TF Archives

Starkey - From Philadelphia With Bass

Author: 3D
Monday, March 2, 2009

3D speaks to heavyweight underground Philadelphian dubstep and hip hop producer Starkey, headlining Void this weekend.

You’re from Philadelphia, a city which, along with New York obviously, led the hip hop scene for many years. Do you consider the grime/dubstep sound, particularly of yours, to have evolved from that kind of groundbreaking hip hop scene-

Yeah, definitely. In Philly, particularly, you can’t escape hip hop. It’s in the culture of the city itself. It’s the dance music, the chill-out music, the bang in your car music... everything. I’ve always gone through phases when I was more into hip hop and less into it, but right now I’m really excited with what’s going on in hip hop and RNB, so it’s definitely a big influence on what I’m doing.

You released a limited edition 12 Inch last year, Just A Million, which featured a remix of maybe the biggest tune of the year, Lil Wayne’s A Milli, as well as Biz Markie’s timeless classic Just A Friend. How did that release come about-
With the Seclusiasis Street Bass Anthems series. It’s all about bootleg remixes, so I do a lot of them. I found A Milli infectious and really wanted to mess with it. Akkachar was starting a label called Rwina out of Amsterdam, and just asked me to do the debut record for the label. I had just finished these two remixes and sent them over. He loved them both so we figured, lets just put ’em out on a 12.

Dubstep, garage, grime, street bass, electro, 2-step, dub, and countless other terms are thrown around trying to define your sound on a record. In what category do you like to see your releases stocked in a record store-
In a perfect world they would just call all this stuff ‘street bass’, haha. Really though, I think ‘electronic’ is just fine, but if you want to niche it down I guess I feel most connected to the dubstep and grime scenes. But for me it’s not really about labels. You can hear that in my music as well as what I play in mixes. We came up with the term street bass to mean just that: whatever, just music that had good bass and a street attitude.

When did you first get into production- Did it come after spending time behind the decks-
No, I’m definitely a producer first and DJ second. I actually came up doing mostly live sets, but lately it’s been all about DJ sets for me. I have plans of working out a new live set, but it just needs to be something special, not some boring nonsense. I have been playing music and involved in writing music for years. I grew up playing instruments in school and singing in a boy’s choir. But once I got to college and was studying production, the electronic music side really took over. It was my way of practicing the things we were learning in school, like automation, signal processing, etc.

How does the UK scene compare to the US- Considering grime is often typified by UK MCs and producers, their US counterparts seem to be the one’s more eager to embrace crossovers with electro or straight up hip hop sounds.
I can’t speak for the whole of the UK and the whole of the US, but for me personally, I feel as though the internet has done a very good job of de-regionalising music. Yes, you will always have your influences from where you live and what you know, but it’s so much easier today to hear what’s going on in the urban underground around the globe than, say, even five years ago. Music gets de-regionalised once it hits the net. For me, crossover appeal is not a conscious decision but part of the creation process. I pull from influences that run the gamut of musical genres – everything from grime to shoegaze to ’80s pop to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. It’s interesting how different cities, UK and US, react to my sets and other DJs I play with at parties. I think it’s a city-to-city thing, not a country thing. Like in the UK for instance, Bristol crowds are not the same as London crowds; they’re up for different things. San Francisco crowds are different than New York crowds... the list goes on. I can honestly say that when we were throwing the first ever parties to feature grime in the US, it went down in Philly. I really think it was that vocal connection that grime had to hip hop, as well as the rawness of the beats. Philly is a raw city with a lot of crime and a lot of competition. I think grime really resonated with our crowds. Then once when we started introducing some of the dubstep stuff that we were feeling into the blend, mixed with everything from dancehall to electro and bassline, that’s really when the street bass sound took shape.

WHO: Starkey
WHAT: Plays VOID at Phoenix Bar
WHEN: Friday 6 March