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David Harrison

Q&A

In Conversation With El Hornet

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In Conversation With El Hornet

Paul “El Hornet” Harding is a founding member of Pendulum and has been the man behind the decks since their inception.

He’s played an important role in the D&B scene for the past 20 years and Pendulum have very much come back with a bang in recent years. 

They released a new EP at the back end of 2023 and the live band are fresh off the back of a hugely successful UK arena tour.

There is more going on behind the scenes for the Aussie DJ and producer though, who also has solo music on the horizon and a new label project called The Hornet’s Nest Records – with a 60-tune compilation about to come out soon.

David Harrison caught up with Paul during the recent arena tour to hear more about the busy developments for him personally and for Pendulum…

We’re speaking as the band are on the UK arena tour, how has it been going?

Numbers have been ridiculous, the shows have been great, we’ve debuted a new song on this tour too, playing it live for the first time before anyone had even heard it in a club – which is a new one for us.

As we’re speaking the guys are playing in Birmingham tonight and tomorrow is the O2 in London and I’ve just had a sneak peak at the numbers – bigger than anything we’ve ever done. The O2 is pushing 15,000, that’s a big room and I was terrified when I heard we were going there, because I’ve watched Prince and Metallica there, massive bands like that.

Sometimes you second guess yourself, but we did 11,000 at Ally Pally last time, so this is progress. 

The UK must feel like a home away from your Aussie home these days after all the years you’ve spent here?

It actually has been home since 2003. Every year we would go back to Australia for one week if we were lucky and some years not at all. Even though we’re proud to be Australian, we left that behind and we felt more at home here. 

I still do now, even though I live in Perth again. I was back in London walking around Soho just now, visiting some of my favourite spots, it felt like home – it’s weird because I wasn’t born here, but it feels like this is where we belong.

What role do you think the UK community and D&B scene has had in Pendulum’s career then?

I think it’s been very important for us to be here from day one and we knew we had to leave Australia to progress to where we wanted to be – it made most sense to be where D&B came from. The English fans just got what we were about from day one. 

You’ve been busy in a personal capacity recently, away from Pendulum. What have you got coming up with the new label – The Hornet’s Nest

I’ve been working on a lot of solo stuff. I’ve also got a compilation I’m putting together on the label and that’s taking way more time than anything I ever expected. I’ve got a couple of remixes I’m putting together, it’s been a really interesting time to make music and I’m just trying to write what I feel like and not be influenced by anything or anyone, that’s really hard.

What kind of tunes are you looking to make, what sort of sound? 

I always air to the side of uplifting. There are people like Matrix and Futurebound that I cite as my number one influence in terms of what I would like to hear in a club and what I love to DJ the most. It’s positive uplifting euphoria, but with power. That’s hard to do though, they’re hard to write. When I listen back to their back catalogue, I’m always floored, how do they make me feel so good and they have so much weight?

That song is ridiculous. I actually have just done a remix of singer from Manchester called Kintsuku, which is just being pressed to vinyl now, it’s an El Hornet remix, totally solo.

That song I was like, how do I give it “Control” vibes. I’ve been trying to mimic that “Control” tune for years. You wouldn’t believe how many cast off versions I’ve made myself and shouted “I can’t do it”. The euphoria of it is ground zero for me, that’s what I want to listen to and make.

When do you hope to have that remix out? 

First I’ve got to release the label artist compilation. It’s called the 90 Second Maximum and I have 60 tunes on it, which is complete insanity. 

58 of the tunes are other artists and two of them are by me. That is due to come out soon on The Hornet’s Nest Records. The premise for that compilation is to do something with all these abandoned tunes that I was just talking about, everyone has them. I have 20 year’s worth of parts of tunes, which I think “fuck that was so good” – I might have lost the project file or deleted it or whatever. I put feelers out and asked people if they had loads of these little clips and they were like “of course we do.” 

Next minute I had one from Rusko, I had one from Ekko and Sidetrack and I thought, I reckon I could ask newer people as well if they’re interested in putting a song in this compilation. Next Stamina MC sends me a song, he’s only every produced one song ever on his own under his alias Armour and he’s like “I’ve got one for you”. I thought, I’m on to something, next thing you know I’ve got 60. I’m not too hell bent on getting names or big guys. Some of them are people I’ve been friends with for ages, but there are also people I’ve never met or spoken to before. I hope that it’s a springboard for some people too.

