The Man Behind The Iron Curtain: a chat with UMEK


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 March 2013 (NYC)


1. How does it feel to back performing in New York?

Great. I really enjoyed it. After last year’s performance at the Electric Zoo festival I wanted to present myself to New York audience one more time in a club or a venue gig. Webster Hall was good pick and lovely experience, especially as in the past I struggled in New York. I was not satisfied with the fact I only did couple of smaller gigs there, though I debuted shortly after the Millennium. Those performances left some bitter taste as they were not that well attended and my desire always was to leave a grand impression in one of the world’s greatest entertainment capitals. But New York always was some kind of black hole for my sound in comparison to other USA cities where I’ve been accepted much more passionately. Hopefully we’ve broken that spell, as this time it was a really good party: the venue was packed, people very responsive, everything was just perfect, so hopefully I’ll come back to NY soon.


2. Can you tell us more about your 1605 label which you founded in 2007? Which new artists should we look out for with new releases?

The whole 1605 project is growing really nicely and it has even exceeded our initial plans and expectations. In just a couple of years it has grown into a well respected label in the electronic community, music professionals and audience known the fingerprint sound we represent and that we are proud supporters of fresh talents from all over the world, especially for artists coming from the Eastern bloc. This is something we’ll continue to focus on also in the future though more and more big names from all over the world want to get involved in our projects. Currently we get a lot of request for hosting our label club nights, so we’ll be even more active in bringing new talents in the clubs and festivals in the months to come. When it comes to fresh artists: take time to listen to Slovenian Mike Vale and Colombian DJ Fronter – they are very good producers and at least for Mike I can say he’s also a very good deejay, too; and don’t miss our forthcoming releases such as DJ PP & Gabriel Rocha – “Revolver” (Amo & Navas remix), Piatto – “Work That” and Ant Brooks’ “Glide” EP.


3. Being a powerhouse known for your techno and tech house productions and with music ever evolving. Do you plan to or have experimented with new sound for future release?

That’s actually something I do all the time. I’m always on the look out for new sounds, gear and production tricks. I’m looking for new samples, synths, sounds, plug-ins all the time. Right now I’m working with some samples. It won’t be ground breaking in a way that that’s something that was never used in music especially as I don’t even really know yet what the results will be like but I believe this will add some freshness to my sound.


4. With Ultra Miami 2013 just a hop skip away, what can your fans in Miami look forward to?

I’m touring Americas for the last two weeks but I’ve had plenty of time to relax between gigs and I’m in a really good place creatively right now, so fans will get full at top of the line DJ Umek experience at the shows to come, including Ultra Music Festival and already sold out 1605 event at Mokai in Miami on Wednesday. UMF has unquestionably become one of the key events on the global festival scene, especially for electronic music, so I’m glad I’m regularly part of this and other Ultra produced festivals. Personally I always experience great feelings on the stage of UMF in front of that massive multinational audience which is mad for music that I play.


5. Do you have a favorite city you always look forward to performing?

No, not really. If we take in consideration States, I’m always specially exited to perform in Miami and Las Vegas, though that doesn’t mean I don’t feel comfortable elsewhere. USA electronic scene is booming and I don’t have any bad experience performing in the States anymore. In the past it was different. Ten years ago the scene was really small and especially for my sound there were not that much interest. But now it’s really exciting.


6. Dream collaboration? Are there any in the works?

Maybe I’m a bit special as I don’t really fantasize about working with some very well known artists, but I do like doing working with artists that get under my skin with their fresh sound. This way I did quite a lot of collaborations in the past couple of years and there will be more of them in the future. First of those will be combo with American DJ Dan, then I’ll do something with Koen Groeneveld and I’m in talks with Stefano Noferini for another joint project. I’ve already finished a track with Spectre which will be a bit harder than most of my recent releases, so I’m looking forward to see how the audience will react to this one. Oh, and I did another track with my fellow countryman Mike Vale that will be included on my forthcoming second contribution for Toolroom Knights compilation series. These are the guys that I like to work with. I don’t dream of producing some big pop project. But with artists like these we’re in touch all the time, we meet at the festivals and online, sometimes we send each other some demo or an idea for a track, we talk about them and then occasionally some collaboration grows out of it. Everything is done very spontaneously. We used to remix each others tracks when they were finished, but nowadays it’s more like that we send files each other back and forth trough the Internet, and we add and throw elements into and out of the track until it sounds so that all involved parties are satisfied with the result. Sometimes that happened instantly but sometimes it takes ages to get the right results.


