S1-E8: Robbie Rivera

Robbie Rivera is a prolific house music producer and DJ born in Puerto Rico. He has an extensive catalog of original productions and remixes to his credit, ranging from tribal to progressive house, as well as incorporating garage and Latin elements. He and his wife Mónica Olabarrieta have homes in Miami and Ibiza. On October 28, 2009, DJ Magazine announced the results of their annual Top 100 DJ Poll, with Rivera placing number 95.

Dylan:
On the phone now with Robbie Rivera. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Known for tough, sexy tribal house music. He’s got his own record label, Juicy Music. He’s done collaboration’s with Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Santana, Basement Jaxx, Dead Mouse, Tiesto, Cascade, Pink, Barry Corson, David Guetta. Oh my god. Robbie Rivera. Hello.

Dylan:
What’s up, Robbie?

Robbie Rivera:
Hey. What’s going on? Man, yeah, I’ve got a lot of stuff.

Dylan:
Quite a list there of accomplishments.

Robbie Rivera:
Thank you, man. Yeah, those were a lot of remixes I did in the last five or six years.

Dylan:
Out of all those people, who would you call up and go to Vegas for a weekend with right now? Is there out of all of the people you work with, is there somebody you’d go party with in Vegas?

Robbie Rivera:
You know what? I’ll probably go with Carlos Santana. I love his music, and he knows everybody. He’s got a show for this, so that would be really sick. And he’s a Latino, so that’ll be fun. You didn’t expect that, right?

Luis 2 Live:
No, Carlos Santana. I mean, that’s totally left field at least from the EDM world. You would never think. What part of Puerto Rico, where on the Island were you born at Robbie?

Robbie Rivera:
I grew up in San Juan. I was born and raised there. I was there until I was 18.

Luis 2 Live:
And why did you choose Miami as your home base when you came to the U.S. back in the ’90s?

Robbie Rivera:
Yeah. In the ’90s. By the time I graduated high school in ’92. I came here to study music production. And it was always DJing, so I was trying to get gigs everywhere while I was in school and learn how to produce music. And then I stayed here, man. I graduated from the art institute, then I went to another school and got a business degree. I did the whole thing, man.

Luis 2 Live:
So it was for school, and then you just kind of stayed.

Robbie Rivera:
I released my first record, my first single I released when I was still in college, the whole vinyl thing.

Dylan:
Now that you’ve been everywhere, right? You’ve been all over the world. How many places, do you keep track? Is there a number of how many cities you’ve played in now?

Robbie Rivera:
No, man. I wish I would’ve done that. But like I say, I’ve been almost every country in Europe, in South America a lot, Central America a lot, the United States and North America. I’ve done almost a lot of the States except States like Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa. I never played kind of scene, you know places like that. But you know what? I told my agent the other day, “Let’s bring some house music to these states. Try to book me. I want to throw some [inaudible 00:03:09] in these other cities that usually people don’t go, see what happens.”

Dylan:
How does Chicago rank among all the cities that you play?

Robbie Rivera:
I love Chicago, man. I’ve been playing there for such a long time. And has always been one of the top places for me to play. Simply because the crowd is very educated, they know they’re music, they know their DJ, they get there on time, they party, a great atmosphere as well. I mean, I’ve been playing there since the crowbar days.

Dylan:
Yes. Oh, my god. Crowbar, yes.

Luis 2 Live:
You’re taking us back right now. I’m excited for your new album, Robbie, This Is My Sound. I mean, you got me pumped up on this one and you’re definitely going to take a lot of DJs back to their roots. Can you tell us how you decided to create this album, when you decided to kind of bring it full circle with your sound?

Robbie Rivera:
I started producing music. I kind of took a break from touring a bit and I just slowed down to concentrate on music. Because when you’re always touring, it’s hard to really find your sound again. You just start producing tracks that you know the crowd is going to like instantly, which is fine, as well. you have to DJ, you have to entertain. But I wanted to do something else besides entertain. I wanted to go into a journey, into what I’m really all about. So I just went to the studio and started producing tracks without anything that was going on at the moment in the music. So it would be completely authentic of how I started back in ’95 producing tracks. I just sat down, started producing beats, playing bass, and then just came on naturally.

Robbie Rivera:
And the whole album, that’s the way it was produced. It took me like a month, and it came all naturally [inaudible 00:04:51]. Just, that’s why I call it This Is My Sound. This is the sound that I like. And it does sound, it has a lot of old-school elements, but with today’s mastering and software, I think it sounds like old school mixed in with today’s sound. And I think that’s why I’m getting such a great feedback from a lot of DJs. It can work on a big room [inaudible 00:05:14] club as well as a small lounge house, tech house night.

Luis 2 Live:
I mean, yeah. As soon as I heard all the kicks, the snares, I mean, being from Chicago, it totally hit home here. So I was just like, “Oh, my god. He’s jacking it up right here.”

Robbie Rivera:
Yeah. I’ve been getting lots of love from a lot of DJs, old school DJs, and new ones. A lot of new kids and generation DJs liking it as well. And it’s funny, they keep saying, “Oh, you bringing it back to the old school.” I’m like, “Well, no, that’s how I’ve always played. But, hey, if you want to call it old school.”

Dylan:
And Robbie, as you were producing, do you got any secrets? We have a lot of producers and DJs that listen to the podcast. Is there a plug? I mean, I don’t know, any producing secrets that you’re willing to share for anybody?

