Touching Bass: Starkey
Starkey’s industrious melodies and grimy tendencies have rightfully led to the coinage of the term ’street bass’. Originally from Philadelphia, the DJ and producer has also experienced life in London, picking up traces of grime and garage along the way. We caught up to discuss sci-fi films, Mike Skinner and America’s cult-like grime following.
Also, check out the Touching Bass mix series, which continues alongside all features via Mixcloud.
Which three records changed your life?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say first up Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner, Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker and I feel like I have to say something band-related so I’ll go with Mogwai and Burn Girl Prom Queen on EP. It’s just epic build-up, swelling rock music.
So you’ve mentioned Dizzee now and on Orbits, there’s a really strong grime influence at times, especially on tracks like Thugs and The Shuttle. Where’s that come from?
I was living in London in 2001 and at that time the music that was really big was all of the vocal garage stuff by people like So Solid Crew. When I was there, I heard The Streets’ song Has It Come To This? and I hadn’t really listened to garage because it wasn’t really big in Philly. So when I got to the UK it was cool and at that time I was listening to a lot of electronic music; stuff by Boards of Canada, Squarepusher etc. and I just got into what was going on and that Streets track was a big thing for me. I got in touch with that sound and Mike Skinner has always been into grime too. Then there was the whole pirate radio influence of people like Roll Deep and that’s how I heard I Luv U for the first time. I remember seeing the video once he’d signed to XL and was just blown away by the record.
How would you describe the term ‘street bass’ to a stranger?
Me and Dev79, who I run Seclusiasis with, came up with the term as something to just put on a flyer and I thought it was cool because it perfectly described what we do. Back then, no one was really mixing up the genres as they are today. We’d play lots of grime records, dubstep and other things but we didn’t have much stuff to play because it was difficult with the low quality of MP3s at the time. It was always very vocal-driven and so we just thought ‘street bass’ explained what we were doing and it just stuck.
Was there ever much of an admiration for grime in Philadelphia?
Not really any more, there was a little bit of a buzz back in the day and there were people like Jammer and Skepta coming over. We did some parties here and in New York. Dizzee actually came out to Boston with The Streets one time but there was only ever up to around 1,200 people. There’s always been a cult, CMJ following but it never got a strong following. There’s still pockets within some cities in the US where people are still playing grime such as out in San Francisco and Boston. There was a big garage scene in Baltimore back in the early 2000s and I didn’t even really know about it. People in Philly are kinda fickle at times; they’ll come out sometimes and the club will be packed and other times there’s hardly anyone there. People are also really judgmental there too, so if people like something they’ll let you know about it. Soundsystems aren’t too good here either.
Out of the remixes you’ve done, which is your favourite?
I’d probably say the Foals one [This Orient] and I’m also quite big on the Reso Check 1,2 remix, which I really enjoy. It’s difficult to remix a band though, so I prefer the Foals one. I tend to keep the vocals intact when I do remixes so I think doing a band remix where you just get the stems from the drums and guitars is a totally different thing. You also have to make it sound good in a club but it’s a lot of fun.
How have things changed between Ear Drums & Black Holes and the new album Orbits?
I’d say that I went into writing Orbits knowing that I wanted to make an album. I think this album is a lot more focused in its sound from start to finish. People don’t really listen to whole albums any more, which is sad, but I still feel like I want to make an album that you can listen to all the way through. I’m a sucker for sci-fi stuff and it’s like a journey.
So which sci-fi films are worth watching?
There’s lots from the 60s and 70s that are definitely worth watching!
Download the ‘Touching Bass: Starkey’ mix here.
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