(UK-Birmingham) I'm Steve Riggs. A Producer, Composer, Engineer, DJ, Live Act and Music Production Mentor from Birmingham, U.K. I’ve been producing for 18 years and have covered many different genres, under many different names.
My main production name at the moment is dharkfunkh, focusing on the deeper side of tech house, deep house and techno. Under this name, I have had releases on labels such as Suara, Nervous Records, OFF Recordings, Glasgow Underground, Pacha, Interscope, Bunny Tiger, Milk & Sugar and Kevin Saunderson’s KMS Records and have had tracks featured on over 100 albums on Beatport.
I have engineered tracks for many artists that have been signed to labels such as Sony, Perfecto Records, Armada, Cr2, Ministry of Sound, Black Hole Recordings and many more. I have also remixed for deadmau5, Yolanda Be Cool, Robbie Rivera & Preditah which have been supported on BBC Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra and Capital FM.
Previous gigs as dharkfunkh include the legendary Tresor in Berlin, Ritter Butzke in Berlin, Trackside on the Moonlight 2 at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 and Sankeys Manchester as well as many dates in the Ibiza and UK scene.
I discovered electronic dance music in 1997, bought some turntables and got myself a vinyl addiction, and soon began DJ’ing in clubs in 1998. I started collaborating with friends at their studios working on tracks. This led to me wanting to learn the software and methods myself so I could make and play my own electronic music. I have been producing using DAWs since 2000. Originally starting on Music 2000 on the Playstation, I quickly moved on to using Reason once I had more of an understanding of the workflow. I started using Cubase then in around 2003 and started my own record label. I carried on churning out tracks and collaborating with other producers and then started a second sub-label in 2005. This then landed me a couple of residencies at large U.K club nights pushing my dj’ing career forward. I started getting tracks licensed to compilation albums and signed to larger labels and started playing overseas gigs where I would play full sets of my own productions. During the week when I wasn’t dj’ing, I would be working on new solo material, collaborations and engineering tracks for friends and other artists at my home studio, and working on my own metal band side project recording demos tracking guitars, bass, vocals and electronic V-drums.
After a couple of years of this and starting yet 3 more vinyl labels, I wanted to move things forward and start working on a solo electronic live show. I set myself the challenge of using only hardware and no computers. I also wanted to incorporate live guitars into the underground hard dance tracks I was working on. I built myself a live rig using 2 x Korg Electribes (1 EMX and 1 EMS) as the main sequencers and MIDI clocked everything using a Steinberg Midex 8 through a Nord Rack 2, Roland JP 8000, Roland JP 8080, Korg Kaoss Pads, a Roland SP 505 sampler and an original Korg Electribe ES-1 for extra samples and finally a BOSS GT-10 pedal for my live guitars. All of this ran through a Yamaha 01V digital mixer that I would send the master output of to front of house and then mix my own levels live onstage myself as I performed. I toured with this setup for a while and also started working on more electro house productions under a new name when I was back at home, still juggling engineering full time.
In 2009 I started my own club night which started to take off in my home town so I then decided to work on a fresh new live show for that. In an attempt to make things simpler this time round, I opted for using Ableton Live as the main sequencer along with MIDI controllers, guitars, synths, effect units and live vocals as the core setup. I had recently just made the switch over from Cubase to Ableton in the studio and liked the idea of being able to convert tracks from a studio production into a live set a lot easier, instead of having to manually record in and edit every single one shot and loop into samplers and rebuild everything else from scratch in the Korg EMX’s drum/synth engine to resemble the tracks I originally made in Cubase like before with my old purely hardware setup. This is where I started digging deeper into Ableton and its live looping features. The more ‘jamming’ approach of improvising, playing and constructing live on the fly crossed over to the studio when I was producing. Instead of the usual 'copy and paste along a timeline' method, I could now play drum pads and keys into midi clips and record audio onto clips to sketch ideas down in its session view and keep the track looping while coming up with more layers and recording in new parts keeping the creative flow going. I map any device parameter I want to automate onto the rotaries of the Akai APC40 mk2 so I can instantly try out different combinations of filter sweeps, reverb/delay swells or any other effects, live as the track is playing. Once the main section of a tune has been sketched out and is looping on a scene in the session view, I then deconstruct it and trigger the clips live while recording onto the timeline to get a rough version of an arrangement printed, bringing in elements one by one trying out different arrangement ideas. I've stuck to this method since and tweaked the workflow swapping out equipment and plugins as things have evolved.
Through 2009/2010 I moved my studio to a complex in the city centre. I worked briefly as a mentor for the ‘Access to Music’ programme in Birmingham helping students with their tracks giving production and mixing advice. I also started a new band project where I wrote all of the material, lyrics and played lead guitar and vocals. We fused our core Metal sound with samples and synths running through Abelton with a click track sent to the drummer to keep everything locked in sync. Our first gig was a headline slot on the Area 51 stage at the 25th Anniversary of The Bulldog Bash.
