Interview: Cohle Harris

The time has finally come for COHLE HARRIS to really introduce himself to New Zealand and the world really. Cohle Harris is the monicker of Joshua O’Donnell. You may recognise him from local band, Banks Arcade. But Cohle Harris is completely different from Banks Arcade and anything else you’ve heard or seen really. Get to know him more in the interview below:

So why the solo project?

Basically just because the music’s there. I'm writing for Banks Arcade but I'm writing so much more. I love Hip Hop music and I just had the content so I had to do something with it. It started taking over a lot more. Some of my stuff is electro-pop sort of stuff and some of it is Brockhampton-esque sort of rap, a bit more alternative. But yeah the simple answer is, I had the content.

Where did the name Cohle Harris come from?

So there’s a show called True Detective and there’s a guy on the show called Rustin Cohle. I’m very attracted to his character, the way he sees the world and the philosophy he has. I guess it’s kind of dark but it’s like the best television series ever. There’s 2 seasons but the 1st one is the best. Rustin Cohle is a detective and he’s quite nihilistic I guess. A lot of the show is centered around his character. There’s also a neuroscientist by the name of Sam Harris who is predominantly a scientist and comes from a scientific background but he speaks a lot about human wellbeing, meditation and how we can communicate better as humans. A lot of those same philosophies he talks about are the same things that Cohle talks about but their almost from different angles. I thought Rustin Cohle was cool but Sam Harris has really influenced me so yeah put the 2 together COHLE HARRIS.

Tonight you release your first music video which is also the 1st track anyone will hear from you, how does that feel?

Anytime I’m about to release something, I usually feel really shit about it by the time it gets to this point. I just think of all the things I could have done to make it better but I’m pretty excited about this. Pretty much just because it was literally done by me and my friends. We didn’t pay anyone. All of it is us. Obviously I’m going to do stuff in the future that will have much better production, in many different aspects, but I think the level that we’ve got to as something to put out 1st, I’m pretty fucking happy with it.

What is the track and video about?

It’s kind of interesting. I feel like a lot of my songs will rarely be about 1 subject. I do have songs like that, but I feel like this one is a reflection of myself in some ways and how there’s sort of doing what I do and what I want to do. Also the things that I have done throughout my lifestyle over the years. There’s like an element of it which is really fucked up and dark. I guess I talk about the scene and the drugs, and all that sort of shit that everyone talks about, but I think everyone goes through it. I think there’s an element of it that’s really exciting and really awesome. It’s not even necessarily drugs, it’s the culture of gaining a following. Like even if you’re not famous, just the culture of getting people to like you and trying to make an impact. Because if you’re an artist no matter what you say, you’re in the business of entertaining people. You’re trying to make people happy and make them say they like you. To detach yourself from that is very hard and not many artists just make art for themselves and put it out there. To not have this thing like, I want to just make art for myself but then I’ve got all these things going around inside of my head that sort of swirl around and tie to what other people might say or want. But yeah going on a bunch of tangents, but THERAPY is basically the story of a fucked up trip. I go on these tangents because there is a lot of elements to it. But in the video you basically see myself in 2 different environments, 1 of which is quite dark and showcasing the reality of what’s going on, that I’m in a fucked up trip. But then it’s contrasted with the fact that I am in this heavenly place with chicks everywhere and with all these people. It’s reflective of a time when I enjoyed that dark fucked up time. To simplify it, the song is a bad trip.

When can people expect to hear more?

Next month. Then the month after that and the month after that etc.

So building towards the tour?

Yep and there will be another video coming out before then too. It’s very different to the THERAPY but much easier to explain haha.

Tour! Your going on a 5-date tour to essentially launch yourself but also in a way personally introduce yourself, what can people expect and are you excited? I’m very excited!

