Words by:
Photography: Brady Cobert

The reasons why I make music always come back to the harmonica. When I came to improvise music from the act of drawing, I discovered that this instrument is also quite a direct form of communication. Drawing is something we all learn to do when we’re little and I was always obsessed with the idea of the creation of music being more like the way I draw – that idea of having a blank page and moving across it, discovering things as you go along.

This is the reason I get so excited about improvised music. And, with the harmonica, it’s intuitive – because everyone knows how to breathe. My goddaughter, who is around four, is one of my best friends. She’s an amazing person; we draw together all the time and I like to make music with her, too. She has the same relationship as I do with the harmonica; she just holds it and knows what to do with it. It’s exactly why I like to play [music] with other people – you form this other way of interacting.

When I stopped smoking, it was like losing a friend. I was sort of grieving. The harmonica is the only instrument – I think, I’m no music historian – where you can actually breathe in and out. It was like my harmonica replaced smoking. So instead of smoking a cigarette, I’d play the harmonica. I’ve always liked art that you don’t have to walk towards. For example, you have to walk towards a piano. I used to play electric guitar, and to do that, you have to go and plug in an amplifier. You don’t have to do all that with a harmonica. It can just come to me, and I can play it while I’m drawing or cooking.

Recently, I was thinking, “What is an instrument?” In essence, it’s this way of projecting something inside, outside. Like reaching towards something; an extension. The harmonica seems like the most direct portrayal of that.

Gut is out now via Mute