UMEK discusses recent releases, sample packs, plugins, gear and more

Interview: UMEK discusses recent releases, daily schedule, sample packs, plugins and more

The prolific producer/DJ recounts how he became one of the finest modern techno artists with a career spanning over two decades.

Uroš Umek, born in 1976, is a Slovenian electronic music producer and DJ 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 pretty consistent with his projects and live shows. We recently caught up with an exclusive interview with the multi-talented UMEK to learn more about his recent EP, label 1605favorite plugins, gear and more.

Introductory questions

We delight you with technology: Hello UMEK, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Where are you currently and what do you have on the agenda right now?

UMEK: Hi guys, thanks for inviting me. I live in Slovenia, but am currently in Melbourne, Australia, having performed at Shelter Festival last week. I’m doing this interview at 3:40 am local time because jet lag is killing me haha. I will be moving to Brisbane soon, as on April 8th I will be playing La La Land and the Colonia Hotel. I’m looking forward to both shows!

We delight you with technology: What does your daily schedule look like?

UMEK: I usually get up between 9 and 11 a.m., make myself a quick breakfast, then go straight to the studio. I like to spend as much time in it as possible, but I make sure not to force it because it kills my creativity. After that I like to play sports, have a quick lunch with my wife, then play with the dog and watch sports. Every day I also check the latest updates on cryptocurrencies, NFTand all the other cool stuff like that.

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We delight you with technology: How long 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 this genre from the start! In my first gigs, I played stuff on labels like delight and low spirit more trance stuff, but at the same time, I was buying techno records that came from the United States and Belgium. So overall it was a mix of everything.

We delight you with technology: You recently released a new EP »Black market” on your own label 1605. Can you briefly explain the inspiration behind the EP?

UMEK: The main inspiration for my songs is certainly the club. My productions always aim to be very energetic and for the peak moments of my concerts. Lately, my tracks have become a little more melodic, as I’ve been composing melodies, like the one I did for “Black market”. Usually my emotional state doesn’t really affect the outcome of my productions, but this time it does. The day I did “Dark Market”, I felt a little more melancholic and found this melody.

umek 2 press photo

Image Credit: UMEK Press

Technical questions

We delight you with technology: The first track of the EP “Dark Market” has an incredible break. The synth line and dark vibe of the melody set the track’s foundation perfectly. Can you briefly explain how you created it, including any plugins or equipment involved in the process?

UMEK: In fact, the production process of “Dark Market” is very similar to that of my other tracks. I usually start with the things that come to mind first. My drums are completely sampled, I add hi-hats and kicks, then top them out with donk-type percussion. I usually combine these elements with a rolling bass line. For my melodies, I use my favorite digital synthesizer, Serum.

We delight you with technology: Throughout the EP and your entire discography, your drumming is always crisp and packs a nice punch in the mix. How do you treat 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 like that often creates a sound that’s too clean for the modern style of cutting-edge techno. That’s why I always look to using samples, because they’ve often been sampled multiple times, and each time they get grainier and more unique. I usually create three layers for the kick, the first layer is for the bass, the second layer is for the mid, and the third layer is for the transient.

We delight you with technology: Do you make your drums from scratch or do you prefer to use sample packs? If you use samples, what are some of your favorite sample packs right now?

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 treat things differently. I never know what will come out, as I match the sounds to the tracks, but I always make sure that the typical UMEK sound is at the heart of my music.

We delight you with technology: Arrangement, Sound design, Melodic structure, Mixing, Mastering. Prioritize them for you.

UMEK: The most important thing for me is to start working with an 8-bar loop of drums, bass and hi-hat, because that’s where I lay the foundation for my productions, including its energy and melody . For me, that loop is where all the magic happens, and I would consider that part of the sound design stage. For me, I would order it as Sound design -> Melodic structure -> Mixing and Mastering -> Arrangement.

We delight you with technology: What DAW are you currently working on?

UMEK: I only use Pro Logic for my productions.

We delight you with technology: What are some of your favorite analog synths you own?

UMEK: What’s crazy is that I no longer own analog synthesizers. Before, I owned about 50 synthesizers, but I sold them all. Many in the electronic music industry argue that it takes expensive gear to make great music, but I don’t think that’s the case. In my opinion, I think it’s pretty unfair to give budding artists the impression that they can only produce great music with the best equipment, because that’s just not true. Even famous/successful producers asked me this question, and they couldn’t believe that I don’t produce with analog synthesizers. Thanks to the digital domain, you have the possibility to produce a truly clean and analog synth sound. I want to say that my production setup is completely digital because I wanted young people to know that the music is in them, not the material that a salesman wants to sell them. I can say for a fact… good techno is not achieved by having the most expensive equipment, but by being the most practiced with what is at your disposal!

We delight you with technology: What equipment(s) and plugin(s) do you plan to buy 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 have. It’s better to have a few things you know inside out than a lot of things you hardly ever use.

We delight you with technology: Your label 1605 has had some amazing releases lately. Can you briefly tell us what your upcoming projects are with the label?

UMEK: We will continue to release great tracks from different artists. I just got new music from Mha Iri and Teen Mutants that I’m really excited. Then I collaborate myself with Space 92 and popof, and this piece called “Controlis due out at the end of April. Scheduled for summer, Space 92 did a remix for my track”Dynamism“, and I can honestly say it’s huge! So, I think it’s going to be another big year for 1605, and I’m still listening to demos and making new stuff myself.

We delight you with technology: Do you often listen to the demos sent for 1605? If so, what do you look for when signing new songs?

UMEK: I really like to listen to new releases sent to me, because you never know what you’re going to find. For me, the most important thing is that the artist creates his own distinctive sound and gives a lot of personality to his music. I don’t want music that copies something we’ve already released, because I’m looking for something new and exciting.


Final questions

We delight you with technology: Name the top 5 tracks that are currently on your playlist.

Optimuss – Awakening
Jay Lumen – Earth
Veerus – Worksite
Egbert – Overpressure
Mha Iri – Open up

We delight you with technology: What advice would you give to future 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 it for the UMEK interview. Be sure to check out his latest EP Dark Matter below and follow him on social media to stay up to date with his upcoming projects!

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Featured Image Credit: UMEK Press

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