Home Interviews Cezar Nica [Interview]

Cezar Nica [Interview]

48 min read

Addicted to deep, hypnotic grooves and infectious percussive beats." Cezar's attraction to dance music started back in the late ’90s when he discovered the rave scene. In 2001, influenced by an eclectic spectrum of musical genres such as European electronica, Detroit techno, Chicago house, and big electronic music acts such as The Prodigy, Depeche Mode, and Chemical Brothers, Cezar wanted to make his mark and starts spinning turntables organizing various parties in Brasov (RO), his native city. His dedication to the craft got him playing gigs across his native country, as well as in clubs across Switzerland, such as Joystick, Dead End, Syrup, Art Cafe Bern, and Rohstofflager Zurich. In 2011, after moving to the Netherlands and being exposed to Amsterdam's dance music scene, a second revelation came: music production. This materialized in 2021 with the release of his first EP on YOMO Records. Since then he has collaborated with several record labels such as INU Musika and Creatus Flow and got support from household names like Mike Koglin, Cream, Gay Barone, Bondarev, Ewan Rill, Dowden, and others. His style is a mixture of electro, tech, and deep progressive house. This week sees Cezar making his debut on Canada's Deep Down Music with 'Chronology' a track he co-produced with Venao and backed with a remix from Analog Jungs.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Cezar to learn more about the release of ‘Chronology’, his musical background, studio process, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

Hi! Thanks for having me! I’m really excited to share with you some insights about my latest musical endeavour. The last piece of music I listened to was actually on my way home, I was playing Tantum’s remix of Crosses by Jamie Stevens, an outstanding track that definitely put me in a good mood.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and otherwise, please.

My days are typically divided into two parts: the first part is dedicated to my own business and the second part is reserved for unwinding and creative work.

As an entrepreneur, I spend most part of my day focusing on all sorts of clerical duties but also exploring new opportunities for collaborations and partnerships.

After wrapping up the business-related activities, I take a break to recharge and transition into the creative zone giving myself some time to catch up on the latest news and industry updates.

Once in the studio, I allow myself the freedom to experiment and explore new sonic territories. I find this time particularly magical as the energy of the day has settled, and I can fully surrender to the creative process.

Of course, each day presents its own unique challenges and opportunities, but this general framework guides my routine and keeps me focused.

Tell us about growing up in Romania, how did you discover electronic music there and who were some local DJs and producers you looked up to early on?

Growing up in post-communist Romania definitely influenced my passion for the genre. My exposure in the early '90s, to iconic electronic music pioneers like Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, and bands like Depeche Mode, propelled me into a lifelong love affair with electronic music. Their unique soundscapes and innovative use of synthesizers fascinated me.

In fact, my journey took an exciting turn when in the mid-90s I discovered the rave parties that were being organized in the Cluj area. These events were transformative for me as I experienced the power of electronic music in a live setting. The energy, the pulsating beats, and the collective spirit I felt there had a profound impact on me.

Simultaneously, in Bucharest, there was a surge in international DJ bookings, bringing renowned English DJs like Sasha, John Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, and Steve Lawler to mesmerize the crowds with their new slick progressive house sound.

It was during these immersive experiences that I quickly transitioned to a pure electronic music focus.

Moreover, attending parties in Bucharest with internationally renowned DJs inspired me to dive deeper into electronic music production. I was motivated to learn more about crafting captivating DJ sets, honing my skills in mixing, blending tracks, and creating seamless transitions. I was eager to create my own sonic tapestries that could transport listeners and evoke emotions, just as those DJs had done for me.

Your first steps in the scene were doing your own events in Brasov, tell us about those and how playing and organizing those events shaped the early part of your career.

In the late 90s, in my hometown, the electronic music scene was still in its infancy, with very few opportunities for local DJs to showcase their talent. Together with a very good friend of mine, we saw an opportunity to fill that gap by organizing our own events.

At first, they were small intimate gatherings, but they quickly grew in popularity and scale. We were able to attract local talent as well as bring in guest DJs from other parts of the country, creating a platform for up-and-coming artists to showcase their music and connect with like-minded individuals.

The process of organizing these events was both challenging and rewarding. We had to work hard to secure venues, negotiate with vendors, and promote the events through various channels. But the sense of satisfaction we were getting when seeing the dance floor packed with people enjoying the music was unparalleled.

