Q & A: TAL ROBINSON AKA RITCHRD
Place of Residence: Oakland, CA
Favorite music released this year: HARMONY by bastiengoat, Get Up by NewJeans, CLUB BOY by YUNG PRADO
And on a physical IRL level, you’re almost guaranteed to have seen one of many NO BIAS flyers out in the wild in front of your favorite venues -- the street team icon-nery can not be denied.
We recently caught up with one of the Bay Area’s best and brightest to talk about early influences, journeys in music production and NO BIAS’ future projects.
Besides that there was the music my parents listened to. My mom liked contemporary stuff like D'Angelo, Maxwell, Common, Mos Def... my dad strictly listened to KCSM Jazz radio lol. I hated jazz when I was a kid.
My older sisters were listening to N'SYNC, Spice Girls, TLC, Mya, Brandy. There was also that Electronic Pop music coming out of the UK like Craig David, Basement Jaxx, and Daniel Bedingfield.
I guess I was taking in a lot of music.
Later he got me a pirated copy of reason and showed me how to sample and make rap beats. I think I started to produce music seriously when I was like 18. I also started DJing around that time. I was making disco house and dubstep. lol.
At some point I got kinda annoyed with EDM, and around that time a friend showed me Dibia$e, Madlib, J Dilla, Samiyam, and SP-Forums. I got really into beats and making weird aliases and posting them online. That's when I came up with RITCHRD. It just seemed like some random generic name. I was totally in that world for years.
Then around 2018 I started going to raves again and I got interested in DJing and releasing dance music.
So I’m doing random ass shit when I’m making music and trying new things, but it's all guided by my (limited) understanding of its roots. I’ll never know everything, but I’m trying my best to contextualize everything. idk.
A goal has always been to present the event in a professional way, but still have that underground energy. I think that intention is similar between the first and last party. The flyers are the same too (shout out to shireen <3).
I think the biggest difference is that I’m not throwing renegades anymore. Its just too much work for one person.
A show that stands out is the HOUSE MUSIC (lol what silly a name) party we did in February. I was kinda worried people might not pull up. I was thinking people only wanna hear rave bangers. But the turnout was great.
A lot of people said that the show made them appreciate house music more.
STATE OF THE BAY
Nostalgia can be poison though and I don’t want to live every day thinking about how much better shit was before I was even old enough to take part in anything. Also, inevitably it probably wasn’t as good as we imagine it. And it especially wasn’t good for some of the most marginalized people in society who are still being targeted *today* — I can only imagine how it would’ve been in an era before bigots were confronted about their ignorance in real time.
I consider myself an artist and so I admit that I view the Bay — and every city — through that lens. When I go to a new city, I imagine how it would be pursuing music in that city. Would I find more gigs? Would I get paid more?
When I’m in the Bay, I think about the ways the scene here helps me and how it hurts me.
What I can say without hesitation is that electronic music — that big ass umbrella term covering everything from massive jungle records to whatever Latin club permutations we deal with at AMOR DIGITAL — feels like it’s in a really beautiful place. Maybe I’ve been around creative spaces for long enough to let my guard down or I’ve been better about surrounding myself with genuinely cool people but there’s a sense of collaboration in the Bay’s electronic music scene right now that I really fuck with.
Between all of the Internet radio stations, all the party crews and everyone else creating something out of nothing, the Bay’s in a great place. It’s hard to see sometimes, especially as we collectively fight for the crumbs left behind in the shadow of tech conglomerates but that spirit of connectivity is still here. At least in the ~underground~
Sadly, it’s very easy to point out everything that really fucking sucks here too. In a few words, the rent is too damn high. And that’s across the board and affects us all in ways more profound than we might ever really fully grasp. Venues shut down, others are opened by people with tons of money who subject us to their music taste — typically really basic tech house from touring European DJs. And you can’t really blame them, at the end of the day they are running a business and if there are a sea of bubble jacket wearing mf’s willing to cash out on that, that’s what they’re gonna give. They have rent to pay too you know? But that dynamic exists in most cities.
What *is* severely lacking here are medium and small sized venues that actually care about the local scene in tangible ways.
And those spaces are feeling the squeeze because people are drinking less and there are fewer and fewer people going out on off-nights (And don’t even get me started on 2am last call). And then the cycle perpetuates itself until those spots either crash out or start turning into the annoying places they said they wouldn’t become.
