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Interview: DJ Ruby

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The cosmic journey continues with ‘Constellations: Orion,’ the latest episode in SLC-6 Music’s mix compilation series. This time our helm is in the experienced hands of Maltese hero, DJ Ruby. The veteran dj has been a champion of progressive music on his home island for years, forging a thriving community and building a sterling reputation. For ‘Orion’, Ruby curated an outstanding selection of tracks from the SLC-6 Music catalog, including commissions of new tracks from within the label’s stable of artist-astronauts. Also included are two new tracks from Ruby himself – an original and a remix with frequent musical collaborator, Paul Hamilton – each specially produced for inclusion in this mix compilation. With the subtle touch of a master of his craft, Ruby’s continuous mix is a gem. We had a chance to catch up with Rudy for an exclusive interview leading up to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Ruben, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Thank you for your invite. I would like to thank you people at Progressive Astronaut for the work you’ve done throughout the years for the Prog scene – it’s my utmost pleasure to be interviewed by your portal.

Now that, I’m back touring and performing, I’m constantly listening to promos every day. So yeah, I have just been through a big bunch of upfront tracks.

What are your plans for the coming week?

This weekend I’m playing in Croatia at a private villa party, so I’m getting ready for that.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Malta, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

Since the beginning of my career, the early 90’s, progressive was always my music of choice. I discovered the first Renaissance compilations featuring Sasha & Digweed, and got hooked for life. As progressive evolved, from house to trance, from tech back to house, I was always part of this musical expedition. Of course this translated, and still does, in the music I play, the music I make and the events I do, aspiring to grow a Progressive movement in Malta.

From the outside progressive music seems to be prominent in Malta, would you say that’s an accurate statement?

Malta, though being a very small country, has a solid music scene. Until the late 2000’s it was just made of locals, and it was already super strong! I used to do Renaissance parties and other events with a Progressive House/Trance music policy for a good 10 to 12 years. Numbers were always like 2000, even 3000 attendees, just locals, for every event! I would say that Prog certainly ruled the 2000s decade enormously! These days yes we have a lot of expats living in Malta, which make up a substantial percentage of our clubbers, but now we do have countless of parties happening all the time, bars have turned into clubs, beach clubs everywhere, big festivals, there is a lot happening, so people spread throughout the years, so of course numbers are nothing compared to 10/15 years ago. But I can still proudly say that together with the help of other DJs and promoters, we managed to keep Progressive as one of the biggest dance music scenes in Malta, second only to mainstream house and techno.

Tell us how the nightlife is there (pre-covid), you get to play a lot of gigs in your home country correct?

These past 2 years things were shifting for me, I was seeing an increase in international gigs. Things were going really good; many people from all over the world were reaching out and connecting with me. I could see myself gradually moving towards doing more gigs abroad than Malta. I was maybe a year away for that to actually happen. Of course, Covid halted everything, but now I’m back at it!

And given that you started DJing in the nineties, how have you seen the scene change there over the last few decades?

I think everything changed immensely in the scene (some things maybe slightly) except for that there is still a person we call a DJ, in a booth, mixing mostly other people’s music on a loud sound system, and a happy crowd dancing in front of him.

Where abroad do you enjoy playing the most and why?

Certainly in Koh Phangan Thailand, at Guys Bat, Eden and Lost Paradise! Unfortunately this year I had to give it a miss due to the pandemic. It was the first time in 10 years that I didn’t get to go to the magic island! I love it so much because the vibe is still raw at the venues I mentioned. You are playing at 7am, in the jungle just a few steps away from the ocean, surrounded by amazing people! What else do you need?

Can you name five tracks that were important in your musical development and why they are so significant for you?

Underworld – Dark & Long
For a good ten years, I always used to end special sets with it!

OTT – Aubergine Of The Sun
The track that introduced me to the psy dub / organic / multicultural / downtempo vibes, which I am a huge fan of! Most of my inspiration comes from this universe.

DJ Ruby – Pure Stimulation
My first release back in 2005! The first track, is always the first track! I still drop the breaks version sometimes, and it still sounds pretty good!

Sunscreem – Perfect Motion (Boys Own Mix)
The track that introduced me to Progressive House! The mid 90’s were approaching and I instantly became the no.1 fan of the Sasha, Digweed, and Renaissance sound!

Breeder – Twilo Thunder
In 1999, This track made me realize that the Progressive Trance was about to rule the next 10 years, and I want to be a part of it. And it did.

You’ve recently compiled the latest installment of SLC-6 Music’s Constellations series ‘Orion’. Tell us a bit about the collection and process behind putting it together.

