“Music has been one of the things that has kept people from going over the edge” HRVST interview

Unlearn Records recently released their Various Artist Miami EP this March, featuring five party-ready tech house cuts from a crop of new talent alongside the established sound of label boss Doc Brown.

One of the tracks comes from HRVST. HRVST has released his unique tech house productions on Admit One Records, In The Know Records, and Late Night Munchies. One of Beatport’s Top UK Garage Tunes of 2022, “Haze” was released on (83) and saw massive support from UK Garage DJs globally. In a similar punishing vein to Ewie, their track Pop It employs sinister vocals over a devastating rolling bassline for maximum dancefloor impact.

For those that don’t know your story, please can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be a musician.

My senior year of high school I was hanging out at a head shop that had a streetwear clothing store across the street. I’d been making beats for a few years and they had a studio in the back. I took a CD of beats to them and landed an internship, where I learned a lot about recording vocalists. It was around this time I found myself frequenting warehouses on the weekends where I would be transformed by synth bleeps and sound systems.
I lived in California for a few years growing cannabis, and during this time the HRVST project took shape with two EP’s released in 2015. I moved back to Texas, and in 2018 my now-wife and I went to Ibiza for the first time and saw Carl Cox at Privilege. The next time we got to see him was a couple years later at the last party before Lockdown restrictions were put in place.

COVID helped bring a lot of opportunities forward for artists to level up their knowledge from other artists with all of the content that’s been created during that time. Discord communities popped up, Twitch production streams happened, and just the general ability to connect with artists whether big or small. The wealth of knowledge available now is amazing for the accessibility of learning how to not just produce music, but market it too, to where someone can learn to write quality music and release it successfully with a lot less time investment than figuring it out on your own.

Who have been your biggest musical influences throughout your life and career?

UGK and Chamillionaire have definitely been formative influences on me. I still reach for them on Spotify when I’m in a mood and need to be reminded to just keep pushing and grinding. More specifically, the self-titled 2007 album, and Mixtape Messiah 2 respectively.

On the electronic and dance music side of things, I’ve been fortunate enough to see Kraftwerk live twice. I would reckon Skream has been a heavy influence on me pursuing my own sound and vibe. He didn’t feel the need to rebrand to write a new style that wasn’t the same as what his career was built on. I was really into booty breaks in the noughties so I have to mention Keith McKenzie, Sporty-O, and Deekline. The Night Slugs crew added funkiness and wild rhythms to my repertoire, while Critical Music, Shogun Audio provided precision.

I realize I still haven’t really mentioned any pure house artists yet, and some will probably agree that I’ve saved the best for last with Josh Wink. When I was 20 I was staying with a friend who was purely a house head. He was always vibing to some deep house and it was usually a Josh Wink mix. I remember him telling me “When you get older you’ll like house music.” Now I’m almost 33 and here we are.

Both personally and professionally, who have been your biggest supporters in your career so far?

My wife first and foremost has been my biggest supporter. She’s encouraged me to keep pushing when I’m down, allowed me to buy gear with a credit card I opened in her name while she was napping one day, and has given me time to focus on my goals and dreams.

I first connected with Grahame Farmer from Data Transmission on Twitch at the perfect moment where I felt as if I’d invested enough into techniques and skills for production that it was time to figure out the marketing side of things. Grahame makes a lot of content around social media marketing for DJs and producers in addition to running Data Transmission’s blog and social channels. I started my radio show The Slabbed Out Sesh on DT Radio, and I got to attend Seismic Dance Event as a representative for Data Transmission last year with his help. His support has been instrumental in helping me grow my Spotify, Soundcloud and Instagram accounts, as well as understanding and navigating the music industry. The community that he’s built around his Twitch and Discord are unparalleled in supportiveness of each other. Shoutout to The Sheadheadz.

The Embre Discord Community spawned out of the /r/tech_house subreddit forum. Everyone in there’s mad supportive and its a great place to be able to connect with other producers to get feedback on tunes and, general house and techno fans that are just awesome people. Some of my best friends now I’ve met through this server.
I met GAWP initially through the IO Music Academy course put on during lockdown. The mastering work of his company Most Wanted Audio is so crisp and perfect for my sound. His feedback on mixdowns when I get master work done, or tunes in general when I submit demos for his label Prime Society is always ace and has helped me really dial things in.

Doc Brown is another great mind that I connected with via Twitch and Discord early on. I’ve sent him demos over the last two years and finally “Pop It” landed, although I had a few others that were close previously, I just moved on from them before getting them nailed down right.

There’s so many to list, but anyone that reaches out to me directly, that I meet online on Discord, Twitch, Twitter, and the ones that I’ve connected with offline that show love and support are absolute legends. Writing music that’s not constrained to fitting inside a very specific box can lead to self-doubt, so getting messages or coming across a random conversation on Reddit that’s supporting you can really help shake those negative feelings.

In terms of live performance, is there a moment that stands in your mind when you felt on top of the world?

