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Erik "Riot Earp" King on Microgenres, Beatport, the Future of Moombahton, and Whether or Not Seapunk is a Joke

Erik "Riot Earp" King
Erik "Riot Earp" King
Nightfuse

Erik King is probably unlike any other DJ or producer in the Valley. The 29-year-old, better known by his nickname Riot Earp, wouldn't be caught dead mashing up Skrillex, Deadmau5, or any other overexposed EDM artist. Instead, King prefers work in little known microgenres you've probably never heard of, such as Juke, Kuduro, and his own creation Jerkaton (a combination of Jerk hip-hop and reggaeton).

He also has a lot to say on the subject of microgenres during his DJ Dossier interview, as well as why he abhors Beatport, and the listening tastes of EDM fans. Read on for a full rundown of said subjects, as well as many more.

Name: Erik King

AKA: Riot Earp

Preferred EDM genres: Moombahton, bass, Trap Bubbling, Kuduro, Seapunk, Juke, Jerkaton.

Origin of your DJ name? I came up with it two and a half years ago. Before I was just going as my initials and anytime I did a gig or I made my own songs it was all under EK. It was more like hip-hop, glitchy instrumental sound music. And then when I got into doing more of these moombahton edits I had a different moniker that I was using just for that. I don't even remember how I created it.

You work with a slew of microgenres. Are there drawbacks? There's a ton. Number one, I feel like -- at least out here in this city and at this particular time period -- there isn't a love for it. It's not like a place [where] there are parties that host those kinds of things. Like in San Francisco area you have a party called Tormento Tropical or you have another party called Icy Hot and there's a bunch of dudes from like Laser Sword or the guys from Low End theory that will show up to these parties and they'll literally play all of this stuff. I know in Philly they do this thing called Mad Decent Mondays where they've played probably more of my tracks than I've ever played out here just because those kinds of cities are eager for that kind of thing.

Why aren't microgenres big in Phoenix? I would call this city a Beatport city. If you want to make something for yourself, or if you want people to buy your music, it has to sold on Beatport, number one. And number two, people don't even want the weird shit out on Beatport. They just want the top five and that's kind of where this city is. I think part of the reason is because some of these microgenres are run by adults. It's not like a kid thing. Because of the fact that music is self-aware and it's like weird and tongue-in-cheek and shit. That's something adults can do. But a 16-year-old wants to take a bunch of E and listen to hard house all night, they don't want to be like, "Oh this is crazy, it's got all these different sounds like from a thousand different things I grew up with."

 

Erik "Riot Earp" King
Erik "Riot Earp" King

So what's the deal with Seapunk? Is it an actual genre? It's like an Internet meme for music. I first heard about it from this band called Fire for Effects. And they have a few songs that are Seapunk. Imagine everything that you'd hear on various hip-hop mix tapes by surfing YouTube or whatever and let's make a collage of that. I feel like it's just an expression of Internet music.

What is Seapunk in your opinion? Imagine '90s rave liquid style or like rave music with really housey piano chords and drum breaks. So imagine those kinds of things mashed in with a shitload of Internet meme sounds and water sounds. Like in the song I did I ripped a bunch of water samples. There's a sonar sound in there, there's whales in there. The track is called "Whales and Bongs." I ripped a bunch of samples of people ripping bongs and stuff like that. But that's really what it is, it's like tongue-in-cheek music. Like, it's very self-aware. It's not trying to be more than it is. That's what I like about it. It's not like it's trying to be the next newest thing.

So it's essentially an extended joke? Yeah, but the people who are into it. It's like a lot of indie hipster shit right now, it's like a joke but these people at least are aware of it. Whereas a lot of other people are just in the dark. They're like, "Oh, this is a joke? This is my lifestyle." These other people are like, "My lifestyle is a joke but this is like the celebration of it." To me that's kind of like being self-aware of your dorkiness or whatever it is you are trying to do. That's different than fucking just wearing black and makeup for the sake of it, which is everything else right now.

