Starkey from Philadelphia turned his dreams away from being an NBA basketball star, by choosing a career in music he has become one of the most interesting producers out. Creating music that he calls Street Bass, we get inside his head and see how this US citizen is influencing music on our side of the pond.
Starkey, how did you come up with the name and what is the story behind it?
Well when I started making electronic music I called myself Aunt Jessica, which was Ringo’s Aunt in Magical Mystery Tour, but then that became a group with vocalists, a bass player, etc. So, I decided I had to come up with a new name for the music I did on my own. I wanted to keep it a somewhat obscure Beatles reference, so I figured, why not just call myself Starkey. Ringo’s real name is Richard Starkey. I came up with the name in probably 10 minutes, and it just stuck. It’s just a name.
What music did you listen to growing up?
Lots of stuff. My first real memories are of listening to Michael Jackson and Andrew Lloyd Webber Musicals on my parents record player.
I also remember being in my Dad’s car and listening to a lot of Alan Parson’s Project and Vangelis’ “China” – which was mistakenly put on a Genesis cassette tape by the manufacturer. For years we had no clue what it was. We just knew it wasn’t Phil Collins on there. Haha.
Then when I started making my own musical choices I went through phases. From hiphop to punk and hardcore to metal to brit rock to triphop. I was all over the place.
Musically trained, how so? What instruments do you play?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was really young and started taking lessons around age 5 or so. Then I got into some woodwinds in the school band and sang in a boy’s choir. In high school I mostly played bass, electric and upright, and still continued singing in the school chorale.
How did your musical influences and training evolve into you actually laying down your own tracks?
I knew that I wanted to be a music producer by the end of high school. So I went to college to primarily study audio production and music composition. Although I did listen to a bit, it wasn’t until college that I got really into electronic music. I also found it as a way of practising the things I was learning at school regarding like mixing, compression, etc.
Your music takes in strains of grime, 4×4, dubstep and more – do you see yourself as a pioneer? What are you making?
We call it Street Bass (the Seclusiasis crew). It’s the anti-genre. It’s whatever you want it to be, just music with good bass and a street attitude. I don’t really think of myself as a pioneer, but I do feel as though what I do is different and original. If it wasn’t there would be no reason for me to make music, I could just listen to other people’s records to hear what I want to hear.
You could say a lot of the influences in your music stem from British scenes – what do you like about the British approach to bass music, and does it differ from our compatriots in the states?
My biggest UK influences have to be the triphop scene, people like Portishead, Alpha, Tricky, and the grime scene. They’re probably my two favourite kinds of music. When grime came about, tunes like Pulse X, I Luv U, Ice Rink – it was so exciting for me.
I had lived in London for a little bit when the vocal garage stuff like So Solid Crew was really huge, so I was tapped into what was going on there after I moved back to Philly.
I think one of the major differences between the UK and the US is how people are exposed to music. In the UK, you have BBC Radio 1, which has DJ’s like Mary Anne Hobbs and Pete Tong playing underground electronic music on one of the biggest radio stations in the country. That just doesn’t happen in this country. Our radio is dreadfully terrible.
Do you listen to much grime? Who do you rate in the genre?
Yeah. I listen to as much as I can, then buy stuff when I’m in the UK. But the genre has kind of slipped a lot, with producers and MC’s moving into other genres. I like Ghetto, Tempa T, Durrty Goodz, Terror Danjah, Lava Unit and Flowdan. With the right beats I also rate Wiley and Kano. There’s more but I’ll stop there.
Dubstep started off as a UK sound, when and how did you pick it up all the way in Philadelphia?
I got into it through grime really. We (Dev79 and I) were throwing the first grime party in the US, and were just looking for more stuff to play. We knew that dubstep was around the same tempo as grime, but to be honest I wasn’t really into the early dubstep that I heard. However, when I started hearing stuff like Vex’d and Loefah, that got me more excited about dubstep.
The Generation Bass show was pretty amazing! Vex’d selected you for the show, how did you guys meet?
Yeah it was great! I was flattered to be picked by them. I met Jamie from Vex’d when we had he and Plastician (then Plasticman) over to play in Philly. We kept in touch over the years, then ended up bringing both Roly and Jamie as Vex’d to Philly a few years later. That’s when I met Roly in person for the first time. We also played a Halloween party in California together on that same tour.
Was it your first time meeting some of the people at Generation Bass?
Yeah. I had been speaking with Oneman and Joker for a bit but we hadn’t met in person.
Can you tell us anything interesting that happened behind the scenes that listeners would’ve missed?
Not really. It went smooth… everyone had their A-game on. There was some brandy getting passed around towards the end of the taping. I think you can see that in some of the videos. Haha.
Since then you’ve been playing sets across the globe, what has been your most memorable set and why?
That’s a difficult question. There have been a bunch. But recently, I played Crazylegs in Bristol back in January, that was a great party. The crowd was so up for it and the rest of the line-up was great. In the main room was me, Raffertie and Dexplicit. That’s the kind of party I like being a part of!
In your eyes what are the differences in the Bass scene in the US compared to the UK?
Things are definitely a bit more “clubby” in the US, but very eclectic. You’ll hear dubstep mixed with bassline, grime, even electro-ish stuff, Baltimore breaks, etc. There are some DJ’s in the UK that do that as well but it seems more prevalent in the US.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? Were you always destined to work with music?
I went through a phase where I wanted to be a NBA basketball player but I knew I wasn’t good or tall enough. I think by the time I was 15 or so, I knew that I loved playing and writing music. I played in various bands and spent pretty much most of my time doing music either at home or at school.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
I hope to be producing records for other artists. Collaborating with vocalists and MC’s. That’s the direction I really want to take.
Any words of advice for the many producers out there still trying to get noticed?
Do something original and sincere.
You’re working on a new album – how will it differ from your debut and whats the plan?
I don’t want to give away too much, but I really think it will be a step up from the last album. It will be on Planet Mu again. I’m working on some collabs for the album. There will be original vocals on this one, that’s all I’m going to say for now.
If you had the opportunity to change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?
Teleportation! Let’s get that going.