Starkey & Dev79 on their “anti-genre” STREET BASS

Two of Philadelphia’s electronic music veterans, Starkey and Dev79, came to the WKDU studio and spun a killer guest mix last Thursday. We recorded the mix and the guys posted it up for you to listen back. In between turns mixing, I got a chance to chat with the DJ/producers/label bosses about their history in Philadelphia’s electronic music scene.

The two first met when Gair Marking (Dev79) began throwing laptop battles around 2003 for different producers to play their music. Paul Geissinger (Starkey) heard about the event and tried to sign up, but the first battle was already full. Gair told him to just come through anyways and check it out. The two ended up hitting it off and Starkey competed in the second laptop battle.

“Gair said, ‘You play weird music, what do you listen to?’ and we started showing each other all the different music we were into,” said Geissinger. The “weird music” that Starkey was playing was influenced by his time living in the UK right around when garage music was evolving into grime. Starkey said he was listening to mostly trip-hop, downtempo, and IDM at the time before he discovered The Streets and got into grime.

Marking’s roots were more on the US side of things. He started with an interest in hip-hop and then branched out into IDM and became a big part of the Philadelphia breakcore scene, back when there really was one.

Dev79 & Starkey
Dev79 & Starkey taking part in what is now an almost obligatory tradition for our in-studios: posing with Ron Burgundy in our vinyl library.

After the laptop battles, the two became close friends and started DJing together. For a while they were on a pirate radio station in West Philly called Radio Volta, which still exists today as an online radio station. They also used to throw monthly parties at various clubs and warehouses, including La Taza, Tritone, Silk City, and a warehouse across the street from Sugar House Casino.

It was around this time they came up with the name “Street Bass” for the genre of music they were playing. Starkey told me that this was sort of them poking fun at the idea of electronic music genres. They’d always see people with show posters that had a million genres on them: house, drum and bass, jungle, dubstep, electro, techno, etc.

Street Bass was their way of just lumping a bunch of genres under one name and playing whatever they wanted to. There’s obviously a sound to Street Bass but Starkey described it as more of an “anti-genre” than an actual genre.

Starkey and Dev79 came from where electronic music was much more underground, so I asked Dev79 about electronic music’s foray into the mainstream: “It’s much more accepted now, it’s just another genre of music. Back then it was like ‘this is electronic music over here,’ but now it’s more engrained. There will always be an underground element pushing things to not be stagnant.”

Starkey in the mix
Starkey deep in the mix, while I get caught up on Street Bass history with Dev79.

It was an honor to get to speak with these guys, who have certainly helped put Philly on the map in the world of electronic music.

Take a minute to check out the labels they run together: Seclusiasis and Slit Jockey. Starkey also has a new non-club label called NOREMIXES.

Check out the NOREMIXES label showcase featuring Starkey at Johnny Brenda’s on March 19th! ******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Matt Sundal interviewed Starkey & Dev79 and plays plenty of Street Bass on his show Sundown Lounge, which is on Sundays from 4-6 PM.