Vulnerability is Freedom: Talking music and life with Harrison Metz - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

With two parents that were artists and educators, Philadelphia’s Harrison Metz — also known as Rolled Gold — was encouraged at an early age to embrace creativity. That Harrison did. He’s worked for years as a producer for singers and rappers and has even released several beat tapes of the music he has created. But for the first time, Metz is working on music that is driven completely by love and freedom. With no prior notions of what it could be (a chance at fame and fortune) and more of just what it is.

When I sat with Harrison to talk about his new music releases, our conversation moved further away from a formulaic discussion about the actual songs, to more about what music and creating can mean, and its spiritual effects on all of us.

Josh Leidy: You’ve been producing music for several years under the Rolled Gold name. Can you give us a little background on how you got started in music? 

Harrison Metz: Yeah, I have, I’ve been into making music since I was a kid. I took drum and guitar lessons. Both of my parents encouraged me and my brother to explore our creativity. I was taking music lessons from a young age. When I was a kid I loved music, visual art, and skateboarding. At a certain point, I made the decision to dive head first into music, but I still want to keep those other activities alive as hobbies.

JL: Do you think having parents, although in the academic area, and involved in the arts, made you believe that is a legitimate career path? 

HM: I definitely think so, at least subconsciously. The love they have for art and music was definitely felt. It was a very hippie-dippy household and very anti-capitalist, so knowing who I am now, those ideas and that love were undoubtedly a core factor. My family even further back was musicians and artists, so it definitely played its part.

JL: I think it’s really important to live and nurture what’s the driving force inside of us, so with you having such a huge support system in your parents encouraging you, I’m sure it feels natural to embrace that creative driving passion you have, correct? 

HM: I certainly feel like art can be healing. It’s absolutely been that for me, so yes, I feel in a way music and art in general are a healing force. It’s a huge contribution to a collective, to a community. It’s a loving act to create. And you spread that when you share your art. Reading and listening to Sun Ra a lot over these last few years has really shaped how I feel. Music is a universal language, and whether it is vocals or harmonies, or percussion I think it’s more impactful and expressive than the English language.

JL: I mean, that makes complete sense, especially with you being and coming up primarily as a drummer, because the drum is the heartbeat of the music. 

HM: I was listening to a Sault song and there’s a line spoken by a woman that said “imagination is the universe speaking through you” and I was like, oh shit, that’s it. Everything we create is really from nothing or just the most basic ideas, like banging on something or a melody we hum. There’s a spirituality to it for sure.

JL: As a musician particularly as a producer, you’ve worked with a lot of artists. What do you enjoy most about the collaborative process? 

HM: Wow, that’s a good question, I haven’t thought about that much. When I go into making a beat I have my own vision of how it should go, so collaborating for me at times can be difficult. But it has taught me a lot about ego and letting that go about the beauty in allowing another person’s voice and personality into that creation. In the early part of my 20’s I was on a very capitalistic journey in music to have this next song be a hit single and make crazy money. So I would work with people I may not generally work with at least vibes-wise. But now after years of growth, and going through struggles particularly mental health-wise, I realize that this isn’t a place I want to be. That’s not what I’m doing this for. So now at 31, if I can’t sit down and have a human, spiritual conversation with someone I’m working with, then that collaboration just isn’t for me.

So to touch on what you asked about, what I enjoy most from collaboration, is the community. Learning from that other person. Probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced through music is when I’ve worked on a song before and maybe it didn’t hit me as hard then, but going through life and different experiences, those songs hit in a different way. That brings me back to the community idea, that these people around me have the ability to fulfill these parts of me.

JL: I definitely agree that a creative, artistic community is one of the strongest and most supportive. 

HM: Yeah — when we work on these projects together, we are engaging in that shared experience. And we are exploring that universe together.

JL: Talk to me about this new music you’re working on? 

HM: There was an interview with Sun Ra where the interviewer asked him what he does everyday, I’m gonna paraphrase it but basically he said he wakes up everyday and writes a song. He said “we are always asking what we can get from the creator instead of thinking about what we can give back.” That profoundly struck me. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do more recently. With the first single “Days Past,” that’s how it started. I had some time off so I thought I’ll sit down and make a song this afternoon. It ended up taking like two weeks but it was in the vein of that idea. Just let me create without any other reasons that would normally surround it. I asked myself what was the purpose of this, and it came down to just wanting to give something back to the universe. What sounds come out when you aren’t worried about all the capitalistic trappings of views and listens and just create what will it be. That’s the drive behind these new songs.

Harrison Metz | photo by Christian Hayden

JL: With these being your first releases under your given name, Harrison Metz, do you feel there’s a divide between making beats for others and more of an ego death in this music that is being made solely for you to create freely? 

HM: It’s certainly more personal, that’s one of the reasons I decided to go with my regular name. Even more recently making beats as Rolled Gold I began to care less about making music for people to like and just making it as a creative expression. This new project definitely grew out of that. Rolled Gold was created to be a brand. So the music I create under my own name should be more pure and vulnerable. It should be made with more human intentions than capital ones.

JL: The new music you’re releasing under your given name is sample-free, correct? 

HM: Yeah, it’s all me playing. I may bring in a friend to play on something or add to a track, but it’ll all be played out. The first single “Days Past” and the b-side “New Life” are all me. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

JL: What are your plans with this new music? I know you have released a couple songs, is there a bigger project that will be released? 

HM: No, not at the moment, that’s not the plan. I look at it as maybe episodes, each being a reflection of my life, how I’m feeling, nature whatever. But the plan is to create a new song every two weeks so by the end of the year I’ll have 24. Maybe that changes, I hit a spot where I’m not feeling as creative so I won’t make something. So the plan is loose and allows me to just relax and create at my speed. Maybe I’ll release it all together later, but as of now there’s no plan to release a singular project.

JL: Where can people find you and keep up with you and the music you’re working on? 

HM: I’m @RolledGoldBeats on IG and Twitter and on Bandcamp. Those are the best places to check out the music. I’m releasing small visuals for each new song too so they’ll be there and YouTube.

Rolled Gold - Days Past
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