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Robbie Rivera: The Problem with America . . . ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on August 31, 2004

“The problem with America is that most of the promoters in the big cities only book DJs who play trance or progressive, like Tiesto, Oakenfold, Van Buuren or Ferry Corsten. That’s great, they have their fans, but when it comes to house DJs the promoters are very sceptical to book them.”

Chatting down the line from Barcelona, US house DJ Robbie Rivera admits he’s resigned to being recognised more in his adopted Spanish home than the birthplace of house music, America.

“Lots of the promoters there seem to pick up DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJ poll and basically only select the top 10, it gets that stupid in the US sometimes,” he continues.

“So it becomes a little harder for house DJs like me, Erick (Morillo) and David Morales to get proper gigs or even proper fees sometimes. I’ll DJ in the US for sure, but not every weekend, the way it is in Europe. I get paid much more to DJ in Europe, plus I have more fans here, too.”

One way he’s trying to change things in the States is via his debut artist album ‘Do You Want More, a production he’s hoping will catapult him to Faithless or Basement Jaxx style success.

“I want to crossover to become a dance artist who can release an album every year, which is similar to what they do,” he admits.

“Say this album blows up or the next one and crosses over into the mainstream, that means I’ll have the album to handle that side of the industry as well as my two labels where I can keep on releasing straight-up house tunes, to keep all my house fans happy. I want to keep covering both sides of the industry.”

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You’ve made scores of singles and remixes over the years, how different was the process of making an album?

Robbie Rivera: “I was able to be more original and more creative on the album because it was more what I wanted to do myself. In my brain, I started laying down the tracks without really caring whether people liked them or not, though of course I do care. When I make singles I think more about the big room in a club and how other people are going to react whereas with the album I was thinking of people driving in cars and how they’d listen to it.”

Skrufff: Why did you base yourself in Barcelona to make the album?

Robbie Rivera: “Every summer I get heavily booked to DJ around the Mediterranean and all over Europe and I used to be constantly flying backwards and forwards to the States, which was killing me because of the jetlag. So I decided to get an apartment in Barcelona over the summer then go back to the States in October. I then brought my studio with me and started working on the tracks and then I discovered that the environment in Barcelona allowed me to relax and I don’t know why but I started feeling really creative here.”

Skrufff: What took you to Barcelona as opposed to London or Berlin?

Robbie Rivera: “I picked Barcelona because I have a lot of friends here, I can also speak the language, which helps. I see myself spending every summer here and if I had to move from the States I’d see myself settling here. I also have a lot of friends here most of them are Latinos, people from South America. There’s certainly a big DJ culture here, I also have a weekly residency here which is pretty wild, it’s got one of the best vibes I’ve had in DJing for a long time.”

Skrufff: When did you leave Puerto Rica for mainland America?

Robbie Rivera: “When I was 18, after graduating from high school.”

Skrufff: Cities like New York used to be quite segregated on racial lines, when you moved to Fort Lauderdale what kind of environment did you find?

Robbie Rivera: “It was extremely American and very white because Florida’s like that. I moved into a quiet neighbourhood and it was good. I look very American anyway, so much so that I get questioned all the time about whether I’m a real Puerto Rican, because I don’t look like a stereotypical Peurto Rican at all. The other day, in fact, I got an email from a pissed off fan saying ‘you don’t look Puerto Rican, why are you talking all this shit on your biography about being Puerto Rican’.”

Skrufff: You recently played in Albania, Europe’s poorest country,what did you make of playing there?

Robbie Rivera: “It was really odd, I knew Albania was a very poor country but when I got there it was a huge culture shock, just from seeing how the airport and the roads are. There’s barely any infrastructure there at all, it’s really poor and everybody’s walking the streets, there’s hardly any cars. But the party was amazing and there were lots of fans there, asking for tracks that I’ve done by title.  I played at an open-air party on this space next to a huge swimming pool. They mainly wanted to hear songs they were familiar with from the radio and it was a bit weird because on local radio they’d been play a bootleg remix of Daft Punk’s One More Time that supposedly I made, which I never did. I think it was Daft Punk mixed with one of my beats that somebody else did and they were advertising my at the gig as ‘the creator of ‘One More Time’.”

Skrufff: Are you planning on returning?

Robbie Rivera: “Yeah, I expect so, I also went to Bulgaria, there seems to be a lot of interest from Eastern European countries at the moment, generally.”

Skrufff: Given that you’re American, do you find people in these places talking to you about politics much?

Robbie Rivera: “Oh yeah, the whole summer everyone’s been asking me about politics and I tend to stay away from it. You get people saying ‘what’s up with your fucking president?’ (chuckling). . . stuff like that, all the time.”

Skrufff: How was your recent gig in Ecuador, that’s also quite turbulent politically?

Robbie Rivera: “Ecuador was very interesting, firstly that place is so high in the mountains that the moment you get there, you start feeling weird, like you’re short of breathe all the time. The party was packed; it was inside a local stadium with 6,000 people and had a very young crowd, who were really into the music. It’s great going to places like Ecuador and also a big ego boost to know that people in these places know my tunes. I recently got a request to play in Peru and Bolivia too.”

Skrufff: Is Colombia a place you’ve played in?

Robbie Rivera: “Not yet, though I constantly get requests to play there for the past years, sometimes offering me stupid amounts of money. I also get asked to play in Tel Aviv and I’ve not played there yet either.”

Skrufff: You’re avoiding these places because of the danger factor presumably?

Robbie Rivera: “Yeah, that’s right, the danger factor. I played in Beirut this summer though and it was amazing. I know nothing bad has happened in Beirut for the last few years, but it’s a Middle Eastern country and I’m an American, so all my friends in the States were like ‘you’re fucking crazy playing there’. It was totally normal though, I’m dying to go back there.”

Skrufff: Have you had many times when you’ve felt unsafe when you’ve been travelling?

Robbie Rivera: “Sometimes. Recently, for example I was with two strangers in a car in Greece, driving back from a gig. Now I’ve been to Greece millions of times and I usually feel safe there but on this particular trip I was driving a two hour trip out of the city, up in the mountains and at one point I suddenly thought ‘I’m by myself, I don’t know these guys, I’ve got a couple of thousands euros in my pocket form the gig, and these guys could take my money and leave me here if they wanted to’. That’s just me thinking negative shit though and nothing happened.”

Robbie Rivera’s new album Do You Want More is out Ultra Records shortly.

Jonty Skrufff (