It’s no exaggeration to state that Gavin Hardkiss is something of a legend when it comes to house music. Alongside Robbie Hardkiss and the sadly departed Scott Hardkiss, the trio left an enviable body of work behind them. CHances are if you went raving in the 90s in San Francisco, that one of – if not all of these guys – were chiefly responsible for the party of the sounds coming from the speakers. A true veteran of the scene, Gavin remains as active as ever, with his latest release coming via Behrouz’s Do Not Sit label. An intriguing match-up (and definitely one we might not have predicted), Behrouz and Gavin actually go pretty far back, with a history that stretches all the way back to the 90s. Anyway, on to the music, and Perc Groove is a fitting representation of just where Gavin is right now sound wise. A killer release that proves he’s as great behind the production desk as ever, this one lives up to its intriguing billing. With the album about to drop, we touched base with Gavin to discuss the release, as well as his history in the San Fran scene, his inspirations and his thoughts on the contemporary, social media-led electronic music world…
How has your year been, what has been good, what has been bad?
I’m developing a new relationship with time. I’m taking my time with things. Zero hustle. Low key presence. Low maintenance. Gratitude for life and all its vicissitude.
When all else fails, follow the music. It works like magic.
You were one of the bedrocks of the original San Francisco scene – what was it like back in the early days?
It was kinda like a caramel macchiato. Super creamy. Hella dreamy. Sweat as fuck. Decadent until the last drop.
How has it changed, what is its identity in 2021? What is hot that we should check out?
The Algorithms moved in during the Age of Illusion and all the artists who couldn’t afford it moved out. You also had this absolute obsession with Burning Man which I didn’t really understand. Burning Man is great. For one week a year. What about the other 51 weeks? This all changed during the pandemic and it’s still figuring itself out.
SF and I are dating again and it’s different this time. There are great music acts coming through all the time and it’s super fun to go out and hear great music and be anonymous. Check out the scene at Midway, Public Works or 1015. I’ve been playing extended sets at Phonobar too.
Tell us how you came to release on Do Not Sit on the furniture and what inspired or influence the tunes?
Behrouz and I used to DJ at a club called 1015 in San Francisco in the ‘90s. He played Saturday nights and I played Friday nights. We ran with different crews but there was a lot of mutual admiration. When he opened Do Not Sit in Miami, he invited me to play and we had a great time together. We have a lot in common with an international music palette and all of the common influences of that unique time in San Francisco. He asked me to make some tracks for the label. I have never really released anywhere other than my label Hardkiss Music but I was excited to do it. Do Not Sit has become one of my favorite labels in the world and as an American label it really shines in its own unique way. It’s so colorful in its sound and image.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
In 2020, I released a double album titled Dark Art of Light Work with a book of the same title that explores how the imagination creates reality. I’m all about exploring the imaginal realm and playing around with the gifts that come forth. There’s no shortage of inspiration. Probing ideas and experimenting with sound and collaboration is one of my high level skills. The work comes in finishing songs and then glueing the songs together into projects or albums. I like bold unpredictable high risers that I construct with sound. Gluing and cementing and nailing sounds together is pure play…
What gear do you use in the studio make your music and does that matter to you?
My ears and my speakers are my main tools. The rest of them are in a rectangle box with a screen.
Where is your best environment as a dj? A small dark club or a huge outdoor festival stage? late at night for the weirdos or early so you can play slow and eclectic etc etc
I have a rich palette of music for any occasion. I can’t understand how DJs play night music in the daytime. Warehouse music in a field! C’mon! I like to settle into a mood and then take people on a ride. There’s usually a theme. Often the theme is LOVE. I’m in love with LOVE. Kris Needs once described me as a DJ who has never met a genre he doesn’t like. I’m just back from Electric Daisy Carnival and there were a few styles that I didn’t like. Keep it funky people. Keep em guessing.
As an elder statesman of the scene, would advice would you give your younger self? And what advice would you give to the guys coming up?
I would tell my younger self to record stems. My current self told my younger self to finish songs and release everything. I listened to that advice.
If you’re coming up and looking for advice, here’s what I would say: Web3 and the NFT model is the future. Do not follow the old model of digital distribution. Ignore Spotify and Apple Music. Breakaway from Beatport and Juno. The NFT marketplace is where it’s at. The excitement in the community is infectious and you can build a future in this space.
Yesterday, WishFM and I were driving back from Vegas having been at Electric Daisy Carnival all week and we had a great idea for a reality show. We want to go to EDM School. They have that in LA. We could learn how to make EDM. And also how to perform. Wave hands. Stand on the decks. We would probably finish the semester with a hit single. That would be the goal. Pure comedy.
The hidden story would be us encouraging the kids how to break the rules and be themselves.
In this Instagram and social media dominated environment, do you think you’d be cut out for coming up in the contemporary scene then?
Of course. Give me a manager and an agent and I’d take no prisoners. Currently, I’m one man on an island of one.
What else have you got coming up/are you working on?
I’m most excited about rehearsals this week for a live show in Orlando. We’re doing the Hardkiss classic Delusions of Grandeur live with a choreographed video by the guys from Colourfeeders who do all the big shows at the Midway in SF. I’m performing with David Christophere from Rabbit In The Moon who produced Out of Body Experience and the epic Riverandrain remix of The Phoenix which are pillars of Delusions of Grandeur. As much as I move the dial forward, fans love that old Hardkiss sound so we’ve been remixing and enhancing the old material, giving it a fresh coat of paint and eye candy and presenting it in an interesting new way to a new audience. We’re gonna be dropping NFTs of classic Hardkiss cover art.
To this day, Delusions is still in a lot of top DJs crates. We get notified about videos on the socials with Seth Troxler, John Digweed, Lee Burridge and others dropping those songs.
What last made you happy and why?
I’m fucking elated. I’m stoked to get this new release out on one of my favorite labels Do Not Sit. And the Delusions of Grandeur show in Florida is a few days away. Bring it on!