Although Darren Williams has been making beats for a while now, he has stirred up attention in the last year with his latest project Star Slinger. With a handful of EPs, a bunch of remixes and one full length, he began touring this summer and couldn’t be more excited. I managed to get word in with him about his background and future projects before he makes his US debut.
You’ve often cited J. Dilla as one of your main influences. What would you say about your music and how it relates to instrumental hip hop?
It started off instrumental because I wasn’t really working with any singers and I was sampling a lot. But my new single is featuring a new singer and there are no samples. The new album is going to be a lot like that; it’s going to have less instrumentals and it’s not even going to be hip hop either. With my remixes I’ve sort of been eclectic the whole way. Even though I’ve been inspired by hip hop in most of my songs, they don’t always end up sounding like hip hop. I’ve just sort of embraced that eclecticism.
When did you first start making music and what kind of music was it? What was the first instrument you picked up?
I started making music when I was about five. My dad had a Casio keyboard and he taught me how to play cheesy pop songs I heard on the radio. That was just a few notes here and there. I learned to play guitar and I was in bands, but then I also begged my mom for record decks, so I was DJing as well. I started buying house records at a young age, but I always played in bands.
When did you become interested in beat oriented music and what were the beginnings for you as Star Slinger?
I sort of only started learning guitar to play poppy stuff. I built a computer with my friend when I was 14. Then I was exposed to more music through the Internet. I was already sort of into dance music and I sort of stopped playing guitar as much. To this day I still listen to a few indie bands, but I’m more into electronic music and making dance songs.
Star Slinger was relatively late. It was April 2010. I made the first album within the first two months of doing it.
What was the inspiration for your name?
There’s a song star called “Cowboy Dancer” by BT Express and I sampled that and it was really crackly and old sounding. I messed around with it and it was the first song I really sampled properly. I was just being really lazy and I wanted to make a song title out of the original title of the sample. So I thought of Gun Slinger and I thought, “I can’t be a Gun Slinger, that’s cheesy and Western” so then I just flipped it and said Star Slinger. I like that it sounds carefree.
What sorts of samples are you going to use in your new productions? Are there any other aspects to your sound you want to experiment with?
I’m not sampling as much as I used to. I used to sample big chunks of vocals, now I’m making more instrumentation. At the moment, if I do sample, it’s more obscure and less obvious. There are some buskers in Manchester who play African music with a Carla? It’s a really beautiful sounding instrument, and there are guys with hand percussion as well, and I asked them if they had a CD. I’m totally sampling that in a minute. I’m already influenced by a lot of world music, and carnival rhythms. It’s something I want to put into the album anyway.
Which remixes you’ve made have been your favorite so far?
My favorite remixes are Gold Panda “Marriage” I really enjoyed doing James Vincent McMorrow, if I had a vote. I just used the vocals and made what I considered to be a ridiculous song with a B track underneath it. I just love having the freedom to reproduce a track completely. It’s a change from sampling and stuff like that.
Are you working on any currently?
At the moment I’m doing one for a guy called Trombone Shorty. The original track is a little bit goofy and I kind of like that. I know it’s silly and it’s not cool or hipster. I just wanted to make it into a big carnival sort of remix; it’s very cheesy, sort of tongue-in-cheek carnival saloon music. I hope you like it when it comes out.
Have the music scenes in Manchester affected your tastes and own productions?
I’d say Manchester is pretty open-minded. We’re from an indie sort of culture. Everyone knows New Order and The Smiths. We’ve always been sort of independent and not so mainstream, and that’s good because we’ve got a lot of record stores and we’ve also got a lot of independent promoters putting on their own nights. So we do get a lot of cool acts coming through, like Death Grips are playing this week. There aren’t a lot of acts from America that don’t come through Manchester these days.
Having worked at an art-house gallery, would you say the aesthetics you were exposed to have influenced your own art?
Some films I saw really inspired me. When I was 17 I saw a film called “Together.” That really inspired my outlook in life in not taking things too seriously. I want to be ridiculous. I do have a serious side, but I don’t like using it. I guess that influences how I make music as well.
Star Slinger comes out with a new single called “Dumbin’” featuring Reggie B. Keep your eye out for that, and don’t forget to check him out with Shigeto and Mux Mool at the Rickshaw Stop Thursday October 6.