Aaron!


Anonymous said...

Hey, amazing interview. I really enjoyed reading it! Aaron is my Brother, so It was really great to hear his responses, especially since I don't see him often :)

mark said...

yeah really cool insight! Aaron is awesome, class act! Not some jerk off band doosh.