Words by Lily Moayeri
Is the quote, “Everyone has a book inside of them, it’s just a matter of getting it out?” Or, “Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay?”
The former is largely attributed to S.P. Foster, the latter to Christopher Hitchens, both authors. Hawke, familiarly known as Gavin Hardkiss — one third of the non-familial Hardkiss Brothers (not to be confused with The Hardkiss, the Ukrainian rock band), has had two books in him so far: Cubic Lust (2013) and The Dark Art of Light Work (2020). He has gotten both of them out, Hitchens be damned.
The Dark Art of Light Work is Hawke’s exploration of what is beyond our five senses. Absorbing ideas from intellectuals through to psychologists and big thinkers in between, he has turned the concepts into simple, bite-sized, Twitter-ready slogans. Starkly black-and-white, with a clean design that plays with spaces and fonts and styles of presentation, the slim The Dark Art of Light Work is, in its physical format, only available to order through Hawke’s Bandcamp, in limited numbers.
“Much of my life, and anyone else’s, you’re looking for ways to make sense,” says Hawke huddled in the basement of his San Anselmo home. He is trying to find a quiet place to talk, as his teenage son has just come in from stand-up bass lessons and his daughter is waiting to hear about college acceptances. “You have your culture and your history and your world to connect with. At some point during the writing of the book, it all made sense. I understand my relationship with the world and with consciousness and I lay that out in the book.”
The Dark Art of Light Work is not so much new revelations as it is a handy summary of a multitude of philosophies that center around removing yourself from your mental, social, and physical trappings of life. The real bonus is the music you receive when purchasing the book: A hefty collection of 18 tracks clocking in at two hours. They are perhaps Hawke’s most realized compositions.
To longtime fans, Hawke’s name is intertwined with the lore of American dance music. He is among the few constituents of the scene who defined the sound of the West Coast with his productions from the very early days — some three decades ago. Says Sally Gross, who signed the Hardkiss Brothers to a major record deal in 1994: “They were very funny, psychedelic, acid house beach boys without the surfboards and with some new drugs — and with a car whose doors were held closed with rope. That made a lasting impression.”
The music also left its mark. Hawke’s sixth album, also called The Dark Art of Light Work, is a fitting addition to the ongoing Hardkiss legacy. The key elements are in place, from the space disco house of “She’s Life” and the dizzying rhythms of “Melody In My Heart” to the boom-y washes of ambience on “The U Frequency” and the languorous mood of “Blade,” to the in-between tempo on “My Name is Alive” where the beats are shuffle-y and the bass is deep. The shift is seamless from the uniform dance beats at the top of the album to the softly rounded ones that close it out. The cosmic elements and psychedelic vibes one has come to expect from Hawke are threaded together with a neat hand.
Much of what’s heard on the varied album has a connection with Hawke DJing the Saturday morning yoga class his wife teaches at Marin Power Yoga. This is not your high energy pop-driven workout: Rather; it dips into a hybrid global sound that draws from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences as well as South American ones. The yoga studio also features live African percussion, sound healings, and sound baths that draw from shamanic voices. From these Hawke was introduced to Gabe Harris and Kathryn Keats, who appear on the album. Additionally, Hawke has gathered some old time and new time friends to play on the record such as rapper Scott Samels, street musician Michael Masley, and keyboard player Sen-Sei.
“The Dark Art of Light Work is the closest to Delusions of Grandeur than anything I’ve ever done,” says Hawke, referencing the classic 1995 Hardkiss album. “Everything I’ve made up until now was me playing around and experimenting. This album is not just an idea that sounds cool. It is thought-out and polished and made to fit on your smartphone speaker and on the dance floor.”
Los Angeles-based writer/teacher Lily Moayeri has been writing about music since 1992. Over the years her scope has widened to include the occasional article on television, art, fashion, and random elements of pop culture. You can find Lily’s writings aggregated on her work-in-progress blog, named after the Who song. Twitter: @PicsOfLilyBlog