Pre-Phantasm Interview With Rob Garza

This week SF Bay EDM had a chance to chat witih Rob Garza, one of the founding members of Thievery Corporation, just prior to one of the most talked about Halloween events in the Bay Area, Phantasm.

SF Bay EDM: How did you and Eric meet?

Rob Garza: I was going to check out a club night […] and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to stop by this new lounge that had opened. At the time there was nothing like it, you know, dedicated to Jazz, Brazilian music, trip-hop, downtempo music at the time, which was very rare. I walked in there and fell in love with the place. They were playing one of my favorite songs of all time […] called “Waters of March.” I immediately just loved the joint. My friend introduced me to Eric Hilton and we started rapping about the forms of music that we loved and the fact that we were both producers. We decided to put our equipment together and see what kind of sounds we could create and that was the birth of Thievery Corporation […] that was back in May of 1995.

SF Bay EDM: How did you come up with the name Thievery Corporation?

Rob Garza: I used to have a record label called Juju Thievery Corporation […] and I don’t know we just needed a name. Eric was like what if we just shortened it... it actually created this air of mystery because people thought ‘oh does it have to do with you guys sampling?’ you know taking all these influences from all these different styles of music so never really a reason for the name, just sounded interesting.

SF Bay EDM: Do you guys ever run into issues while touring together?

Rob Garza: Well you know we’ve been together 20 years. People say being in a band is like being in a marriage and you know probably even sometimes a little more intense than being in a marriage. Especially doing music 20 years I feel like 20 music years is almost like dog years (laughs). Being in a band is a lot of effort and you definitely bump heads now and then. But we both really appreciate each other, what we do, and what we’ve accomplished. I’m just more excited than ever to keep working together and keep making new music.

SF Bay EDM: If you could choose any artist to collaborate with on your next track, who would it be?

Rob Garza: Maybe somebody like Caetano Veloso, the Brazilian artist, would be somebody me and Eric would love to work with. We’re really inspired by a lot of older music and a lot of older records. So probably the people we’d like to collaborate with are a little bit more obscure than what most people might know. Before he passed away, we always wanted to work with Joe Strummer from the Clash […] he was a big influence and someone we really admired. Still a lot of collaborations to come so let’s see what happens.

SF Bay EDM: Favorite past collaboration? Most fun to work with?

Rob Garza: You know I like the track we did with David Bryne. Perry Farrell and the Flaming Lips […] all of them are different experiences and I think that’s one of the beauties of being a production unit rather than being a band you know? We have the ability to work with different singers, different instrumentalists; we have the ability to work in many different genres.

SF Bay EDM: What instruments can you play?

Rob Garza: I think me and Eric can pick up a lot of different instruments and make music, make noise, make riffs, and grooves and things like that. We’re not necessarily the best players when it comes to any particular instrument but we definitely know how to get some good riffs and grooves. Both of us play guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines, so there’s a lot of different things. For us, it’s a better way to work in the studio. There’s something great to being super proficient on one instrument but in terms of creating songs in a studio, it’s just a lot easier to be able to switch gears and pick up a different instrument and get some different ideas going.

SF Bay EDM: Who are your influences right now? Who are you currently listening to and getting inspiration from?

Rob Garza: right now really not so much listening to too many people, just trying to concentrate on finishing the next Thievery record. Trying to get it out in the summer of next year so that’s kind of been all my attention lately.

SF Bay EDM: What’s the most obscure place you’ve ever performed?

Rob Garza: Personally, playing in Nepal;  playing for this group of young ladies who were a group of Niwari women who were gonna climb mount Everest. Kind of did a little fundraiser for them. And they made it to the top. That was kind of cool, kind of out there. We play a lot of major markets but sometimes we go out to these festivals and they’re in the middle of nowhere and you don’t know what to expect and those are the most fun times that you have.

SF Bay EDM: What’s been your favorite performance and why?

Rob Garza: We played burning man two summers ago and that was really a lot of fun. For me that was just such a beautiful experience. It was kind of surreal as the sun set, so many people came out without it really being advertised and it was just pretty awe-inspiring to see all the art cars. I remember we were doing a song called “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter” with the lyrics “welcome to my spaceship” and kinda looked around and felt like you were in a spaceship.

SF Bay EDM: Most memorable moment at a show?

Rob Garza: I remember one time coming off stage in San Diego. We were tired... I think we had gone like 3 or 4 nights in a row. I head out of the venue [...] and I see this couple and they’re like: “our first concert we came to was Thievery Corporation, we had such a fun time that I proposed to her right after and now we have a kid." So that was pretty wild, thinking of your day at work inspiring somebody to get married and have a kid. I guess that’s the power of music.

SF Bay EDM: You have any funny or embarrassing stories about Eric or your time on the road together?

Rob Garza: (laughs) what goes on on the road, stays on the road. What goes on on tour, stays on tour.

Well there you have it, folks. Rob Garza will be joining Croatia Squad, Polish Ambassador, and others to celebrate Halloween at The Armory for PHANTASM this weekend in his hometown of San Francisco.