The Slovenian Techno DJ loves Miami, fears flying and used to be a basketball star
Tired of the same old trance and house music that bumps and thumps throughout Miami clubs but leaves you craving something more? Check out something fresh and different Saturday night (Oct. 15) at Mansion (1235 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), as DJ Umek, the “Father of Slovenian Techno,” steps behind the decks to transport you to another sonic world. His innovative beats have caught the ears of superstar DJs such as Tiesto, John Digweed, Sander Kleinenberg and Carl Cox, who have all used Umek's tracks to add an edge to their compilations. Umek talked to Miami.com about the show.
Are you excited to be coming back to Miami? Is this your first visit since WMC?
I’m always excited to come back to Miami, for clubbing or just to chill for a couple of days. You’re right, last time I’ve been down there it was the time of this year’s WMC, though I’ve been back to the U.S.A. in between several times. But Miami is one of my favorite destinations in the States, not only because it was one of the first places that caught on the current explosion of EDM culture, but also since it’s a really nice getaway destination, especially during our winter. It’s got amazing sandy beaches, some really good clubs and restaurants, and there you can meet a lot of beautiful people and some of the hottest girls in the world. And a strong Latin community gives it some very distinctive character, too.
What can we expect from your show?
A lot of fun with fiery people up for the party on the dance floor, and plenty of good techno music – Umek style. My sets stand solid on my artist releases and remixes, tunes from my label 1605 as well as other tracks produced by artists involved in the 1605 project. I mix this in my own fashion on two laptops working simultaneously on four channels, which allow me to add a lot of loops, samples, cuts and fragments into the mix, as well as editing some things on the go. This way I create a really distinctive, rich sound, full of different elements.
You're credited with helping to start rave parties and dance-music culture in Slovenia. What inspired you to get into that?
Music. It was all about music and the whole culture that spun out of it. You must imagine the spirit of the time: I was a rebelling teenager in the early '90s, it was shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, our borders opened, and suddenly we become exposed to all of this new pop culture and youth movements from the west. And my ears really hooked on the new electronic sound. In the early '90s, Germany exploded with the rave and dance parties, and as this was in our neighborhood, I joined some friends and we drove to a rave in Munich, which was a blast. From that point on, we knew we had to bring this new culture to Slovenia. And as there was no proper infrastructure, we had to build our scene from scratch. Which was not easy, as we were totally inexperienced in producing events, running clubs and promotion, but we have had a great passion and a lot of fun along the way.
Do you enjoy the party scene that surrounds dance music?
Sure! How could I be a DJ if I wasn’t enjoying all this debauchery? It’s part of my job, and I believe most of the people would trade places with me immediately. At least the part when I play music and people go mad on the dance floor. I’m doing this for more than 15 years and, honestly, I still enjoy performing at the best venues all over the world every weekend just like the first day of my career (though I’d pay good money for a decent teleportation system that would spare me all the time traveling to and from the gigs). That’s the only part of my job that I really don’t like, especially as I have a phobia of flying, and this presents a great deal of stress for me.
You gave up basketball to become a DJ. How good were you, and do you still play often?
I was really good. After eight years of daily trainings, I was so good that I was invited to the junior national team – which was the point when I abandoned the game and focused on the music, as I could not do both on the top level at the same time. I played with and against players that have later shaped the Euroleague as well as the NBA (two-time champion Raso Nesterovic is from my generation). I don’t play basketball anymore as I’m not in the right physical condition for it, but this summer I played a couple of street games with my friends and some old feelings came back to me, though I cannot say I played well.
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