If anyone can understand the hardships of self-isolation, it's Hawaiian-born, Seattle-based producer Ark Patrol. For the young artist, it's a feeling he knew long before quarantine became a global mandate. After being gravely diagnosed with cancer back in 2018, changing his trajectory forever, the newfound warrior embraced the hardships and channeled it into his music.
Two years later, he's beaten cancer, has a successful self-titled album under his belt, a song that's gone viral on Tik Tok, and a track featured in the lead trailer for the HBO show Euphoria. Prior to the lockdown, he landed his first national tour alongside Baynk, and then again with Big Wild. He's now back to channel this success into the launch of his new project, Geode, due for release on May 21st, 2020.
The project launched last week with the track "Falling From Heaven," marking the first time we hear his vocal and lyrical abilities on one of his tracks. There seems to be a trend in place, as more and more producers are using their own voice on their singles.
"I just have to say, I've been keeping an eye on a bunch of producers, I feel like there's just a wave of them who all of a sudden just decided all at the same time, it's time for us to sing on our own production," Ark Patrol told EDM.com over a video interview. "People like Mura Masa and of course San Holo’s been doing it before. I just feel like there's this wave of it."
"Falling From Heaven" is a beautiful soundscape, filled with live instrumentals and airy plucks, creating an ethereal realm of music to explore. The lyrics carry the listener into a fever dream, with the lush production guiding the way. The soothing synthpop style showcases Ark Patrol's transition to an alternative electronic artist who can truly do it all.
As Ark Patrol, he has perfected the ability to transport his audience to his own eloquently constructed world. His songs make his listeners appreciate the beauty of being alive—something we so often take for granted. From his personal journey, he's been able to produce on a different plane than others, creating art that uplifts the senses with his scrupulous sound design and tender cadences, all engineered, produced, and performed by himself.
We had the privilege of chatting with Ark Patrol about the inspiration behind Geode, what he's learned during quarantine, and his unwavering strength in his transcendent battle against cancer.
EDM.com: You must have a different perspective of this quarantine after what you went through back in 2018 with cancer, being sequestered in your own personal quarantine at that time. How have you felt during all this and has it affected the release and your creative process?
Ark Patrol: Yeah. It is quite similar. I remember during chemo, I mean, you're totally right, you can't see anybody. You really need to limit your exposure. If you do get sick, you don't have the immune system, you don't have the strength to actually fight anything. So during that time I was home every day, barely left the couch. Pretty similar to right now where I'm also on the couch and barely leaving it, for a different reason of course. I guess the mindset that I got from being in chemo is not connecting physical activity to inspiration and learning how to dream without moving, just sitting in one place and accepting that limitation, and accepting that as a form of productivity because it's all I could do at the time. That comes in handy now when it's hard to go out and do anything, but I have that ability to just sit and dream and feel like that is progression, which is actually extremely helpful at this time.
This is the first time you’ve featured your own vocals on one of your tracks. Have you always wanted to do so? If so, what made Geode feel like the right time? You have an amazing voice, so I'm glad you decided to do so.
That's so nice of you. I think the reason I did that is number one, it's hard to collaborate with other people. It just takes more effort. Number two, I think the real thing is it's definitely fun. It's fun, it's easy. I think at the core nobody is going to sing it exactly the way that I have it envisioned in my head, even in the tightest collaboration, it's just going to be different than what you're imagining. So that link inside your head is just something special that nobody else can give you. Also, I'm very spoiled, I'm used to that as a self producer. I'm treated to my own vision all the time. So having to compromise on that when I could just learn and take lessons and stuff. It's just seemed like the right choice.
When I listen to "Falling From Heaven," the message I took away from it was that it's about the feeling one gets awaiting judgment for what they feel are their sins. It then goes into the moment you let go of that burden you hang over your head and escape from it all. What’s your personal vision of the track?
I think that's fair. That's completely fair. It comes from a nightmare of mine, actually. Two different nightmares, kind of combined to the same similar idea, but you're totally right, it hinges on this moment of punishment and judgment for things that may not exactly be punishable or shouldn't be punishable, you know? It has a little bit to do with my upbringing. I was raised in a Christian household, nothing though crazy, you know? But I did grow up with this whole Christian idea of sitting and if you disobey, there are terrible consequences and that's something that's stayed in my subconscious forever and it came out in the nightmare. I feel like a lot of it is unfair.
In the song, it's about a woman who has an encounter with the priest. When she realizes he's a priest, she realizes that she's going to be judged for it. It's also about a prison guard who for some reason, the person that he's boarding escapes and now he's on the chopping block for it. It's things that necessarily people don't deserve to be destroyed over, but yet it happens. It's this crossroads of the nightmare I had plus this thing I grew up with to create this idea I don't fully understand.
Did this project's process differ from the last LP and how so?
The creation of the self-titled that came out last year happened before my diagnosis. The sharpening and polishing happened after. This album happened after remission last year. I wrote most of it around Fall 2019 and I was completely healthy. I was just trying to get in shape again and clean up. I didn't know it, but by all accounts, I was on the rebound. I mean, I still am on the rebound. Everything was just absolutely feeling great in my life. After I had survived treatment, actually it was the first day I was able to run again, I specifically remember, it was the day I got an email from Austin, my current manager, and his team happened to find my music.
