Scott Hardkiss: A Creative Life

Scott Hardkiss and I had an unexpected, and unwelcome, connection over the past few years. When he first complained to me about his eyes and how his vision was getting fuzzier I shocked him by responding, “It’s not keratoconus, is it?” I had been having my own battle with this degenerative eye disease starting the year before this conversation, even losing my driver’s license as I couldn’t pass the eye test for my renewal. So, Scott and I had this really odd thing in common and spoke a lot about keratoconus and what we were doing to deal with it. I decided on a combination of special contact lenses and my usual glasses, worn together to give me passable day-to-day eyesight. Scott took the gutsier route; he opted for a corneal transplant in the most affected eye, something I couldn’t even contemplate. But Scott was gutsy in many ways and, unfortunately, this time it didn’t pay off. The transplant wasn’t successful and he struggled with this for the past couple years. As a result, Scott had to wear an eye-patch for which he received no end of ribbing … I did my part by remarking that it made him look like a Bond villain. As awful as the situation was, I’m sure there was a part of Scott that sort of liked the eye-patch. It added to his artist mystique and charismatic aura that I know was so important to him. Scott aimed to live, and project, the creative life.

I remember when I first spoke to Scott. I had previously met Gavin and Robbie when they played a rave in Orlando around 1995. They visited my record shop and I handed them a tape of early Q-BAM productions. Scott wasn’t with them, and seemed sort of an enigma. Soon after I was constantly in touch with Hardkiss office poobah Niven, putting together a three song EP for their new off-shoot label Sunburn. Maybe three days had passed after I sent “Toast,” the third song, to San Francisco when the phone rang in my record store. On the line, in his inimitable way of speaking, came, “Hi, Michael. This is Scott Hardkiss.” He wanted to talk about “Toast,” how it had moved him, and that he was excited to release it on Sunburn. He had some suggestions, such as trading the electric guitar for an acoustic, which I balked at (I didn’t have an acoustic guitar, for one thing) but he didn’t seem to mind. I still remember this sort of hippie-ish thing he said to me then which really meant a lot to this producer who was just starting out, unsure of his craft. I hear it in my head exactly as he said it, and those who knew Scott probably will hear it exactly the same way when they read it. Scott said to me, “This isn’t a song … it’s a living being.”

After many visits to San Francisco (it almost seemed like I was living there for a while) I acquired a west coast family that Scott was a big part of. We kept in touch after his move to New York and I’d see him when I was up there for gigs or biz. Oddly, though, I don’t think it was until after our first keratoconus conversation that we started actually working together musically. First, I remixed his track “Beat Freak” off his ambitious Technicolor Dreamer album … it’s actually one of my favorite remixes I’ve done, and Scott made me feel good by praising it almost every time we spoke thereafter.

He told me his affection for my remix inspired him to be extra-aspiring for our next collaboration, his incredible remix of my track “Balearic Chainsaw.” Now, my original is kind of simple, admittedly done as an afterthought in the recording session for a different song, but DJs responded well to it and it grew on me. I decided to put together a proper single for it and who better to remix a song with “Balearic” in the title than Scott, right? So, Scott, who is quite gutsy, as you may recall from a previous paragraph, took this simple song and turned it into a swirling and epic nine minute masterpiece. This endeavor sums up Scott Hardkiss to me perfectly … I would have been happy with a standard remix that expanded on my original and made some feet move in the process. But Scott, being Scott, enlists vocalist Stevvi Alexander (who was just on TV with Justin Timberlake, no less) to add a whole new vocal track. And then, if that weren’t enough, phones up DJ Afro from Los Amigos Invisibles to add a live flamenco guitar track. On a remix. That was Scott: gutsy, ambitious, and living the creative life.

Several years ago I was thumbing through a music magazine and skimmed over an interview with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. He was asked the question, “What is your ultimate goal?” I’ll never forget Moore’s answer as it really struck me and gave me something to strive for. He said, “To live a creative life.” Today I realize that’s what Scott Hardkiss did, and it’s what he showed to others, including myself. His inspiration will live on, and I’m actually feeling inspired right now just thinking about him. Goodbye and hello, Scott. Yes.