When talking about the prolific DJ/producer Robbie Rivera, it is hard to ignore his undeniable ability to amaze crowds in multiple ways. Boasting an uncanny ability to dabble in multiple sound spectrums, from the more big room style of electro house to the more tribal sounds of the underground, Rivera is one of dance music's most experienced talents. Over the years, Robbie has accumulated a release resume that is beyond impressive. Since his career's beginning, Rivera has been featured on many industry leading imprints such as Virgin, Strictly Rhythm, Atlantic, Ministry Of Sound as well as his own successful label Juicy Music. Following the start of Juicy, Rivera expanded his brand into a mega marathon event called Juicy Beach. Year after year, Miam's Nikki Beach becomes swarmed for over 15 hours as Rivera's creation features some of his favorite talents from throughout the world. Amidst a time in which a DJ/producer must truly push the edge to remain relevant, Rivera has relentlessly succeeded in doing so for years. Luckily for our avid Juicy fans out there, Joonbug was able to sit down with Robbie prior to his set at New York City's megaclub Pacha. For those of you who think that old dogs can't learn new tricks, prepare to be surprised. There is still much to be seen and heard from this DJ legend. Find out more in our chat with Robbie below!
Joonbug: Let's talk about the whole Juicy concept. It's a project that you and your wife created and it has developed into one of the biggest parties throughout dance music from Miami to Ibiza. What inspired you to start a 'Juicy' branded event?
Robbie Rivera: Well we started with the 'Juicy' label released so much quality music from so many good artists which some of them ended up having really good careers. I started to get a lot of artists saying that they wanted to be on Juicy and with that the new really started to grow. Eventually we threw the first party and back then it was called 'Juicy Friends' and we featured people like Benny Benassi who was coming up back in those days and following the first event it really took off. We then threw the second party and it was a massive success. For the next party, we moved it to Nikki Beach because I knew the owners really well and Monica (my wife) suggested that we do a party that starts outdoor and ends indoors. We could market it as an event that lasts 15-16 hours, we can put a big DJ every hour or so and keep the momentum going so people get excited for who's next. The party took off by itself. The first party was about 3000 people and it was raining and I remember seeing Bob Sinclair, Axwell, Dirty South, Steve Angello and they were all starting there and it was an incredible vibe.
Joonbug: Let's talk about Juicy today and it's big expansion. This past year brought the event to NYC during the prime summer season and Governors Island hosted the first ever Juicy New York. What was that like for you? You've typically held the party in a more tropical setting and this year tried something new with the Big Apple. Can you also elaborate on the 'educating' this event was responsible for by featuring names like Stefano Noferini, Manuel Del Mare, who you are having again at WMC this year?
Robbie Rivera: When we did the lineup for New York, it was definitely difficult for me being that this was a dream come true to finally throw an event there for a few thousand people. We were already in talks with New York promoters to do an even bigger party for maybe 8,000 to 10,000 people but we needed an outdoor venue, that was what the party always was. So, you know me I like to bring really cool names to play the party not the same guys you can see at any festival playing the same stuff over and over. There is a lot of great talent out there and I always like to educate a little bit and have the people saying 'Hey who is that? They are really good!' Guys like Stefano played amazing at the NY party and he is coming back to Miami with guys like Federico Scavo who is another Italian guy I really like. We just finished a track together for Juicy. I work really well with Italian producers and will be working with a lot of them in the future. They are very musical and take it to the next level with their DJing, I mean some of them still use vinyl. You still see the art of playing to a crowd, which I really love.
Joonbug: This year you also have a remix contest to coincide with the Miami party. The entrant who wins will get a Juicy release and will also have the chance to play the party during WMC. Besides your motive to break in a new artist that embellishes the ideal Juicy sound, what else inspired you to hold this competition?
Robbie Rivera: I've wanted to do a contest for a while in which an artist remixes one of my tracks. I wanted to put out all the parts and see what submissions I get. It was always the plan to have the winner release on Juicy and help them get extra promotion with an official endorsement. When putting it all together, I decided to also include the opportunity to play at WMC. Obviously they aren't going to be playing for the most concentrated portion of the party but still they will be able to say that they were apart of the party and were on the flier. It will be a nice resume builder for an up and comer. I haven't gotten a chance to listen to any of the entries yet but my manager told me that we've received tons of entries thus far and I can't wait to start listening to them. There has been many success stories of guys who found there rise in winning a contest like this.
Joonbug: Let's talk about the label. What can we expect to hear from Juicy Music in the upcoming months? Is there a sound change on the horizon?
Robbie Rivera: The label is gonna go much darker. There will be a lot more techy, tribal underground tracks for sure. We are trying to bring it back to the way it was. Even though I love electro house, there will be a lot less of it and the typical dutch sound. I am kinda over it and want to move on. I want to go back to the house sound I used to play and feature it on the label. Expect to see a lot of new artists.
Joonbug: Is that what we can expect to hear tonight?
Robbie Rivera: Yes, I've changed my set completely. I am going to play a little bit of everything but there will be a lot more grooves in it. We didn't have enough groove in 2012. Guys like Luciano do their thing and when he blew up people thought it was new but it's not. It's just house music. I am glad it has started to surge and 2013 will be an even bigger explosion of underground DJs and I too will reflect that in my sets.
