The world has become a dark place where nothing exists in a vacuum. What you believe is real is a misinterpretation of the imagined, forcing its way to the forefront with assertiveness. It’s the nonsensical, much like this opening statement, that turns heads, makes things that are right, wrong, and flips the script on what art could and should be. Carl Kavorkian has spent the better part of his career in Hip-Hop culture but always cross-pollinated into other genres. After a slew of releases, he’s seeking to reinvent himself, as Manikineter, a moniker feeding the noise-infused stylization that’s sure to confuse as much as it will assault as express in his new E.P. Not As They Do. I caught up with Kavorkian and found so much going through that mind of his which shows no signs of slowing down.
So, we haven’t talked in what seems years in regards to music. It’s been since 2013’s The Happiest Sad Face album that you did with Lou Cypher. Before that album, I remember hearing 2005’s Tainted Razorblades so you’ve been doing your thing for a while. It’s not like you’re a novice. Now I know I didn’t talk to you about it but one of your more inventive/creative releases was the double E.P. Serpephant Elentine. The artwork was bananas, the music was good and just all out weird the way you book-ended those. You’ve moved now into a different direction, which is kind of you moving back to what you love with the noise-metal Hip-Hop effort as Manikineter. How did it come about taking on a different persona away from being just Carl Kavorkian?
*Lou Cypher (now known as DJ Ends).
And yes, Serpephant Elentine basically picks up where Tainted Razor blades left off. The Happiest Sad Face gave me a chance to hone in on my writing skills since I didn’t have to worry about producing or mixing. I was able to try new vocal and rhyme styles, as well as mature and get a little more personal as far as content. I brought some of that and a more polished sound to Serpephant Elentine. I feel like they were two projects that showed growth.
Oh, so for Serpephant Elentine you handled the production aspect? I’m always going back to music and listening to it now it does sound clean, hard, and direct. For the new E.P. Not as They Do, which follows your Mannequin Eater album, did you handle every aspect of it as well?
* the new EP Not as They Do follows Missing (EP)
Yup, I handled production for all of those. I’d say one contrast of CK and Manikineter is that with Manikineter, I’m not sampling other songs. I upgraded my studio a bit after Serpephant Elentine and Mannequin Eater, so it does reflect a bit on Missing and Not as They Do. Everything I’ve done since has been me feeling out the new programs and plug-ins I’m able to use since I have a newer, more powerful computer. The majority of the CK stuff has been with limited tools, so it feels good being able to use new things and see what is possible.
Now I never wanted to lump you into any groups or genres, but I don’t think I even can. How do you keep everything fresh from one release to the others? Obviously, with all of your releases as Manikineter sound like the same artist but you sound like you have more control here. Is that the upgrade you mentioned or something else?
I have been able to keep it fresh from being inspired by the artists around me. I feel like there’s a lot of people I know that are doing some really cool stuff. At times I felt boxed in like I needed to follow some kind of formula, so I’ve been trying to veer away from that. The upgrade in equipment def gives me more tools to work with, but the drive to keep it moving is the main factor. There will be songs where people will say, “oh, he should’ve done this” or “this should’ve come in over here”. Hell, I even say that about my own songs, but that’s kind of what I want. That way, I can always try it on another song.
So, is there a definitive identity you want to separate Manikineter from your prominent self? Or do you want to mesh them at some point?
Definitely. That is one reason why I wear the mask. I feel like its two different approaches, so they’ll stay two different projects. Manikineter has always been based off performing live. It’s more elaborate and involved with some electronics and vocal effect pedals, yet the music is simpler and not as layered and intricate as CK material. Even the rapping is different. The content is still there but the flow has been simplified. I’m not following any rules for verse and chorus structure or length. Some songs don’t Even have any rapping at all. Manikineter lyrics are more about the outside world, rather than focusing on internal struggles or cutting someone down. I kinda’ look at Manikineter as the extrovert and CK as the introvert.
