The HARDfather, Captain D, Destructo, the Pineapple Prince. He goes by many names, but whatever you call him, Gary Richards is the Head DJ in Charge of all HARD events, including Holy Ship!. If you want the good-good on what's in HARD's future, he's the guy to talk to.
The work he's put into that Bahamian festival cruise has taken him from humble promoter and opening DJ to one of the HARD family's biggest stars. His own headlining DJ sets on Holy Ship! 2015's January voyage were some of the most beloved of the long weekend.
"Doorly was telling me he thought he was at DC-10 [in Ibiza]," Richards tells us. "That's pretty good props."
The DJ/promoter/producer recently released the six-track West Coast EP, featuring tons of Cali rappers, including Problem, YG and Ty Dolla Sign. He played those tracks on the boat as a way to entice fans to join him on the upcoming Ship 2 Ship tour, kicking off at Output in Brooklyn on January 14, featuring fellow shippers Anna Lunoe, Motez, and T. Williams.
"I'm not gonna just whip out more stuff," Richards says. "I'm not one of those guys that just rips out songs every day. To me, it comes kind of slow, but I want to give them the time."
That's not to say he hasn't been putting in time at the studio. He's sitting on a new track, another cut featuring Problem, right now.
"We did this song called 'Winning,' and it's really dope," he says. "Right before I got on the boat he was like 'how do I get on this Holy Ship?"
Problem might be a special guest on February's sailing, joining hip-hop favorites DJ Mustard and Ty Dolla Sign, along with some others Richards isn't yet ready to mention by name. The growth of the hip-hop presence on Holy Ship!. On January's boat, there was a new hip-hop deck party in addition to the traditional Fool's Gold Rap Party. There might even be a G House Holy Ship! theme song on the way.
"When I was in the studio with Ty, he was singing this whole thing about how 'we riding on a holy ship,'" he says. "I need to get him here to see what's going on."
Richards talks about bringing people on the boat a lot. He's on a personal mission to share the Holy Ship! vibe with his family, friends, and the entire world. In its fourth year, his baby is a baby no longer. A whole micro culture has sprung to life at sea as well as on land. The #ShipFam network spans continents, languages, and musical genre preferences forming a virtual community of people who really stick together.
"Everybody on this boat is in it together for real," Richards says. "People always say that, but for real, they are. I see people who've had too much to drink and someone giving them water. Everybody is looking out for everyone. It's a real family vibe."
It's the vibe that has so many of the DJs coming back for more.
"I have my guys, like Boys Noize, A-Trak, Busy P, and Skrillex. I'll book those guys anywhere. If my son was having his bar mitzvah, I'd be like 'Sonny, come play,'" he jokes.
"Those dudes are my dudes. They're like family," he continues. "It's not a money proposition. It's more like 'hey, we wanna be a part of it.'"
That's how Guy Lawrence from Disclosure became last week's Ship secret guest. Richards was hanging with him in Australia a few months ago and mentioned that January's cruise still needed a proper special guest. The older Lawrence brother was happy to oblige.
The success of the two voyages in 2015 (both sold out months in advance) means you can expect two Ships from Miami in the coming years, and Richards said there's a good chance there will be a third sailing in the Mediterranean in September of 2016, and that could just be the beginning.
"We're just trying to get our ducks in a row about how to do that now," he says. "There's other markets, other places. Over 25 percent of people in this boat are from Australia and New Zealand. I go down there every year. I do the HARD stage at Stereosonic; we have a really good presence in Australia, it's kind of similar to California."
There's even a chance future Ships could be on the same boat, the 3,959-capacity MSC Divina.
"We could do it," says Richards. "This thing is built to go all around the globe."