Track by track with Ste­fano Miele aka Riva Starr

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I Was Drunk

“The al­bum took me around one year to fin­ish. This was the first track. At uni­ver­sity I was in­ter­ested in tra­di­tional folk mu­sic. Back then there was a lot of in­ter­est in all this, with the Balkan sound com­ing through, so I started play­ing with some of the sam­ples that be­longed to my cul­ture.

“I got some ideas go­ing, then I hooked up with Nôze, who were th­ese two gypsy dudes who were mak­ing waves on the Get Phys­i­cal la­bel with some very weird tracks. Ob­vi­ously they caught my at­ten­tion, be­cause any­thing weird – I’m the one [laughs].

“They said ‘OK. We will try and work on it – maybe next week. We’re very busy...’ Half an hour later they sent it over with the main idea for the cho­rus. I was blown away.

“I nor­mally al­ways do the mix­downs of my tracks, but I couldn’t find the right bal­ance for this, so it stayed on my hard drive un­til a month be­fore the al­bum was re­leased.

“I wasn’t even play­ing it out. I was play­ing more bassy dub at the time. I knew it was a fun track, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It sat around while I worked on other tracks.”

China Gum

“It’s called China Gum be­cause of the Chi­nese mu­sic sam­ples. I ac­tu­ally have a de­gree in Chi­nese. Six months be­fore I moved to Lon­don in 2007 I spent six months in China fin­ish­ing my de­gree.

“I went trav­el­ling in the coun­try­side, study­ing the mu­sic there and the in­stru­ments. I ended up in this lit­tle record shop that had a col­lec­tion of copied CDs, wrapped in rice pa­per. They weren’t even of­fi­cial re­leases. They were full of field record­ings of tra­di­tional mu­sic from all th­ese vil­lages. They were su­per rare so I jumped on them like a kid on a cake.

“One of the tracks had some drums and voices I used for the main drop here, then I went crazy with ana­logue synths over the top. It’s a break­beat tune, ba­si­cally, done in the tran­si­tion be­tween Ma­dox and Riva Starr, which you can hear.”

Bul­gar­ian Chicks

“I was in touch with th­ese bands that were do­ing this kind of elec­tronic folk mu­sic. One of them was the Balkan Beat Box, from Tel Aviv, and they’re amaz­ing. So, we were good friends, and I asked them if I could sam­ple one of their tracks, Bul­gar­ian Chicks.

“Fun­nily enough, it’s the track that SIS sam­pled for his tune,

Trompeta. I asked them to use the sam­ple to make a track, then got talk­ing to Jesse Rose about do­ing a track to­gether, so we did this.

“It’s a very sim­ple beat, and has a very weird ar­range­ment, but it’s our in­ter­pre­ta­tion of that Balkan idea. It was a very trendy sound by the time I re­leased the al­bum.”

Dance Me

“Af­ter China Gum and Maria came out I hooked up with a guy called Trim. He was a grime type MC who was down with the Roll Deep crew. We had some friends in com­mon.

“At the time there was this San Fran­cisco hip-hop mu­sic called hy­phy around. I wanted to do some­thing with that, with a 303-type of bassline on it.

“He came to the stu­dio and we spent a day there, chat­ting, hav­ing fun, and mak­ing this track. It came to­gether very eas­ily, I must say.

“The track is be­tween this ragga style, as he’s got a Ja­maican flavour, but with this English way of rap­ping. Then you add the 808 bass and 303 on top and you have quite a mix.”

Black Mama

“I’m a mu­sic col­lec­tor. I have a lot of vinyl. I was dig­ging through it and then I came across this sam­ple from the Lafayette Afro Rock Band. I re­ally wanted to do this more elec­tro type of track, as a kind of trib­ute to my break­beat back­ground.

“Af­ter I recorded the sam­ple in and tried to make a beat around it, I ended up talk­ing to this French pro­ducer be­hind the Lafayette Afro Rock Band. I just had to get in touch.

“He was a very old man, hope­fully still alive now. He was kind enough to clear the sam­ple for us. We were a re­ally small la­bel, so that was great.

“I still play this track to­day. I see a lot of peo­ple like A-Track still play­ing it. The beat is pretty tough. A proper 808 thing.”

Black Cat, White Cat

“I was watch­ing this video of a guy on­line play­ing a vi­o­lin solo, and fell in love with it, and sam­pled it. I asked an­other lo­cal band, who were do­ing some gypsy sounds, to re­play it be­cause the qual­ity of the orig­i­nal was crap.

