Slovenian DJ Umek has been rocking dancefloors the world over for two decades now. A prolific producer with over three albums to his name, he's also the brains behind the wildly eclectic 1605 label, an imprint that's played host to house, techno and tech house records since its conception back in 2008.
Having forged his Ibiza reputation at Carl Cox's parties over the years, he'll be a regular at the island again this summer, with gigs at Space, Pacha, Privilege and Playa d'en Bossa's new beach club, Jag, all pencilled in for the summer months. We caught up recently with one of electronic music's busiest men to talk Slovenia, the label and a change in sound that's lent his career a whole new dimension...
Your hometown, Ljubljana, has a big techno scene in spite of the fact that it's a small city. Is it a special place for music in general?
“People in Ljubljana love music, and often drive very far to hear their favourite artists. The concert scene is good, but superstar DJs now tend to rule the electronic music scene. When it comes to techno, the genre is not as strong as it used to be. There are some underground collectives that promote underground music (including techno) passionately and with some success, but they are doing this on a very small scale and everything is located in just one or two clubs.”
Do you get to play at home often? What's it like when you do?
“I could play in Slovenia often, but I limit my domestic performances to a couple of gigs annually. Last year I only did one gig, this year I’ll do four — which is a bit exceptional — but two of these gigs were a special celebration of 20 years of DJing.
For me, playing a home gig is like playing a game on the home field in sports — everybody is on my side and they come to my gigs to show that they support me. That’s a very special feeling. I didn’t always get that much support from my country, but I am a patriot and I’m proud to come from a small country full of big-hearted people.”
Talk to me about your 1605 label. You seem to be really busy with it right now...
“At 1605 we don’t sleep at all! But seriously, we really are on the lookout for new tracks and talents all the time. We are proud supporters of fresh artists and also sign tracks from established producers now and then.
We released our '5 Years Anniversary' compilation recently, with 45 titles, and the majority of featured tracks were produced by newcomers. Discovering new talent is always our guide, though nothing gets released if it does not meet our high standard of content and technical quality.”
Has your sound changed a lot over the years?
“Yeah, the days of me playing tough techno are long gone. It’s been at least five years since I moved in a more melodic direction. My contemporary sound is quite funky, full of tech house and even house elements, so I don’t have a problem reaching out to new crowds any more.”
How was your tougher sound first received when you started playing here?
“I remember the experience was totally different a decade ago when I played in Ibiza for the first time. Back then my sound was still faster, harder and tougher, and the Cocoon crew and Carl Cox had just started transforming the sound of the White Isle towards the underground at a time when big room house was still king. My sound back then was too hard and too aggressive for Ibiza, but it seems we’ve met halfway more recently, and the number of my bookings in Ibiza is growing each year.”
What are your hopes and dreams for the rest of the season, then?
“Regarding Ibiza, it’s going to be my busiest summer on the White Isle to date. I will support Carl Cox at his Revolution series in Space four times, I’ve already played at the opening of Jag beach club, I will also do one date in Pacha, there’s a Deeperfect night in Privilege, and it seems I’ll also do a gig with the Toolroom guys at Eden. All in all I’ll play eight gigs in Ibiza this year... and I can't wait for it to all get rolling!”
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