Exclusive: Philly Street Bass Maestro Starkey Talks Deep Dub

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Philadelphia-based DJ and producer Starkey has his mitts entrenched in dance music’s low end. His floor-wobbling basslines and abrasive synths ring with allusions to everything from dubstep, grime, and electro to garage and bassline. When he’s not busy pounding the dance floor, you can catch him moonlighting with a SubFM radio show, Seclusiasis, playing moody, experimental downtempo with Aunt Jessica, and helping run Slit Jockey Records. Did we mention he also teaches music production and business courses at three colleges?

After the jump, we swap IMs with the dancefloor wrecker himself, talking heavy bass, the virtues of dancing to dubstep, and the pros and cons of a mighty MC.

Flavorwire: Everyone always talks about how good the sound system is at [New York’s] Love. Where is the best system you’ve ever played on?

Starkey: The system is pretty nice there. Plastic People [in London] is the best, but when I played there a few weeks ago I had problems with Serato.

FW: It’s really funny you mention it. My best pal lives in London and was at that gig. He said he thought he got smacked in the head by something, but it was just a bass drop.

Starkey: Haha. Yeah, people said they enjoyed my set, but it was a mess for me.

FW: So, about bass… how did your affinity for it develop?

Starkey: If we want to get creepy I think it was in the womb.

FW: The primordial slushing about?

Starkey: My mom said that whenever bass-heavy, loud music was playing, I would move around a lot. That’s a true story. But obviously I don’t remember that. I played bass in school too.

FW: When did you start to transition to what you’re up to now?

Starkey: In college. I went to school to study production. I wasn’t one of those singer songwriter types, so I started messing around with drum machines and my keyboards. It was my way of practicing. You watching the Super Bowl?

FW: I am not, actually. Am I tearing you away?

Starkey: It’s cool. I have it on. Eagles aren’t in it, so doesn’t really matter much. I hate both teams.

FW: Not wanting the Steelers to win?

Starkey: No. We hate the Steelers.

FW: So, your sound has a very UK aesthetic… but how has being in Philly shaped your sound?

Starkey: I was living in the UK in 2001 when I first discovered garage. The vocal element that was popular at the time, like So Solid Crew, was really interesting to me. Philly is a hip-hop city and you can’t get away from it. So I kept in touch with the UK scene. When things started going darker and grime grew out of that was what really excited me. I bought a lot of music when I was living there. I was into a lot of the rock music coming out of the UK at the time as well, like Spiritualized and Super Furry Animals.

FW: You definitely delve into a bunch of genres on your album, but I wanted to ask you a bit about dubstep. You know how everyone says it’s really tough to dance to?

Starkey: Haha, maybe if you’re into that “meditation”. I think people enjoy dancing during my sets. I like to get chill too, but usually my sets are pretty high energy.

FW:Yeah, you’ve got the dancey end covered we think. But in terms of more classic dubstep sets, have you seen this guy?

Starkey: This guy is pretty stupid. That is more like it. If everything is all half step like that, it won’t go down as a party. It will be a head-bobber.

FW: Where do you think the best crowds are? US? UK?

Starkey: This was in Bristol a few weeks ago. Good crowd. Really good.

FW: You’ve got an MC in this video — what are your thoughts on them generally?

Starkey: They were with the club doing the party. MCs are cool when they let the music do the talking or dictate how things should move. I hate when MCs put on voices, they sound like they came from some place they aren’t from you know? Like that drum n’ bass MC thing that a lot of people put on. Not really into that.

FW: If it was your choice, would you never elect to have an MC?

Starkey: I’m going to Australia with an MC, my boy Halfcast. He’s in Aunt Jessica with me. He’s one of the best MCs. He’s a songwriter too.

FW: What’s on the menu for your set at Love? What should the kids expect?

Starkey: Lots of energy, hopefully some new tunes. A little bit of 4×4, little street bass… just all over. It all depends on what kind of mood I’m in and how the crowd responds.

FW: Cool, enjoy the Super Bowl. And hopefully the Eagles magically appear and win.

Starkey: That would be amazing.

EP: We can dream.

New Yorkers can catch Starkey at Dub War on Friday, February 20th. If you won’t be in the 212, you can still cop some of his tunes — the EP Ephemeral Exhibits is out now on Planet Mu, who is also releasing a 12″ of the track “Creature” in April.