DJ Astro Black
Astro Melody Records
DJ Astro Black is one-half of Astro Melody Records’ production team and label partner. He grew up in Los Angeles on his father’s diverse collection of blues, soul, funk, and reggae – which helped set the tone for his musical inspirations. He infuses these creative influences into his sound, combining this wide range of styles and blending them in his unique artistry. Astro emerged in the early 2000s as a DJ not afraid to take risks and transcend the limitations of being genre-specific. His musical journey began with him learning drums as a teenager. He played in numerous bands, his favorite being the ones that blended genres and blurred lines.
Although Astro has always listened to and loved all styles of music, he has had a deep connection and love for reggae/soul and funk music since the ’90s. By the mid 90’s he was experimenting with producing. After releasing a handful of tracks and remixes under different names, he began to cement his reputation locally in LA as a talent force. His musical journey took him to London, where the music scene and accessibility to European hot spots were influential in his musical growth. Astro performed at various open mics, jams, and busking locations throughout London and Europe. He eventually took up residence in Australia, where he has been musically active ever since.
He has played alongside some of the industry’s biggest names. His high energy sets have secured a solid reputation worldwide as a party rocking, crowd-pleasing act.
Some of the acts that Astro Black has supported in his long list include: Bushman, Lyrics Born, Arrested Development, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Ice Cube, Lee Scratch Perry, Rae & Christian, Norman Jay, FreqNasty, Third World, GangStarr, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Blue King Brown, Katchafire (tour support), Robert Koch, Nucleya, Business Class Refugees, King Jassim, Gaudi, Reggae Rajahs, Grace Barbe, Mahesh Vinayakrem, Thundamentals, and The Funkoars. Additionally, Astro has toured in the USA, Europe, United Kingdom, India, and South Korea.
Astro has played international festivals such as Fuji Rock Festival Japan (2018), Seoul Music Fest, Goa Sunsplash numerous times, and other high-profile festivals.
When not on the road, on a stage, Astro can be heard on the airwaves, delivering his trademarked “Rebel Radio” show. He has been a presenter on SBS’s Alchemy Radio, Bondi FM, and 4K1G, where he presents a cutting-edge, hybrid mix of sounds collected from around the world during his travels. Whether playing a beach party in Goa, playing a Sydney hot-spot, or dropping a set at a festival, Astro is committed to the dance-hall and making the crowd move in any exotic location in the world.
He was an integral part of the sound of Bondi’s reggae/ska group “The Versionaries.” Astro lent his production, songwriting, and vocals to their project, “People Pressure,” released independently by the group.
In 2020 Astro, along with Melodican, formed Astro Melody Records. They quickly set about releasing songs on their imprint. The project, ‘Transfuser Riddim’, received global acclaim and was on numerous top 20 charts and playlists. They followed up with a succession of chart makers, placing them firmly in the reggae future hall of hits.
Despite achieving levels of success – both critical and commercial – Astro remains a genuinely humble, self-effacing individual. A globe-trotting DJ, who, rather than constantly following the trends or hype, prefers to let his music do the talking. Thankfully, his music more than does the talking – it speaks to people.
DJ Astro Black INTERVIEW
IRIE. Tell us about your background and how you got started in music.
DJ Astro Black. Well, I grew up in California and Minneapolis. I come from a mixed heritage that includes Caribbean, Native American, African American, and much other stuff. I guess I’m like a human gumbo. There’s always been music in our household growing up. My father always played music. I credit him for giving me my start in music. I was in school bands from first grade and that sort of thing. Later on in school, I was also in bands with schoolmates. This kind of just evolved into being my passion, and I’ve not been as loyal to any other pursuits as I’ve been to music.
IRIE. What inspired you to launch Astro Melody Records and produce riddims?
DJ Astro Black. I have always dabbled with producing music. I’ve been into many different genres over the years, but reggae has been the most prominent in my life. Melodican and I were having a conversation just as the pandemic hit. I had a bunch of tours/shows canceled early on, and he was about to throw in music altogether when we concluded that this is pretty much all we know how to do, as we’d both only done music our entire lives, with the odd job here and there. So we decided let’s start a label. At first, it was with the intent of putting only our stuff out. We then came up with the name, which is a combination of both of our names, and it just kind of happened from there.
IRIE. Who are some of your musical influences that helped shape your music style?
