One of the first to popularize the tough, sexy tribal house sound, Robbie Rivera is a living legend who remains at the top of his game. His Juicy Music empire has signed a partnership with Armada in Amsterdam and the prolific producer has been releasing music this year on the world’s best labels like Spinnin Records, Armada, Axtone, Juicy Music, Doorn and Ultra Records. Marking his 20th year in the industry, Rivera’s most recent release is aptly named “Twenty,” an album comprised of 20 tracks for each year. Have a listen to “I Can’t Lie,” from the album, embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: What makes Miami home and special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor when in the area?
Robbie Rivera: I’ve been in Miami since 1992. I live in Key Biscayne, which is a little island connected to Miami, the Miami Beach area. If you’re coming to Miami for the first time you should definitely go check out the beaches. There’s a great beach area.
If you like nightlife there are a lot of clubs. There’s also an area where a lot of people hang out called Wynwood. It’s comparable to Brooklyn [in New York City]. There are a lot of cool places — restaurants. It’s more affordable than South Beach. There are a lot of cool bars too.
If you come to Miami, if you can, go to Key West or Key Largo. Key Largo is about an hour and Key West is about three hours. It’s really cool to go down there. You can get a little boat and go around.
SR: To bring it into music, what was your first real exposure to it? How did you get inspired to eventually create your own and pursue it as a career?
RR: I started at a very young age. I think I was 13 years old. I grew up in Puerto Rico until I was 18. I was always interested at a very young age. I went to my sister’s senior prom and a saw these DJ’s playing and they were mixing music flawlessly back-to-back. From then on I wanted to learn how to do it and I studied how to become a DJ. I had friends that had some equipment. I would play at house parties and school events. That got me even more interested in it.
After that, I wanted to learn how to produce music and become a recording engineer. So, I went to school in Fort Lauderdale in a production program there. This was still in the early days of producing music and using software. I was still able to learn a lot and it all came out naturally. I love to compose electronic music. I started making my own music in my college apartment. Then, in 1996, I released my first vinyl record.
SR: What a story. Now that you’re fully-fledged in the game, to make music and constantly promote it must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful part or thing you cherish most about it?
RR: The touring and the performing, almost every weekend all over the world, while interacting with your fans is such a great feeling. They all come to hear your songs. To be doing this for almost 20 years, with people still booking me, is incredible. When I see the crowd with people in their 40’s, like me, and new fans in their 20’s enjoying my music now, that’s really amazing.
One other thing my wife and I did was relocate every summer to Barcelona and from there tour all over Europe. We did that for about 10 years. I loved that experience every year. I tell all my friends that if they ever have a chance to live abroad to do it. It was a great experience and you learn a lot.
SR: Now to bring it into your most recent work, “Twenty,” released in early November, describe your thought process around that album. How exciting has it been to play it for your fans?
RR: I started working on this album last January and started producing all these tracks. I was in the zone. I was very relaxed in the studio. I came to have 20 tracks. My wife said, “Wait, you have 20 years in the business, let’s make this about you being in music for 20 years.” So, I did it and had a whole album. I also didn’t produce it to have a radio hit. I just wanted to produce what I was feeling in the moment. It was great to produce this album. I’m seeing a lot of love on this — a lot of calls, emails and messages. People have just been happy about the whole album. I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal — 20 years in the music business. But, I guess it is. It just went so damn fast.
SR: So, to transition back to travel a bit, food is so big going from place to place. When someone comes to Miami, where would you send them to eat?
RR: Miami, yes, a lot of great food here. I’m going to be really honest with you. I like to go eat in places where not many people go. All the trendy places where everybody goes, yeah they’re great, I’ve been there, but you have to go more local. I always tell my friends to have the Cuban food. There is some great Cuban food here. You have to taste it. There’s a great spot on 8th street called Versailles [Restaurant Cuban Cuisine]. You can go there on any time, even until 4 a.m. on the weekends. You see people from all difference races coming to enjoy the cuisine. It’s really, really good and affordable. Another spot is Jimmy’z Kitchen [Wynwood]. It has great Puerto Rican food. I go there a lot.
SR: Miami is obviously a really busy city, but when you want some time to yourself, or just want to relax, where do you go?
RR: I love going to the beach. If I want to go hideout somewhere I’ll probably go to a bar in a low-key hotel. On the weekends I’m always traveling, but on the weekdays I love having a nice glass of wine.
SR: On the flipside, how about when you want to have a night out? Where do you head?
RR: There are a few bars in Wynwood that I like to go. There’s another spot on 8th street where everyone’s going now called Calle Ocho. There’s a club there that’s really nice called Ball & Chain. They have great latin music there.
SR: Music and travel go hand-in-hand. Are there any radio stations in Miami that you would tell people to listen to?
RR: Yes, Revolution [93.5 FM]. It’s the local dance-music station. That’s the station for me, not just because they host my radio show, but also because they play authentic and good house music. Good station.
SR: On a personal note, when you’re listening to music yourself are you listening to dance music or do you switch it up?
RR: I switch it up. I love 80’s music and rock. I have all the music I’m listening to on my Spotify. If you go there you can listen to all the music I’m listening to. I love to also listen to movie scores when I’m working. I love that kind of music. I also love Reggae. I love all types of music.