Join Rob Garza of internationally acclaimed group Thievery Corporation as he walks you through his particular path to success, inspirations, artistic workflows and the importance of building your brand.
Rob Garza moved to San Francisco two years ago and all last year (2012) my good friend Alex Theory kept telling me what a nice guy he was and how we should meet and hang out. Being a long time Thievery Corporation fan, of course I said “hell yes!”, all the while thinking that Rob was going to be too busy to make it happen. Well it took a few months but low and behold Rob came by the studio with Alex one day and I was more than pleased to give him a tour of the Pyramind facilities. I was pleasantly surprised to see how down to earth and friendly Rob was as well as how inquisitive he was about both Pyramind’s training programs and our studios.
Part One: Thievery Corporation’s inception, early electronic music, networking and creating your own opportunities:
It wasn’t long after that I got a call from Rob asking to book out Studio A to work on a project he had been commissioned to produce. Music & cultural director of the W Hotel chain, Michael Angelo, was in the process of putting together a compilation of re-makes of some classic 80’s tunes and he tapped Rob to produce a down tempo version of Duran Duran’s “Rio” featuring vocalist and the daughter of Brazilian legend Joao Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto! With a history of producing tracks with musical styles that mixed elements of dub, acid jazz, reggae and bossa nova, Rob was a perfect choice for this. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to work with Rob in the studio and we ended up spending two awesome days together getting the song tracked and ready for Bebel to cut her vocals. You can check out a video of Bebel and her band performing the track at an epic location in Rio, Brazil.
After spending a couple of days together in the studio Rob and I had a chance to get to know each other better. He told me about how he came up producing techno tracks and pressing and selling his own vinyl before meeting his long time partner in Thievery, Eric Hilton, at Washington DC’s legendary Eighteenth Street Lounge. He then proceeded to talk about how they formed their own Eighteenth Street Lounge Music label and secured their own distribution deal with Caroline. This was all in the late nineties and happened at a time that was ripe for indie music labels with the right entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy. Of course the rest is history and with the 2002 release of “The Richest Man In Babylon” on their ESL label, Eric and Rob where well on their way to international fame and the ability to control and maximize the profits from their biggest selling release to date.
Part Two: Today’s music industry, remixing, touring and general Q&A with the class:
The fact that they had found a sound that resonated with so many fans as well as the business savvy to manage their careers AND remain true to their art and politics makes for a very compelling and inspirational story. I am very grateful to Rob for taking time out of his busy schedule to spend an afternoon at Pyramind to share his story with us. I am certain you will enjoy this video footage of his “Planning For Success” guest lecture at Pyramind. Several weeks after this presentation, I attended the High Sierra Music Festival where Rob performed with the entire Thievery Corporation band. With over ten players on stage including Jamaican toasters, multiple vocalists, rapper, Sitar player, percussionist, drummer, Bass player and Rob at the center of it all spinning the decks and playing guitar. It was truly a site to behold and one that captivated both myself and the entire HSMF audience!