Overall, organizing and playing at my own events in Brasov was a formative experience and a pivotal moment in the early part of my musical career. It allowed me to develop my skills as a DJ but also provided me with valuable experience in event organization, management, and promotion.

You eventually relocated to the Netherlands, what prompted the move and how did that affect your career path?

My decision to relocate to the Netherlands was primarily driven by business reasons. I saw an opportunity to expand my horizons and grow my company by tapping into the Dutch market.

However, the move also had a profound impact on my musical career. The Netherlands has a rich and diverse electronic music scene, with a long history of producing some of the most influential DJs and producers in the world. Being exposed to this vibrant musical culture inspired me to explore new avenues.

One of the most significant changes that occurred after moving to the Netherlands was my decision to start producing music. While I had been DJing for many years prior to the move, it wasn't until I arrived in the Netherlands that I felt inspired to create my own tracks and share them with the world.

The move also enabled me to engage more in the scene, network with like-minded individuals, and learn from some of the most talented DJs and producers in the world, and provided me with a fertile environment to develop my skills as an electronic music producer.

If you were a tour guide for nightlife in Amsterdam, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Tough question! I’d say there are a few clubs that I would definitely recommend. First on the list is De School, a renowned venue known for its underground and experimental electronic music. It's located in a converted school building and offers an immersive experience with its exceptional sound system.

Next, we would head to Shelter, a unique club situated beneath the A'DAM Tower. Its industrial aesthetic sets the stage for unforgettable nights of underground techno and house music. The atmosphere there is truly electrifying.

Lastly, I would take you to RADION, a multifunctional venue housed in an old industrial building. It's known for hosting cutting-edge electronic music nights and creating a captivating warehouse vibe that attracts a passionate crowd.

When it comes to local DJs in Amsterdam, there are some remarkable talents you should definitely hear. Job Jobse, the co-founder of De School, is a must-listen for his emotive and eclectic sets. Sandrien, a resident DJ at De School, impresses with her impeccable mixing skills and exploration of techno.

Beyond Amsterdam, I would mention Alex Orion and Navar, both prominent figures in the Dutch electronic music community, known for bringing to the forefront their unique sound and artistry.

Of course, the Amsterdam nightlife scene is ever-evolving, so it's always a good idea to stay updated on the latest lineups and recommendations. Rest assured, with these clubs and local DJs, your nightlife experience in Amsterdam will be truly unforgettable!

And to add to that, what have been your favorite venues to perform at in Romania or the Netherlands, and why?

When reflecting on my favorite venues to perform at, two standout locations immediately come to mind. In Romania, I found myself immersed in the enchanting atmosphere of the Hush Hush club in Brasov. The energy and connection with the crowd were truly magical, creating a transcendent experience that left a lasting impression on me.

Additionally, my journey took me beyond Romania's borders to Switzerland, where I had the pleasure of playing at Joystic in Bern. This venue had an undeniable allure, with its unique ambiance and impeccable sound system. The combination of an enthusiastic crowd and the venue's captivating aura elevated my performances to new heights, making it an unforgettable experience.

Both Hush Hush and the Joystick hold a special place in my heart because these venues allowed me to connect in the most special ways with the audience, resulting in an electric atmosphere where music became a conduit for shared emotions and unforgettable moments.

Where do we find you if you are not DJing or socializing at clubs? And doing what?

I dedicate a significant amount of time to my business. I'm deeply involved in its operations, constantly seeking ways to innovate and grow in the ever-evolving industry.

In addition to my professional endeavors, I prioritize staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in sports not only helps me stay physically fit but also provides a mental and creative outlet. Whether it's hitting the gym, going for a run, or participating in team sports, I find that physical activity enhances my overall well-being and inspires me in my artistic pursuits.

Furthermore, since relocating to the Netherlands, I've taken it upon myself to immerse myself in the local culture. One way I do this is by dedicating time to learning Dutch. I find that being able to communicate and connect with the local community in their native language adds a more profound sense of connection and understanding.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

When I first embarked on my journey in music production, I did indeed seek guidance and mentorship to complement my self-learning efforts. While I dedicated a significant amount of time to absorbing information and tutorials available online, I also had the opportunity to receive mentoring from accomplished producers, Dowden and Camiel Daamen. Their guidance and expertise played an instrumental role in shaping my skills as a music producer and allowed me to make significant strides in my artistic development.

