On March 8, 2013, Provoke hosted Toronto’s first 1605 Label Night at Sound Academy, featuring the Slovenian label owner himself, Umek, along with American-based Pleasurekraft and one of Italy’s finest, Stefano Noferini. Tech-house and techno lovers across the city gathered for an extraordinary night of pulsating rhythm that had the crowd on their feet for hours.
With a perfect selection of artists and a beat-hungry crowd, nights like these easily make it to the “best of the year” list. Kaveh, one half of the Pleasurekraft duo, was halfway into his set when I walked into the packed venue. The party had clearly started – booths were full, the bars were packed and not a single person was standing still. Immersing the crowd in his seductive sound, Kaveh owned the room.
Shortly after, Umek took the decks and continued the deep beats and groovy melodies his 1605 label has become so widely known for. With a smile on his face he took the crowd on a 3-hour musical ride that had no limits and knew no boundaries.
How does a night like this get any better? Add Stefano Noferini into the mix. He took over with an energy that kept the crowd bouncing to a techno beat that you just couldn’t resist. I unfortunately couldn’t stay the entire night, but I left hundreds of people who were partying like the night had just started.
Provoke hit the nail on the head with this event. The line up was perfect and the crowd was absolutely ready for it.
Of course we wouldn’t leave such an event without an opportunity to talk to the artists. I was fortunate for the opportunity to sit down with Umek and Kaveh (of Pleasurekraft) to ask a few questions about playing in Toronto, their music, and their thoughts on the “EDM” scene. Read on to see what they had to say.
INTERVIEW: UMEK & PLEASUREKRAFT
Welcome back to our city gentlemen! What do you love about playing in Toronto?
U: I remember the last time I was here, it was amazing. The crowd is so responsive – I love it here.
K: I actually have family here so when I was growing up I’d come to Toronto every summer for a few weeks. Coming back, it’s a city I really enjoy spending time in. The fans here are great, the scene here is great – it’s one of my favourite cities to play in.
Tell us a little bit about your musical influences growing up. What impact as the evolution of technology had on your musical influences?
K: I grew up playing drums and bass guitar. I listened to a lot of hip hop and metal like Tool, Deftones and Tribe Called Quest. I got into electronic music in the early 2000’s and switched over to production in 2006. On the one hand the technology today has become cheap enough that anyone can have a home studio – that’s great. But I recently watched David Grohl’s documentary, “Sound City,” where Trent Reznor, lead of Nine Inch Nails, stated: no matter what, if you don’t have something to say in your music, it doesn’t matter how good the equipment is and what you’re using. Good music is about having a great idea and then having the tools available to be able to execute that idea.
U: I started to produce music when I was 16 years old, around 1991, with two of my friends. I didn’t have a clue about computers at that time. I remember working for a pirate company that sold cassettes, because in Slovenia there wasn’t any decent music at the time so there was a big market for it. I saved that money to buy my first piece of equipment. Even then we didn’t know how to use it. There were no magazines or websites to teach us, we just tried and learned. My first record came out in 1996. We had to work hard to get the money to buy equipment. Hardware was really expensive – it still is, but back then it was very difficult. Right now all you need is one computer – for example I just made two tracks on a 10hr flight – it’s so easy now. I like that point – you make music if you have something important to say, otherwise forget it.
Umek, you’ve started the 1605 Label, can you tell us a little it about it?
U: We started this almost 5 years ago, as a small label to put out mostly my stuff and the music of guys from ex-Yugoslavia. We have a really tough time to break into other markets around the world so I somehow felt obligated to help those guys. But the label grew and we are now releasing cool stuff from all around the world.
Mainly, I want to find fresh new names, so I spend a lot of time on Soundcloud and I actually listen to every single track that is uploaded correctly and sent to me as a promo. If I find a new producer I like, I sign him. No matter if he comes from trance, or from house or from techno – as long as he’s got a good track, I’d like to work with him, simple as that. I don’t mind if the guys are not high profile. It could be the biggest guy in the world, but if I don’t like the track I won’t sign it. I’d rather release a good track from an unknown guy than a shit track from a big guy.
