On the Beat: San Antonio electronic musician ARK refuses to stand still

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  • Lupe martinez
  • For the past eight years, ARK has traveled coast to coast performing diverse and unique events featuring their creative mix of analog and digital beats.

“The only thing I can say right now, as long as I get home, is that I’m not going to go to work anymore,” Anthony Mendoza Martins tells me over the phone as he leaves Record Parlor in Los Angeles.

Martins, a 28-year-old musician and electronic producer better known by the nickname ARK, was in LA in late May to perform at two events – a multimedia art exhibition and a more conventional music showcase. As the San Antonio artist expanded his concerts outside of the city, the City of Angels has become a home from home.

“This is my fourth or fifth time in Los Angeles to make music, and like anything everyone works on, it gets better every time,” he says. “People are still wearing masks and socializing where possible, and I will say the crowds are much more tame right now since we are still in a global pandemic. But musicians can’t really be stopped. We will get out of this.

For the past eight years, ARK has traveled coast to coast performing diverse and unique events featuring their creative mix of analog and digital beats. He also raised his profile with a series of more than three dozen releases, making him one of Alamo City’s most prolific musical creators.

ARK’s sound isn’t easy to categorize, combining experimental hip-hop with electronics and hues of jazz. Glitch and heavy sampling abound. The sound combines the most eccentric qualities of artists such as Flying Lotus, Madlib and Knxwledge.

“I can’t really define when I started with music, but I remember playing with tapes my parents had at home,” says ARK, who calls himself a longtime music lover. “I’ll play any instrument, mostly keyboard and bass, but more than a player, I see myself as a producer first.”

ARK owes its early exposure to a broader social media music scene. It started out by sharing tracks with the beat music community on Instagram, and has since led it to performing in places as far away as Portland, Maine, which has become a regular stop.

“I had never heard of Portland before this, but now it’s a place I call home,” he says. “My friend told me he was pretty disappointed with a lot of the beat music he was hearing on Instagram and then he stumbled across a few of my videos. So we logged in and started making plans for connect us.

This Portland friend known as Fyvr then invited ARK to Re; Sample, an event held in Maine for beatmakers who use the Roland SP404SX drum machine.

Besides the miles traveled, ARK has recorded 28 impressive releases since 2013. He has also been instrumental in the development of Expansions of Q (EQ), a collective of experimental musicians based in San Antonio that also includes 40hands, Brandon Medellin and Episode None. The collective, which served as an umbrella for the artists involved, is now on hiatus.

“It’s not necessarily a label in the sense that we have someone who supports us financially, but a space where we could create and grow together,” he explains. “I think a rebranding may be considered for EQ at some point in the future, but right now my focus is on being present in what I’m doing. I would like to go to Japan and Europe.

This need to focus on the present is understandable given the scope of ARK’s work. He not only produces, mixes and masters his music, but creates music videos and maintains a well-maintained online presence that spans social media, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and his own website.

But like many artists trying to weather the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, he briefly fell prey to burnout.

“Before I got my current job as a [house] painter, I was doing freelance work, including video, audio production, mixing / mastering, graphics, and I got tired, ”he says. “Then I had this injury at the end of 2020 which really set me back.”

ARK then took a hiatus from social media and released new versions. By shifting gears, he was able to find a refreshed view of the world and release mode / network, a 15-track tape that features well-produced experimental music featuring San Antonio K9 artists and fellow collaborator EQ 40hands. This release not only provides a sample of adventurous music from SA circa 2021, but a starting point to explore ARK’s vast discography.

Looking ahead, the musician and producer says his next goal is to make sure he takes action that puts him on the path to becoming a full-time creator.

“I’m looking to be an independent artist again as soon as I get back from LA,” he says. “If someone asks me what I do, I mean I’m an artist without them having to ask me what my real job is. I don’t want to divide my life into sections. I am an artist, and this is the life I have chosen.

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About John Villalpando

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