Somewhat ironically, for a producer who’s best known for his 2005 club smash ‘Let’s Be Young’, we can’t actually reveal how young Quentin Harris is – all he’ll disclose about his age is that he was born on September 8 in Detroit, Michigan. But that makes him a Virgo - a sign renowned for secrecy and a love of privacy – so we’lll probably have to forgive him.
Either way, it was clear from an early age that the then-very-young Quentin would almost certainly go into music. His entire family comes from a musical background and in the words of the man himself, “I was exposed to so much music, it was just inevitable.”
Or to put it another way, how many people do you know that can claim that one of their formative experiences was “playing keyboards in my aunt’s blues band”?
It wasn’t the blues that was to mark the beginning of Quentin’s musical career, however. A classically-trained pianist with a deep love of hip-hop,
it wasn’t long before he was working as a session musician for luminaries of the ilk of Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin. It was surely inevitable that he would
soon make his move into the world of production, and sure enough, he made his debut with 2002’s ‘Sincere’ on US label Space Kat, a respected underground
imprint for whom he’s gone on to record several other singles. It’s fair to say that hip-hop and house, despite shared roots in funk, disco and soul, haven’t
always had the easiest of relationships, but Quentin, an affirmed hip-hop lover since his youth who prides himself on bringing a hip-hop sensibility to his house music productions,
believes that dance music’s Kramer and Kramer can learn to love one another again. “My heart’s in music, and it’s all relative,” he says.
“When it comes to hip-hop and house, I think they’re getting back together. All things come full circle.”
Whether Quentin will single-handedly spark a full-on hip-house revival remains to be seen. In the meantime there’s plenty else to talk about: his landmark pre-’Let’s Be Young’
2003 reworking of Victor Simonell’s classic ‘Do You Want Me’ by Cloud 9, for a start (for the young ’uns, a cut that was huge on the US house/garage
scene of the early ’90s before finding renewed vigour on the UK/speed garage scene of the latter part of the decade). “Believe it or not, that came about through Motown!,”
chuckles Quentin. “I did it for [US label] Giant Step, and Motown heard it on Giant Step’s radio show and things just went from there.”
That’s not the only track Harris has to boast about, however. As well as a string of his own solo productions, he’s worked with acclaimed
house music divas such as Monique Bingham and (Miss) Jodi Cardwell. Oh, and a certain Mariah Carey, for whom he remixed 2005’s ‘Don’t Forget About Us’
for the mighty Def Jam. “I always think that commercial dance remixes shouldn’t be disposable,” he says. “When I make music, it’s strictly for the clubs. With that remix,
I wanted to show the powers that be that you don’t always have to have that sound that, that’s how it always was.”
And so we come to ‘Let’s Be Young’, a track that marks the mainstream emergence of a tech-soul fusion that’s been bubbling on the underground for a couple of years.
‘Let’s Be Young’ was an unforgettable – nay, landmark – mixture of techno Detroitian looping synth b-line with remarkably discoid strings and horns,
a track that took clubland by complete surprise. Yet Harris is nonchalant about its impact. “That’s just my two worlds colliding,” he says.
“It’s techy but it’s got the strings and the horns thing going on as well. Is it the record I’m proudest of? I don’t know, they’re all different from one another.”
His humility aside, ‘Let’s Be Young’ has driven Harris, with his never predictable but always deep, funky and jacking house sound, into the big league.
So much so that collaborators on soon-come debut artist album ‘No Politics’ (due on Defected this summer) include the heavy-hitting likes of Francois Kevorkian,
Danny Krivit, David Morales, Danny Tenaglia and Frankie Knuckles.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the people who, over the years, I’ve been on their dancefloors having the time of my life,”
says Quentin of the above collaborations. Spoken, we’re sure you’ll agree, like a true househead. Which Mr Harris most certainly is.