Just like in life, same in music. People come and go, and some just come. Malek Ales, a DJ, and producer, must say pen-pal too, who left a mark in the path of Plazma Records. Countless times aired on the podcast, remix, and now has his signature sound Photon EP on the label available. In addition, here’s a closer look at who he actually is.
Can you name a movement or people who pushed you to where you are now?
In the early stages back in 2004 it was Umek. Since he is a pioneer from my country who used to play really actively on vinyl, which was something that caught my attention right away. Also Dave Clarke, Adam Beyer, and others. I was always intrigued by artists who had something special something personal to offer. It could be just simply the notes, percussive sounds, the atmosphere, or an active performance. It was always about energy. Back in 2004 my friends and I visited all kinds of parties like MEET ME or Summer Gathering in Croatia, or the famous Ambasada Gavioli, so basically the energy I felt back then is something that I am chasing to this day and try to deliver to people in front of me when I play. It’s that simple, techno, and the art of performing and consuming it is something that influenced me to the extent that I am pursuing it as a career for all of my life actually.
Try to imagine, what you would be doing if music was never been introduced to you?
Something creative, maybe film, maybe interior design, I don’t know, something that goes hand in hand with creativity, but I would probably always be an active listener of all sorts of music.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
At first Superman and astronaut 🙂 Later on, I was always fooling around with some kind of instrument entertaining my parents and grandparents so obviously performance was always something that captivated my mind. My exposure to music as a child just shaped me in the area in which I am involved today. Music chose me from the beginning.
Aside from music, what do you like to do in your free time?
I am not into so many things since I can not engage in something as a hobby. I need to get deeper so like I said stuff really chooses me. One of the things that stayed with me is the obsession with space, all of the topics from deep space to black holes whatever. Also food and in general a healthy lifestyle a lot of fitness, and of course my two kids and my wife. Meditation is something I practice for years. Otherwise, I am thinking of getting back to skateboarding since this was something I was really into as a kid. So basically family, music, and healthy life including meditation, food, and fitness is my thing.
Tell us about your city, what kind of music scene does it have?
My city is the second biggest in the country with only 150.000 people, not even the capital is big so the scene is super small and can not provide a living from techno. There are clubs and underground venues that are doing good some of them even for many years it’s just all on a small scale. So you would have a party with no big names and maybe get to 300-500 people in the best scenario. If Umek is playing then a few thousand ravers come out to dance including the non-Techno people, but this happens only once in a while. That is not affecting my creative flow since I am used to that environment. For years now the world is connected with the internet for me there is no need to move to a bigger city at the moment, except for Ibiza. I would move there with my family if possible since we are a more sun-orientated family.
What is your favourite time of the year, and how does it influence your creativity?
It’s summer definitely. My wife and I both love the sun, and so do our kids. Summer is the time when all the action is happening. Those are the only months that I don’t work in the studio or maybe a little less in July and August is free almost every year. I have plenty of creativity going on during the year so I always try to prepare projects to be all finished by July or at least at the final mix stages so I can just enjoy the masters coming in August. Those two months are the least creative of the whole year. But I like it that way. When the sun is calling I just have to answer 🙂
What does your typical week usually look like?
Well before the pandemic it looked something like job-studio-kids and those three things constantly bouncing back and forward. So, for example, I would come from the night shift and get in the studio for 4-6 hours and after pick up kids, hang out, and the next day back in the studio. After that a day shift at work and the next day studio again for 6-8 hours before the night shift. All that for over 15 years. At weekends I would play a local party or festival and get back in the studio. Now during the pandemic, the stress is off a little and I am doing pretty much the same thing just with more passion and excitement as ever.
What does music mean to you and how it evolved since the beginning?
Music shaped me into who I am today and it continues to do so. I just can not help it not be involved deeply in production and even listening to music is a super serious thing to me. I hear rhythms and sound all the time and It’s just who I am and what I do. I don’t care about no viruses or whatever. As a kid, I listened to a lot of Prodigy or Dune even Scooter, and later on, I fell into the local punk rock scene where I did my bend and released an album when I was 17 years old. That was also the year of my first techno party around 2004. So I just was moving from studio to studio all the time. My thing was always an active performance since I get bored fast. I try to involve all of the tricks and knowledge and emotions in my productions, recording everything live as much as possible to keep that energy alive. So yeah, I am constantly evolving and learning and this year is no exception since the 125 dark stuff was getting boring I am moving into more melodic, still dark-ish and playful, but not as minimal. I could say I am moving more into the techno that brought me in in the first place, music from Beyer, Dave Clark, Umek, and others but packed into the current scene sound. I would say that my sound is evolving constantly and my music is getting better with every year.
Can you tell us about your debut as a DJ, where did it happen and how did it go?
I came into the techno scene as a punk rocker, so I didn’t really seek any attention. It was more about me and my connection with techno. At first, I was buying vinyl and rearranged my guitar practicing room into a DJ booth and later into a studio. And for years I would play and practice with vinyl at home even learn to scratch. But then at some point I think I took a gig at the local underground place which I knew pretty well as a punk rocker – I just switched sides. It was kinda good, people danced and I got all the beat matching right so it was okay. Feeling was great and I got addicted to it immediately. Was sweating like crazy of course 🙂 After that soon I upgraded my setup to Traktor Scratch and later full on to midi since it opened up a hole new world of possibilities in my performances. That is something I learned from Richie Hawtin so as his setup was growing, mine was evolving along side. Not in a copy cat fashion but you just got to learn from someone so I choose Richie for that since he was and still is pushing the limits and keeps inspiring me till today.
What is the biggest challenge or sacrifice you have made or have to make in doing what you do?
