Destructo explains why people hate 'Techno' and talks HARD Day of the Dead

Most electronic music producers dream of playing their music on the world’s biggest stages to hundreds of thousands of people. Gary Richards, otherwise known as Destructo, not only puts out music of his own, but has curated huge EDM festivals as the creator of “HARD events,” a massively successful brand that is now part of Live Nation.

His “West Coast EP” mixes hip-hop and rap with house beats, while his newest track “Techno” features a throwback to old-school electronic sounds with a sample that has Eminem proclaiming his hatred of the genre.

I caught up with Destructo before his set in Scottsdale on Friday, Sept. 25 at Urbane Manner to talk about the upcoming Hard Day of the Dead festival in Los Angeles, how he writes songs and what has influenced his form of electronic dance music.  

Let’s talk about “Techno.” That’s the newest thing you’ve released. How did that come about?

I just felt like that was one I kind of wanted to just get out there because I’ve been playing it in my sets. People really dig it. I think there’s a message that’s important to me. When I started playing it in my set I would just be like, “for twenty years I’ve been doing this music and everybody always told me it was shit and nobody listened to it,” and now everybody is. So now it’s a tongue in cheek thing. It’s very simple, but I always wanted to do something with that sample. So I just threw it out there to give people something to chew on, but there’s plenty more coming.

Can we expect more of that simple synth, techno vibe from you?

No, that one’s kind of an anomaly. I’ve got two or three more that are gonna come that are more deeper house with some vocal riffs. Then I’ve got a couple tunes that I’ve done that are more like the EP. I’m just trying to decide, am I going to do a single that’s a single or a single for the EP? It’s weird trying to figure out how to release music. To be honest, the way we’re doing it with “Techno” seems to be great. It’s f-----g getting out there. It’s better when I can just do what I want to do instead of having my hands tied like, “You gotta do this, you gotta do that, you can’t put shit on Soundcloud, you can’t do this.” It’s like, “No fuck off, let’s just get it out there.”

Does “putting it out there” limit you from making money off the song or does that even matter anymore?

I don’t really look at the music like “I’m going to sell the music to make money.” My whole life I had record labels and I used to do that. But I switched because it wasn’t working. I switched to DJing and producing events and that totally worked. I’m just trying to get cool shit out to people. I always said this in interviews back in the day. It’s like trying to sell oxygen to people. You know, air, it’s f------ free. You go outside and you breathe it. So to try and get people to twist their arm and buy music, I get it. You have to do that. That’s the music business. But that’s not really my job. That’s not what I’m good at. I’m not sitting here trying to twist people’s arms to fucking buy something to put a nickel in my pocket. I just want to get good shit out there.

Let’s talk about HARD Day Of The Dead. You’ve got a great lineup this year with Skrillex, Gesaffelstein and Deadmau5 for the second year in a row. I’ve heard he’s not the easiest guy to work with. How are you managing to get all of these artists all the time?

The first halloween event we did in 2008, Joel (Deadmau5) debuted “Ghosts N Stuff” there. There’s a clip on YouTube. You can see it’s got 20 million views or something like that. 

We just have a good relationship with the artists. I think they like playing my shows. We love having them. We’re just kind of lucky that we got a good synergy with the right artists and fans and it just kind of works out.

It’s a 21 plus event this year. Why is that?

It’s 21 plus because we had to come to some type of compromise with the County of Los Angeles and that’s what we kind all agreed to for this one show just in order to get it up on sale and get moving.

This is because of what happened at Hard Summer with two people dying. It seems like there are deaths at a lot of different music festivals around the world and because HARD is more of an EDM-friendly festival, you got way more press about it. Do you ever feel like you’re being picked on a little bit?

I don’t want to get to deep into it because there are a lot of moving parts involved. The bottom line is that Justin Bieber played, Jack Black performed, we ended at eleven o’ clock. It is what it is. For me personally man, it’s tragic and unfortunate, but the show goes on. I’m just doing the best I can to create safe environments and keep bringing this music to people.

It kind of speaks to what’s going on with the electronic dance music scene in a way. You’re putting out music that has this techno sound that would’ve been released fifteen or so years ago, and yet there’s young kids, 17- or 18-year-olds, that are loving it and can’t get enough.  What does that have to say about the genre and its longevity and lasting power? Did you ever see it being this way?

I always thought it was going to be like this 20 years ago and then it never happened and I was like, “F---, I guess I was wrong.” But I stuck to it and then boom. And that’s what the song (“Techno”) is about. Eminem made a song where he’s talking shit about Moby in 2002. “Moby you bald-headed whatever, blow me. Nobody listens to techno.” 

I was like, “That’s f----- up. I love techno.” We used to call it techno because it was new technology. To me, all electronic music is techno. I think that’s what Eminem is saying in that song is that nobody listens to techno, but actually everybody does and we were kind of right and they were wrong and that’s what the whole thing is about.

What’s your songwriting style? Are you putting a melody in Ableton and just working from there or do you have a vocal sample first? What’s the writing process for Destructo?

It usually starts with drums and a bass line and just a feeling. I’m always making something that I can play in my set and then I go out and get the vocals. With “Techno,” it started with the sample, but I usually don’t sample shit like that. It just came about.

You’re in your mid-forties now and still touring. Is the younger talent out there yanking your chain or what’s the relationship like with you and all these up and coming DJs?

I don’t think age really matters, but I love being around the young new cats. I think I have experience and good stuff to teach them and offer them as well, and there’s things that they teach me as well. I have a lot of experience. I started DJing on vinyl in f------ 1991. I’m just happy to see it’s happening because for me it took so long to get going. It was such a struggle to get here. A lot of people, they just started and they’re just blowing the fuck up. So I just want them to know to take it seriously. Every time I play a show or make a tune or do what I’m doing, I put everything in there because I know I’m lucky and fortunate and had to work really hard to get it. It doesn’t really come that easy.

You have a wife and kids. How does that work when you go out on tour?

It’s not fun. They’re bummed that I’m not home on the weekends. But I’m a good dad. I don’t f--- around on the road. My wife knows that. I keep it real and when I’m home, I’m home.

So they’re not looking at you like the crazy dad with his beats and trying to get rid of you?

No, they love it. My kids love it. They’ve been to Hard. They’ve seen me at Coachella. They both play instruments. It’s just a bummer. My son’s got a flag football game on Saturday and I can’t go, but I only have a couple more weekends left this year and I’m off for the year so there will definitely be some chilling time.

Looking back, you’ve had a long career with a huge amount of success. What is one moment from this whole journey that still sticks with you to this day?

One that I can really think of that inspired me to keep getting into the studio and doing tracks is I remember meeting with the guys in Justice and I was trying to talk to them. They go, “This song. This is such a good track. You have to make more songs.” I was like, “Really?” They were like, “Yeah we play this all the time.” And I was like okay. The dudes in Justice are telling me to make more songs so I need to make more songs. And here we are.

Destructo is playing Friday, Sept. 25 at Urbane Manner in Scottsdale. For more information and tickets, click here.


Reach the arts editor at jhgolds2@asu.edu or follow @misterjacobgold on Twitter.

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