Like most producers lumped into the “nu-disco” pigeonhole, Ilija Rudman can’t stand the phrase. After speaking to him, it’s hardly surprising; he eschews the obvious in favour of the path less travelled. Rather than moving to a musical hotbed like London or Berlin, Rudman has remained in his native Croatia to focus on making music, and resolutely rejects new software in favour of vintage equipment. He spoke to Juno Plus about 80s pop music, unreliable synths and his love of the English countryside.
How did you get into disco music?
I’ve been collecting instruments for the past 10 years, it’s been a painful job! Ever since I was a child and saw my first synth I’ve been fascinated by them. I like to produce music with an organic sound. I haven’t got any plug-ins installed, you ask me a basic question about that kind of technology and I have no idea. I have like 30 midi instruments – 20 synths, five drum machines, bass, guitar, all kinds of instruments. I like to do things in an old fashioned way.
Do you think that gives you a unique sound?
Definitely. I buy this equipment, often in rubbish condition, and repair them as best I can. But you have to live with their quirks… for example, sometimes it’s a bad day for a synth, it won’t work and all, and the next day it is fine. It’s like there is a ghost in the studio (laughs).
Do you see yourself as a collector of this old gear?
For sure. It’s strange, sometime I find rare equipment around the corner for next to nothing. Where I live, the former Yugoslavia that is now Croatia, there used to be lots of people making music and there was one major label with a studio here. But then the machines became outdated, and people started selling them cheap. Sometimes I get in the car and drive to Germany to find good equipment.
How many different synths do you have?
I have more than 20 synths now.
Your new releases sound more pop-friendly than your older productions. Could you see yourself going down that path?
I like the idea of making crossover music. I’d like to make music that is so well produced that it could be a commercial success. It’s definitely possible, and I can see myself making good pop music in the future. I listen to a lot of 80s music, both obscure stuff and common. All pop from the 80s is better than today – these days making sounds is an instant exercise, you can sit on your laptop and in two days you have a new track. That kind of production is killing the essence of music. There are people using so much compression, just so it sounds good on the internet, never mind the clubs. That’s the wrong approach, music used to mixed with love, written with love.
“I like the idea of making crossover music. I’d like to make music that is so well produced that it could be a commercial success”
Will that way of producing change?
Who knows. The thing is it’s no longer possible for 90 per cent of producers to use decent equipment because it’s all so expensive. What I think you’ll find is a better fusion between software and hardware. A lot of my friends use plug-ins and swear by them, and they will continue to get better and better. But every step towards something new will be followed by something old. That’s the way it is, you look at the garage house sound of New York coming back. Before that it was Balearic and the whole nu-disco thing. With so many people doing it, the quality level is bound to drop, It’s just a phase which will disappear, and something else will come along.
What else are you up to at the moment, production-wise?
Well there will loads of new releases in the first half of the year. “Call Me Tonight” has just come out, on my own label Red Music. It will come in two volumes – volume one will have the original and a Revenge mix on its, and volume two will have a Greg Wilson remix. Then there’s a new one on Under The Shade, called “What Am I Going To Do”, and then in March there’s one on Bear Funk, the Soul Embrace EP. Also I’ve got some remixes out on Wolf Music. I’ve also got a collaboration with Architeq, so there’ll be a single out in March on Tirk.
Wow, you are keeping busy – then what?
Ha yes! After that I’m doing a remix of the new Cut Copy song “All Night”. That one is very fresh, I’ve just started on it. Besides that I’ve been staying at home, it’s been good weather to stay inside.
And what does the summer hold?
Festival dates, club dates, more production.
Have you got any plans with Spirit Catcher? You have collaborated with them a few times in the past.
Maybe. That started about four years ago when they remixed my track “Closer Dancer”. We got talking more and more and became close friends. Sometimes I visit them in Belgium, other times they visit me in Croatia, so I now look at these guys as friends and not musicians.
You remixed Arthur Russell’s “Wax The Van” as part of a recent tribute album on Electric Minds. Do you count Arthur as one of you major influences?
Everybody who is into this kind of music is influenced by Arthur in some way. But I only got the vocal to make my track, which is good because I want to recreate it in a fully original way, based on my perception of that track.
“Sometimes it’s a bad day for a synth, it won’t work and all, and the next day it is fine. It’s like there is a ghost in the studio”
Tell me a bit about your label, Red Music…
Some people look at the label’s history but there is not any plan, and there’s often a gap of six months bewteen releases. I’m not chasing music to release, it’s just a little fetish label for music I like.
Where is your favourite place to play?
Brazil – especially Sao Paolo. Belguim is nice, St Petersburg in Russia. I notice a special feeling in the crowd in countries that are developing musically. They all act very naturally on the dancefloor.
You live in Croatia – what is that like in terms of the electronic music scene?
I think it’s a positive thing (that I’m based here). It’s harder to get your name out there when you are surrounded by lots of people doing the same thing. Berlin? People like to say Berlin Berlin Berlin, but I’ve never been into that scene. I love the UK. I first went about 10 years ago and London made a big impression on me. If I moved from Croatia, it would be to England. Somewhere in the countryside!
Interview: Aaron Coultate