Interview with rising star Derek Howell

Derek Howell is a new talented guy on the dance circuit, hailing from Houston, Texas, a new producer and DJ, already making people talk and wondering "who the hell is he?" Starting playing guitar ten years ago, he was wrapped up by the dance music in 2002, pretty much instantly. Together with his fellow partner Peter Martin, who is better known for his recent massive hit 'Perfect Wave', started producing under the name "The Alley Qats" and their first track made it to Audio Tour Compilation CD mixed by Chris Fortier. Derek is also one half of the Lonestar project, the other one being Joshua Michael, and one of the independent artists at, the innovative digital downloads store. His tracks have been hammered by some of the biggest names around, including John Digweed, Nick Warren, Hernan Cattaneo and many others... He provides us a comprehensive approaching into his musical life, his upcoming releases and much more...

Hello Derek, thanks for providing us a few moments for a little chat! How's life going on lately?

Life is generally always good, especially good at the moment. I'm getting the opportunity to work on projects of a fairly wide variety. Working on music is definitely always a good thing.

Tell us a little about yourself; when you started making music for the first time?

I guess it was about '93 or '94. I picked up the guitar for a few years and had a great time with it as well as choir in the church.
I actually didn't start producing electronic music until '02. But I'd say, like a lot of us here in Central U.S., I was highly immersed in it pretty much instantly.

How can you describe your music style? What gives you inspiration?

It's really just a product of my surroundings and musical tastes, both electronic and "conventional". I'm definitely always trying to push myself towards something more unique and ground breaking. Hopefully, I'll eventually succeed at that.
The inspiration comes from a lot of things; other music, film scores, crappy days at work, just all kinds of input from the world on a day-to-day basis. But I'd have to say the main source of inspiration for my music is the music itself (that sounds a little cliché, but I don't mind).

What can you tell us about your upcoming releases?

I have, at the moment, one solo work due out on Fade Records some time this summer. It's kind of a housey number, but slightly emotive with a remix on the B-sideI also have a couple of collaboration works scheduled for release over the next couple of months. My production partner, Peter Martin and I are putting out one track under the production name "The Alley Qats", which is featured on the Audio Tour Compilation CD mixed by Chris Fortier. It's dirty and groovy. Kind of a "sweat on the dance floor" number. It's a lot of fun though when the breakdown kicks in.

The other release we have coming out is on the Armada sub label Electronic Elements. That one we did under the "Pinkbox Special" name. One of the songs on there is called "Simple" and is very big and thick both musically and precussively. The B-side number is called "Nice Guys Finish Last". That one is also very musical, but spun over a breaks pattern.

I'm still working on a few other solo releases at the moment as well as with production partner
Joshua Michael. Together we produce under the name "Lonestar". It's always a lot of fun working with him. As far as other solo projects, we'll just have to see.

Digweed already has played some of your productions at the Delta Heavy show at this year's Winter Music Conference. What was his reaction when he listened to your stuff?

I'm not exactly sure what his initial reaction was. I spoke with him a bit after the conference was said and done. He seems generally pleased with the sound I'm going for and feels that it is very "now", which is good to hear.

How's the club scene in Houston going lately?

It's getting better by the day in tiny increments. I think once we see enough good dance music coming out of Texas, exciting things will happen. With dj's like Asif Ahmed and producers like Smight, Starkid, Peter Martin, and Joshua Michael (1/2 of Lonestar), it's safe to say we're on the right track.

Whom/what you'd say has/had a telling influence in your musical life?

Music and family have had the greatest influence on my musical life. Artists like Pink Floyd, Duncan Sheik, and even Metallica have all been very influential to my music. There are countless others, but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment. Also, my family/friends are a big influence. My parents always encouraged me to play an instrument, which subsequently led to the guitar thing and, in turn, led to the djing.

What do you have in your studio?

I have a pink computer (bought it from an old roommate. I must clarify that she picked the color.) which has had it's entrails upgraded several times. I have a set of Creative Labs PC speakers for monitoring and I run two software packages; one for music creation/sampling and one for sequencing.
It's a modest setup by many standards, but I'm able to be productive with it.

You're also a DJ. What style do you play in your sets?

I play a result of what I'm feeling crossed with whatever the mood is. I think the mood is ultimately set by the crowd, so it just depends. I really dig a lot of different styles (go figure), but mostly things that are musical. I'm on a breaks kick lately, so I'd have to say breaks are where it's at.
If I had my way, breaks would have a much bigger role to play in the dance world, but I think time is gonna tell on that one.

How do you see yourself in 5 years?

I haven't a clue. As long as I'm not where I am now, I'll be happy. Change is a painful, but generally good thing.

Features Archive


Interview with rising star Derek Howell

May 23, 2004 at 11:20 AM CEST


Andrei Rusu

Comments on this article: