Track By Track: Xander Harris – California Chrome


A quick Google of Xander Harris obviously led us initially to that Buffy Vampire Slayer dross from back then. This however is exactly not that, but the Austin, Texas based musician who now has his sixth LP landing on Rock Action (Mogwai's label). Full of Italo-synths and EBM grooves, but also with some horror OST shades it's a musical widescreen presentation too. Here he gives us the detail on the production and influences that formed it:

The Scarlet Deception

“Scarlet Deception” was the very first track I worked on when I finally realized the sound design I wanted for “California Chrome”.  I knew that I wanted the album to break from my catalog.  The track was mapped out with a hardware sequencer allowing me to focus on hardware based synthesis.  Some of my songs come from jamming and the “Scarlet Deception” test sessions were teeming with ideas.  The multiple takes were overwhelming at times trying to shape what I wanted and figure out what parts would stay.  There are probably 16 versions all of them have major differences.  The final version on the album was the one that flowed the best for me.  The end section, or Coda, was a happy accident of me just playing the main melody slowed down on the KingKorg and Poly800 thinking of Vincent Price’s performance as “Dr. Phibes”. 

Straight Up Satan

This song title had been kicking around for a while in a spiral I had.  EBM has always been a personal favorite and I wanted that harsh rhythm and FM bass associated with EBM for this track.  The sessions were definitely influenced by a heavy rotation of Youth Code and DKA Records. One of the few tracks that only had two takes. I had a pretty clear purpose on the key and structure of the song.  The bass sound is from an old Ensoniq SQ-1. 

Basilisk Stare

The name of this track came about while reading Gary Lachman’s biography of Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a fascinating train wreck and I laughed at a particular section remarking on Crowley’s propensity to “basilisk stare” his enemies. The idea behind the stare is to induce a fear based heart attack in someone just by staring at them.  The tape sample at the beginning comes from my tape deck. Cassette culture is fun to me and I also thought the sound would give it a sinister intro of this cassette you’re not supposed to have. This was the last track to ever feature my Roland XP-10, it’s since been retired.   

The Eye in the Triangle

This was recorded as a tribute to Panos Cosmatos, the director of Beyond the Black Rainbow, after hanging out with him during SXSW.  Panos is a super cool guy and we had some great deep conversations on several topics. The name is inspired by reading about Bohemian Grove and the Illuminati. My favorite part of this track is all about the Korg Poly 6 bass tone I was able to get. 

Predator State

One of my weirdest ideas: see if you can fit Klaus Schulze, trap music, and Doubting Thomas elements into one song without making it too messy. This was another track that has several different versions due to having a lot of ideas from various jam sessions. This is one that I wound up splicing together in post production and layering the vocal samples with time stretching. The sequence comes from the Electribe EMX-1, one of my favorite pieces of gear. 

Nervous Serpents

There are almost 40 different versions of this song and all of them are remarkably different. There’s a house version, a weird Aphex Twin version, there’s a version that’s just sequenced drums and bass with lots of weird patches coming in and out. This was the track that kept getting away from me, I spent 18 months trying to get in the state that finally wound up on the album. Another one of those times where I had too many ideas and had to stop to think of the direction I wanted it to go in. The origin of the song title comes from attending the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, TX. They have a pit of rattlesnakes that you can look at and it’s pretty creepy watching them all roll around each other with snake handlers showing kids all about rattlesnakes. This finally came about by using a Roland JX-3P string patch that worked perfectly. 


Buckle Bunny

A tribute to Skinny Puppy and the darkest corner of the dance floor in a context of the mid to late 80s.  There was a cavalier attitude in electronic music during that era that took a lot of chances that I’ve always admired.  Today I feel like those forward thinking ideals are coming back into dance and electronic music culture in a major way.  This track was created with pretty much nothing but the KingKorg and Roland SP-303. 


A buddy of mine used to use the term “Dirts” to describe a nefarious character when we would drive around our neighborhood or go to a party.  The term could used to describe something in a negative or endearing way.  Another track that was mostly sketched out with the Electribe EMX and the Poly 800.  I wanted to end the album on a somber note but mixed in with a lot of melody.  The title also refers to the dirt being thrown on a coffin at a funeral.  After every album, I always feel like I’ll never make another record so all the last song titles on my albums usually reference some sort of exit.  

The album is out on Rock Action NOW. Follow Xander Harris on Facebook.

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