The Enlightened Nerd: Music Producers Humans


The Enlightened Nerd is a column designed to enlighten the inner nerd in all of us through local whimsical and intellectual events, people, and places. Know a nerdy person, event, place, or thing in Vancouver? Send it in here or tweet it to @karolinakay_ (#theenlightenednerd)!

Source:, photo by Lauren Zbarsky
Peter Ricq and Robbie Slade, photo by Lauren Zbarsky

Robbie Slade and Peter Ricq are the undeniable talent and high-energy behind Humans, a Vancouver-based indie electronic pop duo. The engaging pair is known for their live-act performances and their rhythmically catchy and genre-ambiguous tunes. They’ve been producing music together since 2010 and they’re currently on tour across North America promoting their latest addictive EP “Water Water” with plenty of music festival appearances sprinkled along the way. With one of my favourite electronic and hip hop music summer festivals coming up, Fvded in the Park, where Humans will be performing, it was a prime time to interview them and find out more about the nerdy aspects of music production and performance.

Q: First off, what is the nerdiest thing about you guys?
A: We love movies; We talk a lot about film, especially during long drives.

I, Peter, just released a graphic novel called Once Our Land. I’ve created a bunch of animated TV shows for kids. I read comics, I finished reading one recently called Punk Rock Jesus which was amazing. The art and story is by one of my favourite artists, Sean Murphy. It’s about a guy that makes a clone of Jesus and starts a reality show about him and CGs in miracles so people think he’s the real deal. Eventually, Jesus turns into a punk rock kid. It’s brilliant.

Q: Do you consider producing beats “nerdy” in any way?
A: Yes, it can totally be nerdy. But anyone who exceeds at doing something they love must become a nerd. You need to devote hours upon hours of your time to get to a point where you can consider yourself a professional. Mixing is a skill, producing is a skill and playing is a different skill altogether. If you want to be good at all those things, you have some work to do.

Q: Is it true that you guys use real instruments in your songs over digital samples? How does that work when you are performing live?
A: Yes, most of the time we do. We enjoy the process and feel that we can now afford to do it over many instruments and it sounds better and better.

When we play live, we just sample the stem from the recording and find the gear that can emulate it the closest.

Q: How do your live sets work exactly? What’s the set up like? How tech-savvy do you have to be for this?
A: It’s getting more complicated over the years. We started with an mc-505 and an EsX-1 sampler. Now we have a ton of gear. If you watch the “Tell Me” video, you can see most of the set up in the beginning of the video where the puppet is jamming a track called “Carolina Georgia.” You need to be tech-savvy for sure because every piece of gear has it’s own learning curve but you just learn one piece at a time.

Q: Is your set up the same throughout your touring? Have you ever encountered any technical difficulties?

A: Shit happens. We always try to make the best of it. Sometimes a piece of gear doesn’t work and there are a couple tracks we have to put aside until we figure it out. The sets are always a little different, if not a lot different.

Q: Tell me what to expect for your upcoming set at Fvded in the Park this weekend.
A: We started doing mixed DJ sets with live vocals for our own tracks during big festivals. It makes more sense because when doing a live set, it’s important to do a sound check and make sure everything is aligned properly, cables, gear and all. Live checks are tough because you don’t have the time to do any of that and you’re just hoping for the best. Also, when DJing, all the tracks sound exactly the way you intended them to be, and you can also have fun mixing in other songs and share with the audience something different.

Humans can be caught getting nerdy this long weekend at Fvded in the Park, which takes place at Holland Park, Surrey on July 2nd and 3rd.