Mr. Carmack occupies a frontier that weaves between night and day, but whatever you do, don’t pigeonhole him. Fans, along with himself have come to coin the amalgamation of genres as ‘The Carmack Sound’ so while the competition continually tries to replicate his signature – Aaron aka Mr. Carmack flexes back with a true rendition of music means to him. Innovative as always and just months after sharing his 46 track SoundCloud surprise Yellow, he dropped a thanksgiving special titled Rekindling, a digital album aimed to re-ignite the creative fire within us all this holiday season.
Well-known in the music scene for being the producer, spearheading creativity with signature production style and music leaking ability it’s without a doubt that the Hawaiian horizon is limitless with this Soulection taste-maker. Gearing up for the Laneway Festival circuit we thought it only fair to find out what makes this LA-based artist tick, and what he’s got in store for his upcoming Laneway shows.
You’ve just come off your Immersion tour in the States – how did that tour compare to club nights where restrictions can be in place?
It felt good, man. I played a lot of chilled music, and things I may not play in a club. More live-orientated music that we had made for the tour that turned out really well. There is definitely a lot more of a liberating feeling to playing a 100% Mr. Carmack set – it’s been a long time coming, and it’s actually my first ever tour attempting to play just my own music. I didn’t actually build my set till a week before – we had designed the lighting a couple of months before though. We had the whole show there, but it wasn’t set to be an exact science. I had a set in my head but it just didn’t come out, I had a set block for about three months. I could not put a fucking set together. A week before the tour I put it together, and it actually turned out really well. On the third show though my set completely deleted – I don’t know where it went. 2-hours before I started I pulled it up and the folder was completely empty. I freaked out for about 30seconds, and then I realized that I should just freestyle. I really like freestyling in a set where it’s all my own music, so it actually was a great time.
To be honest, one thing we love about you is that you’re on your own buzz when it comes to dropping music. You seem to just drop it when you want and how you want. Tell us about that? It’s dope..
It’s just how it goes for me – I’ve always loved doing what I want to do. I always made a point to never be part of one thing, and there were parts of my life where I was pretty lonely. I’d always just do different things and they wouldn’t involve my friends. If you speak to my mates they’d say there were periods where they didn’t even talk to me.
And when we hung out you mentioned you had your stint in Santa Monica sleeping on the street…that’s like one of the best stories we’ve heard this year. Has that had something to do with that?
Yeah, you’re not alone in thinking that. I just kind of fell off the radar and did my own thing…I just went to North Dakota last week by myself and rented a car just cos. I did that move cos I was stuck in Long Beach – I had just failed college, got kicked out of the dorms, I was tired of asking my parents for money but didn’t have experience anywhere else. I started getting some restaurant experience, but it paid jack shit (like $200 every fortnight). I got to a point where I had to decide to save the next $500 I have to ‘save for something’ or just pay rent and be broke for a month. I chose to decide to be homeless. It didn’t work…it was the worst thing that you could ever do unless you like walking around in your own filth and not taking showers. Everyone looks at you like you don’t belong where you are. There was no cathartic light from god for me, it was just the reality of my situation and I had to change it if I didn’t wanna be in that situation. I crashed at my friend’s house for a while, and then bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii to live with my sister. Her friend was going to offer me a job in a nice restaurant because I said I had worked a year in restaurant experience even though I had only done like 3-4 months.
How has that whole experience influenced you as an artist?
I put out ‘Frozen’ whilst I was in college in 2011, and I had a bunch more music on my computer. I work in a way where I jot down ideas, move on, then go back and visit something to see if I can salvage or expand on. Whether it directly influenced my music today it’s hard to say, but it definitely influenced me in ways.
Did it influence the recent tweet‘the ego will topple your soul, make you go down to the gutter to get it back.’ Where did this one come from?
Yeah it does, I wrote that cos one of my friends or myself got embarrassed…it’s something that I always check – my ego. Not in a way where I check if I can say this or that, but more like do I really need to do this/toot my own horn right now?
It’s been two years since you were last in NZ, what are you looking forward to most down here?
Probably the beach…and seeing your face *laughs* and the music there. New Zealand has such a vibrant producer and music scene that I follow. I can’t wait to see some of the smaller more local acts. I’m looking forward to seeing what Laneway is going to offer – it is such a reputable legendary festival, and it’s ‘the’ festival – the Coachella of New Zealand and Australia. It’s an honor and privilege to play, and we’ll see how I’m received. I got invited to play Laneway once, but it didn’t come through in the end, so I’m glad the second time around I’m coming down.
