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Starkey Interview

Starkey is a figure well known in the bass music world for his unique ‘street bass’ sounds. From his early dubstep releases on Slit Jockey Records to his latest offering, ‘Space Traitors Vol. 1′ (which is out now on Civil Music), Starkey has been cutting a swathe through the competition with his heavy bass beats and street swagger. I had a chance to catch up with him and picked his brains about the future sounds of the bass music scene…



For those who are unaware, how would you describe your sound?

We call it Street Bass in the Seclusiasis camp. But I always say that it’s more an attitude than an actual genre. It’s kind of a no holds barred attitude towards club music, really mixing up many different sounds and always having good bass. It’s also very often vocally driven music. We work a lot with vocal samples, acappella’s and original lyricists.


How did you get introduced to dubstep? Do you think that being from the US changes how people hear your sound?


I got into dubstep through grime really.  Dev79 and I were two of the first people to play grime in the US back in the day, and we were pretty well connected to what was going on within that scene. After dubstep started pushing in a direction that interested me a bit more (musically), I started really paying attention to what was going on.  This is before the big surge in 2005/2006 when a lot of people jumped on board in the UK and elsewhere. It was right around when the “halfstep” was really taking over and I was listening to what people like Vex’d and Loefah were doing.  That was interesting to me.


Since I’ve been involved with the sound for a long time, it’s funny when I hear that people actually think I’m from the UK..  This has happened on numerous occasions actually.  I did live there for a bit back in 2001, but I’m definitely from Philly… and definitely American.  But yeah, I do think for some people who may have gotten into the sound in recent years that there are pre-conceived ideas of what “dubstep” sounds like in North America, versus elsewhere.  People love to generalise things.  But you really just have to get out there and listen to the music to really judge it and get an idea of what the producer or artist is trying to say.  I could care less where someone comes from because with the Internet, music is completely de-localised.  A certain sound may start somewhere, then once it starts to get around on the Internet… forget about it.


From when you first started making music and DJing, how has your style of music changed? Where do you see your own music and bass music as a genre headed in the future?

I was DJing in high school at the local college FM station… and back then my shows were really eclectic.  I’d play indie rock, downtempo electronic music… whatever.  I wasn’t beat matching or anything, just playing records and talking on the mic.  Once I started getting into actually being more of a club dj, no… my sound as pretty much stayed pretty consistent.  I really only started playing as “Starkey” in 2004… and I was already really into grime and I played this kind of crossover electronica and grime sound which to me really sounds like a lot of the stuff that’s popular today.  We launched Slit Jockey Records in 2005, and released a split 7″ between myself and Dev79 as our first release.  My track on there, “Less Than Paper”, is the earliest “Starkey” track that I have ever released…. along with the stuff that dropped on “Local Headlines” the following year on Werk.  Before that I was making stuff that was a bit more downtempo and broken beat in style.  I can’t really explain it.  Look up Aunt Jessica on Ropeadope Records if you want to hear it.


Do you think there is a particular sound you push? How have your live sets changed as you have progressed through the dubstep scene? Are there other sounds you would like to play out more?

I’m all about pushing the music I love and the producers I’m friends with.   For the most part, I pretty much only play music today, from people that I actually know on a personal basis… or was given to me by someone I know well.  My sets today feature a lot more hip-hop.  Those are the only people that I can say I don’t personally know… haha.  Some, but not all.  But yeah, I really enjoy mixing hip-hop into my sets.  The past month or so, I’ve been dropping some Lex Luger produced Rick Ross then mixing in Loefah’s “Rufage” and it goes off every time.  Let the mix ride out for like a whole verse and chorus.  It works.

I used to do a lot of live sets, but lately I’ve been pretty much exclusively doing DJ sets.  I did one live set for a pretty weird event in London this past Summer with live robots and all that…. but that was a special occasion and I made a set specifically for that event.  I’d like to get back into doing live sets, but it has to be more than just me standing behind a laptop with a mouse.  That’s not where I want to go with my music.


Are there any artists that you see yourself working with in the future? How do you think working with other artists changes the way you approach making music?

There’s some stuff in the works… so I don’t want to say too much about them, only that I think there will be some really great collaborations dropping in 2011.  I’m all about working with vocalists and other songwriters, particularly the vocal aspect of things.  I love vocal music.  And vocals are what most people latch onto in a track.  It’s just that added human layer over the track that really takes some music to the next level.  Not that every track ever made should have lyrics… just that for some, it can really enhance things.


Finally, are there any projects that you’d like to talk about in 2011?

Well I’m starting off 2011 with a release for No Hats No Hoods in late February most likely. I’m doing two tunes, one called “Peacekeeper” and the other called “PC” which features Merky Ace and Kozzie on vocals.  That’s going to be followed in April by “Space Traitor Vol. 2″ for Civil Music, which is looking to be a pretty epic release.  I’m really happy with the track selection we are working on for that one and the remixers we have lined up.  Then after that… it’s all open.  For the labels I’m a part of, Seclusiasis and Slit Jockey Records, 2011 is definitely going to be one of our biggest years.  We’ve got another release from Stagga which features 2 of my favorite tracks he’s ever made.  As well as a new EP from Kastle, a debut album from Sduk, another EP from Kaiser… the list goes on.  I’m just really excited for 2011.  I think it’s going to be a great year!


You can follow Starkey on twitter at:

or head over to his website




Interview & Words by Leo Coleman (@leocoleman1)

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