Ademir Alibegovic and Alen Custovic, better known as Drop Department, are two promising Producer/DJs from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. They've had releases on Spinnin' Records, Protocol Recordings, Star Traxx, Sosumi Records, Free Music Recordings, and Flamingo Recordings to name just a few. Ademir Alibegovic provided the answers to our questions.
What is your personal background with music?
Alen started first with music production when he got inspired by Tiesto and his live perfomances at big venues. He was lucky enough to have had the chance to see him perform live in our hometown of Sarajevo. I got into things after I saw Alen release an EP for Peakhour Music. I asked to stop by his house to check out his home studio and see how it all works. From that moment, we’ve spent countless nights at either one of our places trying to understand how to produce music.
How was Drop Department formed? How did you all meet and come together to work on this project?
Drop Department was started as a trio, but later on, one of our members, Faris Lukovac (Farrel), decided to pursue his career as a solo artist and has gone pretty much to the underground with his sound. Alen and I knew each other from high school so it was pretty easy to upgrade our friendship into working on something together.
What is the division of labor in your duo?
Alen has way more experience in throwing ideas down and working on different elements to bring the general sound and feel to the track. I’ve always been more keen on the technical side of things so I handle the mixdowns and mastering to make sure our tracks always have that professional sound. On the side, I also offer mixing and mastering services for other producers so anyone should feel free to hit me up if they need some help on their mix! I also handle our social media accounts and such.
Where were you when Axwell played "Manea" at Ultra? How did you find out and how did you react?
Actually, Axwell first played the track at the Axtone party where our good friend, Camarda, was at and he sent me the video directly from the event. When I got the message, we had just got back from playing football so we were tired as hell but it just felt really cool knowing that the track had found its way into a set curated by one of the greats. After that, we anticipated that he would drop it again at Ultra the next day so was awesome seeing that he had it in his set there too. He's truly one of our idols so hopefully he'll continue to support us!
You guys have had an extremely busy 2018 with loads of releases on Protocol, Spinnin' Records, Armada, Flamingo Records, just to name a few in addition to opening for Feddie Le Grand and playing at Festival 84 among other shows. How do you think you've managed to stay on top of everything so far?
2018 has definitely been our biggest year since we’ve had some proper shows; we usually don't have many events here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We opened for the main event on New Year's Eve in Sarajevo, playing in front of 50,000 people which was a huge experience for us. The releases just kept coming out and we've been super happy that they’ve gotten support from some of the best DJs. Our tracks have also been getting worldwide attention with Bucovina just hitting 1 million streams on Spotify! The next couple of months are going to be pretty quiet in terms of shows so we’ll be putting our full focus on making music again!
How did you get booked as an opening act for Fedde Le Grand?
We kinda got lucky there since the decision of who was going to be the supporting act was made by the management of Fedde Le Grand. There are lots of DJs around here, but most of them don't make music so they didn’t have that international reach. The DJs here have been active for many years so they usually always have the advantage in regards of having the connections to play whenever an event is happening. No hate towards anyone - just stating how things work in the industry over here and everywhere else.
You guys did an edit of Alixun & David Fesser's "Malah," what does that mean, to do an edit?
Alixun & David Fesser sent us the finished track but we felt it needed some elements to make track stand even more out. If you edit a track, then ninety-nine percent of the time it means to work on a finished track to try to improve it or add your signature stuff into it. They both did an excellent job and it was a lot of fun to work on it and try to raise it to the next level!
Why did you all decide to make the switch from producing Big Room to making House and Groove music?
It was really about growing up and getting tired of all the noise, you know? We thought it would be great to get back to the roots which is great for the industry. We’ve also gotta mention Kryder and his label, Sosumi Records, which started at just the right time; it was a refreshing vision in dance music and we couldn't resist falling in love with the sound they were pursuing. We don't hate Big Room or anything, it's just that we don't listen to it anymore nor do we enjoy going to parties with that kind of music.
A track like "Mahala" sounds like a pretty straightforward and simple track when you hear it for the first time, is it fairly easy to produce a track like that or is there a lot going on behind the scenes to make that sort of song?
