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. Ive 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 its much more pigeonholed. People are into one super-compartmentalized style.
What have you done to ensure you arent pigeonholed?
Its a struggle. I just keep feeling and doing my thing. When Im 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 Ive 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 Im 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 Ive 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. Its 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, its my first album, and I just wanted it to be really technicolor like all the art and music Im into. I think there are a lot of themes of the full spectrum of colors in the lyrics. Theres 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, theres been some that have always done that for me, whether its 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 thats one of the most beautiful aspects of music. So thats where all the technicolor references come from.
What about your music appeals to your gay fans?
Well, Id say first, without gay artists and gay culture, dance music would not exist like it is today. Its just a fact. I think a lot of people dont recognize that, but to me, its not even about homophobia or segregation. For me, its 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 its 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 thats 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 its 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 Im in total recognition and appreciation of that fact.
In the early 90s, you were kind of like a pioneer of the rave scene. Should we hold that against you?
[Laughs.] Depends if you had a good time or not. I never really tried to design an entire subculture, I just tried to make good music and do my thing, and things developed as they do.
Youve been in the industry for quite some time, but this is your first full-length album of original material. What made you decide to put it out now?
I was definitely at a period where I was putting out a lot of music and it was getting out to more and more people. Then I eventually got signed to a huge major label deal, and it was right before the industry began its crumble. The person who signed me to the label soon left, and I was kind of stuck in limbo for a couple years and couldnt put out music. Thats when I moved from San Francisco back to New York, my hometown. And for a few years, I worked on a lot of scores, a lot of records and remixing and producing. But it kind of took a while before I was, A) free to actually record an album and B) inspired enough to do it. I totally financed it myself, and I released it independently. Its definitely been a long struggle to get to this point, but this is when its finished, so this is when its coming out. [Laughs.]
Its as simple as that?
This material is recent songs that Ive done. This isnt leftover stuff or stuff Ive been toying away on. I have hundreds and hundreds of recorded and unreleased songs from over the years. You know, another thing that was kind of an inspiration for me in a weird way was when I moved back to New York, I moved just a couple blocks away from the World Trade Center, and it was the year 2000. So living through that whole nightmare and chaos, I think it really eventually made me want to do something positive and uplifting and fun and funky. Something that would help people celebrate because I think people needed that -- I needed that. So I think thats another reason why this came now.
Finally, if someone wanted to sample your music, what is the first song they should download or listen to?
Oh, I thought you meant like sample, like illegally. [Laughs]. It goes in a lot of different places, and it really depends on what style people are into. I think some of the people who have liked some of the music Ive made in the past seem to be gravitating toward songs like Come On, Come On and my stuff thats kind of deep and moving. And then people who are into just fun, catchy, funky, poppy stuff seem more drawn to the things like Hey Deejay! But I very much designed it to be an album that was a perfect hour exactly and I tried really hard to make every song good. So Im not saying everyones going to like every song, but I really worked equally on all the songs. I want people to be able to listen to it from start to finish without having to hear a bunch of filler crap that artists or labels stick on albums.
Scott Hardkisss new album Technicolor Dreamer is available in stores now. For more info on Scott head to his MySpace page.