Spotlight On: Sinistarr
With releases on over a dozen labels and 10 years in the industry, drum n bass maestro Sinistarr has positioned himself for the most successful year of his career in 2016. With a handful of releases on deck and a summer tour planned, the Detroit-born/Calgary-based producer is also starting a label and a radio show this year. His diverse taste bleeds into his productions, where flashes of techno, hip-hop and various genres blend into his own brand of bass music. We caught up with him ahead of his performance at the “On the Sly” Showcase at SXSW on March 18.
RP: You recently moved to Calgary from Denver… What made you decide to move there?
Sinistarr: I had met people from the area when I played Movement 2 years ago. I did an interview with Sheena who runs Freq Magazine and she linked me up with the Philthkids and we all got along really well. They invited me to do a few shows in Western Canada and introduced me to all the people who run the bass scene out there and instead of them just being like “We’ll see where you fit in” they were like “We’ve been playing your music for years – come through and let’s hang out.” Last year I played a lot in Canada. Calgary was my main stop during the tour and I fell in love with the place. It reminded me a lot of when I lived in Detroit except a bit younger and smaller… it was nice.
And there’s a really strong scene there?
Yeah it’s really, really good. You get a lot of international acts and it’s really leaned towards bass music. Here it’s been all bass music. People go out to see drum n bass shows. D Double E (Grime MC) just played here and he’s one of the biggest names in the scene right now. I’ve played shows here that have been absolutely insane.
Would you say it has influenced your sound at all?
Oh definitely. My roommate (goes by Homesick) was part of Red Bull Music Academy last year – the one that Wheez-ie went to. So I’m pretty much setting stuff up and sharing a work space with him. There’s always music playing here.
You’ve toured and traveled a lot in the last few years… Were there any scenes that really blew you away or surprised you with their strength?
I would say here (laughs) – that’s what swayed me to move to Calgary the most. They have a space to be really weird with their bookings and the art/music scene here is really strong. Names that I wouldn’t expect to show up are getting booked here and people know the name and come out for the show. For example, they just had Ryan Crosson out here.
Would you say that people really know their shit – there’s a strong knowledge of bass music?
Oh yeah without question they know a lot and it’s very musically-oriented. It gets a bad rap because Alberta is considered the Texas of Canada because it’s where all the oil fields are and people that don’t know just assume it’s a lot of cowboys and country music but the music scene here is exceptional — they know what’s up.
Let’s talk about your recent release — the track “Bone Deep” on the Hospital Records Compilation with Greazus — was there any inspiration or concept behind the track?
That track was made during my many trips out to Vancouver (the Greazus guys live there) and we pretty much started working on music right away. In two-and-a-half weeks we ended up making like 8 or 9 tunes and we still have more content sitting around. It was just us feeling each other out and we’ve been clicking really well.
When you originally started producing you were living in Detroit and you were DJing house/techno… What originally led you to producing DnB and what has kept you creating in that realm?
I fell in love with drum n bass 15 years ago — I remember hearing it on Detroit radio played next to ghetto tech and going back listening to some of those old shows I found on Youtube …I was hearing all sorts of drum n bass cuts in there and I hadn’t realized it. It was ingrained in my memory and I found out the genre of it and went from there. It’s been a long time love. I got serious about it in 2006 — worked on production for a year then started shopping tracks.
Are there are any artists that you’re really fond of right now…DnB or otherwise? Anyone making a big impact on the scene or anything you really like?
A couple of people moved into Detroit that are really big – Wheez-ie is really dope. He’s done some work for Fools Gold and he’s a RBMA alumni as well. Another one is PRISM who’s living in Detroit now and has been touring all over the place. They’re more 140 bpm classic dubstep sound. Techno-wise and in terms of Calgary, there’s Substation Recordings and it’s run by this lady who goes by ESETTE. That’s her label and she’s doing really big things. Corinthian is another person that’s doing really good stuff. Calgary is a big producer city. Every month there’s a “Studio Social” night and 3 weeks before the event they’ll ask for music submissions and then they have this meet-up at the end of the month with drinks and food and they’ll play back music that was submitted and see what people were up to.
Any production goals for this year?
I’m thinking about starting a label. It would be singles-only and tracks that I’ve sat on for a long time, new tunes, or tracks that I work on with friends. Because it’ll be singles only, it’ll be really unique and I can team up with some really weird names and play with unique sounds. I’m gonna start a radio channel and it’s gonna be Leftfield/ambient type of stuff…we just started up the programming for it in Denver… the host channel is based out of there and I’m gonna be setting it up through them.
We saw you finished school last year — as an artist why was it important for you to complete your degree?
Yes I did — I got a degree in Communications. I found it as a way to up my networking a bit – not in the sense of who I knew but more in the sense of how to do it in a professional manner. I did it for more personal reasons, too… I was actually in nursing school to begin with but that only lasted a semester… My whole music thing really took off more than I thought it would. I was able to encapsulate my whole music thing around that so it worked out.