A few weeks ago, I reached out to Marko Milićević, aka Serbian DJ to the stars Gramophonedzie, who will be competing in the second semi-final for Pesma za Evroviziju 2022 with his song “Počinjem da ludim”, in collaboration with vocalist Maat Bandy.
You can listen to the song here:
Hi Marko, great to have you with us! With Pesma za Evroviziju fast approaching, how are preparations going?
Hello! Thank you very much! Well, we are having rehearsals these days and it’s going really well, I just hope that all of us will stay healthy ’till the competition. It’s not easy to present a drum and bass song
to an audience that is not familiar with that sound, but I think people will like it, especially as something different. This year we are lucky to have many great artists and a variety of musical styles.
Whose idea was it to enter the selection process? Were you approached by RTS (PTC) or did you apply?
It was my idea actually, I sent the song, which is originally written in English (Speed Me Up), and then the RTS crew asked if we were able to translate it to Serbian, so we did it, to fulfil the rules. I wasn’t sure if they were gonna like the song, but with many musical experts working there, they recognized it as something fresh and valuable for the competition. I was very glad to hear that, especially because this track is something different to what I used to produce before, so it’s unexpected in a way!
You’ve been in the music business a long time – why was now the right time to try for Eurovision?
Honestly, I watched last year’s ESC, it amazed me that there were such a quality music and songs, great artists, and the most important thing was there were various music styles, from rock to 80’s disco, ballads to club songs, so I found myself thinking that it would not be strange for one house music producer to try to compete. I haven’t expected much, but I’m lucky to be part of Serbian selection process PZE. I feel that Eurovision is open to every kind of musical style nowadays.
Your music style is described by NME as a cross between House and “Electro-Swing”. How would you define your style in your own words, and what inspires you when making music?
I was really honored to be one of the producers 10 years ago, who revived Electro-Swing and vocal jazzy house to mainstream audiences, something that started as underground music in the small clubs and Ibiza parties, and then became huge in the mainstream playlists and radio stations. I was then recognized by that musical genre, but I was always eager to produce other styles as well. There are many productions I’ve made and remixes which wouldn’t fit as swing house, but I think that one that makes you popular defines you afterwards.
Before we talk about your song for Serbia, we need to talk about the thing most fans (myself included) will know you for: the international hit “Why Don’t You” from 2010, which landed you a No.1 in the UK Dance Chart and a place on the album Now 75, which I had on repeat on my iPod Nano as a kid (how times have changed!) How was the experience of that song going global for you at the time?
Thank you for being a fan first of all! I had really never expected for that song to achieve what it did, it was a jackin’ house track that I made for the love of Peggy Lee’s voice, and firstly I sent it to my DJ friends, some of them owned small record labels, so I waited for their comments. After that weekend, they obviously played it at clubs, all of them called me to ask if they could sign it to their labels, as it had a huge reaction from the crowd. After a while, it became Ibiza’s most played track that year, and I signed it to Virgin/ EMI, and it was a great start for a wider audience to hear it. It was played in heavy rotation and charted on many worldwide radio stations and played by the underground and commercial DJs equally. So, I guess it was my dream becoming a true story.
Thinking back to “Why Don’t You”, like many House DJs, a lot of your previous music has used sampling. Since Eurovision does not allow this, how much of a challenge was it composing beats and riffs from scratch for the Contest?
Few years ago I started to perform with my own band “Gramophonedzie Live Experience”. We have live instruments, piano, guitar, saxophone, trumpet, drums etc. and vocals of course. Firstly, the idea was to perform live music and tracks that I’ve sampled, or produced in the studio. After a while, we started to make our own music, everything was played and without samples. So our performances are very interesting to the crowd who likes club, house music and also live instruments and live band performances on stage. Our song for the Serbian competition is composed and played by live instruments and vocals, and it is always more difficult than sampling, you have nothing to start with, so it is one completely creative process from the beginning.
You’ve played gigs alongside such House music giants as Tom Novy, Basement Jaxx, Joey Negro and Bob Sinclar (all of whom heavily featured on my iPod as a kid). In recent years, many greats of the genre, namely Gromee and Darude, have tried their hand at Eurovision. Which other big name DJs (other than yourself, of course) would you love to see on the Eurovision stage?
