We had the good fortune of connecting with Rikki Jean and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rikki, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My entire life has always revolved around music. I was raised listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, Ozzy Ozborne, etc,. One of my fondest memories is riding around with my dad in his old Jeep Wrangler, blasting Enter Sandman, which became one of my all-time favorite songs and biggest inspirations. The way Kirk Hammett raged his riff in Enter Sandman always gave me chills- still does to this day. This sparked my taste for the heavier side of music- I soon got into bands like Korn, Slipknot, Godsmack, Disturbed. I am from Chandler Arizona, right next to Chandler Fashion Center, which at the time was a rough area. I met a lot of kids who had similar struggles to me and even had the same musical interests as me. We would always listen to music in our friend Devon’s garage, always talking about starting a Blink-182 cover band. I wanted to be a bassist so badly but I had zero musical background. I was always crate-digging for new music to fill my playlist, it was my favorite pastime. I was about 13 when I discovered electronic music through some internet friends I met on Myspace. I Feel Like Dying by DJ Italian Sensation, a distorted euphoric hardstyle track, was the first of my many findings. Once I started going down the rabbit hole of this new concept, the rest was history. I had started attending underground events and meeting veterans of the electronic scene. My love for electronic music grew tremendously, I even picked up DJing and music production while I was entering my first year of college. Music is the most important aspect of my life, it has taught me so much about myself. It has gotten me through my darkest times, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today without it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Honestly, when I first started my DJ/producing career I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. One time in college, a boy told me I needed a hobby because I wasn’t utilizing my free time enough. I decided to download Virtual DJ and some bunk DAW I found on google and started putting in work. At the time, I was regularly attending Relentless Beats festivals and was so inspired by everything I saw. I wanted to be that girl on stage changing music lover’s lives and making them dance. I started putting myself out there a little more after dropping out of college, I was able to make and release my first experimental bass track under my original alias, Kodama. Looking back on that track now I laugh a little because it was so terrible, but I am thankful for that experience. A few weeks after that release, I got the news that I was chosen for the Relentless Beats 2016 Global Dance DJ Competition. Though I was absolutely in shock and stoked, I was terrified. I had never DJ’d in front of a crowd and being it was a competition freaked me out. I did horrible, I came in dead last because I train wrecked the whole time. Do I regret it? Absolutely not, it was a wonderful learning experience. Another few weeks pass by and I find out I am pregnant, leaving me no choice but to not follow through with my music school plans. I truly thought that my short-lived music career was done for, little did I know that I was wrong. In early 2019, I connected with my friend Robby who offered to mentor me and help me grow. He gave me so much insight and knowledge about music, I was no longer afraid to let go and ride the wave. I rebranded due to copyright issues, which is when we came up with Rikki Jean. I was playing house music and started getting more gigs. Towards the end of 2019, I realized that my heart truly lied with techno. I got better and better and found my passion and drive again, techno was the light I was searching for. 2020 comes around and the world becomes a mess, but for some reason, it has been the best thing to happen to my music career. I was playing so many big live streams during the quarantine, I even played my first international gig which aired in England on June 12th. I found hope in the midst of a pandemic- that’s what really made me realize I should never give up on this dream. None of this has been easy, ever. I have struggled with self-doubt and doubt from others within the scene. Being a female in a male dominant industry is truly eye-opening because you are typically perceived as “just another girl”. There was one point where I was on the verge of giving it all up, I felt like I would never be good enough to go anywhere. I had to constantly remind myself to stand tall and stay strong. I wanted to prove everyone who has ever doubted me wrong, and I made a promise to myself to never give up no matter what roadblocks stand in my way. This journey has shown me what I am capable of, what I stand for, and what I truly want in life. My mom always told me when I was a kid that I was “made for the stage and performing in front of a crowd”, she was right. I am my happiest when I am on stage seeing people dance to the music I’m spinning. I’ve come a long way, from experimental bass and now to techno, I wouldn’t change any of my experiences.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have been waiting for this question for so long! I would first take them to breakfast at Fàme Cafe, they seriously have the best breakfast sandwiches in the valley. We would probably hit up the Botanical Garden or the Phoenix Zoo, I am a huge advocate for conservation and nature. Lunch would probably have to be at Nando’s Mexican Cafe or The Living Room. I would take them to Downtown Phoenix the rest of the day where we would explore on electric scooters (my dream because I’ve never been on one). We would hit up Dvina Modern Fare in the Roosevelt district for dinner and cocktails, I would show them all the nightlife wonders downtown has to offer- Dvina, Barsmith, Cobra. If they were here for multiple days, I would take them up north to see Sedona and my favorite camping spot at the Edge of the World. I would introduce them to Dvina’s crew and the Techno Snobs. I have traveled A LOT and I still would choose to live in Arizona.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to shout out Robert Lafayette aka 2SOON. He believed in my musical journey when no one else did. He is my mentor and best friend who has taught me almost everything I know. The Rikki Jean brand would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for him. My mom also deserves a lot of recognition. She has always supported this crazy dream and passion without doubting my capabilities. When I dropped out of ASU to attend Audio Engineering school, she did not question my decision once. I know you hate techno, mom, but thank you for always being my number 1 fan.
Photo creds: Tyler Rittenhouse & Sydney Alexis Photography
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