In the wake of the Ghost Ship fire, truly DIY underground spaces are pushed to the legitimately most extreme margins and are under more scrutiny and surveillance than ever. That’s a real doom loop! I don’t give a FUCK about Nordstroms where the fuck can these truly innovative artists showcase their work for literally hundreds of young people in a way that is fun and sustainable?
They ask why youth depression is up and then outlaw listening to music outside or without a permit LOL having fun in a way our tech overlords can’t monetize or regulate? punishable by D34TH
What hurts the most though is that everyone leaves, eventually. In the Global South, when the most educated or talented people leave looking for opportunities in the Global North, they call that a ‘brain drain.’ Idk what you call the equivalent of that for dope artists uprooting to a new city in the US, but I feel it so deeply in the Bay Area. This has probably always been there -- that lil fog lingering around us in the Bay -- but it feels much more real now that I’m situated within the creative community here.
In the past three months, more than a handful of artists I truly admire have told me about plans to move somewhere else — typically New York and LA. Every time someone has told me, I’ve thought to myself “yeah that makes sense.” At the end of the day, if you’re an artist you want your stuff to be seen, you want to be fairly compensated, you wanna be inspired by what’s going on around you.
Maybe I’m cursed to be a romantic about the Bay Area but it’s hard for me to imagine not trying to make it work here. But at what cost?? So I empathize with everyone who leaves, I really do.
It’s really up to us to make something sustainable because our local governments have proven time and time again they’ll prioritize robot car company payouts to politicians over the culture being created right the fuck here.
Location: SF (Excelsior)
When I thought about what “making an album” looked like, my mind always jumped to those warm, staticky behind the scenes clips featuring people like N.E.R.D., Timbaland, Jay-Z and Kanye West during the early 00s. I can set the scene for you if you’ve never seen one. Usually, there’s a big mixing console, dark walls and some remnants of whatever food the artists’ assistant had brought in.
To be fair, there are still plenty of artists who make albums in this way. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still hope to make an album this way.
But I feel thankful to exist in a time when you can really do everything at home — even if that means a sink full of dishes or Youtube on your living room TV can pull you away from the creative process when you LEAST need the distraction.
I made MIATA completely from the white desk in the corner of my living room using Ableton and a bunch of VST plug-ins.
I don’t have access to a lot of synths, keyboards or expensive hardware. I don’t find I need them either, even if I do find them fun to fuck around with. There’s always going to be something cool about physically twisting some nobs and hearing the machine’s response.
The idea for MIATA centered around a pretty simple idea. I started a song on Ableton and hurriedly named the project file SUBURBAN ANGST. I’m not even sure if that song even ended up on the EP. I use random working titles for songs that end up being named something completely different by the time the music comes out. It can get hard to keep track of something on a hard drive that has like eight different names.
I remember thinking about the time in my adolescence when I felt the most alone but also the most free. Moving from the Bay Area to the Sacramento area made me a very specific kind of angsty that I’m actually really thankful for in retrospect. For me, there was always a “world out there” outside of this very blessed but relatively stifling suburban experience. I understand why my parents made the decision but it did create a desperate need to search for something else. The *yearning* started hella early, my guy. My whole family was still in the Bay or in Miami but in a way, I’m thankful I was able to become my own person without a ton of influence from my very big and confusing extended family.
My last two years of high school, after I got my driver’s license, I would drive my Dad’s Miata on random routes around suburban Sacramento. Any extra money I earned from my job working at an Apple warehouse or a movie theater went towards gas and snacks at random pit spots along the way. My cassette-to-iPod adapter was always plugged in and you could expect to hear a heavy dose of blog era rap music ripped straight from Datpiff.
That was a long time ago, but now just a few months removed from leaving my longtime job amid a wave of genuine BULLSHIT, I found myself in a situation that brought back similar feelings. I spent the first couple months of relative unemployment obsessing over MIATA. Working on those four tracks served as a much-needed outlet from the uncertainty and alienation of young adulthood in weird ass late capitalism. If aimless late night car drives in the ‘10s were MIATA’s inspiration, long nights working on music in ’23 wondering where all my friends and colleagues in ~art~ went were the fuel to the fire.
ME BESAS A MI
Listening to this song now, I can see how deeply I’d fallen in love with the Korg MS-20 V VST via Arturia. I layered some rain sounds from my last trip to El Salvador. If you’re even remotely familiar with ‘00s reggaeton, you probably recognize the sample. I’m pretty sure I was listening to Dinamarca’s last album when working on this song and was thinking about ways to incorporate more trance-y melodies over the drums I typically program.