I would like to see more of my colleagues and not only from one electronic genre, like house music, it can be a combination of DJ production and any kind of band or singer. Sometimes those collaborations are the best, because the electronic touch can add some energy and freshness to many songs, there are many remixes that had more success than original songs.
Being part of such a golden generation of DJs means you must have played some very special gigs. What is your favourite, and do you have any interesting / funny stories from gigs you could share with us?
There were many and I really can’t pinpoint one, I loved parties in Brazil or in Japan. People in Japan are very focused on music, when they like some artist they know everything about him. Therefore funny story comes from Japan when a fan asked me about some track that I made years years ago, even I forgot I made it and I couldn’t remember what it was, but he knew. So it was funny that a random guy in Japan telling me it’s my song and me trying to explain it’s not my song. After a few minutes of him persuading me it’s my song, I realized he was right and I was wrong 😀
Your song, Počinjem da ludim, is in collaboration with Serbian singer-songwriter Maat Bandy, aka Milana Popović. How did that relationship start, and what does she bring to the song?
We started to work together 8 years ago, I liked her singing style because she can perform with the same emotion and vocal as the old jazz singers I liked to sample in my tracks, so at the beginning we performed live songs that I’d already made and she was always great in mimicking jazzy singing. She just has the ability to fit in perfectly and also has good pronunciation in the English language. After a while we started composing and writing together, she is very talented as a top-line writer as well and I think that her time is yet to come.
You might say the song is a bit of a diversion from things you’ve made in the past, as it has a more drum-and-bass feel (some fans I know have already compared it to music by Rudimental). Why did you want to go with this style?
I’m not sure why, but drum ‘n’ bass has always come naturally when I produce with live instruments, Milana also loves d’n’b and she is always motivated to write top-line with this kind of instrumental. Also, I’m very happy to be compared to Rudimental, which I respect a lot. I would like drum’n’ bass to revive and become popular again as it was a few years ago, especially in the UK. Music trends are changing from year to year and it’s difficult to be a trendsetter, but we always come back to some good songs despite the trend. I don’t think this song came intentionally to us, I think it just happened and I’m not sure what the next one will be.
Roughly translated, “Počinjem da ludim” means “I’m going crazy”. For those who don’t speak Serbian, what story / message do the lyrics convey, and what was the inspiration behind them?
The song is basically a love song, it’s about problems that we usually have in our new relationship because we have some old scars or unresolved issues with someone who we loved before. Milana is singing about her impatience and a tough time with her partner who is having problems bonding with her, to let himself go, to forget the past and emotionally step into something new. This is a random situation, and it’s not age-related, it has probably happened to many people who will listen to our song.
Have you had the chance to listen to any of the other competing songs at Pesma za Evroviziju, and if so, which ones are your favourites?
I did, and there are 3 songs that are most mentioned on social media. I think that they are very different and can’t be compared, but one must win and I will support and applaud anyone who will represent us, now I know how hard it is to get there. Also there are great songs which are not favourites, ballads and rock, also blues.
How avidly do you follow Eurovision? Would you consider yourself a “Eurofan”? What is your favourite Eurovision memory / song and why?
Honestly, I can’t say that I’m eurofan because I’m not the one who follows everything about Eurovision, I usually wait for the contest night and watch it with my friends and family and of course I have my favourite. But real fans, on the other hand, follow local contests for every country that participates and they have their local favourites, they follow every step in the preparation, rehearsals until the main performances. So it’s not easy to be a real eurofan!
What are your plans for the future, whether you end up at Eurovision or not?
I hope that I will have some great collaborations ,also that the audience who didn’t know my music before will listen to it and hopefully like it.
And finally, some ESCBubble fan questions to get to know you a bit better:
When you are not making music, what is your favourite thing to do?
I really enjoy cooking and eating what I’ve cooked which you can tell from my looks 🙂
Who would be your dream collabroation partner for a song and why? (This could be any artist / group, alive or dead, from anywhere in the world)
One and The Greatest – Quincy Jones or Mr. Nile Rodgers would be a dream collab.
What is something I absolutely have to do / try in Belgrade if I’m there for a weekend break / holiday?
There are many clubs with great music that you should visit regarding nightlife, also restaurants with exceptional food you should try, and at last but not the least friendly Serbian people who like visitors to
show them around and hang out with. Let me know when you’re coming!
Thank you Marko – I’ll be looking forward to it!
The whole of the ESCBubble team would like to wish you “srechno” at PZE!
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