RICO discusses his very own brand, future aspirations and more: Interview
Looking to further enhance his presence within the electronic dance industry, RICO (real name Richard Holzhauer) has been blessing fans alike with his eclectic style of play for quite some time now. Having worked as a curator for Visions NYC, it was only a matter of time until he would kick-start a successful career of his own, and in turn, further surround himself in all aspects that the music industry has on offer. Embracing each and every opportunity that was presented to him along the way, RICO joined Tommie Sunshine on his endeavors within our community, and in fact is now the Label Manager and A&R for Sunshine’s imprint, Brooklyn Fire Records. Inspired by his love for music, RICO has gone onto creating his own brand, with the melodic approach enforced through each of his productions, a clear statement of everything that he has set out to achieve as an artist to watch within our community. With this said, we could not be any more happy to be joined by the man of the moment, as he discusses all things RICO, the creative process behind each of his tracks, remixing songs from some of the biggest artists’ in the world, his very own business endeavor, Heartbeat Lyfe, and much more.
Hello RICO and thank you for joining. Could you give us an insight on the main inspiration(s) that led to you following a career within the dance scene, as well as an overall view of what you have set out to achieve as an artist to watch within our community?
There is no higher inspiration than music itself. What music does to its listeners is next level; in terms of making people want to move, and smiles all around! Everyone hears music differently, and dance music has its way of connecting us on a deeper level. That’s my favorite part, and it gives me a newfound appreciation of watching artists perform. As an artist myself, I have an interest in the technical side of music and how it’s made. The process is so fulfilling; from synthesizing & layering sounds to arranging elements into a full song. Music is made to be listened to, and I look forward to the day where I go on tour to play for large crowds from city to city. Traveling and meeting people thanks to music, while also building a platform to share knowledge and pave the way for up & comers…that would be a dream come true!
Having worked as a curator for Visions NYC, you had the opportunity of contributing to the development and emergence of some of the biggest up and coming artists in the scene. We would like to know how rewarding that particular experience was, and how significant has it been in your emergence as a rising star within the dance industry?
Being one of the curators for Visions NYC was amazing because I learned about the industry from a whole different perspective. The idea came from a couple friends hanging out and DJing for fun. It turned into a full blown monthly party at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. One of the biggest lessons was learning how the finance side of things worked. The talent buyers of the venue had us working with real money after only a couple shows. Together, we did a great job finding up & comers who deserved to play alongside some of the biggest names in bass music. Before all that, we had to come up with the money and budget for our second show with Ricky Remedy. It ended up going amazing…with even Flosstradamus coming through to support! That really set the tone for our momentum going forward with the brand. The music continued until there was not a single person left inside the venue. And even after that, everybody would hang outside the venue for quite some time after the show ended. These are some of my best memories with the best friends anyone could ask for in this industry.
Entering the record label industry through working with A-Trak’s imprint Fool’s Gold Records, and then eventually meeting your future mentor in Tommie Sunshine and shifting your focus to his label, Brooklyn Fire Records, we would like to know the overall feeling on working at both those records, as well as a further insight on your main role(s) during your time at both?
The Record Label side of the business was great because I learned “why” tracks were signed and what came next. I learned about how tracks would be presented to different outlets. I remember my first week at Fool’s Gold as an intern, I made a sizzle reel video for the A-trak and Migos collab. Everything about the presentation for that song had to be on point, especially the video. It took many revisions to get right, and a lot of feedback from the office. As an intern you learn every aspect of the company because you’re assisting everyone. The best experience comes from learning what works, but also what doesn’t. One of the many reasons Tommie Sunshine is so successful with Brooklyn Fire Records, is because he’s always turning to the next generation. He is a master at finding the next sound and new trends. Tommie and I worked so well together because he let me shine. When it came to making decisions, my input mattered. We would bounce off each other’s thoughts and great decisions were made!
Now acting as the Label Manager and A&R for Brooklyn Fire Records, could you give us a little insight on how rewarding this current role has been for yourself and your career in music, as well as how significant has Tommie Sunshine’s emergence in your life been on your career as a DJ/producer thus far?
Working alongside Tommie for Brooklyn Fire Records has been one of the most rewarding experiences in getting my career started. The opportunity to be next to an industry legend with that amount of knowledge and talent only happens in movies. Every time we worked, it was like I was getting my own personal interview. Not only did I see how a label works, but also how a full time artist works. I saw first hand draft emails to talent buyers, overheard phone conversations with music executives, and saw zoom call studio sessions. Tommie is working 24/7…on everything! As a producer, I learned from Tommie to be different, to be true to your sound, and NEVER give up your creative control. Though these aren’t technical-studio tips, I believe they are the most important. It took me many years to get all this down, but now I believe that is why I am making the best music I have ever made. When you make what you feel, it just comes more naturally!
Shifting the focus back to your own RICO brand, we would like to know a bit more about the creative process you go through when producing tracks, the main reasoning behind your chosen style of play/sound, as well as the main decision process behind the vocals that feature on your productions?
