Few artists are Synonymous with random spontaneity and an erratic good time as much as the East London based Dj and producer Riva Starr. Having various accomplishments both as a producer and a DJ, Riva Starr is fondly and definitively know as a musical mastermind often renowned for his ways of creative cross-pollination that equates to mind boggling, soul moving results. Having made music in unison with an extensive portfolio of artists from varying musical backgrounds, the lists keeps going as the infectious mood that keeps the dance floors hot continues to evolve and expand on both his own record label and renowned imprints the world over. Ahead of his return to Australia for a run of dates this weekend, here’s what the house legend had to share.
Having worked with many artists outside your immediate frame of the musical spectrum what drives your enthusiasm for musical diversity?
I think that doing collaborations really take you to a different level because it’s not just you thinking about how to make a track but it’s the two of you, or whatever the number is and I always try and choose people I collaborate with, from thinking about what else they can put on top of my ideas, how and in which direction they can improve it and which plus value they can bring to the table. So it has to be an experience that enriches me, I just don’t want to do a collaboration for the sake of it.
How did Stefan Miele turn into Riva Starr? is it a stage name or is there more to it?
Well I’m a very collective producer I have a lot of side projects and, so I couldn’t do everything under the one image that just doesn’t work they’re too different and sometimes I really need to do different experiments. With styles to understand what works and bring it to the main project that is a Riva Starr. Stefan Miele is my real name and I a focus on ah “traditional music mixed up with electronic sounds.” Mainly hip hop and dub, so I couldn’t use it for Riva Starr it just needed a new name that you the fan could just embrace. My house sounds and Riva Starr comes from Gianni Rivera and Gang Starr, Gianni Rivera is a football player from the 60’s in Italy and Gang Starr you may know from famous old school hip-hop groups, and I was a big fan of it. So yeah it’s a stage name, a side project and there’s a nice story behind it.
Few artists are able to sustain a balance between commercial acclaim and their underground reputation that often pushes them through. what is it like for you to mingle with the mainstream and yet be so strongly grounded in the dance music scene?
Well all the tracks that have been crossing over the market and becoming mainstream, I never did it on purpose. I sometimes just do tracks and put in a certain dose of cheekiness and sometimes some slogan hooks, that you know still remain in the underground. They sound underground and the thing is that when they cross over to the mainstream realm people like it in a way. And they start becoming mainstream but they were born as underground anthems, just that underground DJ’s and underground heads were playing them first. So I suppose it’s all about the market because there are so many underground tracks that could become commercial but they never cross over for some reason. I mean I think about Mr Oizo flat beat that was a super underground track. No voices no melodies there was just this bass line loop, but it crossed over because of the video, or maybe for different reasons. But I wouldn’t say that’s commercial. But it became mainstream so I think there’s some different meaning to mainstream, I never meant to do any tracks purely because I wanted them to become mainstream. Sometimes it happens and I don’t complain it’s still written in my sound, people that follow me know which sound I stand for so that’s not a problem.
What are your experiences like performing here in Australia? anything memorable that you would like your fans to hear about with you coming back around?
Well, I’ve been to Australia several times I have a lot of friends and I’ve been going back and fourth to New Zealand and yeah there’s been so many good memories I spent some weeks with friends in Sydney and Perth. I once travelled from Sydney to Melbourne by car, it was a nice experience. It’s just so much fun the weather is amazing the vibe is crazy it’s so good and I really looking forward to coming back.
Being widely known for your habit of musically cross-pollinating could your fans expect to see a radical new team up in the near future with Riva at the helm or otherwise?
Uh well, I am always on the search of different sounds that can inspire me, I think the sound that’s around now has become a bit too generic too. The whole tech house was very interesting back in the days but now it’s becoming a bit too similar, all the tracks sound the same well all the ideas for arrangements. Oh yeah I’m already moving elsewhere with my label and myself and my different side projects, I have another project called Soul Speech it’s definitely more house with some gospel influences and yeah I’m definitely moving back to more housey sounds, so you can expect some more productions in that direction in the future future.
The spontaneous energy that washes over crowds has long since become something that you are known for. How did you discover your upbeat style of getting the dance floor moving?
In terms of handling the dancefloor, it all depends on your style. My style has always been very funky, energetic or like some weird ideas that just surprise people. It’s all about the selection you do in the club and how you can read the crowd so I suppose that’s one of the things. I like to play (as I’m getting older) a bit more street dub sets and deeper sometimes but I’m a very collective Dj. I was born as a resident DJ in a very underground club in Naples called Velvet Zone and I used to play for 10 hours from the opening to close. So I was able to play different kinds of stuff and that’s the way I like to play usually. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to play for more than a couple of hours and that’s a limit cause you could really take people from left to right and you know you are taking them on a journey.
Do you have a musical background? playing instruments or maybe you were been taught music as a child?
I started playing the guitar for a few years but then I quit and never become a musician, I’ve always liked to hook up with musicians and throw some jams in the studio. I’ve always done that and I come from a very varied background as you can tell. I started with some psychedelic rock like artist from way back think, Genesis and back in the day and I went through rock stage with bands like The Yardbirds to The Doors and then early electro, Kraftwerk, along with early hip-hop and hard rock even the likes of Iron maiden or Rage Against The Machine. So yeah I’ve always listened to various different styles of music even classical music. So everything that gives me goosebumps or vibes I just listen to.
What is your ideal day at the studio like? Describe how your music find its erratic soul? Is it self-reflective of yourself as an artist?
There is never a rule about producing in the studio. Sometimes you have an idea and sometimes you start from a sample, sometimes you mess around with the keyboard or a bit a bass line or maybe you just spend the weekend in the clubs and come back with some ideas and there’s no rules and thank God cause I can keep my work fresh and diverse all the time.
Speaking of artistry is there any medium in particular that you turn to leisurely ? do you enjoy painting or reading? what satisfies the creative urges when you’re not making music?
At the moment having two kids, travelling and a lot of work in the studio it gets pretty hard to actually have a proper hobby, I like to go to the gym when I have time and just take care of my body which is connected with your inner self for sure. And then all the rest of the time you know when I can I read something and then I hang out with the family with the kids my two kids and my partner and then my friends having dinner maybe, I really like watching movies that’s one of my favorite things to do but at the moment you know life is crazy.
Genre constraints are something you’ve evidently paid little attention to for young and emerging artists and DJs. However, they tend to be affected in various ways, be it being discovered or having to playing music that appeases the scene. what advice would you hand down to new musicians and producers in regards to preserving your creative identity?
I think it’s pretty hard these days not to indulge in all the social media traps. The trends, the hype of what people like or the promoters like to book. I always say it’s better to look forward and not chase the trends because once you get to the point where you’ve actually mastered the actual sound or the moment, the sound has moved somewhere else so you end up always chasing the sound and ah I think it’s actually better to create your own sound and try and hope that it’s going to become the next big thing. Because at that stage you’re going to be ahead of everyone else and you know being original is always the best suggestion that I can give. Build your own sound with your own ideas be diverse be different be fresh.
Friday 26th May: Geisha Bar, Perth
Saturday 27th May: The Grand, Wollongong
Saturday 27th May: Chinese Laundry, Sydney
Sunday 28th May: Revolver Upstairs, Melbourne
Sunday 29th May: The Deck, Frankston