: Oliver Charles
Drummer on the album
"Fight for your mind" (1995).He has left during five years
the Innocent criminals (between 1996 and 2001). It is Dean Butterworth
who has replaced him during this time.
You can find below the
interview of Oliver conducted by Gavin Conaty the december 18th 2003
in Los Angeles for the official website (http://www.benharper.net)
Q: What are you doing
in your off-time?
A: Recording my own record with a friend of mine, Tim Jones, which
is called Project 1836. Literally, since I landed on Sunday, starting
on Monday I went straight into the studio and have been there ever
Q: How'd that come together?
A: Tim and I have been writing some of these songs for the last 8
or 9 years, but we never had the time, money or resources to really
go for it. Now that I have a little bit of time, and the resources
and money are there, I have to take my normal rest time and put it
into this record. Actually I'll be doing someone else's record come
January. This girl Mozella - she got signed to Maverick. I'll be recording
drums for her record.
Q: Who came up with the name Project 1836, and what is its significance?
A: We really didn't have a name for the band, and over the past few
years I ended up staying in two different places with the same street
number (1836). Tim and I lived together in the first place, and started
writing tunes together, and decided back then we had to make a record.
So we called it Project 1836.
Q: Who else is playing in the band?
A: Ray Thomas and Jordan Levine are both engineers, but they're both
doing a little bit of playing. Actually Ray wrote one of the tunes
on the record. These guys are the two guitar players from my old ska
band from ten years ago, Ocean 11. But that record's almost done as
well. Jordan's also got this bizarre band called Bingewood.
Q: Are you playing with Bingewood as well?
A: Yeah, on drums. We've got two records in the can, hopefully coming
out this summer.
Q: How do you find the time to play full time with the Innocent
Criminals and still have connections with so many other bands?
A: I make the time. I don't any personal life.
Q: What style of music is Project 1836?
A: Everything revolves around the 80's. Not the trendy 80's that's
going around right now. More like the alt stuff: Cure, Peter Gabriel,
Jeff Buckley...even Depeche Mode. There's a hardcore element involved.
We listen to a lot of hardcore: Sepultura, Pantera, Slayer, Strife.
Mostly emo. Very melodic. Groove based. Not a lot of complex changes.
Simple music. Emotional.
Q: In addition to the drums, what else are you playing?
A: Bass, guitar, piano. I'm even trying to borrow a lap slide from
Ben! I'm bringing in a string section as well.
Q: Is it easier making a record on your own, in the sense that
no one is telling you what to do? Or do you find it more of a challenge?
A: It's hard as $%#@. It's not easy. It kind of rests on your shoulders.
If it ends up sucking in the end, it's all on you.
Q: How does the writing process differ in this band versus with
the Innocent Criminals?
A: The difference is that Tim and I are doing most of the writing.
It's a learning process, because I've played in a lot of other bands,
but never really made a whole record on my own. It's a different experience...taking
command of the shit.
Q: Who's producing the album?
A: Myself and Ray Thomas.
Q: Where are you recording?
A: The Edge Cliff House in the Silverlake, Los Angeles area.
Q: When do anticipate the album's release?
A: Hopefully by the summer of 2004. We're trying to finish it before
I go back out on tour in March.
Q: Growing up in Los Angeles has given you an opportunity to work
with a wealth of talented musicians. Who else have you played with?
A: I started off playing with a band in high school called Groovin
High. JP and Ben met me when I was playing in that band. They were
kind of an acid jazz, heavy funk, like the JB's, the Meters, etc.
Then I played with the band Weapon of Choice - they were on Stone
Gossard's label. I also play with the Rhythm Room All-Stars. I played
in Greg Kurstin's band Action Figure Party too. But L.A. is mostly
a musician scene. I mean serious players. Everyone involved in the
scene are not your average players, they're super-innovative cats.
They're way before their time. All of them.
Q: Let's dig into your history with the Innocent Criminals a little
bit. Your first show behind the kit was at the Rose Garden in Portland,
OR with Zap Mama and Keb' Mo' way back on September 4th, 1994. What
do you remember about that show?
A: I remember a lot of things about that gig. I remember flying up
to that gig. We had two town cars. Ben was in the car I was in. We
flew up early that day. I was like wow, 'cause I'd only been playing
small bars in L.A. I was kind of jazzed, because I only knew the guys
for like five days before that. We'd only done four rehearsals. But
then again we only did about 10 songs. But those days were different.
We were road dogs. We were huffing and puffing. All of us in one van.
Just the four of us, and the gear. We didn't have a trailer back then.
I was only 19.
Q: How did you get together with Ben?
A: At this dive called the Gaslight (now called the Opium Den) in
Hollywood in August 1994, I was playing a weekly gig with Groovin
High. That night we opened for Macy Gray. JP came up to me and introduced
himself, because we'd been playing some Meters tunes. He introduced
me to Ben, and in the next couple weeks, Ben called about an opening
in the band.... You know what? Jason Yates was playing in Macy's band
Q: After finishing the 1996 "Fight For Your Mind" tour
in Florida with Pearl Jam, you had a five year hiatus apart from the
IC's. What did you do in your time away from the band?
A: I needed some time to recoup and get my life together...health-wise
and chops-wise. I had to work on some drumming stuff. I played with
Spearhead for a couple months. I mostly played in town; then I had
to get a regular job, which really sucked. I also went on tour with
Bad Brains for about a month, as a drum tech.
Q: Have you approached anything differently this time around?
A: Definitely a lot older and a lot healthier, for starters. I've
changed a lot as a drummer. After playing with so many different types
of bands, like Latin, jazz, speed metal, and lots of reggae and ska,
I've been able to soak up tons of musical knowledge. I was playing
with guys that really whipped my ass into shape.
Q: How did your recent tour of Europe rank with past tours abroad?
A: The best one ever. Ever! This whole year has been dope. This last
European run was the bomb. I don't think I've ever enjoyed Europe
this much. Normally I can't wait to get home. This time I was ready
to go another two weeks. I'm ready to go back out on the road right
Q: What was the most memorable moment for you?
A: You know what? There were a lot of moments. Like in Portugal. It
was a huge show. Of course, the Paris shows. There weren't really
any bad shows.
Q: What can we expect from the next tour starting in Japan in March
A: We're gonna tear that side of the world up. We're going to it blow
Q: You used to cover Peter Tosh's reggae classic "You Can't
Blame the Youth" back in the early days. Do you foresee a comeback?
Q: Are you working on new material with Ben and the band?
Q: Most people might not know your sister Danielle plays the violin,
and has recorded and played live with BHIC. What is she up to these
A: She's going to school, teaching music, and being mom.
Q: Are there any other musicians in the family?
A: Yes, my father Chili Charles, who played in the Innocent Criminals,
briefly. He was in the band for about three weeks as a percussionist.
Leon couldn't make a tour, and my dad stepped in for a good three
weeks. We went to Turkey and to France on that run.
Q: What's in your CD player right now?
A: A live Bad Brains CD. Live Ben Harper. And stuff that I'm working
on. But I've got my IPOD in the car that has just about everything
Q: For the tech heads, what's your current drum setup?
A: Tama Star Classic. 14" snare. 10" snare. 10" rack.
12" rack. 2 - 14" floor toms. 22" kick drum. 4 crash
symbols, 2 rides, 2 chinas, and 2 splashes. I have a Roland V-Drum
Q: In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans?
A: Ben Harper fans are really dope fans to have because they are pretty
damn loyal. Super-loyal, as a matter of fact.