Making Friends With is our series that sees us get to know DJs in some of their favourite hangouts
When we were over in Ibiza for this year's International Music Summit, we got to hang out with a range of great DJs, but out of everyone we met, perhaps nobody has a better knowledge of the island than Andrea Oliva.
After making a name putting on Banditz parties across Switzerland, Andrea got his first offer to play in Ibiza and since then he's been a permanent fixture on the island's underground scene. Best known as one of the figureheads of the celebrated ANTS brand, which is held every Saturday at Ushuaïa, Andrea also plays for DC10, Elrow and Music On among others.
ANTS has become so big that the brand is now toured around the world, often with Andrea on the decks. Last year he released some huge remixes including his take on Tiga's "Woke", Groove Armada's "House With Me" and "Thick Dick's Welcome To The Jungle".
On the final day of IMS, Andrea invited us to hang out with him on the roof of Ushuaïa, which had been specially opened for the occasion. As we could looked out over stunning views of Playa D'En Bossa we discussed his career, the art of mixing, and pasta.
MoS: We’re in Ibiza, tell me about the first time you came to the island?
Andrea Oliva: The first time I came to the island, was actually for my first gig here. It was just across the street at Space. It was a party called In Bed With Space, which was the after party for the Carl Cox night. It was funny because they had to close at 6 AM, so everybody had to leave the club. People would wait for an hour in the car park, have a bit of a party there and then go back inside when it re-opened at seven.
That’s a pretty good start!
It’s an amazing start! Because I always said to myself, if I’m going to Ibiza – I want to DJ.
When was that?
That was 2004.
How has the island changed since then?
It’s changed a lot because the island has got so popular. It used to be when you thought of Ibiza, you thought about big DJs, big parties, but now it’s about the island – a beautiful place, amazing restaurants, nice hotels. You can have a proper vacation without taking a plane and flying 12 hours to Thailand. It’s pretty much in the centre of Europe – a two-hour flight and you're here. In that aspect, the island has changed for the better. But then people complain - the romantic guys - they say ‘it’s not the same anymore’. Well, of course, it’s not the same anymore because everything is going to change with time. Your vision is going to change as well. As you get older, you might think it’s changed, but maybe you’ve just changed. It still has the same vibe. Of course, back in the day, it was all about free parties, beach parties. But it’s like when you’re younger people ask you to play their party and you say of course, but as you get bigger it’s not possible to play everywhere. The island and the industry have just become a bit more organised.
You live here during the summer, what do you like to do when you're not doing anything musical?
There are plenty of things to do. I’m lucky because all my friends are based here in the summer. We go to beaches, we go to the north of the island, which is beautiful and quiet. Spending quality time on the island is wonderful. I really enjoy those moments where I can just hang out with my friends and talk about football, talk about life... There is no better place to enjoy your free time than on this island. I stay at home and invite people over. I cook.
Yes, as an Italian that’s very important!
Do you have a signature dish?
AH, it’s pasta. I make it myself, but the secret of every pasta is the sauce. I like to cook Bolognese sauce for four, five, six hours. Low and slow!
Do you pour the pasta into the sauce or the sauce onto the pasta?
Well, it depends on the pasta. If the pasta is a bit bigger, not so thin, and you have for example Carbonara, you put the pasta into the sauce and you let it melt into the sauce.
When did you first start DJing?
That was like 25 years ago! I was a little kid and I was fortunate that my uncle used to produce electronic music. I would spend Sundays in his studio, watching him make music. I also had these friends in my village that would play acid house and progressive trance. They showed me the art of DJing. I was blown away by it. Playing records is not just mixing one record into the other. The gear, you have to use it like you would an instrument, like a guitar for example. Especially nowadays where you have so many different features, effects and functions on the decks. It’s an art. Mixing two or three records into each other changes the vibe and the energy of a track. I think this is where you create magic.
So you got hooked on the art of mixing?
Yes, I remember going to clubs when I was younger and people were screaming on the dancefloor when a DJ was mixing one record into the other. Now people wait for the drop, after the break and they go nuts. But I remember people freaking out when they heard the hi-hat come in. They’d cheer every new element coming into the track. So I think, that mixing is an art and we have been lucky to have had such great teachers, for example, Jeff Mills from the techno side, or Louie Vega from the house side. They showed us the technique. I think you can gain a special vibe or reaction on the floor if you know how to mix records well.
Would you like to see a move away from the drop?
