Kooks guitarist Hugh Harris opens up about being ‘terrified of judgment’


The Kooks guitarist Hugh Harris says he has been “terrified of judgment” since he shot to fame with his band.

The musician, who has released his self-titled debut solo album, helped found the indie outfit in Brighton in 2002 before they found a wider audience with their 2006 debut album Inside In/Inside Out.

Harris was inspired to write a solo record by the birth of his daughter, Sapphire, and the death of his parents within 18 months of each other – his mother from cancer and his father from an aneurysm.

Isle of Wight Festival 2017
Isle of Wight Festival 2017

He told the PA news agency: “It’s really scary especially because this record is so personal.

“It’s like opening my diary to the world and saying: ‘This is how things have gone for me.’

“It’s opening yourself up to judgment as well and to be afraid of judging is something that I have suffered from a lot in my life, from being on stage as a teenager.

“We went on tour when we were 16, the band started exploding when I was 18, so I think I have been terrified of judgment for a large part of my life.

“So this is a huge step for me in my development, in my mental health.”

V Festival 2015 Day Two – Chelmsford
V Festival 2015 Day Two – Chelmsford

Harris later travelled to Rishikesh in northern India where he took part in a silent retreat at an ashram and visited the site where the Beatles stayed in 1968.

He said that prior to his trip he was “in a really bad way”.

He added: “The death of my parents was on top of me and I didn’t have a safe space to go to to process that – to mourn, essentially. I didn’t have a safe area.

“In London, my friendship group at the time was fun but India (was) where I was able to confront myself in a very gentle place, and just reflect and see the issues that I was dealing with at the time as a strength rather than a crippling insecurity, sadness and weakness.

“I just managed, with a lot of help out there, to get a grip, figure it out.

“Let’s analyse these crises we are experiencing through immense sadness and just try and turn it into something positive for the world.”

My debut solo album is out now! Stream at https://t.co/2LxwB1wbqj and let me know your favourite track 🎠🩰✨ pic.twitter.com/ojCZYbpt0m

— Hugh Harris (@hughsaan) September 11, 2020

The Kooks, known for hits such as She Moves In Her Own Way and Ooh La, have recorded five studio albums, with Harris and singer Luke Pritchard the only constant members.

Harris said gigs were better before smartphones became common, but he would never ban them at his shows.

He said: “Absolutely, but having said that I would never restrict someone’s phone coming into a gig.

“A gig is an environment to lose rules and regulations. Shit like that you leave at the door.

“If you want to film the whole gig, great, go ahead, enjoy yourself, do what you want.

“It should be a safe place for freedom and expression and filming comes under that umbrella.

“It was much better before but I would never ban them.”

Speaking about the band’s early years, he said: “We had to tour a lot to get a fan base.

“We had to do it the face-to-face way and we were one of the last bands to do gigs without camera phones.

“If you think about the end of indie in the mid-noughties and the rise of the camera phone at the gig.

“If we came out now, it would definitely be a struggle (due to Covid-19) but in some ways it would be easier because everything is online now and there is such a broader access point to people’s brains.

“The internet is just one big brain and you can plug into it and it’s great.

“Whereas we had to go on tour for three years before we got any fans.”

Hugh Harris’ debut album is out now.

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