Robbie Rivera needs no introduction. With more than 25 years of electronic production and an extensive roster of hits in his arsenal, the Puerto Rican DJ has won the adoration of fans across the globe. Fusing Latin underbellies with old school beats, Rivera has cultivated a uniquely powerful sound that melts hearts and explodes dance floors.
The Miami-based producer is known for his iconic, all-day concert “Juicy Beach” that takes place annually at Nikki Beach. This July, Rivera will take his notorious party to Governors Island with “Juicy New York,” bringing South Beach’s sunshine, wild vibe all the way to the big apple. Rivera will be joined on stage by openers EDX, Manuel De La Mare, Paige, Stefano Noferini and Sultan + Ned Shepard.
Joonbug had a chance to chat with Rivera about founding his own record label, releasing his new album "Dance or Die," and constantly evolving in this ever-changing industry.
Robbie Rivera: Yeah I was really young. I went to my sister’s senior prom when I was 12. My parents took me and there was a DJ there that was beatmixing, and I had no idea what that was. And I was so young, I was just standing there watching thinking it was so cool. He was playing a lot of easy dance tunes, freestyle stuff. I was like “Wow this is really cool, how come there’s no stop between songs?”
After that I went to another party when I was 13. It was one of those kids parties with a DJ where the kids just dance and play games. I went and the same DJ was there. From there on, I started buying music and teaching myself how to mix together.
Jaime Sloane: How was it transitioning from San Juan to Miami? Did you find that the sound you developed in Puerto Rico was embraced in South Beach, or did you have to tweak your tracks a bit for the different demographic?
Robbie Rivera: I grew up in Puerto Rico until I was 18 so a lot of how I learned to produce music and play music was heavily influenced by Latin house beats. A lot of stuff came from Europe as well so it had some Euro-flavor too.
But in Miami it was very similar, however, I was more introduced to freestyle dance music which wasn’t played a lot in Puerto Rico. I also lived in Fort Lauderdale and was introduced to a lot of alternative music like Ministry and Nirvana, all of those bands. I was kind of in the middle of everything.
Jaime Sloane: Miami is absolutely blowing up right now with electronic music. LIV and Amnesia host big-named DJs almost every night. What do you think about Miami’s music boom, is it a move toward progress or an over-saturated market?
Robbie Rivera: Miami’s huge. Miami, like a lot of the major cities in America, is bringing in DJs every weekend and all of these venues are selling out. If you think about it, it’s just so much fun to go to a club and see someone DJ, and see all of the lights and the effects the club puts on. It’s really just a fun event to go to. In Miami it’s always a ridiculous gig which is great to go to.
Do I think it’s going to get too commercial? No, I think it’s just going to keep getting better. Bigger events, more clubs. There’s so many DJs out there, so much time. In my life I’ve never experienced so much competition in my business. It’s incredible.
Jaime Sloane: From Latin flavor to progressive house beats, your productions always seem to combine a variety of sounds. How would you describe your sound?
Robbie Rivera: I’d describe it as tough, sexy house music. It’s house, it’s progressive too, but it always tends to be really tough. I like to put a bold spin and make it really sexy as well.
Jaime Sloane: How did Juicy Music come together?
Robbie Rivera: Juicy Music came together because nobody wanted to release my music. I was producing music back in 1999 when I finished college, and a lot of record companies didn’t want to buy my music. I don’t know if they didn’t like it, who knows. So I just said “Screw this, I’m going to release it on my own.”
I came up with a few bucks and got a vinyl and started promoting it myself in the clubs in Miami beach and Puerto Rico, and eventually it got to a distributor in New York who called me up and said he wanted to buy a bunch of copies. Like 1,000 copies.
We called it Robbie Rivera Records back then, R&R Records. But then my girlfriend, who’s now my wife Monica, said “Let’s call it Juicy Music.” And I liked it.
Jaime Sloane: So Juicy Beach was kind of a spin off from that?
Robbie Rivera: We were doing some parties during Winter Music Conference at smaller venues, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were selling out really fast, people were standing outside and couldn’t get in. I used to have all of these DJs play with me that I knew personally. Like the first Juicy Miami parties were with me, Benny Benassi, Steve Angello, all these guys who were starting out. And we realized that we needed a bigger place.
Monica said “Let’s just do a day party that turns into a night party.” We know the owner of Nikki Beach so well he was like “Just do it here.” It’s been a great event, we’ve done seven of them. And now I want to branch out to New York and other cities in the US.
Jaime Sloane: That kind of leads to my next question which is why did you decide to take your Juicy party to New York? How do you think the New York edition will compare to your Winter Music Conference ragers on Nikki Beach?
Robbie Rivera: It’s exciting because I’ve never done a big Juicy part outside of Winter Music Conference. I’ve had so many people ask me why I didn’t have a Juicy party in New York for so many years, and when the opportunity came up this summer to host it at Governors Island - which is the perfect venue for our brand and our party - I didn’t have to think about it twice. I said “Let’s do it, let’s just go for it.”
It’s selling a lot of tickets and getting a lot of responses from people of all ages, like anywhere between 18-30. Because the party has been around for so long, it’s going to be a good mixture of people.
Jaime Sloane: You’re a little over a month out of your “Dance or Die Bus Tour.” How was it?
Robbie Rivera: That was great. We got this bus with a bed in the back, two flat-screen TVs, wifi, direct TV. I had my tour manager, my friends. We just drove for 30 days all over the US and played big venues to small, tiny bars and colleges. It was awesome.
We were promoting the album a lot. We had Bassjackers performing and also Peace Treaty. It turned out to be great.
Jaime Sloane: Did you find that your fans were receptive to the tracks you played off of newly released album “Dance or Die?”
Robbie Rivera: For sure. My sound changes every year. I try to keep up with the trends while mixing in my old school style. I think it’s working.
Jaime Sloane: Where do you see yourself taking Juicy Music in the year to come?
Robbie Rivera: We’re going to be doing brand new parties in many places. I would love to tell you everything because there’s so much going on. We’re trying to branch out with events, music compilations and merchandise. A lot of shirts, bags, that stuff. My goal is to bring us to a big, humungous festival. That’s the plan and we’re going to do it big!