ARTIST PROFILE: ROCKET START
Sweet Sounds & Hardcore Happiness
Prepare your sweet tooth for the latest Tiny Waves release! Rocket Start is an EDM producer from North Carolina who draws heavy inspiration from Nintendo games. He specializes in happy hardcore with chaotic, hopeful, and melodic tunes laced with sugary sweet melodies, which are presented in perfect harmony in his latest song “Pancake Machine.” Pull up a chair and have your appetite ready as we dig into Rocket Start’s recipe for mixing up saccharine sounds and immaculate vibes.
Many producers draw their musical influences from their childhood hobbies. What were you interested in growing up?
I've always loved Nintendo games, especially Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros, and Super Smash Bros. I’ve been playing since I was six years old. I started out on the Wii and mostly took an interest because my cousin was big into gaming and consoles. Some of the games we played together were Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Batman, and Smash Bros. Over time, gaming became a big hobby for me and my brothers. Even ten years later, we still circle back to Kart and Smash, trying to see who can best one another. I also started collecting game guides from Prima when I was ten, and I'm proud to say that I have original guides from both Mario Galaxy games! Besides gaming, I also picked up cubing in high school and have kinda kept up with it, although I just solve cubes on occasion for fun now.
When did you first take an interest in music? What were some of the first genres you dabbled in?
I first heard EDM when I was sixteen, when my little brother played "Candyland" by Tobu in the car. I remember listening to it and thinking, "It's kind of goofy and weird…whatever, I'm COOL and I listen to rap!" But EDM really grew on me because I had never heard anything like it. I started listening to other songs by Tobu and other NCS artists from the “golden age” (2015-17). I soon found Marshmello, Slushii, and eventually my favorite artist, Tokyo Machine. My interests in music have been mainly instrumentals like house and melodic house. In time I discovered more genres through experimentation and exploration.
What motivated you to make the leap from listener to producer?
I don’t remember the exact turning point, but it was shortly after hearing “Candyland.” I wanted to make music myself because I couldn’t get enough of what I liked listening to. I wanted more of what I liked, so I decided to start making it myself. I ended up downloading the trial version of FL Studio and playing around with it for over a year before purchasing the non-trial version. My process was simple: work on a single song at a time, making sure not to close the software, and come back to it the next day. Mind you, the trial version erases a project once the software is closed, hence I had no choice but to focus on one song at a time. I still use FL Studio to this day and have mostly kept the habit of working on one project at a time.
Where do you find inspiration for each new track? What is your process for starting a new song?
Inspiration varies for me. Recently, I’m getting inspired by concepts. I’ll have a vague image in my mind and will think, “what song would go with this image?” Right now, for example, I have an image of a treehouse in my head. What would that sound like? How can I make those sounds?
Video game music has always been a big inspiration because it’s colorful and energetic, and it has that visual connection. It’s always been there and will always be a staple of how my music sounds. Anime opening chord progressions are another great inspiration. I love trying to listen and learn and do it myself.
My production process always starts with a chord progression and then I put a melody on top of it. If I like a particular chord progression, I often look for a piano version. Honestly, I don’t know a lot of original chord progressions, so when I find one that is popular that I really like, I will put my own melody and sounds over it.
Tell us about the origins and design of “Pancake Machine.”
It started off about seven or eight months ago, maybe in January of this year? I was looking on YouTube for happy hardcore tutorials and found a video of someone making a quick happy hardcore drop. There was a point in the chord progression that really resonated with me, so I started working on my own track. Originally, the track was called Pancakes, but then I named it “Pancake Machine” after Tokyo Machine.
One thing about “Pancake Machine” is that instead of 16 bars repeating, it’s actually 32 bars. The first eight and second eight have the same feel, then the third bar switches it up, before going back to the original vibe in the fourth and final bar. So, there’s a melodic switch up before everything is wrapped up and brought full circle.
Another interesting tidbit is what Ben Briggs calls the future bass drop. I put in a vocal chop part inspired by a single hyperpop song that I sadly don’t remember the name of. I took the idea of including a hyperpop breakdown with the vocals. Also, I’ve recently been inspired by 2010s punk’s raw, energetic feel, so I included electric guitar. “Pancake Machine” was one of my first projects to use guitar in EDM.
