“Obviously Miami, especially South Beach, I’ve always had great experiences there. Back in the day, Miami Winter Music Conference, then Ultra, now Music Week... I’ve played so many shows in town.”
Andrea Oliva is speaking from his Swiss homeland, with the pristine Alpine nation in the midst of another cold winter. Suffice to say, though, our conversation quickly moves from Europe trapped beneath freezing skies to the next time we’ll meet, and far warmer climes — specifically, DJ Mag’s Miami Music Week pool party.
An annual fixture in the South Beach calendar, pandemic years aside, this time round action centres on the boutique and artsy Sagamore Hotel. On the day, the likes of HoneyLuv, Dennis Ferrer, Eats Everything and Melé, Layla Benitez, and Vintage Culture will all be joining. “I think Miami is one of those US cities where you don’t feel you’re in the States. It’s very Latin, there are a lot of people from South America, the vibe is always great. As a DJ, you can do whatever you want. For me, there are maybe two or three other cities in the States like that. New York would be one,” Oliva continues.
Believe us when we say the selector, producer, and musician is talking from experience. Cutting teeth, and many tunes, he started behind the decks before he was a teenager, an almost unfathomably young entry into techno considering that was 1994 and long before dance music became a household thing. His tenure in booths has afforded a keen understanding of exactly what elements are needed not just to throw a good party, but to build that event into an unforgettable night out.
“I started to be a warm-up DJ, so I know the philosophy behind that, and a few other things, when it comes to playing,” Oliva enthuses as we move the subject on to the expectations of crowds, and how much this can direct or dictate what a DJ plays. “So now, I know which territories I sell tickets in, and there I can do whatever I want. People are going there because they are fans, they like my music. But that’s with the attitude of giving them the best possible time. Then you do tours and arrive in a city where maybe you’re on a line-up with different people the crowd are more familiar with, it’s attached to compromises.
"Playing music, I’ve had a lot of compromises in my career, you just have to do the best for the night,” Andrea continues. “That doesn’t mean I have to go and play all my most intellectual tracks. You just have to contribute to the party, which makes a good DJ at the end of the day. I go with big hopes where my name is big, and very grounded to any place where I know I might not be the biggest name on the line-up that people know.”
Compromises have no place in the project Andrea unveiled last summer, All I Need. Founded as a label, but with the intention of expanding into a fashion brand and events series already laid out, the concept was several years in the making pre-pandemic. Nevertheless, a question remains as to whether or not it would have benefited from the same amount of energy and attention to detail had ground not been broken during the great pause — a period that effectively left every artist in electronic music, and beyond, looking for ideas to focus their creativity on. More so, we’re clearly not the only ones that have asked this.
“I grew up in this scene, you know. When I was 12 I started to DJ and then at 16 I started working in record distribution, with a record store, events agency. We were throwing parties all around Switzerland. So I’ve done pretty much everything in this world, apart from being a dancer,” Oliva says, joke confirmed with a soft yet definite snigger. “But I’ve never had my own label, and it’s always been a goal.”
“Sometimes there are moments when you can focus on something, sometimes you have to work on lots of things,” he continues. “And good things come with time. Basically, I had time in the pandemic. The original plan was to release my own music, which I pretty much did a lot in lockdown. And also releasing music I was too shy to send to other people, but I love and now I don’t need an A&R to sign it. The response, the feedback, has been pretty amazing.”
DJ Mag mentions how refreshing it is to hear the ‘lockdown’ mentioned alongside words like ‘no pressure’, especially in an industry where so much emphasis is placed on staying in the common conscious. And gigs are usually seen as the most direct way to do just that.
“But it was a time when you felt zero pressure. I felt really comfortable as I didn’t have to put out an EP to generate promotion for gigs or a tour. I didn’t launch a label because it fits with my album tour. It was a very honest, heartfelt move to launch something then. If I had launched in full-on normal times it wouldn’t have been the same, I don’t think. You always have to look at the more positive things when it comes to projects like this,” Oliva explains, before expanding to the collective experience of the past two years.
“Of course, you can have different opinions. 'Was this too much? Was this right?’ But we have to realise that at one point we all felt kind of the same. From the superstar Manchester United player, or Real Madrid, to the guy cleaning dishes in a restaurant, we felt the same. And in our scene, not everyone acts like that. There is a lot of elbowing, positioning, music business issues. That can generate a bit of pressure — billing, tours, my track, likes, new press shots. Not having that was something I have to think was OK.”
Although clearly appreciative of the opportunity to clear his calendar for a little while, and fix sights on a goal many years in the making, like all of us in 2022, Oliva is quick to voice his relief that the coronavirus situation is slowly stabilising, if not improving, in many countries he is regularly booked in. The result means, alongside a new release on Patrick Topping’s Trick, and another forthcoming on his own imprint, there’s the strong possibility, if not guarantee, fans can catch him during a European festival season that will run beyond two months, and Ibiza’s long-awaited return — with an extended season.
But not before Florida calls. As our time together comes to an end, we ask Andrea for advice for anyone heading to the Magic City for the first time. Unsurprisingly for a veteran of the town’s spring-time party marathons, which date back to the first Winter Music Conference in 1986, he doesn’t let us down. “Miami has a lot of parties going on, so get presale tickets — on the door it’s almost impossible. And the security is not always the nicest there. Suncream, super-important. Miami has incredible restaurants, so make sure you have some great food before heading out to party.”