In 2015, Harrison Fine was named NOW Magazine’s Best Producer for the second year running. But producing music just wasn’t enough, so he shifted gears and launched a solo project, Opus Eyes. Fans got a taste of that music late last year by way of the seven-track album Lightswitch.
We chatted with Fine about that record, his alter ego and why being a music producer makes it tough to record your own stuff.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Why did you want to form Opus Eyes?
Harrison Fine (HR): When composing electronic pop music, the sky’s the limit. You can do anything, go anywhere and be anyone. You’re limited to your imagination. As an acoustic artist, there is only so much you can do with six strings, a drum kit and a mandolin. As well, the songwriter market is over-saturated. It’s next to impossible to be musically unique these days. So, I wasn’t inspired picking up my acoustic guitar anymore. I asked myself questions like, How am I different from the thousands of other songwriters? What makes me unique? Where’s my artist’s voice? I turned to electronic composition to find that voice. To give my artistry a sense of purpose again.
RMM: How did your experiences as a producer inform your choices on this record? Did your producer side ever hinder it?
HR: It gave me a deeper understanding of the process, a better bird’s eye view of what I’m doing and the ability to get from A to B with fewer obstacles. Producers are guiders – helping artists achieve their artistic goals. When I discovered the purpose of Opus Eyes, nothing could stop me. I knew exactly what I wanted from day one.
Being a producer can hinder the process, yes. Especially when you are producing yourself. It is a different story trying to produce yourself. When do you call it quits? How are you sure you aren’t overly biased? You end up questioning the entire process. It takes a lot longer this way.
RMM: What was writing this album like? Did it flow together easily or were you challenged by it?
HR: I must have composed 30 songs and narrowed them down to seven. There were many one-minute tracks that never made it. Many five-minute tracks that never made it either. There were times I lost track of my direction. I felt like giving up. The process and challenges can be heard in the album. From the first song to the end, Lightswitch is a personal journey, both emotional and mental. Showcasing the challenges we face daily. Creating this album was no different.
RMM: Lightswitch has a very organic-meets-synthetic sound. Why did you take it in that direction and how did you achieve that sound?
HR: Thank you. That’s what I wanted from day one. The goal was to create a real album. One which people could relate to. Songs which discuss hate and anger. An album which touched on psychology and corruption. Opus Eyes is a metaphor for that voice we never acknowledge. If music is a representation of life, in order to create this vision, I had to instil organic qualities. I had to leave in mistakes. I had to add the qualities I did to make it real.
RMM: How did you come to be involved with Songs From the Heart? What was that experience like?
HR: Tony Roost, founder of One Fire Movement, is a wonderful individual. His goal is to create real change in the world, help as many people as he can while alive and expect nothing in return. I have always admired his mission and have always wanted to be a part of one of his projects. Songs From the Heart was my opportunity to do that. We got together one day at Pawn Shop studios (which is in the same building as my new studio, funny enough) and shot a live-in-studio recording/video of my song, “Lightswitch”. We performed four to five takes and chose the best one. That wasn’t edited together. It was one performance from start to finish!
RMM: What’s the best way to listen to or enjoy Lightswitch?
HR: Turn off the lights, put on a pair of headphones and close your eyes. Think of what it means to be human, why you’re here and who you are. Be honest with yourself and listen to that voice inside you. Be emotional and let yourself open up. This album forces open that door in us. On the other side is growth and understanding.
HR: I am just about ready to start working on my next album. I have a few ideas for singles. You’ll probably see a few of them before a new album, but who knows. Inspiration and artistry are very fickle and unreliable. They come and go as they please. I recently moved my studio to Kensington Market [in Toronto]. The rich culture is already inspiring me and I guarantee you’ll hear it in the following material.
RMM: What’s next for Harrison Fine?
HR: I’m working on a personal album again. Funny how this quest has once again opened up a voice for me as a songwriter. Comes around full circle in a way. How symbolic, huh? It’s my best stuff to date, says everyone. Expect an EP sometime this year. The songs are very relatable and discuss the challenges of living in the 21st century as a young adult grappling with emotional uncertainty and not knowing what the future holds.
Fine also says to expect a new project called, Artists Give Back. He says he’s been searching for a way to combine art and activism, music and helping others.
“This is the portal I’ve been searching for,” he explains. “There will be music, production, video and more stemming from this new endeavour.”
For more on Harrison Fine – and Opus Eyes – visit www.fineproductions.ca.