by: Harry Levin
Aug 21, 2019
Some of humanity’s greatest accomplishments are born from collaboration. The Empire State Building, to Coachella, to the iPhone, mark just a few of the wide range of items achieved from combining efforts toward a common goal. These wonders were simply too much for one human being to handle. When people work together, a level synergy is often reached that is unique to those involved. It doesn’t matter if they’ve known each other for years or for minutes; if the chemistry is there, then great things will happen, and that is the story with Desert Hearts Black.
Rinzen, Marbs, and Evan Casey have been involved with Desert Hearts for years, but they haven’t worked together in the studio for very long. In fact, Rinzen and Casey had only been working together for a number of days before Marbs, a co-founder of the Desert Hearts movement, began feeling drawn into their process and inspired to work with them.
Once the three of them came together, they all knew something special was coming. A domino effect ensued that didn’t just lead to three incredible tracks—which comprise the Torus EP—it led to the founding of Desert Hearts Black (DHB), the new techno-driven sublabel of Desert Hearts Records.
While DHB is technically under the leadership of Marbs and Casey, Rinzen was there from the start and is an integral part of the musical equation that spawned the label. Not only did he assist in producing DHB’s first release, but he also played the imprint’s launch party.
He helped introduce Desert Hearts Black to the world in both form and function, and as such, is a perfect person with whom to discuss the label’s conception, goals, and values.
How would you describe Desert Hearts Black in your own words, and how would you compare Desert Hearts Black to veteran techno labels like Drumcode and Perc Trax?
I think Desert Hearts Black is a platform for melodic, dark, alternative house and techno. The kind of music that you would typically find in Europe, but with a North American imprint. It’s a natural extension of the Desert Hearts brand, and a way for the label to expand its sound and attract a new fan base.
In terms of comparing it to more established labels, Desert Hearts Black is obviously a much newer imprint, so it’s only just starting to cultivate a following. When you look at some of the more established labels, they’ve had maybe a decade or so to already do that. But I think in terms of quality, Desert Hearts Black is really going to come out of the gates swinging with some big artists, big releases, and a caliber of music that you would typically find on more established labels.
We saw that Torus recently reached number one on Beatport so congrats on that. Clearly, you’re correct about coming out of the gates swinging. With this in mind, we’re wondering if Desert Hearts Black is more of a response to the scene vis a vis techno becoming more popular, or if it was a way to purposefully bring more techno into the Desert Hearts brand?
Well, I think the Desert Hearts community has always been hungry for a bit more techno and melodic types of music. It’s always been at their events in small doses. You’ve had people like Rodriguez Jr., Shaded, Damian Lazarus, and of course Marbs and Evan Casey playing it. So I do think the label is a response to that desire, but I also think it’s something that’s been a long time coming.
I think the idea of a label was probably always in the back of Marbs’ mind as a possibility. It just didn’t necessarily have the infrastructure yet or the impetus to begin. But when the three of us linked up and wrote our EP [Torus], that was the launching point needed to make the label a real thing.
Considering you played the first set at the first Desert Hearts Black party, and you helped produce the label’s first release, you essentially gave the world their very first impression of the label. How do you feel about that idea, and looking back how do you feel about your set in that regard?
That’s a really cool way to look at it actually! That I had the opportunity to introduce the sound at that party, and by extension, the label as it was the first event.
I always put a lot of thought and intention into what my set is going to sound like. I consider where I’m performing, who I’m performing for. Those factors have a large role in shaping the tracks that I play. The tempo I’m playing at. The style I’m playing.
So with this particular party, given that it was Desert Hearts Black’s first warehouse party, and we had this, again, hungry community who has been asking for this type of event, I really wanted to map out a set that would be dark, mysterious and heavy, but also very tasteful. Something that would have an arc to it.
With all my performances I’m always trying to have some dynamics. Moments where things maybe get really hectic and crazy, but then you bring it back down and it’s softer and it’s more of an emotional section of the set. Then ramp it back up again and have this big climactic moment at the end. That was what I essentially tried to do with my Desert Hearts Black set.
Quite a few people at the party had remarked that they’d never heard this sound at Desert Hearts before. So you clearly established that Desert Hearts Black was going to be different than Desert Hearts. Would you say that was one of your goals leading up to your set?
I wasn’t so much consciously thinking that. I think that my style really naturally aligns with the sound of Desert Hearts Black and what Marbs and Evan are already imagining. So when I was constructing a set, I opted for tracks that were deeper and maybe more progressive but also had techno influence. But I think that speaks more to my shared bond of music with Evan and Marbs and the type of music that the three of us are all drawn to.
