Over the past couple of years, David Harks has been quietly building up a reputation with his band Safetalk, in addition to solo releases on labels like Sunday Best, Kitsune and Eskimo Recordings that have seen him tipped by the likes of DIY, Clash, Neon Gold, Thump and many more. On top of his collaborations with other acts, Harks has released a new solo single in the form of Avalon. We decided to catch up with him to find out more about what makes this prolific artist tick!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind David Harks – the person and the musician?
Sure, I think the best place to start is that I just love to build stories with my imagination, capture worlds in my head, and then combine that with a narrative to create a song. Honestly sometimes it feels like they come to me from an alternative dimension! At the point of contact I’ll find either melodies emerge from the instruments I pick up or I’ll start to channel a voice (might not be mine but it passes through me), so I open my mouth and something comes out – it’s a total natural high.
It goes without saying I don’t ask it what it wants, what it is and where it is going – but I do know once it’s out, recorded or heard then it is my job to facilitate it in the best ways that I know how. In the past that used to be as a drummer and vocalist but as I’ve gotten older I’ve established a process at home to document it and produce it.
I’ve been writing songs, collaborating with something or someone, for what feels like such a long time… It’s a part of this life cycle that I’m in, it feels like it’s my life’s task to channel this otherworldly stuff, it’s a magical responsibility in truth!
Does make it hard to get a day job…
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
I have been so lucky in some of the experiences I’ve had as a musician over the years, in part, a lot of that is being in the right place at the right time and truthfully I’ve long been surrounded by so many musical influencers that I adore.
My mate Garry Cobain (from Future Sound of London) has definitely been a cornerstone of my career in terms of how to approach the music industry as an individual. He is relentlessly creative, a mystical music maker who is adapting continually, bringing in new collaborations with the Amorphous Androgynous project (of which I have been a part of for a number of years). Working with him is really an eye opener as to how we can interact on record and live on stage and how we build a narrative around the projects we present. And most of all the need to transcend, as much as possible, current trends and try to create work which stands up for the longest period of time.
My true musical roots would take all day to dig into but musicians that have stolen my heart would be people like our devoted angel on earth, Prince – just stop and listen to Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, recorded at Paisley Park studios live, Joe Goddard for his simply breath-taking positive outlook and incredible output of material over the years, Vangelis for always remaining a mystic in the shadows of his contemporaries, seriously the list goes on and on…
The truth is music is a beacon for interpreting those fundamental things that sometimes we just cannot express in words, its one of the highest art forms expressed through vibrations and transmitted across galaxies… where would we be without the voice of the protest song, rnb, rap, dub… the 18-hour straight gabba sets rolling out on the north shores of Germany’s coastlines cranking the subs at 10am – well in that case probably asleep, but you get me…
I believe a good musical education is important, you don’t have to be crate digging nut job to have that, just keep an open mind and keep listening to music, feel the vibrations man.
You’re resident in Berlin at present – has that had any influence on you as a musician?
Massively, a huge factor as a musician is just in terms of well-being. The fact is as a musician here in Germany you can lead a more healthy life, mentally, and it feels like you are appreciated a lot more. The government supports those who take the musical road with a social care system that has an eye on the long term. So, in that respect I am able to take myself further every day, realising a dream and remembering who I am and why I do this. Music is a huge part of Berlin, and that’s something I want to tap into. It’s offers a way of life where you can straddle both work and play in a very natural way.
As someone who arrived fairly late to electronic music I am so lucky to now have that world all around me to draw upon and since I moved here I’ve invested in some equipment that reflects that. As far as the writing side goes there’s this invisible magic that passes through me every day here, the city of Berlin has a lot of spirits floating up above her, all with an incredible story to tell. I feel it everyday, there’s so many wonderful people here, honestly I love this place.
You’re a member of Safetalk, you’ve collaborated with producers like Satin Jackets to release singles and now you’re releasing as a solo artist. Are there similarities and differences in the artistic process each time?
Each different direction is another outlet for me to explore the stories/worlds that come to me. Safetalk I see as this project that connects everything around us together, both the real world and the virtual. Thomas and Hugues, my partners in the band, make music that inspire this conversation and for me its an outlet for more social and political ideas.
The transmissions I pick up that lend themselves to my solo work, they’re more esoteric, otherworldly, that’s when I’m reaching for something I can’t see.
The recent Satin Jackets release would fall into the latter… The story is otherworldly, it’s removed from me, Honestly, I wish I had it in me to sit down with an acoustic guitar and write a song about my cat called Steve, or the day I broke up with my girlfriend that kind of thing… but in truth that is just not the way my brain accepts these transmissions.
However, that could change once I really start making some distorted techno on this drum machine I’ve just bought, maybe I could get a latex cat suit – Berlin is certainly the place for it.
Could you tell us a bit more about your most recent single, Avalon? It feels like there’s different sound compared to other releases you’ve been involved with.
Avalon is a song that works its way across a few different realms, both personally and musically. The keystone is the simplicity and mantra-like repetition in the lyrics.
It does feel different doesn’t it? It’s turning out to be a really powerful release, a real feel good record. If I was to grade it on a rainbow chart of colours I’d say it sits somewhere around a purple, blue zone whereas prior stuff has lingered around some red and orange into the green…
I try in all my writing to get a message across of the heights we can reach, give the audience a lift and help them rise up. Again, for me music’s purpose is to elevate yourself and others.
I worked with Pete from Teleman on the release, just to nudge the songs attitude toward a British sounding pop sensibility, and then we mixed it here in Berlin.
I took a different approach to the vocal delivery to anything I have done really, layering vocals in a chorus fashion and using a lot more analog synthesis across the track with the gear I have. The MS20 and minibrute have become a huge part of my writing process. I think also on Avalon I am doing a lot more of the instrumentation, but as with all these things it is all about the collaboration.
What’s up next for David Harks? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
Yes of course, some more stuff out next year hoping for a full follow up of a record/album so that’s the direction I am headed in and focused most on now for next year. I’m working on a live show now for my solo sounds so that should be ready for next year too.
Then we also have another Safetalk single coming out very soon (November 10) on a French label Splinter and then an EP release in the new year. We’ll certainly be playing more Safetalk live shows too.
I loved playing live a lot in my 20’s, and got to do some brilliant shows. It’s been too long since I have played live regularly so I am looking forward to changing that and being back out on the road…
Oh, finally before I go I just have to give a shout out to John my manager at best in show for all his efforts and Feiertag, Satin Jackets GJnr whom I released this year with, It has been a great year so far and the future’s looking good.