Baker’s Dozen: Ex-The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey’s Favorite Albums

The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers

I think this has been a touchstone for a long time. It’s a real classic art-rock album. It’s art-rock which is what I do! It’s a brilliant proto-punk art-rock album and I’ve always loved it. Any time I go back to listen to it, it embodies a lot of the things that I like about rock & roll music.

My understanding is that after the album came out it was – in the States at least – considered to be fairly depressing and Jonathan Richman found that quite disturbing. I mean he mentions “hospital” on there a couple of times and he did touch on those kind of areas which is why I think he ended up doing stuff like ‘I’m A Little Airplane’ and ‘Ice Cream Man’. That may be completely false but that’s what I was told. He certainly changed after that album and became a lot more lightweight in his approach to things and a lot more comedic, I suppose.

But this album, for me, is a real embodiment of something. It’s very heavily influenced by The Velvet Underground and it’s got a lot of the aspects of rock music that I enjoy. It’s definitely had a direct impact on my music. When I play upbeat stuff this gets channeled into it from time to time; it’s inevitable. You channel things that you personally enjoy listening to and re-cycle them, if you like. I’m sure that happens inadvertently but I don’t think about it, really.

Suicide – Second Album

I’ve always loved this album; it’s got this great, sophisticated thing to it. I know the first album has this seemingly gnarly, punky attitude about it but Second Album has a sophistication about it. I think it’s a very inspiring record. It’s very unique in electronic rock and it’s got some beautiful songs on it, too, that are very moving.

I’ve had this discussion with a few people where they’ve said, “Oh, no, no, it’s got to be their first album” so I went back and listened to their first album and I got through the first few tracks and I thought, mmm, maybe they’re right but as the album went on I thought, nah! No way! It’s nowhere near as good as the second album! There’s just no comparison for me.

The Velvet Underground – 1969: The Velvet Underground Live

At the time when this was around in the early seventies, this was readily available and something that people would reference a lot. It’s almost like a ‘Best Of The Velvet Underground’ but with Lou Reed singing all the songs. You know, there were songs on Loaded that Lou didn’t sing because he supposedly had laryngitis on the weekend when they did they vocals for them so Doug Yule sang the vocals on some of those classic Velvets songs. So oddly, versions of those classic Loaded songs end up on 1969… with Lou singing them – and I mean this as no offence to Doug Yule! And Lou also sang some of the songs from the first album that Nico sang so it kind of condenses the whole thing about them. And of course it’s got ‘Ocean’ and ‘New Age’ which are just classic, classic songs.

I kind of felt that I had to put a Velvets album in here and this one has a really amazing version of ‘What Goes On’ which does go on and on and on! Really, this is such a great record and I’m not a fan of live albums, generally. It goes beyond being a live album and it has so much to recommend it that you don’t really get on other Velvets records. If I had to choose one of the studio albums then I’d have gone for either the first one, the banana album, or the third one. But yeah, they were a great band without John Cale as well.

Iggy And The Stooges – Raw Power

This was a tough one to decide out of The Stooges’ three key albums. I’ve opted for Raw Power because since [Iggy’s 1997] remix was done – which, obviously a very contentious thing – I think it’s their best album. Iggy did a great job remixing it and it finally showcased the songs properly and it’s got all the edge and the hardness and outrageous levels of things and it’s got the drums and the bass at a volume which is actually acceptable! It’s finally presented the album as it should be and it’s great.

Ron Asheton’s bass playing is so sensational and the songwriting is really great and it’s their best album, I think. Their albums were quite hard to find in Australia but Raw Power came out, I think, because of the David Bowie connection. So I must have first heard it around ’74 or ’75 and I heard it at a friend of mine’s who lived over the back fence and he’d bought a copy. It wasn’t very pleasant listening! It was pretty hard to listen to! It was pretty extreme but very, very interesting. My tender ears were probably not quite ready for it.

It didn’t become a favourite album then and I wouldn’t have listed here but for the remix which really elevates the whole thing. Poor old David Bowie mixing that album! Apparently he didn’t get the multi-tracks to mix with; it was already bounced down and there was a vocal track and there was a lead guitar track and then a stereo mix of the band; something like that. To make it sound exciting Bowie didn’t have much ammunition so I think he made a good choice in turning James Williamson’s guitar up to an absolutely unthinkable level – which is pretty hilarious – but it really has stood the test of time.

Leonard Cohen – The Best Of Leonard Cohen

This is drawn from, I think, his first four albums. I was looking at the extended list for this feature and there was a Dylan album there, Astral Weeks was there, a Neil Young album, but I couldn’t throw them all off; I had to keep someone from that gang there and if I think which one my favourite is then it probably is Lenny.

I think my older brother had The Songs Of Leonard Cohen – I was very familiar with that when I was young and consequently I ended up with this copy of Best Of… somewhere down the line. It’s a great collection, it really is. From a songwriting perspective it’s so strong and I actually think that he’s the best songwriter when it comes down to it. He’s written some amazing stuff over the years and this is a great showcase of all his early material and a very, very enjoyable album. I don’t find him depressing at all but then again, given the music that I make, you probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that!

