We catch up with the Jordanian producer whose prog-tinged sounds have been gracing some of the world's finest deep house labels on a regular basis
Anyone who follows the deep house scene - by which we mean the real deep house scene, not the pop-dance froth peddled under that name on Ministry and Hed Kandi compilations - should be well aware of Rishi K by now. Over the past few years, the San Francisco-based producer has racked up a long string of releases on and remixes for (deep breath) Nite Grooves, UM Records, Endemic Digital, Incepto Deep, Savoir Faire Musique, Ready Mix Records, Deep Site Recordings, Cosmic Disco, Haute Musique and Headset Recordings. In fact, his production CV reads like a Who's Who of underground deep house imprints.
What's more, Rishi's is a very distinctive sound that frequently takes the soulful, bumpin' west coast deep house blueprint and gives it a light twist of melodic prog, such that you'd be as likely to hear a Rishi K production in a set by James Zabiela as in a set by Mark Farina. It's this ability to cross sub-genre divides that makes us think you'll be hearing a lot more from Rishi for years to come.
And that being the case, we figured it was time to have a proper chat...
First of all, tell us a bit about your personal background. You're from Jordan... how did you come to move to San Francisco?
"I was born in Jordan, and lived there until second grade when my family moved to England. I lived in Wimbledon for four years and moved back to Jordan until university, when I lived in Montreal for four years.
"After moving back to Jordan I was engaged to a beautiful woman, but things didn't work out. Heartbroken, I decided to move to San Francisco to start fresh and pursue my dream of being a musician and sharing music with the world."
At what age did you start making music? Were you producing dance tunes from the get-go, or did you start out on piano/guitar/another instrument?
"My first instrument was a clarinet, which I learned to play in middle school. After a few years of taking lessons and learning music theory, I moved on to guitar in sixth grade. I was in a heavy metal band for three years and we played a few gigs in high school. It wasn't until moving to San Francisco that I took a class in electronic music production and begun to go digital."
Are you currently DJing as well as producing, or are you concentrating on studio work?
"I do two mixes a month: Sonic Soul Sessions which is my radio show, and one guest mix. As for live DJing, the scene is pretty competitive in San Francisco but I DJ once every few weeks with my friends in Sacremento."
Looking back 10-15 years ago, SF was something of a 'world centre' of deep house music. Is the scene still strong, locally, or has the zeitgeist moved on, do you think?
"The deep house scene in and around San Francisco is still strong compared with many other cities. However, as I said, it's very competitive and there's not much room for newcomers like myself to be heard. That's the only downside, but yes, deep house is very much alive in San Francisco."
Unusually for a deep house producer, you're also a lover of progressive house and trance - I've seen your Facebook wall! Which came first, for you?
"Love this question! As you know, back in the day when the dance music scene exploded in the late 90s, there wasn't such a big delineation between genres of house music. Therefore I used to go to raves and clubs and simply love all of it. However, as time progressed I definitely found that the energy and emotion in trance was my main love. It still is today, if I'm completely honest, but like all genres, most tracks are mediocre in my opinion, with the few gems really being special. I listen to trance for inspiration.
"My intention was to be a trance DJ when I first begun my journey as a producer. However I soon realised that the style of production was very challenging, especially for a beginner, so I focused on deep house because I was getting my deeper tracks signed to labels. Over time I began to appreciate deep house more and more, and today I have no regrets - I'm very happy to continue to make deep house as I enjoy the process and am always learning. I think that enjoying making music is the most important element in production.:
Is it fair to say that over time, the 'proggy' elements of your music have been dialled back a bit? If so, do you ever get the urge to make more progressive-type sounds still?
"Yes, that's a fair comment. The reason is I felt more accepted in the deep house community and so I decided to focus on the deeper sounds. The progressive and trance world, to me at least, feel more competitive, which turns me off a little. However, I have no qualms about changing a deep house track into a progressive track if it happens naturally during the creation process. I also love challenging people's perception of music by creating music that blends deep with progressive."
Tell us a little bit about your studio setup...
"I have a simple setup in my bedroom. It's a Dell laptop with Ableton Live and a slew of soft synths including Sylenth, Omnisphere, Predator, Nexus, Subboom Bass and many more. As for hardware, I own a Polar Virus and a Novation Unltranova. Even though the external synths are cool, I find using software synths much more convenient, and at the end of the day I think that synths are all fairly similar (at least the way I use them) so I generally use software synths.
"My favorite two are Sylenth, because it doesn't tax the CPU much and is simple yet elegant, and Omnisphere - it's heavy on the CPU, but the sounds it makes are simply incredible!"
What have you got coming up release-wise that people need to know about?
"I've just had a new EP come out on Nite Grooves which I'm particularly excited about. Another release I'm excited about is a single on my label which should be released sometime in December or January, with some incredible remixes. I also have releases lined up on labels such as Daylight Robbery, Society 3.0, I! Records, Spring Tube, UM Records, Deep Clicks and more. Last but not least, I'm honoured to be working on a remix for Spiritchaser to be released on his Guess Records very soon!"
What else does the world need to know about Rishi K?
"Oh God, I'm not sure the world needs to know anything else really! But for good measure I will say that I'm generally quiet, introspective and sensitive. I don't have many friends, but the ones I do have I treasure. I love surfing, prefer winter over summer and have a bit of a phobia about using public restrooms. And I think a lot - sometimes maybe too much for my own good."
The Psyonica and Paint The Sky EPs are out now on Deep Clicks and Nite Grooves, respectively.