UMEK speaks to Dubzy about the end of an era at Space Ibiza, Carl Cox’s night at Music is Revolution at Space Ibiza, his new project and also his top tips for anybody heading over in Ibiza.
UMEK is a DJ and a producer with more than 20 years’ experience of playing everywhere – from dark underground clubs in Berlin to shiny stages of EDC Las Vegas. And yes, he does fly. Around 100 times per year, visiting almost every continent every year. Not just that. He produces music while flying, too! When he lands, he sends that same music to labels such as Toolroom, Spinnin’ records, Great Stuff, Intec or saves it for his own imprint 1605. Sometimes he likes to brag with his tracks or those, produced by his fellow 1605ers, when he features them in his massively popular weekly radio show Behind the Iron Curtain.
Find out more about UMEK on his biography and listen to/read his interview with Unity Radio below:
Unity Radio, the Real Sound of the City. This is Dubzy, and I am joined for this week’s Real Sound of the City interview by the legend that is UMEK. How are you doing man?
I’m good thanks, how are you?
I’m great. It’s a pleasure to be chatting to you. For any listeners locked in right now that know your name but don’t know too much about yourself, could you give us a brief background check?
I’m a Slovakian DJ and have been playing music professionally since 1992. It’s been a long run. I’m mostly known for making and playing techno. That’s it, in short.
That’s the best way to put it. How would you describe how your style has progressed over the years?
My style obviously changed a lot from the beginning. I used to play really rough and fast techno, then I went more into funkier percussion style and then into more tech-house type things about three years ago. Within the last year I went back into more darker sounds as well. My sound is changing all the time. Back in the day I thought I was going to be the purest guy underground and banging techno. I was 100% sure I was going to be like that but then I realised that I am going to change all the time. People ask me what I’m going to do next and I honestly don’t know what to say, I change my style a lot. I want to keep things interesting in the studio, I get bored of doing the same stuff quite fast, so that’s why I need to change.
Constantly evolving. Looking back over your career, do you remember the moment when you realised you could do this full-time and that this is who you are?
I know that moment exactly. I was in basic school about 12 years old. There was this cool dance with a DJ; he could play whatever he wanted, and people were dancing, it was just really cool. I would do this for free, but we are actually getting paid for playing music, and I thought this is something I could be. That was the moment when I said to myself that one day I am going to be a DJ. That same DJ I saw for the first time gave me an opportunity in a small club, and that’s where I started to learn to use decks.
The same DJ from the school disco?
Yeah. He was three years older than me and he was playing mostly pop stuff and all the hits. I met him shortly after in person and was going to this club for youths and was going on from 5-9pm. We became good friends, and there was a pair of Technics and I asked if I could train on them. I didn’t have them at home because I couldn’t afford them at the time. He said it was no problem and told me to come to the club at 5pm to play for an hour because it was empty anyway. This is where I learned all of my skills.
That’s wicked. You have played literally all over the world, can you narrow it down and name a favourite place you’ve played?
That wouldn’t be fair. I do good parties on a regular basis in different places. If I say I put on one really good party a week I would be being modest. There are some really cool parties around the world; I love going to Tokyo, South America, North America, Europe, everywhere. The only places I haven’t played yet are South Africa and New Zealand, so I would love to visit there.
Let’s make that happen. Anyone listening from New Zealand get on the phone. One place you are playing this summer though is Ibiza. You’re playing Sundays at Space Ibiza and at Carl Cox’s Music is Revolution. How you feeling about that, are you looking forward to it?
I’m really excited, I love Space Ibiza. I’m really sad it’s the last year but at the same time curious to see what the next owner will do with it, I really hope they’re going to keep what the Space Ibiza guys have been doing for all these years. I’m sure it’ll be great, because it’s always been great especially for Carl Cox; the crowd is always packed and it’s amazing. I cannot imagine anything else other than a perfect party.
It must be an end of an era for all you guys with Space Ibiza closing. You’ve been playing there for a good few years now haven’t you?
Yeah, Space was kind of my Ibiza home. I did some other gigs here and there but they were mainly in Space Ibiza and I got attached to it. I still remember the nights with Carl Cox when he was like the ‘lonely soldier’ fighting for Space Ibiza; that’s when all the other nights came in because Carl Cox believed in the club. It had good times and bad times, and when there were bad times he still believed in the club and I felt that when there were big struggles. He invested all this energy into the club and I was so happy that it got the results, so I hope the new owners keep up with the quality.
Definitely. What do you think it was that was so special about Carl Cox’s night and how did it differ to other venues at the time?
