The Partae: I’m really glad that you guys are here on behalf of AR:TE as a DJ duo, but also as a representative of the party and festival scene in Ljubljana and Slovenia with your label SOLVD and with the Butik festival.
Let’s start with your DJ careers. Can you summarize your journey as a duo? How did you get together? Where did you come from as solo careers?
Alex: We both had solo careers before. I started playing and making music in 2012. I was drawn into producing as something to clear my head, to be with myself, to put out things that I was not able to do on a personal level, and simply to enjoy the creation process. At some point, I realized that if I started deejaying, that could also progress into something more in the future. In 2016, I started with a couple of friends, the SOLVD project: a series of events in Ljubljana that quickly evolved into an actual label.
Teo: I started making events and playing drum and bass when I was 18. In the beginning, I was playing mostly abroad. I used to be a windsurfer and I travelled the world for it. Wherever I went, I played house music in exotic clubs. Because I was a foreigner, I could say “Trust me, I’m a good DJ! Let me try just for one night.” Then I was given the opportunity to show my skills and they booked me more often. I was a resident DJ in clubs in Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt. When I returned home to Slovenia, I became a huge fan of SOLVD parties from the beginning. I was the number one fan of Alex.
Alex: Actually, there’s a video from our first party and he’s dancing like crazy!
In 2019 we changed our SOLVD team a little bit as we were looking for new residents to join us. A common friend mentioned Teo, we knew each other but we never played together. During the first party of the year, we spontaneously tried to play together and the energy clicked and that’s how AR:TE started.
Teo: Since then we have been playing (mostly) together.
The Partae: What are your influences? Are there specific people you got inspiration from?
Alex: I grew up with hip-hop. In high school, the Viva channel was broadcasting some electronic music videos and that caught my attention. From that point on, electronic music took my heart. I always liked Kerri Chandler, Karizma and DJ Spen, those old house heads. I was also influenced by the UK sound because it has this edginess, groove and dub-deep vibe surrounded with lots of energy. Right now I don’t have a favorite artist because it’s so many influences drawing from.
Teo: When I was younger, I was really into jazz, funk, soul and blues. Since I used to play piano as I kid, I take music inspiration from this organic sound. Then, as I mentioned before, I got into drum and bass. My love for drum and bass came from liquid and jungle, nothing too aggressive or punchy. Especially, I was a huge fan of Brazilian artists like DJ Marky, DJ Patife, and other main artists like Calibre. But in the back of my soul, there was always house music. In the following years, the drum and bass scene became a bit more aggressive, going towards Neurofunk and liquid was falling down. I felt betrayed. I just couldn’t be there with this kind of sound. And I said, “Fuck it!” and I focused on house music. During all these years I have been developing my sound non-stop. I don’t play a specific sound but I play a lot of different genres. When we play as AR:TE, we play a bit differently than solo. Alex is a good deejay and producer with his own sound. I am Teo with my own sound. When we come together as AR:TE, we push each other to explore deeper, to be more curious and explorative. This is AR:TE’s vision.
The Partae: You guys are representing the Ljubljana and Slovenian scene with organizations like SOLVD and also Butik (which is located in Tolmin). Can you describe what makes it special and what challenges are you facing?
Alex: In the late 90s, Slovenia was quite on top of Eastern European electronic music scene because we had one of the best clubs in probably Europe: Ambasada Gavioli. It was built in 1995. It was running for 27 years, until 2021. Even international stars like Richie Hawtin said a couple of years back that if this club were in a place with better infrastructure like Ibiza, it would be top 3 in the world! In addition, you had a couple of cities in Slovenia known as “rave cities”. So the following and interest from the public was massive. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 2000s, the regulations started to be tighter and it slowly became more difficult to run a club and make a profit.
Currently, the Slovenian scene is at a good level regarding the quality of individual DJs, producers and collectives in several different genres. However, we are lacking the infrastructure and support at a national level in both acceptance from the mainstream public and government institutions. We have a shortage of clubs. There’s only one serious club for underground music: Klub K4 in Ljubljana, where we do our SOLVD parties. Other than that, there are only minor locations in the rest of Slovenia. Also among underground festivals, it’s basically only Butik on a larger scale. There are other projects but they’re smaller in scope, just aimed at a couple of hundred people and organized by local enthusiasts.
Other genres such as Balkan music for example do not face the same challenges because they are more widely accepted by the general public, so they can organize events in every place.
Teo: Another big problem is the commercial events. The tickets are not too expensive so they attract more people, especially young ones who are not yet musically educated. Those types of events are the entry gate to the festival and party culture for most people due to their availability and accessibility, but they book always the same artists. People end up listening to this kind of music and thinking “Ok, this is it, I’ll enjoy this.” They don’t proactively search for new sounds. That’s what we try to do with our events: to provide new music to people and welcome them to our community. At every party new people are coming and they’re like: “Whoa, what is this? Is this house music? Whoa, I didn’t know, I love it!”. As the Slovenian music community, we need to be more adventurous and braver in booking and promoting underground sound.
