Photo Credit: Mike O'Reilly (www.mikeophoto.ca)
A little over a month ago, man-of-many-hats, Kenneth J. Harvey released a music video for “Happiness Kills”, a track by St. John’s alt-rock act Young Maniacs. I had the chance to talk to both Senor Harvey himself, as well as Aaron Hickey and James Greene of Young Manics about their current endeavours and the film-making process.
Young Manics are a Placentian-St.John’s-Ukrainian band comprised of Aaron Hickey, James Green, Peter Collins, and Andrew Small, and new member, Iryna Borshchova. The initial core of four began playing in 2008 and finally released their first album, Solidarity Songs in 2013, which resulted in a Music NL nomination for Alternative Group of the Year.
Hickey said that he “had known of Ken’s reputation as a writer” when “Ken actually approached [the band] first and mentioned that he had heard Solidarity Songs and that he was a real fan of the album, especially the closing track.”
As soon as Harvey “first heard the song, [he] envisioned the video.” After Young Manics accepted his pitch for the video, they proceeded to complete the shoot over “a number of days,” which according to Harvey, “add[ed] complexity to the drama.” They were “blessed to have two talented girls to shoot with: Sierra Collins and Erica Hancock, said Harvey. “The band was a joy to shoot, as well. They are fine, real people without pretension. A good-natured bunch. They made it easy and fun.” Fortunately, the feeling was mutual. Despite filming in a chilly industrial warehouse in the Spring, Hickey says that “Kenneth made the whole day really easy. He knew what he wanted.”
It certainly seems that Harvey does know what he wants. An accomplished writer who has published short stories, novels, and poetry internationally, he is now finding fame in his new medium, film. In addition to this, Harvey is getting recognition as a photographer, as well. One would almost be inclined to call him an “artist.”
Mike O’Reilly (Tint of Ink): Please just describe yourself, as a person and as an artist.
Ken: Call me an artist again and I’ll chop off your head.
Mike O’Reilly (Edit): Describe yourself as a human being with some references to your work in literature and film-making.
Ken (Edit): I am a left-wing businessman.
The nuances of the song and video seem to make some reference to the relationships between happiness, drugs, and a certain risk. Of this, Hickey has to say that “First off, it isn’t meant to be preachy, I struggled a bit with wanting to write about the subject without judgement and the typical conjecture regarding drugs, I didn’t want it to become that cliche. For me it is statement neutral, it only speaks to the duality of my own personal experiences and what I see on the macro level in society; some good, some bad, like so many things in life. I thought the polarity of a title like “Happiness Kills” would do justice to the idea. It’s an oxymoron and its a touch uncomfortable to think about. The dichotomy is interesting and I think it is part of why people gravitated towards that song.”
Mike O’Reilly: As a left-wing businessman, what is your opinion of the pharmacological industry, specifically with reference to psychiatric drugs?
Ken: They serve a purpose, regardless of how inaccurate their variance. Sometimes a bingo is registered and this helps people. Pills are sometimes too easy a fix. On the other hand, they do save lives.
Mike O’Reilly: What would be your thoughts on the intersection between arts, science and business? From an outsider’s perspective (particularly one who has not been threatened with decapitation), the music video you created can be seen to have aspects of all three.
Ken: Arts science and business are equally important. They are interdependent and hooked on each other in various junky ways. Pull one out and the whole system goes into withdrawal.
When asked about his opinion on being “an artist,” Hickey said that in his opinion, “It’s a term you can’t call yourself. You can write a song, paint a picture, mould a sculpture, nail your sack to the ground in front of the Kremlin – all of that – but I think it’s up to the public to decide if that is art.”
Whether Harvey or Young Manics are able to self-identify as artists is one thing, but their output – artistic or otherwise – is assured. According to James Greene, Young Manics “are writing new material now” and “want to get started on a new recording as soon as possible.” Harvey said that up next for him is a “film on master Newfoundland artist, Gerald Squires. I just filmed him through the entire process of painting a portrait. It was a singular experience. I have admired his work for decades.”
Hopefully Squires doth not protest so much the moniker “artist.”