An Interview with International Cross-Creative Collaboration, D Stellar

Upon our first words exchanged with D Stellar, the name of both an artist and his grand collaborative project, we were unaware of just how grandiose his plans and undertakings really were. You see, D is humble and quietly spoken (even over email) where, for us, he outlaid his schemes of a massive international, intertwined cross-creative collaboration. He and his collaborators explained that the concept of what is quickly turning into a full-length album, is to foster a collaboration between different artists, producers, musicians and vocalists, where each song features a different drummer, bass or guitar player, producer, or co-producer (though there are 3 main collaborators working extensively throughout the project’s entirety). 

 

As monumental as it may already seem, it turns out that the entire process is much more wide-spread and artistically inclusive than one would already assume. The project kicked off with a core crew of people in Sydney and from there, slowly spread while reaching out to different people - friends of friends, colleagues, and indie artists from New York, Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv - in an attempt to create a fusion of different styles and vibes. The result is a project that is becoming not only that, but also a project that features a plethora of stylistic influence, a lack of bounds set in place by traditional genre, a space for artists to learn and experiment with approaches they’ve never tried before, and even a space for artists existing outside of music’s boundaries. 

 

At the hands of D Stellar and his quickly expanding group of friends and collaborators, the future of music production comes into sight, and all roads lead to Sydney. 

Perhaps the artist involved with the most musically-endowed résumé, Omer Joe Nave has a musical foundation constructed of academia from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, frequent work with a collection of Israel’s top artists, years of experiencing in production and sound engineering at his own studio, and a mastery of a multitude of instruments. He is a force when it comes to aiding in a collaborative effort of this kind.

RNGLDR: From your perspective, what kind of discussions and intellectual collaborations led to the development of this project, and what kind of role did you see yourself playing in its production from the beginning? Things change fast when working with others, so how has your role shifted since the project began?

 

Joe: D and I have been discussing a variety of topics over the last year or so. From the original meaning of certain words and how their definitions effect our reality,through music creation and production and what we wish to gift the audience with in terms of the intention we put in the music.

 

And all the way to how our subconscious mind works - which is a huge part of the creative process. 

 

I believe music is people. And thus, I feel some of our chatter has found its way into D's sonically intriguing project.

 

My role in this project was mainly inspirational I would say. I had given advice mainly - and was more focused on the big sonic picture.

 

I had the pleasure to record some vocals, which wasn't my original role :)

 

RNGLDR: What does a global collaborative effort of this scale say about the state and the future of music production?

 

Joe: ​Like I said before, music is people, and people have a connection beyond time and space. 

I believe this is becoming more and more apparent in music production and creation with today's technology.

 

What I think for the future is that this will create new genres of music and a more collaborative international music scene (I hope anyway).

 

RNGLDR: You have a résumé of incredible intrigue. Would you mind speaking a little bit on the immensity of your musical background? 

 

Joe: ​I have been playing music since the age of 6. After playing the recorder and saxophone, I had picked up the guitar at age 15 and learned how to play by ear and the help of friends. That's when I started writing songs, my life changed and I decided to become a musician.

 

I had formed many bands (mainly punk rock) until the age of 22, then decided to actually learn what the heck I was doing with all those instruments I picked up over the years (piano, bass, drums). and so, I went studying in Rimon music school in Israel for 2 years - that's where I got most of my theoretical knowledge in music. It wasn't enough for me and I always had the dream to be a musician outside of Israel (Having writing songs in English my whole life) – so I got in to LIPA, and moved to Liverpool, England where my favourite band had come from. In Liverpool I was mainly focused on my band (Jovean) and producing. And that's where I had learned to utilize and use the studio.

 

When I graduated I had to move back to Israel due to Visa thingies with the British gov. And that's when things really started clicking for me.


RNGLDR: You play a pretty major role in the current Tel Aviv scene. What is it like working with legends in the Israeli rock movement like Rami Fortis and Mashina who themselves played such pioneering roles in the development of modern Israeli music? Is it humbling or nerve-wracking to work with some of your idols, or does the shared passion for music make it somewhat seamless?

Joe: ​It has been very humbling and honouring for me to work with these remarkable artists which "just happened" to be matching my personal music taste (in Israeli music). It also took some time for me to be appreciative of myself and really feel worthy of this incredible opportunity.

 

In terms of the actual work (playing live, and recording albums), I was confounded to find out that these people where very similar to me. They like to have fun, they enjoy contemplating and philosophizing life and they LOVE making music (with a lot of intention in it) which is their biggest passion. So that made the work quite easy-going.