It’s been painstaking putting this together and a long process. If I was going to do something I wanted it to be something unique, that I hadn’t seen anyone else do. We’re going to push go in May on that, which will go to the streaming services, but I’m also producing it on a cassette tape. It’s being printed right now, 30 songs on side A and 30 on side B. I’ve listened to it fully on the tape and it’s sick. I really want to do physical products for my releases. After the mixtape I’ll be following that up with the Kintsuku remix and her original song on a 12-inch vinyl. Occasional releases of things I really enjoy, rather than just banging out tunes.

Have you enjoyed the experience of bring together sounds you like? 

It’s been hugely enjoyable because for so long we just let Pendulum do its thing and that was handled by our major labels and I didn’t have to do a lot of anything myself, aside from me DJing and Rob making tunes. But this compilation project has been really hands on, getting to know people kind of affair, boy it’s hard work.

People who run labels, wow. It’s a real labour of love and anyone who does this more often, I really respect it. Hopefully I can do a few releases a year, good projects and some physical medium – a record or a tape or even a CD. They’re telling me CDs are coming back, but everyone’s new cars don’t have CD players, so where are you going to play them?

What do you have coming up DJ wise this year? 

Quite a bit of stuff actually. I’m going back to Australia and playing right up in the northern end, near Darwin, somewhere we’ve only ever played twice in 20 years.

We’re playing somewhere big as a DJ set in August in the UK, but I don’t think it’s been announced yet, so I won’t say much more, oh and there is another one in the UK, which I don’t think has been announced yet. 

And you’ve been pretty busy recently in the Southern Hemisphere haven’t you? How did all the shows go?

Fantastic, I did a run through New Zealand, the equivalent of doing student unions in the UK. The students get a 2-week run of parties, with mad UK headliners doing these welcome to university parties. I decided to do that, which were so good. There was one which wasn’t so good actually.

I think I saw, was it in Dunedin?

Yeah, I felt so bad because Georgie Riot had flown from Coventry to New Zealand to play, at the end of the earth. I stuck my head around and there was four people at the barrier. It was about 8 degrees, raining and the last day of two weeks of gigs, where students get a ticket and you get entry into every gig. 

All these students were broken and cooked and didn’t come. I took it in my stride and asked the stage manager if they can come up on the stage instead. It was great fun in the end. In contrast two days later I played down the road to 1,000 kids, so I thought “you can’t win them all”.

I also did some fantastic gigs in Adelaide for The Fringe. The Edinburgh Fringe being as big as it is, has a sister one in Adelaide and one in Perth. The Adelaide Fringe is a massive event, I did two nights there, 2,000 people, 2 weekends in a row – it was fantastic. It was great to play down there. 

What has it been like to straddle two different scenes? It’s pretty unique with Pendulum, there aren’t a lot of groups who can play the likes of Liquicity or D&B club shows, but the same tunes appear at a big rock festival like Rock am Ring or Download?

We have had an interesting progression from the purest rave scene through to the almost the rock scene – taking rockers into a rave setting without them even knowing it and that just seemed easy in the UK, it wasn’t a hard sell.

One moment we would be playing Global Gathering and the next moment at Glastonbury and the next at Download – those audiences are vastly different, but culturally bass music and dance music was just an easy sell over in the UK. It makes perfect sense to me, that’s what we always wanted. We always came with our production from a dance music perspective, but we were also musicians who had come from live projects before and we were more about instrumentation, rather than just pure sample manipulations.

Being able to straddle those things was a long process and it didn’t come over night. We definitely left some fans behind along the way, I’m very mindful of that, but every time we did that we seemed to grow 10x more in whatever direction we had chosen. 

I think it’s fantastic – like you say, let’s go and play Liquicity, I’ll play modern D&B, some Pendulum and some D&B classics, then the following night the band will play 20 Pendulum tunes at a rock festival. Those rockers will be dancing to D&B without entirely being aware of it. It’s a masochistic pleasure.

Pendulum played an important role in many people’s musical journey I think, transporting many young people of a certain age, who grew up listening to punk, rock, metal etc. and opening their eyes properly to D&B and rave culture. I’d include myself in that bracket 20 years ago. Are you aware of that role you played in many people’s musical journeys?

