With the countdown to the magical weekender that is Return to Rio entering its final stages, Rave Reviewz' Kamran Ahmed dropped in on festival director & chief dream-weaver Ricky Cooper for a catch-up…
RR: Ricky, not long to go til the main event! We know how hectic things must be, so thanks for taking the time to chat. How are the preparations going?
Ricky: Very well! We really want to go above and beyond this year, so we’re putting extra effort in to everything - the lighting, the scenery, the artwork… it’s all in the details.
RR: So the theme is outer space this year, how did that come about?
Ricky: It just developed from the artwork really - our artist started creating characters and we ended up with the space theme. It suits Rio because it does feel like another planet! We’ll have big inflatables suspended over the crowd… aliens, spacemen, a lobster.
RR: A space lobster??
Ricky: Yeah, well it has tentacles. I think it’s a lobster haha.
RR: Ha! Can’t wait to see it. You have a massive line up this year including Carl Cox & Eric Powell, Hoj, &ME. Who are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Ricky: Well, we actually have a special secret act closing the festival this year, I’m looking forward to them the most. We had already sold out when I was offered them, but I couldn’t say no because I’m a huge fan of the 90s rave scene. I can’t give too much away, but it will blow people’s minds!
RR: Ah, the suspense! You do have an interesting music policy at Rio… it’s mainly house, but then EZ was playing UK Garage last year, and this year you have drum ’n’ bass legends [Fabio & Grooverider](https://www.facebook.com/fabioandgrooverider/) playing on the Sunday. Why the variation?**
Ricky: All our artists play quality electronic music, but it gets boring if you have just the one style. I like the sound to progress through the day… it’s nice to hear someone like Soul Clap playing early on. And I don’t book any hard techno; I don’t think it suits the festival. I’d rather hear something melodic by the river - like Carl & Eric playing soul, funk, disco and classic house.
RR: The random acts of kindness philosophy has become a core element of the festival. What do you think that adds to the experience?
Ricky: Giving something unexpectedly just brings everyone together. I remember one year at Rio we had a long queue of people sitting in their cars waiting to get in, then I see this guy dressed as a waiter with a tray of tequila shots, going from car to car handing them out! It put a big smile on my face.
RR: And everyone else’s I bet! Now, if you could bring one artist to Return to Rio in the future who would it be?
Ricky: Hmm… probably Laurent Garnier. He’s brilliant. He’s playing in Australia this year so I might have a word with him!
RR: Do it! You must have been to many festivals yourself, which is your favourite apart from Rio?
Ricky: It would have to be Burning Man. I went in 2011 and loved everyting about it - the vibe, the gifting culture, the style of music. I also think Bestival in the Isle of Wight is great.
RR: Ok. You DJ yourself, what’s the most memorable set you’ve ever played?
Ricky: Well I played a 6hr set on the main stage at Rio last year. That was really special because I don’t usually get to play at my own festival, I’m too busy running around!
RR: Last question… Rio has firmly established itself as a success at a time when a lot of other festivals are folding. What do you put that down to?
Ricky: The atmosphere, I think. It’s small and personal, and a lot of the tickets are sold by hand so there are usually only a few degrees of separation between people who come to it. Everyone is a friend of a friend, which makes it feel like a family. The dressing up adds to the sense of community too - everyone gets involved!
RR: Well, we’ll be getting heavily involved ourselves. See you there mate.