How are you feeling about your set for Laneway?
I’ll probably get my crate together soon for it, and build something for that tour. I have a lot of new tunes, and have found a bunch of great new music also. I don’t think these sets will be completely Carmack, but who knows, we’ll see how the audience reacts to it and what they want. Shit, though if they want a 100% Carmack set holla, but I also like incorporating others great music into my set.
You know the Dixie Chicks are playing here in April right?
*LAUGHS* – I’m starting to take that back a little bit. I spoke a little too soon…I don’t know if it’s the best idea at this point. I do want to see them though, cos I’ve never seen them before. I’ve been listening to their music a bit more, and it’s ‘interesting.’ *Laughs*
You’re not planning on just hanging out till that show after Laneway?
Well I was in Sandy Rock, and I was listening to a lot of Dixie Chicks and country music. It was just striking a nerve for me man. When I came back to Cali though I was like ‘hoo, maybe not.’
You mentioned New Zealand producers talent just before – who’s captured your eye and what has got you on board with the crew down here?
Well…Montell2099 definitely. He actually recently sent me a pack of 15 unreleased beats, and I tried them out on certain sets. Really precise, and hard hitting stuff. I like Herzeloyde, but he’s from Australia. Oh, and QUIX is from New Zealand too. It’s such a big community, so if someone’s heard of something and it bangs then one of my friends will know. I surround myself with people who are actively listening to things, so get that reach.
You’re in LA a lot more now, how has that affected your creativity vs. your 2 years head down in Hawaii?
It’s a lot less, and a lot more pointed projects. So I’ll do things better for people, or for fees, and have the option to do projects. In Hawaii, I’m just writing and writing. To be honest, I write about three-times the amount of music there, as I treat Los Angeles as a home base to deal with my business too. My days are no longer wake up, make music, go to sleep. They’re now wake up, be the business guy, meet with director, go meet other artists, go meet casting people, work on merchandise, eat dinner with girlfriend *laughs*. All these fucking things. It’s definitely something I want to step away from, as I wrote so much more music being in a zone and a place I can just free-form ideas. It comes out a lot more gritty and aggressive too cos I’m in a more hyper state.
Our opinion is that you’re an artist that pushes the sound forward. How do you feel about the state of producers ‘pushing the genre forward’ rather than doing what has been done?
I think there’s a balance to it. You can’t go too far forward, then you start losing listeners; they won’t be able to relate anymore. The flip side is doing what’s been done over and over, making the same sounds…you will lose listeners because they’ll get bored. So I think the goal is to grow at an appropriate pace with fans, whatever that may be.
You also tweeted this week ‘you think you’re different or unique, it doesn’t give you the right to shit on people – we’re all in the same boat.’ Does that relate to your thoughts on pushing things forward?
I think there has always been a cockiness, a bravado, an egotistical side to artistry, this idea that if you’re popular nobody can touch you and you have the go ahead to dismiss and belittle others to amplify your own confidence. It’s a shitty attitude and I try not to subscribe to it. But unfortunately it’s everywhere. Also, slap me with what I’m writing here, the minute you see me going off on an egomaniacal tirade one day in the future.
You dropped a release with Djemba at Thanksgiving with a pretty challenging write up. What made you get to that point and drop that with a record on Thanksgiving weekend fundraising for the Standing Rock Water Protectors?
Putting the Rekindling EP together really allowed me to express some ideas and frustrations I’ve had surrounding the trump election, the overall us presidential campaign, Standing Rock, and other current issues. This is my first politically/socially charged project I’ve released, and I wanted to convey a constructive purpose, promote awareness, and deliver a message as clear as possible, all with music. Each track has their own explanations, but I generally like to have the music speak on its own, so I wrote a preface – a breakdown of the overarching message of the project to read before listening. I really enjoyed the process to making this project, because it forced me to research thoroughly and check my own knowledge and facts on these issues.
What are some releases you’re working on now?
I’m really liking an R&B song I made with my friend Marvel, I’m finishing up an EP with Tennyson which is great, and also trying to do a 2x vinyl series with my friend Kenny. So yeah, there’s a lot of shit going on.