Do you think moombahton is past its peak? I think something that is still very infantile is past its peak. But I do think just like anything, things can blow up faster than they do and sometimes if it's not an organic thing people will abandon it. But there can be so many things that can be done with the moombahton genre. For example, just recently Mello and I did this song called "Carnavalito" which it's got these carnivale, Brazilian, Rio de Janero style drums. It's got this Bolivian flute that we used. And we used just a bunch of these pre-Hispanico Latin influences, there really isn't a lot of that style, and I think the more accessible stuff that's coming out right now that you're going to find in the top ten of Beatport actually may not exist in a few years. The same way baile funk is a really good example.

What do you mean? It's a genre that came out of South America. It basically was created like Rio de Janeiro, it comes out of the ghettos and is basically made by the gangsters of that fucking city and that music got really big for a second and then it died down because everyone was taking a baile funk break and making quit edits at it, like out of any song, it didn't matter what it was. To a degree that's happening with moombahton. People can make edits, some of them are good. I like to think that I've hopefully made tasteful ones and other people sometimes make ones where you're literally just lining up two loops and a music program and it took you ten minutes to make.

What's the future of moombahton, your opinion? I can see moombahton going back into the more niche of if you're into tropical-based genre you'll still end up playing it, the same way you used to play cumbia or baile funk or kuduro or whatever these things are. Do I think the really ravey things are going to be around? No, because that shit, it's made for kids and kid's tastes change really, really quick.

 

Crescent Ballroom
Crescent Ballroom
Melissa Fossum

What's your dream gig? That's a good question. What I would love to do right now would be traveling, making music and the literally be in a city that I'm in, I make a song with the people live there who I respect. And in the last year or so in the last couple years I've been able to make a lot of different connections with people all over this country especially, really all over the world. But they're in the same boat as I am. They're not touring all over the world, they're just making it happen in their respective city the way I'm trying to make it happen out here and we're all making respective moves together so my plan is be make that dream a reality, like building up that tempo, being able to reach out to these people.

What's your favorite local venue to perform at? Of the ones I've played, probably at least for me nothing's going to beat the roof of Bar Smith because I actually like that it's smaller. I think that it just allows people to be less inhibited. Although I love playing at the Crescent when I did Red Monkey there last year because it's cool to see a lot of people vibing.

What do enjoy about performing? One part of me likes the concept of playing shit that I know the audience doesn't know but they are there for a vibe and it's just those people there. That to me is doper than if you're playing at Marquee but you know you have to switch it up because there's a bunch of kids there and they need to hear this Avicii remix or they're going to fucking blow their brains out. To me that's like you or me could be playing in front of 2,500 people but it's still like a Top 40 gig. I would rather someone would just to vibing off of something maybe that I made earlier that day. To me that's legit. There's more art in that and there's more reward and payoff in that than making a bunch of people happy because that's where I am right now, at least in the music world you can make people want to hear your bad remix more than they want to hear your good original. To me that's confusing. People should want to hear people's good original music that came out of a thousand different ideas than hear someone's shitty Skrillex plus Avicii plus Deadmau5 remix which people are doing left and right.

Craziest thing you've ever seen at a gig? It wasn't my gig but it's gotta be when 2 Live Crew fucking played out here at Club Red like four or five years ago. I think it was a UM show and it was probably one of the hypest shows I'd ever been to. I barely remember any of it, totally shitfaced, but every single person there knew exactly what they were there for. I think that's rare nowadays.

What do you mean? People don't even enjoy, and I'm guilty of it too, I'll go to a place where I'm here to enjoy the music and I'll sit with my arms crossed the whole time and everyone at that show is like, "Fuck it we're here to fuckin' listen to this dirty, filthy music and these strippers dancing on stage and everyone there, it didn't matter how old you are, what race you were, you weren't offended, you weren't judging shit like that. And I don't think I've been to a gig like that where people were...I remember there was two girls who practically got naked in the middle of the dance floor and at the time I was standing next to a security guard and I'm looking at him like, "Are you going to do something?" And the guy was clearly like, "This is not a part of my job qualifications."

