Dance or Die

Veteran DJ/producer Robbie Rivera gets real

On a list of DJ/producers who deserve mad respect, Puerto Rico native Robbie Rivera would be in the Top 10 (he gets bonus points for being a nice guy, as well). We caught up with the Miami-based Rivera in advance of his next gig at XS on Sept. 28 for an uncensored chat about DJ polls, staying positive and tasty tracks.

Your new album, Dance or Die, sounds quite a bit different from your previous LP, 2009’s Closer to the Sun. What prompted the change in vibe?

I wanted to focus on tracks that I could play out live, and if they did get on radio, great. If they don’t, that’s OK for me as well. So it more of my traditional stuff that I play out live, more banging.

You worked with Tommy Lee and Aero on the track, “Ding Dong.” How did that come together?

It was simple: My former PR person works for them. And I thought, “Let’s hang out in the studio and see what comes out of that.” We got together and we just made a whole track and vocals in one day. [Tommy] was a really cool guy, very outgoing and wild. He was really cool. The track was really simple, very electro-house. It wasn’t going to have any vocals, but at the end of the session we wanted to add a vocal hook and Tommy and Aero just called up this girl, Sue Cho, she wrote some stuff, and my wife also wrote some stuff and that’s it. It was done really fast.

So this is Dance or Die the album, but there is also the Dance or Die series with two volumes. Will that continue? And what would you say is the difference for people who haven’t listened yet?

I wanted to give fans a glimpse as to what was going to be on the album. So I don’t know if there’s going to be any more to the series, but now that I think about it, you gave me a good idea! Why not, right? Maybe I should do that. Thanks!

Your music seems to have a food theme lately: “That’s a Good Meatball,” “Flying Egg” and the French Fries from Miami EP. Are you always hungry when making tracks?

I’m always thinking about food. But “That’s a Good Meatball” is a reference to my favorite comedy movie of all time, The Wedding Singer. When I do these tracks, they’re instrumental, there’s no vocals on it, so you’ve gotta come up with a cool title, and I really like to have just weird and odd titles.

So, what’s a “Flying Egg”?

We were in Miami, and I had this guy recording—I think it was Labor Day Weekend—a few years ago, and he ordered something that had these little tiny eggs. It was windy and we were talking about the track and, seriously, one of the eggs flew by. So [my wife] Monica, was like, “There you go! Call it ‘Flying Egg.’”

As far as your entire catalog, what has been one of your favorite remixes someone else has done of your tracks?

I really like the way the Bassjackers remixed “Ding Dong.” Also, DJ Chus & Abel Ramos’ [Iberican] remix of “Escape”—that was a good remix of one of my old tunes. I went to a website today, in Germany, and if you put my name or the label and search, it actually tells you how many songs are mine. It was like, 700 and something!

With that many, is there stuff that you didn’t even realize was out there?

Yeah, that’s why I check every week actually. I go to these websites, put my name on it, and see if there’s a remix of one of my tunes that I’ve never heard of or to see if everything has been released properly. And that’s how I come up with odd stuff and see if it was released in Bulgaria or something.

What do you think it will take to create a full Juicy Beach party in Las Vegas to rival the one you throw in Miami during the Winter Music Conference?

We had one almost confirmed, but there was a lot of politics involved. But we are planning to do a proper Juicy Beach event in Vegas, and we’ve been talking about it for years. Because I have a residency at Wynn, we’re talking about doing it [there]. So it’s going to happen. We did Juicy in New York, and that worked great. So we’re definitely bringing it to Vegas and other cities as well.

As someone who’s watch the Las Vegas EDM scene evolve, what are your thoughts on the quality of tracks being played?

A lot of the DJs—big names—play so predictably in Vegas and everywhere else now, it’s pathetic. There is so much good music out there; you have to get more creative and have balls to play it! When I play at XS or Encore [Beach Club]—or anywhere in Vegas—yes, I will drop a commercial track, but a good one, not the one that the DJs the night before played two or three times, or a few hours before you. It’s good that dance music is out there. But now it’s getting over saturated a bit. People want to make money out of it. But that’s just the way America is with anything that’s hot. It’s just getting a little bit too ridiculous with producers. It’s incredible how a producer can become a famous DJ in three months because of one song. I don’t get it and how everybody thinks, “Oh, this guy must be a huge DJ” because he has one song, but then you hear him play and it’s exactly what you hear on the radio. Where’s the creativity on being an actual DJ? There’s no more artistry in it. I don’t want to complain so much about it, but that’s the way it is right now.

One of the hot topics in the DJ world lately is the DJ Mag Top 100 poll. What do these polls mean to you, and what are your thoughts on people cheating to get a higher rank?

The new generation loves this Top 100 “bullshit list,” is what I call it. Really, seriously. I haven’t been on that list since I stopped advertising with DJ Mag. I have not been in the Top 100. When I was advertising all the Juicy Parties, I was always in the Top 100. What a coincidence! We all know the list is fake, and you can tell by a lot of the people that are there. So, I think the list is bullshit. Put it this way, I still work every single weekend and I get paid really well to do it, and I’m not on the list. So what’s the big deal? Now, we all know who is going to be on the list this year because it’s changed: Whoever has more Twitter followers, whoever has more likes on Facebook will probably get more. It’s such a long conversation. I try to not give a shit about it—I don’t really go by it, let’s put it that way. If I am in it, great. If not, whatever. For me, if your song is getting played on dance radio worldwide, that’s more important than being on a stupid list.

Lots of DJs are all about Twitter, but your wife Monica, @TheDJWife, is pretty active and uncensored on there as well?

[On] Twitter, you’re really supposed to say whatever you feel like, so she does. She’s funny. She’s got over 3,000 followers—that’s not bad for a person that’s not a DJ.

In a drama-ridden industry, how do you stay smiling and positive?

I’m a happy guy because I’m able to make money out of this and not have to have desk job, basically. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody this, but I’ve been DJing for money since I was 16 years old playing at high school parties. And I never had any other job. I’ve never been to a job interview, never applied for any other job. This is all I had since I was a little kid, so that’s why I’m a happy guy. I’m like, “Damn, I’m still doing this shit, and I’ve been doing it since I was 15!”

Suggested Next Read

The Mixtape Maestro

DJ Profile

The Mixtape Maestro

By Deanna Rilling

Cassette tapes have gone the way of the laser disc and the eight-track, but the concept of a “mixtape” is here to stay. Mick Boogie deftly cultivates that particular musical experience with each of the 35-plus free unique downloads on his website. We caught up with the mixtape maestro to chat about hip-hop, reworking Adele and collaborating with his idol, Jazzy Jeff, before he translates his musical stylings live during his Sept. 22 gig at Hyde in Bellagio.