I think it’s a generational thing, the same thing happened to us. I was playing in a punk band that sounded similar to NOFX and the other guys were in a band that sounded like the Deftones. When you’re into that scene, it’s quite an extreme, left of centre world and then you hear D&B – you think to yourself “wait, this is the electronic version equivalent of what we like already. It’s not house music or sexy or all white parties with Tiësto. It’s dirty, it’s underground, it’s wicked, what is it?”

The same happened to us a generation earlier, the fact that I saw that generationally every 8 or 10 years pleases me greatly, it’s so cyclical. For me those groups were The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers – I was like hang on, I like Slayer, but I’m cutting some shapes to these guys, hang on a sec. Enter Shikari are another who’ve played a role in that development, when they started to add electronic elements into their songs. All of a sudden all these screamo kids, with the cool fringes and painted finger nails, are like “hey Mum, I think I like D&B”. 

Pendulum had a break at one point and stopped making new music. What happened back then and what brought you back? 

I think it was just a case where Rob had got to a point where he felt he had explored as much as he could and he didn’t see that there was an immediate need for more of that. Rather than just constantly rehashing what we’ve done, he was quite inspired by the world of EDM at that point and decided to have a crack at it – that’s why Knife Party was born.

During that period I just kind of maintained the Pendulum DJ sets and stayed in touch regularly. Whatever makes the guy happy is important because he’s such an amazing creator and if he’s not in a happy place with what he’s creating then there isn’t any point of putting energy into it.

We had done 3 albums, the last one went to number one in the UK, they had all gone platinum, so we thought what is next? Do we keep going over and over again? If you’re a DJ you can hold down a club residency for 10 years quite happily and because the music is fresh and continually changing, that’s fine. But if you’re a band playing the same 20 songs weekly, you think we’ve already headlined everything, we’ve done Glastonbury playing before Beyonce, what’s next? Do you just keep going? 

I enjoyed a period of just playing D&B for a long time, outside of the Pendulum live world and I just played Pendulum DJ sets. It was a good time, because I had time to make a lot of music of my own, which I hadn’t had chance to do for years.

Rob and Gareth really enjoyed Knife Party and made some huge noise in that scene, which was great, and then when it felt right to come back again, that’s what we did.

What reignited the spark that brought you all back to it? 

I’m not sure. I think we got to a point where we thought we’ll either never do this again or it will feel right and it could have gone either way. Rob started writing again and I thought do you reckon there’s an EP here? I mean there is probably 10 albums of unreleased Pendulum albums that never got done.

I think also a lot of it is relevant to what other people are doing, when you see other people in the scene doing things which are inspirational, you’re like ok, I’m inspired by this overall scene and I like where things are at – now it’s time to pop back in. 

It wasn’t long ago that Pendulum brought out a new EP, there are quite a few different sounds in there, including a heavier one with a Bullet For My Valetine collab, called “Halo”. How did that come together?

That is just a testament to doing what we want and Rob just producing what he’s feeling. There was a desire to work with the Bullet guys and I think he’s at a point where he looks at people that he finds inspirational and says “let’s make a record”. We used to procrastinate for a decade, trying to do a collab, now it’s just like, “fancy making a tune?” – “Great, let’s do it”. 

In this new period of Pendulum things seem to be coming out easily, comparatively, there used to be a lot of procrastination. It’s a healthy time for us.

Pendulum teased a chunky sounding new D&B intro on Instagram the other day – that sounds very punchy indeed?

That’s call “Napalm” and we debuted that in Leeds on the tour. It’s a straight up, no nonsense, Pendulum banger. That’s what they started the live show with. We sent it out to a few DJs already too and it sounded great at the live shows, it really lit up.

When do you hope to have it out?

don’t know, no idea actually. The song got done and we’re playing it, which is all I know know. 

You must be pleased to see how things are blossoming and growing continually D&B wise in your homeland and the Southern Hemisphere in general?

I forget that I was responsible for some of it to be honest. I think to myself, this is good, what a great scene – oh wait, we put a lot of hard yards in there. People used to say no to D&B and put us in room three, next thing you know, particularly in Western Australia, I think it’s the biggest genre that exists. I don’t just mean in just the dance music sphere, the biggest consistent numbers and events are D&B gigs. I have to pinch myself, every week there is some multi-headliner event.

I just remember thinking when I got home recently, that there are more gigs here than in London on a monthly basis and they always seem to be good. It’s from one end of the scene to the other – they had Roni Size and LTJ Bukem, then they have Sota, the new and the old. A strong mix, it’s great. 