 

RNGLDR: Artists with foundations rooted in hip-hop, jazz, soul, and electronica dot this project and make your influences as a primarily rock musician, particularly unique. Is it a nice change of pace to be working with a collection of modern artists whose musicality perhaps lies outside of your norm?

 

Joe: ​Yes, absolutely. I always believe you find out more about yourself when you do something which is outside of your comfort zone. So, when D had approached me, every cell of my body was telling YES.

 

Like I also said before, with today’s technology I believe music creation can create new music unlike before. This is a perfect example because as a Rock musician, most people in Israel who will approach me will be making rock music, or something around that genre.

 

With D and this beautiful collaboration, I had the opportunity I probably wouldn't get here at home - to work in a genre outside my "comfort zone".

A bass player fond of left-of-center ideology and unique direction, Arne Utiger’s band background proves particularly strong and useful in such a broad collaborative effort. He and his band, Bin Juice boast an approach very clearly born of jazz and soul, while also taking on a sort of mellow pop texture not only booming around the world, but also very much rooted in Sydney where he’s from. 

RNGLDR: ​From your perspective, what kind of discussions and intellectual collaborations led to the development of this project, and what kind of role did you see yourself playing in its production from the beginning? Things change fast when working with others, so how has your role shifted since the project began?

 

Arne: ​I met D at university last year through friends. We hung a few times and before we started doing music, we became friends. He's an incredibly interesting guy and he's schooled me on a lot. He introduced me to Krista Tippett, who’s a baller, gotten me onto books that I’ve vibed on and what not. He's a very warm human. 

 

So yeah, he invited me over and we started doing things in his studio which led to my involvement in this project. It’s been a mixture of playing over D's tracks and forming up songs from scratch, both amazing. 

 

RNGLDR: ​What does a global collaborative effort of this scale say about the state and the future of music production?

 

Arne: ​​I think it's sick that you can play something and have it mixed in the other hemisphere, in the same day. I guess the less hurdles in the making of an idea the better. Embrace the tech.

 

RNGLDR: ​Having a foundation constructed of the work with your band, Bin Juice, you clearly have a quality understanding of collaboration already? Is that sense of give-and-take so important in creating music as a band similar to the collaboration with others with whom perhaps you don’t yet have that creative bond?

 

Arne: ​​Yeah, it’s crucial in any form of collaboration. Being receptive to the ideas of others as well as your own is what makes it a collaboration, sort of by definition I guess. But yeah, we’ve had a lot of practice at it in Bin Juice that has formed into a process that works great most of the time. But regardless of the homies you're working with, at its core, it comes down to how well you can communicate with other people, I think. I'm still an amateur at that part but I’m lucky to get to play with different people and try and improve and learn from them. 

 

RNGLDR: ​Bin Juice’s sound is certainly unique, but there are specific elements – jazz, soul, mellow pop – that shine through in the texture. Are these influences that you have personally? Are they influences that each member of the band shares? When is it a positive and when is it a negative for band members or collaborators to have similar backgrounds and tastes?

 

Arne: ​​The sound of Bin Juice took a few turns down the way which I attribute to our changing influences as a group. I guess it’s natural that what comes out is a product of what goes in your head at the time. So, I'd say we all have unique interests definitely, but some seem to shine through more than others which account for the genre tags. It’s pretty common for all of us to vibe on the same thing - that new Kamaal Williams is one. 

It’s great when trying to talk about a certain feel or idea for a song and you can realize the thing quicker because you're all privy to the influence or whatever. 

 

I don’t think it can be a negative to have too different a musical background in a collaboration, if you vibe together as people, something dope and possibly surprising will come out. 

RNGLDR: ​We were intrigued by the discovery of your collaborative track, Back To Barcelona. Is this project with Holly Bestic – Field of Wolves – an ongoing group collaborative or was it simply a one-off? 

 

Arne: ​​Yeah, it’s an ongoing sort of setup. I met Holly through Dave Noble, the drummer in the band maybe 2 years ago and we've been playing ever since. I'm super lucky to play with those guys. I really enjoy it. Gives me a chance to pull out my spicy soul licks which I steal from actual bass players. She's got a new record coming out this year too. 

RNGLDR: ​To it, you seem to have a deep-seeded background in music collaboration. What are your thoughts on solo work?

 

Arne Utiger: ​​Both are good. writing and playing with other people is the cheese and crackers, but solo work can be cathartic in that you can explode whatever goes on in your head into a logic session and go bonkers. Yeah both are good.

