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Haunted House Music

By Michelle Castillo

Oct. 30, 2008 9:51 p.m.

The year was 1991. While the masses were listening to Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-A-Lot and Kris Kross, there was a small, underground dance music scene that thrived in the shadows. Shunned by the record labels, virtual nobodies, including later well-known acts such as Moby and The Prodigy, found themselves playing electronic music in abandoned spaces that no one wanted to frequent.

“L.A. has always had a solid music scene from 1990 until now,” said Gary Richards, better known as DJ Destructo, and the founder of the HARD electronic music festival, which happens tonight.

“When we first started, Charlie Sheen, Madonna and Robert Downey Jr. were coming to the shows and mixed in with homeless people in a warehouse. And downtown L.A. was a pretty scary area.”

But where the music went, the loyal fans followed. This included Richards, who pioneered music festivals key to the rave culture such as the Electric Daisy Carnival and HARD New Year’s Eve.

“The people who go to these events are different,” Richards said. “They are paying attention to the music to have a good time and have a few drinks, but they aren’t there to get wasted and pass out on the floor.

“They are really paying attention to the artists; it’s not just a bunch of little kids that want to party. That’s what sets us apart ““ we really want to focus on the music.”

Richard’s newest music festival, HARD Haunted Mansion, is happening tonight at the Shrine Expo Hall. International dance music superstars are set to perform, including France’s Justice, Belgium’s own Soulwax and DJ AM, hailing from Philadelphia.

“No one buys CDs anymore, so I decided to go back to my roots and start producing events again,” Richards said. “The last two events that we did were quality, and (the bands) know that we deliver with solid production and good production skills. I booked them a long time ago; they want to play for us. They are just as excited as we are.”

The music may be the main draw, but HARD is taking the entire concertgoing experience one step further. Hiring the UCLA-based group COLLABO to provide the visuals, HARD is combining music and art to deliver a highly sensory experience for sight and sound. The group was founded after the members attended a DJing workshop called Machine at UCLA in April.

“Everybody in the group is pretty well cued into Daft Punk and a lot of electronic bands,” said Jono Brandel, design and media arts alumnus and a member of COLLABO. “We’ve been to shows, but we want to take our own personal interpretation on what it means for art to accompany music and what messages we want to say to the viewer.”

“It’s really rare that you get to have someone stare at what you are producing for such a long period of time, especially when the show lasts eight hours. Besides concerts, the longest you can captivate a viewer would be in a movie theater.”

Preparing visual art for a sold-out show with over 4,000 people expected to show up can prove to be quite a daunting task.

“There are a few hardships that come with it,” Brandel said. “We have four laptops that we run our show off of with various custom applications that we created ourselves. That runs through a mixer, which we have to hook up to whatever projectors and panels that we have, and it takes a couple hours to set up. Once it’s set up, there’s also a balance what you want to display for the audience and what is accompanying the audio.”

For this performance, COLLABO had a lot to prepare, including creating a giant wall out of LED panels in order to show art videos, as well as projections that range from video footage to animation to music video clips.

“We go through and pick a theme for the concert,” Brandel said. “The theme this year is phobia. We’re running with the idea of Halloween. There’s a lot of clips of things that bring about anxiety and awkward situations. And, of course we added clowns and vampires and the assortment of your Halloween stereotypes.”

With everything falling into place for the big day and acts from seven different countries confirmed with special guests to be announced, Richards believes that there’s no better time for the fans of the music scene, as well as for people who want an alternative festival experience.

“I love the peak of the night where everyone is jumping up and down and sweating,” Richards said. “I’m expecting this concert to be like that from start to finish. Don’t come and sit down for an hour and have a snack; it’s just going to be a ton of interesting people having the time of their life.

“I’m just stoked that I can provide that for them and provide them with the best musicians, artists and DJs from around the world. Oh, and get some rest before you come ““ it’s going to be an explosion of fun.”

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Michelle Castillo
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