Interviewer: Anthony Huttley
Rich, you’ve been one of the more recognisable names in Australian progressive house for a while now, can you tell us a bit about how you became a part of the scene? Were you always into electronic music?
I only began delving into underground electronic music at around 2003 when I was sharing a house with someone who collected vinyl records and liked to play them most afternoons after work. Prior to that I was 100% into heavy metal and guitar bands (which I’ve recently started to return to, just for some added inspiration!). Becoming part of any music scene in a town as small as Brisbane is definitely a challenge but when I first decided to give it a go I wasn’t aware of that nor had any set goals to strive for, I just knew I wanted to a) get behind a DJ booth in public, b) run my own night-club events, and c) host and meet as many international touring DJ/producers as possible without going completely broke. Looking back at the progression (pardon the pun) of the last 14 odd years I guess it has worked out rather seamlessly and sequentially, but it’s been a great learning experience and regardless of any musical or artistic benefits I feel being involved in the underground music scene has completely revealed my inner self in ways I doubt would have been possible otherwise.
I’ve heard a couple of people say that the scene in Brisbane, where you’re based, is a bit unique. How would you describe the music scene there these days? Is there much room for progressive house or the more underground genres of electronic music?
As I alluded to with the earlier question, yes it’s tough getting a foothold and staying relevant in such a small scene but there are definitely as many positives as negatives. These days the Brisbane nightclub world is very regimented, structured and defined in terms of not only musical genres but desired clientele, fashion trends and most definitely age demographics. Unless a promoter is happy to host events outside of the dedicated entertainment precincts, and rely more heavily on their own promotional skills or focus 100% on building their own fan network, they’re very restricted in the choices they have when running those events. I guess that’s not necessarily entirely a bad thing as it allows the crowd to be more informed and discerning, but there are only so many nights per year for events to take place and only so many dancefloors available. Put it this way – I’m glad I no longer have to promote events!
Recently, you welcomed a new member into your family, which is huge, btw, congrats! As someone who is normally quite busy in the studio, did that affect your production?
Thanks! Yes Violet arrived 9 months ago and has turned “normal” life into something else! I consciously made a decision prior to her birth that I’d close off any studio activity until the newborn routines had stabilised enough that I could once again successfully multi-task. I didn’t want to deal with the stress of pushing myself to be musically productive at the same time as learning how to be a Dad, and so far it’s been the right move. I’ve used the last 10 months to completely rebuild my studio setup, install a few gadgets and finally buy some bass-traps which have made such a difference with my confidence in front of the speakers. The brain is currently over-flowing with musical ideas so I’m super keen to get back into a production routine, hopefully within a few months time.
How would you describe your sound?
As a DJ I try to hover between a few genres, obviously progressive house and techno, but since around 2016 also breakbeat. Playing longer gigs in South America over the years has taught me that musical energy is as important as technical skill and track selection, so throwing in 15 or 20 minutes of breaks in a prog set has a huge effect on dancefloors when I’m playing gigs, as well as in recorded mixes which can get a little monotonous after a while. As a producer I’m obviously locked into the progressive genre and continue to find inspiration in productions from the masters such as Guy J but also weird and unique masters such as Maceo Plex. I guess prog is my “safe space” when in the studio but I still enjoy making it so have no real need to take risks at this stage of the game.
I find your sound quite unique, which is a huge accomplishment in the overly- saturated progressive house market. Were you actively trying to produce something different, or has it always been organic?
That’s good to know, because yes I have always wanted to have a different sound if possible. Most of the time if I’ve got something unique going on it’ll be a happy accident however, as I’ve never been deeply interested in synthesis or the nitty-gritty of sound design – I just like trying as many synths, drum-machines, arpeggiators, effects units and manglers as I can find, seeing how far I can bend and twist traditional sounds and hopefully capture what comes out the other side. Luckily I have a steady day-job so I don’t need to rely on music to make a living, but if I did I honestly think I would get bored with studio production due to having to churn out tracks on a schedule and focussing on my own “sound”, as I know so many producers do. Expression and inspiration go hand in hand for me, if I was unable to be inspired (because the studio was a workplace) I doubt I would be able to express myself musically!
Your podcast “Resolutions” started 10 years ago, and still goes to air each month on Frisky radio. That is a hell of an accomplishment, congratulations! Tell me, what was the motive behind starting that?
10 years, such a long time! Other than just loving to make DJ mixes the motive for the podcast was two-fold, a) to keep myself in a regular routine of track-hunting, technical practice and label/artist research plus b) to boost my DJ profile and have something to promote myself with. At the start of it all I was obviously still too fresh to be getting booked for gigs so having a mix-tape/CD/podcast to hand around at events and to promoters helped massively even with such a small audience. Being hosted by friskyradio these days is a great privilege as it’s always been such a steady, reliable and well-respected home for progressive music even now with the uptake in streaming platforms such as Spotify. In recent years I expanded the show to a 2 hour format so I’ve been opening up the 2nd hour to a few guest DJs here and there, for the most part focussing on like-minded DJs from Brisbane, of course!
Have there been any stand-out years in terms of quality, music- wise? Have you ever found yourself struggling to compile enough decent tunes?
To be honest no, there has never been an especially lean year or a stand-out year that I can recall. I’ve always found way more music than I could ever hope to play and there has never been a struggle even just relying solely on Beatport and not having to branch out to the other smaller retailers. I guess I have put in a lot of time over the years when tune-hunting and researching labels, so that must have paid off compared to what other DJs are experiencing. It’s amazing how much good music is out there at any point in time!
After so many years at it, has your objective with that mix changed much over the years?
Resolutions episodes have always been something I’ve wanted to be able to listen back to myself, to feel that they capture a certain essence of the time they were created both from the point of view of tempo and genre, but also where I was at as a DJ and where my career was situated. For example any episode after mid March 2013 would probably take on more of a melodic, hypnotic and subtle feel due to me having visited South America for the first time and observed how the people respond to those kinds of aspects of the mix. I think anyone can create a weekly or monthly podcast but if those mixes are created purely as a promotional vessel for the chosen tracks (or even just for social-media clicks) and there is little or no consideration to the flow, the energy, the emotion, then they’ll be more difficult to enjoy let alone remember.
Speaking of changes, I saw you post something about a new project called “Meld” recently. Can you tell us all what that’s about?
Meld is a concept suggested to me by my friend, Filip, in the USA who has been a big fan of Resolutions for many years. Filip is not a DJ but loves electronic music. The idea was for him to curate a batch of electronic tracks that he loved and I would then piece them together in the studio making a special one-off DJ mix just for him. I think it’s a fantastic idea which allows fans to connect to the DJ, melding the two different yet intertwined passions for music. I’m hoping people will approach me to make more Meld mixes in the future, who knows it could actually become a “thing”!
You were due to tour South America for the 7th consecutive year in a row this year, obviously you can’t due to Covid-19, what’s the plan for you now?
Travelling and gigging through Latin America has become such a regular part of my life since 2013 that to not be over there at all this year really does feel odd. I’ve made so many friends there over the years and it’s rather painful to think of what they’re going through with constant quarantines and plummeting economies. Along with all the other out of work DJs I sure can’t wait to see a vaccine or some other end to this whole debacle but who knows when that is likely to occur. Clearly my plan right now is to stay locked indoors but as soon as the borders are opened up again and it’s safe to take long-haul flights overseas I’ll be hunting down gigs again and dusting off the old Spanish-language textbooks!
What’s your DAW of choice in the studio, and why?
I’ve only ever used Apple’s Logic when in the studio, mostly due to a lack of time to delve into any other DAWs. I’m keen one day to try Ableton and I believe the latest version of Logic actually shares many of the same workflow features so it could be a seamless switch. But after more than 10 years using Logic it’ll be tough to beat!
Top 3 plug-ins of the moment?
I’ve actually been researching lately into the world of Channel Strips and Pre-Amps, in a software-sense. So initially my answer would be biased towards the Arturia, Black-Rooster and Univeral Audio products in that category as they can add such a nice subtle colouring to any sound. In terms of synths I’d have to call out a bunch of Kontakt (Native Instruments) 3rd-party libraries that easily stand out from the herd, such as Tronsonic and Phono Loop’s Texture Mozaik. There’s so many options out there for making sounds so my money will always go towards the plugins that make weird and unique results without too much effort or technical know-how.
Who are you listening to at the moment? Any names that are standing out for you?
There’s always someone new and fresh popping up in my crates so this is a pretty easy question to answer: Jonas Saalbach, Hansgod and The Micronaut come to mind. Well worth checking out!
What’s planned for the remainder of 2020?
Aside from continuing to push Meld and Resolutions further along I’ll also be returning to making originals and remixes in the studio by the end of 2020, but am more excited to finally be getting some traction on mine and my mate Verve’s new record label idea. In a similar fashion to Meld we are trying to stand out from the crowd and the releases we’ve planned will be very different in format and content than your regular electronic music label. Stay tuned for that, the label is called Context Digital and will be coming to all the good music retail stores very soon!
Genre: Progressive / Melodic Techno
Booking Requests: email@example.com
Beatport DJ: http://dj.beatport.com/richcurtis
Beatport Artist: http://www.beatport.com/artist/rich-curtis/161317
Resident Advisor: http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/richcurtis