The 236th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Dan Stark.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I am in my late 30’s. I live in Lakewood, Ohio. It’s a suburb of Cleveland. I’ve been djing over a decade now and producing seriously for about 3 years or so.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
I love all the old classic rock. Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin. I followed the Dead for a little bit as well. I’m also a huge reggae fan and even got married in Jamaica. So, you can say that music has been a big part of my life so far. My first real rave was at Cyberfest in California in 1999. A group of us flew out from Cleveland just for that show. That was a life changer and I believe there were about 35,000 people there. A wild night to say the least…BT was my favourite back then and was one of the headliners. So, I guess you could say tracks like “Dreaming” and “Godspeed” by BT really turned me on to the music to where I was becoming obsessed. Long story short, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, Mary bought me turn tables a few years after that due to my music addiction and ever since then, it’s been a big part of my life.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Yeah, I remember first getting started. I was completely clueless, but I think that’s normal. It’s about breaking through a lot of barriers and really, never giving up. There has been many times I wanted to quit and throw my computer out the window. But, I’ve been lucky to have some close friends that are very talented producers that have showed me techniques and at this point, we are all learning off of each other. So, yeah, it helps to have a support network. I would recommend to anyone getting started to read and watch videos and make sure your doing it for the right reasons, because it’s an expensive endeavour if you want to do it right. However, it’s one of the most rewarding activities I’ve ever known. There have been plenty of Ah-ha moments!
So, thanks to my brothers, Seth Yender who is my “Riverside Drive” Production partner, Sertac Sahin who I produce under the “Stark & Sahin” production name and Jayme Skeen as people that I’ve learned a great deal from. 🙂
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
I think the most important thing is getting the low end right first. You can have great leads, but if the Kick and Bass isn’t right, then the rest is shit. The most difficult thing is knowing when your done. Actually finishing a track is the hardest part. Sometimes you need to know when to move on and just put the project to bed and chalk it up as a “learning” experience. I probably have 60 tracks that are incomplete and that’s fine. That’s how you get better, by doing.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
Everyday is different. I’m a managing partner and director of business development for a company called “AltaStreet Financial Websites and Marketing”. We design and implement custom websites and back end solutions as well as online marketing for any type of company inside the Finance Vertical. So, we work with Banks, Hedge Fund Managers, Financial Advisors, Real Estate Companies, Insurance companies you name it and we boost there online presence and help them increase their revenues. I’m lucky that I love my job, I work from home. (right out of my studio in fact) and yeah, it’s a tease to have all this gear in front of me while I work…but, ya know, If I wasn’t working then I wouldn’t have this studio. So, in that respect, it’s easy to get things done. It’s cool though, I set my own schedule and so, that’s a good thing!
Outside of music, djing and work I like to travel and go camping when possible. I like to spend time with family and our amazing and awesome dog, Harley.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
Sure, has I mentioned before, I love the classical rock and reggae vibes. I’ve been known to sample some of these guys as well. You just have to listen carefully for it.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
Pink Floyd’s last album, I pre ordered it. “The Endless River” Everything they do and have ever done has been gold.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I used to be really good at football (running back, kick returner, outside linebacker, punt returner) and baseball, like 87-88+ MPH fastball as a pitcher and played shortstop (I was only 5 foot 7 in HS, so that’s pretty fast for a little dude.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
There are plenty of them. Lot’s of good tunes out there from up an coming producers. The way the game is today, you also have to be really good at marketing yourself. One thing I’ve personally noticed, is you can send a track to a label and they never even listen to it. So, one thing is for certain, once you have a big name out there, it’s easier to stay relevant. Getting to that point is no simple task.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
I think Maceo Plex is on another planet. Others would include, but not limited to: Prok & Fitch, Tiger Stripes, Metodi Hristov, Guy Gerber, German Brigante, Catz n Dogz, Supernova, Sasha, Digweed, Oliver Giacomotto, and the guys’ from Spirit Catcher. There’s a bunch more, but they come to mind at the moment. For me, Inspiration comes from everywhere. The dark and the light.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
I’m one of these producers. So, what I tell myself is keep learning and doing. Whenever you get stuck on a track, take a break and then go back to it later. Then Do things. Don’t just sit there and be paralyzed while working on music. You do by doing. I know that sounds like common sense and it is, but it’s also harder for some then you think. Make moves. This is something I struggle with and have to tell myself to do. Also, listen to other music, take notes. Actually use a pen and paper and take notes. Then implement some ideas in your own productions. They will always come out different, but it gives you a path to move forward.
Lastly, don’t quit, cause practice makes perfect. I also would tell them not to make music to be a “super star” dj. Don’t expect to be the next Multi Millionaire Dj/Producer, the odds are low…but hey, if it happens, cool…but, I would say to Make music that sounds good to you and music that will sound good in 10 years from now. Also, Do it because you love it. If that’s why your doing it, you have found a life long passion and over time, you’ll just become better and better.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
This is not a fun question to answer. But, if my funeral was next week, haha lol, I would like everyone to hear “Let Me Down” by Daniel Steinberg (Tube & Berger Remix) You can also add those guys to people that inspire me with there music.
Dan Stark (1/2 half of, Riverside Drive)
Segment collected by Suffused.