Rodd Richards presents...
As the promoter of big name events such as Eckythump and Sweatfest, Rodd Richards staged some of Sydney’s most memorable rave parties.
He started staging events in 1994 when he was just 16 years old, making him one of the first locals to take on UK promoters developing the Sydney scene. Rodd answeres a few questions for SRH's Mandy V. Edited by Neil Keene
Promoted: Nightbreed 2, Liberation 5 (outdoors) and Sweatfest World Tour Attended: Pleasure Dome, SV3, Freedom 3
Promoted: Wharf 3, North Head @ Manly, City Golf Driving Range
Attended: Hardcore Café and Homebush Film Studios
House, Piano House, Italian House, Oldskool HI-NRG
International: Armin, Paul van Dyk, Joey Negro
Local: Too much talent to narrow down, my DJ line-ups stay the same for a reason :)
How did you start getting into raves?
Some of my mates from school had started going to these 'rave' parties. I was all punk music and heavy metal at the time.
A friend bought me a ticket to Mayday with Hard Sequencer at Homebush (20th May 1994). I went, I raved, I raved hard. The following Monday the Dr Marten boots were out and the Adidas Gazelles were in.
Explain to us how you got into organising parties and the production company?
In 1995 I was going to host the recovery for Mayday 2, however it was cancelled at the last minute. A mate's mum owned a warehouse in St Leonards so at the last minute we organised the Mayday Make-Up Party. We photocopied a flyer and handed them out at Central Station Records and 800 people rocked up. That was my first taste of promoting. A few years later I teamed up with a girlfriend who worked for DMC. As well as collaborating on parties, we created our own production company and managed the sound and lighting for our own events as well as many others including Colossus 2, Helter Skelter and Maximum Frenzy.
With so many parties and club nights under your belt, can you name some of your favourites?
Wow. Next year will be my 20th year of promoting (feeling old). The first event I 'officially' hosted was the Mayday Make-Up Party (when Mayday 2 was cancelled. It was exactly one year on from the first rave I had attended (Mayday 1). Since then I have promoted everything from rave parties, club nights and weekly and monthly events. Some of my favourites are: Nightbreed, Eckythump, Liberation, Zero Hour, Passion, Colossus 2, Anthem, Townhouse and Sweatfest World Tour (feat The KLF, C+C Music Factory, SNAP!)
So many other promoters have fallen by the wayside. As you say, you have been around nearly 20 years. What was the secret to your longevity?
Haha. No secrets. It’s purely an addiction. At the age of thirteen I petitioned my principal into letting me hold “school discos” in the school hall. Fast forward 20 years and here we are.
Your career in promoting started very young, did people find it hard to deal with a person your age?
I was 16 when I first start promoting. Most people didn't realise how young I was.
Only on two occasions was I asked how old I was, once from the police when they rocked up at a party I was promoting and once from the owner of a venue I was hiring.
Sounds like an interesting conversation with the police. How did they react when you told them you were 16?
They were actually pretty OK with it. Once I had walked them through the venue and they could see that it was (relatively) legit with security and first aid etc they were on the their way.
How did you secure a party venue?
Various ways. I used to go window shopping for warehouses that were for lease. I would ring various owners and/or real estates and about 20 per cent of the time they would allow me to rent it for a weekend or a month. I usually gave them the old “film shoot”, “photo shoot” or “fashion parade” story. In the 90s, finding a venue was pretty hard, but by the time it got the 2000s I had pretty much mastered the art. I used to source many venues for many promoters.
Rodd Richards parties are very well known for their unique venue selections. Obviously venues are important to you. Why do you think it is/was so important for the ravers to find a great venue?
Other than the music, to me the venue is the most important ingredient. You can book all the big name DJ’s, 5 million colour argon lasers with 100,000 watts of turbo sound however if you have a shit venue it’s all a waste. Over the years it became a personal mission to secure unique, never before used venues, each event better than the last. In another ten years when people reminisce on the days gone by, they won’t remember what party was in which empty warehouse but they will remember the night they raved in the Powerhouse Museum, The IMAX Theatre or the Chinese Gardens.
What was your favourite ‘white lie’ you told someone to use their venue?
That the event was part of Mercedes Fashion Week and two famous Australian sisters (in the music industry) were going to be attending… Neither of which was true. Haha.
Run us through how you organised a party?
Every event is and was different, however the process generally stays the same. There is always the marketing, creative, media and promotion side to the venue, security, production and authorities side. Over the years the legalities changed as did my responsibility and commitment to punters and venues alike. I am now anal about OH&S, safety and regulations. So much in fact that I now consult for various venues and promoters to develop and execute these procedures for large scale events, festival and dance parties.