A worldly musician if ever there was one, Minimal Miggy brings a wide lens necessary to such a digital collaborative effort with roots spread from Tel Aviv to Cape Town to Sydney. Understandably vast, Miggy’s influences which transcend electronica, hip-hop, and jazz find harmony and balance in his uniquely undertone, mellow texture. Frequently featuring hip-hop lyricists and vocalists, he is equally capable in his ability to bring together contrasting creatives underneath the umbrella of his production as he is able to stand alone as a strong soloist.

RNGLDR: From your perspective, what kind of discussions and intellectual collaborations led to the development of this project, and what kind of role did you see yourself playing in its production from the beginning? Things change fast when working with others, so how has your role shifted since the project began?

 

MM: I’ve been playing music ever since I can remember. I’ve worked as a professional drummer for more than 10 years. From accompanying corporate artists/lineups to playing in original bands, I’ve seen a lot of the industry and felt it was time to start creating my own art. All my experience to this point made me realize why I started playing music seriously in the first place. I naturally fell into the producer seat. The project is still very much in its infant stages. If anything has changed in the last 12 months is me being more involved in the writing process with the artists I work with.

 

RNGLDR: What does a global collaborative effort of this scale say about the state and the future of music production?

 

MM: I think it’s only a positive thing for the future of music production. More producers, artists and writers alike should be working together, collaborating and spreading their vibe globally.

 

RNGLDR: Being an artist born in Tel Aviv, raised in Cape Town, and spending adolescence in Sydney, how has the vast cultural exposure shaped your musicality? Do any geographical ties coincide specifically with elements in your music, or has it become a blind sort of smorgasbord of influences?

 

MM: I’d say my upbringing has definitely affected my musical trajectory. Having grown up in Cape Town, I was exposed to a lot of Afro styles. That shaped my drumming style and influence and maybe you can hear that seeping through in my productions. 

 

On the other hand, in today’s age, we’ve all been exposed to so much music and my palette has broadened significantly. In saying this, I think the music I create and collaborate on is a smorgasbord of my influences.

 

RNGLDR: Listening to your Market Street EP specifically, your texture rings of vibrancy while never losing itself to over-the-top production. You have a phenomenal sense of balance that seems to allow for a wide range of vocal and lyrical features, while also allowing your production to shine as more than simply a foundational structure. As an artist who consistently features vocalists, what is the creative process like to establish that balance between producer/instrumentalist and lyricist/vocalist?

 

MM: Great question! I think every producer has his own process. From my own experience, I find myself in the studio banking up on beats and ideas way before I even consider who I’m going to work on the track/project with. 

 

Once the beat finds an artist (sometimes it can take a few vibes to find the right person), then it’s a conscious decision to not steer them into a box and limit them. I like to be involved in the writing process and workshop lyrics, but the artist has to have his own voice at the end of the day.

RNGLDR: Do you find yourself preferring working as a soloist in production or collaborating with vocalists, or are they simply different strokes of your creative output?

 

Minimal Miggy: It depends. I enjoy working alone. Not that speed or time is important, but I find myself working faster and more productively alone. If I have an established relationship with the artist I’m working with, then for sure it seems natural for them to be part of the production process if they want to be.

 

Because of the huge network of musicians I know, it’s sometimes nice to use other people’s strengths. For example, when working with D (D Stellar) on his last beat tape, he asked me to help him with drums. On my upcoming mixtape Jarocin Ave, we collaborated on a track. I approached him with the intention to collaborate and finish something together.

An actor and entrepreneur based in Melbourne who, despite lacking a musical background, acts as the vocalist on two tracks of the greater project, Adi Snir is probably the most intriguing addition to D. Stellar. With a mind full of ideas and the courage to try things outside of his comfort zone, his presence in the development of the project has been immeasurable, and the fact that he can contribute musically makes the project even more intriguing, inclusive, and wide-spread than it was already aiming to be.

RNGLDR: From your perspective, what kind of discussions and intellectual collaborations led to the development of this project, and what kind of role did you see yourself playing in its production from the beginning? Things change fast when working with others, so how has your role shifted since the project began?

Adi: More often than not, D and I find ourselves talking about creativity and what it means to be creative - and how to best honour the innate curiosity I think we're all born with but forget as we get older. D and I skip small talk altogether and instead get super deep into science, religion, music, art, family and from time to time we'll even dabble in some politics. I think it was our conversations about the creative process that inspired some of the lyrics in this track. For me, it's a song about using the time we have to focus on the things we love and finding play in the work.

