Eclipse 2016 - An Interview with David Starfire

Sitting at the beach on a hot summer day in Sainte-Thérèse-de-la-Gatineau, Thinkbox sat with composer and mutli-instrumentalist David Starfire during Eclipse Festival to chat about travelling, collaborating on music with cultures from around the world, and the spirituality of today's youth.

Thinkbox: This is coming to you from the beach at Eclipse Festival. I am sitting here with David Starfire.

David Starfire: Hey, How's it going?

T: So first of all, how are you?

D. S.: I'm doing awesome.

T: Good, good. Are you enjoying the festival so far?

D. S.: Yeah, it's really beautiful here and everyone's really nice. The food is good, the music is really loud, and it's pretty perfect.

T: I agree. So tell us a little about yourself and your projects, because I know you have...a bunch.

D. S.: Well, there's David Starfire, which is me; and I have a few albums out. Some on Six Degrees and some on my own label, Amrita Recordings, and sometimes I perform with a live band as well, and different performers. At Eclipse Festival it's kind of a low key show since it's out of the country. I also perform with a band called Dub Kirtan All Stars, which is Kirtan Chants from temples in India mixed with dub and bass music. That band performs at lots of festivals in the States and it's a side project that I have and we've got a new EP coming out in a couple of months. So those are the two main projects that I'm a part of.

T: I'm really excited to here that. And a little bit about the label. I know it's been kind of awhile that you've had it, so what have been the most exciting things so far about having your own label.

D. S.: I think having the control of the marketing, the promotion, and also knowing things are going to be done right. There's a lot of labels that say that they're going to do a lot of things but they don't. And this way I know that things are going to be done the way I want them to be done. So that to me is really important. Also, you know, now with digital distribution anyone can have their own label. People ask me "Wow, you have your own label!" and I'm like "Well you can have your own label, too! It's...quite easy." So, it's great because it gives the power back to the artists instead of the label because before you had to have a label to have your music distributed. So, now I think it's really great – you know – that you can distribute your own music. Which is the wonderful thing about music and the digital world. The unfortunate part is that now with piracy, most people think that music is free. So even though you can distribute your own music to sell, most people would rather just stream it on Spotify or just download it, which is kind of unfortunate. But, you know, there are different streams of revenue that you can have that have opened up which is a positive thing.

T: That's true. I agree with the downloading thing. I don't think it's fair that people should do that because music does, you know, cost money and there's so much work that goes in to it. And in terms of you, what new artists have you been hearing about recently that you're the most excited about.

D. S.: I would have to say that CloZee is probably my new favourite artist, and has been for probably the past six months, maybe year. I think she's doing some really, really cool work and great production, and is bringing something different than what's out there. She did a remix for me, I remixed one of her songs, she's really cool. I think that she's just gonna get more and more popular. She's on her way for sure.

T: This is kind of a complicated question so bear with me. So in your music, a lot of the time you have a really respectful way of working with other cultures and collaborating with different sounds from different places and really tying it in to your music in a fashion that makes sense towards the culture and those people who make that music. But at music festivals there's always a discussion of cultural appropriation and borrowing "the wrong way" versus borrowing "the right way". So, do you think that applies at all in music, or do you it's kind of more a free-for-all because it's a creative pursuit?

D. S.: It's kind of a double edged sword because every culture borrows from every other culture. Whether it's learning, culinary arts, music, fashion – it's all being borrowed from one to the next, and it always has been. That being said, I think that if it's done in a respectful way, I believe that it's okay. But are there some disrespectful things that have been going on with the Native Americans and First Nations people – namely people wearing head-dresses that are ceremonial head-dresses that are ceremonial for the Native Americans. And unfortunately they don't understand how wrong that is. And I think that is completely wrong myself, what I do is I learn about the history of music of different cultures, and I collaborate with them. So I feel like I'm not really taking away from them. I collaborate and then I try and give back. On my last album, Karuna, I went to the border zones of Burma and collaborated with different refugee Burmese musicians. And created an album and the album came out a few months ago and then all the profits from the album are going back to education for the refugee children. So it's a collaboration and also giving money back to support the community and I think that you know, when you're talking arts, it's kind of important to keep that in mind. To try and always give back, especially when you're talking about a culture and community that has been completely devastated by a military dictatorship.

T: Absolutely, I totally agree with you. Speaking of collaborations, how do you choose the artists you collaborate with?

D. S.: As far as musicians in the west that I work with in California and in the United States, usually it's friends of mine, you know, friends that I get along with, that I like to work with, that's really important to me. It's not fun to work with someone that's kind of a jerk so... but that does happen. And then as far as working with people in different cultures, usually I will have an introduction to someone who's a friends of mine or someone who's connected with the studio. From there what I'll do is kind of introduce myself and my music, and see if there's a way that we can collaborate, and if it works out, great! And if it doesn't work, well then, you know, it doesn't work out. But usually it works out. There's only been a few times where a some musicians were like, "No, I'd rather just keep my music to myself. I don't really want you to disturb, you know, the traditional qualities of the music." Because a lot of the times what I do is I chop up the music and I will make samples of it, loops, glitch it out, things like that. And sometimes they're not too excited about me doing that, but most people are pretty cool and I also pay musicians to, so it's not like I'm just taking from them. I say, "I will pay you a certain amount for collaborating with me" and usually they're completely fine with that.

T: And on the same kind of topic of collaboration with artists, would you ever consider turning inwards and collaborating with the Aboriginal communities here or in the United States? 

D. S.: Definitely. Actually I'm part Native American and I have thought about that. One day I would like to collaborate with maybe a band like A Tribe Called Red, or other artists that are Native Americans. So, somewhere down the line that will happen. But you know, now I'm kind of - it's exciting for me to travel to other countries and other communities and learn about cultures and instruments that I am not familiar with.

T: Absolutely. It's about learning and kind of creating that new bridge.

D. S.: Yeah.

T: And throughout history there's been always, in a bunch of different cultures, the ritual of gathering together and dancing and stuff like that, but it's usually been for different purposes; but now that context has totally changed and we all come together and dance at festivals like this and other similar gatherings, but do you think some sacred aspects of that have been passed down and are still preserved in the Electronic Dance community?

D. S.: Yeah. I mean, music and drums and tribes and ceremony will always be there and it always has been there. The first instrument was the drum. Dancing during ceremonies, rain dances. Throughout cultures, they've all been tied in together. And I think that rave culture and festivals are kind of taking that on. To them, a lot of young people, it's their spirituality. A lot of people are losing faith with big organized religions and now they're looking towards festivals as kind of, I wouldn't say religion, but a way of some sort of spirituality. So I think that that's important to have a community and be connected somehow. So I think it's something that's necessary and very needed.

T: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to speak with me. Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?

D. S.: I want to thank everyone for their support. And if you want to check me out go to David Starfire dot com, or just Google 'David Starfire' and you'll find my Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Facebook. Thank you so much.


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