Well, you know how it is money is not growing on trees so there is always some kind of priority taking place, especially with a family. Buying a new synth or my kid a new bike haha. Sacrificing time from the studio and being with my family, of course, is a major thing but luckily my wife supports my career since the beginning and we have little to no issues with that if the logistical part is taken care of properly (usually done by my wife). But I have to say it all evolves around my career and going to the studio, for which I am extremely grateful! That was something my wife could not understand at our beginnings the dedication and passion for the calling and the extreme need to make it happen. Now she gets it 🙂
There are bad days for everyone; how do you keep yourself motivated creatively?
After so many years I learned a lot so I know when I am just being lazy or not motivated for real. So I know when is the time I can push myself and force myself to get things going and done and when it’s best to call it a day or just do some maintenance in the studio or even cleaning stuff. It’s all a balance of willpower, discipline, and passion which gets translated to all layers of being alive in reality. But once I get my thing on I don’t stop and push as far as possible. Then after the ideas are laid down things loosen up a little and I take my time. Creativity is something I fear the most even tho I have plenty of it.
How do you usually prepare before a gig, how much space do you leave for improvisation in your sets?
I am Djing for many years so I know what works and what does not. I have a good sense of improvisation and I love to keep things open just so I can play excitement and surprise even myself. But this comes only after years of being obsessed with performance. In the past when I was playing on vinyl I had all the parts figured out and played them at a certain time. After that when I started to incorporate midi into my performance I started to leave things open for interpretation on the fly since you could loop stuff endlessly and unlock your creativity to the max. Nowadays I try to perform like a band really, it includes all the elements from drums, instruments, effects, and a track, so all is layered in a big active performance. For the technical part, I am still obsessed – my cables, machines, and instruments need to be on 100% everything is double-checked, so I leave no room for error, even though computers can be a pain in the a$s. Only if all of the tech parts are 100% I can dive deep into the performance not worrying too much. I expect the same from a venue. The technical rider is super important, more than the drinks 🙂 Since we wanna give the people in the club the best experience they could possibly get.
What is your standard or most preferred technical setup for the performance?
For the last one on this note, name three artists that currently inspire you!
It’s no big secret I was influenced and shaped by Richie Hawtin. He is an artist that keeps on inspiring me the most. For the other part, there are some Drumcode artists that I find their music really dope like Tiger Stripes and Pig&Dan. But I have to say I don’t listen to techno as much at home so my inspiration comes a lot from rap or trap how they called it these days artist like Caskey are one of my favorite ones.
No surprise you have several releases on Plazma Records from before. Would you like to share your inspiration behind the new release?
Like I said the 125 minimal was a bit boring to me and since the new normal is 132 or higher my EP is no exception. I was really trying to come up with something new and fresh and still kinda keep it minimal and dark for Plazma. So “Spaces” and “Photon” are examples of what can happen if you raise the tempo and have to feel the bars and spaces with elements in an environment that is faster and more straightforward. You have no room for many elements you just stick to the basics with a powerful bass line, smashing drums with focused leads and that is what the EP represents. Stripped-down minimal techno with a bunch of energy banging like crazy with 303 leading the way.
As we are aware you are into technical sound generating machines. What do you have in your studio, what is your favourite piece of kit?
I don’t have too many machines since I don’t wanna be a collector. I try to buy only instruments that could really add to production and contribute to my sound or improve my workflow but mostly inspire so I can come up with new ideas that spark my imagination. In the center of all is Ableton Live with Max4Live sequencing all of the internal and external gear going true the Antelope Orion. Pretty much everything gets a virtual preamp treatment in layers. Usually, I start off with jamming on my favorite synth Minimlogue xd, and try to create a hook type of pattern going on and add as much of ideas down ass possible which later on get eliminated. Then I move to my favorite machine for drums Elektron Rytm mk2 for some drums layered with my TR-808. But if possible I add drums in the late stages because I find out that I can get more groove with synth effects, stabs percussion, and ad drums as an additional layer of groove. If I concentrate too much on drums at first I have problems with arrangements later on. For the bass part, I usually record with the Sub Phatty which is a powerful machine capable of so much more than just bass lines even hi-hats or stabs but its not a rule, many times a tom gets used for bass or these days a rumbling bass type of element. Then there is the TB-303 this one is pretty self-explanatory. The next one is System 1 many of the “Timeless” EP lines were written on that synth even though I like Minilogue more times I reach for different synths just to keep me interested. I am using the Push, of course, to put down some drums from internal samples I generated or purchased during out the years and also to control my soft synths like Diva, Anna, Razor, and many other NI stuff that I love since the beginning. All tracks get recorded and bounced out sometimes to Logic sometimes back to a new Live project and processed further with plugs from Waves, Soundtoys, Kush, Slate, FabFilter and many more. After that I group up the tracks in stems and process them additional with my Model 1 from Richie Hawtin to add an extra layer of life with the sculpting EQ and the overdrive on the channels. After that track is sent to my mastering engineer so he can give me feedback on what to repair or adjust to make the track work in any environment. This is a quite exhausting and long process but its all worth it at the end.
Just before we go – what could you wish for your listeners?
First of all, I would wish everybody a solid and healthy state of mind I would be super happy if everybody would give meditation a chance so we can talk on a higher level of consciousness. This is something that would change the game dramatically for the better in all fields. Otherwise, I would like people to listen to my music loud on a good system or headphones to get the most out of the experience since I am obsessed with sound. Head up to my Soundcloud or Youtube channel to hear the latest stuff that gets updated regularly along with my social media sites like IG, FB, Twitter also Tik Tok.