Friday, 12 March 2010

STARKEY INTERVIEW: "An Open Letter To Starkville"

So what’s your musical background, how did you get into DJing?
“I got into DJing when I was in high school and I was DJing on a local college radio station. I did a drive-time show when I was like 16/17 – because I was driving. I wasn’t beat-matching or anything, just playing records. Musically, I started playing piano when I was 5 because we had a piano at the house. That was when I started really getting interested in it. I do remember being interested and sitting at the piano – my parents owned a drive-thru movie theatre so they would be working every night together so I’d have a babysitter who would come and watch me. And it was always young girls who were in high school and stuff. A lot of them were into music and would be like ‘Hey, you like the piano. Here’s some books, we can teach you the basics.’ So I was basically getting piano lessons every day, so that was kinda cool. Then I started taking private piano lessons and that’s where my music background really started.
“I got into singing when I was in third grade – third grade through eighth grade I sang in a boys choir. At the same time I was still playing football and baseball, so I was a really strange guy.”

A true renaissance man.
“Haha, yeah. And when I say football, I mean soccer. I played football since I was 5 or 6. So I was doing all that stuff and then I started playing the bass – actually no, I was playing clarinet in the school band, moved onto saxophone, moved onto oboe – which is crazy. Then I got into bass guitar and rock music like punk rock and hardcore, stuff like that. I played jazz in the jazz band and then stopped sports because I wasn’t good enough to be a professional basketball player so there was no point in doing anything so I thought ‘I might as well do music’.
“In high school I just did music production, which is when I started really getting into electronic music like Kid A in 2000, Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy and Windowlicker and all that stuff. I was just like ‘What is this??’ I was listening to electronic music before that – a lot of my friends were into old skool jungle. I always liked it, I just didn’t get immersed in it. I was listening more to people like Björk, Tricky and more the trip-hop stuff in the 90s, which was really inspirational. That’s probably still my favourite era of music, the Bristol sound from the mid-late 90s.”

So, tell us a little bit about Starkville.
“Haha, Starkville’s a cool place. It’s just me having fun and giving another dimension to what I do. It’s another thing that people joke about and they put it on flyers like ‘Starkey AKA Starkbot’, which is hilarious because I’ve never release music as Starkbot. It just started when a good friend of mine at the time was like ‘Yo, Starkey Starkbot’. We would just give each other nicknames and I’d say ‘I’m the mayor of Starkville’. If you’re a mayor you have other affiliations, but I don’t. I’m more like a dictator.
“I’m really big into sci-fi movies and comic books. I’d love to do animations. I did one little video with iMovie into a comic-like story. I’d love to work with some people and actually make a real story on Starkville with the bots and everything.”

So this could be the next project?
“I want it, I really do, it’s just… How do you get people to be involved? It would cost money and stuff. But yeah, I’m a huge fan of having another image. It’s fun. My music’s serious – you can have fun with music, but I like mine to be serious – it’s my way of showing my personality.”

And does the new LP continue the Starkville theme?
“Yeah, but there’s also original vocals on it and there’s still that sci-fi, big synth, epic songwriting because it’s more about writing gestures and songs and compositions than writing big drops. My music does have a couple of big drops but it’s more about listening to the music over and over again. It’s about replay-ability, I wanted to make an album I could listen to everyday and be interested in it. And I do still do that, I’ve listened to it everyday. Actually, I didn’t listen to it today or yesterday.”

So what are your plans for the future?
“Writing music for hip-hop and R'n'B artists, demoing a bunch of stuff for artists in the states and over here. I still like being an artist but I want to get more into being a producer and I really like working with other people. I want to do a live show again, I just don’t want it being me behind a laptop pressing buttons. It’s got to be more interesting than that, I want to involve vocalists and stuff.”

