Bay Area-bred producer DJ Scott Hardkiss (born Scott Friedel) died on March 25 at just 43-years-old. Though the cause of death has yet to be confirmed, an aneurysm is suspected.
Hardkiss had suffered from keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease, and had undergone corneal transplantation surgery on his left eye in 2011. Unfortunately, the operation wasn’t entirely successful, and tests conducted shortly before his death confirmed his vision was deteriorating again. “I'm a little freaked out,” Hardkiss wrote in a May 7 Facebook post in which he detailed his health-induced fears.
Scott rose to prominence within the dance music scene as a member of the DJ, production and remix team called Hardkiss. Alongside brothers in rhythm Gavin and Robbie (neither of whom were related by blood), Scott helped define the blissed-out Balearic-influenced West Coast sound. Together, the trio nurtured San Francisco’s fledgling house and techno scene with their renegade raves and via a record label that shared their adopted “family” name.
In the late '90s, Hardkiss moved from San Francisco to New York, where he released solo work under the God Within moniker. In 2009 he put out his long-awaited debut solo artist album, Technicolor Dreamer, under his own name, which was a collection of more traditional vocal-based songs. He also did numerous noteworthy remixes for Elton John, the Flaming Lips, and George Clinton, among others, and contributed to the soundtracks of TV and movie projects directed by the likes of Eva Mendes, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, and Trudie Styler.
In his final Facebook post, which he uploaded on March 20, Hardkiss posed the question: "Friends... how many of us have them? Friends... ones we can depend on?" Judging by the outpouring of tributes upon the news of his death, it’s apparent that Hardkiss was fortunate to have many such friends. He is also survived by his wife Stephanie and their 3-year old daughter, Ilana.
Below is a selection of tributes gathered by NBC from those who had great affection for Hardkiss and his music. May he rest in peace and his music continue to raise the spirits of those searching for the God Within.
Jason Bentley (KCRW's Music Director and host of Morning Becomes Eclectic & Metropolis shows)
"Scott Hardkiss was a great spirit gone too soon. An important part of the early West Coast dance music underground, the Hardkiss Brothers represented the free spirited nature of the early '90s rave scene. In many ways, the San Fran based collective was a continuation of the hippie idealism of the late '60s and '70s, but charged by new goals — the potential of electronic dance music to change the world. At the same time, Scott had a self-effacing way about him and didn't seem to take things too seriously.”
Favorite Scott Hardkiss Track: "Daylight (Dreamerdreamsalone)" by God Within
“The blissed-out psychedelia of ‘Daylight (Dreamerdreamsalone)’ from '93 always brings back many fond memories of after hours grooving until the sun came up. That was a special time for many of us, and Scott's passing is a tragic reminder that we should never take for granted the times we had.”
Darren Ressler (Editor of Big Shot and Société Perrier and founding editor of Mixer)
“I had heard many stories about the notorious Hardkiss parties held in the Bay Area, but being from the East Coast I never made it to one. When I met Scott after he moved to New York City, he was so unlike the DJs I had interviewed and come to know, from the way he dressed, what was on his mind and that wonderful dry wit of his. I'm glad I got to work closely with him on 2001's United DJs of America Vol. 17 DJ mix and understand his creative process. Scott embodied everything an artist should have: An open mind, free spirit, big heart and boundless curiosity."
Favorite Track: "Raincry" by God Within
"'Raincry' is achingly beautiful, epic and euphoric with a tinge of melancholy. I was fortunate to hear Scott drop ‘Raincry’ in many DJ sets. The world is always a better place whenever I hear it."
James Lumb (Founding member of Electric Skychurch)
"Scott Hardkiss was genuinely respected and admired by his peers. He was a terrific human being and family man, a brilliant composer, an accomplished producer, and loved as a DJ. He played an important role in refining electronic music as we know it and is one of a handful of people responsible for the ‘California Sound.’ In the early '90s, his compositions raised the bar in electronic music."
Favorite Track: "The Phoenix" by God Within
"We met in 1992 at an outdoor party in San Francisco. I remember hearing ‘The Phoenix’ when it was released in 1994 and being excited about the direction he was going, because it was so smart and entertaining. In 2000 we began sharing unreleased demos. At the time he was the only producer I trusted at all to share my music with. He offered up personal encouragement from a point of real understanding, out of the goodness of his heart. He was the kind of guy you could trust with the important things in life, and when he spoke he always had a soft tone and a dry sense of humor. A wonderful, down to earth person. I will miss the brilliant conversations.”
Terra Deva (Singer-songwriter, producer and actor)
"From the mid-'90s through 2003 I spent a lot of time with Scott laughing dancing and making some of my first dance records. SF and NYC nurtured our friendship and creativity.”
Favorite Track: "The Phoenix" (Throw Your Guns - Dramaboy Remix) by God Within
"'The Phoenix' was a record we did together very early in my career. Our time together was so important on so many levels. He was a great big brother. I'm so sad I did not get a chance to say goodbye. My prayers and love are with his family.”
Michael Kandel (Founder of Exist Dance Records and producer behind Tranquility Bass)
"The loss of Scott has been weighing heavy on my mind. I had a friendship with him that spanned two decades. I will miss his words of support, his cynical sense of humor and his emotional generosity. Coming up at the same time, and having both been part of shaping what was to become known as the ‘West Coast Sound’ in the electronic dance music sphere always made us have a special bond with each other. A bond that I have with very few people. Over the years we would share our works in progress, and talk about the creative process.
"I am grateful for the time and communication we had, but I will regret we did not have more. Learning of his abrupt death helps to punctuate for me the fact that life is so fleeting and time is so precious. I feel as though I was in the middle of a conversation with him. My thoughts go out to all his close friends and family. These words hardly seem adequate. He truly was a jewel in a sea of grey and will be sorely missed."
Favorite Track: “Raincry" (Submerged) by God Within
"I will always have a place for ’Raincry’ by God Within. It will always bring me back to the early days of West Coast scene. I still clearly remember the act of opening that package and seeing the full color artwork and white vinyl. It was an exciting time as it was beginnings of the formation of what turned into the West Coast sound and it was great to have such quality company making solid tracks as the Hardkiss boys and Jeff Taylor and Jon Drukman, who collaborated on that 12-inch. The vibe on that record was uplifting, which was part of what for me defined the movement on the West Coast as well as what Scott continued to make.”
David Christophere – (Founding member of Rabbit In The Moon)
"In each generation, producers in the present get to look back and reminisce about their past influences. Scott Hardkiss was that influence for a lot of us. But who knows one is living history, when one is just living it."
Favorite Track: “White Love (Psychic Masturbation Mix)” by One Dove
"This remix has such an ease about it and represented exactly what Scott and the emerging West Coast sound was all about. Viva Hardkiss! Viva Scott!”
David Christophere is offering a free/donation-only download of the Rabbit In The Moon “Ascension Mix” of "Raincry." All money raised will go to Scott's wife Stephanie and their three-year-old daughter, Ilana.