By Max Foley
CALGARY – It’s a gorgeous Thursday afternoon in Calgary, and Harrison Neef, a.k.a. Silkq, is waxing poetic about the struggles of being a club DJ in 2018. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon drones along in the background, and every so often, an espresso machine interrupts his soliloquy.
“It’s harder than you think to find a 320 of [Britney Spears’ hit] Toxic,” he laments, staring off into the distance. Neef lets the absurdity of the situation sink in for a moment, and then loses his composure, letting out a laugh.
That same penchant for the atypical and tongue-in-cheek bleeds into everything Neef has been doing as of late. “For the past few years I was writing about how I was feeling, and at some point I just stopped feeling that way, like weird and isolated,” he explains.
“I’m getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m working on stuff that’s a little more dancey and less lying-in-bed-crying.” His authenticity is as disarming as it is hilarious.
Neef’s musical history weaves a twisted web. After a brief stint in band camp, he found himself hooked. “I started messing with Garageband and recording songs on my laptop microphone, using MIDI drums, just to get ideas down. And that’s where my love of eurodance and West Coast hip hop came into play.”
He goes on to quote Enya, Nora Jones, everything neo-Gothic, and gravewave as influences in the same breath. Neef’s capacity for organizing chaos proves fascinating.
“I’ll always have this vision of music being structured like a rock song — verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus out,” he describes, a leftover paradigm from his years of listening to bands. “I treat all the components as pieces of a puzzle that fit into that structure.” Currently, those puzzle pieces sound like iconic fragments of genres such as punk, garage and two-step.
Neef’s attitude towards music is palpably nonconformist. An exploration of his Soundcloud page yields an incredibly diverse sonic palette, as well as some comically self-aware tagging –“‘Trapical,” “Witching Hour,” “Sad Dancehall” being a few examples.
One can trace his growing comfort with existing in his own space through that same sonic journey – a comfort sourced from his renewed interest in collaborating with people. “I’m getting comfortable working with other people on stuff that might not necessarily be my sound.”
A series of fateful encounters in studio spaces catalyzed this development. “Everyone’s sessions kind of blended together. I’d be working on something and then [Detroit transplant/drum and bass veteran] Sinistarr would come by and give me a bassline,” Neef describes.
These transient exchanges of musicianship eventually led to one of Neef’s most fruitful new partnerships with budding Calgarian disco talent Liam Mackenzie, a.k.a. DJ Dine and Dash.
“Liam came into the studio as I was about to step out and showed me some cool samples. Then I walked over to the CZ1 in the studio and just riffed for about 20 minutes, but at some point I guess he had hit record.
He showed me really quick what he had arranged [in a DAW], and I ended up staying for like two hours,” he recollects wistfully. And just like that, the two got to work on an album. “It’s very club-ready, which is new for me. It took us both out of our elements.” It’s not quite finished yet, but Silkq is eager to show it off this summer.
Collaboration has had a tangible impact on Neef. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with my music right now. Everyone just wants to do stuff, and I was kind of tired of feeling like I was at a job interview every time I ever met someone. Right now, I’m just doing what I like and sharing it with people.”
You can bask in Neef’s newest inspirations when him and Dine and Dash join forces for Sled Island. They’re playing the basement of Commonwealth on Wednesday, June 20.Commonwealth, Dine and Dash, Neef, Silkq, Sled Island