DEVSTAR aka Devon Meager is a name who in recent years has been lighting up the underground scene through his captivating mixing style.
Known for effortlessly blending multiple tracks together with the use creative hot cues, razor-sharp wrist flicks and ingenious loops combined with a deep musical archive, the last couple of years has seen him become a force to be reckoned with.
In the last 12 months alone, he’s looked to push his own individual sound as a producer as well as a DJ, following previous years which saw him playing regularly with close friend and fellow DJ trickery specialist Jack Swift.
Ahead of his upcoming performance at ratemyrave’s next pop up livestream “The Barber Shop”, we sat down with Devstar to explore more about where it all began and a bright future.
You’ve had quite the journey in the industry so far, but where did it all start for you?
My earliest recollection of DJing was trying to mix tracks from the KISS House & Garage compilation (I think in 2000) by opening two Windows Media Player windows and mixing from one to another. It didn’t work. I got my first pair of KAM belt drive turntables and Silver Dwarf mixer for my 15th birthday and started buying vinyl straight away – at the time garage was booming so it was mostly house and garage, DJ Zinc 138 Trek was my first.
After school, I met Jack [Swift] at uni, we were housemates and basically played music every day in the house and got really into the local rave scene, heading to places like The Custard Factory and Rainbow Warehouse most weekends. The scene in Birmingham was a big part of me getting into raving and going deeper into underground music.
After uni I, Jack and his brother (DJ Listener) started our own event in London called Juxx where we had a few successes at Plan B (now Phonox) in London and helped us grow our local network. I also entered a few DJ comps to try and get noticed as an artist and won sets at Space Ibiza, Sankeys Ibiza and joined Hannah Wants on her famous UK tours – these comps were the confidence booster I needed at the time, getting that industry recognition from people I admired, and helped me stand out from other DJs. Since then it’s been onwards and up!
During your time behind the decks, you’ve honed and refined the art of DJing, adopting an invigorating style of cutting, chopping and looping which has been known to leave crowds in awe. What made you choose this style of playing?
Growing up listening to garage tape packs before I could go out, I used to love hearing the roar and excitement of the crowds when the DJs would cut tracks in and out and really keep the crowd on its toes the whole night. No one knew what was next. In other genres you see this loads (drum and bass, dubstep, hip hop) but you don’t see it much in house music. It’s something I love to do in sets, firstly because it makes DJing so much more fun, playing tracks in new ways each time, and because it works on the dance floor.
To be honest it wasn’t really a choice, growing up listening to the likes of EZ on the decks and living with Jack at uni who is a don on the decks, it’s just what DJing is to me. A lot of the technical mixing I do isn’t hard, it just takes a bit of thought. Others just don’t try or are worried of messing up live but this is the buzz of it.
You’ve previously played alongside Jack Swift for many years. How did this partnership come about and what was the reasoning behind you both choosing to go solo?
So as I said, Jack and I met at uni and he’s been one of my closest mates since. We like the same music, we like to get experimental on the decks and we end up going on the same nights all the time so I think people are generally used to seeing us together. We’ve never once actually asked to play as a duo and it was never an intentional thing to do so but a lot of promoters have been interested to book us as a duo, which we understand.
However, whilst at the moment we’re both putting a lot of focus on music production, we’re both making slightly different styles of house music so it doesn’t make much sense at this moment for us to be playing as a duo. All that being said we still love being on the same lineup as each other, it’s just for now the B2Bs are on hold (unless it’s a spur of the moment type thing!).
Do you have any particular idols who you look up to as an artist?
This really is an endless list. I like to take inspiration from a wide variety of artists / people, from a variety of genres / roles in music. I think it’s important to observe and take on qualities of all people that you admire or encounter in life. But, here’s a few that stick out for me.
- Kerri Chandler – a true musician, linking jazz to club music, I love everything this man plays or makes. If I could impress anyone as a producer it would be Kerri. It was a real honour having a single on his label.
- Grant Nelson – easily in my top 5 producers of all time. I pretty much love everything this man has made, across all of his aliases. He can make jazz infused US chunky house, garage, house, disco, everything. If I could make music like anyone it would be him.
