By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY – I didn’t ask if Thor Harris of Thor & Friends’ first name is really “Thor,” as in son of Odin, heir to the throne of Asgard and so on. Even just a brief scan of his bio or Twitter timeline could confirm that if anyone deserves to be named after a mythical beefcake then it’s somebody who has drummed for Swans, Ben Frost (both at Sled Island, for example), Shearwater, Devendra Banhart, Bill Callahan and more and still found the time to teach the world how to correctly punch a Nazi.
Thor & Friends, which is rounded out by collaborators Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier, doesn’t sound like Harris’s previous work, or indeed much else in the musical landscape.
“Thor & Friends is primarily inspired by mid 20th-century classical minimalism and all electronic music,” Harris says.
“I love electronic music, but have zero patience with robots. I found that my interest in vocal, blues-based music was waning. It had been slowly replaced with a thirst for early choral music and the above mentioned electronic, ambient, and minimalism.”
Although some analogue synths drift in and out, Thor & Friends are more or less acoustic, instrumental, and very open to improvisation.
“When we play these songs live, we often enlist the help of local musicians, so the live lineup is always changing. The live group can have anywhere from three to 20 members.”
When he isn’t making strange, brilliant music or playing in all of the cool bands, Harris is being a generally swell dude in all other aspects of his life. Having suffered bouts of major depression during his life, he starred in a widely-shared video for the Mental Health Channel (“Depression had taught me not to insert my stupid ego into my work, to be of service to a greater cause,” he says.) He also writes, practices carpentry and made the aforementioned video on how best to clean the figurative clocks of National Socialists, which caused super-edgy Free Speech Warriors to tell on him for having drawings of penises on his profile page, leading to a temporary ban from a platform that gives verified status to neo-Nazis in the name of creating a dialogue.
For somebody who is pro-punching he’s a surprisingly chill guy, and his music reflects his dual nature: neither dark nor light, tense or relaxed, technical or organic. It is, like Harris himself, fascinating and worth getting to know.
Thor & Friends perform at Studio Bell, Performance Hall on June 24 as part of Sled Island.Performance Hall, Sled Island, Sled Island 2017, Studio Bell, Thor & Friends