I met Scott Hardkiss in the summer of 1993. Everything was up for grabs in those days, at least in San Francisco. I was recording tracks sequenced on my M1 in the hall closet of my flat on Bryant Street and passing them around and hoping that someone, anyone would listen to them. Dubtribe Sound System was just a feeling back then, nothing had really come of it yet.
I didn’t know who anyone was back in those days. I liked the music that I liked, and I knew it when I heard it. I was as surprised as anyone that a club might be great one night – totally an out of body acid house experience – and then be just terrible the next night – Paula Abdul mega-mixes and drunk people in suits. I loved the parties on the beaches, and I loved the basements and occasionally I liked the warehouses, but I didn’t always like the clubs, and you could never tell what was going to be amazing and what was going to be terrible. I was introduced to Scott, Robbie, Gavin, Jon and Grahaeme (and we heard there was another one called Wade) at the DNA lounge on a Thursday night at a party called Deep Faith by the Ultra Violet Catastrophe – he said that these guys were cool, and that they loved my music. So I showed up and met them. I stood around for a long time, and danced a little, then I thanked everyone and went home. At the time I had a tape of a track called ‘Mother Earth’ going around and I was getting calls from everyone about it on my land line. CBS, Warner Brothers, people I’d never heard of from the UK, and no one could answer my question “what can you do for me that I can’t already do for myself?” to any degree of satisfaction. The guy from CBS said, “Hey buddy, we’re the majors. I think the question is more ‘what can you do for us?’ isn’t it?” and I said “I’ll let ya know” and hung up on him. The only thing that really made any sense to me was meeting people face to face at that moment in time. There wasn’t any email, and we didn’t text message, and I’ve always hated the telephone, so what I wanted to do was sit down and talk with people, see who they were, feel what they felt like, and listen to what they had to say. I felt that what was happening in San Francisco at the time was so important that I was unconcerned about the rest of the world. That all seemed like a dream to me. There was no New York City, and there certainly wasn’t any London. No one in San Francisco had ever liked Los Angeles, so it seemed to me that the only people worth talking to would be found here at home.
Scott answered my question by saying “I can teach you how to count to 8.” I laughed, but I was really both offended and intrigued. See, I wasn’t a DJ. I’d never done more than cue and play with my records and tapes. I had no idea what mixing or beatmatching was. I didn’t understand what Scott was talking about. So I invited him over to listen to some music. To be honest I didn’t remember who he was, and so when he arrived at the door I was disappointed. I thought he would be one of the English ones, or maybe be some total long haired burnout monster who wanted to lay on the floor and talk about the cosmic nature of synthesis with me. Scott was a skinny guy, about my age, with a tidy fro and some regular clothes. He didn’t want any coffee, and he sat with his legs crossed and explained to me that DJ music was measured out in phrases of 8, 16 and 32, and that after listening to my music he knew that I didn’t understand this. I argued, and Scott closed his eyes and listened sagely to my complaints that the “feeling” was all that mattered to me. When I was done he opened his eyes and explained that he understood what I meant, but DJ’s were never going to play my records if they didn’t work the way other records did. I didn’t want my records to work the way other records did, so I explained that too. Scott listened and then suggested that perhaps we could listen to a track live from my sequencer and he could “help.”
So I played back the track ‘Sunshine’s Theme’ in it’s raw and as yet unrecorded form and Scott closed his eyes, raised his finger, and began to count as the track played. When we reached an 8 or a 16 he said “Stop.” So I stopped, armed for an argument. Scott explained that something needed to happen here. “Like what?” I asked. “Anything. A change.” I didn’t get it. But I inserted the change and looked to him for approval. We carried on… when we reached a place in the track where something happened in a place that wasn’t an 8 or a 16 scott would say “Stop.” He then explained that things were changing in the wrong place. I was frustrated. Scott was calm. He explained to me that yes, it was almost time for this change, or for this sound to be introduced, assuring me that he felt it too, but that we needed to wait for the 8 or the 16. I then made the adjustment, and looked to Scott for approval. We went through the entire song and then Scott gave me a hug and went home.
These original recordings never came out on Hardkiss Records, they came out on Organico out of Chicago, and the arrangements were long, drawn out, and looking back on them they were amazingly tedious. But Scott Hardkiss painstakingly, patiently, lovingly, and sweetly taught me the first and most important lesson in syncopated electronic music production that ever happened to me off the dance floor. Without Scott Hardkiss Dubtribe never would have made a single record that anyone could have ever been able to beatmatch.
I heard from Doc Martin that Scott died tonight. It was sudden and unexpected. I am stunned, and sad. We lost a voice which I don’t think any of us expected to lose. A forward thinker, a dreamer, a misunderstood artist, a perfectionist, a man far ahead of his time. My heart goes out to Robbie and Gavin and all of their family and friends.
Good night Scott. Thank you.
Sending love to the stars…