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Music writer ready to debut his own band

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor Readers of Reminder Publications over the past several years have seen that writer Craig Harris knows music inside and out through his many interview pieces on musicians coming to our region. What they don't know is that Harris, also a long-time music educator, is an accomplished musician himself who will be debuting his band Miles Orgasmic at a special concert at 8 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Delaney House in Holyoke. Harris started playing drums at age six and credits his father, "a classic beatnik," a major influence on his life. "I sat down at the drums and I was hooked," Harris said. Since then he has immersed himself in music as a musician, a music writer, a program director for his college radio station, photographer and teacher. As a performer, Harris has appeared in performances with Rod MacDonald, Rick Danko, Aztec Two-Step, Greg Brown, Jonathan Edwards, CJ Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band, Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band, the Fast Folk Musical Revue and the Hungry Man's Army. It was at a Mickey Hart - the drummer for the Grateful Dead - percussion performance that Harris was photographing when he realized he was at least as good as some of the drummers on stage and that he was on the wrong side of the stage. He said he rediscovered part of himself that night and decided to form a band. "It took me 10 years to find the right musicians," he said. He said there are a lot of competent musicians in the area, but few who could "play out of the box." "I needed people who could think musically," he said. He was deeply influenced by jazz legend Miles Davis and by an evening spent with the Throat Singers of Tuva. The group practices a type of singing found in the Tuva region between Siberia and Mongolia and Harris said to listen to them was "to forget everything I know [about music theory]." The result was a desire to play a music that Harris believes is singular. "It sounds like nobody else's. It sounds like a lot of things at the same time," he explained. "It is jazz, but at the same time it's rock," he continued. There are West African, Caribbean and Native American influences as well. He believes the sound is "plowing new ground." Although the band has played at several venues before, Harris said, "This is the beginning of our 'Hope and Peace Tour.'" "I see us offering hope at a time when it's needed," he said. "I want people to feel good." The group has also recorded its first album, "As Flowing as the River, As Howling as the Wind." Harris's bandmates include Vanessa and Donald Fortin on flute and bass, respectively, Nancy Valois on keyboard and John Salonen on violin, cello and keyboard. Valois and Salonen have been performing as Cosmix Moxa since 1970. Harris would love to just be a musician full-time and believes that with the connections he has made in the music industry, he could "take [the band] to the next level." To listen to selection of the band's original compositions, go to www.ilike.com/artist/Miles+Orgasmic. For ticket information on the Delaney House show call 532-1800.

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