Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza Talks Solo Album, Issues With Mainstream EDM And More
“It’s getting back to electronic music, which is where I originally started in the ‘90s,” says Rob Garza. He's one-half of electronica's (golden age term for EDM) pioneering duo Thievery Corporation, along with Eric Hilton. Garza explains to VIBE the concept for his solo album Remixes (dropping May 28), which he declares his “labor of love.” After 18 years with Thievery Corporation, Garza’s rich career as an electronic musician has yielded a new offering—14 tracks, dabbling with sounds from the deep, dancehall, Latin and beyond. Remixes is a finely tuned magnum opus for music fans that yearn for the groove.
VIBE: Is there something your striving for in the mixing of an album as an entity or is it track by track, since you work in a single-orientated industry?
Rob Garza: When I approach a song, I try to grab something that really inspires me or that I gravitate towards, and then try to build off of that element. Then I’ll create a new song around that. For instance, with “Tycho,” there were these cool things happening throughout the song, and I just really wanted to make this ethereal track but give it a deep beat underneath. It does have a different feel from the original.
Before you remix something, do you go in with an idea of what you want to do or do you write it out. Is there a process or is it different every time?
It’s different every time. A lot of the times, I’ll just sit and listen to the music because there’s something inside me that feels which way the song could go. Then I’ll think about it and say ‘I should do this,’ but I always wind up pulling up the track and doing it right at that moment. Once you take that first step, the remix creates itself.
What happened two years ago, when you were suddenly being tapped for more remixes than ever before?
We’ve [Thievery Corporation] been hit up a lot in our career for remixes, but this is more like friends asking me to do stuff on my own. Me and Eric [Hilton] live on different Coasts right now, so it’s little bit more difficult to do stuff as Thievery Corporation. But I told them to send over the files, and in my spare time pulled them up and started playing around, getting really into it. I think one of the things for me was spending a lot of time in Mexico where I founded some clubs. The people we had coming through after a while starting hearing another wave of electronic music, and just listening to some of the sounds of deep house and nu disco. It’s getting back to electronic music, which is where I originally started in the ‘90s.
Did every track on this album come from a request made by the original artist for you to remix?
Yes, I moved to San Francisco and Miguel Migs was there, and asked if I wanted to do a remix of this record he was working on. I pretty much did them all for free. I had a two-year-old kid, so during times he was napping I would pull up these songs, and mess around. It was kind of more of a hobby than anything else.
Can you describe the Rob Garza solo sound versus Thievery Corporation sound?
In Thievery, the form that we used a lot was built around down-tempo music, and we were inspired more by a lot of organic forms of music. I would say the sound that I’m doing is a bit more electronic, and more up-tempo. Thievery, over the years, we’ve actually gone back to the organic music that has inspired us. When you come to one of our live shows, there are a lot of people on stage. But where I started out was just being in a studio with lots of different keyboards and gears. I would definitely say that the sound that I’m doing is a lot more electronic oriented.
What if somebody a bit more mainstream wanted you to remix one of their tracks? Would you be into remixing Calvin Harris or David Guetta or someone else who creates big-room poppy EDM?
I’m kind of open to try anything, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. For me, music is about experimentation and exploration. With Thievery, we’ve done remixes for Sarah McLachlan. Sometimes it’s an acoustic song, and you take it and make it something entirely brand new. That’s one of the beauties about making remixes.
There’s a lot of deep house/nu disco DJs emerging at the moment. What’s your take on these rising artists?
I really love what they’re doing. Especially given the environment to be extra-magical, whether it’s Robot Heart whose events I went to a few times in Mexico. I really respect those parties. Same thing with Maceo Plex, the sounds he’s making right now are just really sick and good.
You’ve been around for a very long time – you’ve opened for Sir Paul McCartney…
That was just an experience I could’ve never imagined when I started out making music. They told us the day before that Paul McCartney wants to meet you guys – this was the day before we actually had the show. So we went over to the stadium where the show was, and said hello to Sir Paul McCartney. That was quite a trip.
What about hip-hop? Is there anyone you would like to produce a track with?
Maybe part of the old school. I was talking to somebody, and they were mentioning doing a Public Enemy remix. To work with somebody like that I think would be great, but I would I would like to do that with Thievery because of our political/social conscious vent.
How are you going to handle touring as solo act along with Thievery? Is the double scheduling going to kill you, or do you just love it?
I love it, and with Thievery we’re very selective with touring and just do what we want to at this point. We don’t really go out there to break our backs. We’ve had a very nice career so now we get the chance to pick and choose.
Do you and Eric ever fight?
Sometimes…it’s almost like a marriage. We’ve been together almost 18 years, and I personally don’t know too many couples that have been together that long. We’re just very respectful of each other and the project we’ve created. We’re very proud of our musical legacy up to this point.
And you guys are okay with starting different solo projects.
That’s the thing. Everybody expects you to be together every waking hour, eating together every night, but we’re adults and we have our own lives and families. You look at so many bands, and they’ll have there own tour buses or people don’t talk to each other.
Yeah, almost the only example I can think of. That was major, and they’re like brothers. Then they formed their own bands, even though Beady Eye (Liam’s band) is basically Oasis without Noel but it’s not Oasis.
I’ve noticed that everyone in EDM is remixing Oasis. I don’t know why, but every time I go out at night I hear an Oasis track at the venue being mixed. What is it about that track that makes it a popular candidate to be mixed?
That’s the thing with some of these big guys. You would think that they have the ability to really be themselves and unique but they play the same songs that the opening DJs played. It’s kind of weird.
Do you have any advice for young producers out there who want to be you?
It sounds cliché, but do what you love because making music is your passion. When we started, I remember being at the Winter Music Conference in 1998 or ’99, and electronic music was the brand new thing. All of us at the time were going to ride this brand new wave, and that wave actually came 20 years later. But I feel really proud of what we’ve created and what I’ve done so I always think is even if you don’t have success, but you have a great music, that’s still a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade success with horrible music.
Can you define this success you speak of?
What I consider success is to be able to not to have to answer to a boss. To enjoy the experience of creating music; to meet wonderful people along the way; and to actually support yourself doing what you love. For me that’s success.
What can expect from the live act that will come out of this album?
You’ll hear some of the music, but to me music is very groove oriented and very deep. Plus, it’s fun. You’re not going to really hear things that you hear other DJs play. My thing is digging into things that are not so obvious.