Jeremy Howard a.k.a. Sinistarr has donned the title of an exemplary producer for some time now. He's certainly earned the reputation with releases on defining drum & bass labels like Creative Source, Hospital Records & Metalheadz. If anyone's counting, he's also a dope DJ. His sound palette incorporates a breadth of influences and history from his Detroit hometown — everything from techno to electro to hip hop — so we couldn't pass on the opportunity to get some insight into his musical evolution and creativity. Hot on the heels of UK-based Hit and Hope's Cetra EP with more experimentation in the pipeline, Sinistarr is clearly not bound by typical genre pigeonholing. Refreshingly, it's just about the music. Speaking of, the label is running a generous giveaway for not one but three records. More details on that and a free download after the Q&A:
EARMILK: Hey Jeremy, thanks for talking with us. As an intro to yourself, how did you get into drum and bass?
Sinistarr: I first got into drum & bass in High School. Around that time, Goldie had just put a movie out with David Bowie called "Everybody Loves Sunshine" that had some 'dnb' tunes on it, and at the time, I heard it before, but had no clue as to what the genre was called. The first CD I bought was one that I heard in my 1st period art class called "Jungle: Sound Of The Underground", that featured American as well as UK artists. Being the researcher that I am, I dug deeper and found things like Breakbeat Science, and the well known "Higher Education" series of tracks that F-111 Records released. With the help of some friends and local Detroit DJs, I started listening to mixtapes from 1995 all the way up to recent ones during my senior year of high school — 2004 was my senior year. I'm a young'un.
EM: What led you to start releasing other genres? Has this been a long time coming or a more recent experimentation?
S: It's been a while coming. One big thing is that I am as comfortable as I've ever been writing music, and switching from a traditional DAW to a tracker software (Renoise) has expanded my thought process when creating. My musical tastes have always been into house and techno, but nowadays I'm finding myself moving slowly away from the current drum & bass and working more as an all-around producer, not just getting caught up in one genre of music. My iPod, as well as my clientele, are now more diverse then they have ever been, why can't my music reflect the same?
EM: Are more drum and bass artists starting to experiment like this? Same thing happened with Sean Roman a.k.a. Mutt (as well as Trevino a.k.a. Marcus Intalex).
S: I'm not sure, I know one person I work with that does this is Atlantic Connection. With the mass media projects that he takes on, he can't just write dnb and work from there, he needs to be multi-versed , and I'm starting to see myself in that light also. A major goal of mine is to write for TV/Film, or do some type of sound design for a video game or the like.
EM: There's a lot of variety and musical/historical cues on the Cetra EP; coming from Detroit, who from that scene has influenced you?
S: I definitely come from a diverse background of music being where I'm from, so established people or labels like Underground Resistance, J Dilla, Transmat, even current names like John Arnold, Jimmy Edgar, Luke Hess, Danny Brown and Beretta Music, are people I follow and study amongst others. I never went out much when I lived in the area (most of that was because I was too young to be out when things were REALLY taking off a while back), but I always kept a close eye on what artists were doing.
EM: Speaking of experimentation you just released a free sample pack with an issue of Computer Music. If you care to get into your workflow a little, what are some of your favorite sampling sources/strategies? Favorite gear?
S: In terms of sampling, I sample whatever works for me really. If I'm watching TV or just hear something walking down the street, and it pops into my head, I keep it in mind and if my computer is nearby, I'll get to work. On the gear end, I bought two Korg Monotron synths that I'm in love with (they can be heard on "Ross") — I can take them anywhere and make new sounds!! Overall, I feel that my sound has gotten warmer and clearer due to the Tascam mixer I purchased in February from my good friend ASC.
EM: So you've recently relocated to Denver. I've heard there's a good scene there, what's your assessment? Any standout names?
S: In the musical sense, I love it here! It's so diverse, and since I moved in November, there's been a headliner every single week and weekend since. Recon, Sub.Mission, and the new club NORAD are the people bringing heavyweight names in terms of drum & bass, dubstep and techno. I'm sure someone's going to get annoyed with my excited behavior, but I can't help it — this is the first time I've been able to experience this volume of talent coming through in such a constant manner. If they bring lame names, I'll stop supporting. They won't!
EM: How is the distribution and delivery of music changing with technology? You've mentioned before that things seemed vastly different to you only years ago.
S: Everyone uses an MP3 player at one point or another today, being a tape deck in an old car with an adapter, or one you can attach to a wristband and use as a watch. With the boom of the music industry, independent artistry and the rise of "bedroom producers" (I'm a living room one, thank you very much) all integrated in with how vast the Internet has become in the past 10 years, and you have an influx of people that can write music in hours, post it up online, and have it reach 2000 views by sundown. When I was sending music out to labels, the only thing I had was AIM, and when I had enough self-made and exclusive tunes from producers, I integrated CDs alongside my vinyl, and then switching to Serato when I started to get triple the amount that would fit in my case of CDs. Live performances were a lot different too, it wasn't just Ableton and such (no offense to those that use Ableton, there's some artists out there that are just phenomenal on it), people were using full on live gear. It's crazy how things have become so advanced in the span of five to eight years!
EM: On a similar note, I noticed you recently started putting things up on your Bandcamp and giving some tracks out for free, how's that going?
S: It's been going pretty well, the little that I have up on Bandcamp so far has been making its rounds, and the free tracks have been getting good feedback. I feel that I would rather keep pushing my new sound out a bit in this manner, rather than constantly shopping it around, waiting for a reply.
EM: Thanks (again) for taking the time to answer our questions. Last but not least, some of your favorite tracks or releases at the moment?
S: No problem! Here's my favorites right now:
Om Unit – Ulysees (Civil Music)
Chrissy Murderbot – Fuzzy (Electronic Explorations)
ASC – Blurred Pictures (Samurai Music)
Lab Rat XL – Lab Rat 3
Dave Monolith – Farewell Frenchman (Rephlex)
Gridlok – Lounge Act
Franjazzco – Give it Up (Disko101)
Arpanet – Wireless Internet
Pawn – Your Words (Roland Heights)
The Sailor & I – Tough Love (Aril Brikha Remix) – Art Of Vengeance
As an added bonus to all that knowledge and a thank you for the support, Hit and Hope is running a competition with "Runna" off the Cetra EP being offered as a free download. You have a chance to win these records, including a test pressing:
HNH007 – Sinistarr – Cetra 12" (test pressing)
HNH005 – Pixelord – Keramika 12"
HNH004 – Klic – Dachshund Skank Remixes 12"
All you have to do is swing on by their Bandcamp and download to be entered. Good luck, and make sure to keep your ears peeled for more from Sinistarr and this label.