CENTER OF AMÉRICA
London Breed’s comments about Hondurans made me so mad because I just couldn’t imagine a “liberal” mayor saying something like this about any other group without way more backlash. I’m so tired of only hearing about my mother’s country and the people who come from there like they’re a plague and not like a people colonized, oppressed and victimized for centuries trying to survive in a world that is actively hostile to them. I added in some Oscar Romero quotes in there for good measure. He’s a saint now but the fascist Salvadoran government had him murdered when he had the audacity to use Catholicism as a force for social good and resistance. I’ve heard this song played out a couple times and it makes me really happy because I was subconsciously really trying to scream out to the world on this one. Central America is the CENTER OF AMERICA, the continent not the country.
Something for the DJs honestly! And a Lil Wayne sample from a video I’ve never been able to forget — the time he was being interviewed for British press and he knocked over a cup of lean. Early Internet viral moment.
NIKES ON MY FEET
Something weird! Something for the freaks! (In a spiritual sense not a physical one.) I make a lot of reggaeton and dembow-adjacent music and I just felt like re-contextualizing those drums to create something new. I was also really into Friday Night Lights when I was in high school so I picked a sample from Boobie Miles’ character in the movie to help tie everything back together to those late night car drives.
SUMMER JAM BUT FOR CLUB KIDS
Location: TBA - Oakland (Chinatown)
I won’t use this space to gas up this show or try to sell you on anything. To me it’s more important to express how freeing this show feels!
In a flattened out, post-post-modern world there really are fewer and fewer “underground” spaces, artists, etc. Anyone with a phone and Internet connection can bubble up and have a moment.
But “underground” spaces still hold a certain draw because capital and real estate interests converge to make throwing something as simple as a fun party extremely difficult.
So much of our world has been democratized *except* space! That’s still held on to by a select few and of those select few, even fewer are open to anything actually subversive -- anything not meant to get people drunk, or sell bottle service, or play extremely commercial music.
That’s why doing shows like SUMMER JAM feels so fucking good. It’s our own thing, thrown with our own friends and our own equipment.
So, to get into the details, SUMMER JAM is inspired by a vintage feeling. Summer Jam concerts are a staple of hip hop communities all over the country. Radio stations organize these mega festivals that brought out all the best national and local rap talent.
We drew from this history because this Bay Area summer hasn’t fully kicked off for us yet. If you’ve lived in the Bay long enough, you know it doesn’t really kick in til September but we want this show to be a symbolic launch pad for a scorching hot summer for Bay Area club music.
We hope you’re able to join us but, deep down in my heart, I *really* hope the whole Bay Area works to create our own spaces and focus our energy outside of the systems we roll our eyes at every day.
Q & A: SHIREEN HASHEMI - YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST'S FAVORITE ARTIST
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Place of Residence: Oakland, CA
Favorite song/album released this year: Dawg Storm by RX Papi
With clients and projects on both coasts who have commissioned her for everything from album artwork, party flyers and physical music release packaging, Hashemi is creating a design world all her own.
She truly is your favorite artist’s favorite artist.
We recently caught up with the ascendant designer to discuss her early path in art, her creative process and some highlights from her career so far.
Since I already had Photoshop I decided to play around and make other content for Tumblr. I made a ton of transparent Lana Del Rey stickers...
When I was in high school I took AP Art and for my concentration, I focused on digitally making movie posters. My favorite one I made was this Lolita poster. I posted it on Redbubble and made a decent amount of money from it (even to this day!). From that moment I realized that damn, maybe I'm kinda good at this shit.
In college, I helped run a DIY Design Collective for my college radio station, WREK 91.1FM Atlanta. I learned so much from my peers there and being a part of that collective definitely helped to shape my style into what it is today.
I don't have any particular designers or artists that influence me, but I've always been inspired by old-school rave flyers, graffiti, cartoons, sports, and motorsports aesthetics.
I think I've exhausted their use for flyers, but I'm interested in using them outside of digital design work, like maybe in a mixed media situation.
What initially drew me toward them is how often they came up when I was digging through old-school flyers, so I thought I'd give them a go myself.
What I find most interesting about them is how easily everyone can connect to those characters. They can be traced back to almost everybody's childhood, no matter their upbringing. So it's super nostalgic.
Including universal design elements like that is almost like a cheat code - they're iconic & memorable. I'm all about accessible design so it makes sense that I would use characters everyone is familiar with.
Also, they're just cute!
However, I will push back when a promoter micromanages me so much that the flyer doesn't even look like my work anymore, so to combat that I tend to be proactive by being intentional about all my design decisions.
