The Athlete and the Aesthete

Collegiate wrestler Jake Harman turns into Multimedia Man

"There was an article in Java plugging the show, and it mentioned that there would be music there," Nelson says. "A bunch of breakdancers showed up, and it really set the mood. After that, almost everybody doing their thesis show had music involved in some way."

Harman credits the wrestling program--and especially Lee Roy Smith--for what he has accomplished on and off the mat. As a college wrestler, Smith himself was a national champion. But his toughest challenge may have been getting the hyperactive Harman to focus his energies in one area.

"This is Jake in a nutshell," Smith says, grabbing half a dozen baseball caps off a hat rack. He puts on each hat with all the brims pointing in different directions.

"My job was this," Smith says, taking off all the hats except for the one facing forward.

Harman got his degree last fall, and he is trying in some way to distance himself from the persona that thrived on violence. Yet he still considers the team his family, and the lessons learned on the mat will never be forgotten. He still works out with the team on occasion.

"Coach once told us that our wrestling meets should be a celebration, not a stressful event," Harman explains. "With all the hard work we do to prepare, we should celebrate by dismantling our opponent. The values and properties of wrestling are what I'm bringing to this show--a solid work ethic, perseverance, discipline.

"I wouldn't have the drive or confidence to do this if it wasn't for what I learned. I want this show to be a celebration."

Harman has been into music since he was 6 years old, sneaking out of Sunday school to play "Jingle Bells" on the church organ. As a teenager, he was the lead singer of a rock 'n' roll band that played in front of crowded bars.

At ASU, he hooked up with wrestling teammates Quinn Foster and David Douglas to form a hip-hop group called 3rdRail. Harman produced the tracks on his computer, and Foster and Douglas rapped over the beats when they did shows at BoJo's, a bar with a hip-hop night.

Making the computer-generated music is a process that Harman is still perfecting. He has no use for instruction manuals and prefers to learn by trial and error. As more computer programs become available, he's on a quest to absorb as much as he can.

"It's weird because the more advanced the technology gets, the more human it sounds," Harman says.

Harman sits in front of the computer in his room, downloading the song in his head into a program called Buzz. He has chosen the opening bass line from Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" as a building block. That intro loops through the speakers, and Harman verbally tests a beat.

Bom, ts ts, bom ts ts. Ba bom bom . . .
The keyboard is his instrument, translating his unintelligible noises into electronic harmony. After some minor adjustments to get the beats to flow smoothly, Harman's newest creation rattles walls and pisses off neighbors.

Only a bed and a pile of clothes are proof that these quarters are a bedroom. A thin strip of stained carpet is all that holds back the technological empire threatening to take over the room. Besides the computer, Harman has a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, a turntable, a "piece of shit" Gemini mixer, an effects processor, a 16-channel Ramsa mixer, and various effects pedals.

"The best thing about all this equipment is it gives me total autonomy," says Harman. "I don't have to worry about a bunch of lazy band members never wanting to practice. I have an entire orchestra at my finger tips."

But producing music over the computer and then handing the tape over to Foster and Douglas left Harman feeling isolated.

"Playing in the hip-hop crew was fun, but there was no alteration of the music. I couldn't get a reaction from the crowd and then change the mood of the music to suit them," Harman says.

The chance to expand his music came when a promoter named T.J. asked 3rdRail to perform at a rave titled "Get the Hell Out of Dodge." Harman was a rookie to the rave scene, and he wondered if his music would fit.

"I think T.J. had a hard time filling out the bill because they weren't paying the DJs," Harman says. "But it seemed like it was going to be a music fest, so we figured, 'Why not do it?'"

Fear replaced his bravado when he took the stage at Dodge. Mainstream culture might view the hard-core ravers as a bit odd with their baggy jeans, spiked hair and penchant for sucking on pacifiers. But in blue jeans and a wrestling sweat shirt, it was Harman who was dressed like the freak at Dodge.

Fear turned to panic when Harman realized 3rdRail would follow Lego, the DJ who had provided the venue for the show.

"Lego was up there rocking the fucking house. The crowd was just wild," Harman says. "I'm setting up my computer, just hoping I have something to match the energy he's created. I was scared out of my mind."

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