PJ Geissinger, otherwise known as grime/bass producer DJ Starkey has the UK sewn up. Since being picked for Mary Anne Hobbs’ Generation Bass show back in 2008, the Philly native’s inimitable take on bass, dubstep, grime and hip-hop has seen fans take to him warmly, as he explores the grey areas between these genres with considerable aplomb, filling his tracks with plenty of futurist ideas and space-themed imagery, as he travels between galaxies in an endless battle for the heart of his beloved Starkville (the fantastical homeland of the cosmonaut Starkey character named in his releases).
Recent remix work has included Tempa T, Zomby, Kano and Foals, whilst Planet Mu’s release of his sophomore album Ear Drums and Black Holes earlier this year saw him continue his knack for melding complex, hard hitting rhythms to the most colourful of melodies. His soon-to-be-released set of Space Traitor EP’s on London’s Civil Music imprint next month will see him marry these floor-friendly riddims to vocals from Ireland’s Maverick Sabre, with a host of remixes from Rudi Zygaldo, Egyptrixx, Ital Tek and newcomer ARP101. We caught up with the space traitor himself to talk over his classical background, his forthcoming Hyp Mix and just exactly what the cosmos sounds like…
Hello Starkey. So, wicked mix – really interesting tracklist, can you talk me through what you were trying to achieve with it?
I wanted to do something different with this mix. I do a monthly radio show, so people can hear me mix and play lots of my new music and the new stuff my friends are working on…. so I figured why not do a proper studio mix that is more about just playing good music. I did a bunch of dj mixes around the time the album dropped in April, so that was part of the reason why I went this direction as well. I’ll most likely be doing some new dj mixes for the upcoming Space Traitor series on Civil though… so they won’t be far around the corner.
What exactly is the LOK Command Ship?
The LOK Command Ship and LK Lander were basically the Soviet Union’s version of what the Americans used in their “moon landings”. It never worked out though because the rocket that was supposed to power it failed. They did get it into Earth orbit, but that’s it.
Is this mix the sound of the cosmos?
This is the stuff I like to listen to when cosmonauting. But, space itself is pretty quiet… it’s a vacuum.
You have the Space Traitor EP coming out on Civil Music this December, can you tell us about about the release?
I’m really excited about these upcoming releases. It really builds on the sound I’ve been developing over the past few years, and it kind of feels like a nice progression from “Ear Drums and Black Holes”. I guess the one primary difference is the heavier use of samples in Space Traitor Vol 1. Not that I haven’t used samples in the past. They’re just more up front and layered in this material. I think of sampling almost like I approach remixing. It gives you some kind of starting point from which to build all the huge synths around. There’s a different type of creativity that comes out of that type of production. I find it pretty exciting.
Are you a space traitor? If not, who is?
Well if you listen to the narration track on Volume 1 you’ll understand the meaning behind the term “space traitor”. But basically I’ll tell you now that I am one, and so is MOVES!!!.
You’ve got a great roster of talent on the remixes, with ARP101, Egyptrixx, Ital Tek, Kaiser and the aweome Rudi Zygaldo – do you have a favourite on the release, and how did you choose the artists?
That’s a hard one to answer. I like all the remixes in their own way. I always pick the people that are involved in my releases, be it remixers, collaborators, etc…. because I want the release to really be something that represents where my head is at musically. I need to be a fan of their work before I get them involved in the project. So you’ll see some names popping up over and over again, and I’m all about that. Egyptrixx did a remix for a Seclusiasis release in the past, Ital Tek for me, Kaiser’s on Slit Jockey – it’s all family really. We all support each other’s music and are cool with each other. I do have to say that when I heard Rudi Zygadlo’s remix for the first time I probably shit myself! It’s gorgeous music, and he’s a really talented orchestrator.
How do you think your classical training helps with your composition and production?
Haha… I just used the word orchestrator and now we’re talking about classical music. To answer the question, I mean, it always influences me even when I don’t really think about it. From playing piano for so many years my hands gravitate to certain chords and positions that feel right. Plus it definitely influences my idea of form and how a song should progress.
Who would you say is your biggest influence on the mix and why?
Wow. I didn’t really think of a particular influence for this mix. I think I just kind of approached it as my own kind of soundtrack for this science fiction film that I have in my mind. I guess in that case I’ll say Vangelis. Although I only played one of his tunes and only for a short period of time. I’m a huge fan of sweeping synths and lush chords, and Vangelis always does that right. From Blade Runner to the China album… his textures are pretty amazing.
Mentioning Vangelis, it’s interesting you include him on the mix, considering his connection with space/the future via Blade Runner – a favourite for alot of people of our generation – did you arrive at his music through the film, or were you aware of it already?
Yeah definitely. This is a really interesting story. So I was a kid and my Dad had this tape in his car that he would listen to which when he bought it, was supposed to be a Genesis tape. Although when he played it for the first time, what was actually on the manufactured tape was not Genesis. He liked it, so he kept it. But he never knew what it really was. It was a manufacturing error basically. We listened to that tape all the time… so much that it started to get all warped from being in the hot car in the Summer. So a number of years later, I grabbed the tape, digitized it and sent some clips to a couple people who I thought might be able to help me figure out what the tape was. I figured it had to be from the same parent company. I immediately got a reply back from a guy telling me that it was Vangelis’ album China. So I bought my Dad a copy of the CD for his birthday that year. When he opened it he was like “oh cool, Vangelis” as he did the Blade Runner soundtrack and Chariots of Fire. And I was like “no, put it on”. And it was pretty funny when the opening chords hit and he knew what it was. So that had to have been my first real experience with Vangelis’ music… but it was kind of a mystery haha!
Has Blade Runner been an influence on you directly, and can you name any other films that have helped you form the artist that is ‘Starkey’?
Yeah Blade Runner is really good, but it’s not my favourite. I’d say that THX1138 and Logan’s Run are probably up there as being more influential on me. Tron I love as well. 2001: A Space Odyssey, District 9, 12 Monkeys, Sunshine… I grew up on Star Wars and all the Planet of the Apes movies as well. I love science fiction movies and stories. I like thinking about the future, and it doesn’t always have to be some post-apocalpytic story either – but those ones are usually some of the most exciting.
How are things going for your label Seclusiasis? What do you have in the pipeline?
Things are going great. I run Seclusiasis with Dev79 and Slit Jockey Records with Dev79 and El Carnicero. We’ve been releasing some exciting music, a lot of which is coming from newer artists, something I always enjoy about running a label.
For Seclusiasis we’ve got some more stuff coming from Kastle, B.Rich’s new project, an EP and single from Halp, a newcomer from Rotterdam who is party of the Low Riders family, plus a DNAEBEATS album and Street Bass Anthems Vol 5 is being worked on as well. Siyoung’s gonna have another EP dropping too. Then on the Slit Jockey side of things we just released Kaiser’s 1st EP The Art of War, and that’s going to be followed by a single release with remixes. We’ve also got stuff dropping from Stagga and an album from Sduk which is being finished up. We’ve got a great group of producers and artists involved in our projects.
What does 2011 hold for the intergalactic space traveller that is Starkey?
Oh man… who knows. I know that there’s going to be a second volume of Space Traitor dropping on Civil early next year as well as a 12″ for No Hats No Hoods. But after that there’s really no concrete plans. I want to do a single or EP for Seclusiasis, plus there may be a new MOVES!!! release in the works as well. It’s day to day really.
Space Traitor EP 1 is out December 4th on Civil Music.
Words: Louis Cook
Photography: Dan Wilton