Popi Divine took his first steps in the turbulent times of the Western Balkans in the 1990s. He was a living witness of drastic changes in the world of music through the eyes of an ordinary guy. He started out as a pop DJ, searching for his style, wandering through electronic music. He often performed in local Belgrade cafes and smaller clubs and prepared for the outside world. As the global sound changed, DJ Popi added a little Groove, Electro and Acid to its name. Today, his music is open and unlimited, but it can basically be characterized as House. Popi is also working on LIVE projects with members of Kunderte Wonder String and the Belgrade rock band “Fel Rhi”. In 2010, he started his own record company “Industrial records” with his partner B-Like. In 2015, he was a finalist in the global Burn Residence competition in Ibiza as a representative of Serbia. In 2016, the Hot Tub project will begin with the talented and young producer Mark Antoine aka Menton.
What is your view on the situation that has befallen us in the past few months? How much will that have an impact on clubbing in Serbia and clubbing globally?
Hello everyone, I am glad to be a part of the story called Progresivna Suza, it somehow restores hope in love for music and togetherness. Huh, the way I look at the situation that has befallen us is in principle socially unacceptable, so I will keep the opinion to myself. I’m kidding; I don’t know what to say. People from the world of medicine know nothing, it is too early to give opinions because examinations require time and samples. Everyone examines and re-examines everything, and this is reflected in the music industry as well, given that in this set of circumstances, it is among the last links of the industrial machinery. So that’s what big gatherings, profits, concerts, clubs and more are about, no matter where. So the problem is global. Everything has stopped and we are waiting for what the state, epidemiologists, etc. will say.
On the other hand, live streaming is blooming, which doesn’t make any sense to me, just hang up the mix and share with people to listen… it’s like, for example, now a sculptor who sculpts in his workshop makes a sculptural performance and sculpts in front of the crowd on stage, ok, but I don’t get the point…opinions are divided and this is my personal opinion, nothing more.
I also understand the need for some people to feel connected while watching this live stream, but on the other hand I think this was the ideal time to deal with the problem of loneliness, fears and similar things, because we have become consumers who do not pay attention, primarily to ourselves, to our own spirit, and then to our surroundings. As for domestic clubbing, I hope that sponsors will no longer be interested in clubbing in Serbia, so we will be able to return the stage to the place it has always deserved, so that everyone truly enjoys and lives from what they love, not just individuals.
What do you think needs to be done to improve the scene? What are the problems?
Cliché – everything has its advantages and disadvantages. I’m joking, but if it really is so, what we want as an audience is important, regardless of our role in clubbing, DJ, promoter… What matters, and what we lack at the moment, is culture. Not only in music, in everything; music is just a reflection of that. For years, I’ve been talking about how you used to go out because of the music in the sense of listening to it, and today you go out to waste ourselves, which essentially destroys the complete foundation of the story about clubbing and music.
There are too many problems, firstly sponsors who dictate what will be booked according to the number of likes, secondly there is no consistency or plan, vision, everything is in the style of let us finish the season, and then we will see what we will do next… Each club changes the music concept every year, they use situations to fill in the gaps in the program and thus degrade certain groups of people, and thus the music and the whole stage.
Big parties have swallowed everything, education is not done at big parties, but in small clubs; when kids raise money for a big party, they have no for the club and then there is no club or clubbing. The financial situation in the society is difficult and it all reflects on clubbing, and you know how it is with us – monkey see, monkey do. On the other hand, there are group clubs that work well on a system that succeeds and keeps the scene healthy, such as 20/44, Drugstore, now there is a Half who has good potential, with individuals and organizations that have an idea, such as Deviant Deep Sound , RO minimal team… I’m just saying, it’s important that everyone sees the bigger picture and unites regardless of differences.
Do you think that in general, performers have become too big and dominant stars and that there is little space for people who do not have the opportunity for the big stage?
What I think is not as important as it is important that the industry grinds everything in front of it, or you have something to give it and you get pieces of cake or you don’t and you are irrelevant. Some people are the creators of that whole scene and they deserve to be on stage, which doesn’t mean they enjoy it. Certainly, those who do their job with the same passion as 20-30 years ago are rare. The point is that the performers are not the ones who deal with business, but managers of various profiles. So, the system is such that the DJ doesn’t have much time to deal with music anymore, everything is subordinated to that profit-making machinery, and that is felt among DJs and music lovers. It is a question of time when it will explode and unfortunately, I think that this situation that is happening to us will contribute to that bursting. It is still holding on, but the question is until when, as well as what will happen next.
We all have certain roles in life according to age and experience; in my opinion, if you upgrade yourself, then you help the whole scene, so again the bigger picture. I really like playing music, I think people recognize it in my sets, but it would be selfish to just do it and compete with new, younger DJs around the show. Instead, I realized that I could play less, but that I could contribute to the development of the stage and young people in other ways – with advice, event organization, bookings and similar things. In my opinion, that is the measure, that’s why I think that some people should get off the stage and leave it to some new kids, that’s why we have a situation where the global scene is stagnating.
