MUSIC is often about those on the stage and behind the microphone…
but we do not often recognise the important and relevance of those who make the music come together. Studio figureheads and impresarios at huge record labels seem all about the money and figures whereas those who truly love music and the great underground musicians trying to put their sounds down are to be commended. Jay Picasso is the boss at Starcity Studios and has taken a lot of great artists under his wing and help shape and promote their music. One of the busiest men in the industry; I was lucky to catch a few moments as he explains his role and some of the artists that have come through his doors – who we should keep our eyes out for in the coming months.
Hey Jay. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Hey Sam; I’ve had a very productive week so far. I have mainly been preparing content for Wayne Woodward’s album release next month and preparing for Signal’s (single) Down release next month (and launch party performance next week).
Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I am a music producer. I run a recording studio Starcity Studios (London) and write music for artists both signed and independent. I am also an artist manager.
You are the director at Starcity Studios. How did you become involved with the studio and what does it offer potential clients?
I founded the studio in 2012; starting out working with local talent and producing music for bands. Then, a few years down the line, my name had spread a little further than my local town and started to receive offers of work from labels and film production companies.
The studio offers the complete artist experience from writing and rehearsing, through to production and mastering.
At Starcity Studios, we generally do all the work needed to prepare artists’ music for radio and distribution…..top 40 stuff!
It’s a confusing world out there for artists so we try and make the process as straight-forward as possible.
The name Jay Picasso definitely carries huge weight with regards producing and mentoring. When did you decide you wanted to help musicians achieve their dreams and what is the most satisfying part of your job?
It was a few years ago that I realised I wanted to assist artists in their development. It was probably only a year ago that I actually found myself in the position to do so. The most satisfying part of my job is seeing the development of an artist who has had to overcome the struggles of staying committed to something that doesn’t initially pay.
Being an artist is a tough job. For most, it seems like an easy decision to become rich and famous. Truth is, for a creative person it can be a very challenging path to walk.
So that and witnessing an artist go from a follower of a genre to a pioneer of that genre. It doesn’t always happen so when it does it’s amazing to have been a part of.
Signal – who recently recorded at the studios – releases Down very soon. What was it like working with him and can you give us any cheeky secrets or inside information about Signal?
Ha. Big Sig! He doesn’t like that name but it’s my duty to tease him. Yes, all is well with the project. Signal’s music keeps going from strength to strength. Down is a record I feel very strongly about. It feels like the product of patience and perseverance. Signal is a very hard-working individual with a very strong head on his shoulders.
I really can’t say much at the moment; however, I will say that it was only this morning we discussed the possibility of an E.P./album. It’s early days and we don’t want to put out the right product out at the wrong time. But that might be worth asking Signal about….
It seemed like he had a blast in the studio. How do you help artists like Signal with their music and bring the best from them?
I find the most important about bringing the best out of an artist is to listen to them. Knowing what matters to them, knowing what they are about; what music they listen to and enjoy. I just try my best to make them feel comfortable and in the case of Signal and a few others, I have had the pleasure of becoming good friends with them. This is always great. It makes studio session more like hanging out. Just good fun!
Which musicians – who have come through the doors this year – have impressed you most and would recommend to us?
Wayne Woodward was one of many that walked through my door. He has come such a long way. I’m very excited for the album release. Blynx is another rapper that I work with who, again, has come such a long way. He has begun to release his music this year (which we started recording in 2012) and has already started to generate quite a buzz on his videos.
You produce a lot of varied musicians and genres but tend to focus around Dance, Grime and Electronic artists. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to everything.
My parents both are very musical and had me listening to most popular records of the ‘80s. I remember lots and lots of Motown. I got heavily into R’n’B, Hip-Hop and Neo-Soul in the ‘90s and then, when I started producing, strangely enough, I really only listen to music from genres I don’t produce.
It’s relaxing. I listen to the charts and Pop records for my own development and being relevant. But it tends to make my mind tick over with ideas too much. So, to relax, I listen to Jazz and Soul music mainly.
Are there any underground treasures you would recommend we listen to? Any artists that are not quite at mainstream level but about to burst through?
