Multi-talented respected artist Peter D. Harper talks about the world blues fusion, love, peace & freedom

"I think that the Europeans really respect musicians and really appreciate what they do. They have a deep and serious passion for the blues."

Harper: The Dreamtime Of Blues 

Harper is one of Australia’s most highly respected & multi award winning musicians. His numerous national and international tours and CD releases have established him as a much “sort after” performer and an excellent ambassador for Australian original roots music. Peter D. Harper was born in the UK and raised in Perth, Australia amongst a culture of surfing, folk music, soul and blues. Harper is known for his powerful, soulful voice, unique virtuosic harmonica performances and “innovative and new” song writing style. Harper describes his music as “World Blues Fusion”. Heavily influenced by Australian indigenous culture, Harper began playing the didgeridoo and has incorporated its deep woody tones into his song writing. Moved by the plight of Australia’s Aborigines, Harper delved deep into their unique culture and dedicated his 2003 release “Way Down Deep Inside” to their cause. This journey began with a chance meeting with a Hopi native in Colorado, USA.

Harper felt a karmic connection with the flute playing Dan Running Bear. This meeting made Harper realise how little he knew about the indigenous people of his own country of Australia. Part of his journey was learning to play the didgeridoo as well as learning about the Australian Aboriginal culture which spiritually connects us to the land. His songs are also reflections of his own life on the road and the people he has had the opportunity to meet around the world. Harper has opened and shared the stage with Journey, BB King, Van Morrison, Canned Heat, George Thorogood, Koko Taylor, Jimi Thackery, Buddy Guy, Debbie Davies, John Mayall, E.C. Scott, Walter Trout, Snooky Prior, WAR, Charlie Musselwhite plus many more. Harper is also known for his charity work and has supported “Jennifer’s Day” for the Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation, Australia. On March 31st, 2016, released his new CD "Show Your Love" (Blu Harp Records), Harper calls it “World Blues”, a rich musical stew of ‘50s rhythm and blues, a ‘60s message of love and unity, and ‘70s funky soul, stirred up with masterful harmonica and the deep, woody, percussive tones of the didgeridoo, served up in a feast of timeless mystery.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What were the reasons that you started the Afro American, Australian and Native American music researches?

I have always loved Blues and Soul music from a very young age. The indigenous music came later, as I explored other cultures and stories. I thought that by combining all these influences, I could create a new and unique sound.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I think blues music is honest, raw and from the heart. There are no tricks or gimmicks, just blues!

How do you describe the Peter D. Harper sound and songbook? What characterizes your music philosophy?

I think my sound is a mixture of blues, roots, rock and world music. I like good melodies, strong bass lines, powerful rhythms and soulful grooves. I like to tell stories through my lyrics. My music is very political covering topics such as 'The Stolen Generation' which refers to the Australian Government policy of taking Aboriginal children away from their parents to live with Anglo/ European families. I want to make the world a better place through my music. My song "Love=Peace=Freedom" does exactly that.

"I think blues music is honest, raw and from the heart. There are no tricks or gimmicks, just blues!"

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Although I never had the opportunity to meet the members of Led Zeppelin, their music has had a profound on my songwriting. I’ve always liked English Folk music and I really liked how Led Zeppelin fused folk in to blues rock. I think the best advice I was ever given was me was from my father in law who told me: "be true to yourself and "not everyone is gonna like what you do". By being truthful in my music, I have never worried about what the critics say!

Are there any memories from gigs, jams and studio which you’d like to share with us?

Some of my favorite memories are: performing with the Legendary Muddy Waters in Perth Western Australia. Muddy actually yelled at me for taking a harmonica solo without his permission. He stuck his finger right in my face and said "Boy don't you EVER take a solo without me telling you, you could". I never forgot that, Muddy really put me in my place! Performing with the amazing classic rock group "Journey" infront of twenty thousand people in Ohio, USA. That was alot of fun. The guys from Journey were so nice and very humble. Another amazing experience was performing harmonica with the full Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Melbourne, Australia for the film soundtrack for "Lightning Jack". Very nerve racking but inspiring at the same time. And jamming it out with amazing guitarist Walter Trout at the festival in Virginia in the USA. Walter kept playing faster and then I would match him on the harp. It was awesome!

How do you describe "Show Your Love' philosophy? What has made you laugh from the studio sessions of new album?

This collection of songs represents many facets of understanding and peace that I feel is relevant to a happy and healthy environment. I always like to crack a few jokes every now and again to lighten the mood in the recording studio and make the musicians feel more relaxed. That way you always get the very best from everyone involved.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think these days you need to win a talent competition, be related to the right people or have some type of notoriety to be noticed. It used to be raw talent and lots of hard work playing the live scene that earned you a reputation as a great artist. I have no fears, I’ve had an abundant life, I lived on three continents and had a very eventful journey thus far. As for hopes, I plan to keep doing what I do for as long as my body is willing and able.