The Partae: Let’s talk more about Butik Festival. What factors have made it such a big success?
Alex: Our initial idea when we created Butik was to have a place for the community where everybody feels welcome. Music is the perfect tool for inclusivity because you cannot have competition. This is our advantage: We welcome everybody, we are inclusive.
Teo: What makes Butik special is also our team, not just DJs, but everyone else who works here, who represents the real soul of the festival. At the party, everybody comes, everybody is happy, everybody is dancing! Sharing this positive energy is highly contagious for everyone else around.
Alex: Another important goal for us is to provide a way for people to always discover new artists. We don’t want to be a festival where the lineup stays the same over the years. We have a rule that we repeat a single international artist maximum of two years, but not more than 20% of the lineup. This way we can push local talent first. International acts are a nice complementary aspect, to draw attention. When guests come here, they start enjoying the sets from the DJs that they didn’t know. And when those are Slovenian DJs, that is the best that can happen! For local artists there are not so many options, so we try to provide them with opportunities to play.
The Partae: Do you think that an international project like Butik works also as a way to teach the Slovenian people about the international underground scene?
Teo: Yes, absolutely! Butik is quite a young festival and it is getting recognized not only abroad, but also in Slovenia. People are talking about this festival and the underground scene with enthusiasm. It spreads organically with word of mouth, which is the best way to promote it. And it’s slowly gaining traction. We are really proud of it. This is one of the main goals of the festival. Groups of underground DJs and insider crews start getting recognized, and collaboratively building a strong community.
Alex: At the moment in Ljubljana, there is a healthy relationship between the crews. The majority of us work really well together. Even if often we don’t necessarily like each other’s music, we respect each other and understand that everybody has space in this community. Right now we are in a good position and hopefully, we can build something together. Here in Slovenia, there’s a major festival called Ment Festival. Originally, it was a festival for bands, but now they are expanding to electronic music as well. This year it was the first time they organized a panel to bring all the Slovenian crews together and discuss the problems we are facing and how we could solve them together. This kind of initiative gives me more positive thoughts that we can make it together.
The Partae: Do you see any collaborations to promote the underground scene outside of Slovenia, also in the Balkans?
Alex: One of the main goals for the future, is to create a sort of organization where we would all work together: artists, organizers and promoters from Balkans, from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, etc. To the Western world, we are perceived as a sort of minor area and they don’t see us as an important market. Artists from these countries don’t have the same chance as somebody from the Netherlands or the UK for example. We see it as a challenge, but also as a huge opportunity: if we all work together, then it’s not only the Slovenian market of 2 million people, but it can translate into a market of roughly 20 million people including all the people from ex-Jugoslavia countries.
The same applies to event organizers. We could join forces and share flights and costs to bring international DJs to play here in a sort of tour: on Friday certain artists could play in Ljubljana, on Saturday in Zagreb, the week after in Belgrade, in Skopje, and then all of a sudden we can become interesting for them. Of course, this is just a vision. Right now we have connections with a couple of groups that we are working closely with.
The Partae: Let’s look towards the future. What are future expectations and plans for SOLVD, AR:TE and for Butik?
Alex: Butik is working on a super interesting project in collaboration with the Lighthouse Festival, an Austrian festival in Croatia that has a similar vision. We’ll jointly organize a musical holiday experience in Zanzibar next February. It will be a mix of partying and relaxing for an entire week. It’s a super cool project because I haven’t or I didn’t see many times that the two festivals joined together to make a project. We’re also working on other projects such as a club tour, however, we want to keep it a secret for now.
Alex: For our SOLVD label, we started our 8th club season at Klub K4 just recently with Gene On Earth. We plan to do approximately 4-6 events in one year, and we also plan to focus on other markets to host showcases. We’ll also work on our second label release however, we don’t want to rush ourselves. Regarding our AR:TE project, we had quite a nice summer with gigs in Slovenia, Italy (After Caposile), Croatia, etc. We did our first “release” an edit of classic track “Presence – Work On Me” which was released digitally via SOLVD. It got really nice support. We have some other edits in the pipeline as well as the first EP so we should have plenty of exciting projects in the future.
Teo: Regarding the SOLVD events, we will definitely continue to make parties in Ljubljana, in Slovenia. But the next step is to grow internationally and play in different countries with our whole crew. Since we are five DJs in SOLVD, bringing all of us to a place in Europe it’s difficult and expensive. Every one of us is developing very fast in just a couple of years and we need to keep promoting ourselves as a solo to consequently bring the crew along. Together we can achieve this!