I dig the last thing you said there regarding the extrovert/introvert. Hey, I’m giving you a song title there.
Hahaha, that could be the Manikineter/CK split. Hmmm…Maybe there could be a merging down the road. Haha
But now if you have the two sides there, let’s delve in a little more into what you’re doing. You’ve obviously gone into other mediums, overextending outside of music. Visual art is another thing you’re passionate about. Let’s talk about that.
Yes, I’ve pretty much done all of the artwork for my projects. The logos, album covers, websites, etc. I’ve also directed, filmed and edited parts or all of most of my videos. Graphic/Web Design is my chosen career, so I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to take care of all that stuff. Video editing software is somewhat similar to Adobe Flash, so I was able to pick that up pretty easily. I also just use my phone camera and a tripod since it’s only a lite hobby. I like the challenge of working harder to make it look cool to compensate for using low-end equipment.
I also took up painting last year, which I’m still getting the grasp of. It’s fun but at the same time kind of frustrating because I can see the ideas in my head but can’t accurately put them on canvas. I’m still new at it, so with practice and time, it’ll get better. I’m trying to master using only a palette knife because I thought it’d be easy. There’s a lot more to it than I originally thought though. It’s funny because I sometimes equate my life to my painting style – a big mix of unsure and deliberate marks, coming together to make something nice. Even my beat making style with samples – layering scraps of sounds on top of each other until they make sense in the big picture. The cover art for “Missing” was actually an early piece I did. That painting has a bunch of hidden things in it and coincidentally, it happened to go along with what was going on throughout “Missing”, so I figured it’d be good to use as the cover.
I was talking to someone recently about working within different mediums like that and the conversation drifted off into Basquiat, who’s one of my favorite pop artists. One thing an early manager of his asked of him was, “Are you Tony Bennett?” which was referencing Bennett’s love of both painting and music where no one took his artwork seriously, only his music. Have you ever thought about something like that? Times change though…
Nah, I’ve never really thought about that. As long as employers/clients take my artistic abilities seriously, I could live with that scenario tho.’ Haha, I consider the art side a natural talent since that’s been there since I was a kid. Not to mention that’s how I pay the bills. The painting is more of a hobby at the moment but it could very much be a source of income if I pushed it like I do my music. I gotta’ say, one thing I’ve learned is that art is subjective and there is a piece of art out there for someone. No matter how bad one may think it looks, someone out there will buy it. My music, on the other hand, I’ve been doing for a pretty long time, and feel as though that should tell anyone (who does a minimal amount of research) how seriously it should be taken. I’ve made some significant sacrifices and investments of time and money in and for music, so I definitely take it seriously. I try to make sure the moves I make are calculated and meaningful at the end of the day.
What’s on tap now for Carl Kavorkian and Manikeneter? Where do you see yourself heading?
Not sure when I’ll be getting back to CK stuff. Not really feeling inspired or the anger to create material that falls into that bucket at this time. I have been trying to stay away from all the extra and unnecessary BS, all the rappers that only hit me up when they want something and being places where I don’t need to be. I want to be amongst people and things that push me to be creative. As of right now, I’m focusing on Manikineter. I’m about 1/3 into the debut album, which I’m hoping will be done by the end of summer/early fall. There will be more videos and more paintings as well. When I build up some patience and numbness, I will book a tour, but that’s a whole different monster to deal with. Manikineter will just keep forging ahead (trying to avoid falling into a video game wormhole), waiting for some to play catch up, and pushing my way into tape-decks and onto playlists of those willing to lend an ear. y the end of summer/early fall. There will be more videos and more paintings as well. When I build up some patience and numbness, I will book a tour, but that’s a whole different monster to deal with. Manikineter will just keep forging ahead (trying to avoid falling into a video game wormhole), waiting for some to play catch up, and pushing my way into tape-decks and onto playlists of those willing to lend an ear.