– Friendship Debuts Dec. 11-15
Gary Richards – President of LiveStyle North America and otherwise known as DJ extraordinaire Destructo – was still in good spirits when he caught up with Pollstar March 16, a week after passes to his debut Friendship Cruise had sold out in less than 48 hours.
The Dec. 11-15 voyage aboard the Celebrity Equinox is brought to you by LiveStyle’s AMFAMFAMF Presents (All My Friends) with a lineup curated by Richards. The music cruise sets sail from Miami and heads to Coco Cay, Bahamas, for two private island beach parties.
Though the list of artists hasn’t been revealed yet, that didn’t stop fans from quickly snatching up tickets, thanks to the community that has formed through Richards’ events. After all, as the founder of Holy Ship!, Richards knows a few things about putting on a cruise.
Richards chatted with Pollstar about Friendship, this weekend’s “AMFAMFAM Presents Breakfast Club” at Miami Music Week, and making the transition from Hard Events to LiveStyle while still remaining an active artist.
Nikko Lamere – Gary Richards
Congratulations about Friendship selling out, do you have a timeline for the lineup announcement?
We’ll see. I don’t have the exact date yet. You know, I want to really get it right. I never really try to put a time limit on it. If you put a time limit on it there may be someone who wants to come later and then you’ve closed it off so it’s best not to really limit it since the event is so far away.
Will you be taking the stage as Destructo?
Yeah. I’ll be playing, of course! You can say I’ll be there. (laughs) That’s a given.
What you will be bringing from Holy Ship to the new cruise? And what will set Friendship apart from your previous events?
Well, I mean, I just got a ton of knowledge and experience producing events. I’m going to try really hard to make it different and unique. I’ve got a lot of ideas, I don’t really want to give them up.
My goal is to give it a different flavor. But we’ve definitely got a lot of people who are coming – who bought cabins – who are kind of the heart and soul. Just having the right group of people together is going to really make it the most special of anything I could add to it. I’m definitely going to be adding different types of talent, different types of activities.
The private island we’re going to, Coco Cay, we’re going there twice. They’re working on building a dock there that should be completed by the time we get there. So they can dock there at the private island.
I’ve been on this boat already, it has grass on the top deck. It’s really cool. The boat is just next level. So, all the way around we’re just going to try and improve and make it better.
There’s so many music cruises out there these days. What makes for a successful cruise and what sets apart a truly fantastic cruise from the rest?
Well, like I said, I just really feel the main thing is the people. You’re on this boat with these people for four days, if you have the wrong people, you’re just going to have a bad party. So, it really starts there. I personally know a lot of the people who are coming. I’ve been in their cities and their towns and hung out with them and we’ve really got the core group of people who have been coming to these events for a long time and that’s really going to be the best part.
When I started the other cruise, I always just thought, “What an amazing place to enjoy this music,” but what it really [made it] that I didn’t even understand was this family of people who have each other’s backs and they’re all in on it together. And that really sets it apart. I’ve been on other boats, like a regular cruise with my family, and it’s just not the same. Not to say its bad. But it’s just not the same.
Plus, [Friendship] is exciting. It just feels fresh. It’s time to start anew. I don’t have to work with other cooks in the kitchen. I can kind of just do my own thing now and it feels good.
Is it weird to see Holy Ship! and Hard Events go on without you?
Hmm. I mean, you know, it is what it is. I guess it’s just you move on. You create something and … it’s kind of like a baby. You have a baby [or a plant] and you nurture it and you water it and it grows. It goes off to college and (laughs) flies from the nest. And I guess for me, I can’t really look back. I’m just looking forward to creating new babies and just trying to make them better and fresher. It feels like it was just time for a change, so I’ll just leave it at that.
It’s all good. I’m really happy with the way things have worked out in my career. And I’m really lucky and fortunate. Just the fact that I’m able to have people behind me to create new things and develop new brands and festivals, one can only dream that. And to be in that position and to have a good team around me now to help me achieve that just feels really good. I’m looking forward –not back.
– Gary Richards
How have things been going with LiveStyle the past few months?
Well, I think, mostly we’ve talked about the new division I’m creating over here. I have to basically create new cruises, new festivals, but also I’m the president of all of North America and we have so many divisions in New York and Chicago and Miami. It’s just really cool to work with a big team. And to work on lots of big events. I feel like in the last six months I’ve done so much. I’ve met so many cool people in this company [whose] heart and soul is into music and into live events. It’s been really great.
Chuck [Ciongoli] and Randy [Phillips] got my back, whatever I’ve been wanting to do, they’ve backed me up. We’re already seeing good results so it feels like we’re moving in the right direction. But it’s definitely a lot of work. (laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever done this much. You know I always thought I did a lot, but now it’s like, times 1,000. But in the best possible way. And like I said, I have a great support team around me to help so that definitely makes things a lot better.
