June Feature: Protostar

· Artist Features

Motivated like never before, drum ‘n’ bass producer Protostar is taking 2020 by storm!

 

Protostar’s production is putting science into practice!

When Alex Mallows, or Protostar, began releasing with us back in March of 2013, he was knee-deep in the glitch genre. It was a very busy time for him as he was simultaneously studying Mechanical Engineering at University. His release schedule was constantly impeded by his limited availability and it was nearly impossible for him to enter the headspace needed to work on music full-time.

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Alex approached this year with the goal of finishing one track per month. Now graduated with his degree, Protostar has been transitioning out of glitch hop and into the world of drum ‘n’ bass. Working tirelessly to establish himself as a prominent name in this genre, these latest results have been nothing short of phenomenal. Today, we’re witnessing a completely different Protostar than we’ve seen in the last seven years. We’re witnessing Protostar in his prime.

Protostar joined us to talk about his current musical outlook and much, much more. Let’s hear what he had to say!

Let’s jump right into it!

How has your life changed during these last few months while spending much more time at home? 

Honestly, not that much! The producer lifestyle is quite at home for a lot of people. The only big change is that, this year, I was starting to get a lot more bookings in for later in the year, and then now that’s just completely kind of gone out the window! So it’s me having to refocus my energy, again, back on just production. 

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Which artist has made the biggest impact on your musical career?

Probably KOAN Sound. I did glitch hop for a very long time and, before that, I did a couple of dubstep things. I think the first time I heard “Meanwhile, In The Future” by KOAN Sound, I honestly wasn’t really sure about it. I was like “What is this?” And then it really grew on me! I was like “Okay, I really love glitch hop” and then I made one of the first Sonic remixes I did. I did two of them, one was dubstep and one was glitch hop. When I put those out, that’s what really kick-started my career, because, back then, I had maybe 1,000 followers on Facebook, and then when I put the first Sonic remix out, I got like 4–5,000 followers in a week. 

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Your stage name, Protostar, was inspired by a word you discovered in one of your old physics textbooks! How did you come to be so interested in science and space?

It probably has to do with my parents making me push academically quite a lot when I was growing up. I’ve always been pushed to do my best and I’ve always naturally been kind of adept at science and math. I feel like a lot of people are into science, space, etc. Humans naturally are kind of drawn to the wonders of the great unknown and what is out there and the cool things that exist. 

So I think it’s probably just a human curiosity starting point, and then I guess the word ‘protostar’ kind of fit into that as well. I don’t like drawing too much meaning from my name. It was mainly because it was a cool word and I liked it. The definition of a protostar is the formation of a “star.” It’s kind of a cool little thing that relates to the name. I chose it when I was forming my ideas and forming how I would progress as my music career develops.

You graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Did you learn how to produce music while you were studying Mechanical Engineering, or did that come before?

My first taste of electronic music production was back in GCSE – which is before A-level, so it’s the second step before going to Uni. I was in music class and we used a program called ‘Tracktion.’ It was this really basic music production software, and I was tracking guitar. So that was my first taste. I used a bit of Cubase as well in that class.I was actually a duo [as Protostar] back then in school for a brief while, when I did my first EP. A friend of mine was producing as well and I decided to ask him if he wanted to join me on it, and we worked on some stuff. But then ideas just didn’t really line up as much as we thought they would, so I just went back to being solo. 

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What are you able to take from your background in Mechanical Engineering and apply to your work as a music artist?

A fair bit actually. If you think about it, music is actually just sound waves—and a lot of that is explained with physics. You could make music without knowing it perfectly fine, but when you know the physics of why certain things happen, it makes it a lot easier to do things like sound design and know why certain things are happening, especially in the acoustic space. 

Music theory is for the musical side of it and physics is like the science-y side behind it. If you understand the physics behind it, then it can make it a lot easier to know why certain things are interacting. So things like phasing, just understanding how speakers work even, lets you understand how to utilize them and do certain cool things! So yeah, it’s definitely helped me out with my understanding of the basic building blocks of why things happen.

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Your fans know that you have quite the penchant for gaming!

Tell us about what it means (and takes) to get your music in a game like Rocket League!

Like many other people, gaming has been a big part of my life for a long time. I think the first console I had was like a Gameboy Advance. Music has also been a big part of those games. For example Halo’s soundtrack has always been a big inspiration with such memorable pieces that just stick with people for a long time. And getting music in games has always been really interesting to me. 

A lot of the time you have to have connections and people recommending you for certain projects. Getting things licensed is a really cool way of getting music into a game that isn’t even necessarily produced for the game. For example, the Trials Rising song, “No Turning Back,” was put in like two to three years after it was released, which was really awesome. It gives the song a new lease on life!

