Producer Jeff Bhasker faced a daunting task several months ago. After having worked with Kanye West and winning Grammy Awards for producing Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and Fun.’s 2012 album “Some Nights,” he had to decide whether to take on a new project: the debut solo album of One Direction member Harry Styles.
“I’d just had a baby, and I was kind of like, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I’ll jump into this,‘” Bhasker tells Variety. He agreed to have Styles come over to “just talk,” and proceeded to put him through the Bhasker home sniff test. “My dog tends to bite people, and he was kind of scoping Harry out,” Bhasker explains. Styles “did this move — like a little shoot the gun with his finger, and my dog walked over and started licking his finger. That’s when I was, like, ‘This guy has something special.'”
Once music came into the mix, Bhasker was sold. “He started playing references of what he wanted to do, which sounded like a cool rock band. I got it, and could see where if we pulled this off, it would be one of the coolest things ever. But he needed a buddy who plays guitar like he’s Keith Richards.” The insinuation being: Styles is the Mick Jagger in this scenario.
Adds Bhasker: “I’m so proud of the album itself, and also of Harry for being so brave, and committing 100%, and writing the kind of vulnerable lyrics that he wrote, and not pandering to what people thought he would do. People have no idea that this is what Harry Styles is like. Just like I didn’t know. He’s obviously very famous and beloved, but people don’t know the depths of what an amazing personality and artist he is.”
Variety spoke with Bhasker about the recording of “Harry Styles” ahead of the album’s May 12 release:
Sorry for not been active lately. Over the weekend my dog attacked me and I have been in hospital because of surgery. I’m home now but can’t use my hand much. So don’t get upset if I don’t reply to any messages. I am going to be resting my hand for awhile and will be back soon. Thank you for your patience.
As a contrast to the previous gifset, I wanted to make one with the classic video by Dr. Sophia Yin showing counter conditioning in action. This is a dog that had been displaying aggression severely enough to be up for euthanasia. The stimulus prompting aggression in this video is having his face blown on. While we don’t hear anything about the dog’s history, it’s pretty easy to assume that this is fear-related, as shoving your face at a dog’s face is pretty aggressive body language, a lot of smaller dogs have fear-related aggression due to their boundaries being ignored, and I don’t see any resource-guarding behavior.
You can’t draw a complete parallel, but there are a lot of similarities between this video of an aggressive dog and the video of the aggressive horse. This dog seems to be making a big aggressive display and then retreating, instead of continuing the attack with the intent of causing serious injury. The horse had its movement restricted to the round pen, and this dog has its movement restricted by a leash. Both are unhappy and dangerous animals.
Dr. Yin resolves the aggression by pairing the provocative stimulus (blowing on the dog’s face) with food. After only a few brief sessions and a bit of time, the dog no longer exhibits aggression when prompted. He doesn’t enjoy the stimulus (he still moves his head back and away, and there’s a bit of lip licking) but having his face blown on no longer provokes aggression. Instead you can see eagerness for the treatment and what looks like enjoyment of the exercise (tail wagging, what looks almost like a play bow or an attempt to get a reward with a behavior he was taught, ears forward, open relaxed mouth, looking up at her face). His emotional reaction and outward behavioral response are dramatically different.
I don’t present this as an example of why counter conditioning with food is a preferential miracle cure (dogs are a lot more likely to exhibit aggressive body language, so the horse probably had way more of a backlog of fear, whereas this guy’s fear could be worked around relatively quickly. I also wouldn’t ever recommend anyone tackle aggressive body language straight up with a leash restraining the dog, and definitely not by blowing into the dog’s face, where it’s so easy to get bit) BUT this shows a similar scenario, similar aggression, and a different protocol for resolving the problem that doesn’t involve the use of an aversive stimulus to work around aggression.
My dog tends to bite people, and he was kind of scoping Harry out,” Bhasker explains. Styles “did this move — like a little shoot the gun with his finger, and my dog walked over and started licking his finger. That’s when I was, like, ‘This guy has something special.‘