Umek is the Slovenian music producer whose career played a huge role in the progression of Europe’s 90’s dance music scene. Born and raised in Ljubljana, Umek’s early music was cultivated through the deepest Underground Techno. He has not slowed down since, starting his own record label- 1605, and releasing over 100 singles and EPs, all while playing shows globally on an annual basis. We got to chat with the Slovenian music producer at this year’s EDC New York. He was just getting ready to play kineticFIELD, the main stage that is typically known for the more commercial “big room” acts, yet now another year has passed that it has incorporated tech house.
DB: What is Slovenia's music scene like right now and how has it evolved from the 90's?
Back in the 90’s it was kind of funny cause all the music we were buying was actually distributed illegally. And yeah, it was so so so hard to get music then but it was so special.
DB: So it was an underground scene?
Very very underground. You could barley buy Coca Cola back in the day so can you imagine trying to buy this music. You couldn’t even buy meat or detergent whenever you wanted. There were certain days out of the month that the stores would get it. It was really sad but at the same time everyone was really happy. So if you compare it to right now while Slovenia is going through a financial crisis, I think back in the 90’s everything was nicer. You couldn’t buy Coca Cola but in general life was happy.
DB: You have a pretty cool collection of sneakers. Do you have your eye on a pair to add to your collection?
Of course there is always a pair I would love to have. I would love to have some the Oregon Ducks series of Jordans 4 and 5. Actually I have the Oregon Ducks, the black ones, Air Jordan 3. But there are a lot of sneakers I still don’t have like the Eminem Air Jordan 4 which are worth like around $30,000. So yeah those are some of the sneakers I would love to have.
DB: You spend a lot of time traveling to play shows. What do you usually do when you are on the plane?
I make music. This is why I have so many releases. I take 200 to 250 flight a year so imagine how many hours that is. You can make a lot of tracks during that time. I am usually really bored and can’t sleep so what else is there to do? Watch movies? But then what would I do when I get to the hotel. [Laughs] So yeah I mostly make music on the plane.
DB: Is there any advice you would have given your 20 year old self?
No, he could actually give me advice! [Laughs] I stopped going to school when I was seventeen. The vision I had that I was going to be a successful DJ was so clear. Sometimes I am like 'How the hell did that happen?' Because when I see today’s younger crowds, they look like they just want to have fun and at that age I was just so serious. I was addicted to the music. I would really love to go back and ask my younger self for advice.
DB: Can you tell me the meaning behind your label 1605?
Yeah 1605 is actually my birthday.
DB: Oh so it was your birthday last week! What did you do to celebrate?
Yeah I actually don’t celebrate it too much. This year my friends surprised me with a Michael Jordan cake. We played cards the whole evening, ordered pizza and ate cake. These are the kind of things I get excited about - shooting hoops, hanging with friends, snowboarding, and yeah, things like that.
DB: Do you still play a lot of basketball?
Yeah I just started again this year. I play like three times a week. Actually when I go to Miami next week I am going to meet some friends to play on a court.
DB: Any future collaborations and big announcements coming up?
Yeah I am going to have a lot of releases on my label 1605. Every two weeks for the next three months there will be something of mine released so make sure to check it out.
Interview by Monique Montes
Photos by Bella Boombox
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