Today we’d like to introduce you to Keekz aka Kenneth Rich.
Hi Keekz, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Greensboro, NC. I was the youngest of 3 brothers. I learned the basics of music as a choirboy in the Greensboro Boys Choir. My father was somewhat of an amateur guitar player, and I played around with his guitar sometimes.
I grew up listening wide variety to music. When I was 13, I got my first guitar, and by 14 I was playing in punk bands with several of my friends. My freshman year of high school, I took a class in Electronic Music for one semester, where I learned the basics of synthesizers and oscillation, as well as some early Digital Audio Workstation software, with programs like Cakewalk, Reason, and FruityLoops. Then, when I was 16, a good friend I met while playing in bands invited me over to his house where he had 2 Technique 1200 turntables, a mixer, and several milk crates of vinyl, ranging from hip hop and rnb to trance, house, jungle, and beyond. He taught me how to beatmatch hip-hop and jungle. I spent every free moment over the next two weeks at his house. I was dedicated. It was so beautiful to me: being able to make a completely different song out of 2 songs that already existed. I was hooked… and DNB & Jungle was my flavor.
In 2002, I started helping out with the shows, at first just promoting, flyers, helping with door, etc., I made a few mix-cds and shared them with my friends and other promoters, and started getting booked to DJ at shows. In 2005, for my 21st birthday, I (along with many friends) threw a real show. We flew in Ben Sage from Canada (one of my favorite hidden gem producers from that era) alongside several of my favorite NC local DJs and friends. We rented a fairly large club (for Greensboro) and had a great turnout, and the event was a great success. It made me so happy to see all my friends and people I didn’t even know having such a blast at something that I helped curate. Over the next few years, I played more shows and threw a few of my own. In 2008, I moved to Los Angeles with my then-girlfriend and two cats. We had a few friends that we knew from NC that had moved to LA and were somewhat connected in the DNB and Dubstep scene. They took us to events such as SMOG Sessions, PureFilth events, Respect DNB Thursdays, and more. I was introduced to a few promoters and played my first DJ gigs in L.A. at The Viper Room and the Key Club and in the Valley at “Touch Lounge Tuesdays” – which later evolved into the popular LA electronic music collective Big Booty Bass.
I was lucky to meet several people that I still call close friends today. I was also lucky to find work in television, working as a researcher for a clip-show production company creating content for TruTV. I’ve always been good with computers, and eventually they gave me a chance in Post-Production to learn how to be an Assistant Video Editor. I was quick to learn and soon I was the Lead Assistant Editor, but with that came long hours and limited me on how many music events I could attend. That paid off, and I started climbing the ladder of content I enjoyed working on. I eventually joined the Motion Picture Editors Guild and was lucky enough to work on shows such as Community, Children’s Hospital, Mystery Science Theatre, and many more. Gigs were becoming higher quality but less consistent, but I was able to afford the time out of work and was also allowed the opportunity to go out to more music events. In 2014, my friends Patrick and Corey asked me if I would like to go to Joshua Tree for a camp trip. I asked, “Should I bring some speakers and my CDJs?” Of course, they said “yes” – and I didn’t know then, but that was the moment CAMP TRiP was born. A few days later, we were in the desert with several of our close friends (and a couple of new ones) listening to music and telling stories by the fire.
There were maybe 20 people there… and it was so much fun, we decided to do it again a couple of months later. This time we brought a large wooden flat that we cut and painted into an ice cream truck to create a stage. We gave out free ice cream and played music for 72 hours with about 50 people. At the end, we burned the wooden ice cream truck, and in that moment my good friend Devan said “Should I just buy a step van and turn it into an ice cream truck?” and I said “Ha…. nah… you wouldn’t do that…” (spoiler: he did it). It was also at that 2nd CAMP TRiP, I met my now CT partners, Shawn, Gio, and Daniel. They were huge into stage production and lighting, and wanted to get involved for the next one. So a few months later, we took Devan’s new ice cream truck to Joshua Tree, and Shawn & crew brought out (big) speakers, lighting and truss to turn the parked ice cream truck into a living stage. Once again, we gave out free ice cream and played music for 72 hours. This time we had about 100 people in attendance. The events kept growing, in both production level and attendance. We started throwing events in warehouses and venues in the Los Angeles area, using the door profits to fund the rentals for the larger free events we threw in the desert. We started collaborating with several crews within the Los Angeles scene, showcasing talent from several different genres of music, as well as comedy and art.
