Let Me Learn You Something: Starkey

I’ve talked extensively about my friendship with Starkey before here, but this segmet of Let Me Learn You Something isn’t a hand-out; Starkey made one of the best beat albums of the year with Ear Drums and Black Holes via Planet Mu.  It’s time to pay homage (MTV UK just did) before his new project Space Traitor Vol. 1 pushes your burrito backwards.

With everyone tossing out his name in their Best of 2010 lists, and with Starkey gearing up for yet another raucous, bass-mashing Seclusiasis party, I figured it’s as good as time as any to let Allentown’s biggest Paul Wall and Busta Rhymes fan and Philly’s preeminent grime/dubstep/street bass assassin learn you something.   And if you’re in Philly tonight, this is the official low end jam down to go ham at with Starkbot, Dell o8o, Dev79, Siyoung, and Copout at Fluid.

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
When I realized I wasn’t going to be good / tall enough for the NBA.  Jokes aside, I was really into music and sports early on, but i wasn’t quite good enough at one sport to really make it a career.  I think it was around 7th grade when I decided to stop playing soccer to have a go at football for my 8th grade year… because I knew that I wasn’t going to play any sports in high school, just focus entirely on music.

2. How has Philly shaped your sound or molded you as a producer, arranger, and songwriter?
It’s a pretty diverse place, so you get to hear a lot of different kinds of music.  I definitely got back into hiphop through living in this city and hearing it all over the place.  Philly’s a rough town to get music going in as well, it seems like there’s not the same kind of support with club-goers and all that, so it really wears on some people.  They get burnt out.  I think it just makes the people who are persistent stronger, and more determined to be successful.
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I learn a lot from my wife, Devon.  She’s always telling me that I need to take time to just enjoy the now… because I’m always thinking about the future, planning for the future, always thinking about the next project.  We get caught up in that all the time as musicians / producers.  You only live once, so sometimes you need to just enjoy the things going on right now, and forget about what needs to be done a day from now, a week from now, or where things might be in your career in the next year or two.  That’s really important.
4. With everything you’ve learned thus far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
No not at all.  I mean, there may be a few regrets in there, things that maybe didn’t turn out the way that you wanted them to, or something didn’t quite appear the way you wanted it to…. but nothing major.  I think you have to make those kinds of mistakes in life to learn from them.  That’s a cliche saying, but it feels true.  I might have picked a different name from Starkey if I’m honest.  I was never good with names, and Starkey just kind of happened by accident.  But now I’m just Starkey, and it is what it is.  I’m fine with it… it’s not some stupid name like Fringe Bicycles or something like that.
5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
Getting away from the computer.  haha.  I can’t imagine a day without email or working on music.  There are days I don’t work on production, but I’m always checking email and talking with people online, doing facebook, twitter, etc. I think I need to pull myself away from it more often.  At least that kind of stuff.  I used to be bad with checking out blogs and all, but I’ve gotten things pretty organized so that I’m not wasting time.

6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major label. What are the first 3 things you would do as the boss?
First I’d probably fire a bunch of people that have no new ideas on how to market and release music.  That’s one of the main reasons why the industry is in such bad shape.  Next I’d probably hire a bunch of really smart web and app developers because that’s the future of how music will be sold, distributed, released, everything.  Imagine a world where an artist’s blog, new music, videos, twitter, demos, live sessions, etc. feed directly to your phone, television, pc.. basically everywhere.  Well that’s where we’re headed.  That’s the future of the music industry.  Lastly, I’d sign all the Seclusiasis and Slit Jockey guys to deals, because they make good music.
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
I did a top 10 recently… and this was what I came up with…. The Beatles “White Album” and “Magical Mystery Tour”, Radiohead “Kid A”, Portishead “Roseland NYC Live”, Alpha “The Impossible Thrill”, Beastie Boys “Check Your Head”, Tricky “Maxinquaye”, Aphex Twin “Druqks”, Frank Sinatra “September of My Years”, and Dizzee Rascal “Boy in Da Corner”.
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of the old hardcore, metal and indie records I listened to when I was in junior high and high school.  So that’s been interesting.  I’m also really interested in working with vocals and collaborating with various artists.  I’ve developed a writing relationship with Guy Sigsworth, and we’ve penned a handful of tunes that we will most likely be producing for a handful of artists this coming year.  He’s worked with Bjork, Imogen Heap, Madonna, and various other artists over his career, and we both come from really diverse musical backgrounds with a foundation in classical music and theory.  So when we write together, we both kind of speak the same language.  The music we’ve been writing has been diverse, but still sounds like the 2 of us sitting in a room and writing together.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Don’t be afraid to experiment.  The industry is shook…. there’s so much room for defining your own niche and really pushing in a musical direction that allows you to express yourself.
10.  Any words to live by?
haha.  I don’t know man…. um…… It’s all Street Bass to Me.  ha


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