The Idle Man sat down with Andrea Oliva ahead of his busy summer playing in Ibiza. We spoke about his new EP, the momentum he’s gained over the last five years and what we can expect in 2017. Read on to see what Andrea had to say.
Before ringing Andrea Oliva, the Swiss native and favourite of ANTS, Paradise and Hot Creations, I was filled with some nerves. When you finally get the opportunity to speak to someone who you’ve been a fan of for years, there is always sense of nervousness that creeps in before you call. Fear starts to arise from everywhere. Will they be how I imagine? Will they be nice? I wonder if it’ll be difficult getting answers out of them? Will they like the questions? What if the interview goes wrong?
The nerves start to kick in when I finally pluck up the courage to start Skype call. The dial tone only starts to exacerbate the nerves that are building up inside me. This isn’t just any DJ I’m ringing. After all, this is a guy who’s played sold out shows in Ibiza, toured across the world and has gained a huge amount of success from his tracks being so authentic and real. I take a deep breath as the call is connected and here we go. I’m face to face (virtually) with Andrea Oliva.
Within 30 seconds of speaking to Andrea, those fears dissipate instantly. Speaking to him from his Ibizan apartment, whilst I was in a sweaty office block in East London, I couldn’t help but get a sense of jealousy. After all, he’ll be playing to thousands of people on the Balearic Isles whilst I’ll be running to Liverpool Street to catch a train. It looks like Oliva’s won this competition.
With the general chit chat, the hello’s and the thank you’s, coming to a close we jump straight into it. Now I want to know what makes the man behind such incredible hits tick, what makes him feel good when it comes to music and whether or not he feels he’s made it yet. This is Andrea Oliva’s interview with The Idle Man.
The first thing I want to ask you is, what were your musical influences when you were growing up?
Andrea Oliva: You know when I was growing up I had a really wide taste in music. I was listening to a lot of hip-hop, just like everybody my age was. People like Wu-Tang, NAS, A Tribe Called Quest, that kind of hard and gritty sound. On the other hand, I also really liked bands like Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, Guns ’n’ Roses. They were totally different genres of music but I liked both equally.
However, when I started to discover electronic music I totally fell in love with it. My uncle used to produce electronic music in the 80s so when I was young and we went to my grandparent’s place, he used to be playing on these synthesisers and it fascinated me. I’m still fascinated by them now!
That’s the best way to be, to take inspiration from individual bits instead of just one genre, isn’t it?
Oh absolutely. I think it helps me to be very open-minded when it comes to music. Especially when it comes to our scene. In some situations you have people approaching your music with a lot of questions, you know? “Is it cool enough?”, “is it underground enough?”, “is it too melodic?” “is EDM good for our scene or is it bad for our scene?” You know what? I actually don’t care.
Whenever I get into big discussions about music, I say that you have to see the good in it. Instead of being open to everything people tend to judge music as it is. For me, no matter what genre of music it is, it will always have something positive about it.
When it came to influences to start making your own music, what would you say was a fundamental track that led you to start producing?
More than individual tracks and influences, I would say that it was artists that I was following from very young. To be perfectly honest, when I was about 12 or 13, I was totally into hardcore! (laughs). Hardcore, drum and bass, DJ Hype those kinds of guys. Back in the day, it was all these Dutch guys who were making music that really fascinated me.
Then around 14 or 15, there were some local Swiss artists who I was keen on, which led me to follow more labels and more artists to inspire me. I quickly made the change into the Acid House period and that made me want to start creating my own tracks. I was so crazy about music that at 16 I started to work in a record distribution centre and I just immersed myself in music even more!
So your first job was already in music?
Yes, it was! I used to order all the records for all the record stores in Switzerland and then distribute them. It was at this point that I was really starting to get inspired by all kind of genres. I think this is why I’m so open to music. My main goals were always to produce my own music and play outside of my home country which I’ve now done.
Do you feel like you’ve “made it” now you play outside of your country all the time?
You know, sometimes people have this big idea about “you’ve made it.” Often people come up to me and say “wow, Andrea you’ve fucking made it!” and I just kind of sit there like “well what did I make?” The perception from the outside of an artist is totally different to what you feel yourself. You’re not focussed on how big your name may be out in the world. You’re more focused on doing well and being better and better in the studio. Delivering every time you play is the most important thing.
Of course, when I see the quality of the gigs I’m doing now compared to what I did four or five years ago, it’s a totally different world. I think what helped me a lot was Ibiza. Getting residencies and being able to spread my name here has been a big thing for me. Making it in our industry is different to others though. This isn’t like a sport or a game, you know? It’s not like you’re young, you play for a football bad club, then you play for Chelsea or Manchester United, you win the Champions League and “you’ve made it”. We are not in a sprint like these guys are, we’re running a marathon!
I think I’ll have made it when I stop playing and hopefully that’s in the very far future. I want to be able to look back at my career and say “I reached my goals. I played wherever I wanted to. I can spend as much time as I want with my family” once I’ve done that, maybe I’ll say “yeah alright man, I made it.”
