Dhani Harrison is in his right mind. And his left.
At Brown University, he majored in aerodynamics and industrial design and played in a rock band. After designing sports cars at McLaren Automotive, he spent more than two years helping to develop "Beatles: Rock Band" -- as both a programmer and a gamer/musician.
Right brain, left brain, doesn't matter to Harrison. He worked on the coding and the testing of one of the year's hottest-selling video games.
"I've kind of overplayed it now," said Harrison, 31, the only son of Beatle George Harrison. "Video games are one of my big loves in the design world. That game was a real wish for me and the CEO of Harmonix, because we were sick of playing all that metal with 'Guitar Hero' and 'Rock Band.'"
Now Harrison is playing "electro blues-rock" with his own band, thenewno2 (pronounced "The New Number 2"), which is touring with Wolfmother and Heartless Bastards.
"Both of those bands jam really hard," said Harrison, who performs Saturday at the State Theatre. "The tour is going really, really well. I'm heading to Boston, where I'll see all those guys from Harmonix," the company that developed "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero."
Harrison never set out to be a guitar hero. Actually, drums were his first instrument at age 3 or 4 -- then classical piano and guitar at 9. Father and son used to jam on the blues of Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and J.B. Lenoir.
"He didn't ever mention [the Beatles] or play anything" from the band's songbook, recalled Dhani (pronounced "Danny"), who was born eight years after the Fab Four folded. "He was kind of over it."
At age 12, Dhani met Oli Hecks and they've been making music together ever since. Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones -- those are the sounds the young musicians grew up on.
The Beatles? "It was hard to ignore, but it definitely wasn't on the agenda," he said last week by phone from Philadelphia.
At age 13, Dhani made his concert debut, performing with his father and Eric Clapton at the Tokyo Dome in front of 45,000 people. Ten years later, in 2001, he played guitar on his father's final solo album, "Brainwashed," and did considerable posthumous work on the project. On the first anniversary of his dad's death, he joined Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Clapton and others at the Concert for George in London.
Yes, Dhani knows Zak Starkey, Starr's son, and John Lennon's boys Sean and Julian. "We just keep to ourselves because everyone's constantly trying to suggest that there might be something there [for Beatles kids to form a band], and that's the scariest thought ever for any of us," he said. "It's not what we want to do at all."
Harrison knows those suggestions are part of the burden of being a rock star's musicmaking son. In fact, he's discussed that topic with another scion of a Traveling Wilbury.
"Jakob Dylan and I have often referred to that as like being a monkey on a bicycle," he said with a chuckle.
Using George's guitars
When Harrison and Hecks formed thenewno2 in 2006, they were heavily influenced by the 1990s trip-hop sounds of Massive Attack and Tricky, the grunge of Nirvana and Soundgarden, and the modern rock of Radiohead. There is a modern psychedelic noise-pop vibe to Harrison's quintet, which took its moniker from an oft-repeated line on the TV series "The Prisoner." But the lead vocals will sound eerily familiar to Beatle fans.
"I catch myself sounding like him occasionally and go 'Whoa! Who said that?'" Dhani said of George. "But the music is very different, I think."
Harrison used some of his father's guitars to make thenewno2's album, "You Are Here."
"He left everything to me when he died," the singer/guitarist/bassist and synthesizer/ukulele player said. "It's a real gift to have all that great equipment -- those Les Pauls and synthesizers and keyboards -- and we recorded in the studio he recorded in."
Interviews with Harrison inevitably bring up his famous father. How long before the question of George comes up?
"About five seconds," said Dhani.
He'd much rather talk about "Beatles: Rock Band" than Beatles: Dad's Band. Working on the video game was more painstaking than making his own album.
"You use similar software and similar technology, but the way in which you use it is different," Harrison said. "A lot of the video game stuff is a lot more complicated -- the coding, the programming and the modeling. Making a record is more relaxing. A video game, you get it made and a lot of it is rubbing out all of the glitches. Debugging a game can take a really long time. The testers just play constantly. The debugging stage is more important than the mixing of an album."
Sounds as if he has the right and left brains working at the same time.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "It's still more creative, the design side. The CS programming and applied math is really the other side. That's the stuff I really get stuck with."