Faena Musical Director Richie Hell Launches Gumbo Limbo Label With Future Blues EP

Richie Hell
Richie Hell Courtesy photo
It might only be February, but this month's first release from Richie Hell's newly launched Gumbo Limbo Music is already poised to be one of the best local-label debuts of the year.

This tasteful new slab, the Future Blues EP, is made up of four slow-burning Delta blues-infused disco-house bangers and is an auspicious sign from the musical director of the Faena Hotel Miami Beach venues.

New Times caught up with Richie Hell to discuss the new EP and his plans for both Gumbo Limbo and 2017 programming for Faena.

New Times: What is your history in Miami?

Richie Hell: I was born in Buenos Aires and came to Miami for the first time in 1990 with my family. In 2014, I got married and a couple of months later, we came to live in this magic and inspiring city.  I found a lot of brave, local DIY promoters who are building a new music scene starting from the underground.

How did you first get into music production?

After several years of DJing and playing bass guitar in rock bands, it came natural to me that I had to make my own music. I started editing the tracks I played as a DJ in order to only leave the parts that I liked [but] there was a limit to that.

What was your creative process on the Future Blues EP?

The concept of Future Blues is an ideal world in which progress and ancient culture coexist in real harmony with one another. I'm a dreamer [but] the future is something that scares me at the same time. The future gives me the blues. The process of making music starts before I enter the studio. I'm a record collector and usually ideas start by listening to old music. Music that breathes more. Music that was made out of instinct or inspired by nature or angry gods. It can be Delta blues, Latin music, jazz, Afrobeat, Balkan or any of the music and chants that original tribes from all over the world performed to declare war to other tribes, to bring the rain, or just to win the love of someone else.

When I listen to a loop that I like, I rip it to digital and start jamming over it, adding drums, keys, bass, textures, etc., and then I take out the original sample and the skeleton of a new song is born. After sketching this idea in Miami, I traveled to Buenos Aires and worked on the rest with Gurtz, a brilliant Argentinian producer who coproduced the album. We have a special chemistry and we don't have to talk that much in the studio to get things done. We trust one another and I think we bring the best out of each other, just like any ideal marriage. Same happens with my sister Martes, who sings on the first two tracks and is part of my live show.

How did you come to work with the traditional blues sound?

I've been a fan of blues since 1990, when I first saw Walter Hill's Crossroads and it blew me away. I was fascinated by this spiritual power that the music of Robert Johnson had. At that time, I was in a Christian Brothers school having a really bad time, and blues along with heavy metal were what really saved me in those difficult adolescent years. I work with a lot of different sounds, but I think blues has something deeper than the rest. There is so much real pain and spiritual redemption in it that it makes me rejoice and feel full of emotions. I can cry while listening to a Skip James album. Same happens to me while listening to Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson sings with his guts and that gets me every time.
What can you tell us about your musical role with Faena Hotel Miami Beach?

In Faena Hotel, I'm in charge of programming all venues, and what I try to do is bring something different to the Miami Beach music scene. It's very important for my job to have at my side someone like Alan Faena, who has a clear vision of what he wants and is not influenced by trends. We both see this opportunity as a mission. That is what curating music is for me. I've been doing this my whole life. Like M.J. said, "make a better world for you and for me."

What is your vision for the newly launched Gumbo Limbo Music? Where do you plan to take the label in 2017?

Gumbo Limbo Music started as a necessity because I had my music ready, but it was very hard to find the proper label that would blend with it. On one hand, most of the electronic imprints were looking too much for dance floor fillers, and my music was somewhere in between with a very specific sound, and I found very few that would go with that sound. On the other hand, those that I found already had their established artists and were not looking for new ones.

Our intention is to take dance music beyond the club scene. We want it to be heard by people who like other styles besides electronic music and can enjoy them anywhere besides clubs. We want to be inclusive, initiate people, fulfill their curiosities, and make them know new styles and cultures. 2017 is going to be our first year of life and we have to choose very well our first baby steps. Our goal for this year is to create a clear identity and let people know that we are here and who we are. My aim is to release as many artists as we can, but far more important is to maintain the high quality of the releases.

Are you currently accepting demos for potential release on the label? What sort of sounds are you looking for?

Yes, the other main reason for creating my own record label is that it gives you the chance to get to know new artists and work with them. That’s the secret of youth, keep searching for new ideas or visions. We are looking for something different from the sound we are accustomed to in clubs. Less dark, with a perfect groove and excellent production. We prefer low BPMs for our releases to give greater depth to the tracks. We want them to be trippy but effective as well, like they were sort of electronic mantras. I don't like to talk about specific styles of music, as tags don't tell me anything about an artist or a song. Every release will be cut on vinyl and my partner Francisca Oyhanarte is going to be in charge of the artwork, as she did with her amazing cobra on my record.

So what can we expect from you next on the production front?

I'm planning to release two more EPs this year on Gumbo Limbo along with the Future Blues remixes, and I'm also looking for other labels that could be interested in my music. My sister Martes is coming to live in Miami this year, so I'm gonna be working a lot with her making music and playing live as she is the lead singer of my live project. I want to expand my musical frontiers and try with new sounds as inspiration. I've been listening a lot to Molam music lately and it's been a huge inspiration for me, along with many other sounds.
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Sean Levisman