There are so many that come to mind. The first would be a young and talented producer King Kev (@KingKevsDCBM). If there were ever a producer who has truly impressed me I’d have to say him. He is an amazing musician and ploughing through the game just like me! I know he has produced some ‘hits’. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before he is climbing the charts.
Chang (@ChanyUK); a singer-songwriter working alongside producer Melodic Beats. They have some serious R’n’B that is just waiting to blow! I know they are working very hard at the moment.
Deamer (@DeamerArtist; London rapper from south-side of the bridge. Very talented young man. Lots of deep and controversial content; all about the mixtapes. Deamer has lyrics for days!
You are a BRIT School graduate and alumni. What was that experience like and do you think it is the premier birthplace of our up-and-coming musicians?
It was definitely a good start. I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today without the education and training I received at BRIT. These days, however, I feel talent is everywhere. Although attending the BRIT or any performing arts school might assist someone with their musical careers it’s not enough to make it. You have to have more than education. You need real raw talent and a motivation to succeed.
Skepta recently walked away with the Mercury Prize. What was your reaction to that and do you see Grime and Hip-Hop becoming more integrated into mainstream music – greater widespread acceptance, perhaps?
Skepta deserved it! It was good to read about! Honestly, yes I believe its Grime and Hip-Hop are becoming wider spread. Sometimes, however, I believe that wider spread can also mean watered down. Being acceptable in musical terms really means ‘popular’, which in my opinion kind of defeats the object of such a musical style. However, with production in the right hands, ‘watered down’ becomes ‘commercial’ and commercial allows more people to accept and hear. So, In a very long-winded way, what’s happening to the Hip-Hop and Grime scene is great. I just hope that the genres maintain their integrity.
The mainstream is still overrun and infiltrated by Indie bands and rather bland Pop. Do you think there needs to be a shake-up or do you feel it will become more varied and all-inclusive in future years?
I don’t think so. I think there is so much variety of acts these days that the 'mainstream’ has always made itself superior to.
Although these acts are full of talent and often new fresh music - the problem they will always face in the U.K. is that there is only ONE chart for all music to compete in.
This simply means that if you specialise in genres like Hip-Hop or Grime, you will be directly competing against the Adeles of the industry for sales. In the U.S., they have a chart for each genre of music. Now although they are much bigger - with many more artist competing for chart positions - this alone means each artist creating a specific genre of music is competing against others within the same genre - makes things a little smoother in my opinion.
Being based out of London: do you feel it is the best place in the world for great new music? Has London become the go-to city for the freshest and most original artists?
Haha. Yes and no! London is a bursting scene. Something is always happening. Someone is always performing! It’s great! The only thing I would say is that the world has gotten a lot smaller now because of the Internet and this means artists and talent from all over the world can collaborate at the click of a button and be heard from the simplest of YouTube uploads. Lastly, people love what’s new and people what’s love different. You can find new and different anywhere in world. London just so happens to attracts many of those people.
What does the rest of the year hold for you? Any insight into the artists you’ll be working with?
Lots of release dates; lots of studio hours; lots of shows and hopefully lots of new music available. All the artists I am working closely with have some kind of strategy in place for the next few months. I personally like to have plans made up until Christmas for each of them. We will then take a little break and assess how to proceed in the New Year.
For any producers and creatives that are tempted to follow in your footsteps: what advice would you offer about getting started and making moves in the industry?
Get started now! In my eyes, I’m still on a long road towards where I want to be. Each month/year brings me a step closer but it’s important to know that progress is progress.
Some months can be longer than others but always keep moving towards where you want to be. On a practical note: anyone serious on becoming a producer or manager; work with new talent. Commit yourself to at least once project per year which doesn’t require payment. I find that this often means you’re working towards something you believe in and are seriously passionate about. Prepare for more work than you expect and keep in mind that for the majority of people trying to make it in this industry; it’s a slow game with some real rewarding moments. Lastly, and obviously: yes it can pay huge sums of money. But expect very little to start and know that like anyone else you will have to earn your wage, your promotion and your pension.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song (other than a Starcity artist as I’ll include one) and I’ll play it here…
That’s probably the hardest question you have asked. However, this song is one I heard a month or so ago, an artist from the U.K. and clearly working with some very talented producers…..
Thabo… World War Free
Follow Jay Picasso (Starcity Studios)