Francis Harris, AKA Adultnapper: "I Am a Devotee to Sound and Its Possibilities"
Iconoclast because he came into the electronic dance music game through the back door as a former hardcore punk rocker hell-bent on defying EDM's musical conventions.
Philosopher because he was literally a university philosophy student, and would apply grandiose mind-bending concepts to his music.
And auteur because of his uncompromising artistic vision -- an ever-evolving sound which he single-handedly crafts every step of the way, from multi-instrumentalist composer to seasoned sound engineer.
Of course, international dance floors know Harris first and foremost as Adultnapper, purveyor of dark, driving club beats. Howver, 2012 saw Harris's maturation as a deeper-thinking songwriter with the critically acclaimed album Leland, released under his own name. It's as nuanced and sensitive a work of "techno" as you're likely to hear.
Crossfade caught up with the talented Mr. Harris ahead of his gig at Treehouse with LINK Miami on Friday to talk about his conversion from punk to EDM, his evolution as a producer, the album, and his new label.
Crossfade: As the story goes, you started out as a punk rocker who hated dance music. What can you tell us about those early days as a musician? And how did you get converted to electronic dance music?
Francis Harris: When I was in high school, then in college, I was a devotee to American hardcore music, particularly that which thrived in the East and Midwest. Bands like Born Against, Current, Moss Icon, and Los Crudos were a big influence to me, and the bands I played in. I even had a small seven-inch label called Ex Punk Facto.
Recently, I've been writing some new music and thought of bringing back the imprint, but maybe that's a bit more than I can chew for the moment. As far as electronic, I was not so into the early rave-y stuff, but I had a friend who was involved in throwing some parties at a bingo hall in Lansing, in the mid '90s, where I once saw Plastikman do a more ambient-type set. This really opened my eyes to the genre. I was also introduced to artists like Mouse on Mars, Oval, and Bill Laswell, so my interests began to grow.
For someone who once hated dance music, you've emerged as a highly skilled electronic producer and sound designer. How did you develop these chops in the studio?
I had some great mentors who really took the art of engineering very seriously. Erich Lee, who I did a few early records with, initially taught me how to mix. Then Alexi Delano. Both these guys have different styles of mixing, but can both be found evident in the style of mixing I do in the studio.
Beyond that, I read all the time and am constantly challenging myself to step out of the box and into new and innovative ways to engineer. It's a limitless and never-ending education that will clearly last a lifetime. If I am a devotee to anything, it is to sound and its possibilities. The meeting of form and expression happens clearly in the art of engineering. So it's of great importance to me as an artist and musician.
What exactly was the narrative concept behind the Adultnapper character and Ransom Note label when you first launched them? And how did you develop the concept audio-visually?
Adultnapper and Ransom Note were really an experiment in an act of intellectual self-loathing. I was a big follower of French post-structuralist philosophy, and like many students, I took myself way too seriously. Adultnapper and Ransom Note were a way to have a little fun with the language. Adultnapper in my mind was sort of a pseudo-intellectual anti-hero and the narrative on the records were a way of mocking the language of late 20th-century philosophy. I suppose, in retrospect, not many people got the joke and felt that it was quite "dark." But for those who know me well, there was some evident humor involved.