Which memory from the late bluesman Snooky Prior makes you smile? Are there any memories from BB King, Canned Heat, and Koko Taylor which you’d like to share with us?

I would have the say that Snooky Prior really made me smile. I opened for him at The Bean Blossom Festival in Indiana many years ago. Snooky had to be in his eighties at the time. He must have heard my set because he asked for a private meeting just before his show. I was absolutely blown away that Snooky wanted to meet ME! Here is Snooky Prior, the guy that has been accredited for being one of the first guys to play electric harmonica and then there's me the white guy from Perth, Australia. Snooky wanted to learn some of my harmonica tricks. So I spent about 20 minutes showing him how I play. It was really cool!

BB King was my first introduction to live blues guitar. When I heard BB live, it was a mind blowing experience and made me feel the blues was my goal in my musical journey. I have had the pleasure of meeting all of great artists mentioned above at festivals. I opened for Canned Heat in the late 80s in Australia and I opened for BB King and Ko Ko several times in the USA. All great musical experiences!

What are the lines (from folklore point of view) that connect the legacy of Afro American with Australian indigenous and Native American culture?

I think what connects these three cultures is that they were all displaced, their culture decimated and many were forced into slavery. So blues music, which originally evolved from work songs in the fields, gave us that longing for a better life, the hope that a greater force such the "Creator" will lift us up out of the bad situation we are in.

What touched (emotionally) you from the sound didgeridoo and harmonica? What are the secrets and similarities?

Harmonica was my first instrument at the ripe old age of 11 and helped me understand rhythm and harmony. After this I studied theory and practical music on trombone/ euphonium. The Harmonica and didgeridoo seem to work perfectly together. I think because of their rawness. Although their technique is different, the circular breathing used to play the didge can be applied to harmonica also. Both instruments have a beautiful resonating tone. Emotionally the didgeridoo impacts my soul. The struggle and depravation of Australian indigenous people, really tears at my heart. That’s why I have written so many songs about their plight.

"I think my sound is a mixture of blues, roots, rock and world music. I like good melodies, strong bass lines, powerful rhythms and soulful grooves. I like to tell stories through my lyrics."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be? What advice would you give to new generation?

I would like to see music and arts more readily available in schools. Music should be regarded as seriously as science and mathematics. Music is created with love and we need more love in this world.

Learn your craft, practice your instrument and hone your skills, take lessons from a talented and experienced teacher, learn to read and write music. Learn to play more than one instrument. Learn the business side of the music industry. Try to play with more experienced and older musicians. Go out on tour and be a backup player. Be humble and willing to give your best no matter how you feel inside. Don’t ever feel you are entitled or better than anyone else!

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

I get the greatest buzz from the work I do with special needs kids and post traumatic stress veterans. This is the greatest gift I can give!

Make an account of the case of the blues in Australia. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Blues in Australia became very big in the sixties and seventies with the influx of Europeans. Their love of blues grew as a result of this influence. I think this was a major turning point for music in Australia.

From the musical point of view what are the differences between European, American and Australian scene?

I think that the Europeans really respect musicians and really appreciate what they do. They have a deep and serious passion for the blues. I think the American and Australian music scene are very similar in that they look at music as merely entertainment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I don't think they take music as seriously as the Europeans.

What is the impact of Blues and World music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Blues and world music were always born on the sufferings and struggles of indigenous people. The idea of racial, gender and religious superiority unfortunately continues today. But we are improving slowly. I think music helps us to become aware of injustice and encourages us to change.

How started the thought of “Jennifer’s Day” for the Children’s leukemia and Cancer Research Foundation? What is the relationship between ART & ACTIVISM?

Artists in general have always been some of the first people to give their time and art to various causes through history and stands to this day. “Jennifer’s Day” was started by my Father, when sadly my younger sister, Jennifer, passed away from leukemia at 10 years of age. Before she died she asked us to help other children with this disease. My father ran Art shows as he is an accomplished artist himself and I ran concerts. We raised so much money that Children’s Leukemia Foundation was formed and has cured many types of the disease. When Jennifer passed, 8 out 10 children would die from this disease. Now 8 out of 10 live. So we did achieve her dream of helping other children.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I think I would like to see "Woodstock", just to see, feel and hear all that amazing music and feel that joyful, "we can do anything" vibe from the late 60s/ early 70s.

Official Harper Website

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