What’s it like working with Randy Phillips? You had known him personally before joining LiveStyle.
Randy’s great. The thing I like about him the most is that he’s funny. He’s always got a little joke to crack, he’s got a funny sense of humor. He’s super supportive but also I know that if we don’t deliver, you know, heads are going to roll. (laughs) But at the same time, I don’t feel like every single day it’s like the end of the world. He kind of lets me do my thing. He always says, “If I need to micromanage you then I hired the wrong guy.” He kind of gives me my space to do my own thing. It’s really been a pleasure to work with him.
And also, Chuck Ciongoli, he’s our CFO. He was the CFO at Universal Music for about 20, 23 years, so to have a guy like him – Randy on the right, Chuck on the left – to have those guys guiding me and teaching me how to step up my game has been great, teaching me how to be more of an executive has been wonderful.
Can you comment about what’s next for LiveStyle in 2018? I understand you have a new festival in the works?
Well, I think the new festival that I’m putting together, we’re kind of going to hold [on revealing details] to give us a proper announce at some point soon, so that’s coming. But the next big things that we’re working on, we just announced the Mamby [On The Beach] lineup in Chicago, which has gone down, you know, huge. We announced the Spring Awakening [Music Festival] lineup in Chicago and tickets are doing really well, it’s moving. And we’re getting ready to announce the Sunset Music Festival in Tampa, we’re getting ready to drop that lineup, it’s mega. And then of course the Electric Zoo lineup is coming together. It’s just humming along.
We’ve got so many divisions. I mean, we do thousands of shows. I’ve never really been in a position where I come in on Monday and I get a brief of all these events that took place over the weekend and what happening. It’s just good to be in a position where I’m in the middle of more action. Whereas before I had my one little festival – I mean it wasn’t so little but I had one event to work on for the whole year. And I think I’m being utilized a bit better. A lot of action, I like the action.
“Breakfast Club Miami” during Miami Music Week, which you’re hosting, also sold out. You’re going to be performing and you’re also bringing along some special guests.
Yeah, that’s kind of like our first little foray into All My Friends’ first event. I used to go to Winter Music Conference like 20 years ago and they always used to do a breakfast event at Denny’s. They used to DJ at the Denny’s and serve pancakes and bacon, so I thought, I’m going to do something [similar]. I was surprised, it sold out probably a week ago. And I’ve got some of buddies going to come play and hang out and eat some pancakes and eggs and, you know, watch the sun come up in Miami. It will be fun.
What’s next for you as Destructo?
The main thing is I’ve got a bunch of festival plays , but I’ve got a new record that’s going to come out very soon with Busta Rhymes
. So that’s my next record, I’m just trying to put the artwork on it and get it out. But Busta’s approved, he’s like, “Don’t touch it, it’s done.” So we’re ready to roll. It’s called Fuckin’ Shit Up
. I’m really excited to get that record out. It’s going to come soon.
Has it been difficult to balance your new venture with LifeStyle with your career as Destructo?
I mean, it’s a lot, but I always say they go hand in hand. The next month or two, other than Miami, I have off [from performing as Destructo]. It’s good to be in the office but you know, if I have a phone and a computer, I can get it done. I think it helps me to be around the country and see what’s going on.
When I played in Houston at Spire
, that’s one of the clubs that we run. And when I was in Chicago at The Mid
, just going around the country and seeing everything. It works hand in hand and I think it helps me just be one step ahead by being out in the field.
It’s funny, my brother used to manage Slipknot
and when we used to go out on the road with them, they would always say, “You guys are in the ivory tower, you need to get out with the band and get dirty.” I think it’s important for anyone to my position [as a concert industry executive] to not always be in the ivory tower, go out in the field and feel the bass and be in the crowd and pay attention to what’s going on … and just to understand all the nuances. It’s kind of tough to always just be here and not really understand what the people who are going to do the events are seeing and feeling but also the people in our company who are running the events.
I can relate to them when they’re having problems, or when things aren’t going the right way, because I’ve had those issues and problems and been there and done it and seen it. So I can understand better how to help them, and by being there and getting to meet people. I was in Denver not too long ago I played Beta
We have Beatport as one of the companies that we own – just meeting the Beatport staff and talking to them and telling them, “I’m a DJ. What’s going on with the site? I’m a user, I’m on Beatport all the time,” and just vibing with them.
It helps too when I’m setting up the event because I know what the artist wants or being in the studio and hanging out with certain artists and seeing what they’re doing and checking out new music. To me that’s one part of it that really helps me a lot, I’m always trying to find new artists and new music and that really helps in that area.
For me it’s kind of all the same. I don’t really relate the two like one’s one job and one’s the other, to me, it’s just me, it’s just what I do.