 

Erik "Riot Earp" King at Bar Smith
Erik "Riot Earp" King at Bar Smith
Nightfuse

Do you consider yourself to be a DJ or a producer? I consider myself to be a producer. But that's only because if you look at my timeline of how I got into things: First got into DJing and then I got into scratching. And, then, from scratching all I did was scratch every single day. I decided to play the drums because I thought that would help me understand scratching more so I taught myself how to play the drums. I taught myself how to play some basic piano, chords, progressions and stuff like that. And I never would have learned those things if I'd never got into scratching.

How did you get into producing? From there got really into production, I owned an MPC2000XL and I made all my beats on this piece of hardware, then went over to software and a couple years ago I said to myself, I've got these songs that I've made, no one in Arizona knows who I am. I know how to DJ, I need to be stepping my game up in order for people to know who I am. So I decided to really stick my neck out there take this DJing thing seriously.

What's your opinion of the whole "DJ/producer" title? The thing about DJing, at least out here especially in this city, I think it's easy for you to assume if you do one thing, that's what you do. If you're a DJ, that's what you are. Or if you're a producer, that's what you are. But at the same time we live in a day and age where most of the people who are really good at making music aren't really good at delivering the music. They're not the best DJs. And one of the reasons why is you'll have someone can make an incredible album that fucking sells number one on Beatport but that kid's never DJed a day in his life and he'll get put on a tour, touring all over the world using a really simple controller devise because it just happens to be the easiest way for him to present himself without looking like an idiot.

Do your sets consist of original tracks or remixes of other artist's songs? It really just depends on if I'm playing a set that I know I can play whatever I want to. For example more recently I've been playing a lot more of my music and then I'll play other songs that I'm feeling at the time that are in the same genre or BPM. I'm always going to play the thing that I'm most into like music wise that's pretty much what I do as a DJ I just play not necessarily what I think may be the most appropriate thing but it will always be something that I love. And hopefully if I'm doing a gig where I know there's "no rules" that the people that are there understand what it is that I'm attempting to do.

 

What's the story behind your "Logan's Run" remix? That's funny, I've been asked that three times today by people if I sampled Logan's Run or whatever. Basically I made that song maybe four months ago and was just sitting on it. It wasn't finished and I didn't know what it was missing. Just last night, I loaded it up in my computer and the song was called "Song Number Three." Right before I uploaded it for some reason, the movie Logan's Run came into my mind and just that 70s visual aesthetic and Buck Rogers style. You know what? I didn't care if I got in trouble. I kind of look at my songs like that, right before I put them out I [use] the first thing that pops in my brain.

The title just popped into your head? Yeah, but I almost wish I had a much more mysterious story behind it.

What's your favorite track at the moment? Flosstradamus and DJ Sliink came out with this song yesterday. And those guys are basically kings in their respective fields of what they do. So it's like that Batman Superman mashup where they're coming together and they're making something even better.

What artists have been working their way into your sets lately and why? A lot of the stuff that I'm really into are like no-name people, kids that are making songs that are barely engineered the right way. There is just something really raw about it. That raw sound is what has me in love with it. Recently, I've been into a lot of Jersey club music which is basically exclusively made by kids who don't really even try to fuckin' make the shit sound crisp or make it Beatport material, it's not radio ready. It's just for kids to dance to. But out of that world, the king of it is DJ Sliink is killing it right now.

Anyone else? There's guys out of France like Canblaster or Jersey club guys like Sam Tiba, all of them are amazing. There's also the Body High Crew that's made up of guys like Samo Sound Boy, the LOL Boys, and all these people who make tons of different genres. They really do something weird and unique. If you're on this weird, funky UK vibe I'm pretty much into you. But there's so many of them and they're so scattered they may only have a few songs and a lot of these dudes like I said some of the one I'm really into, they're not very different than who I am right now.

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