Fatboy Slim, Soulwax and more will perform at Shrine Expo Hall for this weekend’s event. The promoter talks about the thriving electronic music scene.
This post has been updated. See below for details.
DJ and Hard founder Gary Richards threw the first Hard dance party at a downtown L.A. warehouse on his birthday on New Year’s Eve 2007. It was the natural extension of his productions in the early ’90s, when he was doing A&R for Rick Rubin at Def American and when his parties drew Robert Downey Jr., Madonna, Björk and other celebs. But that New Year’s Eve party was the first tremor of a massive tectonic shift in music culture that has since shown Richards to be something of a visionary on the electronic music scene.
He now produces the New Year’s party, Hard Summer, Hard NYC, all manner of other Hard one-offs like the upcoming cruise ship DJ event called Holy Ship, and what many people consider one of the best parties of the year, Hard Haunted Mansion. This year’s fourth annual Halloween bash happens Friday and Saturday at the 54,000-square-foot Shrine Expo Hall and features Fatboy Slim, Soulwax, Skrillex and dozens more including Richards himself, who performs under the moniker Destructo.
In the wake of Electric Daisy Carnival’s departure from L.A. and the controversy that continues to swirl around these events (including the Hollywood riot that ensued when DJ Kaskade played for the opening of the EDC movie in July), we talk to Richards about the state of the party.
To what do you attribute the resurgence of electronic music in the late 2000s?
I think that college and high school kids are looking for something new; they are tired of the same old generic rock and hip-hop, and they finally got hold of electronic music and realized it’s an amazing form of music and it also comes with this crazy party scene. The other part of it is the Internet; the Internet did a lot to kill the sales of music, but people can hear music from all around the world, which created this whole new scene.
When Electric Daisy Carnival left L.A., did that leave a vacuum? Would you like to see your events play host to over 100,000 people?
A 100,000-person event seems pretty hard to control, maybe we could get more in the park of 50,000.
How did you react when you heard an underage girl died from an Ecstasy overdose at the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival? Do you feel a burden to defend the genre?
First off, I feel terrible. I have kids. Since I’ve started this thing — and especially after the summer of 2010 — we really focused on how we can do these events and make them safe. I just wish that people would view what we do as another event. There are other festivals where things happen: Over the summer, there was a storm in Pukkelpop where a tree fell and it hit a stage and it killed 20 people; that could happen at my event, so to categorize it with the music is not good. All of a sudden electronic music is the devil.
The bottom line is it’s where music is going and no one is going to be able to stop that, so I think the best way to tackle it is for everyone to work together to make the events as safe as they can be. If you see someone coming into your event who looks intoxicated, don’t let him in. If you see someone coming into your event and they wanna bring in drugs, make sure they don’t get in.
Electro music can be heard on pop music stations like Power 106. Did you ever think it would go mainstream?
I thought this was gonna happen 20 years ago. ... What took everyone so long?
In 2009, Hard Summer was shut down by the Inglewood police two hours in. Were you afraid that this was the end of Hard?
Yeah, I’ve had never anything like that happen to me on that kind of level. The first thing I thought was: Let’s give everyone’s money back and make good with our fans so we don’t rip them off. It was a seven-figure loss; it was brutal. But I knew that this thing was special so I kept going. It actually was two steps back to go 10 steps forward.
What makes Hard Haunted Mansion different from the other Hard events?
We had Deadmau5 play in 2008 … and he made that song “Ghosts N’ Stuff” for the event. We had DJ AM, and he had on Thomas Bangalter’s outfit from Daft Punk [as a costume]. He did Daft Punk, Daft Punk, Daft Punk, I was like, “Oh my God, I am going to be in trouble, everybody is going to think this is Daft Punk!” And 40 minutes in, he took his hat off and [the crowd] was like, “AM! AM!” He told me, “That was probably one of the funnest times I’ve ever had in my life.”
Updated: The original version of this post misidentified the police department responsible for shutting down Hard Summer in 2009. It was the Inglewood police who closed the event at the Forum.
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Photo: Producer Gary Richards, a.k.a. DJ Destructo, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood on October 13, 2011. Credit: Genaro Molina