UMEK is one of the most respected artists in techno, and with a string of hits that extends back to the ’90s, it’s not hard to see why.
Besides his own 1605 imprint, his music has graced labels like Intec, Toolroom, Tronic, Yoshitoshi, Turbo and more. The Slovenian recently re-launched his own output, so we had a chat with him to discuss why, what’s to come, and more.
Hey Umek! How are things in the life of a techno legend?
Can’t complain, life is good. I’ve decided to skip Amsterdam Dance Event this year and to enjoy some free time and the nice autumn weather back in Slovenia instead. Nature is great this time of year and I love spending time outside.
However, you just caught me in the studio, where I’m making a new bootleg that I’ll be playing exclusively at my forthcoming gigs. I’ve recently done a couple of bootlegs of tracks that I liked since the beginning of my career, just to bring them back to life with a bit of a revamp. So far, the audience and my colleagues responded well to them and I think I’ll do some more, as they’re super fun to do between official releases and remixes.
You relaunched 1605 this year after a year and a half hiatus, why did you slow things down towards the end of 2017? And what made you decide to kick things off again?
I slowed down because we got heavily understaffed when we launched Viberate and that project really took off. Our entire office that was managing me, my radio show and the label, had to focus on Viberate, so we decided to cut or put on hold everything else, including 1605.
This came at a perfect time, as I was just refreshing my sound and it gave us time to really think about where we want to take 1605 in the future. Now that my new sound really took off, I decided to strengthen the 1605 label again as an outlet that is releasing my music exclusively.
As you’ve just mentioned: every release since the relaunch has come from yourself. Are you accepting demos from other producers? Who can we expect to see on the label?
Not yet, but I’ll probably start accepting them in early 2020. 1605 has a nice grip on the techno scene again with some successful releases in the last couple of months, so it’s time to get back to its roots and present some fresh names that are still flying under the radar of the global techno scene.
Our focus is global but we were always known for pushing fresh artists from our home region and “behind the iron curtain” in general. We don’t have anything scheduled yet, but we’ll be soon open for business and I can’t wait to hear what’s cooking. The only criteria will still be music: if something will move my ass, it will be considered for release.
You’re without doubt Slovenia’s biggest DJ, do you feel any added pressure being the front runner for an entire country?
No, I wouldn’t say there’s pressure, but I do consider it a big honor. A strong fanbase and huge support from the general audience in Slovenia gives me strength and motivation to keep doing what I love the most.
And where might you be reppin’ Slovenia soon? Any exciting gigs on the schedule?
Yes, on top of all the usual weekend shenanigans around Europe, I’m heading to India, returning for one special gig in Slovenia and then flying to Japan. Also, after a couple of years I’m returning to Australia in March. So yes, the next couple of months look even busier than the past ones.
Just a couple of days ago I returned from my last North American tour, with a couple of gigs in Chicago, San Diego, Phoenix, San Francisco, and last but not least, I played at Burning Man for the first time. That was the one gig I definitely won’t forget, especially as my lovely wife Senka and a couple of friends accompanied me there.
I unfortunately missed some NBA preseason games, but I’m really excited about the new season, as my countrymen Goran Dragic in Miami and especially young wunderkind Luka Doncic in Dallas are showing great potential for this year.
It’s been great to chat, and we hope 1605 continues to smash it out the park! Before we go, what’s the best piece of advice you would give to any emerging DJ in 2019?
This is one of the things that hasn’t changed much in the ever-changing DJ scene: define your goal and work hard to reach it. Be patient and focused and when you think you’ve made it – work even harder. Maybe it will take you five years or even more to start getting some attention with your sound, but I still believe the path to success is paved by strong work ethic, dedication and patience.