“If you lis­ten to the vi­o­lin solo now you can hear two lay­ers. One is the re­play, the other is the orig­i­nal sam­ple, prob­a­bly taken from YouTube. It’s got that crunchy sound, with the cleaner sound from the band on top, which con­trib­utes to make the over­all sound.

“I didn’t think about an al­bum at the be­gin­ning, which is why all the tracks are so dif­fer­ent. I was do­ing break­beat as Ma­dox, and started get­ting bored, so started Riva Starr in 2006. I was get­ting into all this new stuff from la­bels like Dir­ty­bird, and all that fid­get stuff with Switch and Jus­tice. I com­bined that with drum & bass and breaks, which I loved. From 2006-2009 I was mak­ing EPs, then de­cided that it would be ex­cit­ing to make an al­bum.”

“It made for a dif­fer­ent sound to the stan­dard house at the time: more lin­ear …more chops and crazi­ness”

“You can feel the ar­range­ment get weirder with click and crack­les in there. It all made for a very dif­fer­ent sound to the stan­dard house tunes you’d be lis­ten­ing to at the time. They were a bit more lin­ear. Here there were more chops and crazi­ness.”

Once Upon A Time In Naples

“The next four tracks all draw on my passion for more jazzy, tra­di­tional mu­sic. This one has a re­ally slow gui­tar sam­ple, pitched up. I think I did it with Logic’s EXS24 sam­pler.

“Then I added an elec­tro/ break­beat beat to it. It’s very vibey. I just wanted to have a track that was dif­fer­ent. There was no point mak­ing an al­bum with all house tracks, so this was me be­ing eclec­tic. It was picked up by [UK reg­gae se­lec­tor] David Rodi­gan a lot in his shows.”


“This was re­leased on Kindisch a few years be­fore the al­bum. I still felt it was so, so fresh. It was my first proper tune. It just fit in with the al­bum, on the over­all eclec­tic vibe, so I de­cided to add it to the track list.

“I got so much sup­port for this track. And peo­ple still play it now. I still see Carl Cox drop it in his sets ev­ery once in a while. He was a huge sup­porter of it when it came out. I still think it’s one of the most sold tracks on that la­bel, so far.”


“This is a bit of a trib­ute to some ’90s kind of house. It has a, I wouldn’t say ‘Euro­trash’...but you know Ramirez? All that kind of stuff that was com­ing from Italy back then – all big and brassy. Very ’90s.

“The idea was to do some kind of big, trib­ally sort of track, with those kind of sam­ples in. When I was re­leas­ing as Ma­dox, do­ing my break­beat project, my la­bel was Mantra Breaks, which was part of Ex­panded Mu­sic in Italy. They have all th­ese Euro house tracks from the ’90s. They had Ramirez’s Hab­lando on there, so I asked them to use that sam­ple, which is the main kind of ac­cor­dion sam­ple in Ca­balleros.

“They were all friends, so I was able to clear this sam­ple, which oth­er­wise would have been im­pos­si­ble as it was a mas­sive tune back then.

“It turned out re­ally cool. It was mainly dub in the vibe. Then there is this big drop, with this ac­cor­dion in. It came to­gether re­ally eas­ily.”

Riva’s Booga­loo

“This comes from my passion for jazzy, swing stuff. It’s more on that jazzy tip. I knew this track was mainly for the al­bum. It’s very hard to play out. It’s just a track that’s good to lis­ten to.

“There is a nice drum break in there. It’s all live sam­ples. I used to surf a lot through my vinyl, look­ing for cool drum breaks. I’m ac­tu­ally go­ing to be re­leas­ing a lot of new stuff with live drum­mers on my la­bel, Snatch!

“I want, and wanted, to use peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally play­ing on the tracks and not just re­ly­ing on elec­tronic sounds. I feel like it’s about time to push some dif­fer­ent sounds in dance mu­sic again.”


“I de­cided to end the whole al­bum on a trib­ute, ob­vi­ously to Mr Fin­gers’ Can You Feel It. It’s a cover that is half a cover, in a way. The vibe and idea is the same, but I re­played ev­ery­thing and the notes are dif­fer­ent and the ar­range­ment is dif­fer­ent, so there is just a hint or nod to the Mr Fin­gers track.

“I’m still play­ing this track out th­ese days, to be hon­est. It’s a very good track and the per­fect one to fin­ish up the al­bum.”

Ste­fano Miele goes by many names, not just Mr Riva Starr. Ea­gled-eared lis­ten­ers may also want to check him out when he’s un­der the aliases of Soul Speech, for some Gospel house vibes. Or his other on­go­ing project, Genghis Clan, for some more...

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