  

I didn't envision I would be a part of this track until D asked if I would do vocals. I knew working together would be kind of like a mentorship - I see how he works and how his mind works in the studio, and so I was just happy to learn from a master like D. I also love to write and D was open to my ideas. Once we had agreed on what we wanted to say, it was then about finding words and melodies to say that.

RNGLDR: What does a global collaborative effort of this scale say about the state and the future of music production, or perhaps, with your additions to the project, the state of more wide-spread artistic production?

Adi: Music and music production are new worlds to me. But I think this project highlights the creative potential there is when actors and musicians collaborate. At the end of the day, what are musicians and actors doing? Telling a story. The difference is in how we tell that story. So, I think when we put technique aside, what we're left with in the studio is the telling of a story. And that definitely helps with writing lyrics, because in music, telling a story, like in acting, is about understanding human experience and behaviour.

RNGLDR: As what we consider traditionally, a non-musician, what is it like getting the opportunity to collaborate in such a complex and truly musical project? Do you feel that you have been able to use your capabilities as a mind and a creative existing outside of the realm of musicality to the advantage of the group?

Adi: Intimidating at first. I would have moments of feeling like an imposter in a room of established industry professionals. But then I would remind myself of the kind of preparation I would go through in my scene work as an actor, and so when we were rehearsing I would literally talk myself into the "role" of vocalist, despite how new this kind of work still feels for me. I think in shooting the video, it helped having a performance background. That said, I get nervous all the time; like any artist who cares enough about their work to showcase it for others to enjoy.

RNGLDR: Being the sole non-musical creative in the project, what kind of role has music played in your life?

Adi: My first musical love affair was with hip-hop. This was something I inherited from my older brother, as you do, and a love I still have today. Although I loved singing, I never learned the lyrics of songs, but had a natural knack for hearing melodies and even creating my own in my head. This project was really the first exposure I have had in writing lyrics collaboratively. I remember loving musicals growing up. Abba was a favourite, and I have a very fond recollection of performing Do You Love Me?  with my older sister (now a drama-teacher) from "Fiddler on a roof" for my parents 25th wedding anniversary. 

RNGLDR: As an actor, you surely have a sense of comfort with yourself and perhaps even your vocal abilities that most of us non-musicians don’t possess, but, is it still nerve-wracking to contribute your voice to a room full of overtly talented musicians? 

Adi: Very. It took a number of takes for me to "get out of my head" and I know I have a very long way to go in my training in this respect.

Simplistically misleading in his namesake as he is humble in his nature to describe himself, D is the mastermind, the genius, and the well-connected centerpiece behind the entire project, though we’re fairly confident he will resent such sentiments. Recording the majority of the project in his studio, hosting daily jam and writing sessions, and the sole collaborator involved in every step of the project from start to finish, from the writing session to recording, mixing, and releasing, at the heart of this massive, international collaboration exists D and his wholesome set of wide-ranging musical skills.

RNGLDR: Whether it be sudden inspiration or a long-awaited breakthrough, every great creative idea has that moment – the strike of a match – the stands at its origin. For you, and for this project, what was that moment? And what was it like?

 

D: Since my teens I was always playing with bands. The unique focus and efficiency you can achieve with a group of people with the same vision always attracted me. Once I began getting into hip-hop (particularly Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly) I was hooked by the diversity of styles and sounds hip-hop was producing. 2016 was the year I decided to start my own project. I wanted to have the ability to work with a number of different artists as opposed to putting a band together and hiring a producer. With this intention in mind, while reading a lot about creativity, the idea to create a collaboration project seemed fascinating and challenging. After almost choosing to create another record with a band, I realized that this project must be a collaborative effort and was time to hit up all the people I wanted to work with.

 

RNGLDR: From your perspective, what kind of discussions and intellectual collaborations led to the further development of this project towards what it has blossomed into today, and what kind of role did you see yourself playing in its production from the beginning?

 

D: Reading extensively about creativity and neuroscience over the past few years, I find most of my conversations are on these topics. It's a regular thing to start a session in the studio with a long passionate talk about exceptionalism, storytelling, or what moves and touches humans (music...). For me, intellectual stimulation is the first step of creativity. The second step is to stay open to ideas. I feel ideas are like entities, and if we give them a good enough reason to appear they will. When we have inspiring talks, we normally feel a creative impulse that comes from stimulation, usually that excitement and emotional response drives the process.

 

The only title for my role I can think of is director (inspired by Danger Mouse, one of my biggest idols). I'm the only person involved from start to finish, it's up to me to finish the record and make it happen (with a little help from my friends).

 

RNGLDR: Things change fast when working with others, so how has your role shifted since the project began?