That’s very difficult because, on one hand, you have to go with the flow, but on the other, you have to be innovative. It’s up to you how you work the crowd, how you sell yourself as a DJ and how you approach a DJ set. Our kind of music has become so popular, back in the days you’d go to a club and there would be 200 music freaks in the club, but now it’s so mixed. You play 5,000 capacity clubs where you have like 1000 music freaks and the rest are friends of friends, people on holiday, etc. Of course, someone who understands music enjoys it differently from someone who comes just for fun, which is fine. And of course, the drop is what people react to because it’s when – for example, at festivals – the pyro goes off. They react to the noise and on the stage production. For someone like you and me, who are into the scene, we freak out about other things.
Do you have a routine you go through to prepare for a set?
I don’t really prepare sets. I just select music beforehand. If I’m playing a club or a festival I’ll pick different music, but I never know what I’m going to play. When I get to the gig I try to suck in the energy of the crowd, to feel the situation and take it from there. I get very inspired by the communication you have with the crowd. Even though you don’t speak, you give them music and they give you feedback. I love that.
Do you know what the first track will be?
Sometimes yes. What I know for sure is, which of my own tracks I’m going to play. If you’re playing big stages, of course, you’re going to promote your own music. Last year I did that “Welcome To The Jungle” Remix and I had some main time slots on big stages, so I started with that track because that’s the moment when everybody pays attention. That’s where you can really sell your music, but aside from this, all my sets are freestyle.
Where do you find your music?
It’s a mix between music I get sent by artists, music I find from digging for tracks on Discogs, Tracksource, Beatport. My sets are a combination of promos I get sent, my own music and music I had to track down. I spend hours and hours on all of those platforms looking for music. Some days you’re are lucky, some days you’re not so lucky.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s funny because in our scene there are people who think they know everything. They decide ‘OK that’s a Jamie Jones sound” or “that’s tech house” or “that’s deep house”. Nowadays it’s just one big mixed salad. If someone asked me what I play I’d say something between house and techno. If I had to define my sound, I’d say it’s very rhythmic. I like organic rhythm flows, I like drums a lot. But the most important thing for me as a DJ is I want to make people dance. So, for sure it’s not super experimental, even though I like more experimental music, but I want to make people dance. If I go too experimental and I play half an hour of no kick, it’s going to be difficult to move a crowd!
How did you get involved with ANTS?
I moved agency and all of a sudden I didn’t have a place to play in Ibiza. I had played Ushuaïa from the very beginning. The owner of Ushuaïa is also my manager and we tried to figure out places where I could fit in and he said to me, “why don’t we just start a new party?” In the beginning, we spoke to many agencies and DJs about the concept that he developed and they were like; “ANTS?!?” What's that?
Where did the name come from?
It’ was really about creating a message behind the brand. So for example - you know if you take one ant - which is very small and not strong at all - but if you have 50 ants then they can move things much bigger than themselves. They can move things in a group, and one of the ideas for the party was to create a new group. The focus wasn't on one individual or big, big names - the idea was to create a group with artists that were believed in from the beginning and so that everything would grow organically together. I wasn’t that strong when ANTS started six years ago and I grew up with the brand. It was the same for others like Kölsch, Francisco Allendes and UNER - each one of us giving the brand our talent and in turn, the brand helped us to grow. The party didn’t begin with the biggest names on the island, but as a colony, we could sell out every weekend.
That's really interesting, and a great message to give the fans!
Yes, and a lot of times people want to hear the message behind the brand and our message is the group, the talent and how strong you are together.
Are there any emerging artists you’ve been enjoying at the minute?
I like Peggy Gou a lot and there’s a guy called Jonny Calabrese from Switzerland, he's amazing. There are so many new artists who are so innovative because they don't stick to one certain sound. I love that people are open now to DJs that play disco and techno in the same set. That's the future and the way a DJ should be.
What have you got planned for the rest of the summer?
A lot of touring. I have the residency here at Ushuaïa, I’ve got a couple of other gigs on the island - I do DC10 and Elrow. I’ve got some festivals. Every year there are new festivals, ones you’ve dreamed of playing then, finally, you make it and you get to play there. It's a great moment.
Do you have those moments often?
I have those moments a lot! Also, because I’ve been following the scene since forever I know which key festivals are important for a DJ’s career. For example, I played Kappa Futur festival this year. It’s one of the best festivals in Europe at the moment. I was dreeeeaming of playing there and this year I finally got to. As an Italian, it’s even more important. Those gigs show you that you’re on the right track. That hard work pays off. I get very excited about that. I never get used to this situation. Of course, travelling and everything is very boring, but playing to crowds is always amazing.
Do you have any goals for the future?
Not really in terms of gigs at the moment, but in terms of sharing knowledge I do. I had a project in Switzerland where we had a big studio and I gave masterclasses to newcomers and we worked on tracks. We mastered tracks even! It’s nice to receive, but I also want to give something back, so I’m very focused on those kinds of projects. If I can help even only one person a year, I’m happy. I’m focusing on my own label now and I want to create my own family and be able to push new artists.