Mark Starr first appeared on the Mass Musings radar when Claude VonStroke played his remix of Aaron Snapes’ “Whatcha Wanna Do” on an Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1. It’s only appropriate that the Dirtybird label-boss featured this remix as he once challenged Starr to “send (him) something as good as your last remix (of Wet::Sex’s “Spaceship“) and it’s signed on the spot!”
…So he did! And just three years after Kill Frenzy picked up a copy of “Sunshine” EP, Starr found himself opening the Inaugural Dirtybird Campout for the same label that gave him his first big break. Don’t be confused by his Dirtybird allegiance though as Starr’s release of “Oscillate” on Worthy’s Anabatic Records in late-2014 was the catalyst for a slew of quality tracks on major house labels in 2015. This includes original tracks and remixes on Skrillex’s label OWSLA, Billy Kenny’s This Ain’t Bristol, Perfect Driver, Sounds of Sumo, and Shadow Child & Kry Wolf’s Food Music.
Recently Mark has been collaborating with label-mate Lux Groove on a trio of tracks for Dirtybird, This Ain’t Bristol, and Perfect Driver titled “That’s What”, “Now”, and “That Work” respectively. These tracks are all wonderfully produced and are a testament to the talent, ambition, and opportunity that all came together for Mark Starr in 2015.
A few weeks ago we connected with Mark and were ecstatic when he agreed to interview with Mass Musings! We had a ton of questions for him to answer so we sincerely appreciate the time and effort that Mark put towards providing us with the thought-provoking and entertaining the responses below.
So, without further ado… check out our Mass Musings exclusive interview with Mark Starr!
I found my way into the scene through the Dubstep craze in the late 2000s – I’ve found that many of the artists we interview also got into the scene through some other genre like UK Garage, DnB, or Techno – were you always a house-head? If not, how did your taste change (or progress) over time?
I actually wasn’t always a house-head. It wasn’t ‘til about 2006 that I got into house music. Some of the first music that inspired me when I was 15/16 years old leaned more towards Drum n Bass, Trance, and UK Hardcore if you can believe it. Omni Trio, Ed Rush & Optical, Roni Size, Klute, Utah Jazz, and Planet Of The Drums were some of my major dnb influences. Some of the first stuff I was DJing was drum n bass; I still think about bringing that back in sets from time to time, or doing an entire dnb set.
How did you first get into making music? Were you always a house producer or did begin with another genre/style?
I have sort of always made whatever I wanted at the time. My first release actually leaned more towards techno/tech house than anything. Between that time and now I have released minimal tracks, electro house, breaks, and just plain ol’ house. I’ve been DJing now for over 10 years, and at a certain point in my DJing journey I realized that writing was the next natural step for me if I wanted to try and be successful. I will never forget asking a well-known DJ many years ago for advice; his response was “produce, produce, produce”. I really took that to heart. I was dabbling writing beats in High School here and there but it wasn’t really full on writing until a few years ago.
I hadn’t considered Florida a hot-bed for tech/booty house music — but with both you and Sage Armstrong blowing up, I’m finding myself rethinking that logic. Tell me a little bit about the scene in Florida.
Florida’s scene is pretty diverse and has a lot of history that spans way back before I was even born! Breaks have been a big fixture down here in the past, and I feel they are coming back a bit within their own circle. Down south you have the whole old school Miami Bass/South Florida culture that still thrives today in its own niche. At the same time, you have a very strong and well-rounded scene for house/techno/tech house and underground music with venues like Treehouse, The Electric Pickle and a few others in Miami. Of course you still have all your major bottle (service) clubs that draw a sharp contrast to everything else I just mentioned…it kind of cracks me up in a way.
We first encountered your music when Claude VonStroke dropped your remix of Aaron Snapes’ “Whatcha Wanna Do” in his Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1. Claude VonStroke (and Dirtybird Records in general) has had an immense impact on our music listening experience at Mass Musings, what’s it like to work with this house music legend?
Barclay has definitely been a great influence for me for many years, so it’s been a serious experience working with him for sure. If there is anyone that will push you to do your best work it’s Barclay (Claude VonStroke). I felt extremely humbled to have him randomly hit me up one day about my music and offer me so much opportunity for someone who was nearly unknown at the time. Barclay isn’t really about popularity though; he’s pretty much about the tracks he enjoys. If he likes a song enough and reaches for it a lot when he DJ’s, he will sign it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a huge established DJ or a bedroom producer who’s never had a gig. I’ve been a fan of Dirtybird for almost ten years now, and I am still as big a fan as ever. So to be able to work with Barclay and the rest of the crew has been truly fulfilling. Outside of Barclay, everyone else on the label has inspired me just as much in their own way!
In addition to Dirtybird you’ve released tracks on a plethora of impressive house labels over the last three years — including Skrillex’s label OWSLA, This Ain’t Bristol, Perfect Driver, Sounds of Sumo, and Food Music. What’s it been like to have your music featured and respected by so many talented and influential artists?
I can’t stress enough that is has been a very surreal and incredible experience over the past few years. Those are all labels I have been a fan of for a long time, so to be able to put my art out on the same labels has been a real joy for me. Getting the nod from label heads like MC Flipside, Skrillex, Billy Kenny, Kry Wolf, Shadow Child, Claude VonStroke, and Matthew Anthony has been a real dream come true. I am truly happy to be able to surround myself with people I admire so much. What makes me just as happy though, are the people I have been able to reach out to with my music. Meeting someone and having them tell me that I have inspired them is an incredibly humbling experience; or knowing that my music made someone feel better when they were going through a tough time.
