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Test Shot Starfish - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

The Electro-musical Pulse of Test Shot Starfish

October 2005

Music is one of the few art forms where an artist/group can create a completely different meaning to a horrific term. The name Test Shot Starfish was previously only associated with weaponry, but electronic music changed this negative word association. Consisting of Kyle Schember and Ryan Stuit, Test Shot Starfish were two sound designers / producers who are creating electronic music. They used a horrific (but unknown term) with sense of post-modernism. This free-form usage of signs & signifiers is evident throughout music. Artists like Joy Division, Trisomie 21, Noreaga, and Tragedy Khadafi have used negative terms / names for the positive music. The original Test Shot Starfish was a weapon that was detonated in 1962. This detonation was 400 kilometers high above the mid-Pacific. It emitted an electromagnetic pulse that destroyed satellite equipment and blocked high frequency radio communications across the Pacific for 30 minutes.

Test Shot Starfish is now an electronic group from California. On a Los Angeles film set during 1999, Kyle Schember & Ryan Stuit met with an instant connection. They shared an intellectual love for electronic music. Through their own label (Subtractive Records), they released their debut EP. In 2005, their first full length self-titled LP was released on Kanpai Records. Like Severed Heads, Test Shot Starfish fuses images with their music during their live performances. They have done remixes for Lenny Kravitz, Coldplay, Gus Gus, and Snoop Dogg. Their music will blast us into the future. Using electronic rhythm and melodies, Test Shot Starfish is now an electro-musical pulse.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Kyle: Crazy stuff. We just opened a new studio in Santa Monica, and have been busy getting it up & running. We’ve been booked every day with various projects. We just mixed a DVD for Snoop Dogg (‘Boss’n Up’) and we’re putting the finishing touches on the Coachella Music Festival Documentary / Concert Movie, which will be out early 2006.

MVRemix: The new full-length self-titled Test Shot Starfish album was just released. Tell us about it.

Kyle: We spent a long time getting the album together. Longer than perhaps we should have. Over the past 4 years, we wrote about 40 songs. We picked what we felt was the best to finally release a full length album.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the name, Test Shot Starfish?

Kyle: It’s a historical event that has somewhat been brushed under the carpet.

MVRemix: The new LP was released on Kanpai Records. Why did you choose them?

Kyle: A friend of ours from DMX, Jean Paul introduced us to a friend of his, who was running a small label. She came to a show we did at The Knitting Factory and wanted to sign us. We had similar interests and goals. Everything fell into place for us to release the record. So far, so good.

MVRemix: How is this LP different from your previous EP?

Kyle: The EP was something we just released to get something out. We did it as a self-release on our own label, Subtractive Records. Much more time and thought went into the album than the EP, but I think both hold their own.

MVRemix: Favorite song on the new LP?

Kyle: ‘Polaris.’

Ryan: ‘Sort Of.’

MVRemix: Which song took you the longest to do, from conception to completion? Why?

Kyle: We had a song that is not on the album called, ‘Low Down’ that was cursed. The files would be corrupt, and we’d redo it. The song was strong, but was less & less as good each time we had to redo it. I think we did it from scratch about 7 times over the course of 3 years. Then, we felt it was dated, and didn’t even include it in the album.

MVRemix: Do you do many overdubs while recording? Do you use many first takes, or do you do multiple?

Kyle: Each song is different. Usually Ryan will start by making a beat, or some groove with a new piece of gear. Then, I’ll try and add a melody. We don’t do much sequencing with MIDI. We do a lot of audio editing and looping. I suppose there is a fair amount of overdubbing when trying to get different melodies right.

MVRemix: When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea first, or the music first?

Kyle: We also do visuals to the songs. On occasion, we’ll have an idea to use some footage that we shot. Then, build the song around that. An example of this would be when Ryan went home to visit his Dad in Arizona and found a box of 8mm film. We digitized the home movies and he began to write a childlike theme. The song and visuals came together almost at the same time. Some of these can be seen on the video page of”

MVRemix: You two met on a movie set? What movie was it? What led to the formation of the group? Was there a philosophy behind it?

Kyle: I was an associate producer on a movie called, ‘Tiara Tango’ that was eventually released on Showtime as ‘Forever Fabulous’. It starred Jean Smart & Robert Wagner. Ryan had just moved to LA and had gone to a seminar that an associate of mine was putting on at Universal. I asked him to see if anyone was interested in interning on the film. The next day Ryan showed up at my office and I hired him. We quickly identified our passion for electronic music & became friends. Ryan moved into my building and a few months later, we bought our first keyboard and started making beats & music. It was a natural progression and collaboration.

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"We also do visuals to the songs. On occasion, we’ll have an idea to use some footage that we shot. Then, build the song around that."