By: Cody Sharp & Johnny Cranston
Just one day after Christmas, we made our way to the Dallas Convention Center to attend Texas’ premier electronic event, Lights All Night. On the first night of the 2-day festival, we hopped from a visually striking Boys Noize set to meet up with DJ, producer, and industry professional Gary Richards. Richards has seen a surge of success in his HARD events and unique Holy Ship experience as well as a well-received West Coast EP. We sat down to talk about his shift in musical direction, hip-hop, record sales, and much more.
Wavo: If I’m correct, this is your 2nd trip to Dallas this year. How has your time been in Dallas?
Gary Richards: Everytime is great. People here like to fucking party. They like to stay up late!
Wavo: I Guess that’s why they booked you for the after party tonight.
Gary Richards: Oh yeah, I’m more excited about that show later tonight than my set here. It’s gonna be wild. I like to play more where people dance.
Wavo: Why did you decide to move into a different direction fom your Higher EP compared to the recent West Coast EP?
Gary Richards: You know, I always try to do something different. It’s kind of funny actually, the real story is YG rapped on ‘Higher.’ ‘Party Up’ was originally sang on ‘Higher’. He sent it to me, and I listened to it and was like, “You know ‘Higher’ should just be the way it is, vocals are just working on it. Then I went in the studio and thought, “I wanna make a house track and put some rap on it” then I had those vocals so I pulled them up and it just kinda worked! So then he introduced me to Ty Dolla $ign , and then I went in the studio with Ty and that just really opened my eyes to like so much more that you can do with vocalists. That’s really what I think separates the next level, working with real vocals and people that can sing. Cause you know for me, I’ve always been kind of like a club DJ, just playing tracks but now I got a whole new perspective.
Wavo: So would you say that would be the point where you started to incorporate more hip-hop into your already soulful music? I think the vocals from the hip-hop gives it a whole new dimension.
Gary Richards: Yeah definitely, and you know it’s fun! Being in the studio with all those guys is way more fun than just staring at a computer screen or like trying to figure out what comes after the drop, this snare and that melody. Like that’s all cool and people can do that but like when you have a voice and someone like Too Short, who is a fucking legend, and just being in the studio with that guy and all those dudes is just another whole layer that I think really takes it to the next level.
Wavo: I assume Amine Edge & DANCE were influential to your current sound, and pioneered some of the way for G-house. Any shoutouts to other producers that lent a hand?
Gary Richards: Yeah, well you know I heard their tune ‘Going To Heaven With The Goodie-Goodies’ where they sampled Biggie. I wanted to book them on HARD, but I also wanted to get more songs like that out there, but there weren’t many. Their [tracks] were really good, but that was really all there was. I tried to make one and actually the first one I did was ‘West Coast’ and I used samples. But then I was like “fuck samples I have the vocals of YG and Ty and it just sort of spiralled from there. But you know, it’s good and bad because my tunes are a little different. I blend them in with those songs during my sets, but they’re different. They’re more like songs, they’re kind of riding that balance of something you play at a club and something you can listen to. I wanted the EP to be something you put on from start to finish and listen to and enjoy, but then trying to figure out how to work it into a festival has been tricky. I’m still working that out now. That’s why I like the club better because in the club you can play those tunes.
Wavo: So Boys Noize is currently on stage. You guys are pretty good friends, right? Did he have any encouraging words for your latest EP?
Gary Richards: Yeah, he played out ‘Technology’ and ‘Higher.’ When I showed him ‘Party Up’ he kind of helped me. When we were in Australia, he gave me some ideas of how to make it more interesting. Actually what happened was that I played it [‘Party Up’] for Interscope and told Alex (Boys Noize) “I love you bro. You’ve helped me with so much, but I have this opportunity with Interscope” and he was like “do it.” I mean, I’ve always told him “you should sign with a big label and go for the world-wide thing” but he’s nervous about it because he doesn’t want people telling him what to do. I’ve always told him “dude, just do what you do but just try to plug into their system.” Because Boys Noize Records is dope, they just need more exposure.
Wavo: In this day and age, are online music sales still a viable path for many producers? Do you think it could be more beneficial for artists to strive for playing at events like HARD rather than aim for selling music?
Gary Richards: I think when you’re getting started, you’ve got to just get the music out there and get people to hear it. So I don’t think it’s really about sales, it’s more about Soundcloud or Spotify…just getting your music out there. It’s weird for me now because I’m on Interscope and they’re like “you gotta sell records.” I mean I used to own a record store and I used to always sell records, but in the last how ever many years, I never thought “I need to sell my music.” I just felt like I wanted people to hear my tracks so when I play them live, it works. But now I’m back to “OK…these guys signed me. They paid me money. They need to sell these records.” They didn’t want me to put the EP on Soundcloud, but I said “all my people go to my Soundcloud to hear my music. I have to put it there.” So I have to try to figure out how to balance between getting people to hear it, but also keeping the label happy because it’s a business and they need to sell records. You have to get past the Soundcloud world and get into the iTunes/Beatport world. It’s important to have that, it’s important but it’s tough.
Wavo: It’s hard nowadays when artists will make more money playing shows over selling music.
Gary Richards: What I always said when people used to interview me in the beginning was, “why would someone buy a record when they can get it for free?” It’s like if I was trying to sell you guys oxygen..It’s fuckin’ free. I think the records labels need to rethink their model and how they do it. Because there’s gotta be a way they get paid. But electronic fans are savy, they’ll find a way to get your music no matter what they want to pay for it. But I think it’s good to support music. I’ve been spending hundreds of dollars on music for 20 years. Buying vinyl…buying CDs. Just last night I probably bought $100 worth of tracks on Beatport, just the convenience to have them. What I was doing for a long time was just taking my vinyl and sucking it in, but it just doesn’t sound the same.
Wavo: Do you have a favorite memory from the Holy Ship events?
Gary Richards: There’s been a million cool moments…just trying to get Pharrell there. We had to helicopter him in because the boat was going to leave and I was like “No, Pharrell is coming. Don’t leave.” And having Tiesto play. I’ve never even worked with Tiesto and then Dillon Francis came up there. We were like “Our special guest is Tiesto!” and then Dillon came out and then Tiesto came out after. But I think the most important thing with Holy Ship is that the people that come on the boat have made these special friendships that will last a lifetime. And that was something I didn’t event think would happen and that just trumps everything because we’ve connected people all over the world through the event. It has created a special bond with people and it’s really cool. I’m in it for the music, but to see that happening…that was the bonus and it’s better than anything.
Wavo: What artists you’re most excited about being on Holy Ship?
Gary Richards: Ty Dolla $ign and DJ Mustard are coming, so it’s really cool to show them our vibe. It’s funny, I was in the studio with Ty and I was showing him the video for Holy Ship and his roommate was actually already booked. Then I saw this dude on the boat with a mask and he was trying to give me a sticker, I was like “what the fuck?” and I looked down and it was a Ty Dolla $ign sticker and I thought “OK, that must be his roommate.” I’m really pumped to have Flume. I think that Harley is an incredible talent. His music is so good and I’m stoked to have him back again. Also Armand Van Helden. He’s one of my fuckin’ heroes. I feel like Armand is up there with Daft Punk with all the songs he’s made over the years. But just the whole thing really. Annie Mac, she’s there again. Busy P is coming. It’s just so cool, someone like Busy P being there. Pedro [Busy P] was at the first HARD in 2007 and now I’m going to get to show him what Holy Ship is. He has no idea. It’s cool just to show some of the older producers what’s up. I mean, DJ Falcon is coming and he’s bringing like the Prince of Monaco or some shit. But people are going to freak out because I don’t think people know what to expect.
Wavo: With events like Holy Ship, you seem to attract the best fans who are really there for the music.
Gary Richards: Oh yeah, they love it. They go deep and are open-minded. And what’s cool about it is that we have this program where if you went on the first [Holy Ship] you have the first rights to go on the next one. I’m trying to get another ship going out of Europe, but that’s where we added February to try and get more people aboard. I felt like, “how could you keep it special and have another one,” but there’s so many people that want to go so we gotta keep growing. Because I feel that people are like “no, don’t have another one,” but I also feel like it’s selfish. You gotta spread the love.
Wavo: What decade do you think has the best hip-hop?
Gary Richards: For me, my personal favorite is Dre. So, I’d say the 90’s, The Chronic, Snoop, the whole Death Row. Going to high school in LA, that’s my shit. It’s funny because I have a lot of friends from New York and they’re all about Biggie and I mean I love Biggie, you know respect. But for me it’s all about the West Coast. I’m kind of old school, so like late 80’s and the 90’s. My dad was in music and has a platinum record on his wall from ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and that was in the 70’s. That was probably the first record to go platinum in hip-hop and my dad played it on the radio. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force…I love all that shit. But the new shit is cool too. For me, what happened was I didn’t really pay attention to hip-hop for a while and just recently I started really paying attention to this whole new resurgence and it’s fuckin’ dope. There’s a lot of good shit coming out like Kendrick Lamar. There’s so much good shit now and I just didn’t really pay attention for a while and now I’m really paying attention.
Wavo: Do you plan on expanding HARD events to other states in the future?
Gary Richards: Yeah, we’re working on a tour for next year called the Go Hard Tour. We definitely have a Texas stop planned. It’s on the books. I feel like what’s happened is nowadays all the promoters just go for the big names. I think we can fish out some cool shit that people will be down with.
I hope Richards’ passion about Electronic Music is evident to you after reading this. His devotion to the industry as both a producer and a promoter is unparalleled. And his schedule isn’t getting any lighter. Following the successful January departure of Holy Ship , Richards is preparing for his Ship2Ship Tour featuring additional support from Anna Lunoe and Motez before setting sail again for the February edition of Holy Ship.
For tickets to Ship2Ship visit: www.ship2shipfam.com