You’ve co-produced a number of tracks with Lux Groove: “That’s What” on Dirtybird, “Oscillate” on Worthy’s Anabatic Records, “Now” on Billy Kenny’s This Ain’t Bristol, and most recently “That Work” on Perfect Driver which was released on October 23rd. What’s been the secret to this collaboration’s success in the studio?
Honestly, we just clicked. Marc (Lux Groove) and I both have really similar tastes with our breaks, house, and drum and bass influences. I think that is a major part of it. Outside of music we both work in IT for our double lives and have similar schedules and lives at home. He is extremely dedicated to the music and for whatever reasons our ideas and project files just flow really well. Our strengths compliment each other and fill in our weaknesses. We work really hard though, and that shouldn’t be a secret to any producer. I think out of the 4 or 5 tracks we have out or forthcoming, there are probably 15-20 project files that haven’t made the cut. Above all else, each time we work on a project we have a lot of fun. I think that is probably the most important aspect of it all. For our collabs, and writing music in general (for me at least), you really have to keep it fun and stress free otherwise the track (and your mental state) start to suffer. That’s why I started to write in the first place, for fun. If I lose sight of that, I start to hear it in my music.
You opened the Dirtybird Campout earlier this year. We felt it was one of, if not the, best music festivals we’ve ever experienced and were completely blown away by the music, people and positive vibes. Tell us a little about your weekend at Oak Canyon Park.
I can say without a doubt that it WAS the best event I have ever been to. The entire weekend was perfect from the time I arrived at the campsite. The adult summer camp vibe was on point and the label’s attention to detail was unparalleled to any other event I have ever seen. The color wars were taken very seriously (GO TEAM PURPLE FOR LIFE), as were the merit badges that various camp counselors passed out. I had my fair share of activity fun doing the water balloon toss (and winning points for team purple may I add), rowboat relays, screen-printing, nature trail hikes and more. It was so peaceful camping out there at night that I admit I got MORE sleep than I would have liked to and missed out on a couple activities. I will be practicing my kickball and dodge ball skills for next year. The music was phenomenal, and I love that there was no room for scheduling conflicts. The sound was unbelievable as well, but that’s to be expected when it’s VOID audio. As an artist it was also a perfect event. The event staff and production work by DoLab were impeccable. The stage and area designs were so perfectly done by the build team that you really were immersed in the camp vibe.
Did you have a favorite set from the weekend?
It’s too tough to call as far as everyone’s individual sets are concerned. I really enjoyed the Martin Brothers dnb set, as drum and bass has a special place in my heart and they were playing a lot of old school jams that brought back memories for me. J.Phlip absolutely crushed it on Sunday though, and I still am wondering about a few of the crazy electro tracks she played that I am still trying to ID! Honestly though everyone played on point and you could tell everyone was having the time of their lives up there. My overall favorite had to be the Dirtybird family b2b at the end though. It was a truly special moment for me to have Claude invite me up to go b2b with everyone at the end of the festival.
We first crossed paths in the Holy Ship! Facebook group – Kayte and I are both Ship Virgins, could you tell us a little bit about what to expect? What are you most looking forward to?
I can’t tell you exactly what to expect on Holy Ship as I haven’t attended just yet. I can tell you though that ShipFam are absolutely some of the best people you will ever meet. They have really helped get me out of my shell a bit; and they’re professional party go-ers. Nothing but kids who just want to have a good time and dance their butts off. I have met a lot of ShipFam through Holy Ferry, and event put on by Emily Morin every year that’s had J.Phlip, Kill Frenzy, Justin Martin, Bijou, Thee Cool Cats and more play the past two years on this dope ferry in Vermont. Some in the crew consider me “honorary” ShipFam. They are some of the best, and kindest friends and fans I have met yet in my travels!
What inspires you?
So many things inspire me; from science and nature to technology and of course music. We live in such an incredible time right now, I have to stop and remind myself of that sometimes! I am also really inspired by ambient sounds that we tend to tune out and take for granted. Sometimes a nice walk around the lake I live near can be as musically refreshing to me as listening to a classical orchestra or dance music in my headphones. I find there is beauty and inspiration all around us, it’s a matter of what perspective you look and listen with.
What are you listening to right now?
Literally at this moment I am listening to Kraftwerk. I saw them perform recently in Miami and I have to say it was one of the most inspiring experiences I have ever had in my life. They’ve been making amazing music since the 70s and are still smashing live performances. They played for 2 hours and then did a second show immediately after when I saw them in Miami. I can only hope that in 40 years I will have reached a fraction of the impact they have had on electronic music, and still be able to rock a live show for two hours!
What’s next from Mark Starr? What should we keep an eye (or an ear) out for?
Currently I am working on wrapping up another EP for Sounds of Sumo which I am really excited about. Their label gives me an outlet to do more left field and abstract broken beat projects, which is truly where my heart is. I also have a collaboration coming out with Sage Armstrong on Tempa in 2016.
Gig wise, I am still buzzing from playing at a huge event and major food drive in Tampa Bay called Hallucination Before Christmas — the crowd was amazing and the it’s always rewarding to do something for a good cause. I have another show in New Mexico on January 15th, it will be my first time playing there and I’m really excited to see Effex Night Club. They’re bringing a Funktion-One audio experience so I know the sound will be amazing. Other than that, I’m focusing a lot of attention on some collaborations I’ve been co-producing with Lux Groove, Landis LaPace, Pete Graham and -HBK-. Keep an eye out for these releases in early-2016!”
Thanks for reading and make sure you check out some of Mark’s music below!