What I noticed the most is when you go to Ibiza and the place usually fills up at around 3am, but when Carl Cox playing the opening it would be full. Not many DJs like opening the night, but for him it didn’t matter. They would open the door and thousands of people would flood in. This is the main difference I’ve seen and that’s that the crowd is really loyal. It’s not really a ‘posh’ night but it’s for people who respect the music. They go there and party and stay there all night to support all the other DJs and the rest of the line-up. It’s a bit of a one-of-a-kind thing on the island.
Wicked, definite stand-out points. Another place you have lined up over the Ibiza season is Tool Room Live at Amnesia Ibiza. Tell us about that one.
I haven’t been to Amnesia for a long time, in fact I think I’ve only played there once. I got a call from the Tool Room crew asking if I wanted to play for them, and I said of course. I’ve been working with Tool Room for so many years, and have been working with them on an UMEK tutorial course of how to produce techno music. I’ve played many times for them and it’s just amazing to be a part of the Tool Room and to be partying in Amnesia Ibiza. I think they’re only having two parties as well which makes it even more special because it isn’t regular. I’m sure it’s going to be good.
What do you make of Amnesia Ibiza as a venue?
I love it. It has the perfect balance between the main floor and the terrace. All the clubs are really well-made with how they look and their sound and it wouldn’t be fair to compare, but it is a very nice club.
We have many listeners who may be heading off to Ibiza for the first time this summer. Can you remember the first time you went and the first time you played there?
I don’t remember the year exactly but I remember playing on a Tuesday night in late September, Mark Bailey did a party after it and Carl Cox had finished. I was so excited to play for the first time in Ibiza, it was like a dream come true. I’d been before with friends just to go out and have some fun to visit all the DJs and see what was going on. Ibiza is and always has been the trendsetter; you see all the guys getting residencies in the clubs over there, and if they have good residencies then they become big stars all around the world. Ibiza certainly has the power to make someone famous.
Do you have any favourite secret places on the island that you like to be when you’re not playing?
Normally what I do is rent a car with my girlfriend and we just drive around the island. We just drive to random beaches and have a swim and to explore. Mostly people know Ibiza for the nightlife but there’s so many places you can go to chill. There’s really cool restaurants from affordable local food to really expensive restaurants where you can spend lots of money for a perfect meal. It’s a good balance of everything with things to do in the day and then of course the nightlife. It’s a perfect island.
There you have it, UMEK’s top tips for Ibiza, get out there and explore. Aside from playing in clubs in Ibiza I see that people can also catch you playing at the Pacha festival in Amsterdam. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m curious what’s going to happen over there. I know about playing at the Pacha clubs, but let’s see about the festival. I don’t know a lot about it because it’s my first time there, but the festivals in Holland are always sold out so I’m sure this will be a great one as well. I’m sure I’m going to have a great time over there.
What’s the next big thing for you?
I’m in Miami at the moment and I’m playing at Trade Miami and I’m playing in Las Vegas tomorrow for EDC Vegas, then off to Space Ibiza next week and then back off the States for a few other dates so all of that will be exciting. Then we have a new visual look for 1605 for my label and I’ll release my new tune with new visuals and designs so I’m excited to see how people will react with my new 1605 look.
How do you find time to manage all the production, the label and the DJing?
It’s not that heavy. We have the internet and computers, and I’m mostly making music on the plane. When I’m home I just go in the basement where I have good speakers and a good sound cart and I just mix it properly. A new song could be 90% done on my laptop and then I just need to go into my studio to fine tune it. We have an A&R girl in our label company and we just send it to her to go through it, and she does all the jobs like uploading and promotion. It is hard but these days we are so mobile and everything is so accessible.
We need to talk about your new project coming out with Machine Expansion. Could you tell us about that?
The project is actually already out. I’m really proud that I became a part of Native Instruments who for me are the leading software company for making music. I’m really proud I’ve been able to do a bank for Machine Expansion called ‘Modern Veil’, and it’s everything you need for making techno and tech-house.
For aspiring producers out there and people who want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with UMEK, where’s the best place to hit online?
Either UMEK.si or just my Facebook page where all the information about where I’m playing is, my next release or even just what sneakers I bought.
Last question then: what sneakers are you wearing right now?
I’m wearing the black Yeezy boost 350s. They’re comfortable.
UMEK it’s been an absolute pleasure catching up with you and I hope you have a great summer. I strongly advise everybody listening to check out the Native Instruments project, I’ve only just started getting into production myself and Native Instruments are the one, it’s definitely a very helpful tool so I’m sure your kit will be very productive for people who are just starting out too.
Thank you very much. See you later!