Andrea Oliva Interview: 'It's something special, having your own night'

Andrea Oliva spoke to Marko Kutlesa about his studio, crowd reactions, his return to Ibiza and much more.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 25th Apr 2017.
Originally published: 24th Apr 2017

Swiss born DJ Andrea Oliva is best known as a permanent and popular fixture of premium clubbing destination Ibiza. He made a name for himself in Switzerland via DJing in some of the country's best clubs, co-hosting his own party and working in a record store, but it was following his 2004 debut in Ibiza that his name began to be mentioned internationally. 

He soon began to be invited to reproduce internationally the special vibe he creates at summer parties on the White Isle and now tours throughout the year, including South America and Asia alongside his native Europe. He began his production career with releases in 2009 and since that time has recorded for Desolat, VIVa Music, Saved Records, Be As One, Cadenza, Hideout, Knee Deep, Moon Harbour and released his debut album 4313 in 2015 on Objektivity. 

Andrea is associated with some of the best contemporary clubbing brands and regularly represents at ANTS events. In 2017 Andrea has announced that his new summer residency will be on Tuesday nights in the club room at Hï Ibiza (the space formerly known as The Terrace at the club formerly known as Space). Speaking from his home in the suburbs around Basel, Andrea Oliva sat down with Marko Kutlesa to talk about his music making, his DJing and the approaching summer season.

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Do you make house music that has a techno influence or do you make techno that has a house music influence?

I think these days it's a bit difficult to define genres. Nowadays its more of a mixed salad, you can't say whether it's house or techno. So I can't tell you. I can tell you that I'm a big fan of old school techno and of house stuff from the early 90s, so I definitely have some influence from both sides.

Which particular techno artists were an influence?

Jeff Mills and Derrick May. Those two are the main ones I followed.

And from early 90s house? Which producers from that period did you follow?

There were so many smaller labels I was following from that time. I always loved Chez Damier. Louie Vega, Masters At Work stuff. The beats that they were doing and on the vinyl there would always be dubs or beat mixes.

I just read that Chez is doing a project or a remix with Ricardo Villalobos.

People like Chez, Omar S, Moodyman, Mr G, those guys can do whatever they want. If it's house or techno they've always got something to say and there's always a good, positive portion of house music within the soul of the track.

What are you thinking about when you make music? Do you have a mental picture or any inspiration?

I think that when you go to play in clubs and at festivals you get touched emotionally by the reaction of the people and automatically you start to have a feeling of what sounds and arrangements they are responding to. When I'm in the studio it always starts with freestyle sessions, laying around with the machines. I always start with the groove, but as it comes together I always have a picture in my mind of these audiences and I ask myself “How is it going to work?” If I have a moment in the studio and I have pretty much the same kind of feeling as when I play, then I take it from there.

Do any inspirations or ideas for music, such as a melody, come to you at times when you are not in the studio and, if yes, how do you remember what they are so you can pick them back up at your next recording session?

When I started to produce I was almost over-motivated, comparing what I had created to what was created by someone of whom I'm a fan. Most of the time you'd get disappointed because you just don't have their skills, you just can't sound the way they sound. But what I could take from other people's tracks was the kind of vibe they had, especially in the arrangement. You can have pretty nice loops that last 30 seconds or so but at the end of the day it's the arrangements that make the track special, what gives them shape.

So, for example, someone like James Holden, I was never able to rebuild any melodies from him, even though I love them to death. It's impossible, because it's just him, you know? But I would take inspiration from him on how to arrange tracks.

What's it actually like to be in your studio? Are you always working alone when you are there? What can you see out of the window?

I've had three studios. The first one was in the basement of Club Nordstern in Basel, so that was just a dark room with no window. The second was on the last floor of a car park in the middle of the city so I had an amazing view of Basel. Now I have the studio in my house and again its in the basement so I can't see anything.

I usually like to work alone. Doing music is something that is pretty personal. A lot of the times things happen by accident, from faults, mistakes. If you're with someone else you maybe feel like you have something to prove and things like that will not come so naturally, so for me it's better to be alone.

Summer time obviously means playing lots of festivals, outdoor parties and on Ibiza to you. What does winter mean to you?

