Interview: Dave Richards

In light of the release of Dave Richards’ debut full length album, The Thyme Gatherer, we sat down with him to discuss his new release and his experience leading up to now.

How/Why did you start producing music?
I think it really started out of curiosity. I started taking saxophone lessons when I was nine. Those lasted until I was sixteen and in high school. During all that time, I learned how to read music, but not write it. I also didn’t learn some key basics such as chord structures. What I did learn was that I loved music and enjoyed performing with the school band.

At the same time, I was pursuing art as well. I loved to draw and I was extremely interested in animation and cartooning. Later, I discovered graphic design which became my major in college. When I turned sixteen, I was presented with a scheduling problem and I had to choose between art and music. Art obviously won out and I walked away from performing music from 1990 until 1998.

I discovered EDM in 1992, but ever since the Chariots of Fire soundtrack, I had been in love with synthesizers. As my interest in EDM grew, I started to wonder how the music was created. This lead to me investing in a copy of FruityLoops or as it’s now called FL Studio. I was particularly interested in how things progressed from one sequenece or rhythm into another and a lot of my early work explored this process. And… like most beginners, it sucked. My co-workers at the time hated it in fact.

Is there a purpose or specific vision to your music?
This is often the time where interviews turn some what egotistical. I’ll try not to do that, but I’m sure it will go there anyway.

Truthfully, no. I’m not trying to save the world or cure cancer or even childhood obesity with my music. I’ve got a few causes that I’m interested in, but none of them are the focus of it. Mostly, I’m writing either for fun, in my heart or stuck in my mind at the time.

I believe that God has given us all talents and we are most happy when we are expressing them regardless of the end goal. Certainly there is more of a reward if you can apply your talent to a noble cause, but art for art’s sake still has value. When I’m in studio, I feel as Eric Little did when he said ” I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” For me, writing music let’s me feel His pleasure.

As an artist that’s been in the industry for 10 years, do you find it challenging to be an electronic producer at this time in the musical world? Have you seen any changes in the scene/audience over the past decade?
For me the challenge has been finding labels to invest in me or rather to take a risk. Breaking through with those first few releases is hard and unless you show up prepared at just the right time, you are not going to have that huge hit that catapults you into fame.

I originally made several self-released singles and released with a few small defunct or mostly defunct labels prior to hooking up with Joseph Mercado of Next Dimension Music. He really took time out to help me break into the larger scene and also laid down some of the base encouragement for me to start MK837 with Chris Reiche and Kevin Oneel.

One of the biggest changes in the scene though is the shift away from vinyl to digital. The same goes for CDs. However, I’m not saying this because of all the new options available for a DJ today or even for producers. The real shift here is in the amount of work and start up costs for labels. Today, you can fill out a few forms on the state and city level in the morning and have your label’s first release on its way to Beatport in the afternoon. That’s not the proper way to do it, but it is the truth. Given the right situation, anybody can start a label these days.

With all of the technological advances, have you noticed a shift in how you produce music? Do you think it’s good or bad for the industry?
On the production side of things, the technological shift has been amazing. Since my main instrument is a saxophone, keyboards do not come naturally to me. So technology has allowed me to overcome some shortcomings in my musical background but that’s not all.

The technology has changed the game so that rather than spending $10,000 on hardware, I can now spend about $2,000 on a decent DAW, a few soft synths and samples, and have every bit as good a studio. I also don’t have to spend days chasing down cables and remember how I had things hooked up should I need to go back and rework something later.

There is a place for that though. One thing I learned from my graphic design classes is an appreciation for how things got done before the computer. I think I’m a better person for not only having been exposed to some of those techniques in a classroom but also having hands on experience with them. I haven’t really had that with music today. It’s a shame, because I know that it probably would help me in the long run.

You have a release coming out entitled “The Thyme Gatherer” – how did you come up with a name like that and what is its significance?
The name is the English translation of Doster, which is my mother’s maiden name. I’m pretty proud of my German heritage although I couldn’t tell you much about my lineage. On my dad’s side though, I’m one generation removed from lumberjacks. So there’s a Monty Python connection there.

Do you have a favorite track off the new album, what was the process in producing that track?
The title track is one of my favorites. It was a late addition to the album, but production wise probably one of the best. Kevin says the best one though is Captain Obvious.

Producing music, running Tastyfresh, overseeing Afterhours at Cornerstone Festival, co-owning your music label, MK837, having a full-time job and a family at home, how do you find time to do it all?
Usually with a severe lack of sleep. It’s also one reason why I’m not trying to be a touring DJ too. It’s a matter of finding a prioritized groove and a cycle. The groove helps you to get tasks done while the cycle helps to move you from one group of tasks to another efficiently.

Diving into the past – what’s your favorite music-related experience (doesn’t have to be related to your music)?
I’ve got a lot of them. Going way back, there was an all-nighter band rehearsal that I vaguely remember as being some what fun. There was the metal concert where I learned the importance of ear protection. Then the one where I realized my wife was better at moshing than I was.

I think the more interesting ones have been related to running the Afterhours stage in which we have a drug and alcohol free event filled with sober people who you literally have to pull out of the rafters and down from tent polls. Kevin and I have threatened bodily harm upon a multitude of people who act first and think later. I swear the Cornerstone Music Festival is like no other music festival out there.

What did you grow up listening to?
Classical. That was pretty much it really and it was my father’s music. I heard other music when I went to some friends houses, but even they weren’t that into music. It wasn’t until high school that I really started listening to anything else.

Who do you look up to as mentors? Who were influences to you as you were developing you own sound and style?
I’ve had several. A short list of early mentors would have to include: Jamey Wright, Sheltershed, Brian Scroggins of Prophecy of P.A.N.I.C., Scott Blackwell and more. Today the people I include as mentors include my label partners Chris Reiche aka Deeflash and Kevin Oneel, Greg “Stryke” Chin, Tim Richards Joel Armstrong, the Shiloh boys and well.. a few others who may not even know it yet. Finding musical mentors is one of the most important things any artist can do. Mentors who can be totally honest with you are worth their weight in gold.

For someone that hasn’t heard a Dave Richards track before, what would you say your music sounds like?
That’s a good question. I’d love to say that my music sounds like Steve Lawler. He’d be one of those mentors who doesn’t know it yet. If you ask Kevin, I’m a “combination of Danny Howells and Steve Lawler with a dash of Sander Van Doorn mixed in for good measure”. I’ll just take that compliment and pass it on.