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Just days away from the February sailing of the music festival cruise, Holy Ship.  We had a chance to catch up with the man who started it all, Gary Richards a.k.a. Destructo.  As a former music executive and founder of the promotion company, HARD presents, Gary continues to amaze with his most recent release of his West Coast EP on Interscope Records. He took the time to talk about the inception of the album, his Ship2Ship tour, the future of HARD, artists like ZHU and what to anticipate on Holy Ship.

The Dankles: As we know, you released your West Coast EP this past November, what was the song writing and recording process like?

Gary Richards: Well, it took awhile because I don’t go to the studio everyday. But, I worked on all the songs with a guy named, Wax Motif.  So, basically him and I would get together once a week and make tracks, and we just made a ton of tracks.  I had to go and hunt down the rappers and so I hooked up with YG first before his album came out. What happened was, he recorded “Party Up,” but he did it over my song “Higher” because originally for “Higher” I wanted a rap on it. He went in the studio in Atlanta and I talked to him on the phone and told him what I wanted and then he sent me the vocals. When I listened to it, it just didn’t sound right to me.  I felt like higher shouldn’t have vocals, I wanted to make it more, but I realized that I needed to keep it and not fuck with it. So then I went in with Wax, and was like, “Dude I want to make house but hip hop,” so we made “West Coast” and that was the first song. So the guy that we were in the studio with, had all these acappellas, like 200. I picked that one from Dr. Dre because I love Dre since I went to high school in L.A.  Once we made the song, I realized I’d rather get a rapper. So then I was like, “Wait a minute, I have this shit from this dude YG on my computer, let’s check that out.” Then we whipped that into “Party Up” and then I sent it to YG and he was down.  He then introduced me to Ty Dolla and then Ty was the first dude that came into the studio with us and then it was a whole new level.  To get it right, you really have to be in the studio with the guy.  I know a lot of people go back and forth with the internet, but I feel that you need the vibes, have some drinks and get to know the person.  So then Kurupt came in, Too Short came in, they all started coming to the studio and I started getting more confident.  I always made the track first with Wax so now I’m just talking to him trying to figure out what our next move is. The funny thing is, we were making these tunes like two years ago and now everyone’s making house and hip hop. I always try to be a little ahead, at least be unique and different. The process is fun, I love being in the studio with Wax. It’s so much more fun then all the other shit I do. I always tell Wax, when I’m in the studio, it’s like I’m on vacation. I get to be on vacation for a couple of hours from the outside world.

TD: When working with hip hop artists, did you give them full creative control when writing the lyrics or did you have a theme in mind for each song?

GR: Well it’s funny because I had no idea what I was doing and they always ask you what the song is about. Well, my reason for wanting to do the rap is, I feel like when I listen to rap songs, they are always talking about up in the club, bottles, bitches like you know, it kind of fits what we do. When I DJ, I always want to say something.  I want to tell the people to party, to get crazy, to get wild, but I can’t rap and I can’t sing, but I want the party to start. So I thought this fits.  When YG asked me what “Party Up” was about or even “Higher,” he was like, “what’s the song about?” I said, “ya know its 4 in the morning, you’re at the club, trying to get laid” and he’s like, “I got you, I got you all day bro.”  With TY, he just wrote what he wrote and did his thing which was amazing and Kurrupt kind of did his thing too. But then Problem and too short were like, “What’s this song about?” and I was wearing this shirt that had Rottweilers on it and it sounds like a dog bark like a “hoot” in the song. So I was like, “It’s about dogs.” So he goes cool and sat there for like an hour and came up with this story about this dog that jumps the fence and pees on trees. Now I know how they do it, but I want to let them do their thing, these dudes are pros.  I never wanted to like, tell Kurrupt what to do. What happens is, they do the whole thing and then they leave.  Then we can go and fuck with it. So I just let it roll and let them feel comfortable and let them do what they want to do and I go back in later and tighten it up.

TD: What was your mindset going into the record and was the final product everything you had hoped it would be?

