How Kastle Became OC's King of Existential Dance Music

You could find Barrett Richards, also known as musical visionary, Kastle, rummaging through timeless, dusty antiques and vintage records in swap meets throughout Orange County.  He found 12 unique items that each held a high level of significance—a figure of a frog, a black and white optical art patterned Rubik's Cube, and a pyramid reflecting light in front of a mirror. Richards considers one of the most intense items to be a figurine of a man on a horse slaying a dragon, which represents psychologically slaying our demons. These items would soon find their way to make it onto the cover of his upcoming album, Reflections, out Oct. 14.

“I really want the album to hopefully reach people on a deeper subconscious level, and they could see a reflection of themselves through not only the music, but through the artwork,” he tells the Weekly as he periodically sips on his drip coffee from Coffeebar Byul, a hip Irvine coffee shop with contemporary decor and comforting ambiance. His album artwork is much like his music – mysterious, colorful and abstract. 

Hailing from Sharpsville, a small town an hour north from Pittsburgh, Barrett Richards was itching for a fresh perspective along with a new taste of scenery and diversity. The internet was his gateway to other cultures and is where discovered house and techno music. After discovering his newfound love for electronic music, he began playing gigs at 17 years old. In 2010, he moved to San Francisco solely out of curiosity and found the cultural diversity he was looking for. He later moved to Los Angeles and as of a year ago almost to the exact date, made his way to Orange County to find peace along with plenty of Japanese food right across the street from his new home in Irvine.

"I moved down to Orange County for a little bit of quiet and meditation to match my zen outlook on life a bit more…I love the fresh air, less concrete and [being] much closer to nice beaches," Richards says. "Also, the food options down here are incredible."

Richards cringes at the thought of being pigeonholed as an EDM artist. Instead of Electronic Dance Music, he considers his music to be “Existential Dance Music.” His music is informed by intellectuals like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. He doesn’t focus on being assimilated into a genre, and that’s how he naturally and effortlessly sets himself apart from the typical EDM scene. Richards says his dream collaboration would be with electronic recording artist Burial, or director, David Lynch for his extensive use of symbolism. There’s no doubt Richards creates music for a greater purpose, and that is to get fans to take his music as a chance to focus on and better their inner selves.

He explains how reading his dozens of psychology books intrigued him and once sparked a desire to go to school for it, but knew that wasn’t the path he was meant to take. “I’m taking what I’m learning and creating art with it,” Richards says.

Since his first self-titled album released in 2013, Kastle has acquired some new pre-recording rituals which he says have helped him get the most out of his studio time. Prior to every session, he would wash his hands, representing a cleansing of the body, and drink a glass of water, representing a cleansing of the mind. He would then meditate for an hour and would even listen to theta waves videos. Theta brainwaves bring relaxation and can be the dominant waves in not only hypnosis and deep meditation, but sleep as well. Doing so would instill a dream state so that he could connect with his subconscious. The Zen is real.

“That’s what gave birth to the album,” Richards says. His dreams would be filled with melodies or chord progressions that he would wake up remembering and would even get a burst of inspiration simply from a general feeling he got.

After finding inner peace in OC, he had a fresher perspective on his vision for his record label, Symbols. Richards was especially moved by dark, abrasive and emotional music. He considers post-Soviet country founded band, WWWINGS, to be the “most intense release” on the label since their music is a direct result of their society. It took Richards some time to try to re-balance Symbols' sound and incorporate more lighthearted, fun music back onto the label after embracing the dark emotion some artists on his record brought since it fit with the times we’re living in.

"I grew up a lot of my life thinking 'how could I change the world?'…There's still plenty of ways you can improve people's lives, but I think the greatest thing I've realized within the past year is everybody needs to improve themselves first, that's why I focus so much on my inner self…My hope is that with this album, that message will translate to other people and they will work on their inner self. I truly believe that's how we're going to get any effective change in this world."

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