Scott Sterling emerged out of San Francisco's dance and indie-circus scene and first came to my attention under his Drumspyder monikor on Dakini Records compilation Tribal Matrix 2. Not long after I downloaded his digital release the Nekyia e.p. which had a far funkier feel. We also featured his debut album "Kytheria" in our 2010 best of the year round up.
1) Firstly thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to complete this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you started your musical career?
I started out playing drum set in rock bands, most with a post-punk or indie flavor, but I was from the beginning somewhat curious and experimental with rhythms, drum setups, and sounds. I did a fair amount of industrial-style banging on oil drums and scraping on scrap metal, as well as exploring odd and arcane rhythms. Later I became involved with dance groups which combined acrobatic dance, aerials, fire, and music, and I then branched out into electronic beats and sounds. Working with these groups introduced me to the intimate relation of drumming to dance, which has been central to my music ever since.
It was the drum/dance connection that got me interested in the doumbek (arabic tabla) and bellydance, which led me to Arabic music and the whole family of Mediterranean musical styles.
My formative project in the realm of bellydance fusion was the Nekyia dance ensemble, directed by Kristina Canizares http://www.nekyiadance.com/ The choreography fused bellydance, latin, jazz with burlesque influences. The two Nekyia CDs are the music I produced for the ensemble and individual solos. There were some interesting side projects and offshoots happening then - Kristina and I were really into combining middle eastern rhythms with samba and afro-cuban styles; the whole group had a theatrical and circus side as well, and we took part in some crazy pyrotechnical theater productions at Oakland's Crucible…good times! At the same time a started playing with Jef Stott http://jefstott.com/, who took me on board to tour Canada and Japan, which is how I met Gio (Makyo) of Dakini Records http://www.dakinirecords.com/.
2) The internet has certainly expanded my mind if I’d have looked at an album cover in the early 90’s I’d have recognised bongo’s, congo’s, tablas etc but I wouldn’t have known the darbuka was a drum or a sarangi was a string instrument. How did you discover and compile your drum set up?
I think that being a drummer very commonly leads one to be curious about the wealth of rhythmic traditions around the world, and early I had some acquintance with african and asian drumming styles, being particularly inspired by Japanese Taiko drumming.
But by the time I got into Arabic percussion the internet and DVDs were there and they helped immensely. I've taken a few lessons from master percussionists in the SF Bay area but most of what I know is self-taught. I've gleaned a lot from internet, recordings and videos (In particular I'm into David Kuckhermann's http://www.framedrums.net/ framedrum series, and I highly recommend Faisal Zedan's http://faisalzedan.com/ derbakki DVD), but I think that experience is the ultimate teacher - playing live, working with dancers and other musicians, experimenting in the studio - seeing what works and what doesn't.
3) In the UK we had the likes of Natacha Atlas doing belly dance routines with Trans-Global Underground in the early 90’s and I guess belly dance classes have become popular in recent years. However, we don’t seem to have the belly dance breakz scene that San Francisco and Tokyo have. Is your music warmly accepted in the dance class community and do you plan to tour abroad?
Yes - although I'm not exactly in the mainstream of either the tribal or cabaret styles in the US, my music has made a good number of appearances in dance classes, videos, and performances. (At my YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/drumspyder I've collected a sampling of these) As for touring plans, I've lately only been doing West coast US gigs, have a new collaboration in the early stages which is shaping up to be a touring ensemble. You'll be hearing more from us soon!
4) My first experience of the Drumspyder sound was on Dakini Records Tribal Matrix 2. The track “Dunawi” had a real old skool electro bass sound to it and was a refreshing take on world fusion. Deeper exploration into the “Nekyia” e.p. and I discovered a lot of elements of funk and the debut album “Kytheria” had a deep house vibe. Are you just fusing the sounds you listen to or was this a conscious effort to be different?
My first tracks with the Nekyia were inspired a great deal by broken beat (you can hear it especially on "Pure Catnip") a bit of funky house and downtempo, and afro-cuban rhythms. Mainly it resulted from what I was listening to at the time - I was an avid follower of Bugz in the Attic and the like at the same time that I was learning the doumbek - a somewhat odd combination!
I've always loved house and uptempo dance music in general, so I put some of that on the Dakini album, and I have a lot of forthcoming projects that are going into electro/tech house and generally uptempo territory. There's a brand new track in the Live mix , "Ahlam Atrash" (forthcoming on Caravan records https://www.hollywoodmusiccenter.com/index.php?1=1&productId=1628&) which represents that direction. But I have downtempo and midtempo (moombahton influenced) tracks in the works as well - as a percussionist I feel the need top work with a balance of different rhythms and tempos.
5) You’ve recently re-mixed for the Desert Dwellers and Spy From Cairo are there any other re-mix projects on the horizon?
Yes - coming up in June I have a track on a compilation called Kundalini Yoga Remixed from the Sprit Voyage label http://www.spiritvoyage.com/?gclid=COjo4v_-76gCFQoTbAodnCjqCg - a remix of kirtan duo Mirabai Ceiba. Also in the works is a remix of Lumin, one of Jef's former groups, for Dakini. Down the road a little further will be some collaboration and remixing with SF bellydancer/disco diva Gypsy Love http://www.gypsytime.com/ and violin virtuoso Kippy Marks http://www.kippymarks.us/.
6) Who in your opinion is the greatest ethnic drummer of all time?
I have so many drumming heroes from different times and cultures, it would be hard to pick an absolute favorite. But in the middle eastern realm I have been particularly inspired by Mahmoud Fadl http://www.piranha.de/english/piranha_musik_verlag/mahmoud_fadl. "The Drummers of the Nile" series were some of my first middle eastern albums and I still love them - stellar percussion work, traditional music with a subtle blend of afro-latin /jazz influences, and all-around funky and soulful fusion. If you want to get introduced to middle eastern percussion I recommend checking out his work.
Dakini Records: http://www.dakinirecords.com