How can you describe the golden age of your generation and compare it to today’s scene? Can you draw a parallel line between the two?
I made a lot of parallel lines, if you know what I mean, but it is long behind me. I have already said above, it is nothing the same, which is normal. Conditions, people, music – everything is different. You know, we didn’t have that many choices, today, out of so many choices, you don’t even know where to go, so in the end you give up everything or go everywhere for an hour, spend money, and the bottom line is 0. My crew was mostly house, but we also went to TTP in Industrija, listened to Boža Podunavac, Slavko and Lalet, but also Coba, Ćile, Aćim … It used to be necessary to go to a party to support the scene, not just because you like it. I never liked techno, it’s just not my vibe, I can listen to it, but it doesn’t work for me… I often went to techno parties with friends, to support. Also, there was no mass production, like today, so you had to listen to what there was, because there was no better. You know, drugs didn’t appear and they brought electronic music, that’s pure misapprehension, so rockers use to kill themselves by heroin in Belgrade, but no one even mention that. For us, that music was everything then, really, after a good party, you felt like you went to Thailand without alcohol and without drugs.
We lived for music, someone gets a cassette, a CD of someone’s mix, it’s listened to until we get the next one. I remember, my friend Pava from high school bought me my first record Eno & Cluster – After te Heat for my birthday, I kept it on the wall for two weeks and I was proud of it, so I listened to it on my uncle’s gramophone to exhaustion.
We collect money and go to Budapest, to buy three LP records and things like that. Today, people will not go to a party because it is raining. Well, then the drug spread and it started to drag all kind of people into clubbing, and we got carried away too. I saw really everything, and at one point it became so bizarre that I got tired, so I somehow got out of the whole story. In fact, most of us have retired and changed our lifestyles, and those who loved music are now returning to clubbing. Now we all look at it from a different, healthier perspective – in fact someone as a hobby, someone as a business, and there are those who would still like to relax a bit from time to time, all depending on how mature we are, but the most important thing is that we want our mistakes to share with the younger ones.
Do you think that today, when it is much easier to be a DJ, it is necessary for the performer to seriously deal with the production in order to raise the bar and stand out?
In my opinion, a producer is one thing, a DJ is another, and a live performer is a third, and that is simply not comparable. The industry has made a compromise between producers and DJs, and now live is trying to charge things more expensively and give importance to producers, as well as a different dimension of entertainment. To me, all three things are ok, I just think that everyone has their place. For example, DJ is a product of the club and it should stay there, at that level, Live is of a concert character and such activists are for big 2-3k + parties, and producers are rarely good DJs, there are more of them among Live performers (which is logical), although there are those who are good in all three types of expression, but globally it is so. In order to break through, you have to be a producer, because you sell your performance through your tapes (which is bad for me, but ok, I understand) and generally you make money on performances, not on selling tapes. On the one hand, logically, but not from the perspective of a DJ, why do I have to be a producer, if I want to be just a DJ, those are two different things.
How important do you think it is to have a community like Progresivna Suza, which would be narrowly specialized in a particular genre?
It is very important that there are music promoters, educators, without them there is no culture, without culture there is no life. I would like to have more “tears”, not only the progressive ones, but to be equally sincere in emotion, motivated in goals and as determined as this one. I’m not saying that there aren’t any, there are, but somehow, they can’t flourish and position themselves in the place that belongs to them, I’ve already mentioned some of them above
You organized the guest appearance of the duo Volen Sentir in January. How did that event go?
If you ask me, I’m not pleased with it, but you tell me? We will have the opportunity to hang out with them in the coming years, they are primarily good people, then great producers and DJs, which can be heard in their tapes and on their performances. Personally, the way I see them is performing somewhere by the water, not exactly in a closed club; but I promised to bring them, so that’s what happened. I promise a spectacle for their next performance in Belgrade!
What do you think about the fact that they keep bringing and inventing the same big names over and over again, and why is there not enough space for less known performers?
I have already mentioned it above, it is an industry, so in order to be profitable, you sign a contract with management companies for several years. People today don’t like to take risks and that’s it – trodden, coordinated, everything is easier, for the second or third performance you need less marketing around the name, therefore you have more money to invest in production, space and the like, which brings you more money. Then it’s your way to those most expensive names, because you can’t book everyone so easily. You have to have a development path, a good background, a brand, a name (call it whatever) in the organization of the event. So, people don’t have enough money or time, and also that’s a small group of people.
Creative, educated and well-mannered people go from here, no one wants to change this environment, no one wants to sacrifice their comfort for the common good, with few exceptions. This is seen that everywhere you look, in all industries, politics, everywhere. And somehow everyone else lives in that utopia, and we who are still here, “share” ourselves with each other, or call it what you want call it, and accept those crumbs that feed our ego or whatever. And then we have the rich and the poor and nothing in between, and therefore the local kids or the big stars and that’s it.