Based on my own experience, I highly recommend new producers to seek out mentorship or guidance from experienced individuals in the field. Having someone to provide personalized feedback, share insights, and offer constructive criticism can accelerate the learning curve and help avoid common pitfalls.

Furthermore, immersing yourself in the music you admire and dissecting the production techniques used by your favorite artists can provide valuable insights. Study and analyze their arrangements, sound design, and mixing approaches to understand how they achieve their desired sound.

You have a new single ‘Chronology’ (alongside Venao) out now via Deep Down Music, tell us about the track release and how it showcases your current sound.

I am indeed incredibly excited to announce the release of my newest single, 'Chronology,' which is a collaboration with the exceptionally talented Venao from Brazil. It was officially released on May 19th through Deep Down Music, and I couldn't be happier to share it with the world. This track holds a special significance to me as it beautifully represents the “progressive sound” I'm currently exploring and marks a significant milestone in my musical journey.

'Chronology' is a captivating exploration of deep and melodic vibes, blending intricate rhythms with atmospheric textures. It intertwines lush synth lines, hypnotic melodies, and pulsating basslines to create a captivating sonic journey that resonates with my artistic vision and Venao’s signature style.

I want to express my sincere gratitude for the incredible support and encouragement I've received thus far on this release. It means the world to me, and it only fuels my motivation to continue creating and sharing more music in the future.

This is your first collaboration with Venao, tell us how that came to be, how did you guys decide to work on a track together?

The collaboration with Venao came about through a mutual appreciation for each other's music and a shared desire to create something unique. We had been following each other's musical journeys for some time and recognized the potential for a fruitful collaboration.

After exchanging ideas and discussing our musical visions, we realized that our styles and creative approaches were complementary. We both felt a strong connection and were excited about the possibility of combining our talents to create something special.

We began the collaborative process by sharing musical ideas, sketches, and inspirations. Through open and constructive communication, we found common ground and a shared vision for the track. We nurtured our creative synergy by exchanging feedback, refining ideas, and experimenting with different musical elements.

Working alongside Venao on this project was an incredibly inspiring experience. We both brought our unique musical perspectives to the table, blending our strengths and creative ideas to craft a track that truly represents our artistic synergy.

This is your first appearance on Deep Down Music, what is it about the label that makes it a good home for your music?

Being released on Deep Down Music adds an extra layer of excitement to this release. I hold great admiration for the label and the talented artists it has featured thus far. It's an honor to be a part of their roster and contribute to their vision of delivering high-quality electronic music.

Let our readers inside your studio, what is your current setup, and what tools are featured heavily in the writing of ‘Chronology’.

Inside my studio, I have a modest yet effective setup that allows me to bring my musical ideas to life. At the core of my setup, I rely on M-Audio sound hardware and monitoring to ensure accurate and detailed sound reproduction.

When it comes to the creation of 'Chronology,' I primarily utilized Ableton Live as my DAW. In terms of software instruments, I heavily incorporated some classic virtual synthesizers into the production. Serum, Omnisphere, and Hive were instrumental in crafting the intricate and captivating soundscapes heard in 'Chronology.' These VST instruments offer a wide range of sonic possibilities, enabling me to shape unique and expressive sounds that enhance the overall atmosphere of the track.

For crafting the punchy kick drum, I relied on Kick2, which provided the necessary flexibility and control to ensure the kicks are cutting through the mix with precision and impact. To shape and enhance the overall sound of the track, I turned to FabFilter and SSL plugins for sound processing. These plugins offer a comprehensive suite of tools for EQ, compression, reverb, and more, allowing me to fine-tune the sonic characteristics and add depth and clarity to the mix.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

Personally, I find immense joy in the creative process of crafting grooves and basslines. There's something incredibly satisfying about experimenting with different rhythms, exploring various sonic textures, and shaping the foundation of a track. It's in these moments that I feel a true connection with the music, allowing my creativity to flow and guiding me toward unique and captivating musical ideas.

On the other hand, browsing presets and spending excessive time on sound design can sometimes feel less fulfilling for me. While I appreciate the importance of sound selection and customization, I prefer to focus more on the musical aspects and overall structure of a track. I thrive in the realm of composition, where I can build arrangements, craft transitions, and create impactful breaks that elevate the energy and emotion of the music.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

When it comes to DJing, I approach it as a unique art form that allows me to combine my passion for presenting great music with the opportunity to create something new and captivating. It's a dynamic discipline that lies at the intersection of composition and improvisation, where I have the ability to curate a journey for the audience while infusing my own creative touch.