I do wanna take a moment to shout out Tal (NO BIAS) because since day one they've been the only promoter who's more concerned with giving me all the space to be creative rather than prioritizing flyer content.
Usually, the first thing I do is get a feel for the vibe of the party. I'll listen to mixes by all the artists in the lineup, look at previous flyers (if any), and ask the promoter for any references that they like.
From there I make my own little mood board of sorts filled with inspiration. Then I'll pull in fonts, colors, layouts, and imagery that I want to try and go from there.
Everything from that point on is a blur to me.
I normally only do cover art for my friends & producers whose work I really fuck with, that way I already have a solid foundation of their vibe, making me feel more confident that I can bring their sound to life visually.
I prefer to do cover art over flyers because parties come and go, but music is forever.
When I design cover artwork I always keep in mind the longevity of the design, so I find myself aiming to design something that will stand the test of time. I always feel honored when a producer reaches out to me for art because that means they trust me and fuck with my style enough to pair it with their own work, and that's just like...the best compliment.
It really feels like a "damn, I leveled up" piece for me.
This is my favorite EP of theirs so it was such an honor that they asked, I wanted to go all out for it. It's also super shiny and saturated so it's fun to look at hahaha.
I've been interested in branching out design-wise. I'm currently working on some apparel designs.
I also recently found out that my neighbor is a talented painter so I've been getting lessons from him. Everything I've done only exists within the digital realm, and I really want to create something tangible, so that's the next step for me!
Hopefully, it turns out okay, either way, I'm excited to be trying new things.
I comb through hella music, looking through dozens of bandcamp and soundcloud pages and a lot of it is fun but forgettable.. LIKSHOT stopped me in my tracks though. Fun to listen to at home and in the club <3
Exploration of suburban boredom and alienation in the late ’00s and early ‘10s while trying to forge a new identity that incorporates Central American heritage, rap fandom and club culture.
MIATA is a model of car that was owned by DJ JUANNY’s father during his high school years. It was in this car that JUANNY learned how to drive and where JUANNY would often play blog-era rap music and explore dance music sounds while searching for culture and excitement away from the uniformity of his environment.
1. ME BESAS A MI
2. CENTER OF AMÉRICA
3. BELLA TERRA
4. NIKES ON MY FEET
ME BESAS A MIClassic ‘00s reggaeton sample paired w club drums and Korg synths.
CENTER OF AMÉRICAKorg synths, dembow rhythm and guaracha bass w/ vocal sample from slain Salvadoran religious leader Monseñor Oscar Romero (brutally murdered by US-supported Salvadoran military forces). Also a news snippet from 2022 when SF mayor London Breed was forced to apologize for essentially saying the city’s drug problem was a product of Honduran migrants.
BELLA TERRASample from Lil Wayne interview when he knocked over a cup of lean. Also a Lex Luger riser, a nod to the producer’s run of trap hits in the early ‘00s.
NIKES ON MY FEETWanted to use reggaeton drum samples without using a reggaeton drum pattern. Korg synths throughout. Sample from Friday Night Lights about Nike shoes, a nod to JUANNY’s early interest in streetwear + street style.
Life is so cyclical it’s devastating. Writing this fresh off a mini anxiety attack — was it the third coffee or was it the weeks of isolation creeping in or was it the realization my next EP was actually dropping in the morning?
Whatever it is I can feel it physically, the slight tightness on the left side of my face behind my eye.
And for some reason, it made me want to write down my thoughts about this moment in my life. For a few years now, I’ve rejected “writing” despite it being one of the major pursuits of my life. Writing conjured up memories of me in the bedroom I rented on 19th Ave, living with my best friends and having the time of my life while completely self-destructing. Staying up late, drinking bottles of cheap beer, sipping brown liquor and trying to write like my favorite writers — possibly the most annoying cliche of all!
I say life is cyclical because I wrote the most when I felt the most lost in life. And now some years later, I feel this urge to express myself in this way while feeling lost in a completely new (and exciting) way.
As this new EP drops, a couple months removed from leaving my job and all the amazing, creative and insightful high schools students I worked with there, I feel lost again.
But this is a different kind of lost — it feels more like not knowing where you are while visiting a new, exciting city than drifting at sea having no clue where you’re going or if you’ll make it.
A CULT CLASSIC?
Recently I wanted to surprise myself and bought a ticket to see a movie just because I thought the name sounded cool. The Doom Generation. Plus it looked violent and romantic. Violently romantic or romantically violent?? Either way, that’s my shit, apparently.