GR: Well going into it, I had no idea what it was going to be.  At that point, I put out a couple of records on Boys Noize and on Skrillz label and I never thought I would be on Interscope. I never thought these songs would turn into what they are. I was trying to make some songs I can play in my set with rap and house.  I think it turned out 100 times better than I thought.  Because I didn’t know YG was going to be that big and I didn’t know he would introduce me to Ty and he would blow up.  I didn’t know that I would get Warren G and Too Short. I just thought I was going to have some random, just kind of like all the other dudes, sample. Like fuck, maybe I can get someone and for me to be able to get all these legends, that I grew up listening to, I’m pumped on it. I’m really excited.

TD: Why did you choose to release the EP on Interscope?

GR: Well, I kind of felt like once it was done, that it needed a bigger team to work the record. I love Skrill and I love Boys Noize. I mean without them, especially Boys Noize, I probably wouldn’t be making music because he was kind of the one that really pushed me. I made “Technology” with the Oliver guys and he was like, “You should make more songs.” He didn’t know it wasn’t out or anything. Interscope heard it and they were like, “This is fuckin’ it.” In their mind, they have Disclosure and Dr. Dre. Okay, this is that. They can put it in a box for them and it’s something new. For me, it wasn’t planned like that, but I’m like, “Okay if that’s how you want to look at it.” I love Disclosure so it’s house, I wouldn’t call it Disclosure. It’s house, it’s 4 on the floor.

TD: As your Ship2Ship tour comes to a close, what are your thoughts as you prepare to head back to Miami for Holy Ship and did you have a favorite stop on tour?

GR: My thoughts are that I’m tired, but with a big smile on my face. Seriously, everyone show was amazing. Every show was at least an 8 or more, but more than half were 10 plus. Last night in San Francisco was incredible. DC stands out as one that was really awesome. Toronto was great, Seattle was incredible. They’ve all been really good. T and Motez and Anna, they are all awesome. When you go on tour, after the first couple nights, you kind of get a set together. We kind of all had what we were playing. For me, this is the tour where I learned how to play the EP. Like how to play the EP and make a set.  It’s kind of weird because I have been playing these festivals and not really my own shows.  I’ll play “Bust Them Cheeks” and it’s not a song you jump up and down to. It’s more where the girls come on stage and grind. You know, and get down, it’s more like dancing. I knew on this tour it was going to happen, but I was just like, “Please!” and it happened. People know the words and at the end of the tour, it’s picking up because I think people are seeing our posts and what’s been happening in the beginning and people are getting more excited. I’m looking most forward to tomorrow night because tomorrow’s LA and it’s crazy because it’s the Grammys so everyone’s in town. So we’re sold out, everyone’s on the list, everyone’s coming and I’ve got some rappers. I’m excited for that.

TD: Tonight’s show at The MID nightclub will be your first performance in Chicago since EDC Chicago, what do you have in store for your windy city fans and what’s the reason for not booking any Chicago shows sooner?

GR: It’s kind of weird.  I get a lot of tweets, “Come to Chicago, come back to Chicago.” I guess to be honest, not to go into detail, I think it’s just promoter politics. I have my own promotion company and I’m a part of Live Nation. It sucks because sometimes because I’m affiliated with Live Nation and Hard or whatever, they don’t book me.  If I wasn’t affiliated, they would book me.  But some promoters don’t want to see me get ahead because they view me as their competition, but I’m not. I’m just a fuckin’ artist that makes music and is out here DJing so I don’t fuckin know. There’s definitely politics involved.  Every time someone hits me up from here, I always tweet back and copy my agents and I’m like, “Get me to fuckin’ Chicago!” So I hope everyone knows that’s been asking me to come.  I’ll keep coming, I love Chicago.

TD: When booking talent for HARD, what is the process like and how do you know if an artist is ready to play one of your events?

GR: That one’s pretty easy cause I DJ so I’m always listening to new shit.  If I hear something I like, I’ll play the track and then if they come out with another track that I play and it’s really good, then ok I’ll book it.  Then when they get three, four, five deep, they’re going to fuckin’ blow up.  It’s happened my whole career.  It’s happened to me with Prodigy with Underworld with Sonny with Deadmau5, Crookers, everybody.  It really starts with the production and then you know I might be at another event and see somebody. But, normally if I hear something that’s dope, I’ll just book it and hopefully they can deliver. I feel like I DJ the DJs, that’s what I do at Hard.

TD: Who would you like to work and tour with in the future and what can we expect from HARD presents in 2015?

