Name: Calum Harvie
Number and ages of children: Two – daughter, 10, and son, 7.
Location: North East Fife, Scotland
Profession: Music journalist and freelance writer
Tell a little bit about your work as a writer. What have been some of your favorite pieces?
I first became a full-time freelance writer in 2001 when the company I was then working for decided that my position was ‘surplus to requirement’, and I unexpectedly found myself without a job. I’d harbored ambitions of being a writer – my degrees were in history, so I was well versed in the skills of research and writing – so, thanks to the support of my wife, I decided to take this opportunity and give it a go. I write about anything and everything, commercial copy writing, magazine features, whatever. The first piece I had published was on the manufacture of artificial diamonds, of all things! Writing about music is a significant part of what I do. I guess I have a fairly eclectic taste, although my main interests are in metal, punk, hardcore, as well as various off-shoots thereof. I write for a fairly diverse range of publications, including Zero Tolerance, Down For Life, and Vive Le Rock, and a bunch of others. It’s a great line of work to be involved in – discovering new music, talking to bands and musicians, having the opportunity to get to know people who I grew up listening to. Loads of fun.
As for favorite pieces, that’s a tough one. Some are significant because they are about musicians who’ve played a really important part in my life: Celtic Frost, Judas Priest, Agnostic Front, Judge, for example. I interviewed the mighty Bad Brains last year, too, which was pretty awesome
I’m curious about schools in Scotland. As an American teacher, I have a picture in my mind of all European schools as respecting play, outdoor time, and focusing less on standardization. Is this true for you? As a dad, what do you like? What do you wish was different?
My wife is better placed to answer this than me, as she’s a high school English teacher. Both of my kids are in primary school at the moment, and their experience is very positive. Where we live is a small market town (under 10,000 people), so the school plays an important community role, too. There’s a good variety to what the kids do at school – plenty of opportunity to do things outdoors, lots of being active. There are literacy and numeracy standards to be met, of course. I think primary education in Scotland – we have an education system which is totally separate to that of the rest of the United Kingdom – has changed, for the better, since I was a pupil in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. I really enjoyed high school, but my primary school experience was less positive – I often felt that we were seen as an inconvenience half the time, ha ha! But, in all seriousness, my feeling is that teachers properly ‘get’ the kids, and their needs, these days, and that can only be a good thing. Schools, of course, have to make do with tight budgets and they do a brilliant job, but I think, like pretty much everyone else around the world, more money would be a great thing.
Politics in the US and UK have taken a bizarre turn over the past couple years. In general, what’s the political vibe in Scotland these days?
Gosh, yes, the past few years have been ‘interesting’, to say the least! We’re in a slightly odd position in Scotland. We are a country, but also part of the United Kingdom. Since 1999 we’ve had a devolved government, which means that we’ve been able to govern for ourselves in certain areas, although we’re still beholden to the UK government for many areas, such as foreign policy. In terms of political outlook, Scotland has tended to side more with progressive politics than the rest of the UK. But, because we represent only a small percentage of the general UK population (about 10%), very often we are governed – on a UK level – by a party which the majority of the population didn’t vote for. So, as you may imagine, that tends to be quite unpopular among many Scots. There’s been a growing push for independence. In Scotland, the governing party is the Scottish National Party, for whom independence is a key policy. There was a referendum on the subject in 2014, but the ‘remain in the UK’ side won that with 55% of the vote. It was a pretty divisive campaign and, given what’s subsequently happened with the EU referendum here, we can see that there were more than a few ‘dirty tricks’ at work in the campaigns. The independence question isn’t dead and buried, however, and that’s largely down to the subsequent referendum on leaving the European Union, which took place in 2016. That referendum was instigated by the governing UK (Conservative) government. Although the UK voted, as a whole, to leave the EU (again, partly down to a campaign of misinformation by the ‘leave’ side), over 60% of Scotland voted to remain in the EU. So, now people are considering whether an independent Scotland may be a way of retaining our current relationship with the EU. There’s certainly a growing feeling that we’re being dragged out of the EU against our will. So, there’s uncertainty at the moment as to where we go from here. I’m sure there will be another independence referendum before long, however. Like many, I look over at the US with a sense of bewilderment and sadness these days. I think a solid, progressive alternative to Trump is important, and I hope one comes along before too long. Trump’s mother was Scottish, which is a tad embarrassing…
What are your personal drug and alcohol-free recreational outlets? It seems that running is an important part of your life. What are your favorite things to do with your children?
You’re right, running is a huge part of my life, and that of my kids, too. We’re members of the local athletic club and we also regularly do races. I love distance running, mainly, and have raced everything from 5k up to ultra marathons. I wasn’t ever a sporty kid, as such, but I was quite active. I swam competitively while at high school, and enjoyed doing a few other sports like skiing and badminton. I didn’t run, though. That only happened back at the start of the new millennium and, believe it or not, it was the result of a New Year resolution, the only one which I have ever made. I’d been reading a lifestyle article about running over the holidays and decided that I’d like to give it a go. So, I bought a new pair of running shoes, entered a half marathon, and that was it – I was hooked! 18 years later and I’m still out running five or six days each week. It’s just part of who I am, now. I really enjoy sharing running with my children – as I mentioned, they’re in my running club, too, and we enjoy going on runs together. As a family we enjoy going on walks, particularly in the woods which surround us. And we love camping, too – each summer we take our tent and go to various countries in Europe with it.