The good thing about having a proper touring schedule is when we have winter here in Europe I have the chance to play in places like South America where its summer. I have a short winter because as soon as the season finishes in Ibiza, around October/November, I start to do my South American tours, so I go from sun to sun. My winters at home are pretty much in the studio, trying to spend time with my family, trying to go to the mountains, snowboarding. When it gets darker earlier in the day, I just go to the studio. It's a good time for that, it's more productive.

Everyone who works in music needs some time away from it. Your ears can get tired. What do you like to do in your times away from music?

I really like to spend time with my friends, do some sport, walking my dog, visiting my family, try to have some quality time with my girlfriend.

What kind of sport do you do?

I like to play football. Besides that I like running and going to the gym. I think it's a good balance with all the travelling. I was lazy for a couple of years and didn't do any sport and I found that I was always so tired. Now, the more sport I do, the more I feel motivated.

So, you like football. What's your team? Do you have a favourite English team?

I am a crazy AC Milan fan. But we've been doing shit for a couple of years. When I have time I go to see games, I know some of the players. I love the sport in general. When it's Champions League time I'm like a little kid at Christmas.

A favourite English team? I go with those who have Italian managers, so there are a few in the Premier League. Of course I was cheering for Ranieri when he was at Leicester, I like what Conte is doing at Chelsea. I watch Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A all the time.

Of all the labels you have recorded for, which is the one you are most proud of having released some of your music on?

In the beginning when it was super, super hard to get a connection with a label It was a time when I was a big fan of so many labels, so today I am really proud that I was able to release on so many. I had an album on Objektivity and it was actually the first album they released, so that's one for sure. I've been following Dennis Ferrer and Kerri Chandler for years.

Desolat is definitely one of the labels I wanted to release on too. Soon I'll have a release on Hot Creations. Every label you have a relationship with because you're friends with the A+R or the guy who runs it. Of course releasing music is important for your career, I'm very grateful that people are still fighting to release vinyl, that they still have a passion for doing this because often, as an artist, you gain more advantage from the release than the label does itself. Back in the days maybe they would make money, but these days most labels do it for the passion.

What differences have you noticed in how audiences behave and what music they like in all the territories you have travelled to?

The more chaotic life tends to be in the country, the warmer they are and the more crazy they go. Some places in South America people go totally nuts. They are so warm, they welcome you in an amazing way and they totally go nuts to every record. In other countries, other places you can go to, they analyse the music too much, you feel like they are there to judge you, like music police, and you feel that. DJs always suck the vibe off the floor.

Every place is different but some places in South America, some places in the south of Italy, like Naples and in eastern Europe – Serbia, Romania, Croatia – people go totally nuts. I don't know why. Maybe because here in western Europe there are a lot of clubs and festivals so people have seen everyone and they see them a couple of times a year?

This year you're returning to play at the brand new venue Hï Ibiza (the club formerly known as Space), which is the first venue you played at in Ibiza. How does that feel?

It's amazing. It's in the Room 2 called Club, (which was the room previously known as the Terrace), I'm able to programme the night the way I want musically, I'm able to invite my friends to play. It's challenging because it's Ibiza, there are a lot of DJs, a lot of parties, a lot of competition, but I think it's the right time and I'm super proud to have announced that.

I was going crazy, because I knew for a couple of months already, but I couldn't tell anyone. I wanted to shout out to the world. It's something special, having your own night. I played the terrace many times, maybe five or six times last year, all night, and the vibe is great. The Room 1 will be hosted by Eric Prydz where he has his own lineup. It's going to be exciting.

Some DJs play different kinds of music in the open air compared to when they play inside. Some DJs play different music in the daylight compared to playing in the dark. How do you change the music you play at ANTS travelling nights to suit the venues you play which are all probably very different to the environment where the night was born in Ibiza?

I think the art of DJing is to play the right track in the right moment and to catch the vibe of the party in general. It is different, like you said, to play a small club, somewhere dark, compared to playing outside. A DJ should be able to adapt to those situations. Of course every set is different, but what makes it you is to transmit your own kind of vibe. The essence of what is your style of DJing should always be heard.

Which records that have been released since last summer finished are you looking forward to playing this summer season?

I don't have any specific ones, but I can tell you that when I play an outdoor party I like to play maybe a deeper sound, maybe more melodic, more soulful records. There is so much music coming out, I get maybe 100 promos a week. I'm always checking music. Here and there I will see something that I think would work at a festival or on Ibiza. I have some favourite labels, so when I hear something from Drumcode I think, "Is this something that would work at a festival?"

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