It’s been a little bit since I’ve had a chance to play out, but there’s been a couple times where I’ve gone on with a nearly empty dance floor and by the end of the set its packed with bodies. When a city has an entire entertainment district of bars, there’s a lot of different options for music, so when you can get a bunch of heads in the door and you’ve got people putting your stickers on their shirt or forehead it leaves a lasting memory.

We read that you’re currently hand building an analog video synthesizer – details please!

I’ve always been interested in glitch artwork and wanting to create custom visuals that could tie to my music. This desire for custom visuals definitely became more pronounced when I was streaming DJ sets on Twitch as I didn’t want to be using the same free or stock visuals everyone else was using but was kind of just lost. I’d experimented with After Effects but it didn’t really click in terms of what I was wanting to achieve.

I’d discovered that Eurorack Video Synth modules exist but Eurorack’s expensive to get into. I went down the DIY rabbit hole but didn’t understand anything I was watching or reading about. I found an Analog Video Synthesis workshop online put on by the fine folks at Dogbotic based in Berkeley California. There was a warning that one might want to have basic electronics knowledge before taking it, so I signed up for the DIY Analog Synthesizer workshop first.

After that workshop I was saving up for our wedding so I dove into as much research as I could about Analog Video Synthesis. Surprisingly there really isn’t a whole lot out there if you don’t understand what comprises an analog video signal and the timing requirements. There are devices you can circuit bend, but I wanted to generate patterns and signals from scratch, not bend signals themselves only. I also felt that using a microcontroller such as an Arudino wasn’t really what I was looking for.

Eventually the Dogbotic Video Synthesis for an Analog World workshop opened for another round and I signed up for it. Over the course of 10 weeks on Saturdays, Sean Hallowell, who goes by the name isorhythmics talked us through different circuits that could generate video signals and patterns. This was all done on plastic breadboards. I soldered up the final schematic onto a prototype board and then realized I needed to make a few modifications to the original schematic that weren’t included to get it working properly and be a patchable synthesizer.

I just placed an order for more integrated circuits so that I can build a 2nd version. I’ve also done a lot more research and found another Eurorack video synth company thats open sourced their schematics that I can use to take the circuit I have now and modularize it. I have a FPV drone camera that can feed in a composite video signal, and I also want to include some inputs for old NES/SNES or VCR and DVD player video manipulation too.
The goal is to take the video synth rig along for the ride for festivals and shows to set up as an art installation while also getting the opportunity to perform. Imagine a pyramid of TV screens with some knobs and cables that people could interact with.

We’re loving the new single on Unlearn – were there any specific inspirations on this one?

I’d just spent the weekend partying at Seismic Dance Event here in Austin and definitely felt a renewed sense of fire afterwards. I think I wrote four tracks that week after, with “Pop It’ being one of them. When I go to parties and the sound is absolutely perfect, as it was at Seismic, I get super analytical about tracks that are playing, even when dancing.

For the vocals on the record, I wanted to try to capture the essence of the warehouse dance battles that would occasionally pop up, back in the days before everyone was a shuffler. I can see some influence from Huey – Pop, Lock & Drop It and Freaky Nasty – Da Dip.

And how’s work on your album progressing? Will we be seeing that one this year?

My debut album is coming along. I’ve got a few tunes selected for it already that just need final polishing as it’s been a minute since I wrote them. A few of the songs span the last two years of my productions, so it’ll be good to go back and apply everything I’ve learned since first calling them done, to really make them shine. This album is going to span multiple genres, but I’ve always thought albums should tell a story, and take someone on a journey and I want to ensure that I can deliver on that front.

If I can get a proper release plan in place that includes a solid marketing budget to help really push it, then we may see the album in the fall. I’m about to be a new dad in less than a week now, so life is about to get crazy. Realistically, I won’t be able to release it this year as I need to focus on being a dad, however if I can get all of the systems in place we’ll see it in early 2024.

As the world gets increasingly more tense, what role do you think music can play in bringing people together?

At this point, I’m surprised the planet hasn’t collapsed into a black hole with the collective tension of the last several years of our lives. Community around music has been one of the things that has kept a lot of people from going over the edge, especially with technology accessibility advancements.

Someone living in the countryside like where I grew up, is able to connect with others around interests and passions that’s more personal than liking and commenting on someone’s pictures or videos on other platforms. Some of these communities have been able to organize camp out parties, or create record labels, and just generally help people not feel so alone. And it was all because of their love of music.

Can you tell us about some of the music you have coming up this year?

I just released a free download for Bandcamp Friday that is exclusive to that platform. I’m working on finalizing the artwork for my next release on my own imprint Slabbed Out Digital. It’s going to be a UK Garage EP, with one of the tunes already having gotten support from Scott Garcia on his Kiss Fresh show. I’m shopping around a few other tech house tracks similar to “Pop It” at the moment but will be making the decision around whether or not to release it on Slabbed Out Digital soon.

What does success look like to you in 2023?

My main goal that I set this year was increased brand recognition and awareness. I made several action items to reach that goal, one of them being landing an interview. I also set a few different metrics that could be used to measure success around numbers on social media channels. For me though, the real measure of success is whether or not I had fun.I really appreciate y’all taking the time to chat with me because I had a ton of fun.