Downtown Fort Lauderdale, otherwise known as Riverfront, has long held a particular identity in the South Florida party scene. The bar-hopping atmosphere is perfect for marinating in PBR with your college friends, but isn't exactly conducive to catching big name DJs. When Off the Hookah moved from its popular location on the water to take over the old Voodoo Lounge, it promised to change that.
Bringing in South Florida resident and house music veteran Robbie Rivera Friday night is a major step in that direction. The Puerto Rican-born DJ attended nearby Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and got his degree in Business Administration at Nova Southeastern University. Rivera broke through way back in 2000 with the hit "Bang" which reached the top of UK dance charts and had steady play during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The 39-year-old has since released four albums, dozens of EPs and nearly a hundred singles. County Grind caught up with the beat-break stalwart on the eve of his return to Fort Lauderdale.
County Grind: You have been a part of the house music scene for a long time and have seen it grow and mature to what it is today. How do you feel about the current state of house music?
Robbie Rivera: I love it. I love the way it leaked into the mainstream, but not too mainstream. The thing with house music now, it is a lot easier than when I came up. It was hard for me to make it, took a lot more work back then. We were using (primitive equipment) to make our beats. Pro Tools came out and Studio Vision, now I use Logic, which I've been using since it was only available for PC.
What are some of the new artists you have been listening to?
I like a lot of new artists from Italy and Spain. Ones that put some effort to make their tracks stand out. A lot of groups of artists just copy each other and play the same beats.
How can you tell when an artist has put in effort?
When they make a new sound. A lot of artists use the same presets from their nexus and you hear the same sounds. The artists I like to listen to put in a lot of effort. They start with the presets and make changes, creating a completely new sound. Artists like SCADA, UMEK from Slovenia, Marco V from Holland, and Tony Arzadon.
Its been 13 years since your first chart-topping single. How do you feel house music has changed over the years?
Back in the day, you had house DJs mainly touring in Europe, very few in the US. I actually relocated to Barcelona and Ibiza for a while to continue making and playing house music. Now there's just as much going on, maybe even more, in the States. As far as the music itself, it's become more energetic, very hard and noisy. There was a point during the end of last year all the music coming out was saturated, more tribal. I like where the sound is going.
We know you got the Juicy Radio Show, going strong on XM since 2007. What else are you working on these days?
I'm about to release a new single called "Thousand Miles" on my new label PK-1 out of the UK. We also got the eighth annual Juicy Beach during Winter Music Conference March 21 at Nikiki Beach from Noon to 5 a.m. It's great to see a mix of the old generation and the new generation coming together. The final lineup for that will be released next week. I'll also be at Cameo that Sunday March 24.
You and your wife have a house in Ibiza and Miami. What do you consider home?
I've been in South Florida since 1992. I grew up in Puerto Rico around a mix of pop/reggae/merengue/salsa, but South Florida is my home.
What can you tell us about Robbie Rivera that we won't find on your Wikipedia page?
I really just lead a normal life. I'm a family man, been married 15 years. Marriage made me more mature, more focused. I put everything into my marriage and my music to get to where I am today. In fact, today is my anniversary, and my wife and I are going to dinner. I gotta go.
Robbie Rivera. 10 p.m., February 8. Off the Hookah, 300 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale.