In today’s modern electronic music world, it all seems to be about rushing – rushing through a hectic touring schedule, an overwhelming amount of releases and facing a constant pressure to maintain presence in a digital world that’s never ending in expansion and reach. But that still doesn’t stop young, fresh faced figures such as Croatian rookie Mariano Mateljan doing things in his own, uncompromising way. Hailing from a part of the world that’s rapidly becoming entrenched in the global spotlight, Mariano isn’t concerned with local trends and capitalization methods – making music at his own pace, the ‘outsider’ producer counts Kina Music, Vekton and Infuse, the label arm of burgeoning Ibizan and London club connoisseurs FUSE) as the canvasses for his noir-soaked, humanistic house portraits.
Here, Mariano primes his forthcoming Infuse and Vekton Muzik releases with an exclusive hour long mix for MEOKO, whilst discussing the changing face of his home country, his divergent sound and what the future holds for Croatia’s formerly insular scene.
Hi Mariano! Here at the MEOKO office we absolutely loved your track “Pigeon Boxer” released on FUSE sub-label Infuse last month. How has it been received amongst your peers?
Thanks for having me! I’m glad you liked that track, I’m very happy with the recognition it gained over the last 10 months since it first got played. I have to admit I didn’t expect that much of a success. By success I mean “Pigeon Boxer” being played by a lot of DJs I admire and respect myself. It means a lot to me and it’s always an amazing feeling to see the crowd’s response when it’s being played.
“Pigeon Boxer” is your second release on Infuse following “Deux Jours” in June 2013. Do you plan to collaborate more with Infuse and, if so, when can we expect to see you at a FUSE party in London?
Yeah I’m definitely looking forward to collaborating more with Infuse, as Fuse is one of my all time favorite labels and I’m pretty happy being part of it. You just have to love a label that is so professional when it comes down to releases and mastering itself; not too many labels are like that nowadays. At the moment I just try to stick with those I know are doing it in the right way. Enzo and Seb really know their expertise and it’s a pleasure to work with someone that understands the music and is highly professional and dedicated when it comes to the label. Regarding the FUSE events, I’ve unfortunately never been to one yet. It’s my wish to go for a visit and party with all the guys, to see and feel the vibe they’ve promoted for years now. I would love to play at one of those parties sometime in the future.
What other upcoming releases have you got in store for 2014?
Well, to be honest I’m going to have very few releases this year, and most of them will be out on Infuse and Vekton Musik – another label I respect a lot and feel is so underrated. I created a special relationship with Daniel Madlung and Mandy Jordan, the owners of Vekton, and now it’s more than a label to me, it’s like a family. Sometimes it’s not only about the music, it’s about the people who you’re surrounded with. I feel very, very comfortable working with them and we share the same music taste. Speaking of that, you can expect a few collaborations from Archie Hamilton and myself on there as well. It’s really inspiring to work with someone talented like Archie and I enjoy working with him because we share the same passion and we think alike when it comes to productions. Sometimes I don’t even have to tell him to make something I would like in the track because he’s already done it. Things like that, you know, reading each other’s minds.
Your sound is deep and dark yet seems to retain a light, fresh and bouncy aspect. Who do you cite as your main influences from amongst your peers?
There are loads of artists that influence me, even from other genres of music – too many to name them all… But if I have to point out a few, Ricardo Villalobos, Onur Ozer and Robag Wruhme are definitely my picks when it comes to sound design and productions. When you are a producer yourself you start to notice stuff in the track that people mostly take for granted. Their productions are full of these kind of moments; unique sounds and details which are not easy to make and compose right. That’s what I like the most about them: they are unique and weird and yet they make it sound so right, you know? It’s not easy to make 15+ minutes tracks and not get bored by it. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste – I could listen to only their sound samples for days, over and over again, and it would still sound fresh and inspiring.
Another production duo that got me very inspired back in the day and influenced my sound a lot was Peace Division. I think they are one of my all time favorites and I’m sure I’ll be playing their stuff forever. But as I said, there are lots of artists that I admire and could speak about them for days, but I think this interview is too short for that. 🙂
What sound predominates the underground clubbing scene in Croatia?