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We connected after he found me on his Spotify's Discovery Weekly. It was just such a clean transition from the end of my treatment to finding a new team and then from finding a new team to meeting and falling in love with my girlfriend and being inspired. A big part of this record I think is being in love but not making the record about love, but channeling that love as energy into the creation. As opposed to last year's album, which is just the idea that I have nothing left, I may not have any time at all. This is not going to be like a labor of love. This is going to be an honesty snapshot of where I'm at because I might not have another chance. That's the difference in my head.
Have you seen a transition in your sound since you began? What influences do you think has been the cause of these changes?
Oh, no, it's such a big change. I remember telling everyone when I chose to sing on this and the inspirations that I was looking at. The portrayal of my favorite bands. It went from being producer only. I would ever draw inspiration from Flume, Seekae out of Australia, Toro, but the stuff that he wouldn't sing on. It would be a lot of just beat focused stuff. It totally shifted it, unlocked the ability for me to be more inspired directly by real bands in my head, like bands that have vocals. So Little Dragon, Gorillaz, Toro, but the other stuff, Radiohead, all this stuff that I've been listening to my entire life as a kid is now unlocked. It's crazy how, how big the differences when you're singing versus not singing. It's a completely different mental space than before.
It's like you unlocked this confidence within by adding your voice to the tracks.
Yeah, I unlocked it. It's the difference between painting with your finger and then painting with a brush. It just completely unlocks something within you.
Why did you choose Geode as the project's title? What’s the significance?
Originally I was just wanting to call it Ark Patrol 2, just because I want it to represent how little I care about the name, I care way more about the music. Then I talked to my team and we had some really good discussions about it and I was motivated to name it Geode mostly because I felt it kind of represented my process, which is basically like mining. Mining away at possibilities to the effect that I've been writing music for five or six years now. Eventually, you'll find something and you're going to crack it open and it's just going to be good stuff inside. It may not be diamonds, but it is interesting, and it looks good.
So I felt like Geode is the right word for a collection of things that I think are really special, which took a long time to find and that are all related to each other. They grew in the same environment, which has all of these sounds, and all of these lyrics. They all came out of love and my passion for what I was going through, which is just like being in love and thriving as compared to last year.
Can you recall the moment you realized you wanted to pursue electronic music as a career? Was there an 'ah-ha' moment? When did that happen and how?
There are two points in my life. The first point where I ever got interested in electronic music was when I was actually homeschooled at my friend's house. There was a fancy iMac upstairs that I shouldn't have been playing on that had the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game on it. I would sneak up there and try to play it. Then one day I went up there and it wasn't on there, but what was on there was Garage Band and I was like, "What is this?" I clicked on it, and it had all these loops and I sort of just started playing around with it. It was so interesting that it sparked my curiosity about tinkering with sound.
The second moment was years later when I had been in a jazz band. I had a Mac book already and had done beats here and there. I specifically remember walking home and in my head realizing that, okay, it's time. I realized it's time to think about my future. Nothing really made that happen. It was just one of those random things that just occur to you. So I remember thinking music is something I'm good at and it's a gamble. I have to choose right here, right now if I'm okay with nothing happening or if I'm okay with just dying alone, with a bunch of beats unreleased, or with no recognition, or being poor and having to give it up and just work. I think I was like 17 at the time. Now that I have the forethought to accept all the shit that's going to happen from this, I have the ability to say yes. No regrets since.
Where does Geode fit into your artistic vision for your Ark Patrol project?
That's such a good question. I wish I got asked that more. Ark Patrol as a whole is two things. It's a feeling, a specific feeling that I am just constantly chasing in music, where you have something familiar cross with something interesting. The other thing that Ark Patrol is, is experimentation. So you need to find that interesting thing. Geode is definitely in my mind a success. It establishes kind of a new standard for me. I don't necessarily want it to be perceived as that. I would like it to just be what it is, but to me, I developed a whole new method in writing this music. Just at least in order and process of how I laid down first and the track of the sounds and what I considered good or completed.
Like I said earlier, I feel this changed the rest of the game for me to where I'm on a different level. I mean compared to what I was doing before, which is kind of just beat making, it felt like shooting in the dark all the time. I feel much more oriented and so I feel that Geode is going to be just so informative to the next album that I'm writing right now. It's basically the user's manual that I have instructions on how to do this thing, and I'm using that I can make sure it stays fresh and don't, you know, not get caught up because I know the algorithm explicitly in my head. I don't just create the same thing 20 million times in a row.
After this new project comes out and we hopefully return to a sense of normality in the world, where would you like to see your career going? Any dreams you hope to cross off your bucket list in the upcoming years?
Yeah. Oh man, I hope this doesn't last too long. This is so sad. What I want to do with Ark Patrol is kind of establish it as a trusted harbor of music. It's going to take a lot of work to do that. I think Geode is a step in the right direction of giving people something that they can really trust. What I want to do is follow in Damon Albarn's steps, from Gorillaz, where he just does his thing, but then he also constantly is bringing people in and discovering this cool dynamic, exploring sounds. So I would like it to be similar to that, where I have my own thing going, my own sound, but then I'm able to add in recorded conversations with talented people from all over the world and put those out. I want to share that and push music forward in a new direction.
I think touring can be part of that. We have some really cool merch ideas that I want to do, which I don't think anyone has done before. It's stuff in the creative space, literally creative content. There's a lot for sure but at the core of it, I really just want to develop the music. I really just want to double down. It's just better and better sounds, better and better ideas. My ultimate dream is for that to bring people together and to bring new talent together and create something new.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.