Gary Richards (aka Destructo) Interview
With HARD’s Day of The Dead coming up on November 3 and Holy Ship! slated for this Winter, HARD Events creator Gary Richards (aka Destructo) has a lot on his mind. Spending the day with him and watching him work on a number of projects gave us new insight into the world of Destructo and how it all came to be…
Flavorus:So you started in a warehouse in the 90’s, how do you think the dance music scene evolved from underground to mainstream?
Gary Richards:I think that it has evolved because more people are making this kind of music. I think if you’re a 15 year old kid in your bedroom and you want to make music, this is a great way to do it. If you wanted to be in a band back in the day, you’d play bass, you’d play guitar, now you use a computer. I think the fact that technology and how we make music has advanced, more people have caught on to that. Plus I think all of the social media networking tools that are out there like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, file sharing, blogging- all those things have taken the underground scene and put it into every one’s computer.
It’s made the way that we consume music different than it was before, because you used to only get to hear music through MTV or the radio. Now it’s all individual people doing their own thing. I think it’s helped spread the familiarity of the genre and the people that are making the music. You’re getting a much larger pool of talented musicians making electronic music, where back in the day you just had maybe scientists or people that were gear-heads or whatever just making cool sounds, but you didn’t have a ton of actual musicians doing it. Now everyone can do it. You know if you want to make music in 2012, you’re using a computer pretty much in some way, shape or form, so I think that’s had a big hand in it also.
F: Does the fact that the equipment is cheaper make it more accessible?
GR: Yeah, I mean it’s cheaper, its easier to use, but still at the end of the day you have to be a musician. Think about a guy like Jimi Hendrix or Tom Morello. If they were growing up now, they might not have been a guitar players, they might have used those creative skills on something else, whether it’s being a DJ or on a computer. There’s still going to be amazing guitar players and drummers, all those things will never go away, but you’re getting people that normally would have said “I’m a drummer,” but now they have a drum machine and they are making their beats on a computer and they’re expanding their horizons and doing it better. The music sounds a lot better now than it did 20 years ago, that’s for sure.
F: When did you start performing as DJ Destructo?
GR: In 1990.
F: I noticed that you are an excellent multi-tasker. I think DJing is a lot like multitasking. Do you think that being a DJ has made you a better promoter or is it the other way around?
GR: Its definitely made me a better promoter because I look at things from a DJ’s perspective, so when people come to HARD, I know what all the DJ’s are thinking and feeling and what they need to get their job done. A lot of promoters, you go to their events and the sound system sucks and there’s no monitors, they don’t have the right equipment. They just don’t get it. The turn tables aren’t at the right height so you’re bent over the whole time and your back hurts. There’s just like little nuances like that, that only a DJ would know and our festival is based around that. It helps a lot.
F: Congratulations on the sale to Live Nation. What was the biggest influencing factor in the decision to sell?
GR: I have been an independent guy for so long and these events are massive undertakings. I’m just looking to work with a bigger team with more stability and more tools to work with. Live Nation is the largest concert company in the world and so far they’ve been amazing. They just said “Do what you do and if there’s any areas we can help, we’re here.” It’s been great, I mean, its ridiculous how much work we have to do, I can’t take it. Plus, I feel like my time is probably better spent doing something else than sitting there trying to figure out how much fencing and toilets we’re gonna have and shit like that. I’m kind of over that part of it. I know I have to have my head in every aspect of the game to make the event better, but I’m kind of beat down from all the nuts and bolts of making it happen.
I just want to be on stage, making sure the artists and everyone there is having a good time But you gotta put in all the hard work, so hopefully working with Live Nation will make things easier over time.
F: What do you see in the future for HARD and the HARD brand?
GR:The goal is to keep doing quality events, whether they are big or small, and keep turning people on to new music. I think that’s our number one goal, developing new artists from this genre. I think that electronic music is really based around what’s new so I’m going to stick to that formula
F: I heard you were the original creator of the Electric Daisy franchise? How did that happen?
GR: Me and my partner, Mr. Koolaid, produced the Electric Daisy Carnival in 91 and 92. Then in 1997 Pasquale [Rotella] came to me and asked if he could use the name, and I said “Sure why not?” At that time I had a record label that let me put out the CD and the DVD so we did that.
F: I also heard that you were an A&R guy at one point in your career, tell me about that.
GR: After I did those events in the early 90’s, [famed producer] Rick Rubin started coming to my events and he asked me if I knew anyone who would want to help sign electronic artists to his label Def American. So I was like, “I’ll do it,” and then he brought me in. From 1993 until 2006, I’ve worked in an A&R capacity at different labels. I had my own label, one with Interscope, one with A&M, and for the last 15 years I’ve worked in the music business before I started HARD.
F: What are you listening to right now?
GR: I’m listening to Bloc Party’s HARD Summer Mix Tape right now.
F: Who are some new artists to watch?
GR: Definitely check out Kill Frenzy, those guys are dropping like track after track after track and blowing up.
All the Dirty Bird guys like Claude Von Stroke and Justin Martin.
Smims and Belle, that’s Mark Foster and Isom Innis from foster the people, they are a DJ duo. They’re gonna play on the main stage at HARD.
The Oliver guys, I do a lot of production work with them and they’re definitely coming up.
Joey Beltram, I booked him in 1992 to play an event I did at Knotts Berry Farm so he’s kind of like the original heavy sounding electronic producer that there is, period. People are kind of tripping that we got him.
