Hippos in Tanks Co-Founder Barron Machat—Remembered by Friends and Collaborators
"He was one of those forces that seemed small but had the power to affect everything—a butterfly who flapped his wings and changed the music industry forever."
On April 9, 2015, Barron Alexander Machat passed away due to a car crash in Miami at the age of 27. Machat was the co-founder of Los Angeles-based label Hippos in Tanks, home to experimental pioneers James Ferraro, Laurel Halo, Arca, Hype Williams, Dean Blunt, and more. He also managed artists like Yung Lean and the Sad Boys under Emotional Management. Coming from a family of music industry giants, he gracefully followed his father Steven Machat's footsteps in representing standout artists in his own underground way with the biggest heart and dreams.
The tragic news of Barron Machat's passing brought pain to many of us, but as his dad put it, "Barron left us physically today. But he is hovering around all who know us asking me to tell you he is ok and loves you all."
In celebration of Machat's life and achievements, we asked his label mates, friends, and people he grew up with to share their memories—whether it was their initial meetings with Barron, or him going that extra mile for them to see the world in his eyes. Here is what Gatekeeper, UNO, Sleep ∞ Over, NGUZUNGUZU, d'Eon and more had to say.
Gatekeeper and Steven Machat have also organized a memorial this Sunday, April 19 at Trans Pecos in Ridgewood, New York. All are encouraged to come stop by.
Alexander Gitman, Hippos In Tanks
"I was a twelve-year-old kid when Barron was brought into a classroom and seated beside me. Many nicknames and shared experiences later, we established such a transcendent bond that his death could only mildly alter. Barron's legacy to the public will be his contribution to music—one that, because of his inclusive nature, I was an integral part of. Barron wanted his working relationships to blend with his friendships so badly. He is responsible for every friendship I currently hold, which is a testament to his ability for connection. It was almost like he was secretly planning his whole life for the biggest party the human race had ever seen. A party where no introductions were necessary and the sun was paid off to never materialize in the horizon."
"One time Barron invited us over to his mom's house for dinner. They greeted us with open arms, his mom cooked this delicious meal, and we sat outside with his huge dog Balthazar. We talked about everything, from fashion to Tekken to Wu Tang to gamelan. We were always talking about basketball, and he invited us to a Clippers game. We left that night with a stack of new music from the label. Barron always struck us as very warm, sweet, and supportive person who loved life. Thank you for the endless generosity you showed us and so many others, we are so grateful for the times we shared."
"Barron set up a three-week European tour for us with Laurel Halo. Sharing our obsession with megalithic ruins and earthworks,he and his inimitable father Steven planned us a mushroom-fueled journey in the final days of the trip to Stonehenge and Glastonbury, the new age spiritual center of Britain.
After encouraging us to hop the fence at Stonehenge and taking us on a shopping spree in the gift shop, Barron loaded us back into the van and guided us to the Arthurian pagan town of Glastonbury. We hiked to the top of the Tor, a giant stone tower overlooking miles of countryside. We chased rabbits, drank from a (magic) stream, watched as a didgeridoo player used the tower as a reverb chamber, and proceeded to find what we were looking for: the bonds of true friendship and the inspiration to create the next chapter of our music project, which Barron would facilitate entirely.
Barron was a deliverer of dreams. His belief in us helped us to believe in ourselves. We love you Barron."
"I'll always remember Barron was the first person I ever saw "vape" a few years ago, and he spent a solid half hour explaining to me that it was going to be the future. I never got to work with Barron in a musical capacity, but he was always supportive and enthusiastic of what I was trying to do. He was ambitious for his artists, and had a very clear vision. A real character, with an amazing ear for future sounds."
Charles Damga, UNO NYC
"Barron gave some of the most avant-garde artists of our world an ambitious home. He was always forging a trail-blazing path, whether it was putting indie artists on Vevo before the doors were opened, or marketing his niche electronica to big box stores like Best Buy. He was, and will always be, ahead of his time."
Rhys Raiskin, Hippos in Tanks
"It's important when thinking about Barron to know that working relationships necessitated friendship. If you were going to be on HIT, you were going to be Barron's amigo. Back in 2013, Barron was prepping for the release of an Arca mixtape. Alejandro Ghersi was in town, so Barron urged me to come meet with them. I hurried over to HIT headquarters—a small backhouse behind his residence where he put up his visiting artists and associates—music was blasting, as it always was, and Barron handed me a pair of basketball shoes. We walked over to Pan Pacific Park and played basketball. "This is business," he told me. While we shot around, Alejandro told us about love. Barron laughed and said to me, "We're playing with a genius."
