Slovenian DJ and music producer Eros Umek has been wooing crowds with his pioneering techno/tech house style for over ten years. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Eastern Europe’s electronic music scene and his record label, Sixteenofive, is one of the world’s fasting growing techno labels.
In 2011, his unique sound and relentless musical successes earned him the title of Beatport’s Best Artist. He was ranked 29 in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJ’s. His music continues to top Beatport’s techno charts, and has been mixed artists like Carl Cox, M.I.K.E., and John Digweed.
This is all passing through my mind as his agent ushers me into his trailer behind the Carl Cox arena at Ultra Fest. I tell him straight away that he’s the first international artist I’ve interviewed; he smiles encouragingly and offers me a seat.
I ask him what spurred him to begin making music with a computer in a region that wasn’t exactly known for its musical output.
“I’m from Slovenia and we didn’t have any information on how music was made,” he says. During his childhood, though, his mother bought him his first cassette player and he was hooked. “I listened to music all day long,” he tells me. “Everybody was laughing [at me].”
Later in life, he teamed up with two computer programmer friends and learned how to record sounds and make “music” with an old PC. “At the time…the quality was really bad. This was the only instrument we could get; I didn’t really like hard guitars at the time, or drums.”
UMEK gradually became involved in Germany’s rave scene and brought the culture back home to Slovenia, which eventually became known for having one of the most notorious club scenes in the region.
He is now recognized internationally for his unique style, which he defines as “something between techno and tech house.”
That recognition, however, is the result of a lot of ongoing effort. “For me, its like eating, sleeping or drinking water…I’m always making music, so I feel really bad if I don’t do a track,” he says.
One such track, the hauntingly melodic “Ricochet Effect”, holds special value to him. “[It’s] not really a typical track of mine, but its really emotional with a lot of melodies inside,” he explains. “A lot of [my tunes] I can’t hear anymore because I’ve heard them so many times. But this one is still there; I can still play it and enjoy it at the same time,” he says.
When he performs, UMEK DJ’s digitally but programs his beats live using a drum machine. “Everything’s [on a] computer, but then I have this thing that I can play with my hands and it’s a special feeling,” he tells me. “It’s quite fun.”
His favorite place to perform is at a club in Barcelona called ElRow. “It’s absolutely amazing—just a special vibe, a lot of people in the club in the late afternoon,” he says of the show, which runs every Sunday.
As for inspiration, UMEK says he draws his vision from the crowd’s response to his sets on the dance floor. “When I go into the studio I want to recreate that feeling,” he says.