Why in Belgrade, a city of almost two million people, there are no clubs or clubs that deal exclusively with electronic music?
There is no synchronization between owners and promoters, nor are there organizations that have their own people, guests, members. It’s just that the relationship between supply and demand is like that, and I repeat again that our cultural as well as economic level is so low that there are less and less people interested in this type of entertainment. For example, we followed a certain musical direction and we knew where it was happening and when, so it was Underground, Plastic, Bassement, Mint… It couldn’t have happened that you had a progressive party in two places on Fridays, it was always thought about, just the owners and promoters didn’t want to enter into a pissing contest. We also didn’t have money, but the boss didn’t measure us by how much we could drink because he knew that we would always come for music, so long-term profit, not instant. Today, everyone measures everything, that’s why our situation is like that, if you understand me…
In the middle of the last decade you had three progressive currents, Kinetic Vibe, Digital Harmony and Acim with his team, we all always filled the club, so we all always would bring 400 people to the club. I remember that on Thursdays we worked alternately in the Plastic club, one Thursday Kinetic, one Thursday we worked, and Acim worked in Ander or Bassement, where we used to be guests, and everyone was satisfied… in doing so, all three currents drew completely different people. Today, the situation is that everyone listens to everything, so DJs, clubs and organizations fight for the audience, which is very ugly. Imagine that you are someone who is not familiar with electronic music and you start to move in such places and experience being pulled in all directions and listening to each other spit on each other, what would you do? How would you experience that music scene?
Last year in Kotor, you were part of the team that was in charge of the Virtu Sunset series of great guest appearances. How did that story come about and what are the further plans?
I was lucky to come across a man who has a vision and has traveled the world and seen and heard stuff. There was no understanding from the beginning, in fact he wanted to find a harmony of ambience and music, it just happened spontaneously that I was invited to perform at the club a couple of times and carried by the ambience Virtu beach played music that he imagined as ideal for such a place, so we continued to cooperate. Last season we felt the need to go further and take things to the next level so we organized Virtu sunsets parties with guests like Dave Seaman, Volen Sentir, Finnebassen, Peter Makto & Gregory S, Arina Moore… But also, domestic performers such as Marko Nastić, Mr. Jools, Jan De R, Mili Sefic, Vanyanno…
This year we went one small step further, so our guests will be Matthias Meyer, GHIZ, Amonita & Makebo, Volen Sentir, Dave Seaman and Sebastien Leger, which was scheduled for the previous season, but we postponed the date due to bad weather. Basically, it is a club on the water, therefore the concept is like that – nice, relaxed people, melodic deep music, parties from 3 pm to 10 pm, if we play a little longer but, in any case, a unique place in Montenegro, and maybe in this part of the Balkans.
Are you working on a music project right now and when can we expect new material?
Well, you see – I want to do a lot and I have little time… Someone will think I’m a megalomaniac, I’m far from it. My daughter Zarja, who is now 5 years old, comes first so everything is easier now. Virtu – where I have the role of resident and program-booking manager, because it is four months during the year when I work almost every day. And then there is Belgrade, somehow a person always comes back to him, there is something that draws me to do something in Belgrade, no matter how many times I was angry with him. He deserves it.
At the same time, I occasionally do matrices and performances with the string quartet Wonder Strings and I work as a Popi Divine. This covid pandemic disrupted my plans, as it did to most people, so we just stopped some releases and remixes. I hope it will come out at the end of the summer, you will see for yourself where and with whom, let it be a surprise. I’m also doing some experimental directions under a different name, but I’m still in the phase of finishing the first releases, so we’ll see where that takes me.
Who is currently thrilling you with their style from the producers and can you single out a few releases?
I was never thrilled by one producer, there were always more of them, but here I can single out Volen Sentir. Why? It’s very simple, for almost every producer you need to hear five seconds of the tape to figure out who it is, for Volen you need two seconds, maybe just the first kick. They found a middle ground between everything, and their music is organic electronics, it sounds crazy even as I say it. Groove, melody, production, arrangement, promotion, everything is in place for them, if I didn’t know them, I would think that they have serious machinery behind them and not that they do it all themselves, so the final product is from the beginning to the end theirs and it’s great.
Besides them, I like most of the editions of SudBeat, they are somehow pleasing to me, they are recognizable, melodic, groove, they have their own note and they do their job well. I also love Stil Vor Talent, and they are special, they have their own sound and almost their own direction, melodic, you can’t classify them in a certain direction, and there are elements of everything. I would not like to list now because there are a lot of producers who are great, especially young people, I like a lot of things today and I could talk about it for days.
Here are a couple of editions that are very dear to me: