T.H.E Interview – Astara

T.H.E Interview – Astara

Astara’s standing within Electronic Music continues to establish itself with each new stellar release and every unforgettable live DJing performance.

With a unique approach towards Electronic Music production, Astara has curated a signature style unparalleled to any other; as he blends the hard-hitting sounds of the genre with the impactful storytelling inherent within the music of his Nashville surroundings, Astara has developed a distinct voice on the scene. Leading the way for refreshing innovation, Astara is surely set to become a household name amongst both fans of Electronic Music and top VIPs within the genre.

So, as he continues to propel himself further towards the forefront of the scene, we’re looking forward to sitting down with Astara today to learn more about his process for preparing for live DJing performances, his set-up and his favourite experiences of taking to the decks.

T.H.E – Hello Astara, how are you doing today?

Astara – Hi, I am doing well! I am finishing up some year-end mixes and heading to the studio to finalize some releases for 2024. Ready for all that this new year has in store!

T.H.E – Can you tell us about when you first discovered Electronic Music, what was your initial introduction to the genre?

Astara – That’s a tough question because it’s so ubiquitous! From video game soundtracks to radio: Dance music is everywhere.

The moment of discovery for me was on a family trip to Venice and Lido in 2006. That summer, our trip coincided with the World Cup, so I was immersed in an incredibly energetic atmosphere. Italy had a scrappy and determined team that would go all the way that summer and lift the trophy. As you can imagine, it was party central in the Italian thoroughfares and at the beach. The music emanated from the discotheques that I was far too young to enter. I remember hearing records such as Gigi D’Agostino’s timeless “L’Amour Toujours” among many other Italo-Dance and Trance records. There were other songs I recall as well, such as DJ Sammy’s cover of “Boys of Summer,” and “I Saw the Sign” by Ace of Base. The songs were inescapable. I also remember hearing a good number of Dido bootleg mixes… That summer was my first real exposure to Dance music, and it left a lasting impression on me.

T.H.E – What was your first DJ setup like, and how did you acquire your equipment?

Astara – My first setup was a Pioneer XDJ all-in-one system that my Dad got me for Christmas in 2014. I didn’t know what I was doing with it, but that was the fun part. It was cool to mess around with it and crossfade between tracks in my Serato library. I spent countless hours just figuring out the ins and outs of the system in minute detail. Those were good times!

T.H.E – Tell us about your first live performance; where was it and how did it go?

Astara – It was a college party years ago—the kind of place where most of us start. A dingy venue in an off-campus basement. It was definitely an industrial vibe—the air was thick, and it felt like a Boiler Room set, but without the high production value and talent behind the turntables haha.

T.H.E – How do you approach selecting tracks for your sets, and what criteria do you use to determine whether a track is a good fit for a particular audience or venue?

Astara – Great question. My approach varies for every set. Of course, you need to understand the obvious differences, like club sets versus open air, radio, etc. But also, you need to understand the local audience you’re playing for. For example, if I’m in New York, I’m going to give a nod to some of the legends of the NYC house scene, such as Kenny Dope, Todd Terry, and the Martinez Brothers. If I’m in Chicago, you’ll hear Felix da Housecat. In Washington DC, you’ll hear Sharam. I believe that despite how globalized the Dance music culture is nowadays, it’s still important to remember the subcultures and cultural undercurrents that have shaped (and continue to shape) broader trends. Additionally, the process has to be intuitive. If you think a song will work in a certain setting, you just go for it. Usually, instinct will get you there, but even if a song bombs, you have to always give yourself credit for taking the risk.

T.H.E – What is one of your favourite memories of performing live?

Astara – One of my most cherished memories from performing live dates back to 2018, when I had the opportunity to play live on air for my radio show for the first time. The excitement of knowing that anyone, anywhere could be tuning in was unparalleled at the time. My show aired during the early morning hours, which led to some intriguing call-ins. I often found myself wondering if those on the line were party-goers from downtown Chicago’s Dance music clubs, attempting to keep the party spirit alive through their radios, or other oddities of the night. Regardless, the fact that my music was eliciting a reaction and connecting with people was incredibly thrilling.

Performing live in front of an audience is an adrenaline rush of its own. You can see the crowd, sense their energy, and feed off their reactions. However, the reach is typically confined to the venue. Ultimately, playing live on air is an entirely different experience. The potential reach is limitless, making it, in some ways, more exciting. For me, this experience has been the most memorable so far in my journey as a performer!

T.H.E – What piece of advice would you give to a DJ who’s just starting their live performance journey?

Astara – To those DJs just setting foot on the path of live performance: I’d bet your drive stems from more than just the allure of fame and wealth. Grant yourself the opportunity to play music you truly love—music that’s outside the Beatport Top 10 and Spotify Dance charts.

Every set I play is an opportunity to share my taste and my personality. I can’t in good conscience plays songs I don’t like because they’re hot in the moment. Stay true to the values that got you into music in the first place—let those values permeate your live shows—and you will get much further than you might have thought in this industry. I promise you!

T.H.E – What are you hoping to achieve next?

Astara – My ultimate goal is the expansion of my musical footprint, specifically with a multitude of new releases on labels that share a similar vision to me artistically. I’m in talks with labels about my unreleased songs slated for 2024, and while I can’t reveal too much at this stage, I’m excited about the possibilities these collaborations present. I’m confident in my ability to make this happen and I think I can safely say that the new year will bring many new songs!

T.H.E – Which new skills or gear would you like to incorporate soon?

Astara – I would like to get back to playing the piano. It’s hard to find time with my current schedule, but it’s integral to my composition and writing process, and I find my best ideas come from the keys. So, in a sense, it is not a “new skill,” but an old skill at which I can only improve! You’ll definitely find me back at the piano more consistently in 2024.

T.H.E – To round up our interview, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your time performing live?

Astara – The biggest lesson I’ve learned from performing live is that it’s not about being perfect. It’s about connecting with the audience and sharing your music in an authentic and engaging way. Contrary to what many musicians may believe (due to perfectionist tendencies), the audience isn’t there to see you perform flawlessly. They’re there first and foremost to enjoy themselves, and secondary to that, they are there to experience something meaningful. I’ve often found that spontaneity and trusting your gut instinct in a set is far more valuable than technical perfectionism. These qualities will also take you much further with an audience. Bearing that in mind, in my sets I will always try to keep my audience entertained and on their toes. If I can make them happy and keep them excited—while sharing some of my personality along the way—then I feel I have done my job!

As our interview comes to an end, we thank Astara for taking the time to speak with us and for sharing a glimpse into his performance practices; with a promise to light up the year with more unmissable productions, we cannot wait to hear what Astara will deliver next. So, a Producer and DJ to keep an eye on, be sure to follow Astara across social media to not miss out on his new releases and next live performances.

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