Many Brits know Croatia as a beautiful stretch of coastline that hosts a plethora of summer festivals where we go to soak up sun and dance. But it has a vibrant and flourishing electronic music scene in it’s own right. Leading the charge for the past few years has been the excellent label Burek. Set up by friends Mario and Mislav, this has been a driving force for exquisite and innovative house music from artist both local and international. Now the guys have set up a new, more techno focused offshoot Barba. This seemed like the perfect time to catch up with them and find out what’s cooking in the Adriatic sun.
They've also provided us an exclusive mix of just Barba material put together by the excellent Marco Bernardi. Enjoy;
First things first: what is Burek, and is it tasty?
Mario: Burek is a pie. A pastry with meat, which has roots in the Balkans and Turkey. There’s also a version with cheese, but that is no longer Burek, more of a cheese pie. As a meal Burek is very tasty and is the perfect food after a night out at the club. I should mention that my ex-partner and our good friend Sergej named the label Burek, with the idea to sell greasy beats in the white paper behind this label name. Just like you would get steaming hot greasy Burek at a kiosk or bakery at 6am.
Before we get into talking about the labels I’m very interested in how electronic music made its way into the region. Tell me a bit about how you guys got into electronic music and what was the landscape like back in the early days.
Mario: Few know that Croatia in the '90s had an amazing rave/techno and house scene. If we look back to the '90s, the scene in Croatia was quite severe and actually an inverse of how many people perceive it. Maybe not in the sense of producing music, but if we look at staggering number of local events, how many people were into it and who was booked to play at those small local events. I have to say that the situation then was great. So, for us, it was new, exciting and really seductive on mass scale.
A lot of people from the UK will know Croatia from coming and partying on the beaches with the recent influx of festivals but there’s clearly a vibrant home-grown scene there. Tell us who we should be checking out and what we should be listening to (except from your good selves of course).
Mario: The techno and house scene here has significantly improved over the last few years. So, as is the case around the world, we have an explosion of new talents. People who in my opinion need no introduction would be two of our biggest exports: Petar Dundov and Ilija Rudman. I am sure these two are familiar names to your readers.
From rising talents there is Homeboy, Miss Sunshine, Zarkoff, Tomislav, SOK, Ivan Komlinovic, Darko Kustura, Examine, Josip Klobučar and so on. They've all appeared on a few excellent local vinyl labels which I would strongly recommend people to check out: House Is OK, Fields & Forests and Vacum.
Beside the above mentioned great local producers, we have really fantastic DJs everyone should pay attention to. Namely Mimi, Labud, Jogarde, Nicole, Funk Guru, Felver, Eddy Ramich, Zero, Sergej, Borut Cvajner, Tvrtko & Sladoled, Brighton, Mario Novak, Jan Kinčl, Nadja and the list goes on and on. All those passionate people shape this surprisingly big and vibrant scene for a relatively small city like Zagreb.
You dropped your first 12” back in 2011 with Kink’s Leko EP. How did the label come together at that time and how did you link up with Srahil?
Mario: The Burek label was brought to life around 2010 actually. At that time we were all into DJing, music and clubs for over 15 years, and the label was a logical step for us. I was good friends with KiNK from his early days and was a huge supporter. One day he said “If one day I get well-known and if you ever start a label, I'll make music for you." So, that's how it happened and now we have two labels plus a third on the way. The new label name is Pomalo! and the first release will be by Alex Israel's new project called CL Dawkins with Amp Fiddler on remix duties.
How would you describe the sound of Burek to someone who may not have heard any of your music?
Mario: Hmm... tough question. Fat beats in greasy paper? :D
With Burek you’ve put together an impressive string of releases over the past few years. Talk me through some of the people you've worked with so far.
Mario: Thank you. We are quite happy when people recognise our work and reach out to work with us. Would like to mention our current one is no.10 which is produced Aybee who’s work as producer we love so much.
Before we had people like the already mentioned Kink, then Vakula, Humandrone, Toby Tobias, Snuffo, Esa, Inkswel, Information Ghetto plus on top really great and talented people providing remixes: Chris Duckenfield, Homeboy, John Heckle, Juju & Jordash, Fudge Fingas, Specter, Aubrey, Dj Nature, Iron Curtis and IG Culture.
I believe people will be happy with our upcoming stuff too so this might be good opportunity to announce what’s coming next. The next release is by our new talent called Luca Murgia aka Tho Thou, then our premiere on our label by Damon Bell and in between you will see releases by our ‘veterans' Ilija Rudman and Marco Bernardi.
What’s the most frustrating thing about running a record label?
Mario: At present, in addition to sales (haha!) the worst is the production itself which has many issues. So many people have a label these days that pressing plants cannot keep up with the job. Because of that, communication, waiting and delay issues are so frustrating lately that I have to say, it is driving me nuts.
Now on to Barba. You kicked this off recently as an offshoot to focus more on a rougher techno sound. How did this come about? Were you getting material sent that didn’t fit the Burek brief?
Mislav: Not really. The idea came about when I joined Mario and still at that time there wasn't really much good stuff being sent to us. It was primarily chasing artists.
Your latest on Barba is the second instalment of a two part release from Bristol based Scotsman Marco Bernardi right? How did you link up with him? He was on your agency wasn’t he?
Mislav: I’ve been following him and his productions always resonated with me so he was one of first guys we decided to contact. It was easy start of communication, then we met in Croatia when he played here and then demos started flowing in. Shortly after that he joined our now defunct agency and has since moved on. We still work on releases and gigs though and are in close contact. You will soon be able to check a DJ mix consisting purely of Barba material.
Both labels have quite striking, and very different, visual identities. For Burek you have old Cow Face and for Barba you have the mad old sailor and his fish-trumpet. Tell me a bit about your approach to design for both of the labels and who you work with for this.
Mario: Cow Face was made by our friend, illustrator and designer Goran Zmaic. He did really great job as everyone involved in electronic music can really recognize that logo.
Mislav: Barba's stuff is designed by a friend who is in my view a great local illustrator, Alem Ćurin. Google the name, there is so much great stuff by him.
What have you got coming up on Barba?
Mislav: Releases by LD Nero, Marco Bernardi, Alex Cortex, Heinrich Dressel, FBK, Gosub, DJ Stingray, Perseus Traxx, Lerosa, Nubian Mindz, Delta Funktionen and hopefully many more to come. In addition, such names as DJ Plural, JTC, Terrence Dixon, Aubrey, Florian Kupfer and our most recent name is Ultradyne on our list of remixers.
Have we missed anything?
Mislav: If you already haven't, do check all our past releases on our Soundcloud page and the ones you dig, you can order on wax directly from our Discogs. Just so you know.
And yeah, next Saturday we have our third Barba label night in Zagreb with DJ Stingray and the Ultradyne guys doing their brutal Live PA.
Come and join the partaaay ;-) Its great weather in Zagreb these days.
Describe both labels in 5 words and 5 pictures.
Life is like a bassline...
Hear more from Burek via Soundcloud.