Slovenian born producer and DJ UMEK has been involved in the EDM world for over 20 years. Starting his career in 1993 at the age of 17, since then he’s been on a steady rise to the top.
Playing over 100 high-profile shows a year while simultaneously running multiple record labels, UMEK is a man on a mission. In light of the artist’s upcoming performance at EDC New York, he took some time to answer a few questions about his music, inspirations, multi-decade career, and more.
Here’s what we got in our interview with award winning producer/DJ and EDC NY 2015 artist, UMEK:
What first inspired you to first start DJing?
I’ve done this professionally for over 20 years now, but it all started before that. Probably with school dances, where I discovered there are some guys who were in charge of music and because of that they were considered cool.
I still remember vividly the first of those dances with Iztok Kurnik – DJ Alf, the guy who later gave me one of my first chances to deejay in the club he ran. I also remember I was fascinated with the size of the home-built speakers they were using. They were bigger than I was at the time.
When we were kids, this was still before the collapse of communism, the only thing that really mattered to us in music was the power of speakers.
The main thing in selling or buying any kind of stereo equipment at that time was the power of speakers. And some 40-70 watts was a good range. And there were those big boxes that could produce some 10,000 watts or so. I was totally fascinated!
At that event the “deejay booth” was a school desk, two tape cassette players, a mixer, stacks of cassettes lying all over that desk and a small lamp.
And I would stand in the corner watching every single move of the deejay and enjoying the whole thing, at the same time being annoyed with the fact that he played mostly music that I didn’t like. It was pop & rock, and merely two tracks from Technotronic and 2 Unlimited in between.
That was the first time I thought to myself I could do that, though I would play music I liked. And years after that I really became a DJ and Iztok gave me chance to play an hour or two in the beginning of his nights at the club Palma in Ljubljana.
What time of day are you most productive, musically?
That varies at least over the years if not inside a single year. Sometimes it’s in the morning, then again in the evening, I remember the times in the past when I loved to pull all-nighters in my studio.
What occurrences during the day give you the inspiration to sit down and make a track?
Well, it doesn’t go like this. It’s not that I’m waiting for inspiration to hit me and then I run to the studio. When I feel like doing music – and that’s most of the time as I never have nearly enough time to process all the ideas I have – I go to the studio and start working. I really enjoy working in the studio, trying new things and the whole process of creating music.
As EDM has grown so has your notoriety, even winning best techno artist at the Beatport Music Awards, EMPO Awards, and International Dance Music Awards. How does it feel to be viewed as the top artist in your genre?
I’m not doing this for awards, I compete only with myself, but it sure does feel good to see people have noticed the fruits of my labor and that they like what I do. After all it doesn’t make much sense being a DJ if you only play music for yourself in front of empty club.
We’re here to please the audience or at least to motivate them to come to our gigs because they are intrigued with what we do. So, yes, it’s nice to get an award now or then, from music professionals and especially from my fans.
Outside of producing and performing, you do everything from running record labels to hosting annual charity events. Can you tell us a little more about your work off the decks?
Well, that’s the boring but nevertheless an essential part of our careers: I have to do bunch of meetings, answer e-mails, some media activities such as conducting this interview, but in this day and age we can do a lot of these things over the internet and skyping, which saves a lot of time.
As I do my productions by myself I spend a lot of time in the studio – and that’s the part that I really enjoy doing – and obviously listening to heaps of shite music prospecting for those gems that you can hear in my sets and the Behind the Iron Curtain radio show.
A lot of artists outsource most of these things to their management team, but I chose not to do so, as I really like music, searching for new sounds and producing my own tracks.
Your 1605 label has focused mainly on young, up and coming artists, who should we be on the lookout for right now?
Ooooh, now you’ve got me. I’m in the phase of career that I’m not that focused on searching for young talents for my label right now.
As I’ve neglected it for a while doing major projects for others, I’ll release only my music on 1605 for couple of months.
We’re doing couple of 1605 events with guys like Sebastien Leger, Tube & Berger and I’ve even started doing B2B sets with Suara’s boss Coyu, but these are all old geezers. Sorry, I really can’t think of some talent that I’ll be really checking out right now.
Where do you see the future of EDM? What is the next big move for the scene?
Hard to say. That’s kind of a million-dollar question for anyone involved in the scene.
Any big releases in the pipeline?
As I’ve said I’ve taken over 1605, we have some four if not even five fresh releases scheduled and I’m waiting for my French colleague Technasia to deliver his remix of my two or three years old track ‘I Need You’.
Finally, is there anything that you want to leave us with?
Well, thanks for reaching to me for this last minute interview and greetings to your readers, especially my fans.
See you on the dancefloor!
Whether you’re an UMEK fan or this is the first that you’ve heard of the artists, do a little musical exploring and dig into his music on UMEK’s weekly radio show, Behind the Iron Curtain. Also, don’t miss this international powerhouse at EDC New York 2015.