What pieces of art, music, literature, etc., inspire you at this stage in your life?
Music, in particular, inspires me every day. I still get very excited by bands which embrace the DIY ethic was at the core of punk, hardcore and metal. I revisit a lot of music, too, I think partly because my day job involves me listening to so much new music. So I’ll often go back and listen to albums which I was absorbed in as a kid. Having said that, I still find new music which just completely motivates me and makes me want to smash up my office like a lunatic, ha ha. Fireburn’s debut last year – the band features Todd Youth and Ras Israel Joseph I – is one of the best things I’ve heard in years, a killer mix of Bad Brains and Motorhead. So good. My reading tends to be a mix of crime fiction and history. My graduate thesis was focused on the development o f Jewish education systems in Weimar and early Nazi Germany, so I still tend to read about that era more than any other. I’ve enjoyed reading Philip Pullman’s new novel, The Book Of Dust, too
What does being a good father mean to you?
Being a positive role model is, I think, the most important thing I can do. That, and providing my kids with a stable and loving environment. It’s something we work at, of course, but we’re also fortunate that the circumstances of our lives enable us to do this.
How does your partner feel about your drug-free choices? If single, how do your closest friends and family members feel about your drug-free choices?
My wife is fully supportive, as are my friends and family. Scotland certainly as a drinking culture, although I don’t think we’re unique in that regard, so it does sometimes take people by surprise when I tell them that I don’t drink alcohol. And drugs have never been on the radar other than smoking some weed as a teenager. But I think it’s probably easier for me, in my 40s, to be straight edge than it is for a teenager – the pressure from peers just isn’t there now. In terms of public policy, Scotland has been working at the drinking culture, as it did with smoking, too.
Why did you decide to be drug and alcohol-free as a father (or beforehand)? Are there other major life choices that complement your decision?
I used to drink alcohol, and enjoyed it, but one Christmas I came down with some weird viral infection which made me feel pretty crappy for a while. I remember I was offered a drink, and it just didn’t appeal to me at all, so I declined. And all of a sudden, I realised that I just didn’t need alcohol in my life – I felt better without it, I was still able to have a great time and socialise as before. I’ve never looked back. I’m vegan, too, although my reasons for that are different: I think it’s morally wrong to exploit and consume animals (human and non-human) when we don’t need to. There are health benefits to veganism, too, and I guess these tie in being drug and alcohol free. My wife still drinks an occasional glass of wine or whatever, but we’re an entirely plant-powered household!
How do your experiences as a son influence your choices as a father when it comes to drugs and alcohol?
As a teenager, I’d probably have said that they had no influence on me, but now, I can see that it probably did. My parents did – and do – drink alcohol, but very moderately. I never, ever saw them drunk, and I don’t believe they ever were. Did their moderation cause me to rebel and get drunk sometimes? Probably not; I think I was just finding my way. But I’m certain that their example of alcohol not being the be-all-and-end-all played a part, even subconsciously, in me ultimately rejecting alcohol.
As a son, what is something you would you like your dad (or mom) to know?
Neither of my parents are vegan or straightedge, but they fully accept the way I live. So, I’d want them to know that living this way is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
How do/will you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol? How have/will you address drug and alcohol use among the friends of your children?
It’s a tricky one – my kids are too young to know anything about drugs, and they know that ‘Dad doesn’t drink’. I’d certainly want them to know of the physical, mental and social damage that drug and alcohol use can cause. If they’re like me, then the understanding that refusing to drink alcohol represents a fundamental rebellion against a social convention will appeal to them! But beyond that, I’d want them to know that, yes, it’s possible to drink alcohol responsibly, but it is equally cool and punk to not drink it at all.
How do religion, political ideology, or other philosophies play a part in your choices as a father?
I think that world needs more compassion: between humans, between humans and non-human animals, between humans and the planet. Veganism is a fundamental part of this approach to life, in that it can benefit humans, non-human animals, and the wider environment. We’re a ‘green’ family, and are constantly trying to do our best to reduce our footprints on the planet – where possible we make our own household products, we try to use as little plastic as possible, keep waste to a minimum, grow our own produce – essentially, do what we can to live in a sustainable way.
If you drank/used drugs, how will you address your past with your children?
I’ll just be honest, and at the same time explain why I don’t drink now. Hopefully they’ll see my example as being a positive one, although it’s something they’ll have to determine themselves as they mature.
What pitfalls exist for drug-free fathers? How successful have you felt at overcoming them?
It may be that I’ve been particularly fortunate, but I’ve never found it an issue so far. I think it may be a weird one for my kids when they get a bit older, and discover that Dad is a bit different to other parents. When you’re a teenager and are convinced that your parents only exist to embarrass you at any and every opportunity, then having a father who doesn’t drink might be another one of the ‘those’ things which make you cringe. But that’s ok; that’s part of growing up!
What are your greatest hopes for your children?
I hope they grow up to enjoy happy and fulfilling lives, whatever they do.
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