Musical influences can be from all sorts of places and the effect that Leonard Cohen has had on me has been more lyrical. The quality of his lyrics have been a huge influence on me and that’s a very large part of what I work on when I make music. The lyrics are very important to me; I’m not one of those musicians in the band who go, “Oh, I don’t what he’s singing about.” For me, these are pivotal things and he’s the dude, really.

Kraftwerk – Radio-activity

I’ve always liked a lot of those Kraftwerk albums and I used to enjoy them even in the early punk and new wave days and they kind of had a place in the scheme of things. They were very minimal, obviously, and they’re brilliant at what they do.

I started listening to some of their albums recently because I hadn’t had copies for years – I had the vinyl back in the day – but I got new copies and listened to them more recently and the album that really stood out was Radio-activity. It’s just a very moving album, actually. I was discussing this with a friend who’d come over and we put it on and we started talking about it and he said, “This is the one I put on too.” And what came out was that it’s a very emotional album and an emotional level that their other albums don’t really have and that’s what I love about it. It’s the one I choose to put on. It’s definitely been a favourite of recent times.

I didn’t see the recent tour but I saw them some years ago at some festival somewhere and I saw them in the early 80s at the Hammersmith Odeon during their Computer World tour. They’re a long-term favourite of mine and a touchstone for a lot of people and they’re an important group and this album is one that I find particularly special.

Einstürzende Neubauten – Kollaps

I probably haven’t listened to Kollaps in a long time but I love Neubauten and I love their 80s recordings and that was the first one I heard. It was their first album and it used to get played a lot when I lived with Jim Thirlwell in London. I didn’t really know who they were – I hadn’t met them at the time – but they really are the best live band around. The sound they make and the tonality of what they do is just completely amazing and unique and I really wanted to put an album of theirs in as a favourite album because they’ve been a really important group for me for the last 30 years or so. This has a sort of sentimental attachment for me.

It’s really edgy and a real punk album, actually, in German minimalist – I won’t say ‘industrial’ because I’ve never thought of them as being an industrial band – raw and nerve-jangling way. Sure, they’re probably a little embarrassed by it now because it’s their first album and we are all a little that way about our early forays and it probably doesn’t sound to them like it could have but it still carries some real potency.

Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

As classical music goes, this is how I like it. This is probably the first of his that I was really familiar with and this is a collection with some really special stuff on it. It’s got great pieces on it and it’s quite an inspiring record. I would’ve liked to have put some more classical stuff in here but it’s very, very hard to say what’s an album and what’s just pieces. Arvo Pärt is really up there for me.

Whether I like that much classical music or not I don’t know but it’s always been a part of me. I grew up with it in the house and it was part of my childhood so my father just played it all day at very high volume – a lot of Bartók and Wagner and stuff like that. Wagner I find pretty hard to put up with once the singing begins but I must have heard a lot of Beethoven and Mozart, Haydn and all the usual suspects when I was growing up.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Beethoven At Bedtime

Whenever I come back to Beethoven I find it very, very affecting. I think he really nailed what music is supposed to be about. A lot composers just wrote clever things most of the time, whereas Beethoven seems to be somewhere down deep in the essence of where it’s coming from somehow. He’s got a different effect entirely in that.

Beethoven At Bedtime is an album and one with a great selection of shorter pieces of his – sonatas and piano concertos and these five- and 10-minute pieces. It really is a great little album. It’s part of the classic …At Bedtime series.

Beethoven has real accessibility and gets down to the very core of things. It’s often said that he was the start of modern music and I think that’s true. He managed to achieve things that nobody surpassed for nearly a hundred years. I don’t think there’s anything more modern than Beethoven that I’m familiar with until the 20th century

Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral

I really love Mark Lanegan’s recent albums. I just thought that Bubblegum was brilliant; a fantastic album. Blues Funeral is a hard one to get a grasp of because it sounds a bit same-y and there’s a density which is kind of odd but it’s a really catchy album. It’s got some really great songs on it and I really think he’s onto something at the moment. I’ve been enjoying so much of his recent work but this one has got the most consistency to it. It really does deserve repeated listening; you really get it after listening to it a few times. The first times it doesn’t quite go in and I always love albums that you need to listen to a few times before it starts to reveal new things about itself. That’s something you can’t plan or you can’t write material like that for it to have that effect. It’s great when you come across stuff that does that.

Mark invited me to work on Bubblegum but he was working in America and I just wasn’t able to it. Obviously, in hindsight, I’m very disappointed not to have done it. But I also found out yesterday that he’s got a new album out which I’m going to be getting as soon as possible. I’ve got the albums he did with Isobel Campbell as well but it’s the solo ones that really stand out.

I’d love to work with Mark – that’d be great. I really love what he does but we move in very different geographical patterns. We occasionally cross paths but with the lives we lead and the priorities we have it’s pretty hard to link up like that.

Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man – Out Of Season

For me this album is simply full of beautiful songs. I think the first couple of songs on it are more easily accessible but as you move through the album it gets more complex. I think people have missed it a bit. The complexity isn’t necessarily in the playing; it’s in the ideas that are in there and the latter songs aren’t as accessible as the first couple. They’re very strong songs right throughout the whole album but repeated listens are rewarding, as with Mark Lanegan’s stuff.

