Every March, Winter Music Conference brings together some of the most influential names in electronic music to the beautiful and ethnically diverse streets of Miami, Florida. The conference is a symbol of success for the ever-growing genre. Spanning ten days, it unfolds as the perfect opportunity for artists and fans to interact in ways many only dream about. From workshop panels to lavish hotel rooftop pool parties and sold out club nights to star-studded yacht label showcases and chauffeured party buses, WMC is easily the most anticipated and engaging electronic music event of the year.
“Miami is definitely the place to be in America, especially in March.” — UMEK
With two weekends of Ultra and easily over 100 events taking over just about every inch of the city’s urban waterfront, you are guaranteed to bump into some of your favorite EDM producers roaming the streets in their flip flops and swim shorts. Luckily enough, I was granted the opportunity to spend some quality time with international tech house legend, Umek. Having performed in Miami more so than any other location in America, the internationally recognized producer is no stranger to the so-called “Magic City” on the water.
“I’m very happy to be in Miami, actually I’m here quite often. I’ve been in Miami the most of all the places in America. I’ve been here like 20 times, maybe even more.”
Arriving in the city a few days before his scheduled Ultra performance on Friday afternoon of weekend two, Umek and I sat down for a little one-on-one chat before his 1605 label showcase event at Mokai that night.
“1605 is very similar to Recycled Loops [Umek’s older record label], even though the music was way more aggressive and faster back then versus now. But in the end we release music that we really like, there’s not much philosophy behind it. I want to give more support to Eastern European producers.”
In addition to Umek, 1605 label mates Pleasurekraft and Stefano Noferini joined him at Mokai that night. Umek recently collaborated with both artists with tracks “Korea” and “Goes On,” respectively, with the latter track being chosen as Best Minimal/Techno Track at this year’s IDMA Awards.
“A lot of guys are saying in this industry that it’s really not important but I think it is. It’s an award so it means people are recognizing good work and I would really be happy for a win but just being nominated is enough.”
Gearing up for another night on the stage, Umek seemed to have little concern over the technical gap between his tech house style and that of the commercialized arena house that has become a staple in America’s EDM scene.
“We are all really excited for this 1605 party. It’s actually the first time we host a corporate night here in Miami and I’m so happy. Most people who buy a ticket, they know very well what is going to be played. No big surprises. Last week at Beyond Wonderland was different, I think only like 20% of people knew what I was playing. Most of them had probably never heard of my name before but I didn’t do much different than what I will play tonight. And in a club like tonight, it won’t be a huge challenge. People want to hear my music and I’m just going to play to have fun, it’s going to be a great party. Just enjoy and let it go.”
Umek performing on the MOX bus just before Mokai on South Beach. Video here.
As the sun began to set on the beachfront W Hotel where Umek and his crew were spending their afternoon, we began to talk about some of the recent developments and changes in 2013’s EDM scene in America.
“It’s funny that you say America is starting to get into electronic music because Detroit techno was born in America and a lot of European artists are heavily influenced by it. Everybody was influenced by it and the Chicago movement and all that. This music was actually born over here and it’s finally gotten the proper attention of the media right now. It’s funny but you’re right, I feel the same way. I see where I am now, I played main stage last weekend at Beyond Wonderland and have a few other main stage performances coming up.”
With the rise of so many new artists and new sounds that seem to be redefining what it means to make electronic music, I wanted to know how he planned to continue to capture the crowd’s attention and maintain his image as a prominent “veteran” in the industry. And with an ASOT set scheduled for his Friday Ultra performance, I was curious to see what he had in store for the internationally live-streamed event. With that said, I homed in on my final question for the Slovenian producer: How do you hope to continue to change the game?
“I’ve never seen it from that point of view. I never ask myself what I will do, I just play. But it’s a good question. What do I do different? I guess nothing. I play what I play... Sometimes I play older records, I consider my older records anything more than half a year old [laughs] but otherwise I play similar sets everywhere. Sometimes for smaller crowds I play slower bpms than at at bigger festival, that’s about it. For bigger stages, sometimes I have to think about it because most people there don’t know my music. It’s a different angle and different approach.
“If you put me on a main stage with a crowd of 20,000 people where they expect tracks from Swedish House Mafia and all these guys and I don’t play that kind of music, people start to think, ‘Okay, something is happening.’ You got to have really big balls to do that but it’s great because in a sense, I think my music is not for 30,000 people. So it’s a challenge not to play for people who are big fans and listen to my music constantly. When I got to the main stage I said to myself, ‘This is a challenge.’ And I love challenges. A lot of other techno and tech house DJs would say no to this kind of booking because it’s not their thing but for me it’s always about challenges. So yeah, I think things are moving in the right direction in America, it was only a matter of time. People are coming to hear these same sets and same tunes ten times a night and people get bored of it. Don’t get me wrong, the pop crowd will always be there for Tiesto and all these big names but a lot of people will want to dig deeper and find newer sounds.”
Listen to Umek’s full 2013 UMF set here. Having just finished his second Toolroom Knights compilation, Umek is currently working on the release of his first sample pack CD. Stay tuned for new collaboration tracks with Stephano Noferini and Mike Vale and, of course, several upcoming European and North American tour dates, as well as news on his next full-length album.