“Mahala” was started as a track that we referenced to Sander van Doorn's track, “Ori Tali Ma.” We kinda wanted to recreate the predrop fill with the huge reverb and stuff, so it started from there and then we got crazy with the bassline and stuff. Our goal back then was to release something on Sosumi and we knew that adding Balkan flavor to this techy style would be a real hit. The trumpets are from a sample pack as it is a pretty popular sound here in the Balkans. It all fit perfectly each other and we're super happy with the end result and getting it signed to Kryder’s label.
What do you think is the most important thing to get right when making a groove or house track to make it stand out from the rest?
There is no magic trick or anything; for us it's mostly trying to find something interesting like a catchy vocal, an old sample, or whatever catches our ear in the moment. Sometimes it starts by making the low end stuff and then putting stuff on top of it. It’s all about finding a way to put all the pieces together in the best way to make you jam out to it. If you can dance while making it, I’m pretty sure people will dance to it when it’s played on the dancefloor.
How long does it normally take you to finish a song?
That's also a variable, sometimes the idea just pops off in a second and you have the whole track arranged in a matter of hours. Sometimes, the struggle is real for days if not weeks. The same thing happens with the mixdown sometimes; when the elements are right, mixdowns takes usually a day but when the elements suck, you can mix for weeks and you won't get that great sounding master in the end. After doing it for a while, I can definitely say it gets easier with time.
What was it like making the music video for Bucovina?
The time span was very limited to make the music video but we were really happy with the end result since we wanted it to have some sort of interesting story and also try to represent our hometown as a warm welcoming city to everyone.
What have been some of your craziest moments on stage?
Not many memories are crossing my mind right now, but I do remember one specific performance at the Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro. What happened was we got on stage, plugged in our headphones and they just straight died on us and wouldn’t work at all. I almost got a panic attack because I turned around to look backstage to see if there was anyone like technical staff or another DJ around to help us, but no one was there! Luckily, we found someone’s headphones below the booth so it all turned out well in the end and we were able to do the show.
What is it like collabing with other artists in the studio versus just sending stems back and forth online?
When we were studying in Belgrade at the SAE Institute, we got introduced to lots of their producers. Mostly we would hang out in Divolly & Markward’s studio and we always had a lot of fun over there; we’d be sharing ideas and working on them. Currently we do a lot of work with our buddy SuitStatic by sharing stems back and forth. Our vision is basically the same and the communication with him is easy, which boosts the workflow even more. There are pros and cons to everything of course, but I think we mostly thrive by just working on our own and then finishing it through sending stems.
What was the demo drop at ADE like? How was ADE in general?
ADE this year was kind of boring to be honest. We had mostly fun hanging out during the day with everyone and just grabbing a beer and having fun. The demo drop didn't happen in the end, we just listened to a few demos on the street.
What's next for Free Music Recordings after getting signed by Sony? How will things be different for the label and your role in it?
It basically means getting a lot more recognition which means a lot to what we’ve done so far and where we hope to go. A lot of stuff will be easier for my boss, Mikael Weermets, but my role is still Head of A&R so I’ll continue scouting for new talents and cool, unique house music.
What are some of your favorite things to do together?
Having fun! That's what matters most to us while we're together and with some friends. We’re always cracking jokes and messing around. In the past couple of months, we’ve been actively playing football every Wednesday and Sunday, so if anyone wants to get schooled by us, you can hit us up and we'll arrange a match! Same goes for FIFA!
What have been some of the proudest moments you've had so far in your career?
For us, the proudest moments are realizing that our tracks are being played even six months after they are released. When you see those stats roll in, you know that your track hasn’t been forgotten after a week or something. People also tend to look more at the label than the actual track, so for “Manea” to continue receiving support and being played almost everywhere by Axwell, Nicky Romero, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano just means a lot to us. “Bucovina” going viral in a lot of countries on Spotify is something we're also very proud of.
Where do you hope to go next with Drop Department?
We're going to continue working hard but branch out a little bit more. You can still expect DJ friendly tunes from us but we plan on making some radio stuff as well. Where will we go and what we will achieve is still an unknown, but we'll make sure to continue establishing our sound in the scene and making music that gets you to dance.
A MASSIVE thank you to Ademir Alibegović of Drop Department for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to check out their socials to keep up with all of their latest shows and tracks!
Check out their massively popular Spinnin' Records release below!Alibegović
Chris W. Lao
DJ, Writer, and Student.
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