Philly's purveyor of "street bass" mixes it up on this week's RA podcast.
When you think of grime and dubstep, Pennsylvania isn't one of the the first places that springs to mind, but Paul Geissinger AKA Starkey has been doing his utmost to create his own take on the sound in his home city of Philadelphia. Having been turned on to UK garage while he was studying in London at the start of the millennium, he continued to keep abreast of developments in the scene once he got back to the US. Alongside his Seclusiasis partner Dev79, he helped to promote the first party in the US to feature grime music before launching into the production sphere with singles on Werk, Lo Dubs and Dead Homies.
It wasn't long before Planet Mu got wind of his energetic and colourful mix of instrumental hip-hop and dubstep, and 2008 saw him gain plenty of exposure with the release of his Ephemeral Exhibits album on the label as well as an appearance on Mary Anne Hobbs' much discussed Generation Bass showcase. This month sees follow-up Ear Drums & Black Holes hit the shops, with RA's Oli Marlow citing it to be "equally as able to appease personal musing or excite your limbs with spectacular effect." As such, we thought that we'd get him in to demonstrate what his self-coined "street bass" sound is all about.
What have you been up to recently?
I'm always working on music. Doing a bunch of different things. I'm mixing a couple tracks for the Drums of Death album on Greco-Roman, mastering some Seclusiasis and Slit Jockey releases, working on some new Starkey demos and just keeping busy really. Got a bunch of shows coming up this month, so I'm trying to get some music together for those, plus I'm a teacher, so it's nearing the end of the semester and I've got a lot of stuff to grade.
How and where did you record the mix?
I recorded the mix at my studio, The Royal Bank of Starkville. I did it using Serato live, then added in the skit at the beginning and all the sound effects after the fact.
Can you tell us a little bit about the mix?
Yeah, it's kind of a snapshot of where I'm at musically right now. However, I've been doing a bunch of mixes for the release of the album, so I always try to approach each one in a slightly different way to make them unique. For this particular mix I varied up the tempo a bit... starting in the 140 grime/dubstep range and then moving to the 80bpm hiphop-ish range, and then back again. That's kind of the form that most of my recent DJ sets have taken on, so I thought it would be nice to showcase that.
How are your midweek Who Run It?! parties going back in Philly? Are you finding that having a reputation back in Europe having much of an effect on the scene back home?
Well, Dev79 just started throwing Who Run It?! on a regular rotation last month. Before that it was kind of erratic, but we've been doing events in Philly for years of course, and it's always a bit hit or miss with this city. I mean, we have a core group of people that come out to the events we're doing, or I'm playing, many of whom have been down for years. But everything in Philly always has to have a big promotional push, lots of flyers, a good web presence, and you just hope that people leave their house and come out.
You're quite the energetic character behind the decks. Do you think that having a stage presence and personality is something that's often forgotten when it comes to dance music?
For me, it's just natural. I love playing my music in clubs, so I get into it. For some people, the whole stoic DJ behind the decks thing works, and that's how they wish to express themselves, but that's never worked for me. Plus, my sets, for the average club goer, seem to be a bit more challenging and less immediate. I vary up the music a lot, mixing dubstep, grime, hip-hop, etc... and that throws some people off. You have to move a bit differently I guess. And the whole "Starkey" image, the story... with the skits and all that, my press photos, they're just an extension of who I am and my interests. I like to have fun with everything. There's an added dimension for people who are into my music. I'm not just another guy making electronic music. I mean, sometimes people even refer to me as Starkbot, and that's cool. They get it.
What are you up to next?
Release-wise I've got remixes for Foals and Innerpartysystem dropping very soon. They're both on 7-inches. Then I'm doing an EP on Civil Music for the fall. I'm really interested in doing more production for hip-hop and R&B artists as well. I love working with vocals, so I'm gonna keep trying to further my output in that direction.