I find great satisfaction in crafting long, seamless transitions that create a hypnotic effect on the dancefloor. By carefully selecting tracks that complement each other in energy, mood, and musical elements, I strive to create a cohesive and immersive experience for the listeners. These transitions serve as the building blocks for a captivating musical journey, where the music seamlessly evolves and takes the audience on a sonic adventure.

I believe that DJing is not only about presenting great music but also about adding a personal touch and creating a unique atmosphere. While I respect and appreciate the tracks created by other artists, I enjoy infusing my own creativity into the mix by using various techniques such as subtle effects, layering elements, or even incorporating live remixing. This allows me to bring a fresh perspective to the music, adding my own flavor and creating something new at the moment.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks, and also, your work as a producer?

As a DJ, I've developed a keen sense of what works on the dancefloor and how different tracks can interact with each other to create a cohesive and engaging experience. This has heightened my appreciation for the nuances within tracks, such as their energy levels, musical elements, and emotional impact. I've learned to listen to music with a more discerning ear, always seeking out tracks that possess that special quality that can captivate and move a crowd.

Being exposed to a wide range of music as a DJ has expanded my musical horizons and allowed me to explore different genres, styles, and artists. It has made me more open-minded and receptive to new sounds and ideas. I'm constantly seeking out fresh and innovative tracks that can inspire and enrich my sets.

My work as a DJ has also had a significant impact on my approach to music production. Through DJing, I've gained insights into what works on the dancefloor, the kind of elements that resonate with the audience, and the overall flow and dynamics of a set. This knowledge and experience directly inform my production choices, influencing the arrangements, energy levels, and the overall impact of my tracks.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book, and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

 If I had the opportunity to curate an event with a dream line-up featuring Hernan Cattaneo, Guy J, Patrice Baumel, Nick Warren, and Mariano Melino, I would carefully design the set times to create a mesmerizing musical journey for the attendees. Here's how I would structure the event:

Opening (10:00 PM - 12:00 AM): Mariano Melino's deep and melodic sound set the stage for the evening

Midnight (12:00 AM - 2:00 AM): Patrice Baumel’s emotionally charged soundscapes would heighten the energy and captivate the audience.

Early Morning (2:00 AM - 4:00 AM): Guy J would continue the journey with his signature style of infectious rhythms, lush melodies, and immersive textures to ignite the dancefloor.

Sunrise (4:00 AM - 6:30 AM): Hernan Cattaneo would take the stage to deliver his unique musical narratives transporting the crowd on a transcendent journey of sound and emotion.

Closing (6:30 AM - 9:00 AM): Nick Warren takes the decks transporting the audience in a state of euphoria, cherishing the final moments of the event.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Apart from music, the thing that brings me the greatest joy and fulfillment is spending quality time with my family and friends. Building and nurturing strong relationships with loved ones is an essential aspect of my life. Whether it's engaging in heartfelt conversations, sharing laughter and memorable experiences, or simply enjoying each other's company, these moments create a deep sense of happiness and connection.

Being surrounded by the people who genuinely care about me and whom I care for deeply brings a profound sense of warmth, love, and support. It's during these moments that I can truly be myself, relax, and find solace in the bonds we've formed. We create beautiful memories together, supporting one another through life's ups and downs, and celebrating each other's achievements and milestones.

The power of human connection and the joy derived from nurturing those relationships cannot be overstated. It provides a sense of belonging, acceptance, and unconditional love that enriches my life in immeasurable ways. No matter how busy or demanding life may be, taking the time to cherish and cultivate these connections is an invaluable source of happiness and fulfillment for me.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

In the remainder of 2023, I am excited to continue pursuing my passion for music and exploring new opportunities. While I cannot disclose specific details at the moment, I am working towards releasing more music and collaborating with other talented artists. I am constantly striving to evolve and refine my sound, and I look forward to sharing my upcoming releases with my fans and the music community.

Overall, the remainder of 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting and transformative period for me. I am committed to pushing my creative boundaries, honing my craft, and exploring new opportunities that align with my passion for music. I eagerly anticipate the journey ahead and the experiences that await me in the coming months.

'Chronology' is available now via Deep Down Music: https://bit.ly/3MFlu2L

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