My creative process comes from the decisions I make from the very beginning. I won’t just remix any pop song. I have to really like it and I have to have a vision on how to make it into a RICO song. While doing this, I have the “album mentality” to where I make sure each song has different elements than the last, but still with all the RICO influences. For example, if one song has a more orchestral break, I’ll make sure the next one has a more rhythmic break. It keeps things fresh, yet original. My process starts with choosing vocals that give me a sense of which direction I will take. After that, I use a combination of a MIDI keyboard and clicking in the piano roll to create chords and melodies. I write the melody with a basic piano sound, and then create new sounds in software synthesizers. Before I know it, I have a harmony; and then it is placed around the vocal to create a full bodied musical experience. My studio has hardware synthesizers that I use to create my bass sounds, background textures, or melodic pads. These machines give the sound a more original feel…so I try to use them whenever I can for my music to stand out. When it comes to drums, I find a proper kick and process it with the bass sitting just right. Then come the claps, and hats, followed by filling up my drum section with mid percussion and drum fills. All these are tools and strategies to keep the listener engaged throughout each track. To sum up my RICO tracks without getting too nerdy: they all sound a little different, but work great together as a set (remember that “album mentality”). RICO tracks are for the mainstage and the large scale. They have energy, emotion, and the ability to connect people in ways I love to see.
Having remixed some of the biggest pop songs from major artists, as well as gaining support for your tracks from the likes of Tiesto, DJs From Mars and Gate 21 (when naming a few), could you expand on the significance of such achievements, as well as how motivating the recognition can be when looking to further enhance your music catalog. With this in mind, we would also like to know what the future holds for RICO, and more specifically, what future remixes/originals are on the horizon, as well as the fellow artists that you would like to support your music in the near future?
The most recent support has been incredibly motivating. It all kinda dates back to the beginning of the pandemic. I didn’t know how long we were going to be stuck in the house, and I didn’t take any of it for granted. That’s really where I established the RICO sound. The whole world was on pause, and that allowed me to be comfortable to try new things with remixes, instead of stressing on originals. In that time I got down to what my sound will be, and how to make myself better. I basically continued that nonstop work ethic in the studio even as the pandemic came to an end. Right now the future for RICO is to continue remixing songs of vocals that I love. I use remixing as a tool to not only grow my fanbase, but also just improve as a producer overall. Every song I try new things out, overcome new obstacles, and learn something new. My main priority right now is to keep getting better, and get more support from big artists. When I feel the time is right, I will make originals; and the world will be ready. I also want to shout out SLATIN, who is my engineer and teacher. Many producers just finish their track and send it off to mastering. I want to learn exactly how to improve on the track, and how to make the next one even better. I make sure all my tracks sound “Radio Ready” and it makes a big difference when getting support from big artists. The artists that influence me change on a weekly basis, based on who I am listening to at the moment and where my head and heart are at. Right now, I’m listening to Meduza, Alesso, Anti-Up, and ARMNHMR with some honorable mentions: Coheed & Cambria, Modsun, Machine Gun Kelly, and Iann Dior. I’d love to get more support from Tiesto, and hopefully even Don Diablo next. These are the artists that give us newcomers the platform to grow thanks to their radio shows and how massive they are.
Besides music production, you are also an entrepreneur with your business Heartbeat Lyfe. We would like to know the overall concept behind this idea, as well as your own personal outtake on what your business stands for and what you have set out to achieve through both its current establishment, as well as any plans for growth in the future?
Heartbeat Lyfe is a festival lifestyle brand fueled by hemp products. My partner in the company has been a successful hemp entrepreneur for over a decade, with the most emphasis on quality and natural ingredients. There are a lot of benefits of CBD products for ravers, such as relieving pre-festival & crowd anxiety, relaxing the body (which gets heavily fatigued from dancing all day and night), and helping get restful sleep to rave all over again. For more information, please visit our website at heartbeatlyfe.com. Heartbeat Lyfe is a way to connect all of my creative ideas into one brand that is fueled by positivity. I am providing people with all things positive – herbal wellness, music, & a community! My plans for the future is to really grow the brand into a family. One of the most fun ways in raising awareness for the brand is through my radio show – Heartbeat Lyfe Radio. I had some great guests on it in 2021, including Charlie Chill aka Concept, Brooklyn Fire’s Minør and Domii, as well as Dirtybird’s El Monk, and many other great DJs & producers. This is my weekly dose of DJing, where I include fresh new tracks mixed with some deep cut randoms that I am finding every day. I would love to get our hemp products distributed at festivals and parties globally, as well eventually throw our own parties and festivals all over the world! Looking deep into the future, I would like to come full circle and have a record label branch of Heartbeat Lyfe. Heartbeat Lyfe will have it all – Hemp, Events, & Music!
All set on creating a lasting impact within our community, RICO is the epitome of an artist that has devoted his life towards his passion for music, and we are all for it. Leaving his own mark with each of his remixes, as well as his original tracks, we will most definitely be keeping a close eye on this rising star, and all his future endeavors within the dance scene. In the meantime however, be sure to follow RICO on Instagram and Soundcloud, as the future looks brighter by the day for this up and coming artist.
Featured Image Credit: RICO (via Press Release)