This was literally one year in the making! I must have driven D.J. MacIntyre, the label boss, mad! I had to postpone multiple times. In May of last year I started to contact artists for music, suddenly Malta’s Covid numbers went down, and events restarted again. All my energy had to go into holding events and performing. Then, when things got shut again, I restarted work on the project, but it was taking me too long to find the right music I wanted. I’m a perfectionist, and I wanted this to be of course perfect, also being my first compilation album in more than 10 years! We had a few release dates in my mind for late last year, but I wasn’t ready yet. Thankfully then, the label gave me all the time that I need to put the tracks together at my own pace- and that’s what I did. A couple of months after, I was pretty sure that I had a brilliant selection of tracks to produce the mix, which also includes an original of my own along with a remix with Paul Hamilton, both of which were done especially for this compilation.

You’ve contributed a new original of your own ‘Apollo’, walk us through the production process on that one.

I wanted to start with the melody, so first and foremost I made a harmonic drone. I just find it easier when I have a harmonic context when I write the melody. After that I added some rhythmic textures for atmospheres. The hook was a quick melodic idea, with a few tweaks, repeating itself, constantly evolving and changing, then I added some arps to support the hook. I made sure that the bass is a very powerful element, because it’s the most important part of the track. The drums (of course kick first), then the rest of percussion followed from a sample pack called PML. I was lucky that while Malta was on lockdown, I had a couple of gigs out of the country, were I could check and test the track for reactions. It sounded fantastic, and feedback was super!

Was there anything that inspired the track? And where does your inspiration come from generally?

I get inspired from everything I hear and everything I see! I’m also a dreamer! I constantly vision things, my mind never stops. I knew I had to do a track specifically for a constellation themed series, so while producing this I visualising space, stars, than spaceships, astronauts… hence where the name ‘Apollo’ came from.

What does your set-up like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of ‘Apollo’?

All my gear these days is digital, I use solely VSTs and my DAW of choice is Ableton Live. Certainly NI’s Massive for the baseline and Diva for the melody which was enhanced with my favourite build in Ableton effect Corpus.

Putting together a mix compilation like this is a hefty task, what made you confident that SLC-6 Music was the right home for a project like this?

Before i was contacted by the label to do this, I was already a fan of the imprint, as the music that was, and still is coming out SLC-6 is fantastic! When they presented me with the idea, i was sold right away. I saw it as an amazing concept, that certainly fits with the music I play. Fast forward to today, and a few compilations after, I certainly re-confirm that i’ve done the right thing to take on this job, as every Constellation album was solid! I’m so looking forward to release my session!

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive DJ mix albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did?

Times changed, the whole music Industry changed as well. Before compilations were released on CDs and even on v=Vinyl as single tracks, which was appropriate for that era. I’m old skool, I would have loved to see my compilation on a CD album and on vinyl, but again, things changed so did the way compilations are presented, sold & promoted. I think these days, you don’t need to be Global Underground or Renaissance to reach thousands. There are now countless of ways online, how to reach a big audience globally with your music. And the more people you get to, the more are the chances you get booked to play gigs, which is the main source of income of underground music artists.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

This pandemic was bad for me, but, it was also good for me at the same time. I’ve been playing in clubs non stop since the early 90’s, without missing a bloody weekend! That’s a very long time! My mind needed a little rest from that. But, I made sure that my musical vibes remain alive. I still worked full time and without pay, literally 24/7, on music, mixes, industry connections, you name it! I even build a new studio in this time, doing regular concept streams to connect with people all over the world. I fell in love with vinyl again, it was amazing to start using them in streams! I never lost inspiration, I never lost happiness, though sometimes yes, I felt a bit lonely. But I am a very positive person, Covid had no chance to put me down.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

It certainly will! Unfortunately I think that another pandemic will hit us again in our life time, so I will now take nothing for granted. Every second counts, I will enjoy every single moment of my life more than I ever did, especially all things related with music, clubbing and the scene which is my life really.

How do you see yourself continuing to evolve as an artist in the coming years?

Indeed! I always evolved as an artist, and I’ll always keep on evolving. In fact this is my 30th consecutive year working professionally in the scene. Though I’ve been so long, I never got stuck in the past, I’m always coming up with fresh ideas, new inspirations and follow current and future trends!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Probably the main thing why Covid sucked so much… being surrounded with friends and family!

What is your favourite food?

My favourite food is that of my mama! I have eaten in every corner of the world, and tried every imaginable cuisine, but I must admit that I’m always super looking forward to when I am able to pop by to my parents place, and indulge into something, the women of my life has on the menu for the day. She never disappointed me! Bless.

Iphone or Android?

What’s an Android… An alien? 🙂

What does the remainder of 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

So many things! Just before Covid hit, my international career was thriving, then things went on a halt. But now thankfully enough I restarting touring again as many countries opened up and parties are being allowed again! With so much extra time that was at my disposal during the pandemic, I managed to finished multiple solo tracks, more remixes with Paul Hamilton and collabs with Noiyse Project & Hoten, which are all due to be released throughout the year, one after another. I’m also very looking forward to restart my own events once the restrictions in Malta are fully lifted, hopefully soon!

‘Constellations: Orion’ is available for pre-order now via SLC-6 Music: https://bit.ly/3tm4Ivi

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