Either you have it, or you don’t
Edu Imbernon on Clubber Confession
Almost at the end of two intense days of partying at Ostend beach 2016, we sat down with Edu Imbernon to discuss about his plans for the summer, his path to where he is now as dj, producer and business man, and more in general about the electronic music scene.
We both had to take a deep breath after his wild set. Edu was on fire, with a nicely calibrated set made of intense techno beats, a driving melodic background intensely present all the way through the set, and a pushing energy which was clearly felt by the crowd. The Valencian based artist was able to take everyone up with his banging techno, or down with punctual breaks, and at any moment it wasn’t clear what to expect. I have studied him a bit, with video of his set and going through is massive production, but it was my first time actually watching Edu playing live in front of me. I must say that he impressed me for his capacity to adapt to the situation on the ground (or on the sand in the case of Ostend Beach) while maintaining intact his soul. During the interview he said that with his dj set he always try to tell a story. Well, Edu, judging by the smiling faces of the people around me during your performance I am sure that the story was well received by everyone.
Edu is many things. Dj, producer, label owner, manager and promoter, but he easily admitted that one of the reasons of his success in music comes from being the young teen secretly partying in Ibiza. He was a clubber, before anything else. And we could not let him go without a Confession.
First of all, how did you find the festival, the atmosphere in Ostend?
Edu Imbernon: It was a really nice environment, on the beach which is always a plus and also the weather was really good. I have seen a really mixed crowd, different generations with younger and older people all together, and that was a nice surprise to me.
You play a lot in Belgium or the Netherlands?
Edu Imbernon: In the last couple of years I started to play more often in Belgium, I played here last week and I will play again in August, while the Netherlands has always been my main market. It is nice to play in places with an established history of club culture.
Edu just had a few releases in the last couple of months, in February Shadows of Rigadon, an EP with a remix of his friends Los Soruba and in April Bitter Fate, an EP out on Fayer (with a remix by Coyu). We asked him about his plans for the summer.
Edu Imbernon: I will have a very intense summer, with a lots of festivals, basically lots of open festivals. That combined with the many nights I will have in Ibiza, for example Ibiza souls, Amnesia, Elrow and the closing of Space on the 2nd of October. It is a really nice combination of Ibiza, my passion, and other festivals around Europe. It will be fun I’m sure.
You told us that you were first a clubber and then became a dj, do you think being a clubber is a necessary step before taking your chances as a dj?
Edu Imbernon: At some point I think you either have it, or you don’t. There are so many good producers that are not really good djs, and I think that when you see a really good dj 90% of the times he has been a clubber before. You can feel it.
Talking about good or bad djing, what do you think that matters most: being a good mixer, with the perfect technique, or being able to know which track is the right one for the right moment and connect with the crowd? Is it more about technique and how good you mix, or more about passion and vibes?
Edu Imbernon: I think the selection of the track is vital. If you combine it with a good technique, then it is great. I believe, however, that even if you do the perfect mix, a spotless mix, but the music is not there, then you lose something vital. If you cannot take the people on a trip and tell a story, you maybe don’t have what it is needed to be a dj. And this is something true for anyone, even big artist. Maybe some of them are great in the studio and then they need to tour and dj because nowadays you need to be seen, but if you don’t have that connection with the crowd then it is immediately felt during your sets.
We then tried to go back a little bit, and find out where did it all started and how Edu Imbernon become the internationally recognized artist of today. He grew up in a musical environment, his father a musician, and he started at 9 years old playing piano, while his brothers where influencing him with the music of Depeche Mode and New Order.
Which artists influenced you the most when you were young and clubbing in your teens?
Edu Imbernon: At that time, I was really into what back then was called melodic or progressive house, which is not the same of today. I have never liked minimal, or just techno, I wanna have a story. I remember I was really into John Dahlbäck, Gregor Tresher, Vitalic and also very important for me was Tiga. I always look for a story, before when I was just a kid clubbing and now that I am on the other side of the stage.
There is a coming back of melodic techno, or however you wanna call it, techno with a story, don’t you think?
Edu Imbernon: Yes I have noticed that. Lately, I am playing the more melodic I have ever played and people are taking it very well, so yes.
So you experienced the clubbing scene when you were younger, how do you think is it evolving now? Is it becoming too commercial? Do you think that this might be a problem or just an opportunity with more young people approaching this world?
