Interview: UMEK discusses recent releases, daily schedule, sample packs, plugins & more
The prolific producer/DJ shares how he became one of the finest modern-day Techno artists with a career spanning over two decades.
Uroš Umek, born in 1976, is an electronic music producer and DJ from Slovenia better known as DJ UMEK or simply UMEK. After being actively involved in the scene for more than two decades, he is currently one of the pioneers of Techno music. The Techno maestro has multiple awards under his belt and is still quite consistent with his projects & live shows. We recently caught up for an exclusive interview with the multi-talented UMEK to discuss more about his recent EP, his record label 1605, favorite plugins, gear & more.
We Rave You Tech: Hi UMEK, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! Where are you currently located and What do you have on your agenda at the moment?
UMEK: Hey guys, thanks for inviting me. I live in Slovenia, but I’m currently in Melbourne, Australia, after playing a gig at the Shelter Festival last week. I’m doing this interview at 3:40 am local time because jet lag is killing me haha. I’ll soon be moving to Brisbane, as on the 8th of April I’ll be playing at La La Land and Colonia Hotel. I’m really looking forward to those two shows!
We Rave You Tech: What does your daily schedule look like?
UMEK: I usually wake up between 9 am and 11 am, make myself a quick breakfast, then go straight to the studio. I like to spend as much time there as possible, but I make sure I don’t force it because that kills my creativity. After that, I like to do some sport, have a quick lunch with my wife, then play with the dog and watch sports. Every day, I also check out the latest updates on cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and all the other interesting stuff like that.
We Rave You Tech: Since when have you been making music & how did you get into Techno?
UMEK: I started producing music in 1993 with two friends of mine. At that time, Slovenia was still a very young scene. At first, I didn’t produce techno, but I loved that genre from the beginning! At my first gigs, I played stuff on labels like Ravish and Low Spirit plus some trance stuff, but at the same time, I was buying techno records that came from the US and Belgium. So, all in all, it was a mixture of everything.
We Rave You Tech: You recently released a new EP “Dark Market” on your own label 1605. Can you briefly take us through the inspiration behind the EP?
UMEK: The main inspiration for my tracks is definitely the club. My productions are always aiming to be very energetic and for the peak time moments at my gigs. Recently, my tracks have gotten a little bit more melodic, as I got more into composing melodies, like the one I made for “Dark Market”. Usually, my emotional state does not really affect the outcome of my productions, but this time it did. The day I made “Dark Market” I felt a bit more melancholic and I came up with this melody.
Image Credit: UMEK Press
We Rave You Tech: The first track of the EP “Dark Market” has an amazing breakdown. The synth line and the dark vibe of the melody perfectly set up the base of the track. Can you briefly take us through the process of how you made it including the plugins or gear involved in the process?
UMEK: Actually, the production process of “Dark Market” is very similar to that of my other tracks. I usually start with the things that come to my mind first. My drums are completely sampled, I add the hi-hats and kicks, then compliment them with donk-like percussion. I usually combine these elements with a rolling bassline. For my melodies, I use my favorite digital synthesizer, Serum.
We Rave You Tech: Throughout the EP and your whole discography, your drums are always crisp and punch nicely through the mix. How do you process your drums?
UMEK: As I mentioned before, my drums are always sampled, and I don’t create them from scratch. If you want to create them from scratch, you have to go to the source of a drum machine/synthesizer, and I feel that often creates a sound that’s too clean for the modern style of peak-time techno. That’s why I always look to use samples, because they have often been sampled multiple times, and each time they get grittier and more unique. I usually create three layers for the kick, first layer is for the bass, the second layer is for the mid, and the third layer is for the transient.
We Rave You Tech: Do you make your drums from scratch or prefer using sample packs? In case you use samples, currently what are some of your favorite/go-to sample packs?
UMEK: In the last few months I haven’t bought many sample packs. I’ve been working with the same ones for quite a while now, but I always process things differently. I never know what will come out, as I match produce the sounds to match the tracks, but I always make sure that the typical UMEK sound is at the core of my music.
We Rave You Tech: Arrangement, Sound design, Melodic structure, Mixing, Mastering. Rank them on priority for you.
UMEK: The most important thing for me, is to start working with an 8-bar loop of the drums, bass, and hi-hats, as that’s where I lay the foundation for my productions including its energy and melody. For me, that loop is where all of the magic happens, and I’d consider it part of the sound design step. For me, I’d order it as Sound Design -> Melodic Structure -> Mixing and Mastering -> Arrangement.
We Rave You Tech: What DAW are you currently working on?
UMEK: I am only using Logic Pro for my productions.
We Rave You Tech: What are some of the favorite analog synths that you possess?
UMEK: The crazy thing is that I don’t own any analogue synthesizers anymore. I used to own almost 50 synthesizers, but I sold all of them. Many in the electronic music industry propagate that you need expensive hardware equipment to make good music, but I don’t think that’s the case. In my opinion, I think it’s quite unfair to make aspiring artists feel like they can only produce good music with the best equipment, as it’s just not true. Even well-known/successful producers have asked me this question, and they couldn’t believe I don’t produce with analog synthesizers. Through the digital realm, you have the possibility to produce a really clean and analogue synth sound. I make a point of saying that my production setup is fully digital because I wanted young people to know that the music is in them, and not the hardware a salesman wants to sell them. I can say for a fact… good techno is not made by having the most expensive equipment, but by being the most practiced with what’s available to you!
We Rave You Tech: What piece of gear & plugin(s) do you aim to purchase next?
UMEK: I’m really happy with my current setup, as I say, I’m not always looking to buy the latest thing to improve my sound. I work with what I have, and rarely buy new things that aren’t software upgrades for what I already own. It’s better to have a few things that you know inside out rather than lots of stuff that hardly ever gets used.
We Rave You Tech: Your record label 1605 has had some amazing releases in the recent past. Can you briefly tell us what are your upcoming plans with the label?
UMEK: We will continue to release great tracks from different artists. I just got new music from Mha Iri and Teenage Mutants that I’m really excited about. Next, I’m collaborating myself with Space 92 and Popof, and that track titled “Control” is due out at the end of April. Scheduled for the summer, Space 92 has done a remix for my track “Vibrancy“, and I can honestly say it’s massive! So, I think it’s going to be another big year for 1605, and I’m always listening to demos plus making new tracks myself.
We Rave You Tech: Do you often listen to demos sent for 1605? If yes, what do you look for while signing new tracks?
UMEK: I really enjoy listening to new stuff that is sent to me, because you never know what you will find. For me, the most important thing is the artist creates their own distinctive sound and gives their music a lot of personality. I don’t want music that copies something we have already released, as I’m looking for something new and exciting.
We Rave You Tech: Name the top 5 tracks that are currently on your playlist.
We Rave You Tech: What advice would you give to upcoming music producers?
UMEK: The most important thing is to be patient because it takes a few years to acquire knowledge. Producing quality music is a craft that takes years to master. Don’t give up if you don’t succeed after two or three years. If you are persistent enough, you will succeed, believe me!
That’s all for the interview with UMEK. Make sure to check out his latest EP Dark Matter down below and follow him on socials to stay updated on his upcoming projects!
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Featured Image Credit: UMEK Press