What to Know about RPO

Amber Long

Musical master Rick Pier O’Neil gives us an inside view into his corner of the world.

If you have ever heard rumours about Rick Pier O’Neil locking himself up in his studio in the jungle, all day, every day, I can confirm, they are true. After spending some time with Rick, his lovely wife Annick and their boisterous dog, Cookie, I knew for a fact that RPO was a Transformer, more than meets the eye.

Don’t let the fact that his first Beatport release was in 2004 fool you. Rick Pier O’Neil is a veteran in the Underground music scene for decades now. When you hear the word TECHNO, very close beside it or around it, you are likely to find something RPO has produced. When you meet him, he is so jovial, a real joker and a story teller. He and Annick left us captivated with their stories of how the music scene used to be versus how it is now.

Originally from Marseilles, France, Rick has traveled all over the world, playing gigs and living in numerous countries. Currently, he lives in sunny Playa del Carmen in a Bed and Breakfast he built with his own hands. He is a chameleon, capable of blending into his surroundings so he can really stick out with his creativity.

Lucky for us here in Toronto, Tim Penner and Slideways is bringing RPO to Toronto this upcoming weekend [Event Page]. Amidst his preparation, he took some time out to answer a few questions about his journey, and that my friends it has been. Rick’s been a heavyweight in music since we were in primary school. RPO’s not messing around.

Some RPO Beatport Stats since November 2012 from Beatport Toptracker:

Releases #1:10
Tracks in Top 10: 2
Releases in Top 10: 35
Tracks in Top 100: 33
Releases in Top 100: 159

First, tell us how you started in music and when.

When I was a teen, my parents bought a club. I spent my nights with the Resident DJ. I started mixing simple parts. I started being the opener at the club and eventually became the Resident. I made my first studio when I was 16.

How were things different back then, compared to now?

Everything was different when I started. For production, there were no computers so that meant no plugins. We had to make huge financial investments to buy the gear, but it was also an investment of time, to learn how to use all the machines. We also needed a lot of space to set up studios. Now, you can produce in a little soundproof room (lol).

The end product was always made for vinyl. It was hard to get signed to labels because labels invested a lot of money into an artist without even knowing if they were going to be able to sell the release. Back in the day, a producer could live well off the royalties of their sales, even with Underground music. Pirating didn’t exist, really.

For the DJ, things changed dramatically too. I used to mix on turn tables that had nothing on them, no BPM, no information like today. The SYNC button was inexistent and it was a lot harder to learn to beat match. This required hours of work to master.

Do you prefer being a DJ or a Producer?

Depends on where I’m at in life.

What’s your studio like at home? Want to share some of your tricks?

I spend all day, every day in my studio making music. She is my soul sister.

I don’t have any special or favourite tricks, I just love to produce.

Can you share a crazy tour adventure with us? Where’s your favourite place to have played?

LOL… When you DJ, so many things happen that are crazy it’s hard to pick out the wildest. I have a lot of places I love to play but the Plazma a Plovdiv in Bulgaria will always be a special moment for me. But maybe the best is yet to come… LOL

How did you end up in Playa del Carmen?

My favourite place to be was in the Caribbean or Miami. After thinking if through, the beaches of Playa were calling us and we gave in.

You were highly successful in music first, then you built your own Bed and Breakfast in paradise. How did you do it?

Ah, the Bed and Breakfast… It was a crazy idea but why not? I had my studio on the property and I decided why not start renting to vacationers, since I was there already. It was an instant success, time has flown by and now it’s been 7 years since it opened.

Was this always a dream of yours?

Not at all but an interesting and different experience, for sure!

Your label, RPO Records, tell us its story. What do you look for in the music you sign?

After working for major labels for a long time, I decided to start my own label. I’m looking for a high quality of production in the tracks I sign and most important, the need to be UNDERGROUND.

You’re coming to Toronto Friday to play the Slideways party. What can we expect from RPO?

Hmmmmmm. I hope for a great night. Why shouldn’t this night be the wildest adventure yet?

And what about the future? What can we expect?

I hope to always be part of the underground scene. That’s what you can expect.

Unassuming, RPO is real. He doesn’t need a pile of words muddying up things, just listen to his music and all is communicated clearly. It’s dark, and it’s driving, it has melodic interludes made by a pioneer’s ear. But the person behind it all, you’ll come to know him as the quiet one in the corner, smiling coyly and totally dissecting the mix on the sound system, wherever he is.

It’d be cool to chronical the stories of RPO’s adventures from days gone by but better for us all to be creating new memories with him, for days to come. Yes, things have changed since Rick was setting up his first studio at the age of 16 but what hasn’t changed is how thirsty people are for good music. And this is one thing that RPO delivers, time after time after time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Rick. Our dancing shoes are ready for you in Toronto at Toula in the Westin Harbourcastle. On y va!!

RPO Links:


Listen Now: RPO Records Sessions