‘I’ve seen crucial parts of the history left out, so we needed to fill in the gaps’: True Faith celebrates 30 years of Hardware

Get the latest from Beat


‘I’ve seen crucial parts of the history left out, so we needed to fill in the gaps’: True Faith celebrates 30 years of Hardware

Hardware Group
words by Luke Carlino

Hardware Group has been a driving force in the Australian electronic music scene for three decades, and they have the receipts to prove it.

With a rich history spanning from the iconic Hardware Docks parties of the 90s to the massive festivals such as Apollo, Two Tribes, Stereosonic, and more, Hardware has become synonymous with unforgettable experiences.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Now celebrating its 30th birthday, Hardware has documented its impact in a stunning coffee table book, True Faith 30: Tales From The Hardware Dancefloor. This beautiful collection of photos, stories, and flyers details the Hardware journey and the story of electronic music in Australia over the past 30 years.

We caught up with Richie McNeill, the visionary behind Hardware Group, to discuss the scene, Hardware’s legacy, and the amazing new book. “I spent a couple of years on it during Covid; every extra month in lockdown, it got another 10 pages thicker, basically. It could have been double the size easily, it was only meant to be 230 pages, but it turned into 450.”

Richie McNeill and Hardware hosted their first rave fundraiser in 1991 for his dad’s charity to help the kids of Victoria when state funding for youth projects was low. Since then, Hardware has grown significantly from there, with Richie DJing globally and locally under DJ Richie Rich along the way. The brand grew into record stores, labels, and more, and the book tells this story through Richie’s perspective. “I had 100,000 photos to go through and around 1500 flyers.”

Richie and his team, in particular photographer Kellie Dene, have done a fantastic job of culminating the journey of Hardware with visuals in the book, capturing the good times that have been enjoyed by over seven million fans. From the prologue written by Ritchie’s mate and world-famous DJ Car Cox to the deep-dive into Festival X, Richie’s latest project, the book takes you into the clubs and scenes that Hardware has helped to create. “I had actually scanned most of the flyers over the years anyway because I loved the printing so much, it was a form of artwork that people used to collect, so I would always keep a bundle of flyers from the printer when they would come in, all the way back to Hardware 1, all locked in a vault.”

The book is a culmination of amazing photos that tell the overall story, the people involved in Hardware and regulars that came to the shows. “A lot of the people in there may just look like regular ravers, but they are probably a volunteer that used to help build the shows. We tried to include as many people as possible, and there are loads of promoters and international and local acts.”

“The book isn’t just about Hardware and me; it’s the story of Melbourne’s rich electronic culture, which helped it become the most important city in Australia when it comes to raves and this kind of music.”

True Faith discusses the importance of Adelaide and HMC, the main promoters, DJs, and labels around the country, along with the inspiration of the Big Day Out’s Boiler Room, Michael Coppel, Mushroom and the Gudinskis and other influences that drove the Hardware team to do what they do so well. “All of these people helped shape the history of electronic music in Australia, hence talking with people like Kate Bathgate from 3RRR to give her a shoutout. There’s been articles about the scene before, but I’ve seen crucial parts of the history left out, so we needed to fill in the gaps.”

Richie admits that while True Faith isn’t the complete documentation of the electronic music scene, his goal was to give something back to the community of extremely high quality. The book, which Richie refers to as an artifact, is beyond impressive, and it is clear no expense has been spared to create something worthy of the precious coffee table location. “We wanted something the older generations can have for good memories and something that the newer generations who weren’t born when all of this happened can read to understand the history. The preservation of history is important, and there is a lot of information about this culture that is missing.”

The preservation of this history has been somewhat of an uphill battle for Richie and his team, who have not received any government assistance for this project. “In Melbourne, it sucks being an electronic or a rave promoter because we’re never treated well. If you’re a Gudinski or a Chugg and you hit a milestone anniversary, you get millions of dollars given to you by the state to hold an event; I applied to the minister’s office and Creative Victoria to get some money to help with this book, which cost me hundreds of thousands to produce, and I didn’t get any support because we didn’t fit into any current grants that were going. To that, I say, just fucking find the money somewhere; it’s 30 years of the longest-running electronic producer in Australia that is based in Victoria! That’s always been the electronic music industry’s battle.”

Richie truly felt that if he didn’t document the history of the electronic scene in Melbourne, no one else would, and he is probably right. His recent interview as part of the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Music Vault revealed he was the first person to discuss electronic music in a long-play format for the project. “I wasn’t sure how that was the case as so many great electronic artists have come out over the years and achieved amazing things like Flume and Rufus, but it has taken our 30th birthday for electronic music to be taken seriously? This is the sad state of affairs in Australia with electronic music culture; there has been bugger-all support.”

To end our chat, Richie reflects on something that stood out to him during the process of collating the history of electronic music in Melbourne. “For me, the Docklands and that whole area, the backwater of Melbourne, plus Every Picture in Footscray and the Gay and Lesbian organisations running Winter Days back in the 90s; we were lucky to have great spaces so close to the city and be allowed to do our events without any resistive authority as they had in NSW. I think that is one of the great things about Melbourne; we are the creative state, with or without support; arts are allowed to flourish with an accord and guidelines to make events safer and help them continue.”

True Faith 30: The Book is out now with several editions to choose from, including slipcase and clamshell special editions. Grab it by heading here.