The Swiss house, techno and tech-house producer on his new 'Freaks' EP and more
Undoubtedly one of the great Ibiza success stories of the past decade has been the rise of ANTS. Launched in 2013 as a party geared at workers, ANTS has gone on to become one of the island's most popular weekly club nights, and now hosts parties and festival stages all over the world.
That's in no small part thanks to resident DJ and co-founder Andrea Oliva. DJing and working in record shops since his teens, this Swiss native – now in his late 30s – moved into production in the mid-00s, playing his first White Isle gig at Space round about the same time. Since then he's gone on to tour the world, while releasing music on such acclaimed labels as Relief, Defected, Cadenza, Moon Harbour, Suara, Hot Creations, Saved, Kaluki and Circus… a situation he describes as “still a dream come true!”
Most recently, Solardo asked him to provide the first release for their brand new Sola Nauts. Freaks landed in stores just last week and comes in two mixes, with Oliva's original a tuff tech-tribal workout and a remix from the label bosses themselves clubbing you over the head and dragging back to the rave, 1991-style.
So now seemed like a good time to grab him for a chat…
As you haven't featured in iDJ before, can you start by telling us a little bit about how you got into dance/electronic music in the first place?
“I was like 12-13 years old, around 26 long years ago. My uncle was a techno and ambient producer and some of my older friends were already DJing in our small village in Switzerland. At that time it was all about German techno artists such as Sven Väth, Cosmic Baby, Jam & Spoon or DJ Hell, to name a few.”
I know you came up working in a record store – a path that won't be open to many young DJs or producers today! Have we lost something, there?
“We have lost a big piece of the whole culture there! It was a like a ritual going to the store, not only when you knew they just got new records in but also meeting all those heads who were just like you, addicted to electronic music. It was always an exciting thing, the whole run on promos – the privileged ones were able to listen to their new records loud while others had to listen to theirs on headphones – the smell of vinyl, the unboxing, the discussion around tastes, tracks etc. Damn I miss this time!"
So you were DJing from your early teens, but you never released a record until you were 28 or so – how come you never made the leap from the booth to the studio sooner?
“Yeah, I started DJing at 12 or 13 as I said, and by 16 I already had my first residency. Lucky me! Working in a record store and distribution helped a lot, because I was the guy with the fresh promos. I was maybe 24 when I started to buy studio gear and got into production.
“The thing was that we were super-spoilt in Switzerland, with so many clubs, and tons of festivals every weekend. I had the chance to play a lot of gigs at a very young age and so I was trapped in the whole DJ lifestyle and organising parties. But as I grew up I realised I had to do more to close the circle and get my name out there, and maybe get the chance, through my productions, to get international gigs.”
If people associate your name with any one thing, it's probably ANTS. You're more than just a resident DJ, though – can you explain what your role with the club is?
“Nine years ago I decided to leave the agency I was with at that time, just to move on with my own projects and trying to stand on my own two feet for the future. Luckily by then I’d found Yann, who's still my manager today. We knew that building a brand would, again, close the circle and give us an important piece of the puzzle, in order to grow.
“So we started ANTS. Sometimes you just need to believe in your ideas and go for them, because certainly at this time, only a handful of people believed in our project! It’s the party for everybody: I probably stand out because I’ve contributed with a lot of my ideas from the beginning, but also shared the whole vision of Yann’s team which is doing all the significant work. I gave it all for the brand since day one, I didn't just jump on the bandwagon after all the hard work had been done. But it paid off… believe!”
ANTS has gone on from underground roots to become a global brand. What, for you, makes ANTS special compared to other nights/parties?
“It’s a whole experience, not just a party! The show, the stage design, the diverse line- up and the whole teamwork is special!”
Your Freaks EP is the first release on Solardo's new label. So how did that come about? And did it feel like an honour being asked to supply the label's first release?
“It’s a pleasure to create the first release for my friends, who contributed an amazing remix to the EP! Beside all the business aspects in our industry, to me it's super-important to support your friends wherever you can, not just go for a solo show.”
Speaking of which, your discography reads like a Who's Who of big-name house, tech-house and techno labels. Were any of them a particular 'dream come true' for you… and are there any other labels you still dream of releasing music on?
“My first releases on labels like Be As One, Saved or ViVA were a dream come true considering the circumstances of where I produced my first tracks! I was still living with my parents and I had a little studio in the basement of our apartment, surrounded by tons of olive oil and south Italian food specialties which my dad was storing there. The fridge was louder then my monitors and the majority of the very first tracks were made out of samples and sounds I’d collected from friends.
“It’s still amazing for me, even today, when I sign records to a label that I’ve been following and supporting. It’s still a dream come true every time I release music on my favourite labels.”
You had your own Andrea Oliva & Friends residency at Hï Ibiza last year… how was that, and are you planning on bringing it back in 2021?
“We had this party in the first year of Hï ibiza, which was a lot of fun but also a bit too much considered I had already my main residency for ANTS at Ushuaïa and gigs for Paradise, elrow or Music On. Hopefully we get back to it in 2021, where I will focus mainly on my Ushuaïa residency and play a very few gigs for Paradise and Music On.”
It's been five years since you released your debut albumm 4313… any plans for another one, any time soon?
“I always had a dream of releasing an album on my own label, which comes closer since I am starting my own imprint called All I Need. Let’s see!”
You don't seem to do a lot of collaborations, whereas for a lot of producers these days almost every track is a collab with someone or other! Was that a conscious decision – do you prefer to work solo, or have opportunities not really presented themselves?
“This lockdown gave me the chance to work on some collaborations, actually. I have music coming out with Nic Fanciulli, Catz N Dogz, Will Clarke and Adryiano, and I‘m working on an absolute dream collaboration with one of my heroes, Stuart Price AKA Jacques Lu Cont!”
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
“Everything has been said, I think. I hope we can party all together soon – until then, stay healthy everyone!”
Words: Russell Deeks
The Freaks EP is out now on Sola Nauts – buy it here.