I had the opportunity to tell Beth how much I liked the album but unfortunately she didn’t know me from a bar of soap. I always try to be polite in these situations but it’s always awkward when a fan comes up and tells you something like that. There’s always an imbalance in the dialogue so I fully understand, but it isn’t nice to be made to feel like an idiot.

Dollar Brand – African Space Program

He is really considered by, I think, the jazz fraternity, to have been at the forefront of what was happening. I don’t really know the history properly but I’ve got loads of his albums and I’m not a jazz fan particularly but I know he was considered to be right at the forefront because he was mixing South African-influenced stuff with jazz playing and so forth in the sixties.

He was a remarkable character in the scheme of jazz and a real stand out. He’s made so many albums but an awful lot of them aren’t available and this one’s not available unless you can track down an old vinyl copy which is what happened. An old friend of mine in Berlin who is a bit of a collector had a half-sister that he didn’t even know about and she died a couple of years after he met her but was aware that he was a big record collector so she left him all these jazz albums. She’d left him about a half a dozen vinyl albums of stuff by Dollar Brand that I can’t find anywhere so he digitised them for me.

African Space Program is a really amazing record; it’s just really out there. I hate jazz blowing – when they start blowing I just have to leave the room but this stuff is just something else. The thing with Dollar Brand is that he has these really long, arranged sections and then it gets quite wild and it’s really quite punky and the drumming becomes really aggressive which is just brilliant. I suspect he had a big influence on Charlie Hayden who was John Coltrane’s bassist.

It’s great material and I hope someone gets round to re-issuing these albums or at least getting them up on iTunes. People need to hear it because it’s pretty amazing stuff.

The Saints – Prehistoric Sounds

I like all the early Saints albums and some of the eighties ones as well I might say but I think that Prehistoric Sounds is their best album. It came at a time when people really weren’t ready for it; in 1978 it had all these soul brass arrangements on it. They finished recording it and got dropped by their record company and broke up by the time it came out. But it’s such a great album – it’s something of a mini-masterpiece. Not every track on it is brilliant – as with most albums – but it’s really way ahead of its time; everyone was trying to play stuff like that in the early 80s.

It’s a punk soul album and the songs are so great. They’d gotten to a great point with their songwriting, too. Unfortunately Ed Kuepper and Chris Bailey parted ways after that album and so that album got a bit lost. People in Australia know that album because everyone was really excited by the third Saints album whereas in England it was kind of over and so everyone went, “Well, what’s this?” and just ignored it. They just weren’t ready for it and it wasn’t anyone’s idea of what The Saints were supposed to be playing. In Australia everyone was open to it and it’s a highly regarded album there.

I haven’t really worked with Ed but he did come on the last Bad Seeds tour and it was nice to work with Chris. He’s asked me to work on some records of his but that didn’t really work out. Some of these people are quite eccentric and I enjoy Chris’ company; he’s a pretty full-on character but it was good working with him on [2003’s] ‘Bring It On’. Those first Saints albums were really important and I think Prehistoric Sounds is the best one.

This is Mick in the late 90’s!

Sorry about the big “Ex” bit in the blog post title but he’ll forever be remember for his time as or in The Bad Seeds, well he was also in The Birthday Party/The Boys Next Door with little Nicky before that too. This interview was by Julian Marszalek and everything above Harvey’s image was first published in April 2014 on UK’s The Quietus music website. I did re-post two of these last month and once again re-posting two more at the end of this month. Just pointing out here on my little blog from something like 36 pages of ten artists each doing these baker’s dozen thingys, whatever that adds up too? Only two are Aussies so lucky I do love both of them and that’s who I’m blogging today and tomorrow, OK? Plus I’m embedding just the one track per album plus turning it into all one simply and easy but super long blog post!

Anyway in 2014 Cave would have just released Push The Sky Away album the year before, only the very first Bad Seeds album since Mick leaving in 2009 which is one of the longest gaps in-between Bad Seeds’ albums. Harvey’s last was 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! but I guess Grinderman 2 album did come out in 2010 plus soundtrack album to Lawless in 2012. Since leaving The Bad Seeds Harvey has worked on two PJ Harvey albums, an album by somewhat forgotten project called The Ministry Of Wolves which songs were based on The Brothers Grimm, two new Serge Gainsbourg sung in English cover albums which he did his first two back in the 90’s plus the two solo albums of mainly of his own songs. Have I missed anything? Earlier this month Mick Harvey & Christopher Richard Barker have released a brand new album entitled The Fall and Rise of Edgar Bourchier and the Horrors of War album. So here’s the single or lead track from that new album to finish off this post, check it out!

Cheers 🙂


  1. I was invited to a small dinner party some years ago with Mick Harvey. A mutual friend thought we would find each other ‘interesting’.
    We didn’t.
    There were only 5 of us there so it was a bit of an uncomfortable night.
    But I remain an avid fan of the seeds.

    Liked by 1 person

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