Carl Kavorkian is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based musician, emcee, producer, beat-maker, and multi-instrumentalist. C.K. has been crafting his own unique brand of Left-field Hip-Hop since 2002, although, he’s been honing his craft since the 90’s. Carl Kavorkian has collaborated with the likes of Viktor Vaughn (MF DOOM,) Mr. Nogatco (Kool Keith,) Imbue & ialive, and Uncommon Nasa. However, Kavorkian’s greatest claim to fame may very well be his latest side-project, MANIKINETER.
An experimentation through Noise/Hip-Hop, MANIKINETER has quickly become popular amongst fans looking for something a little different out of Underground Hip-Hop. Carl Kavorkian’s unique brand of hand-crafted Noise with MANIKINETER falls somewhere in-between Nine Inch Nails, Moodie Black, and Yeezus-era Kanye West. Since unexpectedly kick-starting the project back in 2017, C.K. has self-released three EP’s, Mannequin Eater, Missing & Not As They Do, as well as a slew of stand-alone singles, splits, etc. on his own Cult Member Music. Now, for the second official phase of MANIKINETER, Carl Kavorkian has unveiled his new Noise-driven full-length album/double-EP, Copper Fields. This time, C.K. has joined forces with two French-based labels, Atypeek Music & Solium Records, which are, respectively, releasing Copper Fields in both digital and physical formats by way of hand-crafted cassette tapes. We’ve been long-time fans and supporters of MANIKINETER’s musical output and recently, the stars aligned and we were fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Carl Kavorkian himself.
On Copper Fields, Carl Kavorkian pushes new boundaries within the industrial / noise rap scene that exploded during the last few years. Keeping a [characteristically] raw style, driving at the listener a Noise landscape steamroller crushing him during the whole album, Kavorkian screams to the face of an ignorant and stubborn world, for it is time to wake up. The album is digitally released by Atypeek Music, a French label/distributor aiming to promote unconventional artists. The tapes are crafted by Solium Records, a D.I.Y. French label specializing in hand-crafting tapes (from recording to screen-printing) for Experimental Hip-Hop & Noise music (and everything in-between) from all over the world.
How would you personally say MANIKINETER’s new album, Copper Fields, differs sonically from your previous three EP’s?
This album includes Noise tracks and the beats are undergoing a noisier evolution. I’ve learned a few things since my last release and have, also, become more comfortable with the equipment I’ve acquired since then. The album is, also, formatted more like my live show with noise blended in between songs. I felt this was important to give a glimpse of what a MANIKINETER live show is about; so, that those unfamiliar with Noise won’t be blindsided. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to listen to or even understand, so a little bit of exposure to it may, possibly, open some minds (as was my case.)
For listeners completely new to MANIKINETER, how would you best describe your musical approach and what you typically do across your albums, EP’s, singles, etc.?
I’d say my typical approach is, simply, to just try things and see how it works out. I’ve always felt like I could take any sample and make it work somehow. With MANIKINETER, I’m creating my own sounds, so really there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about it. This leaves the door wide open to what can come out of it and provides a more carefree mood to work in.
We’ve previously spoken about how you more so consider Copper Fields “a prequel to a proper album” within emails. Would you care to expound a bit more on this statement for our readership/listening audience?
The songs were made during the time of Not As They Do (NATD,) but didn’t quite fit that project. So, I added the Noise tracks and made it another EP. I unsuccessfully shopped it around and when I looked into self-releasing it, noticed tape-pressing prices had gone up since my last [tape] NATD. To make it worth spending money to put on tape, I added a Side B to the project (hence, the different subject matter and sound of the Noise tracks.) So, essentially, it’s two EP’s, but they take on a different vibe from the previous projects. I consider this project to be a gateway to a “proper” LP, [wherein] you will be able to see the growth when comparing it to NATD & CF [Copper Fields].
Would you kind telling us a bit about the circumstances behind the creation of your just-released music video, “Your Account Is Past Due?”
I had plans to do a video for “Sick Cash” with @melted.gif (Instagram,) but had to postpone it until this Fall. It was one week before CF [Copper Fields] dropped, so I spent a few hours the Friday brainstorming an idea [for “Your Account Is Past Due”] and shooting it. Then, Saturday & Sunday were spent editing it. It was super-last-minute and, actually, turned out better than expected for being under a time constraint.
How did your music video for “Sick Cash” created by James Ravelle (@melted.gif) initially come about and when might the full-length clip be widely released?
