Thankfully the sun wasn’t shining the day I met Christopher Locke, owner of Heartless Machine, or I would’ve been blinded by the countless brass instruments strung across his shop, oddly resembling the dangling nocturnal colony that clings to the underbelly of Congress Bridge.
These discarded musical remnants wait to be freed from restraint. Though the metal scraps may not have a heartbeat, Mr. Locke has engineered a way to unlock a melody that caused my heart to skip a few beats.
Where Vintage and Modern Co-Exist
Alternating from smooth as glass to an aching quiver, Ruthie Foster’s cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was amplified and clear. Her lyrics weren’t coming from a live performance and I wasn’t idling in traffic listening to the radio, nor was this melody coming from an electrical box requiring an outlet. Instead, it came from a recycled brass instrument attached to an iPod, allowing the tune to carry. The patina of the brass combined with the horn’s ability to amplify gave off pure, sweet goodness.
Listening to the voice of Ms. Foster drift from an instrument seemed natural – organic. Each lovely horn artfully crafted by Locke has a decorative metal piece where you can insert your iPhone or iPod. In the event you upgrade your device, for a reasonable fee you will be sent the appropriate attachment for the docking station (no tools necessary).
It’s obvious from his massive collection of vinyl records, the vintage cocktail bar with etched glassware and premium spirits (inspired by his wife, Liz) and the custom cabinet record player his grandfather built in 1952 that this man has an appreciation and respect for the past. It’s just as easy to imagine a Heartless Machine on the design set of Mad Men as it is to visualize one on the desk of 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. The musical instrument’s appeal is timeless.
The Classic Christopher Locke
Artist, teacher, welder, author, husband and candy connoisseur…these are just a few nouns I’d use to describe Mr. Locke. One word that aptly applies to Heartless Machine and their creator: classic.
His success can be measured in miles. Some clients are near, but many more are far. The day I toured his shop, he had three orders heading to Jerusalem and one for Dallas.
And this guy knows how to deliver! A year ago, as he and his wife were preparing for a trip to Amsterdam, a potential client from The Netherlands inquired about purchasing a Heartless Machine for her boyfriend. Noting her concern over the shipping cost, he volunteered to check it as luggage and bring it over himself. Needless to say, the client was thrilled! She and her boyfriend met up with the Austin couple. What was intended to be a quick exchange turned into eight hours of frolicking in the Dutch capital. Two cultures merged over music.
An Artist Makes a Living
Locke makes a point of telling his middle school art students they are capable of making a living pursuing their passion in the arts. He’s proof. In addition to Heartless Machine, he can pull three published books (a fourth on the way!) from his bookshelf.
The first book was a Kickstarter campaign. His goal was to raise $8,000 to produce a sketchbook that would help unleash creative minds by eliminating what many artist fear – a blank page. The campaign far exceeded his goal and raised $42,372. The Heartless Machine Guide To Drawing: A Fill-In-The-Blank Sketchbook was published!
His creative mind knows how to fill a blank space, on a page or slicing through air with melody. Sit back with a cocktail and relax as your ears inhale amplified tunes that flow down the throat of a timeless brass horn. This Heartless Machine won’t skip a beat, but be prepared for yours to flutter.
Browse Christopher Locke’s collection of heartless machines and other creations on his website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is the oldest collectible you have in your home?