After the release of Ausarian Comforts we were immediately hooked on the first track Ancestral Ascension. This made us very curious about the man (and the legend) behind this literal mystery with his beat abstractions. So we contacted John, and talked to him about Kill Quanti, San Diego and the magic of the pitch knob.
Can you tell us something about yourself and where we should know you from?
My name is John Christopher Harris II, I was born and raised in San Diego, California… I’m 28, and I am a Pisces! Not entirely sure where you SHOULD know me from, but I released my debut vinyl LP via Psychic Fortitude (an imprint of Alpha Pup Records run by my dear friend from Dublab Radio Jake Jenkins) at the end of 2015.
How did you become a music producer?
I started out making music on cassettes on an old 8 track that my parents bought me when I was 10, soon realized the magic of the pitch knob and the rest is history. I was given a copy of Reason from one my schoolmates in 10th grade that took the program CD from the media room, and I haven’t used anything else. I began making loopy psychedelic drone stuff, and it eventually led to beat music due to all of the music I was digesting from junior-high school onward.
What other producers and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations?
Classical music as a whole is my greatest inspiration. In my formative years, I spent a lot of time listening to a lot of 70’s-90’s electronic music (Sci-Fi soundtracks, New Age and Experimental music) & 90’s-early 2000’s dance/rave music (I collected Progressions into Trance & House Nation compilations). Warp Records, Kompakt, & Ninjatune, changed my life. Most evidently, the LA beat scene that started happening 2005-2008.
I’m sure a lot of people ask themselves, where did the name Mystery Cave come from?
I came up with the name Mystery Cave when I was in high school, it’s a throwback to my days of constant gaming. If you can figure it out, email me and I’ll send you something special for free.
Any groundbreaking experiences when you were in a cave you should tell us about?
None in a physical cave! Love them, but none that I could say were groundbreaking… hopefully one day! I have however had plenty of groundbreaking experiences in a “cave” if you look at it as a metaphor for a mind or vessel of the spirit. I won’t get too into it, take it how you will. 🙂
'Life can often times become so overwhelming because we always worry about what’s coming our way, but things move a lot easier when you accept that the future is always out of reach in terms of planning…'
Can you describe the process of creating your last album, Ausarian Comforts?
Ausarian Comforts was the culmination of integral moments of meditation and personal epiphanies that I did my best to translate into music for the purpose of preservation. I had been reading the entire Metu Neter series of books (upon a recommendation from Ras G over a blunt in the only conversation I’ve ever had w/ him), and was really re-evaluating how I saw the world, my place in the universal whole, how I impact & respect the world around me, and how move through life.
I feel like I truly understand myself now & I hope that I can make a positive impact on the world around me in some way. It really helped set me on the right mental path for the future. I spent about a year working on the songs & I came to a point where I felt it really musically reflected the ideas I wanted to put forth in their purest form, like sonic sigils.
How did you experience the shows around the release of your last album at High Fidelity and Low End Theory last November?
Utterly amazing! Jake at the label put together an incredible lineup of artists I loved for the High Fidelity show, and it was an honor to have the chance to perform with them. Low End Theory was unforgettable and will go down as probably the craziest positive response I’ve ever received while performing. I could not believe how receptive and energized everyone was. It was quite a dream, and the dream came true!
In what way is San Diego an inspiration for you?
What can you tell us about creative collective Kill Quanti?
I met the guys who started Kill Quanti (Santino Romeri, Nicky Castañeda, David Pena, and Mateo Silva) when I played my first show ever with Santino, Nicky, and David’s project Illuminauts at this awesome but now defunct dive bar called The Tin Can Alehouse. We became friends not long after, and I would play shows w/ them as much as I could. They were already established in San Diego and had brought down artists like Shlohmo and Teebs through Kill Quanti before both of those artists were really big. They eventually branched out from booking shows to become a small run label and their first release was an illuminauts 7″ (that was glow in the dark!)
Second release was a 10″ split w/ DJ Pound & eLan. I started playing more & more shows doing back to back sampler sets with one of my childhood best friends Ryan (Killer Swan) and they reached out to us to put out a split cassette on their label. Everything they put out was hand screen printed in their house with love. They became brothers to me, giving me constant encouragement and necessary critical thoughts on my music. They put out a few more releases (including Magical Mistakes, Abjo, and Ultragash), then Santino and Nicky moved out of the house, Mateo moved to wine country, and the label wing of the collective kind of closed indefinitely.
Santino & Nicky got the opportunity to start a Kill Quanti monthly at a wonderful local bar called Whistlestop, which we had for just over 3 years (we recently had our last one for the foreseeable future) and it was a blast. I have helped book shows over the last year with Nicky and having that responsibility has been quite rewarding! Currently, Kill Quanti is trying to book more shows and branch out w/ more nights and illuminauts will be playing their first show in years sometime soon!
What do you do when you’re not producing / working?
I help my dad run a sandal & shoe company called Chubasco Sandals and also work in the medical marijuana industry, both of which are deeply rewarding on a personal and emotional level. I like doing things that help make people’s lives better or more comfortable, and both of those jobs allow me to do exactly that.
Any nice upcoming projects you can tell us about? And what can we expect more from you in the future?
I have an EP all finished up that is going to be coming out this year on Psychic Fortitude/Alpha Pup titled ‘In Blue’ & I am sitting on 2 LPs worth of other material as well as an EP of productions for this British singer named Kaya.On top of those, I have been hard at work on an ambient alias called Mixed Metals that I wrapped up an LP of 1 1/2 hours of ambient, meditative synthscape music. I recently started playing that stuff out live and it has been a nice break from finger drumming. I also two other projects, Chill Pill & Trip Advisor (shoegaze music and darkwave music, respectively) and I should have albums out from both shortly. I’ve been very busy!
Last question, who should we interview next?
Sleeve, another local San Diego producer. We both learned to make computer music on an old desktop in his garage & his skill level far surpasses mine. He is a dear friend & true sonic master with several releases, a lot of remixes, and he just put out a new EP last February through Portland, Oregon label STYLSS (check out STYLSS & it’s label head Cory Haynes).
Jake Jenkins. He is the head of Psychic Fortitude, resident DJ at Dublab Radio, works for both Alpha Pup and Low End Theory, the list goes on… He has been my biggest champion in LA as well as one of the biggest champion behind the scenes in LA for a minute. His mixes are unrivalled. He is a true renaissance man, and I am extremely honored to call him my friend.
SKRAPEZ, San Diego’s lords of the underground. A duo consisting of Psychopop & Tenshun, these two have been killing it for as long as I have been going to electronic shows here. They have toured as Gonjasufi’s “band” many times & Psychopop produced several tracks on Gonjasufi’s Warp release, “MU.ZZ.LE”. They tour the world, but stay underground, make their own lathe records, and are two of the most humble & genuine geniuses I have ever met. Their music could be deemed harsh, but I find it intensely beautiful. They are (in my opinion) easily the most sonically crushing performers in the beat scene, and deserve all the recognition in the world.
Enjoy 35 minutes of unreleased cosmic tunes in LBMX#24 by Mystery Cave!