Interview with Andrew Becker (Human Potential) | By Natalya Daoud
Influenced by the works of American composer John Cage and German director and screenwriter Werner Herzog, one man from New York set out to release a haunting documentary film and a third solo album under the name Human Potential.
The one-man band—comprised of former Medications drummer Andrew Becker—drew inspiration for his name while researching the white-collar cult, Human Potential Movement. Becker was drawn to the name due to what he calls the “optimistic tone with sort of this nefarious subject.”
Human Potential released his third album, Hot Gun Western City, on July 21 via What Delicate Recordings. Becker’s inspiration for the title of the album came from Herzog’s 1978 published diary, “Of Walking in Ice.” “To me, it’s very evocative [of], like, the United States in 2017,” he says. “There’s something about it that’s unsettling and speaks to, like, the zeitgeist of the time, if that makes sense.”
Becker recorded the album at a friend’s studio in upstate New York, where he worked for months on end. “Honestly, I don’t know how I would be able to have done these past three records if it wasn’t for that space and some flights,” he says.
His musical abilities have developed throughout all three albums. The first, 2014’s Heartbreak Record, was an experimental record and “was more of an attempt to write songs,” Becker says. It gives off a Bleachers vibe, mixed with a little bit of The Smiths. His second album, 2015’s How To Get Where You Want to Go, is similar to the first, but with more emotion and angst.
Hot Gun Western City is a mixture of experimental sounds with synths and loud steel drums. A couple of the songs tie in to Becker’s documentary, “Santoalla.” It’s his first film, which he codirected alongside his friend Daniel Mehrer, and is based on the true story of a Dutch couple, Martin Verfondern and Margo Pool, who moved to Santa Eulalia, Spain—or as the locals call it, Santoalla—where they clash with the local traditions and Verfondern mysteriously disappears.
The documentary won two out of the three nominations, including a Jury Award, at the Austin Film Festival and a Golden Strand Award at the Tallgrass International Film Festival in Wichita, Kansas. “Santoalla” also appeared at multiple film festivals throughout the world, such as the Edinburgh International Film Festival in Scotland and the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival in Greece. It premiered in New York and Los Angeles on July 19 and 28, respectively.
“I was trying to do something a lot different, you know?” Becker says, returning to Hot Gun Western City. “A lot of it’s based on [the] score that I made for the documentary, just using that as a basepoint of a couple songs—and those are, like, lute-based and synth-based pieces. So, that sort of directed, aesthetically, where this record went, and it went to more—I think just more crazy than the first two.”
Photo credit Andrew Becker