By Gregory Miller
A pioneer of the rave scene who has written, produced, and remixed a sweeping collection of sounds from electronica to funk, Scott Hardkiss is branching out into new territory with his debut full-length album, Technicolor Dreamer. Hardkiss took a break from his busy Brooklyn-based life to chat with us about making music, what exactly a "technicolor dreamer" is, and why he's always been a big fan of the gays.
Out: Is Hardkiss really your last name?
Scott Hardkiss: It is now. It took a long time to earn, but it is now.
How do you define your style musically?
I do everything possible not to. I've always been drawn to a really wide range of music. When I started DJing when I was younger, I was really influenced by some of the early hip-hop DJs, like Afrika Bambaataa, and early disco DJs. One of the things I think I loved the most is that they mixed all sorts of things together. These days it's much more pigeonholed. People are into one super-compartmentalized style.
What have you done to ensure you aren't pigeonholed?
It's a struggle. I just keep feeling and doing my thing. When I'm DJing, I play all sorts of music and I give people a little bit of what I think will get them going and maybe take them somewhere else with a different style that is new to them. In my own music that I create, I think I just try and fuse the music I love together. I take on all sorts of projects. I started in the club doing dance music, and I remix and I produce a lot of other artists from hip-hop to rock. And then, in the past few years I've also done a lot of scores for film and TV, and that lets me do all sorts of music -- everything from electronic stuff to straight classical string quartets. So I guess I just try to play the music I love, regardless of the style, and do the same when I'm making it.
You grew up in the Bronx and then went on to get an Ivy League education. How did that migration shape you and influence your music?
It allowed me to arrive at a place where I could combine the raw funky music of the streets with the lyrical and musical sophistication of poetry and art. Studying Shakespeare and creative writing had a huge impact on writing this album. It made me try to make music that hits people on several different levels: something that's hopefully simple, pure, catchy, and danceable on first impact, but that also reveals more layers of subtlety to people who take the time to listen and think about it on a deeper level. I think all of the environments I've lived in and spent time in have been a factor [in my music]. I studied in Europe for a while, I lived in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., down south in Georgia, and I lived in San Francisco for almost 10 years. And I think all the different environments exposed me to a lot of different people, to different cultures. It's all in there somewhere.
What made you choose the title for this album? Is it a biblical/musical theater reference to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?
I never thought about the biblical reference. For me, the concept was, it's my first album, and I just wanted it to be really technicolor like all the art and music I'm into. I think there are a lot of themes of the full spectrum of colors in the lyrics. There's a lot about diversity -- diversity of music, of people. I was always really drawn to that concept of all these colors coming together. And as far as musical groups, there's been some that have always done that for me, whether it's Sly and the Family Stone, or Prince and the Revolution or George Clinton and P. Funk. They always just had men, women, black, white, Latino, Asian, straight, gay, bi -- everyone coming together to party. And for me that's one of the most beautiful aspects of music. So that's where all the technicolor references come from.
What about your music appeals to your gay fans?
Well, I'd say first, without gay artists and gay culture, dance music would not exist like it is today. It's just a fact. I think a lot of people don't recognize that, but to me, it's not even about homophobia or segregation. For me, it's just ignorance. If you know dance music history, a lot of the pioneers came out of the gay club and the gay underground culture. So it's always been in the music. And for me personally, some of my first experiences were sneaking out to go to gay clubs, making fake IDs, and partying all night. And that's where the best music, the best vibe was. People were really open there. Also, I would go to the dance music record stores and they were in the alternative and gay neighborhoods. And it's just inherent in the culture to me. I think I have people of all different backgrounds and sexual persuasions who seem to have responded to what I do, and I'm in total recognition and appreciation of that fact.