T.H.E Interview – UMEK

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umek interview

UMEK Interview

UMEK is something of a techno titan who has been at the top of his genre for well over two decades and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Evolving with the times, he has always been on the cutting edge of what’s hot… often influencing trends rather than following them.

Most recently, UMEK dropped a two-track release on his own label 1605 called the “Predator EP” and if you are a fan of peak-time techno… then it is something you will no doubt love!

T.H.E – Hi UMEK, it’s great to be talking with you today. How have you been coping with the COVID-19 lockdown, have you been keeping productive?

UMEK – I’m actually quite busy these days even though touring has stopped completely in the middle of March. I’m producing new music, putting together a new sample pack, and I’m busy sharing skills through my new one-on-one online course. I’m teaching my colleagues from all over the world how to develop their own sound. They are mostly interested in the development of kick and bass in certain tracks from my opus that they like. We also listen and analyze their own music, so I can give them pointers on how to better produce tracks or their parts. Some of them just want to talk about music and scene in general, which is also nice, but I personally prefer solving particular creative problems and questions they have while fine-tuning their sound.

T.H.E – I am a massive fan of your new release in 1605. How have things been going with the label, as I often see it at the top of Beatport’s sales charts?

UMEK – First of all, thank you for appreciating “Predator EP”. Our label is doing great. After a series of my own number ones in the last year, which certainly strengthened the brand after a long hiatus, we now started signing other artists as well. We’ve just signed a rising Berlin-based producer Mattia Saviolo, whose sound I really like. Earlier this year we’ve released Cosmic Boys’ EP, and after great feedback on our new Desiderati 4.1 compilation, we’re putting together two more editions, namely Desiderati 4.2 and Desiderati 4.3. So yes, it’s nice to know people missed 1605 and that they passionately support us now that we’re back.

T.H.E – You made the new 1605 release yourself, and I am loving both tracks… Could you talk me through the concept behind each of them?

UMEK – Most of the people imagine there are serious concepts behind my music and they are looking for backstories, but to be honest I create most of my music spontaneously. I get in the studio and start working on something that I think will create certain energy on the dancefloor. I usually start by putting together a strong foundation based on bass and kick and then I’m adding other elements: hi-hats, percussions, melodies… work on arrangements, add certain effects and I also do the final mix and mastering of my own music. I know I might have disappointed you, but there really aren’t any big stories behind these tracks. However, when I heard the end result, I associated the sound with something dark, maybe an animal waiting for its prey, or something like that… hence the title – Predator.

T.H.E – I’m always impressed with how chunky your sound is, and your tracks always have a memorable hook that helps them stand out. Are there any bits of equipment that you could recommend to people trying to capture a similar style?

UMEK – There’s no one-fits-all-tracks formula, but I’ve used a synthesizer called Serum a lot in my recent production. I’m a sucker for a reef, so there’s always a certain melody, either rhythmic or reef, in my tracks. I believe it’s really important that tracks contain a strong element that makes them stand out.

T.H.E – When you relaunched 1605 in 2019 it seemed the label was going to focus heavily on your own music, but now you have started signing tracks from other producers. What do you look for in a demo, and are you getting contacted by lots of people who want you to release their music?

UMEK – I get sent a lot of demos and it takes me quite some time to comb through all of them to find music that I really like and that, at the same time, has top-level production. The tracks I’m looking for must fit in my sets and sound fresh. Sending me copies of my exact sound doesn’t really make sense (luckily, I’m hard to copy :)), but at the same time, music has to fit into what I play. I’ve always wanted to run a label where I’ll be able to present music from other artists, not just my own. In the last couple of years, I’ve explored other music realms and it took me a while to establish myself again as one of the top techno producers, and the same goes for the label. When we launched Viberate, a really cool project I co-founded, most of the staff from my office had to focus on that, so we had to put the label on hold. However, after a string of Beatport bestsellers in 2019, it was certainly the right time for the next step and this year we’ve finally started to expand our roster. Artists, who I’ve signed to 1605, are somehow similar to me, but at the same time very different. Their approach to music is different, and so are the results. I can’t say I hear a lot of my influence on the sound of artists I’m signing, but I do like playing their music. 1605 used to be famous for introducing artists that were completely unknown, but the scene has changed so much that we just aren’t able to do that anymore. However, on the Desiderati compilation series, we are again including artists that we like, even though they are not chart breakers (yet). In the past, this was a great way to introduce emerging artist on the scene. I can still remember Matador (and many others) being included on one of our early compilations, and look how he’s grown as an artist since then.

T.H.E – Outside of your own music, who are the producers who you often play in your DJ sets?

UMEK – I’ve already mentioned Mattia Saviolo. We also have Beico in the pipeline in 1605 with his new track which I like a lot… I should also mention Luca Gaeta, Teenage Mutants, Cosmic Boys, Julian Earle, Lazar (IT)…

T.H.E – Do you have any live streams planned during the lockdown, and what is next in your release schedule?

UMEK – I’ve done a couple of them with great feedback, but sadly I’ve also had to cancel a few as I’m struggling with a whole bunch of technical problems. Because of the lockdown, it takes longer to get spare parts and new equipment delivered, but I hope I’ll sort this out shortly and do some more virtual parties. On top of that, I’ve scheduled a couple of new releases. I’ll include one of my own tracks on the Desiderati 4.3 compilation – for the first time ever, I’ve combined my signature techno sound with some interesting opera vocals. I’m really excited to see if people will like it. I’m also doing a collaboration with The YellowHeads, another one with Loco & Jam and a project with Township Rebellion. These are all still in the making, so we’ll have to wait a bit for the end result. Collaborations are always exciting, as I need to break my studio routine from time to time and that’s one way to do it, but on the other hand, I demand a very high level of production quality from myself and my collaborators as well, so quite often this kind of projects don’t get released at all. Creating tracks that are “fine” is just not good enough, they really have to stand out and be something special.

T.H.E – Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, is there anything you want to add before we finish?

UMEK – I’d like to invite your readers, especially artists and other music professionals, to check out Viberate. We’re working on a really cool set of music data tools, which is launching soon. In a nutshell, Viberate PRO offers data-driven insights for both artists and music pros. You can find potential break-through artists, determine artists’ regional relevance and compare their online performance. You can also explore their audience and access genre, subgenre, and country charts. If you’d like to try it out first-hand, free beta version applications are now open. Just go to https://www.viberate.com/pro-prelaunch, click the “Request access” button and log in with your Viberate account. Hope you enjoy it as I do!

UMEK’s “Predator EP” is out now on 1605. You can download it here.

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