Rhyot returns to the Summer Sessions mix series for another round and gives us some insight into his journey as an artist.
From releasing impressive tunes on labels like Understated @ Nite and Heist Mode, to launching his imprint Emercive with the mission of highlighting other talented artists, Rhyot has only continued to prove his dedication to electronic music over the past decade. In 2021, the Toronto-based artist delivered a number of techno-fueled tracks for the masses to consume. While he’s remained fairly quiet on the release front this year, he’s spent time finding balance and preparing for the future while also returning to the US for some shows back in June.
Last summer, Rhyot gifted us with a dark, twisted ride as the world began to open back up – and now he’s returned for another stunning mix that adds another chapter while showcasing his tastemaking and dynamic abilities behind the decks. Additionally, he sat down with us to candidly discuss everything ranging from his recent reflections as an artist to the happenings with Emercive.
Listen to this exclusive guest mix from Rhyot and read on to find out more about his journey as an artist so far and the story behind his label, Emercive.
Stream EDMID Summer Sessions 2022 || Rhyot on SoundCloud:
Hey Rhyot, much like the past few years, this one has been a bit of a roller coaster as well. How have you been holding up in 2022?
Grant, Grant – hello, friend! Well, we’ve definitely been on our share of loopy thrills the last few years. I think while 2022’s been a monster of its own geopolitically and socially, the individual experience has been very much like a walk down the ramp after the rollercoaster got stuck upside down and warranted a rescue team to get as many people as possible back to solid ground. It’s been a year of taking assessments, reflecting, and looking ahead strategically. In short – eh, yeah, generally things are alright! Just finding my footing again.
You recently tweeted out that you’re quitting your bartending job to find a better life balance. What prompted that decision? Does that mean you’ll be spending more time in the studio and playing shows?
Ah yeah – it might be cooler of me to pretend I don’t have to work a “day job” from the classic music brand character standpoint, but I actually wish industry people were generally more open about reality topics such as this. So here we go. The short version is that I was in a rather consuming role that left very little of myself for myself at the day’s end, so generally, yes, I’m more available for music now.
Bit of backstory: My first service or hospitality job was in 2005, and I was bussing tables in a fine Italian spot in the little New England town I grew up in. I had zero intention of spending much time in restaurants going forward, but as the years went on, college came and went, I moved around the East Coast, and through immigrating to Canada even, I found that type of work to be typically more flexible than other capacities, especially when it comes to booking time off. Classic lower/middle-class dichotomy; requiring money but seeking freedom. That said, retail and hospitality jobs sometimes suck, and it was not a rare occasion that I would be dealing with unreasonable customers or working under micromanaging leadership I disagreed with, contested, or ended up ego-fired by.
I have nothing but love for everyone working ground-level service jobs… they learn to tolerate a lot of bullshit with grace. So, straight up, if it weren’t for the higher base wage in Ontario versus almost every state in the US, I would have likely been done when I moved here a few years ago, but serving, bartending, or managing had been a reliable fallback after sending off dozens of “real job” applications to no response. On the upside, in Toronto, I have been able to earn more (with gratuities included) than almost any entry-to-mid level corporate job would pay (adjusting for taxes) while only working four days per week, saving one day for recovery and two days for productivity on stuff I actually care about.
Then came the pandemic’s strict lockdowns, which caused widespread unemployment across the industry, and as that era faded off earlier this year, I accepted a bartending job at, perhaps poetically, yet another fine Italian restaurant. This one was recently launched and growing rapidly (not without challenges) but carried a lot more work than I was ultimately willing to take on. I had been fully running the bar – inventory, menus… every aspect – and at 40-50 hours across five to six days in the week, slinging cocktails for roughly 220 seats. The flexibility that allowed some of my previous jobs to work out simply wasn’t there. I was frequently burning out, and I admittedly fell into going out even later and drinking many nights after work.
Actually, what I really needed was a few days away in LA, staying with my younger brother and playing music with friends. We hardly slept, but it was a super grounding break for me. As soon as I got back to Toronto and walked into my first shift back at work, I knew immediately that changes needed to be made. It took a few weeks and an absurd amount of time on LinkedIn, but I did score a remote role doing something a bit more dull, and left on good terms though I have no desire to go back to hospitality, personally. Being free from 15-hour bar shifts while regaining my nights, weekends, and holidays has definitely helped me find a better balance both of time and of mind, and I’ve been a lot more productive in my studio since.
Back in June, you made your way to Los Angeles to play the HEIST MODE showcase that took place. What was your experience like coming back to the US for that gig and being in SoCal for a bit?
First off, massive thanks to Barbosa for bringing me out and to all of the friends who I was able to catch up with during the brief time I was in LA, at the shows or otherwise. I flew in direct from Toronto on a Thursday, played the Friday night at 3 AM (Saturday technically) with the crew at FALLOUT which was a super rad cyberpunk event, and then opened up the HEIST MODE event Saturday before taking a Sunday night red-eye back home, so the schedule was busy but short-lived.
If I’m honest, my favourite part of coming back to SoCal is teaming up with my younger brother for almost every minute of the trip, followed of course by music and seeing friends again (funny to have so many in a city I’ve never lived in, isn’t it?). After the unexpectedly long stay last summer, short and sweet was the best plan this lap around, but I always enjoy the experience of visiting LA. It can be challenging elsewhere to find stages or events where my style fits in, for now, but I’ve been generally well-accepted each time out there which has been great.
It’s been a fairly quiet year on the release front for you. Do you have plans to drop any new tunes in the coming months, or are you honing in on some releases in 2023?
