Sounds of Starfire: Gratitude Migration with David Starfire

GM: You’ve been quite the Gratitude Migration fan over the last year! Tell us about your experience at last year’s festival. What were some of the highlights?

DS: The highlights were (besides my set) and in no specific order, hanging out with friends, the Sat night burn, Incendia stage, JunXion crew, Art, beach, Daniel Pinchbeck, and swimming in the ocean!

GM: What was your first festival experience, and when?

DS: I think Burning Man, many years ago……

GM: You’ve been playing on the Burning Man and Festival circuit for years. How have you seen festival culture change, specifically the music?

DS: Music changes all the time and there are phases that go in and out. In the late 90’s it was PsyTrance, then came breakbeat in early 2000’s, then dubstep, and now trap. House music has always been around but deep house is what’s really popular these days and back in the early 2000’s it was epic trance. 

I’ve also noticed the West Coast burner culture has been moving to the midwest and East Coast. There are more “Transformational” festivals and the ethos of Burning Man being implemented in festivals overall. I’ve noticed overall that that West Cost has been more based on non-straight beat and East Coast more straight beat. I feel that the West Coast takes the festival culture to heart where as the East Coast is still trying to catch up a bit. That is very subjective and could just be because I’m mostly in the West Coast.

6. Last year on the beach, I remember someone asking you to describe your genre and you called it “Starfire!” Let’s go back to that question. Can we get five words (or just a phrase or sentence) that you would use to describe your music as a genre?

World, Bass, Glitch, Whomp, Trap… I have so many styles mixed within my music that I think it’s a genre by itself!

GM: Your music is really special because it fuses ancient, tribal chants and beats with new technologies like bass, dub and glitch. Bass music is not super well-known in this part of the country, but seems to be getting a wider following. Can you talk a little about that evolution and how you see the ancient sounds fitting in with modern tech?

DS: I think that Bass music in the mainstream is huge like trap and twerk but PsyDub and Temple Bass is relatively unknown. There are some mainstream songs that pop up every once in a while like the Arabic scale tune “Turn Down for What?” but songs that have chants and in different languages are usually not popular. I think that people are starting to appreciate music and vocals from other cultures  more than before. I also notice that there are more producers making this type of music than before like Soohan and CloZee and are being well received. There are more “sample packs” with vocals and instruments that before, so it makes it easier to make. I still like to collaborate with musicians versus samples but not everyone has access to musicians. I think it’s great and helps world centric electronic music more popular.

GM: So... who inspires you musically?

DS: That is a tough one! I love classic rock, Bhangra, Sigur Ros, Slowdive, Bollywood, Bulgarian music, Hip Hop, so it’s all over the map. There aren’t that many specific artists and I generally like to listen to new artists for inspiration. I’ll go to soundcloud and just listen in the background. Lately I’ve been getting into the Werid Bass movement and Half Time.

GM: How do you think Gratitude Migration differs from other festivals?

DS: The #1 difference is that it’s on a beach with music rocking all night. I don’t know of any other “transformational” festival that has that setting. There is a temple and it also has a burn, which a lot of BM regionals have but other festivals don’t.

GM: Gratitude Migration is a lot more than a music festival, and encourages people to step into a new reality. For example, you’re here not only as a musician but as an artist as well, with your immersive experience. Can you talk a little bit about putting that together and bringing that to festivals? Have you done it before? What are you most looking forward to about moving beyond bringing people a musical experience into art and immersion?

I’m bringing the VR project that I’ve been working on called the Galactic Gallery. We showed in a bit at LIB last year and Sonic Bloom this year but Gratitude Migration is the East Coast debut. The Galactic Gallery is a virtual reality “visionary” art gallery where you can interact and go inside the art. It’s a fully immersive experience using the HTC Vive VR platform, SUBPAC, and headphones. The Galactic Gallery is an aesthetically driven VR experience exploring intersections between traditional art and new media. The artists included are Android Jones, Mars-1, Chris Dyer, Mugwort, Mear One, Xavi, Raul Casillas, Luke Brown, Amanda Sage, and Hans Haveron.

Imagine yourself in an immersive art gallery in the cosmos where you can go inside and interact with the art. Special treatments and effects have been applied so that the art could only be viewed in this medium. The experience takes you on a journey of visionary art. The experience begins by the user floating in the cosmos and interacting with art from some of the most renowned visionary artists of our time. The art canvases fly upwards as well as the trees and other elements enter into the area. You are surrounded on three sides by flying panels hosting artwork. The art is processed with effects only possible in a virtual reality and new methods of creating and interacting with art are explored. Paintings and sculpture by these artists are given special effects to be more engaging in the virtual environment that is only possible in the digital realm. Hovering candles in the space illuminate the pieces and you can grab them and readjust them to your liking. There are various "toys" in the space as well such as particle paintbrushes and lenses to look through to distort your experience. As you walk over and pick one up, the world starts to form around you. 

We’re all about the practice of Gratitude and being in the moment. What are some ways you think audiences can engage better with the music and with one another, rather than with their phones or the DJ booth?

Not too long ago at Burning Man, there wasn’t cell phone service and you were forced to meet new friends if you lost your friends. Before set times were posted in advance at the burn, you just had to be at the right place at the right time and were completely in the flow. I think there is magic in just being in the moment and not having to rely on your phone for communication or set times. It’s a huge distraction from being in the moment. There are fests like Coachella and for them it’s all about showing the world via the internet just how cool they are with lots of pics. When in reality, they aren’t experiencing the fest at all, only taking lots of pics and videos the entire time and being on their phone. It’s a catch 22 cause I like finding my friends at fests but I also like not having service just as much so I’m not connected to the outside world.

GM:  How would you describe Gratitude Migration to a friend?

DS: Intimate Burning Man on the beach without having to clean up playa dust for days!

GM: We talk a lot about Gratitude practice here. What are you most grateful for right now, in this exact moment?

DS: I’m very grateful to have such amazing family, friends, and fans! Without amazing people in my life, nothing else really matters.