BYT: “What are some of the words you’d use to describe your motivations for the future?”
Alvin Risk: “Film, magic, collaboration, songs”
There are “superstar EDM producers,” and then there’s D.C.-born (and now LA-based) Alvin Risk. Here’s another brief quote to made that statement abundantly clear.
“After the (2012) Virgin Festival, I introduced Sonny (aka Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex) to U Hall, bringing him there for the first time, and having him play with me there. All of our friends were there, people who have toured all around the world, and it was like ‘holy shit, I’m giving back to this place (U Hall) and this city what it gave to me.'”
When talking to Alvin Risk, it all sounds so deceptively simple, the whole developing from playing in tiny venues in D.C. to collaborating and touring with Skrillex, literally seeing the entire world, releasing an EP on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label, and also, yes, working with legendary film score creator Hans Zimmer on soundtrack material for 2014’s Amazing Spiderman 2. Though Risk’s headlining set – which he called “[his] biggest show to date” and “the most intense production show we’ve done in D.C.,” – has been cancelled (with a rescheduled date to be announced), the metropolitan area native’s tour is still moving throughout the country for thirteen more dates.
On this tour, Risk will prominently feature material from his new self-released Venture EP. Featuring his own vocals, like the rest of the EP it’s progressive and introspective at the same time, a true journey into the soul of the artist. Insofar as his favorite track? “I like “Alone” right now. You go into phases where you really love a song. I’m especially excited to play that because it’s early in the set and the programming we’re doing around it is really cool. I’m excited.”
In discussing more of the specifics for this tour, Risk opines, “[9:30 Club] is the perfect venue for how I visualize what the tour should look like, actually. Whenever I reference any sort of visual stuff or production setup for tours, I always reference what it would look like at 9:30. It’s just what I know, where I grew up going. The staff is great and super accommodating, [too]. The size is right, and there’s the balcony…it’s great.” The venue has long been a favorite for the DJ/producer, his first time at the vaunted space being for a February 2000 concert featuring Incubus, System of a Down and Mr. Bungle. “They were on tour together,” he says. “It was crazy, the best show ever. I was there for Incubus. I was a huge Mr. Bungle fan too. I hadn’t heard of System of a Down, though they were headlining. It was an amazing show.”
The “Alvin Risk” project has been five years in development, it’s humble roots starting with small events at venues like Capitol Hill’s The Fridge art space. “It was originally a band, my sister [Painted Face] (who just put out a new EP called Paper Heart) was playing keys in it, my friend Michael Folk (who has a project called Aligning Minds) was triggering stuff, and we were a three-piece. It was super exciting.” Regarding the Fringe gig he continues, “It was all of our friends, so it was extra nerve-wracking because you know everybody in the room. It’s totally different than now.”
Two other key D.C. movements that Risk has played a key role in are the rise of U Street Music Hall, and Dave Nada’s moombahton subgenre, too. Just as always with Risk, those stories are delivered in an understated tone, but are actually epic in nature. “It wasn’t really a performance,” Risk recalls regarding playing the (unnoficial) first gig in U Hall’s near five-year history. “It was a soft opening. Technically, I played the first show at U Hall. It’s true. My friend Adam [Weiner], from ITI Audio is the one who did the (U Street Music Hall) soundsystem, and he needed to check it, so he asked if I’d play this soft opening thing. He said it would be awkward because it wouldn’t really be a show, but that I should play anyway. It was me, a computer and my fucking guitar plugged into an amp.” He continues, “our gig was to test the sound for the stage, to tweak on that. We’d actually go there long before then and tweak on it, too.”
Risk’s journey into dembow-laden Latin polyrhythms is entertaining, too. “I was at a [Moombahton Mondays] party [at Velvet Lounge] in the early days of moombahton, and I told Dave [Nada, the moombahton genre’s inventor] ‘Dude, I’m going to make a song for you, I’m going to make a song you can play, because this shit [moombahton] is dope,” Risk says regarding one of his most beloved productions, 2011-released Tittsworth collaboration “Pendejas.” “I was on tour a year before and met this guy named Carlos in New Mexico whose grandmother would tell him to not bring home any ‘pendejas’ (as in female idiots) from the club…like ‘NO PENDEJAS (referencing the track’s hook)!'” Continuing, he says, “I think the key to it’s longevity is that it has the hype part and car alarms that’s contemporary, but it also had that groove with that cowbell that made you feel like you were at some party at your grandmas, or some weird wedding thing in Central America that got out of hand.”
“I didn’t expect it to be packed like that. It’s the 9:30 Club. I mean, there was a crowd there,” Risk says regarding his first 9:30 club gig in 2013. Two years and a wealth of experience later, Risk returns to a city that’s been as important to him as he has been to it’s rise in global acclaim, too. He’s nervously “hoping [his] friends enjoy the show, because you don’t want them to see the same thing,” regarding the live presentation of his set. “So instead of 10 or 100 friends you have 1200 friends now?” he was asked, jokingly. “Well, yeah, I guess I do! That’s great!” Risk replied with a smile in his voice.