This is an interesting one, because while I agree that it has been quiet, it’s a little bit apples to oranges. I’ve been hoarding music, yes. I don’t feel much pressure to be releasing tracks at the moment, so much as having them ready for sets and mixes. In some circles, performers might play 75-100% of their own records, so it’s important that they keep the sets and shows fresh; in some, they play much less their own but still release frequently to feed a sort of community record pool (a la techno). Then there’s where I’m at – wherever that is. I’ll make loads of live edits of tracks I enjoy playing out from other artists across the spectrum of dark electro and use them to build a context for my own music, but as for now, I’m not really monopolizing set lists with Rhyot tracks. I’ll aim for 50% toward next year, which seems like a nuanced balance.
While I do have my own imprint to release on at will, Emercive, I’m opting at the moment to hold on to IDs as a sort of ammo for the right targets, keeping an eye out for an appropriate home that could help to reach a wider audience, and ideally, get booked on for more event lineups. (It’s helpful having unreleased tracks in-store while browsing for prospective artist management, as well.) Some artists favor making music to playing shows, and while I have things to say and ideas to convey in my music, I’m a bit inverse to the former. Live energy is what ultimately keeps me motivated.
I may drop an EP before the year’s end – not sure. The overall strategy is aimed more so at 2023 with a direction toward events and leveraging releases for that goal. I will say that keeping the booth in mind while producing has been helpful creatively, whereas I’ve gone a bit far in the direction of making “headphones tracks” in the past if you know what I mean by that.
How have you balanced your career as a DJ while also running Emercive? Have you felt like this has been lopsided at times?
This is a solid question that took time to come to sense about. I’ve been DJing since 2011, producing since 2013, and I launched Emercive at the end of 2017 with a debut in early 2018. Very much an artist’s first kind of drive. Initially, I was still in the States, preparing for the move north, and had a lot of time at my disposal, but I also was at an impasse with my music and full of frustration in reaching labels, so, viola, enter Emercive. It’s truly for artists by artists, with perhaps the friendliest release contracts possible.
I grabbed a few friends who were also in the earlier phases of releasing music. We did Converge Vol. 1, and although it was a small project, our social circles paid some attention and showed a fair amount of support. Seven months after that, Converge Vol. 2 came out, an expansion from five tracks to 10, and 14 months after that was CV3 with 19. The catalogue had ballooned from having distributed five artists to 26 in a short time. One such label that had “inspired” me to launch Emercive was actually emailing their compilation roster with chart screenshots encouraging them to push promotion harder toward Beatport because their release was trailing ours. It was a neat moment. That was December 2019.
Following that, many of the artists on the roster seemed to be holding out music for the future Converge installments, though my goal was to build individual release support more so than once per year all-in comp albums, which require an insane amount of time to properly put together, by the way. From start to finish, CV3 needed six months from me, and 12/19 tracks were mastered in-house. It was sentimentally worth the efforts, no doubt, though not very sustainable.
I wanted to source and push individual EPs to showcase artists one by one, and that was the strategy for 2020, but an issue came about when we weren’t seeing residual audience retention to follow the big releases, meaning, Converge would do well, but most else in between went quietly into the maelstrom of the internet. Our active roster was spread globally, a few people had retired from music or gone dark, and yeah, it was COVID, so even planning label events was off the table.
All the while, I had definitely been avoiding the fact that I was neglecting my own music projects, save for a few releases here or there, and eventually, come 2021, I felt the label had taken its own identity while I had mine, and that the gap between was widening further, becoming too varied to manage by myself sensibly, but not comfortable with turning it over to someone else. As such, I made the tough call of essentially putting a hold on Emercive and taking it “dormant,” as it is currently.
Looking back, I’m incredibly proud of every artist I’ve had the pleasure of working with, but truthfully I had begun to feel guilty about it, in that. I believed they were of the caliber to step upward and onward and have better chances of realizing their own unique goals on larger labels that could give wider reach to their music. A kick out of the nest, so to speak. All in all, I would say the original mission of creating an artist-centric launchpad was accomplished, and many have grown immensely since their Emercive debuts – love to see it. I do have the intention of reviving the label in some form someday, but there’s a lot of work to be done on my part as Rhyot before taking the helm once again.
Finally, what goals do you hope to achieve in the remainder of 2022 and next year?
This has been a big year for me personally to get back to where I needed to be in “real life” to be at my best for music again. Loads of introspection and self-exploration, it’s not always enjoyable, but it’s honest and constructive. The last few years left a mess to be cleaned, so with that mostly tended to, I can definitely say I’ve been writing lately what I think is my best work to date, albeit quietly. The current strategy should hopefully see an increase of live shows for next year and, with that, releases sprinkled throughout.
Each time over the last year or so that I’ve reached out to a mentor figure for evaluation, I’m met with kind of an empty critique… sort of a ‘yeah, you’re there, just need to get plugged into the right places and with the right people.’ There’s a double edge in driving my sound and style to a form that isn’t well exposed in the industry, though I enjoy it for myself, even if it’s not very popular.
I like to think I’m presenting an energy that’s new to today’s audiences – “disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed,” right? It’s less about any specific genre or subgenre but more of a mood, generally dark and gritty. This sort of versatile cyberpunk, industrial, electro, whateverthefuck style I’m building within is a shit ton of fun and fully evokes the passion I had for rock music as a teen, but as I said, trying to find a solid label, or manager, or event, or whatever that’s open to it sucks (I have a few leads to follow though). I do think it’ll have its day on festival stages; it’s just a matter of time. Until then, thanks to you, Grant, and to EDM Identity for giving me a platform to share!
In closing, the summation of a lot of this is… follow your gut, fuck the pressure, find yourself, and be yourself. I’m out for now – No Mana’s in town, and there’s trouble to be made. See ya!