Keeping his pulse on the electronic music culture by booking big names such a Virtual Riot in intimate settings for Visions NYC, working on A-trak’s Fool’s Gold Records and being mentored by Tommie Sunshine as the Label Manager and A&R for Sunshine’s ‘Brooklyn Fire Records, the New York City producer and DJ. Richard Holzhauer, also known as RICO, has found a melodic niche of peak-time music production. From garnering support from the likes of Hardwell and Tiesto to playing SXSW and Miami Music Week, RICO’s progressive house, pop infused sound continues to with a standout Halsey remix of ‘So Good’.
RICO shares on the sound design and direction of the release, “My Halsey remix is a great representation of what a RICO set would sound like – Super upbeat, with a melodic feel. When it comes to working with a vocal, I choose a tempo that I feel the vocal sounds best. This keeps me from producing all songs in that 126-128 edm/house feel. My more recent tracks have all been faster, which give you no choice but to jump around when that drop hits. In this track, I wanted to merge pop-punk instrumentation with the build up and drop feel of a main stage EDM track. The leads and chords are played through guitars but they are pumping off the kick which gives the track that bouncy EDM feel. It’s like Venga-boys meets Blink 182.”
Alongside RICO’s Halsey remix we reached out for an exclusive interview where we discovered more about working with Tommie Sunshine, signing records which have streamed to millions, his first DJ set, his new festival lifestyle and mental health brand Heartbeat Lyfe, catchy select tracks, his latest Kygo remix release and more about the dance music community.
What about Halsey’s ‘So Good’ spoke to you?
I’m a huge fan of Halsey’s voice. It’s super unique and cuts through a song like no other. She always displays a hint of that pop-punk feel that inspires my sound. My remix was also heavily influenced by Halsey’s collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly – forget me too. I wish she had more songs like that, so I figured I’d make one.
Please tell us about your first DJ set ever.
I learned from many DJ’s before I actually played in front of people. I helped my friends set up their equipment, and learned from them each gig. At the same time, I was saving my money to buy my own DJ equipment. The first time I played for a crowd was at my friend’s DJ gig. While the dance floor was open, he told me he was stepping away and I was going to DJ. I immediately had to find what to play next. I remember it being a Dancehall set, and at the time I was familiar with the Dancehall and Reggae Classics. I remember surviving through the rest of the dance set. That has taught me to this day how important it is to be able to adapt to and read the crowd.
Can you tell us about performing at Miami Music Week and SXSW?
Performing at both Miami Music Week and SXSW have been amazing experiences. The first year I performed at SXSW my friends and I drove there from New York. There were snowstorms all along the east coast and every flight we tried booking was getting canceled. We decided to rent a car and drive through it all. It took us 30 hours and then we went straight to a gig. My usual SXSW Crew was Blvk sheep, Ruvlo, Concept, SB all with Justin Katz behind the camera! It was so cool getting to hang out, and play alongside up and coming artists. I played at a handful of the SXSW venues including Scratch House and Barcelona. Everyone there was so open to hearing any type of electronic music.
Performing at Miami Music Week with Brooklyn Fire Records was also a great time. We threw a party at Kill Your Idol in South Beach in 2019. We went all night with DJ Sets, Live Performances, and even guest appearances including a set from Chocolate Puma. We were ready to make it better the next year but the pandemic put Miami Music Week on pause. Thankfully, we returned this year at Kill Your Idol like we never left! We started a little after noon, and went all the way up to the South Beach Curfew. It was awesome to play all the music that I had been releasing throughout the pandemic, live in person.
What are 5 of your favorite electronic music tracks right now?
Tiesto – Hot in It . To me this vocal is so catchy! I love how he and Charlie XCX were able to make a full vocal anthem while keeping a house vibe.
Fred Again.. – Jungle. This track is as wild as it sounds. It is full of energy, with some crazy drums. Fred again.. was able to take a record made up of minimal elements, and use them in a way that stays fresh, fun, and heavy!
Felix Cartel – Stranger Things Theme (Felix Cartal’s After Dark Remix) Although I’ve never watched the show, the theme song is already iconic. Felix did a great job and looping that hypnotic melody with a filthy kick. The track is sick.
Noizu – More Love – I love the classic rave piano, vibey drums! The lyrics have a great message that is well needed in a world that seems constantly divided.
Virtual Self – Particle Arts – Although this record was released a few years ago, it still sounds brand new! I love the acoustic piano breakdown that builds to HEAVY Rave kick and stab.
Can you give us a little insight in the day to day of being the Label Manager and A&R for Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records? Is there a particular direction the label is heading right now?