The events were largely a success, but in 2016, we were warned by the Bureau of Land Management that even though the events were free, the equipment we were using on federal land was considered “commercial equipment” and that we would need to go through the permit and licensing process if we wished to continue having our events on those lands. That event had about 300 people. In 2017, we formed CAMP TRiP, LLC with 6 contributing members. Our goal has never been to make money, but we knew we would need to cover our backs once money got involved. We moved our event to private land; a legit Oasis 2.5hrs from Los Angeles. We knew that the safety of the guests should be our priority, so we paid for insurance, licensed medical staff, and rented a walkie talkie system so that our team could effectively communicate from all around the property. We also knew that if we were going to charge for tickets, the guests deserved a quality experience, so we agreed that we would wait until the very last minute to rent the stage gear and lighting, to ensure that we could get the best gear with the money we had from ticket sales. That September, along with help from some amazing souls in our community, we built 2 stages (one day, one night), an art gallery, workshop/comedy stage/tent and more. and Friday till Sunday we had an amazing time with about 450 people, plus 60+ of my favorite local music acts/friends.
There were meditation exercises, yoga classes, soundbaths and healing ceremonies, as well as games and even Disney Karaoke. Over the next couple of years, we continued throwing warehouse events and desert events at the Oasis. All along this time, I’ve continued making music and DJ’ing/performing at events. I’ve played events from San Diego to San Francisco such as Big Booty Bass, Respect Thursdays, Bassrush, Dystopia, We Love LA, Youtopia, Xcellerated, SD United By Bass, and even huge events like the Electric Daisy Carnival and Burning Man. I truly feel lucky to have had all of these chances and super grateful to have a great family of friends. In September of 2019, we entertained approx 650 people at our annual CAMP TRiP: Oasis event. There’s been an outpour of community support and creativity. It’s like we create the infrastructure, and the community decorates it and makes in glow. I feel like that’s the big difference between a festival of our size and a larger, more corporate “massive” event. You feel like a part of the event, not a customer. You know that your interactions, no matter how small, in some way directly affect your environment, so you’re more inclined to add to the picture than take away. I feel like it encourages people to come out of their shells, to evolve in a way. It really is a special thing.
In early 2020, I started discussing ideas of forming a record label with some of my closest friends, and with this year’s pandemic, timing seemed to line up perfectly for the birth of CAMP TRiP Records. There’s lots of amazing talent in the Camp Trip community, and we wanna provide the launchpad for them to shine. We also will be operating somewhat like a school. When someone sends us a track that isn’t quite up to our quality standard, we won’t just say “no” – we’ll say “Not yet” and then we will do our best to help provide the tools, tips, and guidance to bring their production to a higher level. I am in no way an expert, but I can at least share what I do know, and we have several other extremely intelligent and capable musicians within our scene that have also shown support and offered their time. I feel that the more we build each other up, the better it is for everyone. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been doing streams on Twitch, and while they are fun, I do really miss having actual events.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing good ever comes easy. It has definitely been an economic struggle, especially when we were hosting free events. It can also be somewhat of a headache booking the festival… There’s so much talent in our community, and we never want to leave anyone out. However, it’s always been such a rewarding feeling on the last day of the festival, when every performer has shown their stuff, and every attendee is beaming with happiness. There’s always some struggle that we have to overcome…. whether it’s getting the right wires for the stage lights or securing a shade structure with the wrong sized tarp… it’s those things that bring the community together to overcome the obstacles and establish a sense of pride for the experience we all helped create.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
By trade I am an Assistant Video Editor in the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild (Local 700). A somewhat incomplete listing of productions I have been a part of can be found here: www.imdb.com/name/nm3776258/. By passion I am a music writer, producer, performer, talent scout, record label owner, and event curator. I have been making music since 1997 and producing events since 2002. I have been running a freeform music podcast for several years now, called The Keekcast, with over 72 hours of content. I’m most proud of the work we have done with CAMP TRiP Events, as I truly feel that’s my best way to make a positive difference in this world. A fan made video of CAMP TRiP Oasis 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKFPnZ0R6CQ
As far as what sets me apart… I don’t feel I’m that much different. I feel like we are essentially all human. We have all taken a certain road to get us where we are. That doesn’t mean that one road is better than the other, or my experience should be valued more than anyone else’s. Everything I know, I have learned from someone else along the way, so I’m always willing to share that knowledge with anyone that wants to listen.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Pictures of kittens. Kitten snuggles. Synthesizers. Guitars. Peanut butter & chocolate. Large sound systems. Playing music on large sound systems during sunrise. Teaching.
- Email: Keekz@camptrip.org
- Website: www.camptrip.org
- Instagram: @dj_keekz also @camptripevent & @camptriprecords
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJKeekz/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs8_RShZcLEWgOauyOx-YEA
- SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/DJKeekz
Troy Conrad Ben Lin Tim Hungerford