Who’ve you been petitioning?
“For the album there’s Anneka, whom you heard on the BBC Maida Vale thing, and there’s another vocalist Kiki Hitomi, she’s from Japan. I met her because she dates The Bug – Kevin Martin – and her name came up during discussions. She’s actually on the King Midas Sound album and I just thought ‘Yeah, it’d be cool if she did a track’ and it just happened really quickly, it was great. I worked with Badness on a tune – he’s actually not on the album, though the instrumental’s on the album, because of a label choice. P-Money did a track on the album and then two US MCs Cerebral Vortex and Leezle. I sing on the album too with actual lyrics. In the past I’ve sang on things, like Marsh and Creature last year in the breakdown, but it’s always affected and weird – you don’t really know it’s me singing. So that’s new. I was a little nervous about it at first. I just thought ‘You know what, I’m just gonna do it.” Some people won’t like it but I was really blown away by the reaction of a lot of friends and my manager. There’s a song called Alien Styles which is just me singing for the entire song - it’s really epic. They were like ‘Dude, we could make this the first single’ and I was like ‘There’s absolutely no way’. Maybe it’ll be a follow-up, I don’t know. We’ll see what people think of it. I played it at Glade festival last year for the first time and actually sang live and there was talk of it on forums like ‘Starkey’s set was really good but it got weird at the end’. I was really nervous. When I’m not DJing I’m putting myself in a different position. It was very strange.”

So where do you see electronic music headed in the next couple of years?
“Weirder! It’s just gonna get stranger.”

How does the US bass scene compare to that of the UK?
“It’s really getting bigger. In the UK people are spoiled with the lineups they get. Some of the lineups I’ve played over here are ridiculous. People drive for 7 hours to go see that in the States, whereas over here people won’t drive 2 hours to go see a show and you’re so close! The lineups are amazing.
“In the US people are doing stuff that’s called dubstep when over here no-one knows. There’s a subculture of people who are into jam bands like The Grateful Dead but making it more electronic. There’s this whole scene that exists in the States of people who are into going to Burning Man Festival and art and showmanship – they have people doing fire dances and stuff. I have no clue about that, I’m completely removed from it. One of the biggest bands in that scene is Disco Biscuits, they’re from Philly, and I know one of the guys who goes under the name M80 Dubstation and he did a remix of Skullcrusher. People over here are like ‘Who the fuck is M80 Dubstation?’ but in the States people are like ‘Yo, it’s an M80 Dubstation track!’, y’know? So it’s a weird, different kind of thing. It’s become its own thing. It’s reassuring that there’s a lot of cool music going on all over the world. With the internet and borders being slashed, it’s exciting for the music in general.”

So you don’t think it’s become unified?
“No, when people were just doing it in basements it was probably the most unified ever. If you hear Skream and someone tells you ‘this is dubstep’, then that’s your frame of reference. If you hear 16 Bit and they say 'this is dubstep', then that’s your reference. Rusko’s probably the biggest dubstep guy in the US, and if you see his shows, that’s why he’s signed to Mad Decent. It makes sense but it’s a completely different world. I think the music in general is very broken up but the BPM of the track is sort of a unifying factor. Some of the music doesn’t really have much bass anymore. It used to be all about bass and now there’s a lot of weird mid-range stuff going on. It’s like ‘This is all about kick drums?’ and that’s the unifying factor.”

What do you think’s going to be the next big thing? Has dubstep got any more life in it?
“I think the idea of what dubstep is means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I’ve used this word before to describe it, but the music is just splintered. There’s all these different factions going on, like look at this flyer [he picks one up for the next Deviate night] Roska, Brackles, Mosca. Brackles is like dubstep, what is he? All these people like Short Stuff, the Night Slugs guys. I’ve known those guys forever, since they were making bassline and grime. I don’t know what it is, except it’s the buzzword. There’s a lot of music called dubstep that I can’t stand, but I do like the 16 Bit stuff. I like pockets of stuff. I’m not as into the dubby, reggaey stuff either. It’s just not my thing, I don’t come from that world. I come from the electronica world and that’s where my influences are. I mix with Mogwai and Rachel's and post-rock/classical type stuff. That’s where my head’s at.
“So, dubstep as a word is going to stick around but I don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re making the tempo slower and faster. Good soundsystem and tempo don’t make a genre until you figure out what you’re gonna call it. That’s where we came up with the term ‘Street Bass’. It means nothing, it’s like an attitude thing. It’s not a genre of music, it’s a feeling. It doesn’t really have a genre. It’s just all these street, heavy bass genres that we like.”


Starkey's second album, Ear Drums & Black Holes will be released this April on Planet Mu.

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