7. With your hectic schedule, how do you find time to do your  “Behind the Iron Curtain” tell us a little more about the process of doing your show and the hard work that goes behind it?

Well, every now and then we have to refresh skits and jingles and make annual plan how to develop the show, so that it doesn’t lose it’s freshness and that we don’t get boring. Weekly I have to check the Beatport and promo pools for fresh music, which I do anyway as I need lots of new tunes for my sets. I spend hours even days searching for new music, doing playlists and taking special care of finding the right content for the Eastern Flavor section. Then I have to pick up one classic track and select the best track out of new productions that are sent to my SoundCloud. I can’t say how much time exactly does that take me as I try to get together at least two episodes of show at once and in any case this overlaps with the work I have to do as a deejay, but I put a lot of thought, time and energy in this project. The only part of the process that I really don’t like is recording myself as I’m not a really good speaker and I don’t want to listen to myself on the radio. It’s not that I have some kind of fright. It’s just that I don’t think I have something really interesting to tell, so I don’t talk that much in the show.


8. What are your plans for the U.S.?

I still have to do couple of gigs to finish current tour, but I’m coming back to couple of gigs such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Mansion in Miami already in June. In September, I’ll move to Los Angeles for three months, as I really want to focus on America this autumn. I’ve chosen LA because of good flight connections and I’d really like to see what we can achieve if I stay in the USA for couple of months as the results were already good now that I’m doing smaller tours three to five times a year.


9. Any future plans for your merchandise?

I just looked at the demo of webpage and confirmed first T-shirt designs this week, so I can say that we’re in the final stage of putting together our own merchandise shop. All of the items available will be created by the awarded team of artists that are guilty of designing of all of my and 1605 graphics and the page will operate under a web domain I can’t say much about the other items that will be available to purchase yet but there will be some killer T-shirts with unique designs and slogans crafted out of the titles of my tracks such as “Slap and Get Sucked” or “OMGWTF I’m Fat”. Hopefully we’ll get this operation running shortly.


10. Can you tell us a little more about your charity, “Party with a Cause,” and what your fans can do to pitch in?

I’m involved in the Party for the Cause for almost a decade now. It’s an annual charity campaign with a big outdoor party in the Ljubljana central park with me as a sole headliner and we attract up to 30.000 people to dance with us every last Saturday in august. If you want to attend this party, you just have to send a SMS to donate 1 euro for charity fund and the SMS you get back as a confirmation of donation is valid as a ticket for this great party. We do this in partnership with a big telecommunication company and it’s always supported by a giant national media campaign that last for at least three months. We promote non-violence, social awareness and solidarity among young people, gather money for various charities helping young victims of criminal acts, kids fighting cancer; we also provide scholarships to kids in need. As we have support of mayor, the president of state and many big companies we can really make a statement and get the message trough. Everybody in Slovenia knows this project and many get involved, so we already gathered couple of hundred thousands euros for our good causes. The project is bound to my home country Slovenia, so I don’t know how the Americans could pitch in with contributions, but they can spread the message of non-violence and solidarity among young people – that’s a quite universal thing.

There you go folks from the man behind the iron curtain, himself. As EDM grows in America, we definitely expect to see more of UMEK. We personally can’t wait for the merchandise to roll out since we are big lovers of graphic tees. And we know the EDM community is a giving and caring one – so spread the word about UMEK’s, “Party with a Cause,” charity. Angelenos how did you get so lucky?! We’re green with envy in NYC that you get to have UMEK for 3 months come Autumn, but we know he’ll be back in NY soon. For those of you who are in Miami–UMEK is due at Mokai tonight and Ultra Music Festival on March 22nd.






Upcoming gigs:

20. March 2013 / 1605 Night @ Mokai / Miami, United States

22. March 2013 / Ultra Music Festival / Miami, United States


By: PZhuklevich (@Narikonyc)