Darren Williams is an unlikely hip-hop star. Hailing from Manchester and working under the cosmic name Star Slinger, Mr Williams has been cutting and splicing old R&B jams like some sort of musical doctor for a while now. The release of 'Volume 1' really showcased his immense talent and went a long way towards cementing his role as one of the most revered producers in this country. We caught up with Williams to talk about the way he works, his influences and the tour he's about to embark on with Braids and Baths over in America. How are you today? I'm feeling nice right now. Had lots of coffee and a Spanish omelette, so all is well with the world. Could you explain a bit more about the sort of music you create? On the surface its instrumental hip-hop for the most part, or "beat music" or whatever. I tend to expand on short samples I use, and try and make something more grandiose with them. It's synonymous with how I see life. I like to make the most of my time. I like to stretch days out longer than they should be, don't sleep much etc - haha. What prompted the decision to give a lot of your music away? I just started doing it to get it out there. I didn't really think too much about it. I was just experimenting, and I didn't even know how blogging worked really until a conversation I had with my dude Emay early on. 'Volume 1' was received really well, how do you plan on following this up? We hear you've got a lot of the tracks recorded already. I plan on making a spacier album with a little more synth used in it. For the most part, Volume 1 is just a beat tape and I'd like to make something a little in-between a beat tape and a more serious studio album. I still wanna have silly pop songs in there though. It's in my nature to be brash and do that occasionally so I don't want to hide that at all. I hope it turns out different musically but with an underlying feeling similar to Volume 1. You seem like a pretty down to earth guy and generous if the free music thing is anything to go by. How important do you feel it is to be able to connect with your fans? Would you agree places like twitter seem to have broken down a lot of the barriers that once existed between musicians and fans? I think it's very important to connect with fans! It's really gratifying knowing that people all over the world are listening to the stuff you create at different times of day. It's mind blowing really to think people in Japan and Australia are listening to me. I'm so grateful. How do you approach your remix work? Do people approach you or do you just pick the tracks you love? It's a mix really. I do official paid remixes when bands/label people ask. I have had some absolute dream-like remix offers. For instance I've completed remixes for Broken Social Scene, The Go! Team, Gold Panda and The Morning Benders and I'm really honoured to have been asked. I also do what I call "rogue" remixes, where I just remix what the hell I want. Chop up an MP3, and fire away. I did that with a Small Black song, and they felt it so much we hung and got drunk in Manchester and we're going to do the same when I'm in NY.
What's the process like when creating your own music? It starts where I'm digging for records, and then I buy the ones I hear potential in. I don't ever have a "type" of song I'm looking for really. I'll get a handful of synth boogie, some shoegaze, some soul, whatever takes my fancy. I chop it all up when I get home and just jam with it in MLR, a monome app that runs in Max MSP. Export my chops into Logic, and build a track around them. What sort of music influences you? Soulful, obscure, world music, fresh sounding drum production, french house. All sorts. You're about to go on a pretty big tour of America with Baths & Braids. Is this your first time over there? Are you excited to playing with those two? It looks like a killer line-up. Honestly, I am sooo looking forward to hearing them every night. I've been listening to Baths since before the album dropped and I've had the pleasure of seeing him live/meeting him in the UK and he really blew me away. Amazing artist. Braids, I've heard less of, but their song Lemonade is really huge and I can't wait to hear more from them! I recently saw a stand up show of Steve Harvey back in 2000 complaining about hip-hop/rnb and how nobody ever uses that medium to talk about love anymore. It seems your music is bringing that back to a certain degree, what do you think about that? I don't think music has to talk about love to have integrity. I think that Soulja Boi has just as much integrity as someone talking about how they love someone. I think music is a big playing field, and its broad and it should be that way. I think my music can sound a little more loving because the sample chops I perform on the record, usually evoke strong feelings in me. Often yearning, often happiness, or whatever. I think you can say a lot more without words sometimes, and that's why I tend to be instrumental! But I honestly feel that music isn't about words at all. It's more about how something sounds to me. I think a lot of soul songs have bad lyrics, but they sound so phenomenal I love them.
The sort of music you play seems unlikely to come out of Manchester especially as most people seem to think you're American when I play them your music. How do you feel about that? Is there a strong scene where you're from? I think people think that because they associate Manchester with Joy Division and The Smiths etc. However, Manchester has some quite significant electronic musicians to its name. For instance, Mr Scruff(Ninja Tune), Autechre (Warp) and Krystal Klear (All City) are all Manchester-based. I wouldn't say we have a big scene here, but there's an amazing beats night called Hoya Hoya. Krystal Klear is one of the residents - and they have all the LuckyMe acts there on a regular basis. As well as people like Daedelus, Gaslamp Killer and all the brainfeeder acts. It's pretty neat. I prefer there not to be a scene as such anyway. I hate the feeling of cliques and have always been a fan of doing my own thing. What are your plans after the tour and for the rest of the year? I will be playing some more European dates (I love Europe) and hopefully playing some of the UK festivals, then working hard on the next album. I'm mad excited about it all.
You can visit Star Slinger by heading to www.starslinger.net