Gary Richards discusses cultivating HARD’s success and the importance of ‘musicians’
HARD‘s head honcho Gary Richards occupies a unique space in electronic music. Most visibly, he navigates HARD and its increasingly in-demand portfolio of events: the flagship festival HARD Summer, which is set to be nearly twice as big as last year, the perpetually sold-out Holy Ship! cruises, and many other hugely popular events. He also keeps one foot directly in the music side as his alter-ego Destructo, whose well-attended sets are often a component of HARD lineups. HARD is recognized by both festival attendees and the artists playing for consistently curating the most cutting-edge and interesting lineups on the festival circuit, and keeping the focus solely on the music rather than production. Richards has made it his, and by association, HARD’s mission to cull the freshest emerging and underground talent to maintain that reputation.
Richards came from a background of underground parties and warehouses, so the transition to organizing massive events like HARD Summer (which will host 130,000 people this year) required some outside instruction. “When I was a little punk kid I wasn’t savvy enough to figure it out, but with HARD, I went right to the fire department and said, ‘What can I do to make this better for you?’ They gave me all these rules and different things and I followed them to a T. Those guys really know about public assemblage and putting people together on this scale. I don’t know that shit. I know music.”
Richards certainly knows music, and he made a point of driving home that his events are music festivals, not raves, in this year’s trailer for HARD Summer. HARD has banned kandi and other gear with rave implications for several years now, and Richards has been vocal about distancing his events from any connotations. His decision to re-emphasize this point came recently: “My wife was like, ‘Let’s go to the Hollywood Bowl with our friends’ and I was like, ‘Ugh, torture.’ But the group that opened for Death Cab for Cutie, tUnE-yArDs, were killing it. I was kind of ashamed that when I go up there, I just DJ. Watching this girl play rhythms on the drums, and the bass player’s sick, and the way they harmonize. Music is why HARD, and everything I do, is successful — because I base it around music, not bulls—t. I felt like it was time to try to make that point. You can’t have electronic music if you don’t have musicians.”