I met James at a show a few years ago and stayed connected on social media. I didn’t even know he did art until I saw his IG [Instagram] page. I started doing Crypto Art over the past year and I always try to tell my art friends about it. It’s pretty new, so it’s a good time to get involved and be a part of it, while it’s still growing. I saw he posted some new animations and told him about it and he was intrigued. He, also, asked about using some music for his animations and that lead to planning a full-length video.
So, how did you end up getting in touch with French labels Solium Records & Atypeek Music to co-release Copper Fields?
I was told by Turtlehanz (of Wrists) and [K-Death] (of Moodie Black) that Atypeek Music would be a label that might be interested in my music. They both have worked with Atypeek, so they put a good word in and vouched for my music. As far as Solium Records, I saw they Retweeted or Tweeted about an artist I like, so I took a look at their Timeline and discography. I saw they’ve worked with EU1OGY and I liked the sounds of a few of the other artists they’ve released music by. Overall, I thought my music would be a good fit, so I hit them up and they were very receptive of it.
How is the typical MANIKINETER track, like “P*ssing Into The Wind,” for example, created from start to finish?
Typically, I’ll just take note of cool sounds while I’m rehearsing or messing around with the Noise portion of my set. Sometimes, I’ll try to re-create it in the studio; other times, I’ll just zone out and make a bunch of 15-minute tracks of just noise. I’ll go back and cut out sections and layer them together to make one track. Sometimes, I’ll start with one track and layer more tracks in real-time. Just record each layer once and be done with it.
Since starting MANIKINETER around 2017, have you made a conscious decision to keep it a “one-man” band with little to no input from outside sources? If you were to ever collaborate with other artists, who do you think you would choose and why?
Yes, everything is going well with things right now and I’m, probably, having the most fun I’ve ever had musically, so why rock the boat? There are definitely a number of artists I’d love to work with. I’d say Moor Mother is at the top of the list. She’s an awesome human being and does some dope things in and outside of music. Every project she drops is like a new trip to somewhere unknown and she brings consciousness back into the equation, which was something very important to Hip-Hop that many of today’s listeners never got to experience in the 80-90’s. A few others, off the top of my head, are Moodie Black, Dreamcrusher, Deli Girls, King Vision Ultra, NAH… There are, also, some Philly artists and friends I’d like to do a split or a track with. It’s all mostly friends I already have a repoire and complimentary musical styles with.
What might you cite as some of your primary sources of inspiration and influence while writing, recording, producing, creating, etc. Copper Fields?
Side A’s inspiration was the way companies squeeze money out of customers. From invasive collection techniques, switching to subscription models, nickel-and-diming you with new “features,” and playing on your life, depending on what they provide. Side B was all the foolery right in front of the world’s eyes going on in The US over the past few years. The racism, brutality, gentrification, and historical revision that has been going on for so long that many are just now waking up to.
What made you decide to include one of your pre-album singles, “How Many Licks,” within Copper Fields? How does this new album version differ from the previously released single version?
I included “How Many Licks” because it was the basis of what Side B ended up being. I’m pretty sure they were all created within the same 3-4 month span. There, actually, were two different versions. In the updated version, I added cowbells and turned the kickdrum down. During performances, I felt like it was too loud.
I’m sure you get asked this quite frequently… but what’s the significance behind your project’s namesake, as well as the black leather executioner’s mask you’re often seen wearing on-stage?
The name was originally “Mannequin Eater.” At the time I created it, I felt like a lot of Hip-Hop heads’ tastes were kind of stiff. Specifically, the whole New Rap vs. Golden Era Rap debate. It just became tired and old. Many didn’t want to accept that Hip-Hop had went through one of it’s many evolutions. So, with my new project, I wanted to eat through that stiffness. Getting back to the name, a week after deciding on that name, I found out there was a band in Philly called “Mannequin P*ssy,” so I changed the spelling up and made it one word. The mask is to differentiate between MANIKINETER & Carl Kavorkian. It’s, also, to mask my expressions (as the creator,) so that people can form their own genuine reaction to the music.
Following the wide release of Copper Fields, what do you have planned next for MANIKINETER, your music as Carl Kavorkian, or any additional projects, both musical and/or non-musical?
I’m about 40% into what I’m labeling a “proper debut album.” There will be two more videos from CF [Copper Fields] and, probably, some loose singles along the way. I don’t feel like I have enough to say, at the moment, to fill up a Rap song in C.K. [Carl Kavorkian] capacity, but I will be doing production and, maybe, the occasional feature for a while. I put a lot of energy into the last C.K. project with low reward, so I’m just rolling with what feels natural. Other than music, I’ll be working on Crypto Art. That, also, feels natural, I enjoy doing it, and can yield worthwhile rewards. I don’t know many people into Cryptocurrency, so it’s not really something I get to talk about much.