Star Wars and dance music go hand-in-hand. Just search YouTube and you’ll come up with everything from an electro-swing version of the “Cantina Theme” to a dubstep interpretation of the “Imperial March.” This is no new phenomenon. Anyone remember Meco’s 1977 disco album, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk?
Yes, Star Wars has been a part of dance music for almost as long as it’s been a part of the movie world. Despite that, Star Wars Headspace, out digitally today, manages to do something different. The 15-track compilation was executive produced by Rick Rubin and boasts a line-up fit for a summer festival. Kaskade, Flying Lotus, Claude VonStroke, Röyksopp and Bonobo are amongst the heavy-hitters headlining this tribute to the massive film franchise. If that weren’t a big enough hook to pull in listeners, the artists involved were able to source material from the Star Wars sound banks. It’s an album filled with Cantina funk and Death Star stompers, where the peaks are every bit as intense as a lightsaber battle and the quiet moments are somber as sunset on Tatooine.
For Bonobo, Tatooine was the inspiration for his moody, chill-out piece, “Ghomrassen.” The title is a fairly obscure reference; Ghomrassen is the name of a city in Tunisia, the country that stands in for Luke Skywalker’s home planet, as well as one of Tatooine’s moons. “There’s a slight weirdness about that whole Tatooine desert world, which I wanted to capture,” Bonobo says. “There’s quite a sad bleakness about it, especially those scenes where his family home is destroyed.”
Bonobo has long been a fan of the sound design in the Star Wars films and says that he was “immediately very excited” to have the chance to use them in his own work. He relied heavily on the “Death Star klaxon,” an alarm sound, to add to the “ominous” vibe of the track.
The project also gave him the opportunity to draw upon what he admired in the original trilogy, like simply seeing R2-D2 and C-3PO walking together in the desert. “It’s a testament to the time where not every minute on the screen is filled with action and explosions,” Bonobo says of the first film.
For GTA, it was Princess Leia’s plea for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s assistance that guided their contribution to the album, “Help Me!”. The duo were on a tour bus last fall when they looked through available sounds and found that clip. “I was just thinking about cutting it up,” Julia Mejia says.
GTA went for a Miami bass sound, inspired by their hometown and artists like 2 Live Crew and Uncle Luke (who has also been known as Luke Skyywalker). Their track is big and bold, filed with laser and lightsaber sounds. “You can’t do a Star Wars song without the lightsaber sounds,” Matthew Toth says. They also a played an homage to the “Imperial March,” which Mejia used to perform on trumpet when he was playing pep rallies and football games in a school band. GTA, who recently landed a residency at Hakkasan in Las Vegas, wanted something that they could play at clubs and festivals — and they got it. “We play it in our sets almost every night,” Mejia says.
A Star Wars album isn’t complete without a reference to the fanaticism that surrounds the films, and Claude VonStroke takes care of that in “R2 Knows.” Of course, R2-D2 knows that Han Solo was the first to fire inside Mos Eisley Cantina. VonStroke refers to it as a “nerd joke” tucked inside the song for those who are paying attention.
When the popular DJ first dove into the project, VonStroke had planned on making a track based on sound effects. He soon had a change of heart. “It would be more fun to write a vocal and do something that people wouldn’t think that I would do,” he says. His track, featuring vocals from Barry Drift (actually another alter ego for VonStroke, whose real name is Barclay Crenshaw), essentially tells the original trilogy from R2-D2’s perspective. “He’s just part of every plot point,” VonStroke says. “You can talk about anything and he’s got his hand in it, or whatever, his robot arm.”
“R2 Knows” is a fun track, the kind you will want to throw on after you and your friends finish another Star Wars marathon or your hosting a room party at San Diego Comic-Con. Actually, you could say that about the whole album. There’s a lot of versatility in it, with music for the hardcore ravers and tunes for those who would rather chill on the sidelines. You can do a lot with Star Wars and this group of DJ/producers just proved that.