Destructo Discusses HARD’s Formula of Success with LA Weekly
It’s difficult at times to imagine that those at the top had to start from somewhere. Gary Richards — better known as Destructo to us in the electronic music world — is no exception. Richards recently sat down for an interview with LA Weekly to talk about his humble beginnings in the music industry, the evolution of his HARD empire, and in his own words, the challenges he faces in planting HARD as a permanent fixture in the SoCal festival landscape.
The in-depth interview comes at the perfect time, as HARD is slated to celebrate its 10-year anniversary at HARD Summer this upcoming weekend in San Bernardino. The lengthy interview spans across a range of personal topics and includes plenty of narrative from Richards himself, revealing a side of Destructo we’ve never seen (or read). Read below for an extended highlight of the LA Weekly interview.
If you’ve ever wondered how the story of HARD came to be, you’d be curious to know that it did not go off without a hitch. Richards tells the story of his first (and failed) event, HARD New Years Eve, which took place back in 2007 at Downtown LA’s Art District. The “shit show,” as Richards straightforwardly sums up, nearly put him in cardiac arrest thanks to a slew of logistical errors leading up to the countdown. A combination of quick thinking and improvisation, however, saved the doomed show. And Justice rang in the new year alongside a humble crowd of 5,000. His close call with failure didn’t deter him from remaining in the event production business — instead, he pushed forward and vowed to teach himself how to better run an event.
Over the years he went on to hone his skills in the music business — by employing his long list of industry contacts he gained by interning at numerous radio stations— to become a successful promoter in the underground L.A. rave scene. When he was appointed as an A&R exec, he used his elevated position within the industry to push for an embrace of electronic music. Richards never once forgot his old-school techno roots that he fused into his budding double-role as DJ and Festival Magnate.
His cut-and-dry attitude in event production politics has earned him and HARD a reputation as one of the more artist-driven competitors in the festival business. What arguably sets HARD apart from Insomniac‘s music production is HARD’s shtick on including a fresh set of up-and-comers in their lineup. This focus is central to their artist-driven rep, which gives new artists a key platform to showcase their talents to a massive crowd of music fans. Surely the same can be said about Insomniac, but HARD events have been credited time and again for launching the careers of some of the industry’s biggest names. In addition to artist-development, HARD has seemingly cracked the formula for successfully incorporating urban genres like rap and hip-hop into a mostly electronic lineup — a task that has been somewhat of a challenge for electronic music festivals. For proof of this challenge, one must look no further than DJ Khaled‘s disastrous performance at this year’s EDC Las Vegas. HARD, on the other hand, has brought on plenty of hip-hop performers in the past like Ice Cube and Travis Scott. And this year’s Hard Summer will be one for the books with an OG rendition of Doggystyle by headliner Snoop Dogg.
Despite having cracked the formula for an eclectic lineup, HARD still faces challenges that loom over its future. It’s true that at least in SoCal — where the HARD events call home— news and media outlets are quick to crucify the festival giant whenever fatalities occur. HARD has a stained track record of securing a permanent venue because of what county planning officials consider a safety concern due to the several ecstasy-related deaths of attendees. As a result, HARD Summer has had two venue changes in just the past 2 years, not including the most recent one announced just a few weeks ago.
The truth of the matter is, drug-related deaths and hospitalizations have become commonplace in large-scale music events like Hard Summer. Richards responds to the criticism in his best words, “At the end of the day, you’re trying to keep out a Tic Tac, so no matter how many millions of dollars we throw at it, somebody’s going to put something into their body that we can’t control.” He assigns the responsibility on the shoulders of the attendees saying, “We’re not gonna get every Tic Tac, it comes down to personal responsibility. And there’s really not much more as a promoter that we can do.”
Hard Summer is set to celebrate 10 years of HARD at the Glen Helen Amphitheater, formerly the San Manuel Amphitheater, in San Bernardino next weekend. Festival doors will open at 12 pm Aug 5 & 6. For tickets to this milestone event, visit the Ticketmaster page.
This was a highlight of the LA Weekly Interview, which can be read in its entirety on their website.
H/T LA Weekly