Your life in color

Inside Mark Arkinson’s world of electronic music, anime and… nachos?

House music may not always lend itself to storytelling, but Mark Arkinson’s tunes seem to do so, and with an ample amount of references to Mexican food to boot. Within his beat-oriented music he captures an unapologetically nonchalant attitude among high hats and acapella samples. We sat down with the Santa Barbara native to talk about his influences and his sonic experiments.

Tell me about how you got into music.

I was super into music my whole entire life. I was really into rock as a kid. My dad played every instrument, I played the drums growing up and then just taught myself piano. And then, no one wants to say they came from dubstep but I definitely was really into dubstep in eighth grade through high school. I moved to Santa Barbara, it was a completely new place for me. I started making beats and made a ton of friends. SoundCloud introduced me to the anime side of music, and that’s how I got into the style I am into now.

How did anime lead into you developing your own style?

I used to join these Skype calls with these guys, and we’d watch all this sad anime. It was super weird when I first started, but then I started doing it and now I have anime posters all over my room. It all just kinda came from that; it’s all just based on things that anime has, a lot of sad stuff— like high school love stories pretty much. I just tried to incorporate how that made me feel and put it into music.

When you’re building your songs, is it about the beat or do you have the voices in mind too?

I definitely incorporate the voices very soon. That usually makes a track. Vocals are like a cheat code to making your song sound good. So I’ll put down chords and immediately chop up vocals and try to make it fit. The vocals are from songs I’ve done with singers in the past and I just keep resampling them over and over again. I use the same five a cappella [samples] for every song I’ve ever made.

You have a somewhat electronic influence to your style. Are you recording with your own instruments or just using software ones?

It’s pretty much all done on my computer except for random percussion, whistles, or just random background noise. I have a cheap microphone to do all that, but all the pianos and other things are just done on my computer.

Do you feel your style is changing as your SoundCloud audience grows?

I wouldn’t say I’m changing based on a growing audience. I rarely upload anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not making anything. What I’m making now is definitely different than what I was making before. It’s just because music is changing so much and I just like completely different styles now. But it’s nothing to do with SoundCloud following, just my own personal changes.

You have interesting titles on your songs, such as “we can split these nachos, I probably can’t finish them by myself anyways, idk.” How do you come up with these?

Most of these are based on real-life situations. For that one, I was really drunk and I wasn’t sure what was happening and I really liked this girl. We went and got nachos, and we shared them and then she wouldn’t hang out with me weeks later and then I made that song. The track titles are exactly what they meant pretty much.

Do you have specific artists who inspire who?

Right now, definitely Petit Biscuit. And then one of my top 5 favorite artsits Owsey, he’s even switched to more of an electronic style. He was doing deep house, I guess you’d call it — I don’t get too far into genres. But it slowly grew on me. It’s sort of garagey as well. I’ve been listening to him non-stop. As well as Oli, he’s a super close friend and one of my favorite producers. He does music all across the board.

Do you do collaborations?

I actually have almost no collaborations; I do very few in general. It’s mostly because I have a very weird workflow. I will sit down and do it in one night. I don’t spend multiple days working on things. They’re all just quick little ideas that I manage to get out. The only one I have is with Resotone. I was a huge fan for years, and I messaged him and said, “This is the greatest song I’ve ever heard.” And he said, “Thanks man, we should work together sometime.” So I think that’s my only collaboration.

Corrected 10:38 a.m. PT on Oct. 16: Previous versions of this story initially misspelled Mark Arkinson’s name. That has since been corrected.

Taylor Seamans
Taylor is a junior majoring in computational neuroscience and minoring in communication design. She publishes inbtwn., an online zine (Instagram: @inbtwnmag). On top of an interest in visual arts, she is involved in neuroscience research on facial and object recognition. She is from San Diego where she enjoys hiking, surfing (trying at least), and eating burritos on the beach.