SUMMER 2009
Vol. 40, No. 1
 
FEATURES
Table of Contents
 
  Arts & Lectures: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture By Elizabeth Werhane
  Sticky K: Recent Alum Launches Career as Music Producer By Elisabeth Best ’09
  Tiny Diamonds on Santa Rosa Island Suggest Cosmic Impact By Gail Gallessich, Public Affairs
 
DEPARTMENTS
  Research Roundup:
Study Targets Alzheimer’s Disease
  Around Storke Tower:
News & Notes From the Campus
  Sports Roundup:
UCSB Athletics Gets NCAA Certification
  Alumni Authors:
Surfing, Self-Help, and Culture
  Milestones:
’50s to the Present
  UCSB Alumni Association Annual Meeting Minutes
   
COVER
  Astronaut Joseph Acaba ’90, STS-119 mission specialist, work with the robotic arm during the March 23, 2009, spacewalk, which was the mission's third scheduled session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station.

Credit: NASA
 
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“Fame and Funk: One on one with Sticky K”

UCSB Alum uses the democratizing nature of the Internet to launch his career as a music producer - By Elisabeth Best ’09

StickyKSix months ago, Rod Kashani was just another kid pacing in front of Davidson Library at 1 a.m. with a cigarette in his hand. His neighbors probably still couldn’t pick him out of a crowd. But today Kashani’s debut album Bandari Funk, out on the Dubsided label, definitely has people talking: French fans blog about him, Spanish sites rave about him, and the UK can’t seem to get enough of his bass-bumping beats.

Yet Kashani has remained quite modest. He explains, “You imagine your life. You imagine college. You think, I’m going to go to college, and there’s going to be this point where everything changes. And then you realize: you’re already there. When I thought about getting signed, I thought it would be this magical day where everything changes. But it’s really not like that, because things are really gradual. Sometimes I have to stop and I have to realize, ‘Okay, I’m Sticky K. I’m a legitimate producer.’ Even though I don’t feel like it, I am.”

Kashani certainly has the credits to back up this claim. He was signed to the Dubsided label, owned by Grammy-nominated producer David “Switch” Taylor, on January 14, 2009. He played at UK DJ Foamo’s first U.S. appearance on May 1 at the Hub. He headlined Club Sabotage at CIA in Hollywood on May 22. He is creating an Essential Mix for Kissy Sellout’s BBC Radio 1 show. And his latest release, a remix of Larry Tee’s “Let’s Make Nasty,” places his name alongside famous personalities and electronic artists, including Perez Hilton and Peaches.

It wasn’t easy to get an interview with someone who sleeps until 4 p.m. and commutes from Santa Barbara to L.A. more often than most people drive to the grocery store. But for Kashani, it’s all just part of the lifestyle. When you get your best work done in the middle of the night, he explains, sleep simply can’t be a priority.

His lack of sleep has certainly paid off. Kashani released his EP within two months of graduating from UCSB in December 2008. So how did he do it?

StickyKWhen Kashani found himself in the Film Studies program at UCSB in the fall of 2005, he knew he wanted to do something exceptional. He aspired to be a movie producer. In his spare time, he began electronically creating music using Garage Band, a free program that comes with MacBooks. He clocked late, caffeine-fueled hours making beats in the 24-hour room at Davidson Library during finals week. Kashani recalls, “The more I started messing around with (Garage Band), the better I got, to the point where people were like, ‘Hey, this is kind of good.’ So I thought, well, maybe I should start - just for fun – maybe I’ll give demos out.” At the time, he was focused on remixing hip-hop. So when artists like Lil’ Jon came to the Hub to perform, Kashani threw them his homemade CDs.

But Kashani didn’t really think about getting serious until he started researching successful electronic artists like Daft Punk and Justice. “I noticed a pattern that most of these guys, the reason they got successful really came down to one demo and one track getting into the hands of the right person, and that person listening to it. So I thought, okay, I’ve got to keep giving demos out.”

Distributing demos wasn’t the only step Kashani took toward becoming serious about his musical career. He used online networking Web sites to reach out to DJs and producers. He does not blink when he asserts, “I owe directly my career to MySpace, without a doubt.” Through MySpace, he was able to get in contact with artists who had gigs scheduled locally. Recalls Kashani, “I’d message them and say, ‘Yo, I’m an aspiring producer. I’d love to give you my CD, just to see what your thoughts are, just to get your critical feedback.’ But I was more saying that just so they would listen to it, and I was hoping that they would just like it immediately and be like, ‘You’re a genius. I want to sign you.’” Although at the time, he wasn’t experienced enough to get signed, he took the feedback and used it to improve his music.