Joonbug: Speaking of sound, you have been there through a lot of development since the earlier years of dance. Production technology is very sophisticated, DJ software has revolutionized the craft entirely and sound systems are much better. When I spoke to Chris Liebing he was telling me how he had to play on mid heavy rock sound systems years ago. From your earlier days to now, how has the overall sound, and your sound, really changed?
Robbie Rivera: Right now for example, most of the tracks that are done have a very simple intro with just drums. They are filtered drums that aren't a proper introduction then the track breaks down to some chords and then goes to the electro sounds then repeats. It's a very simple formula and has been done so many times. What I am trying to do is have a track that builds from the beginning then brings in the bass line and continues to build and build to a monster climax. That's the way I used to do it when I started and guys like Stefano Noferini still do it. It gives you a build up to that main part of the song so the listeners know that something is coming. Rather than just a boom then again a boom then again over and over. Not that I intend to diss that because there are flavors for everybody. When you are mixing house music you are using more drum loops and more percussion. You have to use different bass lines, deeper bass lines with horns and real piano sounds and what not. It's more minimal and you don't have to have so much going on.
Joonbug: On the production side of things, there has been an ongoing debate recently with the new sample packs and their availability which enables some producers to simply be glorified 'lego builders'. What is your opinion on this style of producing and the artists that are getting notoriety while doing it?
Robbie Rivera: Lego building is exactly what it is. I had never done it before until recently. I had actually told my tour manager the other day that I was going to try it, so I went and bought a sample pack full of everything. I mean everything from drums to kicks to loops to bass lines, just everything like a lego set. Turns out that I actually built a really really cool track but I did it just like using legos. It was incredibly easy and I did it in all in a two hour flight. I felt like I was playing game. After that, I was listening to some tech tracks and they had the same exact loops. It was crazy and I couldn't believe it.
Joonbug: So how does that make you feel when certain producers make it very obvious that they are doing this?
Robbie Rivera: There are many producers out there who are doing this. When I started, I used to take a vinyl record and sample the first eight bars for the drums and filter down the kicks or just take the high hats. My problem with what is happening now is when you are given all the pieces like that, you aren't being creative and forced to make something new. In order to make it in this business you have to make something really new and boundary pushing. It's not that easy because there is so much competition. I don't have a problem with using a few loops, but not the bass lines or the chords. Drums are fine to reuse from anybody, who gives a crap, it's just drums. You can just change the patterns and it's whatever. But if somebody plays a melody and you just copy it, it's not your own and it's not original. I have heard tracks from certain big artists and got really upset. I couldn't believe that artists of a certain caliber are doing this. The kicker is people go out and buy it on Beatport. It just doesn't make sense to me
Joonbug: Let's talk about dance music's development as a whole, more geared toward the community's overall growth. I've asked you this before, but since our last chat it's been about eight months so I am curious to see what you think now. 2012 was a huge year for 'EDM' and 2013 promises even more. With the underground in mind, where do you see it all going? As you've been touring, have you seen the awareness in the US really grow? Do you think the US dance community is really digging deeper and catching up to the European appreciation and knowledge?
Robbie Rivera: I think that many of the producers, a lot of the older producers, are gonna come back because I know for a fact that promoters nationwide have lost tons of money by booking all of these so called 'stars' or the kind of DJs that got famous in six months. When promoters booked them before, they were making a lot of money but they all were playing all the same stuff other guys were playing and the second time around it was the same thing. When I was talking to some of my friends who throw events, they asked me 'Robbie why am I losing so much money when I book so and so? I heard he was huge and he was on BPM radio etc etc'. The problem is they play the same stuff as everyone else and people don't wanna hear that again and again. This problem has been going on all over the place and it keeps happening. I was in Rio last week and was talking to the promoter and I was set to play for five thousand people in this amazing train station and I played very underground. So the promoter was telling me, mind you this guy books DJs all over Brazil in their biggest venues, ' I think the US killed dance music'. I was shocked and asked him to be more specific. He ended up explaining to me that it has become so burnt out because in America only a certain number of artists are pushed and he brought them over to Brazil, they all played the same thing and in Brazil the clubbers noticed and did not like it one bit.
Joonbug: Last question Robbie. This has been happening a lot recently and it unfortunately has developed into a reoccurring theme. Sometimes opening DJs think that playing unreleased tracks or tracks that belong to the headlining DJ is a good way to get the crowd going. There are also other instances where the opener thinks it is their time to shine and they end up playing much harder than they are supposed to and in turn violate DJ protocol. What advice do you have for DJs that fall under this category?
Robbie Rivera: Let me just say that there is a protocol and when someone does that, it isn't cool at all. When you are opening up for somebody, you have to play some funky deep house and keep it grooving. It is important to keep everyone in the club drinking and hanging out. Then the headliner comes and bangs it out. If an opener played one of my tracks as I was about to go on, I would be very unhappy. Years ago a DJ closed his set with one of my tracks and I was like 'I'm supposed to play that'. It threw off my whole set. It's just common courtesy for a DJ to play anything but the headliner's originals.