Article & Interview by Caroline Maung. Make sure you follow her on Twitter!
French DJ and producer Richard Grey’s story begins back in the 90’s. He was one of the few producers in Europe creating house music with an “American sound”. At the time, this sound was far from the big room electro you hear now in every nightclub and festival. It was the soulful and groovy sounds influenced by disco. Having difficulties pushing his music to the European labels, he turned to House legend Erick Morillo. His sound was perfect for Morillo’s New York City based Subliminal Records label and he was immediately signed in the late 90’s. Hit tracks like ‘Life Goes On’ with Erick Morillo, Jose Nunez, and Shawnee Taylor were born many years later. His latest work of 2014 stays true to that disco house inspired sounds, which can be heard on his own label G*High Records and his ‘Sounds of New York’ chart on Beatport. With almost two decades of music under his belt, Richard Grey has seen all of what many of the young emerging DJs have only read or heard in stories. He also spent half of his career living in Ibiza, one of the most happening cities in the world for EDM. With so much exposure to both New York City and Ibiza, I had to chat with him and get his take on dance music in the two cities. I also spoke to him on why quality artists like Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin have been able to stay relevant all these years.
At the start of your career, you were discouraged by European labels for having an “American sound”. Can you describe what that sound was like compared to Europe at the time?
Well, I started in 1996 (not getting any younger, lol) and yes European labels were more into Italo [Italian] Dance music and I was more into the US House sound, driven by Strictly Rhythm / Subliminal Records, which was mainly inspired by Disco Music.
That American sound ultimately contributed to your signing to Erick Morillo’s Subliminal Records. How has he influenced and shaped your career?
Erick had a wonderful team of producers at Subliminal who were leading the underground sound, so when he took me as an in-house producer in 1999, I was in heaven. I was the 1st European signed to the label. Erick gave me the opportunity to produce the music I liked with no restrictions. This gave me freedom in the studio to shape my actual sound.
You lived in Ibiza for a period time, how do you feel the house music scene in the city compares to New York City now that EDM has exploded in the United States?
I lived in Ibiza for over 10 years and at that time the clubs were not looking for numbers at the door but more at the quality of the music being played. The explosion of EDM caused things to be done differently. DJ’s asked for more money and clubs realized that having a DJ superstar could significantly raise the number of tickets sold. I would say that most of the clubs in the world are doing the same, including NYC.
Just this summer, the owner of a famous club told me that if they have to play music in reverse to fill the club they would do it.. lol
For DJs whose career blossomed in the last decade before the EDM boom, how can these producers adapt to stay relevant in EDM today?
Carl Cox or Richie Hawtin started way before me and are still more than relevant today. The quality of the music you produce or play is the most important, but if you go for the big sound of the latest trend you will be forgotten just as fast as the trend will fade away. Prime example being the boy bands of the 90’s.
What is your involvement with G*High Records and what can you tell us about the label?
I launched G*High in 2001 to be able to sign artist I like. I wanted to release not only my music, but other artists that I really admired, like Paul Johnson, Ralphie Rosario, and Armin Van Helden.
You like to experiment with different genres of dance music and push forward while keeping true to the original sounds of house, what can you tell us is next for Richard Grey?
I would be bored doing the same music every day. Music is like food you do not eat the same thing at every meal. Luckily, I have an open palette. My goal this year is to do a techno album.
You are set to play at Highline Ballroom for Cirque Fridays, what does playing in New York mean to you?
NY is the place where it all really began with the big club scene and House music.
What can we expect from your set this Friday?