Much of the day to day of working at Brooklyn Fire Records was listening to demos alongside Tommie. One of the many reasons Tommie Sunshine is so successful with Brooklyn Fire Records, is because he’s always turning to the next generation. He is a master at finding the next sound and new trends. Tommie and I worked so well together because he let me shine. When it came to making decisions, my input mattered. We would bounce off each other’s thoughts and great decisions were made! The direction of the label is anything that goes against mainstream norms. The more rules and barriers that are broken, the better chance of getting Tommie to consider your track. Tommie has also been heavily dedicated to reviving the classic rave sound of the 90’s in a new and refreshing way. When it comes to getting signed, think about what hasn’t been done yet, what subcultures have not been combined, and what is original!
What is one thing you have learned from working with Tommie?
One thing I learned from working with Tommie, is to hold on to creative control. Collaboration is essential to growing as an artist and a human being. Tommie is one of the most prominent collaborators in dance music. However, there are times in your career where you may get tested with changing your ideas for something that sounds a little more safe. Do not tolerate it! Stick to how you feel the record should sound. The reward for the risk is far greater when people connect with your music!
What is the next pop song(s) you have I’ll your eye on?
I love when people can relate to my music. I look at what vocals are popular and see if they spark an idea with my sound. The vocal has to slam. It has to be different. Most importantly, it’s got to trigger an idea in my head that immediately gets me inspired in the studio. I’m very specific on the vocals that I choose, so it’s never forced. But I don’t always pick out one of the freshest records. It could be a vocal from years ago that I loved, and has given me a burst of inspiration to give it the RICO sound. I recently produced a remix to Hanging By A Moment By Lifehouse. I took that iconic 2000’s rock sound, and transformed it into a mainstage anthem. I heard the original for the first time in a long time and I had to give it my own progressive house feel. I just finished remixing Lost Without You by Kygo and Snap by Rosa Linn is next. These all sound different from each other, but I got just the right ideas to tie them all together with my sound.
Do you have any shows coming up?
At the moment I’m focusing more on my productions and getting support from artists. This will be a way to build momentum into playing shows where the fans come see me for my own music. I love DJing and performing, but right now I’m putting the studio first. In the meantime, I produce a radio show called Heartbeat Lyfe Radio. This radio show is presented by Heartbeat Lyfe. Heartbeat Lyfe is a festival lifestyle brand that I curated, connecting electronic dance music to THC and CBD. With our products, ravers can prepare, enjoy and recover from the Festival Lifestyle (www.heartbeatlyfe.com). Heartbeat Lyfe Radio is a way to give fans of Heartbeat Lyfe (and of myself) some great music to listen to!
Favorite clubs/events in NYC? Can you share a sentiment or insight about the NYC rave culture?
I’d say my favorite venue is Brooklyn Mirage/Avant Gardener. I have been there for a bunch of great shows! These include Skrillex’s warehouse rave styled set, Alesso, Deadmau5, Meduza, and many others. I believe Avant Gardener is the perfect representation of how the rave scene should be. It’s an all around great environment, where you can feel safe to be yourself, hear great music every weekend, and have fun whether you attend alone or with friends.
What is one life philosophy you like to live by?
It sounds cliche, but I’m going to have to go with just being yourself. I’ve been around enough artists, who “be” whatever they think people want them to be. Sometimes it’s too much, and it’s just not my thing. I’d much rather dress how I dress, act how I act, and make connections through my music and personality organically. You make stronger connections in the long run. This same philosophy can be seen in my own music and brand. I see a lot of artists changing their sound and whole vibe with the times. It’s important to be aware of the trends, but sometimes artists change their sound to a watered down version of what has already been done. I think it’s important to produce the music you love, no matter what is the most popular sound at the moment or what the people around you like. If your music sounds good, there are plenty of people out there waiting to hear it. Right when I finally gave in and decided to produce the music with elements that I love, producing has come so much more natural to me.
As far as music podcasts go, I really enjoy Back to Back With Willy Joy. Willy does a great job at interviewing different electronic artists. These range from house legends to bass music up and comers. His show has the perfect balance of discussing music production and the music business. As far as comedy podcasts, my favorites are Going Deep With Chad and JT and The Tim Dillon Show. Both zoom way far out on what’s going on in the world and twist them in a comical way. I love comedy! I feel it’s super necessary to look at things in an open minded, less serious way. You can’t get caught up in the negative vibes 24/7 and sometimes you just have to sit back and laugh at it all.
Favorite late night munchies?
Being from New York, capital of the late night munchies, I have to go with chicken over rice from a cart. This was not only a staple late night snack after house parties, but also many times after attending Webster Hall, playing shows at the Knitting Factory, and right after exiting the doors of Brooklyn Mirage. Halal is the RICO midnight munchy!