We are so happy that Austin, TX based artist Thor Harris is Spillin' the Beans with us this week. We've known Thor for many years, and try to check in with him whenever he's in Chicago playing a show with one of the many people he collaborates with. Thor has boundless energy for creativity and friendship, no doubt fueled a bit by his love for good coffee.
Hi There, Thor! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. To begin, could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi. I'm from Texas and I am a musician. I have played with a lot of great people. Some are Swans, Ben Frost, Bill Callahan, Yonatan Gat, Devendra Banhart, Xiu Xiu, Amanda Palmer, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Hospital Ships, etc.
I am also a painter, woodworker, plumber, and carpenter.
Thor Harris, with his trusty AeroPress and Glassworks Coffee.
You are one of the most creatively and artistically active people I can think of. As far as music, you have collaborated and toured with a substantial amount of incredible artists. What projects are you currently involved with?
I recently toured with Yonatan Gat. Thor & Friends have more tours this summer, and I will join Xiu Xiu later in the year for some touring in 2019 .
Thor with yet another great guy, Tim Midyett, at The Hideout, Chicago.
After so much prolific collaboration with different people and personalities, are there artistic experiences that stand out to you and you would like to share?
Being in Swans was exhausting and maddening, but was the highlight of my career. Music is something you can actually get better and better at right up until you die, so I am constantly learning new things through collaboration. I try to learn new instruments all the time. I want to be able to serve in many different musical situations.
Thor with a big cactus. Photo by Ryan Davis.
You’re artistic output isn’t limited to music. You draw and work with wood, build your drums and actually built a substantial amount of your own home as well, right? How do these forms of expression differ from music for you?
I love working with wood, paints, pencil, etc. I also really find it satisfying to work on houses, and I have become a proficient carpenter and plumber. It is great when I can solve a problem and make someone's life better or easier. Music is a special thing, though. It requires intense relationships for collaboration. It is one of the worst ways to make money and yet it has contributed more to my leading a rich, fulfilling life than anything else. It is the language of our highest callings. It's practice is a form of prayer, even for the godless. It unites. Politics and religion divide.
Thor Harris, photo by Gretchen Phillips
Although you travel extensively, you call Austin, TX home. What about it keeps you there, and how would you compare the artistic culture to other places you’ve spent time?
Austin is still a warm, friendly place full of creative people. Like other great cities, it's getting expensive. At some point it becomes too expensive for artists and musicians too live. Then what you have is San Francisco or Manhattan - no more art. But for now, Austin is still a vibrant place to live and work. It is a liberal city in a conservative state, but all the major metropolitan areas of Texas have gotten far more liberal.
Thor & Friends, photo by Tamir Kalifa
What is the coffee culture like there?
When at home, what is your preferred brewing method?
I use the Aeropress.
An Aeropress. Photo by Kristan Lieb.
What about when you are out on the road?
On the road I bring a tiny Japanese hand crank grinder and an Aeropress.
Thor using our Rare Earth Single Origin to help open his third eye.
Are you partial to coffees from any particular growing regions?
My favorites are Ethiopian dry process.
How would you describe the relationship between coffee and your creative drive/process?
I have no desire to live much less create before coffee. I am a pathetic addict. Coffee is like a God of sorts for me.
If you were going to design and build a coffee brewing system, what would it be like?An Aeropress made of stainless steel instead of plastic.
Thank you so much, Thor. Lastly, have you heard any good jokes lately?
Q: What's the difference between a musician and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of 4.
Check out Thor's thoughts on how to feel good.
If you have an opportunity to see Thor perform, we highly recommend it. It's not hard to do, as he tours consistently with a variety of bands. Do yourself a favor and say hi, and please tell him that Glassworks sends their love.