When I bought my ticket I saw that the director and main actor would be there for a Q&A.
They introduced the movie together along with the costume designer.
The director, Greg Araki, got on stage and the packed theater clapped *loudly* for this man I hadn’t even heard of until today. I felt like I was out of the loop. In that moment, I had no idea he was on the vanguard of ‘90s New Queer Cinema, or helped launch the careers of some of Hollywood’s contemporary stars.
He seemed genuinely thankful and a little incredulous that a movie he made on a shoestring budget in the early ‘90s could generate this kind of response in 2023. This is admittedly hyperbole but I left the theater a different person. Not only was the story highly entertaining, not only were the costumes and cinematography something to base my whole ~aesthetic~ off of, but it really opened my eyes to a whole movement in film I had no idea about.
When all information is available on our phones, it’s nice to be surprised every now and then.
He mentioned that the film, and the others in the trilogy it belongs to, have become cult classics in a way. It made me think about my own creative process.
I would be lying if I said I’m not at least a little nervous about this EP release, about every show we put on, etc. I’m nervous about how I’m going to pay my bills and all the real life pressures and events that can change a person’s life.
I’ve never strived for “mainstream” success which is great because I doubt I’d ever achieve something like that anyway. I might not ever make it rich or be on some top ten list or whatever. But maybe one day I’ll be asked to come do a Q&A for some shit I made in 2023, speaking to the next generation of people bold enough to think outside of the limits placed on them by the society they’ll Iive in.
And It would be one of life’s greatest honors <3
Where do you imagine someone listening to this mix?
This mix takes me back to the rave, the club, when the clock strikes 3 A.M. on the dancefloor and you lose yourself in the heat of the spiral. But since we’re still stuck in quarantine, I think the mix also really works well while turning up at home with close friends trying to let loose and escape from it all, those moments of relief and normalcy that are so important to maintain some semblance of sanity while we ride this thing out.
Any projects to look out for or a message to listeners?
I just quit my day job and made some hardware upgrades, so I’m excited to have more capacity to work on production and overall collaboration with other artists.
I think the future is inherently uncertain for everyone, especially right now, but I feel an undeniable sense of hope that we’ll all come out on top and be pushed in ways that we were never able to even fathom before.
For now, I think all we can really do is look out for one another, nurture the parts of ourselves that need it most, and ensure our communities have everything they need in order to survive and thrive.
How have you been during shelter in place? Any insights, inspirations, frustrations?
To be honest, I’ve been able to hold down my homestead, but I’m struggling to stay inspired while we’re all stuck in the house for most of the day, and can’t access live music settings in the ways that we’re accustomed to.
I know there’s hope on the horizon, though, so that’s keeping me going.
My friends are also extremely talented and are consistently creating some of my favourite art, which definitely keeps me on my toes and pushes me to be the best version of myself in a creative sense.
CHIPITIO AKA RICHARD A. IS A YOUNG BAY AREA LEGEND, EQUAL PARTS STYLE MAVEN + RADICAL COMRADE IN ARMS. WE SAT DOWN WITH THE ICON IN MAKING (VIRTUALLY OF COURSE) FOR A CONVERSATION THAT ZIG ZAGGED BETWEEN STYLE, FASHION, D’EVILS OF CAPITALISM, COMPLACENT LIBERALS AND JAPANESE DENIM.
Q: When did you start taking an interest in style + fashion?
A: Garb, presentation costume, was really a critical outlet for expressing a part of myself, that because of toxic masculinity and visceral violence deployed on queer bodies, I was able to latch onto and express. Style was such a salient part of that journey for myself, express myself and intentional w what I put on my body. Even though it was coded w masculinity and streetwear, it was on my terms, color play textures etc
Things that we wear are informed by our environment. Streetwear is a product of black culture and for me living in ES and then coming here, the sort of expression that came w being able to dress myself was a response to having that freedom and having it informed by my environment growing up around black + brown kids. Garb was also an armor to wear -- the ways we communicate w one another symbolically.. “oh i fuck w that.”
If someone was wearing Fubu jeans in the early 00s you know they were at least aware of some shit you were into, so clothing was one of the first creative and liberative practices available to me, as a poor immigrant Brown kid. Not everyone has the chance to explore music or paint or draw but fashion + style is available and universal.
Q: Many of the people who hit the streets over the summer are at risk of becoming complacent now that there’s a new administration... what would you say to those ppl about this “new” reality?
Decentralized and ground movements lose steam whenever progressives are voted into office and liberals are voted into office.