over the course of a year while a while I was in college, and at the time it was a creative breath of fresh air for me. I had, for the most part, stopped making music prior to that. After getting my first laptop and ditching my four-track, the creative possibilities of software were just kind of overwhelming to me and I’d spend hours figuring out what filter to use or something like that instead of actually making music. So I stopped for a few years.
his month marks the ten year anniversary of the release of my first solo album Mutually Assured, released under the purposefully baffling name ANTN HRKWK (pronounced Anton Harkawik, Anton being my middle name). I created the album
But then I discovered Girl Talk, and immediately wanted to start making mash-up music myself. Not knowing how he did it, and not having any audio software on hand, I figured I could use Final Cut Pro to line a few different tracks up. After fooling around with some stuff for a few hours, I came to two conclusions: 1. I definitely could not use FCP to make mashups and 2. I could use it to make something more interesting.
A typical ANTN HRKWK timeline (recreated here in Premiere)
By taking pop songs and splicing them up into 12 and 6-frame loops, I could layer and re-arrange them to create something I had never heard before. I know now that there were many pre-cursors to this kind of music (see: Carl Stone), but at the time it felt like I was in uncharted territory. The process also imposed a lot of specific restrictions on me, which freed me from the issue of having access to too much stuff to make music. I quickly adopted a strict set of rules for each piece I made:
1. I could only use one song as source material.
2. I couldn’t use any filters or effects.
3. Loops could be no longer than 12 frames (slightly less than half a second)
4. I couldn’t add any new instrumentation.
I made the first track in summer of 2007, and continued making more while I lived in Los Angeles for the summer. The apartment I was renting had no TV or internet, and so I was able to focus on the task at hand.
After putting some tracks up on myspace, I was contacted by a Polish web-label that specialized in releasing plunderphonic type stuff. They offered to release a full album, which came out in November 2008 (and which you can still buy on CD at Amazon).
I never explained the process of making the album in depth so, seems like now if as good a time as any:
Glass, Concrete and Stone by David Byrne. Another not-great track.
Track 1: Have A Great Summer At The Movies
This was the second track I made (the first one I completed ended up being the last track on the album) and is made entirely from loops from a Bobby Vinton song…I think? I don’t actually remember for sure, but I’d guess it’s My Melody of Love. It’s also the only track where I broke one of my rules for make the album - no effects. One of two of the loops I made were actually reversed, a transgression which still haunts me to this day. Plus there's a fade-in.
I remember actually not thinking much of this track when it was complete - it didn’t turn out as good as the previous track and I actually thought maybe it had been a fluke that it worked so well. But luckily I didn’t abandon the whole thing.
Track 2: Turn Up The Magic
This was the third track I made, and is still in my mind one of the best. Made from Annie Lennox’s cover of A White Shade of Pale, there are parts of this track that feel somehow preordained to me.
I played it in a songwriting class I was taking that year, and three different people said they thought it would be a good song to take drugs while listening too.
Track 3: Johnny Appleseed
This is made from XTC’s Mermaid Smiled, a wonderful track that was dropped from their amazing Skylarking LP after Dear God became an unexpected hit and needed to be added.
This one holds up pretty good, I think.
Track 4: It's So Not Like That
Life in a northern town by the Dream Academy (but you can probably tell that). I made this track on a plane, and kind of blew my own mind by how I was able to play with time signatures by changing the spacing of my loops on the timeline.
Track 5: Infinite Juice Parade
This one is a bit of a mystery to me - I know that I used a John Fahey song, but I don’t remember which one. I think maybe it was an alternate version of The Sunny Side of the Ocean? This is one of the only tracks on the album that has a moment of silence within it (there’s a few 12 frame gaps between loops).
Track 6: Koreatown
Named after where my apartment in LA was located, this one uses Like a Prayer. I’d rate this a C-minus. I ran out of ideas halfway through and so I just went crazy for the last half, but hearing it now it kind of reminds me of Carl Stone’s song Flint’s.
Track 7: Milk Mile
Made with The Lion Sleeps Tonight, a song I have an odd affection for.
Track 8: Sticks And Stones
For this one I used one of my all time favorite tracks: Return 2 Innocence by Enigma. I grew up hearing this song all the time, and always assumed that the chanting on it was Native American (possibly due to it’s use in the Chevy Chase film Man of the house, which I vaguely remember having some kind of Native American subplot?). But it turns out the recording is of a Taiwanese farmer singing a traditional folk song. It was used without permission and Enigma’s label was eventually sued.
Track 9: Her Jaundiced Gaze
Paisley Park by Prince. I think I did a good job of pushing Prince’s high pitched squeals to their logical breaking point.
Track 10: Sectarian Violins
What a stupid title. This one comes from The Seeker by Dolly Parton. This track doesn’t work because I don’t feel like I’m changing too much about the original - it still feels like an outward expression of reverence.
Track 11: Inhibit My Inhibitions
One of the best songs on the album in my opinion, this one is made using Never Ever by All Saints. This was song I heard all the time as a kid, but never really appreciated how good it was until years later.
Track 12: Distill My Heart
Track 13: Thanks For All The Memories
As I mentioned before, this was the first song I made. It comes from a song from the musical The Last Five Years. I think I made the whole thing in one marathon session, and when I was done I was so excited about it that I burned it onto a CD so I could listen to it on my parent’s stereo. Listening now, it reminds me of Daniel Lentz’s music. This track also features a slightly abandonment of the rules of the project, in that it ends with a long sample from the original track (the singer stating “I can do better than that”). It felt like the perfect way to end things when I was putting the album together because, while I didn think I had done something worthwhile, I also knew that I could do something better - and I think I did with the follow up to Mutually Assured which came out two years later.
And that's the album - it's available here as a free download.