Arrabmuzik working the MPC on stage at HARD. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
HARD Summer kicked off on Friday as a sea of neon outfits, hipster sunglasses (proudly worn all night long), tutus, furry boots, and half naked ravers crammed onto the grounds of Los Angeles State Historic Park. The festival, which celebrates the hottest names in up and coming electronic dance music boasted such an extensive lineup this year that it was split into a two-day ordeal. Night one featured heavy hitters such as Boys Noize, Bloc Party, Miike Snow, Araabmuzik, Magnetic Man, Little Dragon, Joey Beltram, Erol Alkan, Chromeo, A-Trak, Bootsy Collins and notable newbies such as Danny Brown and the ever-controversial Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire.
In between running from stage to stage and catching whatever live acts we could, we snooped around to see who was hanging out behind the scenes.
We spotted Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt, Pontus Winnberg, and Christian Karlsson hanging with manager Joel Eriksson on a couch before their 10pm set. Eriksson told Billboard.biz that following HARD Summer, Miike Snow is off to play Lollapalooza, "which is going to be huge for the band." The guys disclosed that they are working on some U.S. dates for a big headlining tour and while it's not quite set in stone, "It's coming in October and is going to be amazing!"
Miike Snow hanging on a couch in the artist area before their 10pm set (L to R): Andrew Wyatt, Pontus Winnberg, Christian Karlsson and manager Joel Eriksson. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
The band also talked about their brand new "baby," a giant synthesizer that they affectionately refer to as "The Blob" which they used in their set later that night. Karlsson says he's been teasing fans on the band's Facebook and Twitter pages by alluding to The Blob as: "Anything but theater -- part synthesizer, part testosterone, and all headache."
Little Dragon's Fredrik Källgren Wallin and Yukimi Nagano posed for a photo before scampering off to grab some pre-show food. Their tour manager, Dominic Keska of Keska Productions (also handles The Roots), said he recently joined on with the band and was excited about the next few weeks. "Little Dragon is headed to LAX right after their show and are going to be performing at Osheaga Festival in Montreal on Saturday. Sunday, they're doing Lollapalooza, Monday Celebrate Brooklyn, Tuesday and Wednesday they are opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers and then they head back to Europe."
Little Dragon live. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
A-Trak gave us the scoop on what's going on with his record label, Fool's Gold, which he started with his DJ friend, Nick Catchdubs:
"We're about to celebrate our 5th anniversary this year. Obviously the music releases are the core focus of the brand but this past year, there's been a lot of growth. We opened a shop last year in Brooklyn so we have a retail store and the online store is really active too so there's a lot of merch. We've been doing art shows at our store. We started a new series of free compilations called Fools Gold Clubhouse every month and that's tied in with these festival stages that we're curating including one that's here at the festival today. We're doing these compilations and stages internationally all year plus the ongoing record operations."
(L to R): Josh Abraham (Pulse) , Oligee, A-Trak, U-Tern, Jason Bernard from Pulse Recordings (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
As far as who he's most excited about working with, A-Trak says the whole roster has been amazing but he really feels that Danny Brown has been having a spectacular year. "His album XXX has definitely been a highlight for the label and I just think he's at the forefront of a whole new explosion of provocative, dirty, grimy, forward-thinking hip hop. It's making music that's not safe and I love it." A-Trak told Billboard.biz that Fool's Gold is also putting together a compilation of underground rap. "It's called Loosies -- a compilation of friends and family of Fool's Gold making uncompromised underground hip hop. Nick and I grew up as hip hop DJs first and we branched out into other genres of music in the last couple of years and we're very happy to keep this foundation of hip hop very active with the label. To be able to do that and at the same time sign electronic acts is great. It's all these juxtapositions of interesting choices artistically."