I also continued dj’ing through this time and took my club night brand to Ibiza where a handful of my resident dj’s and I did a mini tour over the space of 11 days playing at Es Paradis, Kanya, Viva, Babylon, Orange Corner and a few other venues before returning back to the U.K ready for my upcoming events in Birmingham and to finish working on my tech house / techno artist album that I was collaborating on with a friend under the alius' BaD WoLF and Daren Love. This got released on Carl Cox’s ‘one to watch’ label of 2010, Mad Hatter Recordings, and was my first full artist album release.
Continuing to produce and add new genres to my eclectic list of projects through the next couple of years eventually came around to starting the dharkfunkh project at the start of 2012. Early projects were picked up by a large German deep house and tech house label where I soon got taken on as in-house producer for their artists and also as the labels A&R scout. I also engineered a sample pack for the label boss over the course of 6 months which was released on Sounds2Sample and reached number 1 in their sales chart on the week of release. Shortly after this, another track I produced for an artist on this label reached number 1 in the Beatport Deep House chart and Number 5 in the overall Beatport in December 2012. This led onto more high profile artists being added to my engineering client list and more overseas dj gigs starting to come in. Tresor and Ritter Butzke in Berlin, Sankeys Manchester, a 2 week tour of Ibiza and then trackside at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 were the big milestone gigs before I decided to take some time off from the dj’ing and get back to the studio full time to work on new solo material, collaborations and experimenting with a new live project.
As my solo tracks and collaborations started to get signed to bigger A-list labels such as Interscope, Nervous Records and Suara, I started getting approached to do official remixes for artists including deadmau5, Yolanda Be Cool, Robbie Rivera and Preditah. My engineering projects saw me producing remixes and collaborations for Kylie Minogue and Boy George through a regular studio client. Through this time, I also helped out doing A&R for 2 other labels finding them new talent.
In mid 2016, I started work on my first solo sample pack for Zenhiser samples. Between the summer and its release in November 2016, I put together an extensive techno and tech house sound library that ended up being their largest sample pack to date, weighing in at 29GB. The pack, entitled ‘Insomnia Sessions' consisted of a collection of painstakingly recorded live field recordings, a mixture of synthesised and sampled processed drum one shots, original drum loops and custom made bass and synth one shots and loops, alongside 10 full length songs all split down into individual stems made into construction kits for producers to pull apart and work into their own tracks.
I signed a publishing contract with Notting Hill Music / 23rd Precinct at the end of 2016 and started writing and pitching tracks for artists on their network. This covers everything from Japanese and Korean pop artists to placements in tv adverts. As well as still engineering and producing, I started teaching music production online using a remote access streaming program that allows me to screen share HD video and audio to clients while working in realtime with 2 way mics and video conferencing and mouse sharing. My sessions are tailor made to suit the level of experience of the client and fit around exactly which aspects of music production they want to focus on learning. Sessions can also be recorded and uploaded to the client for them to refer back to at any point after the conference call session is over.
In summer 2017, a friend and I had the idea of making a Christmas record. The main objective was to make a classic sounding Christmas song that would work in line with todays pop music sound, so we teamed up with a group of 4 other songwriters and musicians and wrote, recorded and produced the track. After working with Abbey Road Studios on the final mixing and mastering, we finally finished the track mid October. Following much talk of where we should send it to release, we decided to start our own label and promote and release it ourselves. With October being quite late to start putting out a pop song in time for Christmas, we still managed to get it play listed on 23 radio stations, used at many light switch-on events and parades across the U.K and took part in a few promotional radio interviews. We plan to pitch it to tv adverts and films for the coming years.
Over the 2017 holidays until now, around my usual engineering jobs, production tutorials and solo tech house productions, I’m currently working on producing a wide variety of tracks and video trailers for all genres of video games and film that I intend to pitch as soundtracks to companies in the industry. My completed tracks so far are a hybrid of epic orchestral and electronic music aimed at the war/stealth/shooter/adventure genre and I have many other styles and genres planned for the coming months projects.
Rates: $500 per song for Track Engineering. $45 an hour for tutorials (Max 2 hour sessions at a time)
Gear: Ableton Live, Cubase, Maschine, Native Instruments Komplete 10 Ultimate, Slate Digital Everything Bundle, Soundtoys Plugins, Trillian, Serum + more
Styles: Rock, Metal, Electronic
(message instructor for details)
Mixing (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) Ableton (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
Cubase (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) Editing (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) Sound Design (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
Custom Classes (Set Creation w/Ableton, Live Performance Techniques, Songwriting Techniques, Lyric Writing Structures)