Meanwhile, he started DJing parties when his friends, Sam Cantor and Tommy Grandasert, launched IV Garb, their Isla Vista-inspired clothing line. The duo started throwing electronic music parties in Spring 2008. He claims that he might not have even started DJing by this point, had it not been for IV Garb.

But he needed a DJ name. So, he says, “I thought, what is short, looks good on posters, rolls off the tongue, and would sound cool when it says, ‘Sticky K Remix’?” He eventually decided to take the first letter of his last name and tack it onto something catchy – “sticky” is a slang word used to describe a DJ who can’t keep his fingers off the turntables – and Sticky K was born.

StickyKUnfortunately, shortly after he chose his moniker, Kashani’s laptop was stolen. He was forced to reevaluate his goals. He recalls, “When that happened I was like, oh my God, what am I doing? I’m crazy. Why am I thinking I’m going to become some rock star or musician? This is totally ridiculous.” If there’s one thing he says he has faltered on, it’s believing in himself. But Kashani has also learned to use fear as a motivator. He says it was the fear of making nothing of his college career that inspired him to pursue music wholeheartedly. So even while he was commuting to Los Angeles twice a week for his film internships (he interned at both Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount Pictures), he was making mixes for the long drives. His goal? To get signed with a major record label and become a music producer.

It wasn’t easy. He spent a year making lists and setting up stepping stones for himself. He explains his first step was to get DJs and artists to play his music. When he had a big name, like the Crookers, playing his tracks, he used that to approach record labels. He incessantly messaged Jesse Rose (who owns Front Room Recordings, Made to Play, and Loungin’ Recordings) over MySpace, asking him to check out his music. Just as he was about to give up, he decided to send one final message. And Rose responded, encouraging Kashani to keep bugging him.

When Kashani went to see Rose on New Year’s Eve at Club 1015 in San Francisco, he had no idea what to expect. But Rose gave him the email address of his own producer, David “Switch” Taylor. In a matter of days, Taylor called Kashani and asked him to drive to LA; he wanted to release the tracks immediately. Kashani recalls their meeting with wonder. “I came over to show him new music, but then he was like, ‘No, play the stuff we’re putting out.’ So I played the tracks that he had demoed. Just seeing him rock out to it…” He trails off, smiling. “Switch is a very pivotal, legendary figure of not just house music, not just UK house, but of dance music in general, so to see him enjoy my music was really crazy.”

The name of the Sticky K EP, Bandari Funk, has prompted speculation, but Kashani says it was a marketing move more than anything. Bandari is a traditional folk music from Southern Iran, and Bali Funk is a Brazilian style of dance. He laughs about his one-man music genre, totally at ease with his music’s resistance to categorization. “I’m not trying to make obscure, weird music. I’m not trying to cater to the elite or anything. I want to make good music. To me, good music is music that reaches a broad audience.”

On the subject of music, Kashani is certainly well versed and well rounded. He throws out musical references faster than even the educated listener can catch them. He refuses to answer the question of his influences with a list of popular dance artists, instead citing classical, rock, hip-hop, electronic, world, and Persian as the musical genres that have inspired him. Says Kashani, “It all influences me. Everyone wants to know, what bands influenced you directly, but I don’t think it works like that. It all subconsciously affects you.”

Yet in spite of Kashani’s success online, the Internet has not had an entirely positive impact on his career. He admits that he still may still need a day job in order to move to L.A. in the near future, explaining, “I have a release on a very prestigious UK label, but it hasn’t necessarily equated to the gigs. Right now, how it works, is that you can’t make money off releases. That goes all across the board, for artists like Kanye West or Madonna, and that’s because of the advent of Napster and blogs and free music. What you have to do is tour.”

StickyKSurprisingly, “become a rock star” was not on Kashani’s childhood to-do list. Growing up in Los Altos, Kashani was forced to play piano, which he hated. It wasn’t until he started playing guitar that he took an interest in making music. His high school band, The Crux, made it out of the garage to play at the Homecoming dance and the YMCA Battle of the Bands, but broke up after high school.

Kashani asserts that the freedom his parents allowed him has been crucial to his success. “(My parents) could have said, ‘Hey, you’re going to go to Santa Clara, you’re going to do business.’ And I almost did that. I almost went to business school, for Chrissake.”

When asked about local fame, Kashani responds, “I’m not as visible or as well known as Cam Francisco or DJ Mackle, (but) all those guys have been working as DJs for a while. I’ve never focused on doing things on the local level, because I always go for the global, the blogs, and things like that. I don’t care if no one knows who I am in I.V. I’d rather be known in the blogospheres, because that’s what counts in the long run.”

Kashani began his residency at Triple Crown, 1760 Market St. in San Francisco, in July 2009.