In Conversation with Ilija Rudman

I know what I want and I can only achieve it with analogue. It’s not my obsession; it’s my only choice. It’s the only way that I can develop what I have in my mind.

Following recent announcements that he will be playing at Dimensions Festival and Love International, alongside a string of productions set to release this year, it’s going to be an interesting 12 months for Ilija Rudman. Over the past 15 years he has released on labels such as Bear Funk, Electric Minds and Is It Balearic as well as working on his own labels Red Music and Imogen Recordings. 

Now, the Croatian producer delivers three sun kissed songs with his first full release on NuNorthern Soul. As with his prior releases on Imogen Recordings, he returns to the studio with the supreme vocalist Andre Espeut, with ‘Tears To Sound’ getting a remix from none other than Prescription co-founder Ron Trent. We got chatting with Ilija Rudman about his introduction to music and how things have changed over the past 15 years.

Check the Sloth Boogie premiere of Distant Feelings and read on…

The thing is that I was never into ‘electronic music’ until twenty years ago. What attracted me to this world was the influences I had gained when I was younger – it was Prince.

First of all you are a fan of music, and then later you develop to be a musician, it was a procedure for me. The most important thing was the actual production. My first contact with the electronic world was with the production of Prince tunes, with that particular sound. I was always into Oberheim, the Prophet synths and all of that.

The major thing that happened then was that I decided to close my big studio and get the mixing console from that era. I was lucky to get my hands on an MCI Console. Back then it was owned by Sony and it was a big mixing desk, like two and half meters long. Prince was producing on that console and getting a special sound. If you compare the whole American sound, it’s based on that, very different from Europe. That’s the only thing I like about America; that sound.

This initial music taste instilled a very specific production technique that Ilija looked for in his own music. Across the Atlantic, the political situation led to him picking up a lot of hardware for the studio. 

Back in the 90’s it was the former Yugoslavia. It was a strange period where you could find really interesting gear, like I’m talking about high end, top-shelf recording units and everything. I went up to collect loads of gear that was written on the liner notes of Prince records. When the war was going on in Yugoslavia there was this transition from analogue to digital and in that little gap people would get rid of their equipment for ridiculously cheap.

I always had a huge respect for albums, it was a territory that I didn’t want to enter unprepared because of the huge respect I had as a product. So when that possibility of an album came about, I already had a huge amount of authentic equipment to use that I was comfortable using.

That’s the thing, it’s not a collection of singles that you don’t know where to release. An album is like your face. The buck stops with you, it’s your album. It’s an indicator of your perception.

With his third studio album already in the works, it’s interesting to hear his perspective on the music that he puts out.

I’ve only started producing again since 2015. My studio was built in 2011 and that’s when The Reveal was recorded, but since then I’ve had a silent period. I disappeared from social networks and all of that. But how rapidly things change; after 4 years of not releasing any music, it sort of put me into shape. I needed a little break from everything; from the scene, the gigs.

Now I’m able to return with good material, with a higher quality. There is a pipeline of releases I’ve been working on. It’s the result of the last three years in my studio.

With his first release on NuNorthern Soul, Ilija Rudman is seeing years of work coming to fruition.

I’ve been practising every day for the past twenty years. A decade ago, it was different. I recently became a father to two boys so this changed a lot for me. It’s great news of course and it mean that I’m working days now. Half of my life I would be working all night whereas today’s situation is more like a regular job. That’s how I view my time in the studio. Everyday it’s 8 hours. It’s not like before; spending late nights in the studio doing research. Today you just come in and do what you’ve got to do.

Both as a producer and as a label owner, this break provided a breath of fresh air.

Before 2011, Red Music Records had 19 releases and it was a great period. But now, after a break from it all, I started a new label called Imogen Recordings. It’s been possible to get some pretty big artists on the label. Now on release number 8, we’ve had people like Charles Webster, Robert Owens and Ilan Kabiljo.

The first release was my remixes of The Brand New Heavies which kind of set us up as a boutique label.
Imogen Recordings has grown really well; we’ve got a Zagreb residency where we invite artists that have released with us to play.
We’ve got Charles Webster returning to Zagreb. He’s amazing in the studio. He never wants to stay at the hotel so we just stay in the studio all day. Last year we produced two records together.

Talking of Zagreb, our conversation turned towards the  wider scene as well.

I like playing in the clubs. That’s what I like and I would never change a club for a festival, whatever slot. The festivals, in the early days it was great, like mostly for music heads, but these days, man, believe me, it’s like you’re going on a crazy drunk weekend.

I like Dimensions because it is different. It doesn’t force you to dance on the beach because it is happening in a fort. The best line ups are at Dimensions, and they are always at the end of summer when all the hype is gone.

I mean, everything changes and music especially- sometimes it can be too fast. Generally it’s an inflation of everything. Croatia is blooming. The festivals are… well, I have a divided opinion about them. It’s an amazing thing that happened but they are going to change other countries as well as Croatia. Croatia can’t rely on that scene, it’s still a young tourist industry here.

It is all blooming around here. Everything is happening but nothing is happening too. The scene is very young and people don’t pay attention to the quality that I look for. It’s important how the music sounds but we’re still a poor country that is growing. It’s like, you can’t see the wood for the trees but I have my opinion.

Ilija explains how he came to know Phil Cooper through the festival circuit, the label owner behind the latest release.

I met him at a festival in Tisno that I play every year. Back when the Garden Festival was in Zadar, it was the precursor to the current Tisno scene with all the festivals taking place. So, this guy Nick Colgan, who set up the Garden and everything, he started booking me when all these festivals started coming here and that’s how I met Phil; more than 10 years ago.

From time to time I send him music and last year we released on his second label, KAT Records. I got these two tracks finished and I just felt that it worked for Phil’s label and his perception. It was only like a two or three email communication, I sent them and he replied saying that he wanted them. He asked me about the production and he was amazed, especially for the sound.

Whilst none other than Ron Trent remixes his latest release, Ilija is usually cautious with collaborations and who he releases on Imogen Recordings. 

I’m very picky. I can see myself working with like 4 or 5 people, if I were to feel really comfortable. Who can you really relate to? My absolute favourite producer is Morgan Geist from Metro Area. Obviously a couple of guys such as Ron Trent. We are all on the same policy, it’s this one sound. There are people these days that have this argument between analogue and digital but I don’t really care. The thing for me, it’s my ears and my identification. I know what I want.

‘Tears To Sound’ is released on NuNorthern Soul on February 16th.

Grab your own copy here!

A1 Tears To Sound feat. Andre Espeut (Ron Trent Mix)

A2 Tears To Sound feat. Andre Espeut (Aquapella Mix)

B1 Distant Feelings

B2 Deep Sensation