Published Sep 15, 2016Even though his new album, Checkpoint Titanium (out now on Last Gang) is dynamic and brimming with energy, 21-year-old producer Harrison likes to keep things refreshingly simple. We visited his home studio earlier this month for a glimpse into the magic that went into self-producing his debut. Here's what we learned:
1. He's a bit of a collector.
Harrison doesn't need all of the latest fancy gadgets to make a great album. In fact, nearly all of his studio gear was scavenged, repaired or given to him second-hand by friends. Although he's happy with his current setup, much of his gear was acquired toward the end of putting Checkpoint Titanium together.
One of Harrison's most prized possessions is his MPC 1000, the iconic '80s sampler coveted by hip-hop producers worldwide. "I exclusively made music on [the MPC] for six months when I was just starting out," says Harrison. "I got that off Kijiji. It was broken and I just fixed all the pads. That thing is sentimental."
2. Music wasn't his first love.
Harrison took piano lessons as a child, but mainly to appease his parents. "You know how parents want you to take lessons? I was like 'Okay, if I'm gonna take lessons, [I choose] music," says Harrison. "When you're younger, taking lessons feels like more of a chore. I don't regret taking lessons — I just remember not liking them."
Obviously, Harrison developed a passion for music eventually. In addition to producing a strong debut, he's teaching himself how to play acoustic guitar, drums and is taking up piano lessons again. "It took me a while to realize that music is the best thing ever. I feel so much better with music."
3. He welcomes distraction.
Harrison takes a relaxed approach to creating music, which is why he worked on his album from the comfort of his home. Not only does he get privacy and a beautiful bay window that bathes the room in sunlight, but he also has the freedom to idly scroll through his phone or take a good old-fashioned nature walk.
"Whenever I'm making music, I'll stop and go on my phone and then go for a walk or something. But in [commercial] studios, you have to sit there and be focused and it's gloomy. I feel like everyone's judging what I'm doing."
4. His craft has a conscience.
Checkpoint Titanium is packed with guest appearances like Clairmont the Second, Last Gang labelmate Ryan Hemsworth and Harrison's friend and mentor Seamus Hamilton. Although most of the collaborations were done remotely, Harrison still considers it vital to have strong chemistry with his co-creators and feels it's important to work with genuinely good people.
"I don't like internet collaborations, but I actually know these people personally, so it was fine. I don't want to associate my music with someone who's an ass, so you gotta know who they are. You're gonna make awesome music because you have an awesome vibe."
5. He mastered his entire album using a pair of headphones.
Audiophiles would cringe at the notion, but Harrison didn't have fancy monitors while mastering Checkpoint Titanium. True to his uncomplicated approach to creating, Harrison mastered his album with a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pros that he found in an abandoned backpack three years ago — and he did a bang-up job.
"What you have to do is compare [your song] to another song. If you can get it to sound like another song that was mastered and mixed in a professional studio, then fine. If you wanna make music, all you need is a really good pair of headphones."
Check out the video for "Vanilla" featuring Ryan Hemsworth below: