Behind the Beat: Destructo
It’s not every day that you get to have a word with Gary Richards. As the founder of HARD Events, the mind behind Holy Ship! and a litany of other now legendary events, not to mention his ever-active career as Destructo, he’s easily one of the most influential people in dance music today. Needless to say, as a guy who casually chats about his electronic music preferences to an online audience, I was a little nervous. Luckily, I got a couple minutes with him before his set at Flash Factory in New York to discuss his newly released Renegade EP and pry a little into the mind of the ‘Hardfather’.
It’s always a challenge for an onsite interview at certain venues typical of DJ’s. Not all of them (in fact, very few outside the largest of them, in my experience) have a plush, quiet green room. For this particular interview, we wound our way through the back halls of Flash Factory and made our way up to the attic, the quietest place we were going to find while Golf Clap hypnotized the dance floor below.
Since he was on tour to promote his Renegade EP, I had to know the details behind one of my favorite tracks on it, Freak.
As some of the more musically inclined of us may know, there are a variety of different kinds of scales that can convey diverse moods. In Freak, there is certainly a Middle Eastern, Arabian sound that you don’t hear frequently in pop music, that’s characterized by the scale we know and love. (If you can’t tell by my intentional vagueness on the issue, I know enough to know that there are separate kinds of scales, but not their proper names. Just Google it).
“Egyptian Lover actually. He has a song called ‘I Need to Freak‘ and it has a melody that’s similar. I wanted to do something kinda like that. I was gonna have vocals on it but I actually had a lot of different people sing on it but it just didn’t work so I kept it to itself.” The fact that it stood alone as the sole track without a collaborator spoke to my more purist side when it comes to house and electronic music. “I wanted to keep one on there so people know I’m not losing my game [laughs] I’m a house DJ, that’s my game.”
Destructo is known for his fusion of hip-hop and house and he’s been pushing for this collide of musical worlds for years. “I’ve been doing it for a while now. For me I realize that I go into the studio all the time and I want to put words to it. I want to make songs that last. Instrumentals can be really dope, but I just wanted to do more. Get vocals and say something with the music. Sometimes people just want to dance and not hear any words, but I feel like for me personally, I want to try something different. It seems to really be a good mashup for me and I like being in the studio with those guys.”
Destructo – RENEGADE EP
It was actually his interview with Complex that sparked my interest in what exactly Destruco was trying to “say” with his tracks. “Well, you know it’s party music. It’s late night, you’re at a club, there’s girls, drinks, and whatever. Just have fun. Like club culture and having a good time. Not too deep of a meaning, but instead of getting on a mic and just screaming ‘1,2,3,4!’ I’d rather have someone put together a song that’s memorable. You listen to the words of the song, you’re stayin’ up all night, partyin’ all night, whatever, but something fun and memorable.”
Despite his downplaying of the meaning of the lyrics themselves, I think this really speaks to the bigger commitment Gary makes in considering his tracks. He wants something more for his fans than ‘1,2,3, jump’ and would prefer to give them a complete and polished track, vocals included.
Being someone who traditionally interviews the guy or girl behind the beats (GET IT?), I rarely get to chat with the vocalist on a track. But I had to know what it was like to work with some of hip-hop’s biggest names on the Renegade EP, including E-40, Too $hort, Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, and more. “Most of the time we just meet in the studio, have a few drinks, listen to a few tracks and just see what they’re feeling. Usually we just cut it right there in the studio. Maybe, I’ll take it back and mess with the track itself later. Everyone I work with is super-pro so you give them an hour or a half-hour with a pen and paper and it’s over.”
The two openers for the night were Cray and Golf Clap, a decidedly different vibe from Destructo’s G-house. However, the opening acts were picked with the future in mind. Cray has a future in the Hard family without a doubt. “You know, Cray, for Hard Summer, I’m trying to find some new, young talent and I checked out some of her tunes and I thought they were dope. So, I put her on in New York and LA to get the word out before Hard Summer. The Golf Clap guys…I was tweeting about being in New York and they hit me up and I thought, ‘Hey, you guys wanna play too?’.”
Both of these artists have a history with Richards, having played Holy Ship! and a couple of shows in Detroit. “Sometimes there are just so many great DJ’s and artists…but these two just made sense.” With that in mind, it bears mentioning that Only the Beat will be hosting Golf Clap in Detroit as the headliners of our own Shipfaced Boat Party.
Unfortunately, Destructo doesn’t think he’ll be able to make an appearance at Movement this year, as the weekend seems to already have him in all different cities around the country. However, hope still springs eternal. “I’ve never been booked on the festival proper, but maybe one day [laughs]”.
I wanted to dig into where someone as influential in the industry finds his new music. Obviously for the show at hand, his choices were nothing short of on point, as Cray has a growing following and Golf Clap has exploded recently, getting plays by the likes of legends like Pete Tong and Carl Cox (not to mention the prestige of sharing the stage with Destructo). “I try and go everywhere…SoundCloud, Beatport, blogs. Sometimes people send me stuff, like promos, my friends and stuff.” It appears that I will be left searching for the master key to new music discovery.
For the new generation of artists, the industry itself is changing almost as quickly as we can keep up. After years of streaming music services’ competition to attract artists, it seems like these distribution networks are starting to find their footing in a new world ruled by social media and the internet, rather than big labels’ distribution networks. Regardless, Destructo still doesn’t think there is a magic bullet to get an artist’s foot in the door. “You just have to be relentless. For me, I’m better off when I’m in charge of what’s going on. If you’re on a major label, they always hinder you. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. So I think, it’s 2017, get your work out by any means necessary. You have the internet right in front of you. There a millions of people out there paying attention.” This is a far more positive view of the internet than my own.
I had to know if Gary had any new concepts on deck, of a similar level of Holy Ship! Is there anything new that festivals can do? “Yeah, there’s lots of shit they could do, but I’m not givin’ it up. I already got yelled at today by my wife that I was giving away all my secrets in the Billboard interview [laughs] But I think if you’re creative, you can always come up with new ways to present things. I think people who do what I do, they all do the same thing. Everyone copies and no one does anything new. You take a chance, you do something you new, you hit it right, and you end up with Holy Ship!”
Up and comers on Destructo’s watchlist include the aforementioned Cray, Brohug and Wax Motif (whose new record “Used to Be” will be put out by Gary in a couple of weeks). A big shout out to Destructo’s PR crew for arranging everything for this interview and we hope to catch Destructo every chance we get during his Renegade EP tour!
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