Other fun elements include the 170bpm synthwave part – inspired by my track “Arcade Escapade” – which can be heard in the last part of the drop, and the very ending radio muffle piano melody.
What led you to releasing the track with Tiny Waves?
That’s a funny story. I was looking to release a remix of “Song of Storms” from Zelda, and I was looking at the related artists under VGR and found Tiny Waves. I sent an email, but they said they were not releasing VGM at the time. Tiny Waves offered to have me join their Discord server and scheduled an interview with me and Ben Briggs. I really liked him and thought, “This guy is cool, I guess I’ll hang out in the Discord server for a bit.” I later had another chat with Ben and showed him my song “Pancake Machine,” which was not done at the time, and he suggested I submit it to Tiny Waves. So, I sent an email again, and the process began.
How has making and releasing music helped to define you as a person? And how would you define the music that you make? Would you say your music is a reflection of you?
It's an authentic part of my being – my essence. It truly brings me joy to create something beautiful and happy. It's like saying, "Hey everyone, this is a core foundation of my being. I hope you like it!"
How would I define my music? Happy. Fast. WAY energetic. Melodic. 99% of the time I make instrumentals. I love house and happy hardcore mainly, but I've made a ton of genres like breaks, trap, extratone, future bass, and speedcore. You know when Mario gets the super star power-up? Yeah, that’s a visual representation of my music.
It goes hand-in-hand with my personality type: a rounded INFJ. We need to have a creative outlet to express what we can’t articulate otherwise. That’s how it’s been since I started producing. Music is a way to convey thoughts and feelings using audio and sound. It makes it easier to express things that I may not otherwise be able to communicate.
Could you give an example of a track that helped you to articulate your feelings?
I think to this day my favorite song I've made is "Alone." It perfectly describes the Rocket Start style, and it's accurate to me as a person. I made the track last spring, and it is still a core song to me. I was trying to describe the sense of loneliness, which I do feel often. It’s hard to describe…articulating the feeling of loneliness through sound is a bit easier than trying to use words. The song itself sounds very happy and uplifting, but it resonates on the feeling of that loneliness. I suggest listening to the song and seeing if you can understand.
I believe we all deal with loneliness at some point in our lives. How do you manage that feeling of being alone?
Making, producing, having a creative outlet – all of it is coping in a healthy manner. For me, music is a way to be authentic and share parts of myself. I can be vulnerable in a subtle way. I do often feel like a guy in his own little bubble. My music may not fit in with what everyone else is doing, but it is still fun to listen to. When people share my music and say how much they like it, that means they like that authentic part of who I am. Obviously music cannot completely eradicate those feelings of loneliness, but it does help me to manage and understand my thoughts and feelings.
Since last autumn, I have gotten to meet more experienced people in the industry and have had some great conversations and built some new connections. I had a really good talk with VGR, artist to artist, and I’m really happy to have had that opportunity. James Landino is another artist I was able to connect with a bit. I was commissioned to make music for a video game for the first time, and James helped me with the entire process. We talked back-n-forth for a few weeks, discussing contracts and the like. Small things like that can make me feel more connected. I have plenty of IRL friends, so that helps too.
Is there a particular feeling you most want listeners to experience when listening to this track?
I really want to emphasize carefree and pure happiness. Just total contentment with the small things in life and not getting caught up in the stress of the real world. It's literally just a goofy, fun track to jam out to. I want people to know and feel that and just relax with it.
One of the reasons I like happy hardcore is because most of it is energetic and uplifting. “Pancake Machine” itself – as with all happy hardcore songs by me – brings something melodic and emotional but also happy and energetic. It’s how I want to feel when I listen to my music, so I hope others can feel that way too.
Any final words for our readers?
One thing I’ve learned the longer I make music is that if you hear feedback that you don’t like, don’t sweat it. Not all feedback is good feedback. Be mindful of who is giving the feedback. You should seek critiques and advice from experienced producers with credibility. And at the end of the day, do yourself a favor and make what you want to make. Make yourself happy.
With pure vibes and happy beats in equal measure, Rocket Start and his music are sure to give you something to smile about. Enjoy the sweet, uplifting sounds of “Pancake Machine,” and make sure you follow and support Rocket Start across social media, including on SoundCloud, Spotify, Instagram, and YouTube. And, as always, be sure to follow Tiny Waves on all our social media for upcoming releases and incredible music.