We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the most unique and prolific artists of our time—DED STARK, to chat about his history in music, influences, UNDERPOP, and more.
Thanks for chatting with us. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am DED STARK. I am an introvert who has an obsession with art and music. I’ve spent my entire life making and studying different types of music and art. DED STARK (the brand) seems to be the product of my mixed influences that span many generations and genres. I am an only child so I got used to entertaining myself by creating something from nothing, I think that’s a big reason why I’m self-produced and don’t collab (yet).
Who or what inspired you to start making music? And, when did you start? I know you’ve been producing for a while.
I’ve been making music for such a long time I don’t know where to officially place the birth of this endeavor on any timeline. I will say, I have been singing since I was a toddler, playing guitar since I was 9, and making beats since I was 14. (for perspective, I’m about to be 30).
Though DED STARK has only been a brand since late 2017, I can assure you it’s the tip of the preverbal artists’ iceberg. As stated above, I started singing and playing guitar very young, so my 1st official endeavor was as the frontman of a few bands. By the time I graduated high school I had lots of experience playing shows as a frontman, and even a decent amount of songwriting experience though it was very infantile compared to what I’m doing now. So at that time, I was enamored with all kinds of rock legends, from old to new, from Hendrix and Zeppelin to the newer stuff like Audioslave and the offspring. My influences were all over. Before the end of high school, however, I made some new friends that exposed me to hip hop, in a way that inspired me to make it myself. Having dabbled in it as a consumer and having musical experience, I began producing beats and writing “raps” or verses and recording them back then (pre-2010, I was in high school).
After I graduated I was part of a local rap clique for a bit before ultimately getting inspired by a new genre at the time (trap/bass/EDM) which lead me on another leg of my musical journey, to LA where I attended ICON music school in 2016. Ironically by that time, even though I was attending a music school that was very EDM-centric, I realized that I missed writing songs, and hip hop/pop/indie seemed to be calling my name.
With all the different influences and phases I had gone through I felt equipped to start a solo brand that focused on my narrative… because it felt important to use my music and art, to be honest with the world about how I feel. Around that time too, new lanes of hip hop started opening up thanks to acts like Lil Peep, Post Malone, and XXXTenatacion just to name a few. Once I realized how much hip hop had changed since I left to pursue EDM, I was totally re-energized thus all my old influences mixed with the new inspiration to create what is now DED STARK.
How has COVID affected your creative output?
To be honest… not really at all lmao. I was a major homebody with mainly online revenue before COVID, so the effect it had on me and my work with my existing lifestyle has been minimal, to say the least.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a musician?
For me, I would say connecting with other artists. I know how to make music, I’m confident in my artistic skills and abilities, but I’m socially awkward, and I’m NOT confident in my social skills and abilities. I feel like I do or say the wrong thing without realizing it. Also, I could be overthinking this, which is another one of my biggest problems.
At the end of the day I want dope unique artists to succeed just for being dope and unique, it helps if they are nice too ofc but even then… GOOD ART should rise above at the end of the day, that’s the way I see it anyway. The fact that I don’t collab (yet) seems to turn off a lot of artists too, which I honestly understand. When I do a collab, however, each one will have a specific purpose, but even if/when I’m not doing collabs, I love to show support on underground artists’ stuff in any way I can.
As of recent, I do feel like this has changed (in my favor) a bit, so I should just keep going and see what happens.
How did the concept for UNDERPOP come about?
Well… it’s like half a joke, not gonna lie (that probably no one gets but me). It’s kinda my response to the hyperpop movement because I have some homies that are in that scene or categorized as such, but I’ll never have that sound… I decided to just make an album that’s like the antithesis of that. Thus UNDERPOP was born and the name just stuck. It’s basically like “UNDERGROUND POP” because there is a hint of pop vibes on the album based on song structure/subject matter and writing style. The production style AND quality, however, is FAR from pop, with a very bedroom rap or cloud rap type vibe, and a vocal sound that borderlines on the lofi side of things too at times.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021 and 2022?
Well I keep tryna save up some bread and get my priorities lined up so I can travel and play shows with some homies again, but alas patience is a virtue and covid still keeps fucking things up. PLUS if I’m being honest I keep releasing new music so my bread goes to that rather than into savings to travel. I will try to get this ep out and one more 10 track album out before New Year’s. Maybe even squeezing in the release of an additional ep I’m sitting on by then too.
All that being said I’m going to somehow slow down the release schedule a little bit for the rest of the year to get on my feet a little. On top of that, I’ve been planting seeds overtime to get good lineups and sponsors for events. From LA to ATL and places in between, good things take time but when it happens we gon be mobbing as a squad playing shows around the country, (for starters)… realistically that may take time so we could be looking at 2022.