GR: So for HARD we are doing a tour it’s called, Go Hard. We are going to announce that within the next couple weeks. No Chicago stop, once again politics. What I’m trying to is, I’m trying to find markets that I can go to where I’m not going to bump heads, I like Lucas, I’m not trying to start-up. There are other markets where there really isn’t a lot going on. My thing is, how can I grow HARD without pissing everyone off. It’s a delicate balance. And also grow it, do a good job and find places where it’s going to be successful.  We have our parties in Miami that we are going to announce really soon.  We have the boat. HARD Summer again.  We are going to do some shit in Tokyo and Australia again.  HARD is growing. This year, the lineup for Hard Summer is going to be more core. Like you know, I’ve experimented with different kinds of things and I’m just going to stick to my guns.  We are going to get back to our basics, picking the cool shit that I love and hopefully people dig it. Instead of trying to please everybody, fuck it. Maybe do a tour with a hip hop dj, live mc and another artist that’s doing something like I’m doing. I heard Brodinski’s new record or some other guys that are not doing the same ol’ same ol’ but interesting collaborations of electronic and house.

TD: What do you think of ZHU?

GR: I love ZHU.  What I appreciate about anyone in this genre is if they’re doing something unique and different. Something that’s not what everyone else is doing.  Dance music is about discovery. ZHU has a sound and an image that he wants to portray whether that’s anonymous or whatever, but I’m backing him. When I first started HARD, I would go up to artists and say, “Ok, I have a giant LED wall (the whole thing with HARD was digital before people had LED walls) and I’m going to put this screen behind you and a screen in the front with your name scrolling.  In the back, use it and do what you want with the music.”  But no one had visuals.  So I had my guy doing their visuals. It was cool, but it wasn’t timed to the music. Come with a package, come with a show.  When ZHU came with this idea, what he wanted to do and a whole concept, I was like cool let’s do it.  Whenever somebody comes to me with a creative idea, I want to help them.  Bring some flavor, bring some swag and I will help you get it done.  That’s my job. I think his style is really cool.

TD: As a holy ship virgin, do you have any advice for us first timers sailing in less than a week?

GR: Rest up, pace yourself. What I tell people to do is wash their hands.  I wash my hands, I use hand sanitizer. I sound like Dad. [laughs] Knock on wood, I’ve never got sick on the boat, but I religiously wash my hands.  Make sure you hit the beach party, make sure you get to the sermon. The one thing with the boat that is kind of crazy fun especially as a virgin is exploring. The boat is so beautiful. I still get turned around, it’s like a maze.  Keep moving around.  Funny story, the first night I try to go to bed a little early, but I remember walking through the boat and I looked at the schedule and Boys Noize was in the theater so I wanted to make sure we put him in the right slot.  I worry about that with everyone.  So I walk into the theater and Boys Noize was on Brodinski’s shoulders and Diplo had Skrillex on his shoulders and they were chicken fighting.  Justice was DJing and they were swigging tequila.  I thought they were going to hate it, they had their shoes off and everyone’s on the stage.  I walk in and Justice’s gets on the mic, [French Accent] “Gary, make some noise for, Gary!” and they started playing Technology.  That was just random, that was just one thing that was going on.  This other time I walked into Pharrell and he had his iPhone out.  It’s funny because people wrote, “Why the fuck was Pharrell texting on the boat?” but he was playing his new album off his phone to the whole crowd. There are so many things that just happen. Explore. Move around. You can stay in one place forever, but I think it’s good to keep moving around. Vibin’.

TD: What can we expect from the sermon set?

GR: I just started working on the new one.  I really got it down that I want it kind of dark and grimy until it gets light out.  When the sun comes out, flip the switch and make it happy and fun.  We are going to do it on the main deck this time.  There are  hot tubs and I’m going to try to do baptisms in the hot tub. One of my friends made a movie called Apocalypse Later which is about this preacher guy name Harold Camping.  Well, he got the last interview with the guy who thought the world was going to end in 2012.  He put me together a whole audio of preachers like, “Sex is evil!” and all this crazy shit that is appropriate for the sermon.

TD: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, do you have any last words for your fans and your shipfam?

GR: Props to my agent Cody Chapman.  He does an awesome job and makes it happen for Destructo!

About Amelia Waters