Steve Darko is the A&R for Audiophile XXL who is based out of Boston. He is also a software developer for Izotope and currently holds the #2 spot on the Beatport Future House charts for his new “Club Budget” EP on XXL. We had a chance to catch up with Steve before his week at NAMM with Izotope.
So Steve, why don’t you tell us a bit about the house music scene in Beantown?
The house scene in Boston is actually pretty solid right now. We have lots of house heads here that always come out to support both the big cats and the local eels embarking on a fresh journey upstream. Tech house seems to be booming right now, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Love to see the kids getting down to some raw underground shit! I have a new monthly party in the works here, so stay tuned for that my Bostonian peeps.
As you move into year 2 of A&R at XXL: What are you wanting to see more of from young producers submitting music to the label?
I want to hear more techy, groovy tracks with strong influences from bass house and bass music in general. I think the genres compliment each other well and they offer the potential to make incredibly dynamic tracks that will make people lose their shit and groove out at the same time. This is typically something I strive for in my own productions and I want to keep hearing other producers’ takes on it. Generally speaking, just send us the craziest shit you can come up with that still works on the dance floor.
2017 was a big year for you having releases with some nice labels outside of Audiophile and some nice gigs such as SXSW and Middlelands. What are your goals for 2018 to top that?
In 2018 I’d love to expand my releases out to more labels, land some more festival bookings, and keep collaborating with new people. I’ve been collaborating a ton lately, and it’s always a great learning experience for both parties. I’ve picked up lots of tips and tricks from my fellow producers and I hope they’ve learned a thing or two from me too. I have four EPs and a couple remixes/singles lined up to release over the next ~3 months and I hope to keep releasing music at that rate this year. Definitely prefer quality over quantity, but why not both?
So working at iZotope, you’ve probably seen your fair share of VST’s. What are some of your go-to’s?
I’m a bit biased because I’ve worked on most of these, but I’m constantly using Neutron 2, Ozone 8, Trash 2 and DDLY from iZotope (just to name my favorites). My go-to soft synths are Serum and NI’s Monark, but I’ve been using my Moog Sub37 relentlessly since I got it about a year ago. I love the Soundtoys plug-ins as well, particularly Decapitator, Radiator and EchoBoy Jr. (I prefer Jr. to the big boy version for most use cases because the UI is much friendlier).
What production tips/advice do you have for new producers?
Always push forward and don’t get caught up in the fine details until you’ve finished the bulk of the composition of the track. It will probably be in rough shape at first, but once you get stuck tweaking one sound for more than two to five minutes, your creative focus will have shifted away from the composition of the tune. This leads to writer’s blocks and makes you think you’re a terrible producer (you probably aren’t; don’t give up).
My favorite tracks I’ve written have always been 90% composed after one or two session. Afterwards I’ll spend way more time fine tuning and perfecting, but this requires a different mindset that conflicts with composing. I’d recommend always saving any new synth patches and audio effects you use in all your tunes and building up an arsenal of them to use later. This helps build a unique sonic identity and allows you to work very quickly when you’re composing. In Ableton you can do this by saving out Instrument Racks and Audio Effect Racks into your library.
If you’re just starting out, study up on sound design – reverse engineer synth presets or just tweak away until you have a strong understanding of how a particular synth works. This will pay off later when you have a big arsenal of sounds and can come up with new patches quickly.
Being born and raised in Boston who would you rather have beers with, Tom Brady or Matt Damon?
How is this even a question? Our lord and savior, Tom Brady… obviously. GMFP. I’ve partied with Matt Damon and he’s fine. Guy fucking loves potatoes though.