Mihai Popoviciu has become a staple figure on the electronic music scene in recent years. The DJ and producer from Sibiu in Romania has been consistently releasing fire-grade dancefloor weapons on labels such as his own Cyclic Records, Inermu, Intacto, and Poker Flat for well over a decade, and his passion for quality seems stronger than ever.
His recent Poker Flat release made us invite him for a lovely chat about his musical career, native Romania, his studio environment and much more.
Hi, Mihai. The summer has basically ended, are you already prepared for cold winter days?
Hello guys! To me, winter is a good time for producing music. January and February in particular because I am not so busy with gigs so I can finish a lot of projects that I've been working on.
Since you’re from Romania, we have to talk about the famous “Romanian sound” which is named “rominimal” sometimes as well. Why is this minimalistic house so popular in your birth country?
It's probably because people support each other in the Romanian scene from producers and DJs to club promoters and clubbers. Local talent is encouraged to produce and play and to express themselves. This has created a great environment for younger generations to get deeper into this kind of music.
Your sound surely includes a touch of minimal grooves but it’s heavily influenced by deep and dub melodics. We could say that you’ve helped to curate the deeper parts of house music. Could you pinpoint what influenced you in developing your unique sound?
Thank you for your kind words! I think that the main influence was the Detroit techno. The sound of Detroit was my first encounter with the cult electronic music when I was a teenager and it stayed with me ever since. I also like the music of the '80s and '90s as I grew up with it.
You’ve been in the electronic music industry for almost two decades now. You saw the huge growth and massive commercial success as well. What changed the most throughout these twenty years? Where do you see the whole industry evolving in the future?
The most important change in the music industry, unfortunately, has little to do with the music itself. It's too much about promotion and not enough about talent, hard work, and perseverance. The social media and the social media promotion channels out there can easily turn almost anybody into a pop star overnight. This was not the way things worked 10/15 years ago when the concept of "likes" was not existent.
In the future music will be even more closely connected to the evolution of technology and marketing. Virtual reality will have a big impact on the music industry I believe. Interesting times ahead...
Could you share some insights from your studio? What are some of the gear that you use over and over again? How do you combine touring with spending days in the studio?
I use Ableton Live for producing at my little workspace from home. It's all in the box, I don't use any hardware of any kind but I have a huge collection of samples and a bunch of VST instruments like Predator, Blue, Albino, Moog Modular, etc. I never produce when I travel, only when I'm home so I play during the weekends and produce and rest during the week.
Let’s talk about your recent release on Poker Flat Recordings. Can you tell us a few words about the release? Since you’ve been quite a regular on the label, what keeps you coming back?
Poker Flat is one of the most professional labels that I have worked with and this is what keeps me coming back every year. This release is called "Sleepwalking" and it has the original track and a super cool remix from Francesca Lombardo. By the time you read this, it should be out in all digital shops.
At the moment I'm working on my new album that will come out sometime next year on Poker Flat.
You’ve created your own imprint Cyclic Records back in 2012 and we can easily say that it became one of the most prolific deep house labels since then. What made you start the label in the first place? Do you run it entirely by yourself? What are some of the challenges of running the label?
Cyclic Records is a label that embraces new talent and fresh sounds from the area between house and techno. If I like the music you send me for Cyclic, I release it, it all goes through my personal filter. I do everything at the label (except the artwork) from listening to demos to posting on social media and it can be time-consuming. That is the biggest challenge and why sometimes I'm a bit slow with listening to demos or responding to emails. :)
You’ll soon perform in Belgrade and you were playing in Croatia not so long ago. We could say that you’ve become quite a regular in the Balkans. Why do you think people like your music so music around here? Are parties different compared to, let’s say, western or central Europe?
I think that all ex-communist countries from the Balkans have something in common: history, culture, food, etc. Sometimes when I play here it feels like playing at home for my own people, I feel comfortable in these countries. When it comes to parties people are the same everywhere, everybody likes to party and have a good time!
Where can people catch you playing until the rest of the year? Do you already have some nice shows lined up for 2020 as well?
My last gig of this year will be at Fabric in London on the 8th of December and after that, I will have some time off for the winter holidays. For next year I already have shows lined up in South America, Germany, Switzerland, and Romania.
What keeps you going? Do you ever get tired of constantly traveling around the globe?
It can get tiring sometimes when the schedule is very tight but then I have the weekdays to get my strength back and be ready for the next weekend. It's all about the passion for music, I don't feel like working when I play and produce.