Stark D released an album – “Super Asymmetry” – to raise awareness for mental health issues. We wanted to know more about that project and had an in-depth interview with Stark D.
Read on to learn about his beginning as a music producer, the difference between the scenes in Brazil and the UK and much more.
How did you get hooked on producing music? Tell us about the beginning of your career?
Well, I would say that music has been part of me since forever. I have grown up inside a gym, my mother is a personal trainer and used to have a gym in the countryside in the state of São Paulo, so I was always listening to house music in my daily bases. My father has been always crazy about progressive rock and has a massive collection of records. So in the beginning, I wanted to be a great guitarist and have a band.
When I was 8 years old my older brother took me to a matinee party on a Sunday afternoon and there was my first contact with DJs. One guy, two decks and everybody dancing. When I saw the guy changing records and changing the music in the same beat and different melodies, that was the moment when electronic music hook me up.
After that I nearly broke my father stereo, an old gradient hi-fi sound system (I wish I still had that) and my father introduced me to the music from Kraftwerk. Impressively he had all the records they ever released till that time 1993.
So the time past and I move to a city called Franca. There I had my first school band. I wrote lots of songs, tried to make it work, but in the end, bands are complicated. Too many fights and arguments so I got tired and let the band thing go. One day my father comes home with 2 pieces of software: Dance Ejay and Fruity loops 1.0. I always wanted to record my music, so that was the start for my real musical journey.
In 2000, a friend of mine invited me to go to a party called Electric Skol Beats. There, for the first time, I would hear Drum’n’Bass, and it was love at first sight. That night resonates in my soul till now. After that, I got super excited and started to go after resources to learn how to be a Drum’n’Bass DJ.
I read the Fruity Loops manual several times but I didn’t understand why my productions didn’t sound loud and clean – I had the musical background, knew how to play guitar and piano, but it wasn’t there yet. So my mother decided that we should move to the UK. Imagine how excited I was when she comes with that news: D’n’B DJ, move to UK, access to records and the scene! We moved to the UK and I was amazed about the D’N’B scene. After 5 months I became a resident DJ at Bar Bloc in Peterborough where I had the opportunity to share the booth with many great artists and MC’s. I learned so much in that place. One day I was talking to the barman at the club and he was telling me that he plays synthesizers and writes songs. He was just waiting for the right person listening to his songs. Guess what, he was the synthesizer and bass player of Example! Amazing isn’t it?
After that, my manager told me about the real deal of the scene; how difficult it would be for me, a Brazilian DJ in the UK, to get the headline slots. I didn’t believe him much but I started to search for other genres. I heard a song by Lady Waks “Minimal (Breaks)” and that song got me GOOD. So I migrated from DNB to minimal breaks and started to experiment and it worked. I signed my first single in a VA!
So since that my melodic side took the best of me and I move to Deep House, Nu-Disco, A bit of Progressive House. The older you get and the more you learn about music, the more you want to express something with meaningful music rather than just drop some notes on top of a beat and some stupid lyrics. So I found myself in between Deep House and Melodic Techno.
As a kid, you have been surrounded by your dad’s records. Did this music play any role in developing your style? Do you think it is important to have music theory skills as a music producer these days?
Yeah for sure. Without that music I wouldn’t be anybody. Listening to progressive rock I learned the impact that tonic and diatonic melodies have on people, the scale progression that touches you in the heart, that is unique.
It is possible to make music without music theory skills. If you are into copycats, most definitely. The industry found a brilliant way to make people lose their identity as musicians, “Let’s sell roylaites free samples and vocals”.
At the end of the day you think you are making something unique and meaningful, but you are not! Somebody else is using the same methods you are using, with the same timbres, melodies and you will never be able to claim it as yours. I’m not gonna be hypocritical, I used samples too, but then one day I noticed my music playing in the background of a GO PRO advertise. I contacted GO PRO and boom, that was a royalty-free sample! So since that, I never use any kind to already crafted sample or vocal. In my point of view, if u want to be original, create something original!
You started as a DJ in São Paolo and then moved to England. What’s the difference between the scenes in Brazil and England? How important for your career was it to re-locate to England?
Well, somehow the idea of a moving to another country is one big fairytale. Of course, it is different. in Brazil I used to turn on the radio and hear country music in any station. In the UK you turn on the radio and you hear exactly what you are looking for, from R&B to RAP, Techno to House, DNB to Dub Step. It had a massive impact on my mind. I was bombarded with music everywhere I go, from home to work, from work to clubs, electronic music, everywhere.
Unfortunately in Brazil people have closed minds about lots of things. The music scene there is really closed, people actually work in the mode “ME MYSELF AND I”. It is sad but true, also Brazil is a big dream for DJs worldwide, especially when we talk about techno, deep house and tech-house, We have the iconic clubs like Warung, D-Edge, Laroc, The Garden, P-12 and many others, but to play in this places you have to be from another country or know somebody!