Unfortunately the underground clubbing scene in Croatia is not as good as I would love it to be. Clubs are mostly commercial and people are very close-minded. They prefer listening to “names” rather than music itself. The scene used to be better back in 2000, when techno was at its peak on this area. Most of the DJs here are techno oriented and the crowd is used to it here, just because they never really had a chance to listen to something different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a techno addict myself, but it’s just that I can’t listen to that old funky 135bpm stuff anymore, and stuff like that is played here very often. So basically when you play and produce stuff like I do, you instantly become an outsider. I stopped playing certain venues here just because it doesn’t make sense to play after someone made a “warmup” at 130bpm. You just can’t do your thing after that, at least in my case, cause the people get bored by you, and I don’t blame them, they’ve been listening to the same sound for two decades just because they had no chance to listen something different. It can get pretty frustrating sometimes I suppose.
Another key problem are the promoters here, they tend to make as much money as possible in a shortest period of time. That’s why they would rather book DJs that are willing to play for free just so they can put more money into their own pocket. It’s kind of sad actually. I was one of those when I started, but eventually as you get older, some things just come clearer in your mind and you think to yourself, “why am I still doing this for someone else’s benefit?” Basically, if you want to make money out of gigs here you have to be the promoter and book yourself every party. Believe it or not, some close friends of mine were playing 15+ years for free and they didn’t even get a thanks from the “promoters”. They thought they were doing it for a good cause and that they are all in it for the same reason, but it turned out to be completely different. In the end, at least you get to know how to work with all the different sorts of crowds; you just have to know how to pull the best out of the worst situations. Any kind of experience is good, even the bad ones.
What other Croatian DJ / producers are out there that we should know about?
There are a few artists that are doing pretty well in their own musical direction, for example Petar Dundov, who has been on the scene for ages and put the Croatia on the map. He’s really good at what he does and his productions are some of the best out there. Another emerging artists include my hometown fellows DJ Jock and MJ Suddani, who are also doing their thing and slowly getting recognition. There are also a few female artists as well, like Miss Sunshine and Miss Soulfly, who’ve been playing a lot around the world lately. Music-wise, it’s not my cup of tea, but it’s just a matter of taste – those people work hard for what they love and have my respect for it.
In recent years Croatia has become the go-to place for many former Ibiza aficionados disenchanted by the commercialisation of electronic music, with many dubbing it “the new Ibiza”. Why do you think this is? What is it that Croatia provides that Ibiza no longer does?
First of all, I think we are much cheaper than Ibiza, which is an important factor nowadays. Our seaside is beautiful as well and everyone who comes here is just amazed at how good it actually is. The beaches, the food, the weather, the sea, the people…everything is like a fairytale. I think foreign promoters are slowly realizing that and that’s why you have more and more festivals here each season.
Outside of the summer season dominated by large festivals, what is the general health of the clubbing scene in Croatia like? What clubs / festivals are at the forefront of electronic music in Croatia?
Sonus Festival is for sure one of the festivals I see at the forefront of electronic music in Croatia at the moment. A lot of great artists, good quality sound and guests from over 40 countries joined in the first year. I had a really good time there last summer. This year I expect another great get together of amazing artists and people for Sonus 2014.
There are also a few clubs that actually are doing really well, with good bookings and a different approach – by that I mean they care about the good sound system (which is not a common thing here), their lineups are different from the rest, and the clientele that goes there are music lovers. “Masters” club in Zagreb is one of those places I always look forward to playing just because you feel good in there and the vibe is always right. Another one is my hometown club “Kameleon” which allowed us to do our events called “Cruise” which we organize once every two months with international guests, my partner in crime Madezh and myself. We wanted to create something different and give people a chance to hear something new, to widen their music taste. We do our best regarding promotion, sound quality and everything else to make the “perfect” venue. We always tend to make the guests feel at home, comfortable and happy. I think you can feel that when someone is playing – their performance is a lot better when they’ve had an amazing time before the gig. So far we’ve had two events and both of them were surprisingly good – I hope it remains like that for the rest of the season.
Now then, imagine this scenario… The global banking system and modern democracy collapses around us, changing life as we know it. In an extremely strange turn of events, you are elected to head up a brand new political system. Obviously you haven’t worked out the finer details of how exactly this system will operate as yet but everyone really hopes everything will work out just fine. You decide to throw a huge party to gain everyone’s trust. In front of millions of people, what’s your first track going to be?