How are you feeling about the response to your Technology
EP so far?
I made the EP to have some of my own tracks to DJ when I play out, but now I’m hearing people like Justice
play some of the tracks on the EP, so I couldn’t be happier.
LessThan3: What was your inspiration for creating the songs on Technology?
I’ve been trying to make some more tracks for a while but haven’t had the right ingredients to do it, but I finally found the right guys to make it happen. Stand Still
is more for the beginning of a set, Technology
is for the end, and LA Funky
is for the middle.
LessThan3: Who are the DJs you share music with the most?
Gary: Boys Noize
, [Steve] Aoki
, and Diplo
mostly. Boys Noize sent the new EP to his whole network, which really spread it to an entirely different crew. I share a lot of music with the guys I book for HARD
, as well.
LessThan3: As the CEO of HARD, how do you find that changes your role as an artist? Do you feel more or less pressure to perform well?
Gary: It makes it easier because I’m a DJ first, so I understand what all the DJs go through and know how to set up an event with them in mind. I think some of the other people who do what I do don’t understand the nuances of DJing and dance culture quite as well. On the other hand, I’m starting to DJ my own events which can be a little more difficult because everybody needs things, so I’m starting to think that when I do a big HARD event, I’ll leave the DJing to everybody else and when there are other festivals or shows that I can go and DJ, I will do that. It’s not fair for me to be up on the stage at one of my own shows while the Los Angeles Fire Department needs something and I’m playing.
LessThan3: What kinds of things have you done to keep the balance going?
Gary: I have a great team that I work with on both sides, whether in the studio or with my HARD events. The Oliver guys have helped me with all my tracks. Everyone I work with operates at a very high level.
LessThan3: How did HARD get started?
Gary: In 2006 I had my own electronic label, but then I realized that not only do people not really buy a lot of electronic music, they don’t buy CDs period, so I was kind of wasting my time. I switched to trying to sell tickets, book artists, and DJ, and it just took off from there.
LessThan3: What were you doing before your label days?
Around 1991 I was DJing in downtown LA for warehouse parties. I used the name Destructo then as well. I was doing these big events and Rick Rubin
showed up at one and wanted to hire me to do A&R for him, so I quit doing events and went into the record business. Unfortunately, not many people wanted to buy what we were releasing because we were too far ahead of the curve.
LessThan3: How long did you work with Rick?
Gary: Three years. After that I got an offer to have my own label so we split on amicable terms, but while we worked together we signed The Prodigy, Lords of Acid–pretty much the best early electronic music there was at the time, and no one really liked it but me and Rick. It was weird, but fun at the same time. We look back at those times often and reminisce with fondness.
LessThan3: Does Rick have an electronic background?
He was doing a lot of hip hop A&R back in the ’90s, and early hip hop has a lot of similarities to techno. I think Rick has always just been into what is f*cking cool. He’s still interested electronic music as well—he’s hit me up a couple of times to come check out Crystal Castles
at HARD events.
LessThan3: What have been some of the challenges in scaling HARD to where it is today?
Gary: Other promoters—they typically don’t want to see you win. I’m trying to be friendly with everyone and benefit the whole scene, but I don’t think people look at me the same way.
Gary: I’ve known Pasquale [Rotella] for many years—he used to pass out flyers for me back in 1991 and 1992 for the original Electric Daisy Carnival that I started. After that, he asked me if he could use the name and I was like “sure, why not? I work at a label.” I respect Pasquale a lot; he’s done an amazing job with his brand, and he’s really helped carry the torch of dance music far in America.
LessThan3: Were you happy with how Holy Ship! turned out this year?
Gary: Holy Ship! was 100x better than I could have imagined. I knew what it could be, but for it to actually happen and for it to run smoothly was amazing. We already have a 10,000 person waiting list for next year’s event.
LessThan3: Are you planning to scale Holy Ship! into a bigger event at some point?
Gary: I’m not one that is always thinking about “more money, more shows.” I’m sure there are ways we can milk Holy Ship! and make a ton more money, but I’m happier with doing fewer cruises and making sure everyone is happy and having fun. Hopefully we can do one in the Mediterranean and Australia as well, but I’m happy with one or two a year. Everyone is trying to milk the electronic music scene, but I think there is something to be said for the “less is more” mentality.
LessThan3: We think the “less is more” mantra also comes through on your EP.
Gary: I agree; everyone tries to overdo it sometimes—“My LED wall is bigger than your LED wall.” My music is just good dance music that stays simple and doesn’t blow things out of proportion.
LessThan3: What were some of the issues you faced when you were trying to develop your own sound?
Gary: I have a really good ear—I’ve been listening to electronic music for over twenty years and I know the music better than most people, but I’m not a skilled guy on the computer. I know how to run Ableton pretty well and use turntables and CDJs, but I couldn’t just do it on my own and go in the studio and come out with great records. I got lucky because I partnered up with producers who are as good with Logic as I am with producing a festival. I can go in and say “I like this vibe and that vibe” and they don’t fight me on it—they just say “cool, let’s do it.” Through my whole career I’ve been trying to find guys like that, but it was very difficult to find people who just trusted me and were on the same page on me. Nine times out of ten they don’t understand the DJ world. Even Rick told me “you can find 100 guys who play guitar like Eddie Van Halen, but it’s their ear that matters.”
LessThan3: Are there any artists out there you can name that you think are doing well with their own unique sound?
Boys Noize, Erol Alkan
, the Oliver guys, Gesaffelstein
—he’s a young cat but he has an old soul. The music he makes sounds like the music I heard when I first got into electronic music. It’s not about getting to the peak over and over; he uses wisdom with his builds and drops. He has a deep understanding of the whole picture of EDM, which is odd for someone of his age. I could say the same about the Oliver guys.
LessThan3: Who do you listen to outside of electronic music?
Gary: Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Massive Attack, The Beatles, Dr. Dre, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode—they’re probably one of my favorites, since they are true electronic pioneers.
LessThan3: If the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes, and you had an iPod with every song ever made on it, what would you listen to?
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
Gary: Techno, Disco, Funk.