Barron would find music that many of us couldn't make sense of. He would blast it, laugh, and insist, "This is the future!" Months later, I would hear the same tracks blasting from somebody's car stereo. He was one of those forces that seemed small but had the power to affect everything—a butterfly who flapped his wings and changed the music industry forever."
Stefanie Franciotti, Sleep ∞ Over
"A couple of years ago, I lived in a big house with tons of roommates who were also in bands. Barron and other Hippos in Tanks artists stayed at my house—it was insane, I think there were like at least 13 people staying with us that week. It was Barron's first time to Austin, and he was enchanted with how safe and nice it was. So to make space in the house, he just slept in the park across the street from my house in a sleeping bag. I told him countless times that obviously he could sleep inside, but I think it went along with this romantic provincial idea he had of Austin—like he had to do it because he could. I still remember driving to work in the morning, seeing him sleeping in the park, thinking, "what a goofball." He had a special sense of adventure, and sought to find the magic in what most people saw as totally banal. What he did was important."
Duncan Will, Life or Death PR
"I met Barron on my very first day working in PR, and I probably got hired in part because it was a positive meeting. Barron would make strangers feel comfortable instantly—he was a tender soul and jokester whose eyes were always smiling. For the next four years I worked on every project with him, from Hippos in Tanks to Yung Lean. I looked at him as a role model even though we were the same age. Barron fought tirelessly for the artists who he believed in, and would not accept that avant-garde music couldn't be popular. He ran his label from a shed/guest house, but with the standards of a major label. The platform he created allowed artists like Grimes, Arca, Laurel Halo, Dean Blunt, Nguzunguzu, Gatekeeper, James Ferraro, and more to flourish. Even when an artist would move on from the label, they were Hippos in Tanks fam for life, and Barron would always look out for their best interests.
Nobody could match Barron's optimism. He truly believed that artists like Arca would be platinum-selling superstars in his lifetime. That positivity was contagious, and he could convince anyone that something was important even if they had no prior interest in it. The last time I saw him was when he flew Bradley and I down to Miami so we could experience Art Basel with him and Yung Lean. It wasn't crucial that we were there, but Barron wanted to share it with us. He wanted everyone around him to love life as much as he did."
Tyler Thacker, Greatest Hits
"I first met Barron in Monterrey, Mexico at Festival NRML. He was acting as a sort of chaperone for James Ferraro. I was immediately struck by his generous and personable spirit, as well as his ambitious appraisal of the musical zeitgeist. He offered to take myself and my bandmate Zak out to a really nice dinner with his father, Steven, who turned out to be equally drawn to artists who further the tropes of popular culture, not placate them.
Barron asked if I'd be interested in "playing drums" to accompany a performance by Hype Williams. During our rehearsal, Inga enforced the mentality that any time we had the impulse to play in a familiar manner, we should deviate. This sort of deconstructive ethos is exactly what most labels would try to persuade their "emerging" artists to phase out, but not Barron. He also went out of his way to secure four or five female body builders to spend the entirety of the set flexing their oily muscles, flanking the front of the stage, and obscuring the instruments. What followed that evening was one of the most devastating and beautiful shows I have ever witnessed.
Barron was the most selfless, idiosyncratic and fearless person in the whole world—our Medici and our best friend. Barron was a music industry cowboy. He wanted to take over the world and do it differently. He took chances on unique musicians, treated us like pop stars, and showed us the best life we could have asked for. To some people he was an enigmatic, larger-than-life, maybe even fearsome figure. To me, he was my special angel who gave me everything, loved me, and believed in me. What an unbelievable legend. I'd also like to share Barron's most frequently used phrase, "That's deep." It's a perfect encapsulation of him as a person.
I met Barron in 2012 when we were in Monterrey, Mexico together for NRMAL festival. I remember cruising around late night going to after-parties with Barron and his father, Grimes, DJ Dog Dick, and James Ferraro. Barron was DIY to the core and I really get along with people who are self-motivated like that. The last time I saw Barron was in Brooklyn a few weeks before his death. He was tour managing for Yung Lean at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Dean Blunt and Gatekeeper were there too. Yung Lean really killed it that night. It was good to see Barron happy and traveling the world with the Sad Boys crew. He was doing what he loved and what he was good at. I'll miss that guy a lot.