As for what people can expect I’ll just talk about the people I’m playing with. So Pahroah Swami is insane. He’s played shows all over New Zealand, he played festivals, he’s an amazing performer. I think him and Rich James are both dudes that got me to do music other than metal. I’ve only been doing this sort of stuff for a year now. I met Rich when he came to my house for a birthday party thing and then I loved the shit he was doing. So I was hanging out with him and through him I met Pharoah Swami. Those dudes are really cool and put on awesome shows. I’m really excited to see what their going to do. Rich has got new music coming out. Pharoah’s got a new album he’s dropping. Just as performers those guys are insane. In each city the lineup is all of the local artists that I like and are doing really cool stuff. So it’s going to be cool to see what they do too. As for my performance I think the thing that sets me a part from other people in the genre is the fact that I obviously come from a live band scenario, so it’s not me up there with a DJ. We’ve got a full live band, we’re going to have a stage show, we’re going to have a lot of different elements other than just playing the music. But I’ll leave it at that and let people be surprised.

You've got Pharoah swami and rich James joining you, but you've also lined up a bunch of other local supports that people may or may not know. Why did you decide to do that?

I think there’s heaps of separation with people and if there’s a whole bunch of good artists in an area I think that everyone should just come together, play shows and support people. I want to do the same thing for when people come into an area. I also think that as somebody who is not known by the masses and comes into a world, its good to pay your dues to the people that have been working in that genre for a while. Not just come out and be like I’m the man and I’m doing a headline tour, fuck all you guys. To show respect to the work that people have put in and be like these guys have been at this longer than I have and their really cool. It’s an honour to have them on board and do shit with them.

What are you currently listening too?

The new Brockhampton album. I’m really excited for new Architects. The Wedding Crashers. I’ve been trying to listen to a lot more instrumental music and I’ve got friends who are at Jazz School and they’ll make playlists for me on Spotify. I also like Russ, his new album is sick.

What rumour would you like to start about yourself?

That’s the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I can’t think of a time when I’ve actually been stumped and not been able to give an answer. I would start a rumour among people that I was found somewhere in the woods in Norway and I was raised by a mental health institution with no parents. Some how I escaped and got into western world and culture, found my parents and forced them to adopt me. I’d make people start looking into it and arguing about it like no he’s got pictures of him here when he was a kid. All this was falsified and I’d just be like I don’t know who my parents are, I was in some psych ward as a kid but managed to escape, forged myself a life in this western world and now I’m just an aspiring creative.

What's something you want people to know about you?

I think the most important thing that I want to get about there, about what I’m trying to do, is that I’m diverse. When it comes to music I am many different things. If you become a fan of me and what I’m doing you’re sort of opening yourself up to a lot of different genres and a lot of cool art. It’s just my journey and I’m just trying to find the purest way of expressing myself through these different passages. And that’s where I’ve taken inspiration from with guys like Kendrick and Brockhampton who you listen to 1 song then you listen to another song and they’re completely different. I also don’t think that small artists in the industry are working hard enough. I think so many people have massive dreams and want to be on these big stages but they don’t believe in themselves. Well they kind of do, they have this pseudo belief where they say they do but they don’t know what their doing and they don’t put the time in. I don’t know many people that work as hard as me and my team and I know that for a fact. So as far as us coming into this, people are going to love what we’re doing and a lot of artists are probably going to hate us because we’re going to steal their fans.

Anything else to add?

I hold the greatest respect for the people that I work the closest with, especially Phil. So Phil is the drummer in Banks Arcade and does the videos etc. Cohle is just as much him as it is me. I write all the music and stuff but I think these guys that are in my team are what makes this work and how well we work together. Everyone supports it. There’s no ego of like I’m the main guy. No this is OUR thing.

TWENTY FIVE EIGHT presents COHLE HARRIS (with Pharoah Swami & Rich James) 15th November – Wellington – Meow 16th November – New Plymouth – Mayfair 17th November – Palmerston North – The Royal 23rd November – Hamilton – Niagara Lounge 24th November – Auckland – Galatos Tickets on sale at


Interviewed by Art & Photography by Shelley Te Haara