What about in terms of your sound do you feel like you’ve “made it” now when you look at the quality of your tracks?
If I had made my new style five years ago I would have been ashamed. There needs to be an organic evolution in your sound, your personality changes with the music. When I listen to the music I was releasing eight or nine years ago and the music I release now, I can see that change.
Having heard the difference in your tracks from five years ago to your newer songs can you see that progression even more?
The thing is in the studio, you learn so much by just doing and not thinking. You shouldn’t go in and think “ok I’ve got to make a big track” or “I have to make something that would work really well on stage.” Going to the studio with that mentality is like playing an instrument because you want to become a rockstar. You want to play an instrument because you like playing it. You do it because it’s your passion. You go to the studio and produce music because it’s your passion.
I never created music based on the musical hype in the scene. I might have made tracks that sounded similar to my new stuff five years ago, but it just wasn’t the right time.
Would you say now then that this is the right time for your new sound?
Now it is the right time for this kind of music. To be honest with you, when you see something is working and you’re getting a lot of attention from it, then you try and follow the same flow musically speaking. When people are really digging this sound and they see you within that sound, then it’s one of the best things that can happen to you.
One of the greatest things is when people come to a club, they hear a DJ play a track and they go “hmm this sounds like Andrea Oliva, it could be his new track.” That’s what important to get in your sound. It’s good to make a trademark or a signature in your music. But on the other hand, you don’t want everything to sound the same because people are gonna get bored.
You’ve gained a huge amount of momentum in the last few years because of your signature sound, how does it feel?
When you have the privilege of doing this as your job, when your passion allows you to make a living then it’s incredible. I started DJing when I was 12 years old, I have seen the music industry from every angle. I’ve always thought it’s good to set yourself goals but you need to reach them naturally. It has to happen organically. I’ve played everywhere in the world, I’ve released on amazing labels but I didn’t push it as much as I could because I wanted people to show me attention naturally.
People come to Ushuaïa and may have never even heard of me. I’ll be playing in front of 9,000 people, they get the experience, they look for my name when they get back home and say “oh shit that’s they guy that played at ANTS! He’s released on Desolat, he’s played with The Martinez Brothers, he made Vermona and Scream.” That’s how it should be. You start to follow me with more enthusiasm because you now know all these things about me.
If we would have pushed with social media campaigns or big marketing campaigns you would have heard of me but never gone to see me play. It’s important to do these things naturally otherwise no one would be interested.
On the subject of those releases, was it surreal hearing “Vermona” and “Scream” played all of the 2016 season?
It’s sometimes surreal having all the attention, not only from the crowd but also your peers. Having DJs message you and say “I want to sign this track” or “I want a remix from you for my label” is, like you said, a bit surreal. I really wanted to build something on a good foundation and thankfully we’ve done that over the last three of four years.
How happy are you with the reception of your new “We Trust” EP out on Jamie Jones’ Hot Creations?
Really pleased. I have a very close relationship with the Hot Creations guys and I’ve played some Paradise shows, and I’m gonna play some more Paradise shows! (laughs) It made sense that I had to give them (Hot Creations) an EP, I had to give them something back. I wanted to have two strong tracks, not just send them something quickly and so far so good! It’s doing really well on Beatport and I’ve heard a lot of DJs playing it at some of the openings in Ibiza as well. Marco Carola played it at Music On, Jamie Jones has played it at Paradise and it’s great to see!
Do you still get nervous releasing new music?
I wouldn’t say I get nervous I just get excited to release new songs! You know that track “Welcome to The Jungle”? I’ve remixed that and I just can’t wait to get it out so everyone can hear it.
Have you got any more new music coming out in 2017?
“Welcome to The Jungle” which is a huge classic for me, I’m working on a follow up of Vermona on The Martinez Brothers Cuttin’ Headz label which is gonna be good. I’m also trying to finish something for the 10th anniversary of Loco Dice and Martin Buttrich’s Desolat later this, so I’m hoping to get a track finished in time for that. I’ve released a lot lately so I’m entitled to slow down! (laughs)
Any other big plans for 2017?
I have a big schedule this summer, so many festivals a lot of great clubs, my residency in Ibiza, I have ANTS, Hï so I am a busy guy! After this summer though I’m gonna start my own label which is a big plan.
Finally, thank you you’ve been wonderful to talk to
My pleasure, thank you for having me.
Coming away from this interview I have never felt more comfortable talking to someone I didn’t know in person, only through their music. It is refreshing to see that a DJ who can play in front of 5,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 people every week can also remain absolutely unchanged, knowing how important it is to stay grounded.
Andrea Oliva is a breath of fresh air in an industry where it may seem that everything is often too saturated and fake. Having now spoken to him, I now know why he is such a favourite amongst his peers. He’s cool, relaxed and has total adoration for absolutely everything and anything to do with music. What more could you want?