DJ Astro Black. Wow, there are so many. Originally, I fancied myself as DJ/Toaster. I was heavily into Supercat, Papa Levi, Shinehead, and others. I guess you could say it was the 80’s-90’s riddims that most influenced me. Steely & Clevie, Jammy’s, Gussie Clark, Taxi Gang are names that come to mind riddim wise as being huge influences musically. I also remember being blown away by Sleng Teng and Stalag Riddim.
IRIE. Why the name DJ Astro Black?
DJ Astro Black. The name comes from a song titled “Astro Black” by Sun Ra, a futuristic jazz artist. When I heard the lyrics to the song, I was like these words embody what I want to put out there. Sun Ras was a profoundly philosophical cat who was light years ahead in his thought process. It resonated deeply with me. Before that, I was Joe Black, kind of bland compared to. So is there a special meaning behind it? Cosmic, timeless, universal, space and time.
IRIE. Can you take us through your creative process when producing a new riddim?
DJ Astro Black. Well, a riddim can start from any idea, whether it’s a chord progression (I play guitar), a bass line, drum sounds, or even a conversation between myself and my production partner. Usually, it’s a bit of back and forth with ideas until we have a concept in mind. Melodican is a chief musician, so it’s easy for him to translate the ideas onto instruments. Because we’re both capable of producing, it’s not a long process for us. It’s usually in tweaking the final sound is where we spend the most time. Since the whole process is in-house from first note to mastering, we just take our time.
IRIE. When you’re composing a new riddim, how do you know when the track is complete?
DJ Astro Black. When you make music, it’s hard to say when a track is complete cause you can just build and build. If you’ve got 64 tracks, you think you have to fill all that space. What I’ve learned is less is more, and you have to be willing to put it out there once you’ve reached a place where you’re happy with the feel of the track.
IRIE. Do you have a favorite riddim or track that resonates with you?
DJ Astro Black. I have to say Aswad’s Promiseland Riddim is still one of my all-time favorites, and with Dennis Brown singing on it is pure gold. Aswad is arguably one of the best reggae acts of all time, and Dennis Brown is the cream of the crop vocalist every time!
IRIE. Can you share with us what ‘I Am Hip Hop Music Workshop’ is all about?
DJ Astro Black. I used to facilitate music workshops for young people. It was a mix of DJing, emceeing, and producing. I’d turn up to a school or community center and show kids all this stuff while trying to impart some life skills and ways to conduct oneself where you see yourself as a representative of your whole community; therefore, you were respectful, thoughtful and considerate in your actions. The workshop’s evolved into full-blown events where we partner with youth agencies, government programs, police, sports programs, etc., to deliver something for the young people. Many of the participants have gone on to pursue music professionally, and some are mentors now, so it had a positive effect. I’m glad to have had the idea and opportunity to work with young people in a non-traditional environment. It was my way of trying to give something back.
IRIE. When you’re not producing riddims, who are you listening to?
DJ Astro Black. I listen to a lot of music from all genres. I try to turn off the producer/musicians’ ears and just listen. Because of traveling, I get to pick up music from places like India, Israel, Africa, and the world that I don’t need to speak the language, but I can feel the vibes. Admittedly, I still listen to a lot of reggae, too, in my chill time.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans and first-time listeners take with them after listening to your music?
DJ Astro Black. Firstly the quality of the productions, the classic feel of the tracks, and hopefully, they resonate with the featured artist on the tracks. I choose vocalists that best suit the riddims to deliver top-notch performances. Hopefully, the listeners can pick up on this, and after listening can’t imagine another vocalist sitting on the riddims.
IRIE. What can we expect from DJ Astro Black in 2022?
DJ Astro Black. More riddims, more featured artists, as well as more from the artist we’ve already introduced via our releases. More growth for the label is a top priority. We’ll have more releases from Benjaminz, Brilli Wilburn, Dami D, Melodican, etc. My whole thing is to get these fantastic artists heard. And maybe, just maybe, I might drop an EP where I’m on vocals. We’ll see if I find my bag o’ lyrics. Watch out! Lol.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?
DJ Astro Black. Firstly I/we apprecilove all of the support we receive from all over the world. It has been a magical journey, made more magical because of the love received from you all. Your responses are the inspiration to keep going. I/we are grateful and honored.
Next, I’d have to say just keep your ears open. We have some great projects coming your way in 2022. Keep your lights bright and unity over discord every time! Keep the vibes, IRIE!
IRIE. Maaad Love and Respect, DJ Astro Black! Welcome to the family!
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