This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alex Erker, an NYC-based Producer who is just getting into the game. We here at Sound Fix have a great time writing about and speaking with our musical idols, but it’s also great to have a chance to talk with artists who are just starting out. Check out my conversation with Alex below, and make sure to listen the darkly ambient beats from his recently released EP, Wait Too Long:
Do you have a stage name? What’s the story behind it?
Yes, it is LRKR, but it didn’t use to always be that. I started out as DJ It when I was DJing parties in college, that’s when everyone was DJing. I wanted to differentiate myself from that and do some more original production, and that lead to me removing the DJ aspect from my name and coming up with a new name. I played on the Frisbee team, and one of my teammates nicknamed me “Lurker,” because my last name is Erker, and I thought it sounded right, so I just went for it.
When did you start producing?
I started making computer-based music in junior year of high school. I got Reason because I needed to do a senior thesis, and I wanted to do a non-traditional thesis. I proposed to do a musical thesis and create 3 songs, so that’s when I started making beats. But I had bands in high school, I played drums since 8th grade, and music has always been a part of my life.
When you started seriously making music, what were some of your major influences?
My top two influences when I started making music were Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, which were groups that were introduced to me by my cousins, who also make music. I was really drawn to Trent Reznor’s way of writing and producing music and then having a band play it, and while I think I work well alone, I’d like to collaborate more with others like that. And then Radiohead, I liked it because it was computer-based music, but they were also playing it live and making some really cool sounds. I was really fascinated by that.
I can definitely see how you’re influenced by those two artists, especially Trent Reznor. Your music is really dark and not very optimistic. Is that something that has come naturally out of you as an artist?
Yeah, a lot of my songs definitely have a darker angle. Some of it certainly comes from those influences, and I’m also a huge Tool fan. I love heavy, dark music with minor keys. I like changing it up and making things sound darker, I don’t know why though, I guess I was just drawn to it. Sometimes I’m reluctant to show people some of the music I’ve made because of that. I have certain songs that are very very industrial and dark.
It makes you wonder if Trent Reznor feels comfortable showing his mom his music.
Exactly, but I’ve been really happy that I’ve had a good response from my family. That’s definitely a plus.
Do you have a specific process or approach for making music?
I don’t really have a set process. Generally I will listen to some weird music, some world music maybe, like Indian music, and go from there. I don’t know if this is going to sound cliché, but in college I took a Buddhism class. We watched this film called Kwaidan, and in there’s a section called “Hoichi the Earless,” and this dude was playing what I think was an Oud. I thought if I sampled it, it would sound really cool, and I could put a beat to it. So I guess I just like to find samples, I begin making a song from there, similar to the way that Hip-Hop producers do it.
International and World music definitely seems to be used throughout your EP, from the first song, “Chilean Sunset.” Is that a sound that you find yourself drawn to?
I really like that sound, and the reason I used that sample on that song is because I love the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. In the ending credits, there is this song called “De Ushuaia a la Quiaca” by Gustavo Santaolalla, and it’s a really great. The instrument sounds almost like a ukulele, and that song is so great, I just listen to it on repeat. I chopped up certain samples in that song, reversed them, changed them around, and used them.
You have a ton of different instruments in your place, as well as vinyl records. It seems like you’ve surrounded yourself with the opportunity create a lot of different sounds.
I’m just really fascinated by unique sounds, and I’ll record anything that I find interesting. I love taking sounds and slowing them down, manipulating them, changing them up. One of the songs I’ll be performing at my show has percussion I created from a toothbrush.
Moving forward, what are your aspirations and goals as a musician?
I don’t know, honestly just keep making music. I want to keep doing it because it’s like therapy. I come home from work, and if I’m creating something, then I feel I’m being productive somehow. And it brings me happiness, so I just do it, and I want to do more of it. I want to collaborate more with people. I recently started working my cousin, she’s been rapping and I found out she can sing, so that should be cool. I want to try some things out with my didgeridoo, mess around with some new sounds and just try to make beats out of them.
You recently released your first EP, Wait Too Long, can you give us some of the history behind it?
I’m very close with my grandparents on both sides of my family. My grandpa on my dad’s side was dying, and a bunch of us were around his hospital bed asking what we could do to help, and he just said, “Wait.” That to me was very powerful. On the other side of my family, my cousin was giving a speech at a family wedding, and he was talking a lot. My grandfather can’t hear very well, so he leaned over to my grandmother and said, “Too long,” louder than he meant to. So I combined those two moments from grandfathers to make the title, Wait Too Long. It also works because it’s taken me way too long for me to release an official EP.
How long have you been working on these songs?
I can’t even remember. One of the songs is 3 or 4 years old. Obviously not in its final form, but the foundation is the same, and I sometimes listen to the older versions. But there are many different iterations of each song. People have rapped on some, people have sung on them. I’ve been trying to revise and perfect each song, but 4 out of the 5 songs are at least 2 years old. I go back to them constantly, so I finally had to say OK I need to release something. I went to a friend’s studio and we mastered the whole thing together, and it became a good enough product.
So do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
Yea definitely, and one of my goals now is to try and let go and sort of just go and keep making more quality stuff. I want to try and not just sit on things for so long, I want to move on.
What are some of the upsides and downsides of living and making music in New York or, more specifically, Brooklyn?
Upsides? I know a lot of people here from college, I went to Fordham, and I work in the music industry here too, which is great. There are a lot of like-minded people here doing the same thing. Lots of really great bands and producers, people who inspire me. There are big acts, small acts, you can see music any day of the week, and I love that. It’s constant inspiration, constant stimulation. There are also negative sides, like lack of space, lack of green and trees. I’m growing basil, mint, and peppers out on my deck, trying to make my own pseudo garden. There’s also too many people, and all of this can sometimes be creatively stifling. You can’t go out in open space and wander around without seeing other people, sometimes you feel almost trapped. The other thing is, in terms of being a producer, that there are a lot of other people doing it. It’s not that it’s active competition, but there’s pressure to make name for yourself and create your own sound.
I imagine that it has to be hard sometimes to try and make it as a musician while still trying to keep in mind what got you into it in the first place.
Totally. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten streams on Spotify, and people have added my music to their playlists. Some Yoga Instructor out in San Francisco told me she added my music to her Yoga playlist, which I’m happy about. It’s great to connect with people that way. It would be great to do it full-time. I don’t necessarily plan to do that, but it would be awesome.
Do you have any big shows or live performances coming up?
I have my first show ever as LRKR on September 26th at Bar Matchless in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, off the Nassau G stop. It’s actually a co-release EP party, another guy, Twin Primes, is playing as well, he also just released an EP. We have another guy opening for us, his name is Omega Vibes. I’m stoked for it.
Any last thoughts for the interview?
Nah, I hope I didn’t ramble too much. Thanks for having me.