March 15, 2019 Interview – Damien Starkey of SLEEPKILLERS
Sometimes you just need to hit mute on all the noise coming from the outside and just trust your instincts. A veteran in the music industry, Damien Starkey has been in the game since he was a teenager, signing on with Elektra Records with his band Burn Season in the early 2000s. Since that time, a lot has changed, record labels have folded, budgets have dwindled, and artist development has vanished. So, where does that leave an artist like Starkey? Well, any good artist adapts to their environment, and Starkey has done just that; scoring and writing music for more than seventy TV shows and movies, along with producing and writing for artists such as Saliva, Daughtry, as well as Avril Lavigne.
Alive and kicking, he continues his Rock-n-Roll dreams in 2019 with the culmination of his new band SLEEPKILLERS, a project brought together by himself and Limp Bizkit Bassist Sam Rivers. A throwback to Hard Rock of yesteryear, Starkey took the time to chat about the idea behind SLEEPKILLERS, what he has learned in his time working in the music business, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for nearly two decades as a performer, producer, and songwriter. From your time with Burn Season to more recently working with SLEEPKILLERS, how would you describe your career to this point?
Damien Starkey – A roller coaster ride. I was lucky enough to experience the last gasp of the old record industry when bands still had big budgets and labels spent money on Rock bands. I also got to be there for the big fall out that happened when all the labels were shutting their doors, merging, and generally freaking out. So, I have kinda seen all sides and I would say its definitely made me wiser and have a greater understanding of the business side of the industry.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, there certainly has been a great deal of changes in the music industry over the last twenty years. That said, you did find success pretty early on with Burn Season as a teenager. The band put out a killer debut album in 2005 and continued to put out music through the years. Do you feel your experience with Burn Season taught you a lot moving forward?
Damien Starkey – Yes, I learned a lot about the music industry, myself, and the world with that band. It was everything to me for several years so many life lessons were learned during that time.
Cryptic Rock – You have made good of your knowledge producing and continued to move forward from there; writing songs for the likes of Saliva, Daughtry, and Avril Lavigne. How would you compare writing and producing other’s music opposed to your own?
Damien Starkey – I just love writing songs. It has always been my greatest passion and the whole reason why I got into music. The only difference with writing for other people is I have to mold my intentions to what they are going for instead of my own personal taste. Sometimes it can make you really creative getting out of your comfort zone and forcing your self to adapt and learn other artists patterns.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting to hear. That leads us to SLEEPKILLERS. A relatively new project, the band consists of you, Limp Bizkit’s Sam Rivers, Adam Latiff formerly of Puddle of Mudd, and Bobby Amaru – your bandmate from Burn Season and current lead man for Saliva. So, how did all this come together?
Damien Starkey – Sam and I had talked for years about doing a project together and finally one day we just got together at my studio and just went for it. We just wanted to go for it and see what happens when we just make stuff that we want to make with no one messing with our process.
Cryptic Rock – SLEEPKILLERS is a Hard Rock band to the core, which is really refreshing. Recently releasing your debut full-length album back on March 1st, what was the writing and recording process like?
Damien Starkey – The process consists of Sam and I just getting together in the studio and bouncing ideas off of each other until we like what we hear. No rules, just us experimenting with what sounds good to us.
Cryptic Rock – The end result is quite good. Reflecting back on what we said by the band being refreshing, we mean you are not following any of the current trends. That in mind, how important was it to the band to stick to what they know, love, and wanted to put together musically?
Damien Starkey – Like I said, it was more about just doing what we like and what sounds good to us. We didn’t know what SLEEPKILLERS was going to sound like until we just started digging into it. It felt kinda ’90s to us and we liked that. It seems other people either praise us or diss us for that very thing.
Cryptic Rock – Well you have to stay true to what comes out, because the best music is honest music. The songs off the album are a great collection of heaviness, melody, and emotion. Were these song ideas you had been working on for some time?
Damien Starkey – No, we wrote all of it together for the most part. There might have been a couple times where one of us had a riff but usually we just jammed until we had a good direction.
Cryptic Rock – Well, Hard Rock fans thank you. Having accomplished a good deal in various areas of music through the years, do you feel like SLEEPKILLERS is a culmination of everything you have done, and will it remain your primary focus moving forward?
Damien Starkey – I think SLEEPKILLERS was designed to be a good outlet for Sam and I to just be creative and enjoy writing together. While we certainly take the band seriously, we are also realistic with our expectations considering that some of us are still playing in other bands. We will continue to put out albums and play shows that make sense for us and our schedules.
Cryptic Rock – Great, so can we expect some touring from SLEEPKILLERS later in 2019?
Damien Starkey – Shows, yes. Traditional touring probably not. We can’t wait to play live, but the going on tour for months at a time is not something that is on our radar. We are in process of developing our strategy for shows and will announce some as soon as we finalize them.
Cryptic Rock – That is something everyone will have to look out for. Last question. Beyond music, Cryptic Rock covers movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites, and why?
Damien Starkey – I like the old school Horror movies that I grew up on. Friday the 13th (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Halloween (1978). Those movies like music does sometimes, represents a time in my life that I will always remember and cherish.