[INTERVIEW] Sparkee Shares Love Of Nu-disco, Production Process, + Latest Release, "Rock With Me"
Since establishing himself in the EDM scene in 2018, Jesse Allen, professionally known as Sparkee, has not only taken nu-disco by storm but has hypnotized music enthusiasts with his award winning production skills and raw talent behind the guitar. Because of this, he has also amassed over 10 million streams via original releases and remixes.
Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sparkee vowed to release one remix a week in 2021 in an effort to remain busy during the pandemic. He followed through on his promise and one of the results was his contest winning remix of Tiësto's "The Business", which has been streamed over 2.5 million plays. Sparkee has spent his career developing his one-of-a-kind sound that blends elements of disco, funk, and rock music consisting of groovy riffs and spellbinding basslines that will make you want to listen on repeat.
Check out iEDM's exclusive interview with Sparkee below.
iEDM: Growing up in Halifax, Canada, how did the music scene there help shape your identity as an artist?
Sparkee: To be honest, the local scene didn’t really have that much of an impact on my identity as an artist. The local music scene in Halifax has always been very strong, but it has traditionally been mostly folk-based artists. The electronic music scene has become a lot bigger in the past few years though and there are some really talented producers here!
iEDM: Which artists that you listened to throughout your childhood have had the biggest impact on your production style?
Sparkee: I have so many musical influences that it’s hard to pick! In terms of my production style, I’d have to pick Chromeo, Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers, and Michael Jackson. In terms of guitar playing: Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and Angus Young would be my top influences.
iEDM: What is the story behind creating the persona "Sparkee"? Where does the name draw its inspiration from?
Sparkee: There really isn’t much of a story. It’s just a silly name that stuck! I wish I had a way cooler story for it, but I don’t.
iEDM: A lot of your music can be characterized as nu-disco. What is your favorite aspect about the nu-disco genre and why?
Sparkee: I love the nu-disco style because it’s a fresh take on classic sounds that people love. Think of the last time you went to an event where they played disco songs from groups like Kool & The Gang, Chic, or Earth Wind and Fire; they’re always a hit and everyone knows the words. You could say that Disco was the original dance music and now it’s getting repackaged in a modern way. There’s something about the retro flair mixed with modern production that makes it special. I love the sonic palette of the nu-disco genre and how I get to use my live guitars and bass with it.
iEDM: Your funk guitar and bass sample pack is packed with catchy chord progressions and one-shots. What drove you to want to release a sample pack? What is the typical process for brainstorming and creating a chord progression for the pack?
Sparkee: I released the sample pack through Westwood Sounds which is a company under the Westwood Recordings label in Canada. I created the pack as a way to monetize some of my recordings that were just sitting idle in my work-in-progress folders. I also created some new riffs specifically for the sample pack and I tried to make stuff that I would use as filler guitar parts (nothing that would dominate the mix but would add just a little bit of groove to something without interfering). I’ve actually heard my samples used in songs while randomly listening on Spotify and it’s such a trip every time!
iEDM: From your perspective, what advantages come with adding funk guitar notes as opposed to bass guitar and vice-versa? How do you decide when to include one or the other in your tracks?
Sparkee: I would say that it’s never a case of one or the other but to figure out which serves the song best and that often includes both. Arrangement with these two instruments has always been very intuitive for me and I think that is because I learned so many songs from so many genres before I even attempted to produce my own tracks. The guitar and bass should always compliment each other. The best example of this would be Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. They are the gold standard of the guitar and bass symbiotic relationship.
iEDM: What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome while learning how to play the guitar?
Sparkee: The hardest challenge for me was learning to be musical and developing good taste. Often it’s the subtle dynamics or attitude of a guitar part that really make it shine. Sometimes, what a song needs isn’t flashy guitar parts but really simple ones that sound solid with attitude. “Less is more” is something I’m trying to chase every day.
iEDM: Your music has been described as “Daft Punk meets Van Halen”. In your opinion, what elements of these two artists can be found in your songs?
Sparkee: Well, the Daft Punk side would be the funky electronic elements as well as the fusion of old retro elements with more modern ones. The Van Halen side would be because I often put over-the-top guitar solos in a lot of my tracks. I also tremendously respect how good Eddie Van Halen was at songwriting and creating instead of just guitar playing. I always try to be unique and make something fun which is what he always did.
iEDM: Last year, you won Tiësto’s remix contest of “The Business”. How do you use your creativity to produce a remix that transforms a track into something completely new?
Sparkee: Last year, I went on a self-proclaimed challenge to create one new remix every single week and stream the process every Thursday on Twitch. This Tiësto remix was a result of that challenge. I believe that creativity is a skill; the more you practice it, the better you get. Normally, when I make a remix, I try to create an entirely new vibe by changing the chord progression first. Then, I build the groove around that and decide which direction I want to go. For the Tiësto remix, I wanted to make something that sounded pretty retro but also modern at the same time. I remember thinking it wasn’t very good when I submitted it but the important thing was that it was done!
iEDM: How do you know when a song is ready to be released? How many times do you review your tracks and make changes before you decide that it is time to make them public?
Sparkee: I love this question because it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to recently. I definitely make fewer changes than I used to and that’s a function of my skills improving over time. I’m still guilty of spending ridiculous amounts of time making changes to tracks. That’s usually a waste of time because most people won’t notice the difference. Once I’m in the ballpark of “professional” sounding I try to move on. I truly believe that success boils down to volume. In plain English: the more you do something, the better you’ll get at it. It’s so obvious but we all get stuck with analysis paralysis. There’s a great quote/mantra that I try to live by now: “Finished is better than Perfect”. Clearly, I’m working to release high-quality music but finishing songs without overanalyzing them is a powerful skill I’m trying to develop.
iEDM: Your new track, “Rock With Me” has a very nostalgic dance party feel to it. What inspired this concept and how did you bring that concept to life?
Sparkee: It started as an instrumental with a cool chord progression I came up with one day. It felt so retro that I tried to make it something that Michael Jackson could sing on. I gave it a cheeky name with “Rock With Me” as an hommage to his song “Rock With You”. Georgia took inspiration from the title “Rock With Me” and wrote the topline. She was trying to channel “platform wearing, penthouse party crashing, late summer night dance parties” energy.
iEDM: The combination of the beat and vocals in “Rock With Me” is a recipe for a groovy hit. What made you realize that Georgia from LIINKS would be the perfect voice to match the beat’s energy?
Sparkee: I had worked with Georgia from LIINKS a few times before and she always delivers. She and Tony (LIINKS) are true professionals so I know when I collaborate with them that they will exceed my expectations. I’d recommend checking out our other collaborations such as ‘The Kids’ or ‘84’. We do have a few more unreleased tracks together. Stay tuned!
iEDM: What can you hint at for your fans to get excited about in regards to your upcoming Snack Pack EP?
Sparkee: Well, it’s going to have all of the funk food and ear candy you can handle! For those with a keen eye, all of the artwork is based on my favorite snack and candy brands from the 90s. It was kind of a fun concept to run with for marketing.
In terms of music, I would say that it's funky, nu-disco, pop music. My first two singles "Feel Alive" and "Rock With Me" are a good taste of things to come for the rest of the EP. I also have a remix EP in the works for Snack Pack that fans should be excited about. I happened to lock down some bigger artists that I am quite happy with.
Photos Courtesy of Sparkee
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