In just a few days 2500 people will hop aboard the Carnival Victory in Miami to sail to Grand Turk for this year's sold-out Groove Cruise Miami
. The team behind the festival at sea has put together another stellar lineup giving Groove Cruisers everything they could possibly want when it comes to music. From Trance to House to Techno, the 96-hour party has something for everyone.
One of the bookings that I was most excited about was that of UMEK. Hailing from Slovenia the Techno heavyweight runs his label 1605, continues to play gigs all over the world and puts out some of best tracks in dance music.
I had the opportunity to speak with UMEK ahead of Groove Cruise Miami. He weighs in on his experience at BPM, his startup Viberate, new music and more.
Only The Beat:
You just got done playing The BPM Festival in Mexico. How was that experience?
It was nice. I’ve played two gigs with my friends from Toolroom and Tronic. The later was broadcasted live by be-at.tv
, so my American fans can see the recording of this stream to warm up for the parties we'll be doing in the USA in the next couple of weeks. The BPM is one of the most hyped festivals in recent years and you can feel a lot of excitement from the crowds going large already in the afternoon. It's not held at the top destination, so maybe it lacks a bit of a comfort, but on the other hand its hippy feel only adds to the relaxed vibe and the entire experience. It was a really nice atmosphere for a start of the tour and a great excuse to break a decade long routine of taking the annual month long break from touring in January.
: You have a pretty busy touring schedule. Several shows in the states and then you head out to sea on Groove Cruise. I have to say I was pretty excited when I saw your name on the lineup. What can Groove Cruisers expect?
I've been invited to play Groove Cruise
couple of times in the past but we didn't manage to fit it into my schedule, so I'm really glad I'll finally be able to join this mad party trip. Ravers who will join us can expect me in the best shape, playing loud, hard, energetic, ass-shaking techno music! ☺ I've done my fair share of boat parties in the now almost a quarter of a century long career - after all I live near Adriatic Sea, where there's no decent festival without at least one good boat party - from small boats to big ships such as the one hosting Groove Cruise.
These gigs used to be tricky when we were still playing music from vinyl. If it was windy and there were waves we've had problems such as skipping needles, sleeves and records falling from the deck…Since I play from computer I don't have any problems like those and I can focus fully on my performance and action on the dance floor.
And yes, it's always fun playing on or just being at the party in the boat. Last time I've played on a big cruiser like that it was in Sweden, so I expect a bit more scorching weather and girls in bikinis hitting the Caribbean island. :)
Groove Cruise Miami 2017 Lineup
Favorite place to play? Do you have a favorite gig you have played?
No, not really. The biggest constant in my life and career are changes. I always like to move forward with what I do, so being able to play 100 different clubs, festivals, boat parties each year is one of the best things at this job. Especially as people treat me nice wherever I go and they respond to my sets passionately. What more could artist wish for?
Let's talk your latest release, Fonon. The track took me on a journey the very first time I listened. What can you tell us about the track, inspiration, creative process behind it?
Fonon was originally released in the summer of 2015 as an electro track under my Zeta Reticula moniker
. I was one of the first tracks I've released after I've revived this electro alias from the 90s and it was accepted avidly, but I've felt it deserved bigger audience, so I've reworked and released it as a techno track
as UMEK production. The main theme is the same, but I've reworked the arrangements in a way that it fits big room sets, not only niche electro basements. I find it a very personal and emotional track, with a lot of little details and a catchy melody, so I'm glad you like it.
UMEK - Fonon (Original Mix) 
Your label 1605 has had some really fantastic tracks in 2016. Do you have a favorite release from this past year? What can we look forward to in 2017 from the label?
I've really focused on my label in the past months. After producing some major projects for other outlets (tracks and a compilation for Toolroom, tracks, remixes and an album for Spinnin', a bundle for Loopmasters, etc.) in the last couple of years I've maybe neglected my own label a little bit not releasing that many of my own projects as I probably should.
Now I present my music exclusively on 1605 and in the last year we've put out tracks such as 'Delirium is a Family 2
', 'Double the Lust'
, 'The Drum'
(ft. legendary Mr. C from Shamen), 'Concrete Jungle'
, 'Inhumane Visions'
(with Joey Beltram).
I've expected a bit more from 'Revisit the Preposterous'
– this is a bit of an extraordinary, melodic, techno track and when I play it I always get great reactions from the crowd, so I'm surprised other DJs didn't really notice it's potential yet.
Since I'm now taking most of the slots available for releases that sadly means there are not that many available to other artists. 1605 is known as one of the labels that are promoting a lot of fresh artists. We've actually thought about starting a sub-label but for now the arguments against this move prevail over the ones supporting it.
Top five tracks you are listening to right now? Any artists we should be on the lookout for?
Please check the tracklists from The BPM Festival and the last editions of my Behind the Iron Curtain
weekly radio show. Those are the tracks and artists I'm really into right now.
Something that our readers might not be as familiar with is your startup Viberate
. One of the things I found particularly interesting was your chart breakdown, which included four segments: Love, Party, Unity and Respect. What can you tell us about the segments? Why they were chosen as a metric versus something else?
Party, Love, Music and Respect are Viberate's own synthetic KPIs. In non-geeky language that means that we identified four main segments that influence an artist's career. Party - analyzes artist's live events, Music - looks into how a producer's music is performing across streaming sites and music stores. In Love we're looking into social media popularity and Respect tells you how artists, labels and venues are following each other online and how they work together (collabs, features, gigs etc.).
So, when a promoter is looking for a good artist to book, he'll be interested in the Party rating and when a label is looking for someone good to sign, they will be interested into an artist's Music rating. They will both of course be also interested into an artist's Love and Respect rankings as they influence general popularity among fans and peers.
Any advice to the young producers out there? It's a different scene now compared to even five years ago. What would you tell them?
The funny thing is that the scene is very dynamic, trends are coming and going, the art, our tools, business models…are changing all the time but one thing is still the same as it was when I started: you need to have stamina, be patient and work hard and at some point people will notice you if your output is good. And usually the output is good if you've spent a lot of time and energy working on something really passionately.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive who would it be and why?
Right now I don't think about doing anything at all with anyone else. I get a lot of requests for collaborations after doing quite a few of them in the past years. I'm now again in that period in my career when I really enjoy being alone in the studio. That might change already next week but right now I am a lone wolf and I love it this way. ☺
I've just spent some time touring Asia and Australia, so I'd say udon noodle soup. And stopping at Hawaii I've eaten all the coconut tapioca I've found at farmers markets on the big island. ☺ I like trying local cuisine and one of the advantages of being on the road all the time is that I get to try a lot of very different food. And as I'm staying at good hotels and most of the promoters take good care of me, I don't have problem finding the right places to try it.
What can we look forward to from you this year? New tracks? Shows?
Annually I do approximately 100 gigs all over the world, of which I do at least three to four major tours in the States. I'm producing music all the time, at the planes, hotels, also in my studio when I'm in Europe and have time to be there on the weekdays, and we're releasing my music all the time.
In the next couple of weeks I'll put out some fresh tracks from UMEK and Zeta Reticula on 1605. In between I have to run the label and take care of my radio show, so the work never stops, but the most important thing is that I still really enjoy doing this. So, yes, I'm sure there will be special project along the way – after all I've started 2017 breaking routine by going to winter tour instead of taking snowboarding holidays, and I'm sure there will be chance to do some more new stuff this year.
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