For Electronic Dance Music, RJ Delivers the Goodz

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By Peter Lineberry | Photo by Rob Jinks

Meet Richard John Gough. A 13-year veteran of the Arlington County Fire Department, he now serves as tournament director at a Prince William-area golf course. He lives in Montclair with his wife Tiffany and two sons, 12 and 10.

But when Gough descends into his basement studio, often late at night, perhaps wearing his Yankees cap befitting his Long Island roots, he transforms into……RJ Goodz, creator and producer of electronic dance music (EDM) songs designed to get your toes tapping, your head nodding, and your booty shaking. In a little over a year, Gough (pronounced “Goff”) has produced more than 40 tunes that have been distributed to multiple websites and attracted well over 100,000 listens.

If his song titles don’t pique your interest – “Waffleizer,” “Nexterday,” “Sleep Deprived,” “Worlds Collide” – the combination of synthesized melodies, thumping beats, basslines and interwoven samples will. And another milestone, his first public performance, is less than two months away.

A Rising Star Is Born

The inspiration behind Gough’s newfound passion began around Halloween 2015 when his older son decided he wanted to dress up as Deadmau5. For those not in the know, Deadmau5 is a successful Canadian EDM artist, who wears his distinctive headpiece in concert and essentially makes it his calling card. Gough accepted the challenge, creating a replica mask from a large rubber ball, paper maché and spray paint over several days.

While doing so, he was often listening to Deadmau5’s music. In his early 20s, he went “clubbing all the time,” developing an affinity for techno, house and related musical genres. “So after I finished this project,” he said, “I thought, ‘You know what, I can do that.’ Maybe not like he can, but I would love to learn how, and my kids were like, ‘Yeah, that’s so cool!’”

Online tutorials proved to be a valuable resource, and Gough credits a supportive internet community of like-minded music makers: “A lot of people like helping each other. If somebody learns something new or someone figures something out, they put it on YouTube and thousands of people see it….I get a tip here, a tip there, and just like a sponge I’m soaking it all in.”

Coming up with a suitable pseudonym was the next step, as is commonplace among EDM artists (for example, Deadmau5 = Joel Zimmerman). Gough and a work colleague decided on the moniker, and then a visit to fivver.com resulted in an inexpensive, futuristic logo. From the beginning, his sons provided critiques on his tracks, and he’s given them “featuring” credits on many of them, naturally using their handpicked names: Hidd3n Tr33z and Apollo 12.

Before long Gough was spending several nights each week behind his downstairs computer, turning it into a “digital audio workstation” and finding that his creativity peaked after 10:00 p. m. A major shoulder injury in 2014 had forced early retirement from the fire department and kept him from the golfing he enjoyed, so his musical pursuits came as a blessing. “It’s great that he’s found this outlet,” said Tiffany, who works for the federal government. “He’s taken to it, and he’s great at it. It’s become a new adventure, and I’m thankful for that.”

Music Making 101

Watching RJ Goodz at work is like taking a master class in doit-yourself recording. He creates the music in layers: always a steady drumbeat, to which he adds electronic bass and synths that can mimic various instruments, as well as studio tricks, such as reverb. Layers can be added or subtracted, and although there is often repetition within a song, it’s not overly apparent because of the different combinations of sounds. A high point of the song–in EDM lingo, the “drop”– occurs when all the layers play simultaneously, and according to Gough, “everyone just starts going crazy.”

The use of samples is also integral to the music, and like most budding EDM producers, Gough downloads them for free or inexpensively from various online sites. Samples might include bits and pieces of instrumental or percussive sounds that he weaves into his songs, or sometimes more offbeat items like dialogue from old movies. “What You’re Thinking,” for instance, uses lines from a 1963 Mexican film, and “Locked In” even samples the voice of Vincent Price from “House on Haunted Hill.” (Hey, it worked for “Thriller,” right?)

“My Soul” might be Goodz’ most well-rounded song as it’s the only one featuring female vocals. It’s also the only track that he has “officially released,” meaning it can be downloaded for free from iTunes® or Google Play®. “My soul is the sky!” the singer known only as Maryam jubilantly belts out. Amazingly, though, her voice is but a sample that Gough fuses perfectly into the song, and so far he remains unaware of her full identity.

And then there’s “Panda.” “Someone told me ‘If you want to get famous, the fastest way is to do a remix of a famous song’,” Gough said. The one he picked was “Panda,” a popular 2016 track by the rapper Desiigner, whose video has been viewed more than 200 million times. When the publishers (and their lawyers) learned of it, Goodz’ mostly instrumental remix was banned in multiple countries, though not the U.S., and he had to agree not to profit from it. “I got noticed for it, but in the wrong way,” he said. “Needless to say, I’ve never done that again.”

Hitting the Stage in May

BungaWIZ Music and Arts Festival, billed as a “multi-genre music and camping experience,” will spread its good vibes over the Arizona Event Center in Mesa, Arizona, from May 26 to 28. Gough expects several thousand in attendance, and it is there that he will put on his first show.

He’ll be performing alongside Paxton Lepage, his longtime friend, fellow firefighter, and occasional collaborator, who brings with him DJ skills. Together, among the dozens of acts, they are the only D.C.-area representatives.

“I am very excited for his first public performance,” said Lepage. “His music is so well produced that I truly think he just needs exposure for his career to take off. Musically he has all the tools, and his passion to learn and expand is infectious. Once he gets his music heard, it is going to be a tidal wave, and I am just happy I get to see it happen.”

In the meantime, Gough/Goodz continues to upload new EDM tracks every week, spreading them over YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud, and specialized websites like EDM Nations, whose operators are among his growing fan base. “I want people to hear that I’m getting better,” he says. “For me, that’s awesome. To me, that’s the whole point of doing it.”

Peter Lineberry (plineberry@princewilliamliving.com) double dares you to listen to RJ’s “Waffleizer” (Google it, I’ll wait) without bouncing around the room. He lives in Dale City, and his bedroom walls are now slightly dented.

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