Moonstarr: Machines Sing by Moonlight

Publish date:
Updated on

He’s 6’7” tall, but no, he doesn’t play basketball. He’s Canadian, but (despite the back cover of his 2002 album Dupont) he doesn’t play hockey. Kevin Moon a.k.a. Moonstarr’s game is making beats, and he’s damn good at it.

Just ask Jazzanova or Gilles Peterson or Mad Mats from Raw Fusion–when it comes to rhythms, Moon is a one-man wrecking crew. “I don’t play drums, but I do know my samplers pretty well,” the soft-spoken producer modestly explains over the phone from his home in Montreal. Take a listen to his absolutely slamming remix of Povo’s “Uam Uam” and hear his understatement as precisely chopped snares ricochet off rapid-fire hi-hats, turning an already vibrant tune into a devastating piéce de resistance that marries the swing of hip-hop, the drive of drum & bass, and the groove of broken beat.

Maybe Moon’s drum fixation is a form of revenge. “When I was in junior high there was a tryout to play drum kit for the year, but of course the really talented drummer beat me out. I felt like I could’ve been the next Keith Moon!” he says with a rueful laugh. Moon’s jones for the beat instead began to take shape through a love of hip-hop, as he bought records like Digital Underground’s “Doowutchyalike” while growing up outside of Toronto.

Then came the inevitable move from DJing to production. “As I got older I got inquisitive, like ‘How the hell are they looping this shit up?’ and I wanted to get behind the technology behind it,” says Moon, who started off with a cheap Korg DSS-1 synthesizer/sampler that heavily influenced his sound. “I started out arranging from the get-go...[and] I had an advantage in terms of making songs that were entertaining from start to finish.”

Not content with just making his own music, he co-founded Public Transit Recordings and helped spread love for the Toronto scene with the Code 416 compilation, which included music by LAL, an act that blends hip-hop, South Asian, and electronic influences with politically conscious lyrics. Next up for PTR is a compilation of Moonstarr remixes, including re-rubs of Ivana Santilli and Middlefield.

Proving that there is another side to Moon beyond just beats, a portion of the proceeds from his still-in-the-works solo artist album will go to the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental nonprofit. Moon also earmarked some of the profits from his Detroit EP to go to The Heidelberg Project, a community arts project in that city. As Moon says, “We’re not tree-huggers, but it’s inside us and we have to let that side talk every now and then.”