Deep house DJ Solomun brings a DIY attitude for Hong Kong gig

The Bosnian-German DJ and producer, best known for his eclectic remixes, hits Dragon-i this month

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 9:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 4:08pm

Few electronic music artists combine underground credibility and mainstream success like Bosnian-German deep house DJ and producer Solomun, who spins at Dragon-i on November 16.

That’s partly because his career has been something of a slow-burn overnight success – after several years building up a following in Germany, it all kicked off in 2011, first with a string of remixes and original tracks such as the funktastic Kackvogel, followed by his first residency in Ibiza in 2012. Since then he has essentially taken over the Spanish party island.

He was Mixmag magazine’s DJ of the year in 2012, has won three times at industry Oscars the DJ Awards, and has even become a resident on BBC Radio 1 in the UK, while spending 10 years at the helm of reliable underground house label DIYnamic.

All that after coming to music fairly late in life. Born Mladen Solomun in Bosnia but raised in Hamburg, he worked in construction for his father as a young man, then spent several years at a film production company he set up with friends, and was in his mid-20s by the time he actually went into a recording studio.

“It was thrilling at the beginning,” he says. “I remember something like 15 years ago I visited a friend from Hamburg once a week in his studio – he was part of a hip-hop collective there – and he showed me his production skills. For the first few weeks I was just sitting next to him and watching him turning the knobs. After some time I felt brave enough to buy myself a computer with [music production software] Logic and just started then to produce by myself.”

The music he produces and plays is a particularly melodic, warm, organic form of house, featuring lots of euphoric vocals. There’s also an obvious grounding in hip hop, funk and R&B, examples of which have also been known to find their way into his DJ sets.

He takes an equally eclectic approach to his remix work, which has included acts as diverse as indie band Foals, tech house group Tiefschwarz and singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. Solomun says he doesn’t mind the source material, or even whether it’s something he really loves.

“At the end of the day I just need one small idea, one spark – it can be an atmosphere or some vocals – and if I have this feeling then I try to do a remix. And then it doesn’t matter if I love the original track or not. Then it is just the material for the new track, my remix that I have in mind.”

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Over the past few years multiple residencies have made Solomun more or less synonymous with Ibiza. His Solomun+1 nights at mega-club Pacha feature a set from a big-name guest – they have included Sven Väth, Dubfire, Michael Mayer, Miss Kittin, Pete Tong, Dixon and DJ Koze – followed by a back-to-back set from the pair of them. Solomun+1 Live, meanwhile, at Ibiza clubs Ushuaia and Destino, features the DJ alongside a roster of live acts, including plenty from the DIYnamic stable.

“Of course Ibiza is a special place for me to play,” he says. “But all around the world there are so many amazing venues. Our culture is getting bigger and bigger and you can find great parties everywhere nowadays.”

He adds that while the party island might be a holiday destination for everyone else, it leaves him needing one. “After 21 weeks of the Ibiza season I totally need a holiday. Usually I go to a wellness clinic to detox and relax a bit.”

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When he’s not DJing, producing or remixing, however, much of his downtime is spent on DIYnamic. As its name suggests the label has a do-it-yourself ethic, although doing everything themselves has become harder for Solomun and his business partner Adriano Trolio as the business has grown. Solomun takes care of the A&R side of the company, which includes acts such as H.O.S.H., Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Stimming and Adriatique; the label now also puts on its own festivals around the world.

“Back in the good old days me and Adriano could more or less decide all on our own the next releases and everything about DIYnamic,” he says. “But since our label has grown a lot and since we have a lot of amazing artists who all have good taste and judgment when it comes to music, it takes much longer nowadays.”

As for his other love, filming, he has says he no longer has time to do any because of all the DJing. “But there are of course similarities: you want to tell a story, you want to take your audience on a trip. This is what directors and DJs do. When I was working in film, some people told me that I worked like a musician; I had a very musical approach to film. And since I’ve been doing music, people tell me that my take them on a journey like a film. So maybe I have both sides in me.”

Solomun, Nov 16, 11pm, Dragon-i, UG/F, The Centrium, 60 Wyndham St, Central, HK$300 (door). Inquiries: info@dragon-i.com.hk