Smalltalk Umek

Smalltalk with Techno legend UMEK!

How are you and where are you at the moment?

I’m on my annual vacation right now. I took off first six weeks of the year, as I need to rest a bit from the constant touring and check what’s new in the world of studio gear and software. I’ve just returned from the French Alps, where I did some massive snowboarding. I’m chilling right now in front of TV, waiting for the downhill to start. Life is good. J

How did you spend your Christmas and New Year?

Working. I’ve spent Christmas at the party in Lahr, Germany, and the New Year’s Eve at Komplex 457 in Zuerich, finishing the year at the Space of Sound Festival in Madrid the day after. All three gigs were really good. We’ve had a really good time.

How do you spend your time off from DJing and producing?

I work most of the days, annually I am doing over hundred gigs all over the world and in between I’m producing music and running my 1605 label. That’s not too hard as this is more a lifestyle than a job and I enjoy it very much. Nevertheless in the last couple of years I’ve learned to take some time off from music. I spend it doing some sports, snowboarding in the winter and cycling the rest of the year. I like to go for a trip to unknown with my girlfriend, pamper myself in a SPA for couple of days, go to a basketball game with my friends to support our home team Olimpija Ljubljana, play video games, or just watch movies and TV series. I especially like good sci-fi stories.

You’ve recently released your album “Out Of Play” on Toolroom plus “Heroes Of The Night” and “Split EP” on 1605. Please tell us something about your new releases and cooperations?

With Beltek, we started working on this album one year ago, just around this time. We scheduled a joint studio session to produce a track or two, but we got sucked into the process and created the whole long player. So, the album is actually already a year old, although it was released in November. It took us couple of months to find the label, clear samples and that kind of stuff, but it was good to take time and not to hurry too much as it was one of the best selling EDM releases at the end of the year. Working with Beltek is always nice, as he’s a really talented guy, he knows a lot about music, he follows all the latest trends and he’s always on the look for new things. And we’re also good friends, which makes working together even more enjoyable. Christian Cambas, my partner on “Heroes of the Night“ is also a nice guy. We’re colleagues for some time now and we already did couple of successful collaborations in the past. With him, we work through the Internet as he’s from Greece. He has a really good touch for finding and introducing rock elements into electronic music. He likes old school rock, metal and all this guitar music and he always finds some nice samples. I always lough when he presents me his ideas as he really has a touch for it. And speaking of fresh collaborations: I’ve just released a new track “Goes On“ coproduced with my Italian colleague Stefano Noferini which is already in the top spots of Beatport techno chart. On Monday January 23rd I’m releasing my solo project „Freak it Out“ on Spinnin’ and soon after that I’ll present two tracks I did with Olivier Giacomotto, a joint venture with Uto Karem I did in December and so on … I respect all these guys, I play a lot of their productions so it’s quite natural that we also create some stuff together. I like working with them and support them also this way.

Recently tech-house dons Pleasurekraft have remixed “Heroes Of The Night”, how do you choose who remixes your tracks?

The same as I choose with whom I’m producing music or who’s tracks I’m playing: by their sound. If I like it I’m intrigued and this is my motivation. When I’m looking for a remixer I primarily choose among the artists on my 1605 label. Pleasurekraft have released a single on my label and already at that time we agreed that I’ll remix one of their next releases and they’ll do the same with one of my tracks. The one with Christian Cambas sounded perfect to put additional pinch of Pleasurekraft sound on it. These guys are one of the best newcomers in the electronic music in the last couple of years. They bring something very original into tech-house, they build their own sound on complex vocoders and melodies that sound differently than most of the rhythmic tech-house. I have a lot of respect for Pleasurekraft.

How do you start working on your productions, do you have a set procedure?

Yes, but I try to change it a bit every time and then as I get bored of things quickly and I have to challenge myself by trying to do something new and by taking different approaches all the time. I usually start working on a new track with bass and drums and then I add other elements on top of this. Though when I find a really good melodic sample I build a track around it. But most of my tracks stand on drum, bass and loops. 

What was your first contact with electronic music and what was the start of your DJ career?

I’m not sure if somebody from Austria, UK, Germany, the USA or any country with the developed music industry can really get this but try to imagine how would it be living in the country without normal event managements, modern radios building and supporting the concert and party scene, no decent record shops and no magazines covering latest trends in the pop culture. And that was in the early 90s, when there was no Internet, satellite TV and radio were a rare novelty and we just abandoned the communist system in which the state controlled everything. In the beginning it was really hard for me to be in touch with electronic music as the scene in Slovenia was literally non-existing. In the early 90s I’ve discovered Cool Nights show hosted by Aldo Ivancic, MC Brane and Primoz Pecovnik on the students’ union operated Radio Student. They played all kind of electronic music, from trance, rave, techno, EBM, some really dark stuff … And soon after that they started their nights in the students’ union club K4. I became regular and after I’ve got introduced to artists such as Jure Havlicek (Anna Lies, Moob, Sare Muratore, now working in the neo-disco scene under a moniker Sare Havlicek) who invited me into his studio and show me how this music is done. In that time, I was doing my first steps as a producer, using 8-bit Screen Tracker with 4 mono channels and we sampled our sound from the tracks recorded from the radio on the tape cassettes. It was far from being professional but we’ve spent all the time doing music. And when Jure showed me his Rolands 808 and 909 and all other legendary machines I knew that’s exactly what I want to do in my life. As there was no copyright legislature in Slovenia at that time I’ve started selling pirate cassettes (for pirate recording label) with my friends and soon gathered sufficient money to buy first proper sampler from the guys behind the Random Logic project, and Gregor Zemljic, half of this group and now a guru of studio production, thought me a lot about the music and production in the first fifteen years of my career.

