Go HARD! Go Destructo! The Stresses And Successes Of Gary Richards.

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Photo by John Juniper

He is a man of many hats but the music culture of Los Angeles knows him as Gary Richards, CEO of HARD.

HARD, originating in California, owes most of it’s success to the LA area where over the years Richards and his team developed and maintained a certain attitude and presentation that has resulted in them being welcomed back to the City of Angels each year. The success of the HARD events is attributed to the extensive planning, and appropriate steps that these events require.

“I know for us, from the minute I started HARD, I tried really hard to make sure that the fire department, police department, city, they all knew that we are trying to create a safe environment for people to come and enjoy electronic music.”

If you have ever been to a HARD event then you know that it’s not your typical electronic music show. There is a genuine dedication to the music, the artists and the overall art that surrounds the electronic culture. The crowd is not concerned with bracelets or costumes but rather focus their attention toward new songs, the drops, talent and overall performance of the musicians. These musicians are revered as real artists with genuine talent.

We’re not trying to be a rave for little kids, were trying to get people to pay attention to the music and focus on that.

I was in attendance at the last HARD event featuring A-Trak, Jack Beats and Destructo that took place at the historic Wiltern. As I looked over the crowd, I noticed that throughout the night that the passion was in the music, it started with the artists and spread to the crowd.

This is exactly what Richards wants his fans to experience. HARD is more about the music and this is Richards’ mark not only for Los Angeles but electronic music. It was nice having the absence of hundreds of women barely dressed or attempting to fit into outfits that they don’t belong in, the absence of neon colored outfits and trading of plastic bead bracelets, instead it was about being yourself and showcasing the music to an audience that appreciates it.

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Richards explained to me that they had to talk the talk then walk the walk when it comes to electronic music events in Los Angeles. HARD does its very best to eliminate all the negative connotations associated with electronic music and because of that they have been able to secure a position as one of the best event producers in the country.

HARD has been able to grow in accordance with the EDM scene, which Richards does not condone, he instead simply supports the movement. There is no reason to become angry because the electronic scene has hit mainstream channels, only embrace it and make changes along the way. In actuality, Richards has been doing this for the past several decades. He thought this EDM takeover would have already happened.

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Photo by Erik Voake

But since the time is now, EDM has launched a string of HARD events that only increase in number, size and popularity each year. This past year was no exception to that when HARD introduced one of the biggest events to their arsenal that started as just a dream, Holy Ship!

The idea for Holy Ship was formed after Richards experienced a cruise about 15 years ago and onboard that ship were a bunch of German DJs that led to one of the greatest trips that he has had. Now fast foreword to present day, with HARD growing and evolving, Richards has the backing to develop an event at this magnitude and the capacity but only one problem was taking what he had set up in his mind and put ticket sales behind it.

Diplo was like this guy is gonna be dope. And he turned out to be million times better than I expected.

In my mind I knew what we were getting ready to do, but no one could see what I could see. Then we did it and I filmed it and put it on YouTube.

To my own defense, as well as other house heads across the nation, Holy Ship is hard to imagine from a consumer perspective. A lineup that consisted of world-renowned headliners that would be performing on private Islands and a private cruise ship seems to good to be true. But with the amount of hard work Richards and the HARD team put into Holy Ship and a little support from high talent, Richards’ dream came true.

According to Richards, Diplo and Skrillex were immediately on board with the idea however artists like Fatboy Slim, who has played at almost every type of venue possible, took some convincing. Yet after the rest of the lineup was confirmed along with the cruise route and the ship layout, HARD made Holy Ship! a difficult event to turn down.

I could never make something that I was really proud of. Then I met these guys, Oliver…Thing was we just clicked and we made ‘Technology’ in one or two nights. It was unbelievable…

After the Twitter accounts of artists performing released pictures and updates, and all the reviews and photos were published online, Holy Ship proved to be of epic proportion. So much that 2013’s Holy Ship is already completely pre-sold out and there are over 10,000 names on the waiting list. With that kind of popularity it has the potential to become one of those famous events that you just add to your bucket list and hope one day you’ll be able to experience it.

The strength of a lot of HARD’s events is the showcasing of new talent. It was Richards that brought attention to artists that are blowing up Beatport charts such as Brodinski, Zedd and Dillon Francis. Richards does his research, searching for hours upon hours on Soundcloud. He also has the ears of friends such as Diplo and Boys Noize whom have been known to shine a light on an upcoming artists. Of course when Diplo tells you that someone is going to be big, he usually stands correct, especially in the case of Dillon Francis.

“[Diplo] was like this guy is gonna be dope. And he turned out to be million times better than I expected. And he is a great guy; he’s super cool, supper appreciative, he was awesome… Dillon, I’m so happy for him… It’s pretty cool to see him go from small to [snap] that quick.”

Richards continued on to joke about the only thing that is negative with the up-and-comers popularity growing through his events, is the addition of zeros on the paycheck. However, Richards is able to cut some costs at some of his events. When you are around music for as long as he has been it is hard not to dabble in performing.

Richards uses his alias, Destructo, when performing live. Despite trying to put on the best show by calling all the shots, he still finds time to give back to the fans in more ways and celebrate electronic music. This successful amount of balance between running the show and playing the show is credited to his crew.

“I have a great team and thank God for my team or I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

With the popularity of HARD events growing, Richards is planning to spend more time on the operation side of HARD and not so much playing. That doesn’t mean he is done playing music though. Nope.

“[On playing other events] I was getting wasted. Four Seasons. Running around acting like a maniac, drunk, wasted. You know my shows I can’t do that shit. You know I like to have fun.”

And he should be, DJs are rock stars too. Performing also gives him time to promote his new upcoming EP “Technology,” which came out April 9th, and features the hit single “Technology” that has received a lot of attention by major artists like A-Trak, Boys Noize and Steve Aoki. Recently the single was followed with a music video that gives a futuristic point of view of life and relationships with dark twists in a 5-minute video that seems like a short movie.

Destructo has been playing live since the early ‘90s. Richards explains that he has made some tracks, put out some vinyl and done some remixes but has always been more involved on the business side of things. There also was absence of collaboration; Richards never developed a strong connection to other producers. He struggled to find the missing ingredient for his sound, until he met the DJ duo, Oliver.

“I could never make something that I was really proud of. Then I met these guys, Oliver…Thing was we just clicked and we made “Technology” in one or two nights. It was unbelievable…”

So whether he is playing in Las Vegas or he is hosting an event in Los Angeles, Gary Richards or Destructo lives a life of stresses and successes. And after speaking to him I don’t think he would trade it for the world. With the evolution of EDM upon us, HARD will only continue to get bigger with more cruises, more talent, just an overall growth in appreciation for the music. And Desctructo will live on as Richards’ other identity, where partying becomes the priority over business.

Catch HARD Summer in Los Angeles on August 3-4.