After your set how did you feel about the party as a spectator?
I’ve been to a bunch of warehouse parties in LA, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one with that many people and that type of music for eight to ten hours straight. I was blown away by the layout of the event, by the production of the event, all the visuals, and then just the music the entire night. I thought it was so consistent. And beyond that, I spoke to so many people in the crowd who had the nicest things to say about our EP and about the label and the party. So the entire night for me was a tremendous experience, and really well run from the ground up.
Do you think the vibe matched the intentions of you, Evan and Marbs in starting the label in that it was still Desert Hearts but also something different?
Yeah! I got the sense the entire night that people were really getting it. And that’s based on the reactions we were getting to the music: the number of people who were dancing and cheering the whole night, in addition to the general response to the event. We sold it out only doing pre-sales, which is kind of insane to me considering it was over 1000 people.
Tell us a little bit about Torus. How did the three of you start working together initially?
Torus began because I was working in the studio with Evan Casey. We had just met at DH and started producing some tracks together. Evan sent them to Marbs, who in turn got excited about what we were making and wanted to jump into the process. I had them in my studio in Venice Beach, and we ended up writing ‘Torus.’ We were completely blown away by it. It was a darker, cinematic, European sound that all of us had been craving in our own material and it just happened to materialize out of this collaboration between the three of us.
Based off of that one studio session writing ‘Torus’, we became so excited by the idea of working together that we ended up meeting almost once a week with Marbs driving up from San Diego, Evan driving down from the valley and all of us meeting in my Venice studio. From there, we wrote ‘Helix’ and ‘Ark’ as well.
Throughout this whole process, the idea of the label wasn’t even concrete yet. We weren’t necessarily writing the EP for Desert Hearts Black. We were just writing to create music together, and just going off of this shared mutual excitement.
Then when it was finished, and we started talking about what we wanted to do with the EP; if we wanted to sign it to a bigger European label… That’s when Marbs had the idea of making Desert Hearts Black a real thing and launching it around this whole EP.
How did that feel for you when he said that?
I’ve had so much respect for the Desert Hearts movement over the years, and I’ve always wanted to work with them in some capacity, but didn’t always feel like my sound fit on the main label. So when Marbs broached the idea of starting this whole new Desert Hearts Black movement, I thought it was exactly something I’d be interested in, and something that was very clearly aligned with the vision I have for my own music.
So basically, this whole label, this whole party, this whole EP, was literally a matter of instinct? You guys just happened to start working together, and then you just happened to make this EP that happened to be the perfect fit for the label Marbs and Evan happened to be trying to start?
Honestly, it all stems from the EP and writing the tracks together. Something about our synergy in the studio inspired this belief in us that we were on to something special; that this EP deserved this whole big launch around it. It deserved to be heard by as many people as possible, and it deserved to help launch a label. So it really all just came from the music and that shared excitement of creation that we were all experiencing.
Can you hint at any releases on Desert Hearts Black that are coming in the future? Do you think they will have the same kind of magic and intent behind them as the Torus EP?
Well first off I don’t think anything will ever compare to the sentimental value of the first release of the label. I think that because it was the EP that launched the whole imprint, there was already so much context and meaning behind it. So I think it will be hard for any subsequent release to live up to that.
I don’t think I can specifically mention any of the upcoming releases, but what I will say is we’ve been blown away by the caliber of artists who have been sending in music. The EPs that Marbs and Evan have already lined up –which again I can’t specifically mention at this time–they’re from some of my favorite artists in the electronic world.
Where do you see Desert Hearts Black going from here? Could you see it being as influential as Desert Hearts? From our perspective, it seems like Desert Hearts Black has a much stronger and more defined mission compared to Desert Hearts Records. Desert Hearts Records seems like the crew wanted a platform to put out their friends’ music whereas Desert Hearts Black seems like it could attract huge artists outside of the DH network who simply want music out on the label.
Like I was saying before, I think there’s a void in the North American electronic scene for this type of music, and I think Desert Hearts Black is partially a response to that. One of the hopes we have for the label is that this can be a North American platform for this style of music to really evolve and grow.
After the three of us saw the response to the party and the vibe that was created in the warehouse, we have gained a new understanding of the label’s potential, and the size of what we can achieve. I think especially with the artists who are already slated to be putting out music on the label, and the prospect of doing more large-scale Desert Hearts Black events, I really believe that that the label could become something hugely significant for our music scene and beyond.
All Photos Myles Heidenreich/2nd Nature