A-Trak introduced us to Oliver who he recently signed a week ago. We spoke with Oliver's U-Tern about his plans since being freshly signed. "My partner Oligee and I are working on an EP right now. We have a bunch of material and we're trying to narrow it down to the few tracks that we want to release." U-Tern also told us that Oliver recently collaborated with Canadian vocalist Jeremy Glenn and Penguin Prison on a few tracks. The duo ran off to prepare for their set, explaining that after they played they'd be sprinting around trying to catch a bit of everyone's show. "The line up for HARD is just amazing!"
Oliver's managers, Jason Bernard and Josh Abraham from Pulse Recording, couldn't be more thrilled about their client recently signing to Fool's Gold. Bernard, who also works with Bonnie McKee, says Oliver is prepping for their first European tour in late August/September.
Araabmuzik and his managers - (L to R): Dukedagod, Araabmuzik, Adrian Williams. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
Araabmuzik sat down with us in the media tent prior to hitting the stage in the Fool's Gold Clubhouse. The MPC mastermind told us that his set is 100% live and on the spot. "I don't really have time to practice. It's all natural and it's all live." He also told us that he operates with two 250 limited edition MPCs on stage and that he doesn't really mess around with the knobs or effects; he just plays it straight through. We asked if he gets a good workout up there while performing and he said that when he leaves the stage, his forearms and his calves are typically sore.
Araabmuzik's managers, Dukedagod and Adrian Williams, posed for a quick photo with their client before sending him off for his last minute preparations. Dukedagod told us that he discovered Araab in 2006 when he was only 16 and has been working with him ever since to get him to the next level. "He used to do this for fun in the house with us and now we go on the road and get paid for it. I've believed in him since the beginning. He is so creative and is really a musical genius."
Boys Noize & Girlie Action publicist Inge Colsen. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
In attempting to find some place quiet to chat with Boys Noize ( Alex Ridha) and his publicist Inge Colsen ( Girlie Action Media), we hijacked Alex Metric's trailer. Ridha told us about his new album which is coming out in October. In addition, he's prepping to do his first ever series of live shows. While he doesn't get nervous when DJing, Ridha told us that now that he's thinking about the live shows, he feels he will probably be "deadly nervous" before he takes the stage. He also shared his thoughts on Snoop Dogg's reincarnation as Snoop Lion: "I think it's cool. I love him always. I grew up with him. The reggae thing sounds fun."
As far as what's going on with his label, Boys Noize Records, Ridha said that he started it seven years ago and was doing everything himself but has since realized that it's time to hire help. "I signed all my guys and I always made handshake deals -- 'yeah we make 50/50 and stuff' and it's cool but I have a partner now and she's taking care of all that. I also have a label manager so I can 100% concentrate on the whole artistic stuff and the whole creative stuff. I'm A&Ring, I'm helping the producers finish their records and giving them tips, sometimes I mix their records."
As far as current Boys Noize priorities, Ridha told us that he's going to be putting out Peaches' new single. "There's also this new kid LE1F. He did a mixtape for Das Racist for their label and he's got a lot of hype right now and we're going to put out his new EP really soon. I also just signed a 17-year-old new kid called Scntst. He makes incredible electronica music."
Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire (L to R): DJ Sixth Sense, Mr. Muthafuckin; eXquire, Goldie Glo. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
To cap off the evening, we caught up with Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and his crew -- Goldie Glo and DJ Sixth Sense who was wearing a Transformers mask which he says he only takes off when he trusts someone or if he's making out. eXquire said he originally got into singing before rapping and said he was going to serenade us later in the evening (we made a point of sliding out of there before that became our reality).
eXquire talked about recently signing with Universal Republic and how the label has been extremely supportive of keeping his artistic integrity and not trying to change him too much. He then took us through his entire wardrobe, which included an NYU hat with matching NYU socks and sneakers. Our conversation ended shortly after he pulled down his pants to prove that his drawers matched his hat and socks while simultaneously explaining that he fills them out nicely. There really wasn't much to say after that point.