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  Robbie Rivera























"I really want to be bigger in the U.S.," Robbie Rivera declares adamantly at a crowded Miami shopping mall late one Friday afternoon. His plan for 2K3: to conquer America, thank you very much. If the past two years are any indication, he may be well on his way, thanks to an endless production output that has blanketed the global club community.

Rivera's success has come from combining and subsequently exporting the dirty house grooves of his hometown, the edgy intensity of New York's big-room tribal drums and a mind-bending, relentless keyboard sound all his own. It has taken him full circle; no matter the scene, size or sound, there may not be a club in America where his tracks aren't currently being played.

"I've been getting a lot of feedback from DJs who play trance," Rivera says. "DJ Tiesto is playing all my stuff. My booking agent in Spain represents him too, and he's requested all my stuff. Paul Van Dyk in Miami played my stuff. It's really cool that I can do a track that really any DJ can play."

Add to those luminaries a laundry list of house DJs that includes grand poobah Danny Tenaglia, chief exporter Erick Morillo and gay icon Junior Vasquez, to name but a few. Rivera remixes pop stars like Kylie and Brandy, creates influential underground favorites like "Feel This" and "The Hum Melody," and he takes club records like Perpetuous Dreamer's "The Sound Of Goodbye" and Conjure One's "Tears From The Moon" in wildly different directions than their original versions suggested they were capable of going. He released 40 or so original tracks and remixes in 2002, seemingly without breaking a sweat.

And Robbie Rivera will tell you over and over that it really wasn't hard to pull off. In most cases, he has planted himself firmly where he needs to be before he needs to be there, setting himself up for the payoff that takes him to the next step. It is a quintessential all-American strategy that began when Rivera was just a boy on the island that is America's de facto 51st state.

"I grew up in Puerto Rico and when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I was already DJing at little house parties…two turntables with no pitch," the 29-year-old Rivera recalls. "It was horrible! By the time I was a senior in high school, I was already playing parties every single weekend all over the island. Plus, I was playing once a month in a mixshow in San Juan."

"After that, I went to college at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where I studied music production," he continues. "When I was in college, I had time to mess around with my keyboard and two turntables, and I started recording, making beats and stuff."

By the time he was 23 years old, Rivera had his diploma and was actively releasing house tracks, when he began pursuing a business degree at the University of Miami. Educating himself in the professional aspects of making music-on both the creative and financial levels-has proven to be a shrewd decision. It has given him a better understanding of the game at all levels. He knows who has the money, who doesn't and when he needs it. Unlike producers with no business sense and a clueless agent, Rivera tailors his deals with the companies involved as he sees fit. Even if he doesn't make a ton of money on a track, he keeps his name relevant enough to score the big payday when Kylie's people come calling.

"I know I've done some stuff and was like, 'Why the hell did I accept this?'" Rivera confesses with a laugh. "But... you know, sometimes the money comes in handy. I like doing the underground stuff, and I usually negotiate my fees [to do it]. The major labels pay a lot of money, and the independents usually don't. I don't really care. I know a lot of producers who have their fee, and that's it. I work with everybody. I'm not going to name numbers, but I work with labels like Tommy Boy, [the former] Strictly Rhythm-smaller labels that I know aren't going to pay top dollar. I still do it because it's a good track and I love remixing."

The remixes really began flowing circa 1997, when the craze of the day, filtered disco, was beginning its ascent to the top of Europe's trend barometer. Armed with a few simple pieces of studio equipment and some classic disco tracks, Rivera tapped into a sound that quickly earned him a dubious title in Europe: the King of Filtered Disco.

"When I was doing the filtered sound, I was just getting disco loops from old '70s records I had," he explains. "A friend of mine had given me a ton of old 45 records, and I just started sampling through a sampler. When I added the filters and messing around with them, people went nuts for the effect. Basically, it's just an effect. I got tired of it about two years ago, and started doing more tribal, dark stuff."

Rivera credits one record in particular as being the bridge to his current status in the club community. "I was trying to do both sides, because I like the filtered stuff and I like a lot of the New York tribal drum stuff," he says. "I never try to stick to one style, even though in Europe I was kind of labeled as the filtered guy. I got so tired of it and I was in the studio one day, and I just wanted some really, really different, really crazy, and I came up with 'Funk-A-Tron.'"

"I had it in my DJ box for almost a full year without showing it to anyone, because I thought nobody was really going to like it, that it was too weird," he continues. "Then I played it out at Amnesia in Ibiza and they went nuts. The flow went up and I showed it to [Subliminal Records founder] Erick [Morillo] and he picked it up right away. A lot of labels passed on it at first. After that record, things really took off with this new sound. For me, it's not a new sound…it's just me doing whatever I want to do in the studio."

Rivera hasn't stopped working since, unleashing a torrent of mixes with deadly accuracy and maximum efficiency. He's in his Miami studio by 9 a.m. during the week, and he's home to his wife by 7 at night. "I'm not one of those guys who works at night," he says. "I'd rather sleep."

Part of why Rivera's stuff is so successful is because he goes crazy without really going crazy. All the bells and whistles are there-thundering drums, synths tweaked to frenzied buildups, with a well-placed vocal or sample tying things together. Rivera creates huge soundscapes without having to use a different machine to create each part, again effectively remaining one step ahead of the game.

"I don't use any of the traditional keyboards," he notes. "I use the Kurzweil, which nobody uses. I mean, maybe one or two producers I know have it in the studio and never even touch it. All the sounds I do except for the drums-all the synths, pianos, basses and filters-come from that keyboard. You can go into a music equipment store and play the Kurzweil K-2600, and the 'Funk-A-Tron' sound is there... everything's there. It's just the way I manipulate it with the effects and little tricks I do to make it sound so thick. I make all my sounds try to be huge in a big room."

A lot of people would consider that a smart use of resources, but there are holdouts. Rivera is unapologetic. "'Trippin'' just came out in an hour," he says. "A lot of people probably think that's too simple. I get a lot of critics telling me that my tracks are really simple-which they are. But I don't really care. As long as when I play them in a club, people go nuts, that's all that matters."

And they do, night after night. Rivera's DJ career is in full swing, with several weeks at a time blocked off to play around Europe. He's finally establishing a firmer foothold stateside, beginning with a regular gig in his hometown.

"This year has been really, really awesome for me DJing," Rivera exclaims, almost gushing. "I've been DJing one or two weekends a month in Europe, mostly in Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Greece. Now I also have a residency at Crobar in Miami, which…finally I'm getting some love down here once a month. I started a couple months ago, and it's going awesome."

Next up for the man of the moment: a compilation, more touring and the revival of his own label. "Everything I do now is going to be on my label, Juicy Music," he says. "I have something new ["I Want More"] coming out with Steve Edwards from Cassius' ['The Sound of Violence']. I'm doing another new label, which is due out in the U.K. also next year. I'll have two labels, so I need demos. I like hard stuff and crazy stuff. Send me shit. Send me stuff for my label!"

Rivera is also particularly excited about the Subliminal buzz track "Liar," which may very well mark a new phase for the most prolific producer in house music today. "'Liar' is a mixture of Robbie Rivera meets Moby meets Dirty Vegas," he says. "It's really, really different from a lot of the stuff I do. It's a full vocal, and it's special to me because I played all the music except for an electric guitar part."

Then again, the guy is so ubiquitous these days that by the time you read this, you may already know that. Robbie Rivera is on fire, and you get the sense that he hasn't even peaked yet. As long as his trusty Kurzweil is warmed up and ready to go at a moment's notice, we're all in for a wild and funky ride.

-- written by Pete Glowatsky





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