For the past few years, Croatia has been quickly gaining worldwide recognition as a party destination. With a gorgeous coastline that encompasses mountains and numerous islands with both sand and pebble beaches, festival promoters from Europe and the U.S. have recently sought out Croatia as a prime destination for electronic music festivals.
Although Croatia is becoming well-known for underground electronic music, there still is a limited amount of artists that come from this small country in the Balkans. Major festival promoters have flocked to Croatia and the festival scene continues to grow although the club scene is still quite dormant. The capital of Zagreb still only has one or two nightclubs that feature house and techno and during the summer everyone flocks to the coast and it can almost seem as nothing is really going on in the largest city.
We caught up with jazz musician, Regis Kattie and electronic music producer Jan Kincl at Dimensions Festival to speak about the overall scene in Croatia as well as their latest album and upcoming releases.
So we are in beautiful Croatia, known for its beautiful beaches and gorgeous scenery. A lot of people have been comparing it to Ibiza, have you been to Ibiza before and how would you say Croatia is similar and how is it different?
I haven’t been to Ibiza but a lot of my friends have and I’ve been quite familiar with what has been happening there. Croatia’s festival expansion has been slowly taking place for the last 10 plus years and has started to grow faster in the last 5 or 6. Ibiza is obviously more organized and structured because things have been happening there since the 70’s and 80’s and it is much more organized and developed – I think Ibiza is the most vibrant destination for mainstream clubbing tourism. Loads of promoters operate in Croatia but it is still kind of rough and unpolished in many ways – I say this in a good way because there is a certain energy that takes place in Croatia, a certain roughness. The beauty of Croatia’s locations paired with UK production gives it very impressive results. I think the UK guys have the best infrastructure and know-how to make these type of events special. We must also not forget the Croatian side of the organization as well – Pozitivan Ritam company – they make these quite un-accessible locations possible for these parties to happen. All this combined makes for a unique situation which I think is more interesting than Ibiza. It makes it more unpolished and organic.
There definitely are a lot of promoters from the UK like Defected and Outlook which are the same guys from Dimensions as well as Hideout and Love International. Sonus is Timewarp in Manheim, Germany which is Cosmopop.
Jan: Suncebeat is also from the UK and there are loads of things happening from the UK but if I remember correctly, it all began with Garden. People like Nick, Charlotte, Eddie, and Gail opened the Garden Bar in Zadar and then slowly did the first Garden Festival. Year by year more and more promoters saw the pros of Croatian locations – the islands, beaches, and all kinds of amazing scenery. I suspect that in England it would be much more expensive to do what they did here and the flights from the UK to Crotia are fairly cheap which attributes to the popularity of Croatia and I am very thankful for that – it brought so much to our doorstep.
Now what are some of the other festivals you played in Croatia and Europe and how would you say they compare to Dimensions?
Regis: We’ve played quite a bit of festivals this summer, and they were all very different. From a very small intimate jazz festival on Hvar Island to here tonight – the peak time slot at The Clearing stage at Dimensions. But the one which compares to this I think is Love International?
Jan: Love International is amazing! It is very comparable music wise and the location is much smaller and more intimate with a similar vibe to Dimensions – at least to what I have witnessed and listened to.
Regis: Love International is also by the UK promoters and has te same kind of setup – seaside, sun, smiling people, good music. It is also very suitable to the kind of music we’re doing. There are also other good festivals in Croatia such as Moondance, Changer, Voi’Sa, JohannesburgFest, etc.
Jan: Slurp!, River, R/verse, there are a lot of things happening. Small, big and everything in between. This is the biggest festival for us this summer and we got lucky into having a really good slot. We’re playing at 3am – The Clearing right after Jon Hopkins, which is great! Sharing the stage with absolute legends,The Azymuth and Marcos Valle. This is definitely the biggest one yet!
I understand you have a very intuitive way of writing music. Can you tell me a bit about it? How do you structure your live show?
Jan: We tend to do music very fast and fluid – freeform. Most of the time we just write something and sketch an 8 bar loop which can come from me flipping a sample or just making a beat or groove and then presenting it to Regis. Regis will then do something with it and then play it back to me. We then work on it a bit and then put the parts of the rough sketches into the MPC to play it live and see how it works. Last year at Love International we finished with a one chord string pad taken from a track I did ages ago with some very basic bassline. We only had 6 to 7 minutes left to go and Regis didn’t even want us to play it because it was so skeletal. We ended up laying it and I built some beat and percussions around it which started to resemble something more. Regis then started to play these beautiful chords and melody and I just melted. Moments like these are very special and that is how the song came to be. It is now one our favorite ways to finish the show. We like to explore various directions and approaches to see what benefits the song the most and then we go to the studio and record it. Sometimes we even use midi files we recorded during the show.
Regis: Sometimes we might do something in the studio from scratch and take it in an orchestral, jazz direction or sometimes we give it more of a clubby vibe. The sound can go in any direction and usually it goes in many different ones depending on how we feel that day. We just enjoy making music so we tend to make lots (laughs).
Regis: We improvise a lot, that is what makes it interesting for us. We can choose how to approach a specific song in a specific situation making it super mellow and laid back for a small jazz gig or heavier for a festival setting. I have 2 keyboards and on each I have a selection of sounds that includes piano, strings, flute, upright bass, and a mute trumpet along with a midi looper. I can loop an upright bass part and play the strings on one keyboard and do the same on the other – so 4 layers of sounds to play with.
Jan: I have all those parts in the MPC as well as a Roland TR-8 as well as my most recent edition, a Roland TB-03 for acid lines.
At some point you are planning to start your own label right?
Jan: Yes but our home label is PDV from Zagreb. Pozitivan Ritam is the parent company and stands behind us in numerous arenas and we are extremely happy with how they handle everything. Since we are coming out with so much music, we were thinking that it might be good to have an additional outlet to explore some more leftfield ideas. It is still up in the air but if it is going to happen it will be a collab with PDV.
Regis: Our next release is “Blue Funk” that will be out in mid-November. We are going to put the original album version on it with 2 remixes on it and a live jazz cover from Janko Novoselic and his band, The Cuban Space Program. Janko is one of Croatia’s best drummers and he has assembled an amazing setup of musicians. We are also finishing our own remake of “Blue Funk” as well which will take it slightly out of the house music domain.
Jan: A lot of labels wouldn’t be into this kind of stuff and the PDV crew has a very open mind for all kinds of ideas.
Jan: I would say a combination of deep house and jazz with a strong Detroit influence. I gained a lot of influence from Jeff Mills, Laurent Garnier, Underground Resistance, Theo Parrish, and many more. We have a great team of people we work with such as Negra Nigoevic on visuals, Igor Fabris from Avid Studio on the mixing and mastering, and Monika and Zvone who did a lot of work in the background as well as Lucija who recently joined the crew.
Regis: We got Luka Novoselić to play bass on two songs, and Mirsad Dalipi played drums on the last one.
Now you are from Zagreb, a beautiful city in Croatia. I was actually just there for a few days before heading here to Dimensions. How is the scene in Zagreb? You hear about all the festivals here in Croatia but you don’t necessarily hear too much about the club scene and hear a lot DJs getting booked in Zagreb or elsewhere.
Regis: From my experience going out with Jan, there isn’t too many interesting international artists coming to Zagreb believe it or not. Festival wise, almost nothing exists, especially during the summertime. People are heading to the coast where all the major festivals are. Zagreb has a few clubs and I know Jan and Matija have their Cycle event going on that brings people from abroad but we mostly have local DJs from the region. There is still a scene in Croatia but a very small one – although it is getting more and more interesting. People are trying to mix styles of music similar to what we are doing – jazz and electronic – which is really cool.
Jan: Just as Regis said, the scene is very small. There are almost no electronic music festivals in Zagreb and just a few clubs where you can hear electronic music. With that being said, the quality of DJs in Zagreb becomes better. You can have some amazing moments on the dance floor listening to the local DJs and the same goes for our Serbian and Slovenian neighbors. There is definitely some serious DJing going on in this region and it has been going on for decades.
Regis: I had no idea these guys even existed before I met Jan.
Have you guys ever played in the US before and what other locations have you played outside of Europe? Do you find it difficult to acquire the necessary bookings and get through the visa requirements in order to expand into other continents outside of Europe?
Regis: We are aiming to play more international. We did a pretty good circle around the region and we’re working our way outward. We have some interesting things lined up for spring, but more in regards to Western Europe and East. Nothing for States at this point, but you never know. We might pop up in your backyard. We are building from the album we just released and as far as visas are concerned, we don’t need any yet because right now we are just playing around Europe.
Jan: Region by region for now…
So what are your plans for the near future?
Jan: Aside from the “Blue Funk” release coming out on PDV in November we have a 12” EP on Fields and Forests label and one on Moondance Records. We also have a VA track on Onward Recordings out of Argentina on 12” as well and we just recently got asked to do a remix for a local label by the name of Burek which is one of my favorites. I will also be heading to Berlin for a couple of days for the Red Bull Music Academy as a Croatian Red Bull Affiliate so that should be interesting.
Regis: We are also working on our next album which we plan to expand into other genres. It is still going to be our sound but we want to try some new things and it will surely be interesting to see how it all comes together.
Awesome! Thanks for your time and looking forward to seeing more of you guys in the future!