When you’re shopping for music, where do you go and how much time to do you spend looking for music?
K: Beatport. Love it or hate it, it’s the big beast. To be fair, we might not be here if it wasn’t for Beatport – it’s certainly been a catalyst for growing the scene, at least from a DJ perspective. I’m on Beatport everyday checking for releases in the genres that I generally play.
When we were sending out Tarantula it was so hard for an up and coming producer to get anything heard. We had 20+ labels reject the track because we were essentially nobodies. Finally some tiny label out of Spain signed it and it went to number one. Then all those labels were asking if we had any other tracks. I know how hard it can be to get your tracks in the hands of the right A&R people so last week I did this thing on Twitter where I asked, “For the next hour, everyone tweet me your Soundcloud links in the following genres.” Whoever sent me the best track, I would retweet their track and most likely play it. There were actually three great tracks that came to me. The response was really cool and a lot of people appreciated that. It’s something I really want to start doing more regularly.
U: I take one day per week to listen to new stuff, mainly on Beatport and Soundcloud. If you somehow succeed on Beatport, you’ll be everywhere, it’s as simple as that. Soundcloud has fresh tunes that you can access right away.
I still remember when I was young, we had to go to Germany to find good music. I didn’t even understand the language, but we drove 500km just to buy music. Now it’s so easy, you can download and play immediately.
How common is ghost producing amongst techno and tech-house artists and what’s your stance on it?
K: I don’t know of a lot of ghost producing in the techno and tech house genres, but I know it’s more prominent in the commercial scene. A lot of underground producers will ghost write for much bigger names and make completely different sounding music. It’s all part of the industry I guess. Every artist has a certain value, and if an artist is not interested in touring or travelling but they can get paid by someone else who has a huge brand, who can supply them with money and a general income to sit at home and make tracks for them, it’s a job like any other job.
If you’re an artist that’s paying other people to make music for you, it’s your prerogative – the rules of the industry allow that.
U: Sometimes I make a track that is way different than what I usually produce, so I just give it to a friend. I don’t mind or even care if people are famous because someone else made a track for them – it’s up to them. I love music to make music and that’s it.
Which of your tracks are you most sick of hearing?
K: I will not play Carny anymore – it’s a good track but it just doesn’t fit into my sets. I get so many requests for it and I hate disappointing people but it’s just done.
U: We heard these tracks 1000x more than everyone else, so we’re sick of them! I always try to play tracks that are the newest, why play old stuff? I like to move forward.
What are your thoughts on the term “EDM”?
K: Do you guys even have that term?
U: Well, I know what it means but we don’t really use it!
K: I think it’s kind of amusing that people get so hung up on labels. The entire discourse is the wrong discourse. The entire conversation is irrelevant because some people just want to categorize and compartmentalize everything. If we can’t put it away neatly, we don’t know what to do with it. There’s commercial stuff and there’s underground stuff and all of a sudden the underground people are badmouthing the commercial people and using the term “EDM” like it’s some kind of taboo thing. Meanwhile the commercial people are saying they are the “saviors” of electronic music – it’s just laughable.
U: If you have a strong mainstream scene, you will, by default, have a strong underground scene – they will always fight one another. What David Guetta did in America and around the world is a great thing. A lot of people will get fed up with this commercial music after a few years and they will dig to find something new – that’s the underground. I am 100% sure that if the commercial scene wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have as many fans as I do.
U: I agree 100%. The commercial scene is a gateway to the underground.
What’s left on your bucket list?
U: All the good things are still coming! I enjoy playing around the world more and more. My name is getting bigger so I get bigger clubs and bigger crowds. I enjoy making music and I will do it all my life. There’s still a lot to do.
K: There are some clubs around the world that I’ve always wanted to play at. Places that have legendary reputations. Getting the lead singer of Tool to sing on one of my tracks would be a dream come true.
EDM TOR would like to thank Provoke, Umek, and Pleasurekraft for the opportunity to conduct this interview.
Stefano Noferini: http://www.stefanonoferini.it/