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13 Questions: Blaine Harrison

by Ouch Team

Star of hugely successful band the Mystery Jets, Blaine Harrison is probably the most famous disabled person of the moment. He's got spina bifida, uses stripy crutches to get around and partly blames an accident involving a jacuzzi for the recent pressure sores on his feet. Rock and roll! Blaine says that he started to play music because he couldn't do sport. Let's hope he has a sporting attitude to Ouch's probing questions.

Uppermost in my mind today is ...

Blaine Harrison
A boat I am designing with my dad on the Thames at Eel Pie Island where he lives. Dad's going for a futuristic American Psycho vibe, I'm going more for Rosie and Jim. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

I want to ban ...

Distortion, in a musical sense. So many people, particularly in dance music, think that by making things loud they can get away with sh*t. putting distortion on things musically is like wearing a really bad fake moustache or getting a bad boob job. You think you can get away with it, but people know you're a liar.

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Not a lot of people know that I ...

Am disabled. I get asked "what happened!" about 5 times a day. I have various stories for different people depending on how interested they look and the time they've got. When we first got together as a band we decided that we wouldn't make my disability an issue, the same way we didn't make a big deal of my dad being in the band. We didn't want to be gimmicks. We wanted people to read our lyrics and listen to our music.

The best piece of advice I would pass on is ...

Stick with it. When I first started music I played the drums and was an awful drummer, then I tried guitar and was a terrible guitarist, then the piano. Working with Erol Alkan on our most recent album, I realised that having a good ear is equally as important as being skilled in a particular instrument. We have asked trained classical musicians to play on a few of our songs and unless they have the sheet music in front of them they can't contribute. We have laptops now to help fulfil our ideas and facilitate composing.

I excel at ...

Procrastinating. I'm genius at that and always have been. At school I'd right memory cards, making them into little colour coded paintings. Musically, often our rehearsals turn into episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. We just laugh about stuff for hours before getting down to it. The last album took two years to make.

My ideal dinner guest is ...

Robert Wyatt. We both come from Twickenham. I drove past a house yesterday where he had his accident in the 60s. A couple of weeks ago at a festival I met Johnny Rotten. Within a few minutes, everyone there was disgusted by how vulgar he was. You hugely admire someone, but when you meet them, you see a whole other side of them which didn't come across in their art. I've got the feeling Robert Wyatt is exactly like his music sounds.

If I didn't live in the UK, I'd live in ...

The south west of France where I grew up. My mum lives there and there are so few distractions. At the time I found it quite difficult being so out of the loop, but looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It taught me to use my imagination more. I made music because I couldn't speak the language.

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Where do you spend most of your time?

Travelling. Having this job I am often in different cities every day. this summer in one week we had 5 flights. You start off trying to find different things to occupy yourself but the more you do it the more frustrating it becomes. I spend 50 percent of my life travelling to get somewhere else and I'm not there long enough to enjoy it.

My first job was ...

As a graphic designer for a friend of mine's advertising agency. I started doing it straight after I left school. I was very bad at it, I got fired. in the meantime my mate has made 3 million through the company. We haven't made any money. I am living on an advance from the record company.

When I come home in the evenings, I ...

Have food cooked for me by my girlfriend or my dad, read the Sunday supplement, die my hair different colours, get a bit p*st up, watch Prison Break and Dexter.
The band take a dip in the pool

My favourite drink is ...

Amaretto and coke. It's great, pretty sweet but if you're quite a sour person it goes down well. We always ask for it on our rider, but usually get a 24 pack of Carling instead.

Being a disabled musician ...

Has it's up sides and down sides. I was in hospital for the last 3 weeks with pressure sores on my feet. We have been touring constantly for the last 3 months and I was being a bit silly about not really knowing my limitations. Health is the most important thing in the world, if you fall ill you won't be able to do it next time around.

Playing live as a disabled person is …

Sometimes hard work. A lot of venues don't have an understanding of how to cater for someone who is disabled. We really want to do whatever we can to make life easier, not only for me, but for disabled people who come to our gigs. There is a massive gap in the whole music world. If you want to see an up coming band, you can't until they get to a bigger venue. I am put off going to gigs in small crowded pubs because I know I won't get a seat or will be crammed against a wall. From now on, the Mystery Jets will only play at venues who have made an effort to cater for people with disabilities.

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