Eckythump reunion is planned for the 21st June 2014 and you have secured a wicked venue in the Hard Rock Café at Darling Harbour, a long way from the first eckythump in 1995 at the wheat Silos. The old saying is that eckythump has had more come backs than Johnny Farnham. What makes eckythump so popular and the longest running rave series ever in Australia and where do you see them headed in the future?
Haha. I think we’ve now hosted four ‘finalthump’ parties and each one really was supposed to be the last! We don’t do it on purpose, it just kind of happens. Now that I’m older, hosting and promoting ‘rave’ parties doesn’t interest me however there is something unique about eckythump, something I can’t explain that keeps me coming back. It’s hard to let go of something so special. Eckythump is a very sentimental event for me. It was one of the first parties I ever promoted and it has played an important role in who I am, what I have done and where I am today. There are a number of factors as to why the eckythump name and series has enjoyed such success and longevity for so many years. Its cheeky name and very recognizable logo along with the long list of historic venues has definitely set it aside from any other Sydney party or promoter. Above all, I think its popularity and success stems from the fact that eckythump has spanned two decades and multiple age groups and audiences. I don’t think there are many ravers out there, nu-skool or oldskool, that haven’t attended at least one eckythump event over the past 20 years.
How much did it cost to put on a rave? Was there money to be made from promoting them?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It was usually high risk in the 90s due to the illegalities. You could win big but you could lose big. The least amount of money I have spent on a party was $6000. The most was $480,000 (Sweatfest @ Wharf 3 in 2004).
Nearly half a million dollars!! Wow, were the tickets made of solid Gold? Haha.. Come on tell us more about this one, we promise not to tell anyone.
It’s a bitter sweet story. It was the first ‘big’ tour that I ever promoted – 14 international artists, 2 weeks, 4 shows. It is ten years til the day this June (2014) and I am still paying it off.
Did you ever mix tracks at your parties?
Not so much in the early days, I was all about promoting. At first I wanted to be “that guy responsible for creating fucking awesome events that people would remember”. Later on I wanted to be “that DJ playing a fucking awesome set that had people dancing their asses off”. Lucky for me I was able to incorporate both.
Did you continue attending raves once you started organising them?
Always. I attended probably 90% of the raves from 1994-1998, then took a break. I returned in 2001 attending and then DJing at the majority of Sydney raves between 2001-2007.
Who did you look up to in the scene and who helped you get started?
Bardia Housman (Budds), Bizerk Productions – Free Love, Brave New World
The Haran Brothers – Field of Dreams
Give us a feeling for what it was like being a promoter back in the day?
There was rivalry however I managed to stay out of the firing line. I didn't piss people off, I didn't go up against other promoters and I didn't get involved in the politics. Back then I saw myself as one of the new kids on the block so I was able work my way up from the bottom and build myself up. I think the majority of the promoters respected me for this and I have never had real beef with another promoter. Over the years many of us worked together and helped one another in aid of building a stronger scene which meant bigger and better parties, more attendees and a stronger presence for who we were and what we were doing.
What was the worst thing about promoting raves in the 90s?
Although I was not directly involved, the politics and rivalry between certain promoters was definitely the worst. And police shut downs.
Did you get shut down much by the authorities? What was the conversation like when they turned up?
From memory I have only ever been closed down 2 times, maybe 3. I would always take responsibility and when the police would show up I would invite them in and walk them around. We always had ample security, first aid, toilets and bars so 99% of the time they would come and then go. If they came back it was just to ask us to turn it down due to a sound complaint.
What is your favourite memory from a rave.
Standing on stage at 2am overlooking a packed dance floor with people going crazy. To me this the highest high and most rewarding part of promoting. Even if you taken a massive loss financially, this part makes it all worthwhile.
What are you up to these days?
Funnily enough, events, marketing and venue management…insert shameless plug here!
What sort of music do you listen to now?
I still listen to and love my old-skool rave roots however house music is my music (deep, vocal, nu-disco, Chicago, Detroit and jackin' house)
Anything else you would like to add?
1. Massive props to the SRH Crew for their hard work and commitment.
The website and FB page have such importance.
It is Australian Dance Music history and I am proud that I have been a part of it for almost 20 years :)
2. Thank you to all the punters and patrons who have attended my events and the DJ's and promoters I have worked with and alongside over the years. Through the ups and downs I wouldn't change a minute of the past.
I feel very lucky and I am proud of what I have accomplished, the people I have met and the friendships I have made.
Rodd Richards is organising an old skool rave 'eckythump encore' on the 21st June 2014 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Darling Harbour to celebrate 19 years of eckythump parties. More information here.