What can we expect from you in the next couple of months?

Beside the bunch of upcoming releases I’ve already mentioned above we are working hard to present my upgraded Umek sometime in the next couple of months. We’re working hard on this project for more than a year now, as we’d really like to show something original, a story that is not going to stand only on the spectacular sound system, lightshow and other flashy gear but something with proper content and artistic value. Regarding my DJ-set I’m going to upgrade it a bit, right now I’m testing some new software. And I’m also in the studio working on new tracks every day, so there will be a lot of fresh Umek techno available also in 2012.

Please tell us something about your label 1605!

Well, I’m very satisfied with how my label and the whole networking platform behind it is growing. In 2011 we again made some big steps forward and now we’re already very respected music outlet, with the reputation of taking special care of young artists and the ones that are coming from the former eastern bloc. Though more and more big artists all over the world are getting involved in this project with their contributions. Our next releases are „Crossing Line EP“, my joint venture with Uto Karem, new releaeses from Spartaque, Ant Brooks, „This Sound“, my EP with Olivier Giacomotto, Thomas Scumacher, Phunk Investigation, our new compilation „1605 Platform vol. 3“, two EPs produced by Mladen Tomic and Sinisa Tamamovic and fresh pack of remixes of Tomaz & Filterheadz’s classic „Sunshine” in the early summer. Just around that time we’ll mark our 100th release, so we have to thing of something special ‘till then to mark it properly. J

Since your first record was released you have very high output of a lot of great tunes. How do you manage releasing  so many high quality records? Where do you get your ideas from?

I produce music based on the experience and the vibe I get performing at the clubs and festivals all over the world. And as I’m fully booked I get a lot of inspiration. I don’t remember having trouble with creativity at any point of my career. I don’t experience any creative blocks. Rather the way around: I have a constant overflow of ideas and to little time to produce everything that I really wanted. If you open my laptop, you’ll find in it sketches for at least 20 tracks that will never come out at any time. When travelling to and back from the gigs I occupy myself by working on new tracks and I spend a hell of a lot of time on planes … I don’t have problem putting together the basic framework of a track. I work quickly and very effective. I know that a lot of my colleagues spend weeks, even month to achieve that, but I do it with no real bother. Probably that’s because I produce music practically every week for the last 15 years and I’ve somehow automatized this process and developed a strong sense for what is going to work on a dance floor and what not. 

One of your favorite tracks? Or one which has been with you for a long time …

One track I’ve played a lot in 2011 was WhiteNoize’s “The Underground” (TJR remix). I just can’t get enough of this one, though I’m buying gigabytes of music every week, not to mention all the promos I get. There’s just something about this track that I really like and it does mayhem on the dance floors, so I still play it a lot.

Your techno highlights or spots where you love spinning records?

Believe it or not I still enjoy spinning records as the first day I started. I perform at the best clubs and festivals all around the Globe, promoters and audience treat me really nice and I didn’t have any bad experience for years, so it’s hard to pick just one or two places that really stand out. A very special project is Žur z razlogom / Party for a Cause, my annual 6-hours charity performance in Ljubljana’s central park Tivoli at the end of the summer. Space in Ibiza along Carl Cox is also a highlight, and Row 14 in Barcelona has revived my enthusiasm for after parties. I also enjoy playing at big summer festivals from Monegros and Dance Valley, to Australian, South American and USA festivals. Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas was amazing experience. And German-Austrian-Swiss clubs were always very much of my taste, as audience there likes a bit rougher, darker sound…

Tell us your opinion about Traktor / Laptop / MP3 / Vinyl …

Traktor is my tool of choice and this way a very important part of my career and life in general. Traktor was a reason why I abandoned the classic decks and shifted to completely digital set up as it gave me opportunity to grow as a deejay. There’s so much more that I can do with Traktor than with the classic setup. With it I can play music on 4 channels, do a lot of editing, it incorporates some amazing effects, which brings the whole DJ-experience half way to the live act. It has got only one downside: with vinyl I knew every track also by it sleeve, in Traktor I’m stuck with just a piece of digital data and this way I sometimes have trouble finding a track that I’m looking for as I can not remember the title or the artist.

If you could change anything in the Dance music world, what would it be?

Nothing. I’m totally satisfied with my career and where things are going.

See what ranking UMEK has reached in our PARTYSAN Award 2011 in the category: DJ OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL…