Shinya Mizoguchi has come a long way since his days of being a bedroom musician. The Tokyo native who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles has produced two critically acclaimed EPs and two well-received singles in the last four years, and the window of opportunity for the producer, who is better known as starRo, remains wide open. His view these days are mostly from airplanes and the skyline of the many cities he travels to for headlining underground gigs. JUICE sat down with the emotional DJ while he had a pint of beer and a pizza to talk about the feud between LuckyMe and Soulection, and why the idea of ‘the right time’ is false.
Why do you think DJ-producers in this day and age usually start out alone but end up forming their own crew?
SoundCloud has a repost feature which enables you and your peers to repost each other and that multiplies your exposure. Four years ago, I had like 50 followers on SoundCloud and I started following some producers that made similar music and started exchanging knowledge, and we helped each other by reposting and one day, Fwdslxsh reposted my music and that’s when Soulection found me. It’s important to be proactive rather than waiting for someone to find you. That’s how I was recruited to Soulection. I use to have the mindset where just because I was making good music, it was only a matter of time before people found me, but that didn’t happen.
You compared this to religion before – why is it necessary for certain fans to be loyal to a particular genre or sound?
You choose your information so naturally, you narrow down what you look for and this applies to any type of information — news, movies, magazines — you base your selection according to your preference.
Did you see LuckyMe’s rant about Soulection only doing what they did back in 2008 now on Twitter?
The Sound of Tomorrow party is hosted at a 1,500 people venue and when you play at that type of party, you want to play more ‘turnt up’ stuff, so naturally you pick more ‘bangers’. At some point, I think most of the music from Soulection are more ‘bangers’, but Joe Kay tried to diversify the sound. For example, he tried to include some live sets, soul jam in the event, so those kinds of efforts are an answer to those statements. It’s also kind of inevitable sometimes to be very specific about the sound direction because a lot of labels want the artiste to have a wider range of fans, so the music direction ends up going everywhere as well, and from the branding’s point of view, it’s not a good thing either. It’s always hard to find a balance where you get to have your own direction and at the same time build up a fanbase.
You pride yourself in your different way of thinking. What’s different about your perspective compared to the next person?
I travel a lot, so first of all, I appreciate and accept differences. When I post my music on SoundCloud, some people like it and some don’t, but because I understand and accept that people are different, I don’t react to it. Maybe that’s what’s different about me: I don’t stick too much on reaction.
When did you start appreciating everything and discriminating none?
I’ve always been like this; I listen to all kinds of music, I hang out with all types of people and I’ve been moving around since I was young, so I’m use to socialising with a lot of different people — I guess I was pretty curious too. For example, if someone’s a fan of hip hop, they’d want to be seen as part of that community, so they dress the part, and I’ve always like strayed away from that.
Why did you decide to be a self-taught musician? Did you feel like being in a class limited your skills from reaching its true potential? Or have you always enjoyed learning on your own?
My dad is a jazz pianist and he tried to teach me the theories but it was boring as hell. Thinking back now, I should’ve taken his lessons but I just didn’t like it at the time. I wanted to play by ear and sometimes that takes longer but I believe that if you take more time, you end up learning more. I’m not opposed to going to school, if you actually want to educate yourself on theories, that’s a good place to learn.
Why is it your unofficial mission to provoke people to feel?
It’s not that I want people to be emotional unnecessarily, I’m just glad if some people can relate to what I’m expressing. I’ve always loved emotional music like Japanese music, so I was hoping that my work would do the same.
How have you’ve grown as an artiste in the last four years when you only had about 50 followers on SoundCloud?
Technically, I’ve grown a lot for sure and as a person, of course. I use to ask myself why I couldn’t do better, and now I understand that timing is everything. However there is no ‘right time’ cause eventually what you wish for will become a reality but not necessarily at the time you want it to. But then you’ll realise and understand why certain things have to happen when they do.
You’ve lived in many cities and that exposed you to a variety of cultures — is there one you relate to the most?
Asia as a whole. In the US, the presence of Asians in the entertainment industry isn’t very noticeable. Like in a movie, you never see an Asian playing the lead role and same goes to music. You don’t see an Asian winning a Grammy, it’s all about white and black. I want to dedicate myself to help increase the Asian presence and I also see more Asian artistes are thriving and I’m proud to be part of that movement.
Since getting exposure from your EP, Emotion, would consider yourself a bedroom producer success story?
I released a digital version on Bandcamp, and if you release a digital copy, most of the media coverage you’ll receive is online. And I appreciate all the exposure I’ve been given but I don’t really feel like it’s happening or that it’s real. I just released the CD version in Japan, and there was a starRo segment in Tower Records and that was something else — to see my work physically in front of me…
… so what was touring in Japan like then since it seems like the appreciation is bigger there?
Weird. I pretty much live in the digital, but in Japan, I guess it’s a bigger deal than when I’m in the States. I don’t see myself as successful and I feel like people are making a big deal. I try to be humble and I know a lot of people fail because they get too caught up in the fame. But my family helps me stay grounded. And maybe because I was a bedroom musician for a long time, it doesn’t make sense for me to ruin my ‘success’ just by acting like a superstar. And to appreciate whatever that’s happening. Also I think it’s part of the Asian culture to be humble, which is a good thing.
What would you have to achieve to be considered successful?
Owning a music streaming service. Or a headphone label.
Are you personally satisfied with where your EP is?
I thought I was satisfied when I uploaded it but now I see that there’s a lot more I could’ve done. Being your own worst critic is a good thing as you keep growing. It was quite a journey to finally put this up and I was scared to see people’s reaction but now I see that people like it, so I’m a little contented.
starRo played at Under9 on 11 April ’15.