Interview by Shannon Lawlor
Darren Williams, aka Star Slinger is an electronic music producer and DJ based in Manchester, United Kingdom. To date he has released two full length albums as well as numerous EPs and singles, including 2016’s breakthrough We Could Be More EP released via Skrillex’s OWSLA label.
Star Slinger has remixed for, or collaborated with notable artists in the past including James Vincent McMorrow, Lil B, Teki Latex, Ellie Goulding, Hundred Waters and Childish Gambino – to name a few. Releasing music on other prolific labels such as Mexican Summer, Wichita & Double Denim Records, Williams has also been fortunate enough to release music under his own newly founded imprint, Jet Jam.
Star Slinger fuses an array of textures and sounds together to create something entirely of his own; from dreamlike ambient electronica, to instrumental beat driven hip-hop – it may be puzzling to even attempt to describe Star Slinger’s music in one single term or phrase, as this would be to understate such creativity.
We caught up with Star Slinger to speak about collaborations and what makes a scene:
Star Slinger has been releasing music since 2010, could you give us some background on how the project was formed?
I’d just graduated University and was working at an art house cinema. It was an inspiring time soaking up all the films I watched as part of my job and the small amount of money I made went into buying records to sample. If it wasn’t for Manchester’s Northern Quarter having so many record shops I don’t know if I’d have made this kind of music. My main inspirations for starting sampling were Kanye West, Three 6 Mafia, J Dilla, Armand Van Helden, Daft Punk & Fatboy Slim. I wanted to make music that could help the listener feel like everyday was a weekend. At the time I wasn’t really into the whole weekend culture. Why couldn’t everyday feel like the weekend? So I made music to enforce that feeling I had.
There are definitely some notable elements swimming throughout your sound; from trip-hop to electronica, from house to hip-hop – with even the addition of more subtle, ambient textures. Where do you find inspiration? And how much of it makes it’s way into your music?
I’m a fan of most genres of music. They do say in Psychology that you’re the Average of the 5 people you spend the most time with… and I think my sound is usually a result of my musical environment. Not people, but I’m the average of the 5 genres I spend the most time with. Currently thats electronic, hip hop, rnb, soul & classic indie.
You’ve studied music technology at Leeds Metropolitan University – could you explain what this has taught you and how it’s improved your abilities in music production?
At University I did learn a lot more about Synthesizers and also programming drums to sound more human. The most valuable thing from University though was mixing with people from all over and learning to live away from home for the first time. I landed a radio show on LSR FM which was Leeds University’s radio station (despite me being a student of Leeds Met)- this was a definite highlight for me. I had a show that aired after a UK Garage show. This was around 2005. My family would tune in online from Nottingham and they would text in haha.
Three favourite albums of 2017 so far?
There’s been quite a few. I really rate:
J Hus – Common Sense
SZA – Ctrl
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN
All 3 have so many great infectious songs.
Your most recent output, We Could Be More EP, was released in 2016 via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. Could you speak on the recording process and how it may have differed from past releases?
It’s the first EP I’ve done with a whole handful of different artists. I wrote the title track with Tinashe at Capitol Records in LA and Dawn Richard sang it which was an amazing experience. James Vincent McMorrow – we’d wanted to work for a while since I remixed his single ‘If I Had A Boat’, and so it was an absolute honour to make ‘Slow Love’ with him! Tunji Ige was setup by OWSLA, but I think he suits the song so well! Sam Sparro – we wrote and recorded ‘Losing Sleep’ at his house in LA in about 30 minutes! Sara Z – although we’ve hung out lots of times in LA – we hadn’t met each other prior to recording ‘Look In To Be Seen’. All in all I feel like the album marks a period of love in my life. My daughter was born in 2013, and was 3 by the time the EP was done and out! It definitely differs to my other work because it’s heavily song orientated as opposed to beat driven! Also for the artwork I saw that piece at a big gallery exhibition in Ljubljana and was blown away. I managed to get the artist Metka Krasovec’s number and paid her rights to use the art for the EP. This makes the EP special to me too.
How were you introduced to the OWSLA label?
Skrillex wanted to meet me once, and it just so happened I was in Madrid playing at a festival when he had a show! I went over to the venue to meet him with my girlfriend. He was super nice and the show was amazing. Shortly after he asked me to remix Hundred Waters ‘Thistle’ for OWSLA & a couple years later they signed my EP.
You are also apart of Jet Jam – an international night club curator and independent label along with visual artists, could you explain how this endeavor came together?
Jet Jam started with parties I would curate with friends. We played Seattle, LA, NYC, Ljubljana, London and Nottingham but then shortly after began to focus on the label side more. I love finding new acts and launching them. Helping to mix and master their records but also help mentor them. A definite highlight has been helping FFX from Berlin who have now played the Berghain twice and went viral Top 50 in Germany on Spotify recently. They are making great music together. I recommend anyone to check out their EP Vodka Something Gin With Whatever.
How would you describe Nottingham’s music scene? And if it needed any changing, what would you choose?
I really think Nottingham has a healthy scene! The history is quite strong and having played Stealth / The Rescue Rooms quite a few times I can honestly say it’s still the best venue in Nottingham hands down. The programming there is great. Their fingers always seem to be on the pulse with underground dance music. I also wish I was around for the old Renaissance parties at The Bomb. I used to read Mixmag as a youth and wished I was old enough to go to those parties in the nineties!
Could you list some of your favourite pieces of equipment or gear? Anything you may feel is detrimental to Star Slinger’s sound?
Max MSP 5 running mlrv (monome software) for sampling. That’s been used on most of my music and not many people use it at all! Also Logic Pro X for general production and arrangement. AKAI MPC2000XL too was used pretty heavily on Volume 2.
If you could work with, or perform alongside any artist of your choice, who would it be?
It is hard to say. I’d actually love to do electronic music with Morrissey. I think he has been somewhat stuck in a guitar based sound for years and it would be amazing to hear him mix genres a bit more. I know the likelihood of that is close to never but one can dream. Also – I just want to work with people who can masterfully reach their fans thru niche subject matter. I really admire that about Morrissey. How he reaches the loners of the world.
What’s next for Star Slinger?
Lots of music with new ideas. Music videos too. I’ve been doing a lot of vocal stuff lately. Writing my own songs. Check out the singles I just independently dropped Cats Come To Me & Lazy Afternoon for a teaser!
For more information follow Star Slinger on Facebook
(Image credit: Sara Rman)