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AMONGST US

 

As one of the faces of modern, forwarding-thinking, with a legion of fans and a leading label behind him, LA-based musician Shinya Mizoguchi, better known as starRo, still finds it hard to believe how far he’s come. Having made the move to City of Angels from Tokyo eight years ago, he originally saw the his music as a casual hobby, not a profession. After quitting music for a number of years to focus on his career as a businessman, that all changed after encountering LA’s seminal electronic hip-hop night Low End Theory, an event that altered the Soulection artist’s perception of production and made him pick it up once again.

Currently, starRo is preparing to release Emotion, his first EP in four years following a string of successful tracks released through SoundCloud. I spoke to the self-taught multi-instrumentalist ahead of the project’s release. Due to the length of the interview we’ve split it into two parts, the second of which will drop on Wednesday. The audio can also be found here. In part 1 starRo opens up about the development of Emotion, and the meaning behind it.



It’s been almost 4 years since you released your last EP. What made you feel like now is the time to release another?

I didn’t aim to release an EP at this time. I really wanted to release something way before now, like maybe last summer. I had 14 or 15 tracks, and was just never able to put them together as an EP. Recently my manager and I were revisiting them, and they sounded like two different EPs. One with a very chill vibe, and the other one being more R&B-ish.

So I thought, “OK, why don’t we just split them. Especially since it’s winter, the perfect time to release something so chill. So we decided to release those vibes as the first EP, and still work on the other EP that is more soulful and bouncy.



It’s better to take time anyway, because you’ve been dropping tracks pretty consistently.

That too, because I’m used to dropping one-off tracks on SoundCloud. It’s very handy, but to me an EP is a different game. There’s a reason for releasing an EP as opposed to just releasing one-offs, so I’ve gotta make sure there’s a story behind it, a concept throughout, and so on, until I’m confident that I’ve got 6 or 7 tracks that make a story. I finally got to that point.

How did the title and cover art for Emotion EP come about? What is the EP about to you?

It’s very emotional music. It’s not really something that a DJ could play out in a huge club, but I’d like to think that it’s more of a people closing their eyes, probably listening through their headphones, becoming emotional [type of situation]. It’s almost a cinematic type of thing, so I thought “Emotion” was perfect as a title.

The artwork was actually made by this artist called The Black Arrow. We’ve been Internet friends [for a while], and during the Japan tour he happened to be in Tokyo, so we had a shooting session. He came up with that artwork, and the photo that he based the artwork on was actually shot then. I thought the artwork showed emotion [flowing] out of myself, and felt it was perfect for the EP, so I went ahead and used it.



You guys have a working relationship, because he also did the artwork for a few of your singles didn’t he?

Yeah, Black Arrow is actually the reason I decided to pursue music as starRo. He hit me up more than three years ago and had found my music through SoundCloud. Back then I probably had only 50 followers, and uploaded whatever I made as a hobby. He was doing this music blog called Navator, and wanted to interview me. That was the first interview offer that I’d ever got, and I thought “If I’ve got an interview I’ve gotta have some kind of solid material!” so I decided to put together 4 tracks and make an EP so that I’d look good.

That incident pushed me; that was my very first EP, and it gave me momentum to keep going as a musician. Since then we’ve had a really good relationship. He was an aspiring graphic designer, and we’ve kind of grown together as artists.

You mentioned that starRo isn’t the first name you’ve produced under. Where did starRo come from?

My real name is Shinya, and that means “straight arrow” in Japanese, so I took two letters from “straight,” and four from “arrow.” Some people like to think that I took it from that DC Comics character.

Yeah, I have it noted here that there’s almost a DC Comics supervillain with that name. *laughs*
*laughs* It’s nothing to do with that comic. I didn’t even know that there was already a character called Starro, and now I kind of regret it because every time I search for #starro on twitter most tweets are about that comic, so it’s kind of confusing.



Which song on Emotion holds the most meaning to you?

Well… that’s a very tough question.

Which song is closest to you?

It’s not really about meaning, but the reason I put this EP together might be because of a track called “Tainted.” It doesn’t really sound like typical starRo material. It has more of a pop vibe, but that track is very personal to me. I made the original track 3 or 4 years ago, right after that tsunami and earthquake hit Japan. One of my friends actually died, not directly because that incident, but indirectly. It was originally called “Departure,” because I made it as a farewell to her soul.

It’s a very personal track, and when Jarell Perry, the singer on the track), hit me up a couple of months ago wanting to work with me I sent it to him because I thought he could do something with it. He immediately recorded and sent it back to me the next day, and it sounded amazing. I always wanted to release it, but because it doesn’t sound like my typical material I didn’t know what to do. When I was splitting those 14 or 15 tracks into 2 EPs, and we had decided that one of them was about chill vibes, I figured maybe “Tainted” would fit it. So it’s kind of like I put together Emotion EP because I wanted to release that track.


You’ve worked with quite a few vocalists and a rapper on the project, including Greg Grease, Jarell Perry and Christian Crow. You’ve told me about how you and Jarell came into contact. How did you get in touch with Greg and Christian?

With Greg, one of his best friends hit me up like three years ago, and he wanted me to make a track for Greg’s forthcoming material. I did it but he never actually used it for his EP. Actually, he’s releasing his own EP in the next couple of months, and it includes a song with a track of mine. That’s how we got to know each other, and since getting to know him I’ve always thought he’s one of the most underrated rappers in the game. He’s very musical, and also very poetic.

When I made that particular track, “Particle of Silent View,” which is also the title of the original track, I sent it to him and knew he’d do something poetic [with it], which he did. The title remained, which I think is poetic as well. It went really well, ever since I listened to his material for the first time I knew we’d work together, hopefully in the future we’ll work together more.


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