Edu Imbernon: It’s getting massive. I was checking yesterday my social media, and every artist that I follow was playing at festivals in different parts of the world. There are amazing festivals everywhere, a huge market is continuously growing. I think that all the EDM thing will be eventually good for us, for our world, because those kids that approach that style of electronic music will get bored very soon of it and then they will try to find something different.
It is a first step into the world for young people, we can say. We have seen this also in the last Ultra and WMC in Miami. Also in the US there is now this new wave of more underground music growing.
Edu Imbernon: Yes, the US are changing and going towards what I call boutique festivals, for example Lightning in a Bottle. Smaller festivals, maybe in special locations such as forests, or undisclosed locations until the very end. So yeah, I think this is a positive evolution. And I think in 5 years or so, this kind of “new clubbing” will be very big in the US.
You are also a producer, what is your work routine? Do you plan it rationally or you prefer to follow your instincts and feelings?
Edu Imbernon: I really cannot do this job as a regular job, it has to be driven by your feelings. Sometimes I make two records per year, sometimes two in a month, it has to be natural. My favourite time to produce is winter, because I usually have a more relaxed agenda with less events and it’s more chilled.
We talked before about labels. We know that you have Fayer and Eklektisch, can you tell us a bit more about them?
Edu Imbernon: Eklektisch is my first label, I created it when I moved to Berlin in 2008, and it is all about new artists and talented people, together with remixes by high level international artists. It’s melodic house and techno. Fayer is another story, it is a long term project with no pressure of releasing so much. Maybe I release two records in a year, maybe three, not more and it is about trying to have amazing songs, not tracks, and focus on the quality first. This focus on the quality that I want, it goes against the trends of the industry. Music is getting old really, really fast today. For this reason, it is very risky for a label to release just two records per year. That is why it has to be a good one. People need to appreciate it, to remember it, to love it.
You play in very different situations, big festivals, clubs, smaller venues. How do you approach these different environments?
Edu Imbernon: I check first where I am gonna play, what is the line-up, just to understand what to expect. I still keep my style, but I try to adapt to the situation around me. Today I decided to go more techney, because I felt that people where there for that, and I think it worked fine. I like to get to the place half an hour before I start, to look around, listen to the dj before me and see the reaction of the crowd.
Can I ask you a few tracks that you think will be big this summer?
Edu Imbernon: Lately I have been playing a lot a track by Tim Fishbeck called Witness to Wisdom. I didn’t know this producer before, but I always play this track. The energy of this tune is massive, you can play it in a club, you can play it in a festival, but people will always go crazy with this. And also, it has a beautiful melody as a background. This will be big this summer, I’m sure. I also love the work of Victor Ruiz, he’s doing amazing music. Melodic, electronic techno, very fresh and perfect for this summer.
Tim Fishbeck – Witness to Wisdom
How do you combine your personal life, family, with this work that you do? Is it difficult to find a balance?
Edu Imbernon: I don’t think it is that difficult. You need to find a way to make it work, maybe trying to involve your family in what you do. In this way, it is much better because they understand what you do and don’t feel left out of a big part of your life.
You know the never ending debate in the electronic music scene about digital or analog mixing, and the controversy that exploded recently when a club manager in the US decided to ban computers from the dj boot. What is your position on this?
Edu Imbernon: Honestly, I think it is bullshit. What people sometimes are complaining about are these new comers djs, that have never touched a cdj or a vinyl in their life, but times change. Now, what I think it matters most is to be a good selector. For me it doesn’t matter how you play, as long as the people in front of you are happy. Of course it is nice to see someone playing vinyl, but it is not necessary. For my work, I see a lot of people playing, and I think that sometimes people take themselves too seriously. A lot of the “only-analog-djs” of today, man, I don’t get them. Sometimes it seems to me that everything is perfectly mixed, and very nice to watch, but they are playing more for themselves than for the people listening.
Do you think that this kind of job is doable for life?
Edu Imbernon: Yes, but it depends really if you do it properly. The risk is to burn out very quickly. When you start in the international scene, when you start to have success, it is very easy to make the wrong decisions. You get offers to play in shitty places, but they pay you well. The risk is to make decisions based on short term convenience, and this is not the correct way to do it if you want to stay in this business for long. If you start playing in bad clubs, then you start releasing on bad labels, and the result will be bad music. This is how the good labels, and the good promoters, and the good clubs will stop paying attention to you. And shitty labels and shitty clubs don’t last for long, and you together with them will not last long. It is very important to make the right decisions to last long, not following trends and just be true to yourself.