- Skream – firstly for making music that had no home at the time, so built one. Secondly, for evolving over time, not getting pigeon holed and being willing to do whatever feels right… He does what he wants regardless of whether it “should” work at the moment. I feel a lot of people can take inspiration from this.
- Mark Knight – if you’ve see Mark at any conference or interview, you’ll know he’s a lot more than an artist / touring DJ. Very savvy and commercially minded, a role model for the industry in terms of doing things the right way and making big tracks at the same time. Someone I look up to a lot.
- Disclosure – essentially making incredible garage cross over songs that didn’t make sense commercially but just worked as they were great tracks. No one was making music like they were and tonnes of artists have tried to replicate them since.
- EZ – for obvious reasons. Absolute inspiration on the decks.
There are so many more I’d like to say!
2018 was a breakthrough year for your production with ‘Want You Back’ released on Abode records and ‘Take Control’ on Madtech records. What was the motivation behind these tracks when you were in the studio?
So I’ve been learning to produce for years but ‘Want You Back’ was one of the first finished tracks I’d made that I was really happy with. I wanted to make something that was melodic, uplifting and a bit of a cross over… For ‘Take Control’, I really wanted to make a big piano track and that was it. I wrote the chords fairly quickly and knew there was a good hook there. I also wanted to make a really musical, compositional breakdown to show it was more than just a club track – at the time I was getting so fed up with the repetitiveness of music that was coming out, a lot of “winning formulas” being copied by artists, snare rolls being used to disguise lack of depth in tracks, so I intentionally wanted to make something that was melodic, and didn’t use any snare rolls, to prove a point. MadTech was a dream home for it with the likes of Cera Alba’s “89” on its roster, was a pleasure having Cera Alba do the remix too, such a talent.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
I’ve actually got tonnes of music that I’m super happy with. I snuck a couple in in my latest guest mix for Toolroom Radio so feel free to check them out. Will have to wait and see for the others but I’m loving production at the moment, it’s a big focus for me this year and going forward so expect lots more to come soon!
You’re due to play at ratemyrave’s next pop up livestream called “The Barber Shop” on September 14th, what was it about the stream which interested you?
I love that the RMR guys are putting on streaming events in weird venues – everyone loves weird stuff! It’s a really cool concept and I think it could be the start of something really cool!
You’ve performed all over the UK and internationally, but are there any clubs or festivals you always look forward to playing at?
I look forward to every gig, club, festival to be honest. Festival wise has to be Hideout Festival for me, especially that opening day where everyone is fresh as a daisy, the atmosphere at those opening pool parties is electric. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. No better feeling when every track gets a big crowd reaction.
What’s been the funniest moment you’ve experienced whilst touring?
A few years ago I was a resident for Regression Sessions and when they started doing national gigs we used to have a hell of a laugh on the road. A lot of stories aren’t really appropriate for here. But, one funny moment at Studio 338, a girl crawled onto the stage, under the decks and appeared between me and Jack [Swift] while we were playing. Awkward and funny.
Aside from DJing, this year you’ve also been involved in conferences and workshops for upcoming artists, with one taking place at fabric London. It’s great to see you sharing your knowledge to aspiring DJs & producers. Is this something we can expect to see more of from you?
I’ve been blown away with the interest in the DJ coaching, it’s something I hadn’t really planned to do but I get a lot of messages on social media asking about my mini mixes, technical questions and some general advice. I wanted to explore it a bit further so started writing down what I would want to know if I was starting out DJing – technical concepts, fundamentals and, equally important, mindset. Before I knew it I had a full curriculum. I’ve actually really enjoyed helping other DJs on their journey and have met some fantastic students along the way who I know I’ll be bumping into in the future – it’s a really great feeling being able to help in any way, someone on their own journey.
So, yes, I will be doing more! Next month I’m joining the Ibiza Club News (Breakthrough Artists) team for their Ibiza coaching retreat and will be speaking at their next conference at Fabric again, details TBA. Plus, I’m super excited to be working alongside the Toolroom Academy at the moment on a big new project, again more to follow in due course!
Attending the ratemyrave stream and the rest of the series is completely FREE, you just need to register to the ratemyrave series by CLICKING HERE. Guestlist spaces will then be picked at random and emailed – so keep your eyes peeled on your inbox! If you’re not lucky enough to get a ticket, you can watch all the recorded action live on Facebook during the week following the event.