Do you think what is being produced locally in Australia is keeping up with the pace of the number of gigs being put on and the number of visiting international artists arriving? 

I think so, I’ve lost track of how many producers there are in Perth and in Australia in general. Quite often I don’t realise that’s where they’re from, because the scene is so global. I sometimes don’t know that they’re even from my home town.

Like Luude, when he blew up, I thought “where did he come from?” I find out he’s from Tasmania, but grew up half in Perth, I was like what? He is from the scene in my town?

On New Year’s Day I played a bootleg of “Circles” by Adam F and I go back to the hotel and looked at my phone, and see the dude who made the bootleg (Mystik) was actually in the crowd at the gig and I didn’t even know. 

How have you seen things change over the years and where do you think we’re up to now in D&B?

I think we’re at the point where it isn’t a hard sell anymore, we don’t have to convince anyone anymore. D&B is cornflakes now, it’s everywhere and you can’t avoid it. It has taken a long time to get like that. We’re at a point now where it is so normalised and so ingrained in history that it’s undeniable. I think there must be more people listening to D&B than house music now? I mean come on. 

When you see how fast things are moving and progressing, does that fill you with confidence to keep on flying the flag with Pendulum?

I think more inclined than ever. I want it, let’s go. We worked too hard to rest on our laurels and watch this thing explode without being at the forefront of it. I think that is one thing with this scene, you get very motivated by seeing other good things happen and we have worked really hard to get to this place. So we must be at the front of it and strike. 

I get FOMO – I want to be on all the gigs and of course that isn’t possible, there is a lot of strategy around Pendulum and important things for the long run, but I’m a damn bull in china shop and want to be on every rave. When I see things like the USA kicking off, I think “right, I’m moving there tomorrow”. I want it to be done properly and not taken the piss of, by people who aren’t motivated by the scene and the sound, but rather by the self.

That can happen a lot when there is an explosion of something, capitalists come in for their own gain. I want D&B be looked after. Out of all the Pendulum group I’m the D&B guy predominately, I’m the purest one, it’s deep in my soul. I don’t want D&B to be watered down to please people. 

Do you think with social media there is a danger of that? 

There is always a danger of that and it’s always been prevalent. There will always be people who see something that pops off and has success, and that’s followed by 20 versions of it that are progressively worse. That is probably the same in every genre of music. Look deeper past just those big tunes that people are producing and look at the other material, there is always gold, there is always the next thing waiting to pop. There is always honest creativity in D&B and I want to be the guy to find that. 

Who are you enjoying listening to at the moment?

Sota who I mentioned earlier is very impressive. I did a virtual B2B mix with him on Radio 1 not long ago and he’s the first one in a while who made me stop and go damn this kid is crazy. There is a lot of people – A.M.C’s remix of that Sota tune is just killing me and everything he sends me I’m just blown away by. Ed Rush’s new album actually, which is due to come out soon, is just ridiculous. Someone who is a pioneer of this sound, 30 years in, coming with brand new record, which sounds brand new.

ShockOne is on tour with us at the moment with Pendulum and he’s just brought out an album, which is remarkable. It’s a life’s work and I’m really stoked for him. He was in the band that Rob and Gareth were in before Pendulum existed, he was the drummer. So he’s been around us, before I even knew the other guys. Flowidus from Perth/New Zealand- they’re fantastic. The kid I mentioned who heard his own tune at my show is called Mystik, he’s doing some great stuff. 

You mentioned “Napalm” coming out, can we expect any more music from Pendulum? 

That’s all I’m telling you for now. There is more stuff to come on the next EP, but I think the next EP, might be an album. We’ll see.

What does the future hold for you as an artist? You’ve already achieved so much in the world of D&B.

Me personally, I would like this little label to gain some momentum and for me to use this as an outlet to bring newer people into the fold. Or just present something that I love, more than just DJing it. I want to channel some of my energy and experience into getting newer music into the world. I put this off for so long. I’m going to put energy into that outside of Pendulum and work on some solo stuff – I really enjoyed making a couple of tunes lately and that’s something I haven’t done a great deal of by myself.

It seems like the fire is very much within your belly? And long may it continue.

It definitely comes and goes, but seeing the state of affairs globally with D&B at the moment. It’s like, this is what we’ve always dreamed of, it’s as good as it’s ever been.

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