Calvin Harris reveals his early love of Jamiroquai and the Spin Doctors: “I became obsessed with basslines… they had an amazing bass player”

Calvin Harris
(Image credit: Getty Images)

He’s become one of the most successful dance music producers in the world, but it turns out that the songs that stoked Calvin Harris’s music-making fire, and instilled in him a love of basslines, came from rather different genres.

Speaking to Radio 2’s Vernon Kay, the star says that, when he was growing up, “my favourite two bands were Jamiroquai and the Spin Doctors for about three or four years.”

Explaining his love of UK acid jazz outfit Jamiroquai, and their debut album in particular, Harris says: “It was the first album that I persuaded my mum to buy me. It was the only one I had for about a year, so I caned it - I was obsessed.”

Discussing what drew him to the music, Harris recalls: “The production was obviously very clean and very good, and the fact that [Jay Kay] used real instruments played really, really well. Lovely chords and all the influences. Now I know that he was going his Roy Ayers and his Herbie Hancock impression, but so, so well. And they were all just great players.”

What of dance music though, the genre that Harris has become synonymous with? Did this catch his childhood ear?

“At that age, no,” he confirms. “It was whatever was on TV. We only had four channels, so there wasn’t a huge amount of music being played, so really it was just whatever was popular.” 

This helps to explain how Harris came across his other formative musical heroes, early ‘90s US alternative rock band the Spin Doctors. Their debut album, Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, was a huge hit, and spawned two massive hit singles in the shape of Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.

“It’s still baffling to me now why that was,” Harris admits, before correcting himself: “Actually it’s not because I became obsessed with basslines, and Spin Doctors, much maligned they are, but they had an amazing bass player - this guy Mark [White].”

Harris also namechecks original Jamiroquai bassist Stuart Zender, calling him an “absolute bass icon.” Harris is known to play bass on his own records (in 2022 he took to Twitter to point out that "I write, produce, mix, play every instrument and sometimes vocal") and has previously showcased his skills on social media.

Another song to capture the imagination of young Calvin, who grew up in Dumfries, Scotland, was Nirvana’s Lithium. And again, the bassline was what had him hooked.

“My brother really liked Nirvana - he was quite a bit older than me - so he introduced me to them,” he recalls. “I had this little acoustic guitar, a Christmas present, and because I wasn’t very good at doing the chords I used to just play one string at a time, so the bassline seemed like an easier thing to follow than the chords.”

Digging deeper into the memory bank, Harris adds: “Lithium was the most fun thing to play because it was all over the place. A very intricate kind of cool bassline; the chords would change and he’d change the root note and stuff… I was fascinated by it.” 

2023 has seen Harris release Miracle, a collaboration with Ellie Goulding, which became his 11th single to top the UK charts. He now has the eighth-most UK number ones of any artist, and it’s all thanks to the Spin Doctors.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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