 

D: To be honest – My role is constantly shifting. Each song and collaboration asks for a different role. 

 

At this point I have taken part in songwriting, producing, performing, to graphic design and mixing. 

 

RNGLDR: What does a global collaborative effort of this scale say about the state and the future of music production?

 

D: I believe that we're stepping into a more genre-less era of music, as music is the most accessible it has ever been due to technology. 

 

For artists, collaborating has become much easier, as it is a lot easier to connect with people through media platforms. 

 

For me, music nowadays is more about taste and flavor than genre, and I believe because of that we're going to hear more interesting fusions of contrasting styles. 

 

RNGLDR: When reaching out to collaborators who lie outside of your local Australian scene, what is the process? What is it that you’re looking for in an artist’s canon or musical subset that makes you think they wouldn’t only be a good fit, but a tremendous addition to the existing circle of musicians and creatives?

 

D: Reaching out to a future collaborator means that I have been inspired by them in some way - either intellectually or artistically. 

 

Collaborating for me is enticing, as I never know what someone will send back. The beauty of this is that someone's creativity can alter a track completely, simply by sparking a new idea. 

 

RNGLDR: Are you always on the lookout for new talent and collaborators, and if so, is there a way for them to get in contact with you?

 

D: Always! I love finding new people to collaborate with. Always looking for the next adventure. Anyone can hit me up on Instagram (@D_Stellar) or shoot an email to Dstellarmusic@gmail.com.

 

RNGLDR: Obviously, a large aim of this project is to break down barriers. Break down cultural barriers and connect people through music from places they wouldn’t expect; Break down stylistic barriers and connect people to music from genres and musical backgrounds they wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to; Perhaps most intriguingly, break down creative barriers and include – in a music collective – artistry that exists outside of music’s realm. To it, what was behind the decision to incorporate Adi – an actor and entrepreneur – as a key, recurring role in the project? And what do you think his role in the project says to others who have a deep passion for music, but don’t necessarily have a background in it?

 

D: Since meeting Adi he has constantly been a source of stimulation for me. Once we started talking about language and how the words we use create our reality, I realized Adi would be a great writing partner. As he is an actor, his voice is full of character and he has this very unique tone. I felt immediately that capturing him on the mic would be a joy. I believe that lead vocals are the most important instrument once you choose to have them on your track. I also feel music is all about storytelling, so what could be better than having an actor tell those stories? 

 

If you can tell a story well enough, you might be able to touch people. Why one's voice may have the potential to move millions and another stays unheard is another mystery.

 

RNGLDR: Will there be any other non-musicians, so to speak, involved in the project?

 

D: I hope so, the record is soon to be finished, but I'm still looking for a few collaborations, and waiting to receive bounces from a few people.

 

The process of making this a real collaboration takes a bit longer than choosing the known band/producer way, but it's a challenge and an interesting unknown process for me.

 

RNGLDR: We’ll stick to the subject of barriers for now. Art has a grand tradition of being able to tear them down and has played an important role in every great social, political, and cultural movement in history. If this project, with its grand international and multicultural reach and inclusion, could achieve something, stand for something, or aid in some kind of greater movement, what would be your most grandiose hopes for it?

 

D: Art breaks barriers because it reminds us that we're all human. In Hebrew, the words believe, art, trust, faith and loyalty all come from the same root. Every human believes in something, and art is storytelling and a gatekeeper of tradition and history. If I had one fully grandiose hope for this project, it would be that the music will inspire people to dream themselves into existence, question their values, and seek to make this place better every day.

 

RNGLDR: Obviously, we’re still very early on in the stages of this project. Could you give us a glimpse of what to expect from its further rollout?

 

D: The album will be released song by song during 2018, with the purpose of maximizing exposure for each collaborator. Simultaneously I'm working on a series of beat tapes that are featuring some existing and new collaborators. You can check out the first tape on SoundCloud. 

The first single, titled I.K.F.B.I.P., is expectedly spectral throughout, where the confluence of international and inter-stylistic influence merge into an elegant series of strokes creative and downright funky. Strewn with a dreamlike, floaty spectrum on the keyboard, a funk-driven bassline, a seamless utilization of live drums, and groove-edited vocals from Joe Nave, the song comes together breathing of a style not only boundless in its stylistic and geographic application, but also timelessly incorporating influence from funk’s golden era to the modern epoch that has allowed such widespread exploration.

 

Check out the track below, follow D Stellar on Spotify and SoundCloud, and be on the steady lookout for future projects not only from the collaboration, but from all of the amazing projects the long list of collaborators continues to put out in their alternative pursuits.