You’ve been a Twitch partner for quite some time. How did you first get involved—and can you remember your first stream? 

I started streaming back in 2014, maybe even earlier than that. I started with some production tutorials back when there wasn’t even a music category at all. I would always get people coming into my channel being like “Oh, you’re going to get banned! You’re streaming music on Twitch. This isn’t allowed!” And that was a very common thing. And then several years later they started to make the creative category, which is what I was always pushing for a lot.

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I can’t exactly remember my first stream overall, but my first stream as a Twitch partner was Fallout 4. I remember very clearly that I uploaded the video on my YouTube channel and I was saying “I’m partnered, come join” and, after the stream ended, I realized that I had my mic muted on the video that I posted, so I was just standing there mouthing at the camera! And I uploaded that! It’s been a good journey. There’s been a lot of changes on Twitch, good and bad I guess. Hopefully now there’s been a lot more eyes on the music category on Twitch in general. 

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What are some of the games you’ve been playing in quarantine? Any recommendations?

Mainly Overwatch—but I’ve been getting into VRChat! I’ve had a VR headset for a year or so now, but I’ve never really tried VRChat and my girlfriend actually got me into it, exploring worlds and stuff. It’s really easy to sink a couple hours exploring different worlds and going around and looking at the cool things people have made. Especially now that VRChat is several years old, there’s so much to explore! It’s pretty awesome. But yeah, Overwatch has been one for a while.

In the last few years, your music has taken a fresh flavour: drum ‘n’ bass!

Your cover artworks often reflect your interest in the futuristic and sci-fi. Is this where you draw inspiration from for your music, or does the artwork come after you’ve finished?

I don’t always have a certain theme in mind when I’m making the music. I kind of just let it guide me. Sometimes I do, like when I did the SEQUENCE EP, I had a very strong theme in mind there, especially with “MELTDOWN.” I remember MUZZ and I made the intro for that track back when the first trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 dropped on E3. I was around his house at the time and we were watching E3 on the side. The trailer came out and we were like, “damn, this is really cool!” I was feeling real big Blade Runner vibes, and that’s why we made that intro so Blade Runner-esque like with all the modular synths and stuff. That was so fun. But for every single track that I do, I’ll usually make the name first and, while I’m thinking up the name, I’ll think of a concept of why I’m name it like this. For example “No Turning Back,” I named that because the track felt like a car chase scene or something. When I came up with “No Turning Back” I was like “Okay, I have this idea in my head of a car chase scene, the camera’s in the back of the car, one of the people in the car is looking over the backseat with his gun out. I actually had a picture in mind. There’s a photo from Breaking Bad I used as a reference.

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Do you think you’ll be experimenting in other genres anytime soon?

I’m definitely down to experiment on other things! I’ve always played around with other genres. I sometimes will make lofi hip-hop unironically just because I love that kind of sound. It’s really fun to just experiment and expand your palate. I’ve made pop before, indie pop that I haven’t ever released. I’ve made some house-y stuff as well, but I love to experiment a bit here and there because I never want to be tied down fully to one thing because it would get tiring too easily.

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This year, you came in with the goal of releasing music on a monthly basis. Talk about how you’ve been tackling this and what you’re doing differently to make this a reality.

I think a lot of it was just to do with my mindset and motivation and just pushing yourself to do things. When I was releasing only two, three or four tracks a year, it was mainly because the stuff going on in my life was affecting how much time I had to do music and my energy to put towards it. After spending a few years focusing on my mental health and focusing on myself, then I had that time to then really focus on what I wanted to do, what goals I wanted to set for my career, and how I would achieve that. So, when you set achievable goals, you can then derive what steps you need to take. 

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What do you think it would take for you to release a full album, especially after the success of SEQUENCE?

When I do an EP, I want it to be very cohesive and a concept and have everything tied together. I don’t really like doing EPs that are just a collection of singles jumbled together. I want to make sure everything tells a story as much as it can. With an album, it would be that way. Basically it would just be dedicating all my time for an entire year. When your fans are used to singles coming out, it can be quite hard to transition to doing an album. Because then they’re like “Where are you? I want new music!” And then you have to be like “Just wait! It’s coming!” It’s definitely hard. 

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We’d like to give a huge shoutout to Protostar for making this interview possible! His undeniable proficiency as a producer has been a treat for all Monstercat fans and we can’t wait to hear what he’ll drum up next! Make sure to follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud, Twitch, Spotify —and join his Discord channel!

Photo credit in order of appearance:

Klasvisual, Klasvisual, artwork, JadenTigerMoss, Daniel Keen, JadenTigerMoss, Protostar/Lasyen, Protostar/Lasyen, artwork, artwork, Laszlo & Klasvisual

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