GET FAMILIAR: SkySplitterInk

L to R: Learic, SkySplitterInk

L to R: Learic, SkySplitterInk

SkySplitterInk is producer, musician and audio engineer who’s been an important part of the Burlington scene for … well, over a decade now, at least. He’s also the winner of our recent VTHH SUMMERSLAM 2019 contest in the Best Producer category, so an interview is long overdue.

If you’ve met him, you know he’s an easygoing, scrupulously honest Yankee type. He is a mentor to many, and he’s been behind the boards for tons (actual tons) of 802 releases. Anyone who has managed to avoid his ambitious & awesome solo LP XIX, not to mention his recent collaboration with Learic, The Theorist, please fix that ASAP.

VTHH: You're one of the most certified heads in our scene, and it's wild how far back your roots go. I first saw you onstage with Somewhere in the Solution, but you started even earlier than that playing in bands, right?

SkySplitterInk: My friends and I started our first band before we even knew how to play instruments (I ended up on guitar and learned drums at the same time). I think we were probably around 13, and just getting into all sorts of teenage trouble, mostly involving small home made explosives and other dumb shit like that. Needless to say, music was a much better outlet. Around 10th grade, we actually started getting okay and we were very into writing our own music and recording it on 4 track cassette. By the time we were seniors, though, a friend introduced us to Cool Edit and let us borrow his computer to record some songs.

From that moment on, I was hooked on recording and using a computer to make music. Of course, like all good early 2000s producers, next came Fruity Loops and the birth of my first hip hop outfit Somewhere in the Solution in 2002. Later joined by Colby Curtis (Flip Physics), Mike Flowers, and Nick Holder (MC Topic) we finally released our first full length Six Years of Secrets in 2008. It was all very amateur for a long time and that’s how I learned, little by little, until I decided with Katie (who is now my wife) to move down to Nashville to solidify my skills. Since then, I went to school for recording and mixing at SAE Institute and Nashville and have been killing mixes ever since.

As far as recording I’m not a purist though, I really think you can make a good record just about anywhere in 2019 if you have good songs, talent, and a good ear. Technology wise, I geek out over Hardware Synthesizers and Plugin FX, especially those by U-He and Burlington’s own SoundToys.  

VTHH: If you were doing a SkySplitterInk live show - no constraints, no budgets to worry about - what would that look like, at this point?

SkySplitterInk: Probably a live band or a couple/few people with loop machines. And I’m glad you ask because I should really make that happen. I will be playing instrumental shows this year but as of yet that’s a solo venture and I will be doing my best to represent the tunes from my new album with as many live parts as possible. For the live shows with Learic for our new concept album The Theorist, I will be playing live drums with backing tracks, the energy is rad.

VTHH: Who are your influences, in terms of the music you make?

SkySplitterInk: This is a tricky thing to narrow down, especially as I think the influences on my sound are different from the influences on my creativity. If I were to think in terms of my newest album XIX, which came out in January on Equal Eyes Records, you will definitely hear a healthy mix of boom bap drums and Floyd-ish atmosphere, and those are definitely both intentional pulls.

As far as hip hop my favorite albums are things like Outkast’s Aquemini, Blockhead's Downtown Science, Kendrick's GKMC, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides, Kanye’s Graduation, and Common albums and the quartet of Ace Rock, Atmosphere, Typical Cats and Sage Francis. I am also super into a diverse array of bands like James Blake, Strung Out, The Cure, Converge, Tame Impala, Portishead, The Postal Service, ISIS, The Flaming Lips, Slayer and TOTO (This was a fun list to narrow down).

I also wanna give a shout out to a huge local influence of mine and that’s the legend Es-K, ask anyone who has spent time in the SkyLab what I am usually playing in the downtime between takes, and its his huge catalog.

Justin Boland