Robbie Rivera:
Let’s see. I use Logic Pro to produce my music. And I try to use a lot of the software since that come with logic. Because if I start buying a bunch of plugins, it drives me crazy. If I have to too many sounds to choose, then it just becomes a mess and I can’t get the right sound. So I try to always keep the same softwares that are used. I use a lot of the same kicks and drums. And what I do is I create a template. It’s called The Juicy Template. A lot of that template. And from there I create one track, just all the drums and the basic breakdowns and special effects that I like to use. And then that will be the actual template that we useful for every track that I do for one full year, for example. So that full year, all the tracks will have that same sound, that same vibe. And it makes me produce tracks even quicker because everything’s already there. The kick, the high hat, everything. And I just move all the stuff around. That’s the big secret. Nobody knows that, man.

Luis 2 Live:
Nobody know. Right. This is exclusive right here.

Dylan:
Well, I mean, you think about it, that’s kind of like you’re laying the foundation for your sound for the year. As you make that foundation, it’s like, “All right,” then you just start from there. That really makes sense.

Luis 2 Live:
Did you just call your buddies up, like Bob Sinclair and Shawnee and stuff and be like, “Yo, I got a new album, do you want to be a part of it?” I mean, is that how that works?

Robbie Rivera:
That’s exactly how it works. Those exact words. I mean, and just now, communicating with other artists, it’s something for some people nowadays, have to direct message on Twitter now, whatever words these days. But with Bob Sinclair, this track, I did all the beats and the baselines. And then I got the vocals in there. I told Chris, because that’s his real name, “Hey, Chris, why don’t you finish this up for me?” And it was very awesome how he took some of the melodies and chopped them up and created a whole new melody. I mean, I’m still trying to figure out how he did it. And then he gave it back to me. And then a guy mutated the vocals for me. Yeah, that track dope, man.

Robbie Rivera:
You know another secret that I did for this album? In the 15, 16, 17 years around there, creating music, I’m really bad with dates. I used to always mix and master all my music. I mean, I did everything. I play everything. For this album, I decided to get somebody else to do the final mix down and master for me because I just wanted to give it a shot because so many other producers do it. And it’s an essential way of releasing music. Usually somebody else who mixes it and masters it for you. I should do everything because that’s just the way it was. And it didn’t work for me. I mean, it worked for many years, but for this one, I let somebody else do it out in London and I noticed the difference. It really sounds very crisp. It sounds loud, it sounds big. I’m really happy with the turnout

Luis 2 Live:
Are you going to be sending your masters out to get mixed more often now?

Robbie Rivera:
Yeah, yeah. I’m going to do it. Back in the day, you would get a mastering guy to do it and the fees would be $1,200, $1,500 up to $10,000 to master a full album. With technology these days, it’s really, really not that expensive.

Dylan:
Hey, you got the Juicy Records, the Juicy Radio Show, it’s juicy with you. How’d you come up with juicy? And can you tell us about your radio show too?

Robbie Rivera:
I was always producing. My music was always, it was house, but it’d always have a lot of energy to it. It’s tough. And it’s also sexy. So my wife came up with the name. “You should just call it Juicy. It’s a juicy sound, man.” I was, “Okay, fine. Let’s do it.” But we just come up with that name. And that was a long time ago. My label started, you know what was the first name of my label? Robbie Rivera Records. Come on. How original is that? [crosstalk 00:10:21]

Luis 2 Live:
Simple, right? Simple. To the point.

Dylan:
Yeah, but it’s not juicy music.

Robbie Rivera:
The radio show’s been around for a long time, man. I mean, I started that show on XM radio. Yeah, which doesn’t exist anymore. No SiriusXM. Thank god it’s still there. And the music business changes a lot. And the peeps over there at SiriusXM has been extremely nice to me to keep the show there for over 10 years. And they’d also get picked in a lot of other stations in South America and Europe as well. And it keeps on growing. And on the island now, here also in Miami, too, at a FM station here as well. So it just keeps on growing. I love doing the show. I get to play the music that I freaking like and what I think people are like when they’re driving home. So it’s a whole different avenue besides performing, picking songs for the radio.

Dylan:
Picking the playlist, yeah. That’s got to feel awesome.

Luis 2 Live:
And three things, Robbie, when you go on tour, when you’re far away from home, what are the three things that you can’t live without, that you absolutely need on hand?

Robbie Rivera:
Let’s see. I have to have my iPad, my mini iPad, because it’s shacked up with movies. Because if I’m on a plane or wherever I am, I have to be watching something because if not, I start getting desperate. What else? Antibacterial soap. That goes everywhere in the plane and to the shows. Because in the shows you’ve touched so many hands and sweaty hands, and you got to… I’m not afraid like that, but I like to be clean after that. And then, let’s see, what else I carry? And my laptop, because I’m always making music, I’m listening to promos, especially on the weekend, because handling the radio show and the record label, it’s promos and promos and demos and demos daily. And it starts piling up and it’s hard to get-

Luis 2 Live:
Hard to get in the office?

Robbie Rivera:
There’s a lot of DJs that have other people listening to their music, to their promos. I’m not like I’m old school, man. I listen to what I want to play. I’m not going to have some kid telling me I think this would be for you though. Screw that.

Dylan:
Hey, Robbie. Speaking of that with your record companies, is there somebody right now that you’re like, you want to talk about that’s coming up, that you think this is going to be big, that you’re looking at right now? Is there somebody that you want to spotlight?

Robbie Rivera:
Yeah. Yeah. I had these two guys from [inaudible 00:12:45]. There’s two DJ acts producers from New York that are really sending great music. I want to just call Sted-E and Hybrid Heights. And they’ve been releasing music on the label for like the last six months. And they do really well. they get a lot of plays and they chart on B port as well. And they do really authentic house music with tribal beats, which I love. And this is the other group that I just signed. They released a track called an N, X and Y. And there’s two guys, they were graphic designers for parties and stuff, and they decided to make their own music, and really felt music as well. So there’s a lot of new generation producers coming out now. And I like the fact that the producing hose music again and not just PDM-ish, commercial, GQ stuff. I got tired of that.

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