For me, I’m excited personally to see Bootsy Collins and his 20 piece band, that’s where I’ll be .
F: What else did you grow up listening to?
GR: My dad was in the business in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, so when we were little kids I saw Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, KISS, Ted Nugent and the Jackson 5. My dad is kind of different than me in the sense that I always stuck to one style, pretty much one specific style or genre, where my dad’s always been able to change with the times. He’s a radio guy so in the early 70’s it was disco or progressive rock and in the 80s it was like funk and soul and then hip hop. And he just always managed to have a radio station in a big market like DC or New Orleans that was always at the top, he always figured out what to play.
He and my brother would always tell me to stay away from electronic music, that no one buys it. My brother was Slipknot’s manager, they did all the metal shit. They were always like “Why do you mess around with this music that no one likes, you’re wasting your career!” I spent like 15 years having to hear about it from everyone in the family, that this music is never gonna happen, there’s no lyrics,no one cares. I just stuck to it and all of a sudden in the last couple of years everyone’s going crazy
F: So if that’s the worst advice you ever got, what’s the best advice they’ve ever given you?
GR: I guess we’re talking about my dad, and I don’t know if he’s given me the best advice, but he has definitely turned me on to a lot of great music! [laughs] I’m kind of more like the dad in that relationship in some weird way.
F: So I’m going to switch gears a little bit, I have a couple questions about your other HARD branches. I was reading on Wikipedia you’ve got something called HARD 13 and Turkey Soup? What are those?
GR: I think one of my strong points is marketing, so when I worked at all these record labels, I was finding interesting ways to promote music because the radio wouldn’t play it. Hard 13 just kind of came about when I was looking at the calendar and one of the first one-off shows that we did was Boyz Noize, Erol, Diplo…I can’t remember everybody, but it just happened to fall on Friday the 13th. So I just figured we should go with a Hard13 theme to promote the event. So we used the roulette wheel, and put the ball in the black number 13 and that was the flyer. It just caught on. Whenever there’s a show on the 13th, that’s on a weekend, I’ll book it and call it Hard 13 and we have all the images of people playing roulette. We were gonna go with the slasher Friday the 13th vibe, but it just didn’t feel right. I guess that’s more for Halloween.
Turkey soup was kind of similar. I said we should try something around Thanksgiving, that’s always a good night. On the night before Thanksgiving, people have work off, people are back from college, people are in town, so in the early 90s there was an event called Turkey Soup and we used to rip off the Campbell’s soup can and use that imagery.I thought why not bring that back again.
F: I think I remember that!
GR: Turkey soup from back in the day? It used to be with that guy Mike Stine and Mike Messex. It was more like funk and stuff but you kind of have to give it some kind of vibe, you want it to be more than just DJ names on the bill.
So Turkey Soup goes with Thanksgiving. First we did it at the Roxy, and it was fun, but it was a smaller groove. But then we did it in New York and took it a step forward. We tried to blend all these different styles of music together. I think I DJ’d first and played crazy techno, then Yelawolf came on and did hip hop, and Flying Lotus did like a full funk set with a drummer and a bass player. Then A-Trak played hip hop and Tiga closed it out with techno again. And to me, that’s kind of like a turkey soup, just a hodge podge of everything. For some reason, it just works.
F: You’re kind of known as a mastermind for creativity in this industry, what inspired Holy Ship?
GR: In 1997 I had gone on a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on a small boat with a bunch of crazy Germans. They had this event called “The Move”, sponsored by Camel cigarettes and they did one in Vegas at Area 51.
In 1997, I had my record label at A&M so I went to check it out. I was on this boat with all these crazy Germans listening to techno in the Caribbean and this was like the best time I had ever had in my life.
I always like to hear the music during the day in the sun by the pool. It doesn’t always have to be late at night and in a dirty club, it can also be during the day. When HARD started rolling I thought this could be a cool thing. Then, oddly enough, the guys I do the shows with in New York already do a cruise with a company out of Florida called Cloud 9 and in the Bowery in New York called the JAM Cruise. It’s like all these jam bands, and they’ve been doing it for years. So my New York guy is like “I gotta introduce you to the guy that does Jam Cruise and you should talk,” because I had told him I had this idea. I went and looked at the boat and I was like you gotta be fucking kidding me, this is unbelievable, and that was it.
It was tough at first because all year I was trying to explain to people what we were trying to do. I had a very specific idea in my mind of what it was going to be and how it was going to work, but no one really knew that until they went. We didn’t sell it out, we came close the first year which is still great, but I was still bummed that we didn’t sell it out. I didn’t want the boat to leave with an empty room because of how much fun it was going to be, so I started giving the rooms to my buddies and I made sure that we filmed it. We filmed everything and we put the video up and the thing sold out the next time in like one day, so we’re good now. It was a really risky thing because it’s a lot of money, you know to rent that boat and all that. Everyone was freaking out and I was like, “Trust me, it’s going to be good” and in the end it worked out.
F: Do you have any other ideas like what we can expect for hard, anything you want to hint at in the future?
GR: I do, but I’ll keep it on the chill until we do it, because it seems like whenever we do something then people want to copy, which is cool, they can copy all they want. It’s flattery. It makes you feel good, like we’re doing the right things, but I kind of feel like whenever I come up with ideas people try to grab at it. So I’ll keep those in my back pocket for now.
Purchase tickets for HARD Day of the Dead here.