In Uk is the opposite of Brazil. Music is part of the culture, so I had the opportunity to show my work in many clubs. People like to hear something different and unknown. So yeah, UK had a massive impact on my career.
You released an album to raise awareness for mental health issues. Please tell us more about “Super Asymmetry”.
Like many people in the world, artists face massive mental issues in their daily life. We deal with frustrations in every single moment of our creative life. Trying to impress other people and self-criticism, people pushing you to do what you don’t like to do, not having support from family and friends, toxic relationships, etc.
I am one of those people and after a toxic relationship that made me stop my career, I nearly saw the end of all and tried to take my own life. I’m not proud to say that but assuming the situation makes me realize how much I would have lost if I have done that.
So after going thru a really deep depression, I got back to my studio to work my rage out in something that I love. Slowly I started to have some tunes that impressed myself and I felt like I had to do more. It worked as a therapy for me.
In this period of my rehabilitation, the world lost great musicians because of those same problems. When I saw Chris Cornell (Audioslave), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) and Tim Bergling (Avicii) go away, I felt that I had to put the word out there. Somehow I had to scream and say that I and so my people out there have those same problems and we don’t talk about that because people still think that money solves all the problems in life. So the album is this: An expression that we are all SUPER ASYMMETRIC, we are almost perfect.
“Super Asymmetry” is your first album since 2014. When you look back at your first releases – what has changed the most in the way you produce and release music?
Yeah, lots of things have changed since my first album “Give me what I want”. At that time I was very involved with the Neon Nights vibes, crazy about synth waves and nu-disco. I still love that style, also love the groove and the feeling those songs give to me.
But that was the end of a cycle in my life and that cycle brought me where I am now. I’m still a diatonic music producer – I love beautiful melodies. When I finished my first album I started to study audio syntheses and engineering, so I guess my productions became cleaner. My music has more depth and sounds more open.
You also started your own label, “Vintage Music”. What’s the idea, the vision behind the label.
Since I have moved to the UK I have seen the scene becoming more and more difficult. This ideas of “I make music to make people smile” or “My music is an extension of my feelings” are fairytales. Nowadays we have to be a promoter, DJ, graphic designer, tour managers, etc … I had a really bad experience with a small Brazilian record label that imposed that I had to pay to release with them. At that time I didn’t know anything about releasing music, so I paid, the music was released and 2 months later the music was removed from the shops. So I e-mailed the label owner to ask what happen and he said the music wasn’t so good, that he sold the label to another guy and I lost the money and got frustrated.
After that episode, I decided to study a bit about the music industry, copyrights, record labels and decided to build a brand for myself, and my main focus was to deliver good music, not big names. At the end of the day, the world is full of kids with great ideas. They need to be polished.
With this idea me and my friend Michel Moraes opened Vintage Music Label. I heard people saying that the name wasn’t good, I heard people saying that I wouldn’t keep up with the label, and here I am, afternearly 7 years and the label looks amazing. I have been taking care of the label by myself for the past 4 years, Michel gave up of music and life lead him to other paths but I’m still moving the label and I love it.
As an artist and label owner, how do you feel about the evolution of music streaming services?
Guys, it is good but it’s also bad. Back in the days we had to compete with big labels and it was difficult to get on the charts, radio shows, etc. Now the music is there available for everyone, you just need to be lucky that someone likes it and adds it to their playlist.
But to be on the top u need to invest. For the first time in years of music production, I invest in myself and pay for PR, advertisement, Facebook and Instagram ads. And I have to say, it does make the difference, but it isn’t cheap and you need to be open to failing. At the end of the day, if I don’t trust or like my work enough to invest in myself, who would?
Name your top 3 software tools to engage in musical content. Why do you think they are awesome?
As I said before I start with FL Studio back in the day and I can’t complain about that software, it was amazing, all the native synths and plugins are awesome, I will always recommend FL for anybody aspiring to become a music producer. So my first recommendation is FL STUDIO.
For the past 9 years I produced with Logic Pro and I love it too, and all the plugins especially the RETRO SYNTH is UNIQUE. Unfortunately, it is only native for Logic Pro. But there is another universal plugin and every bedroom or box producer should use, it is called SONARWORKS. The plugin basically will place the sound in your room right at where it should be, calibrating the speakers so u will have a cleaner mix down. So my second recommendation is SONARWORKS.
My third and final recommendation isn’t a software or a plugin. I recommend anybody to stop to fill your computer with lots of plugins. Learn everything you can about one plugin and you will make wonders. There’s no better DAW, no better VST, no better synthesizer, the only thing better is your knowledge. The more you know, the more you will improve and reach your goals.
How important are data insights for your (strategic) decisions?
It is very important. With data insights I can plan where to promote my music, how to reach more people. ForTunes is a game-changer for me. I can see where my music has been included, how many followers I have in all my social platforms in one place, also see how many plays my music and videos have and find the main influences in my cycle of contacts. This is very important.1 one already already liked this, but everybody needs a friend, so give us a <3