As the founder of Progressive Astronaut describes it: “I’m just a dude, who LOVES underground dance music and wants to showcase the best sounds out there to the world!”. Progressive Astronaut originally started out as a Youtube Channel, which gradually gained popularity with Dance Music fans. As of May 2016, Progressive Astronaut has also been organising events in London, United Kingdom. The Sound Clique talked with Nigel Milevoj, who is the founder and content manager of Progressive Astronaut. Here he talks about how it all started, about the genesis of the London events and about the future plans for Progressive Astronaut.
When, how and why Progressive Astronaut came about?
Well, my friend used to run a YouTube channel and I used to help him with it – that is to say that I used to upload some tunes that I liked onto his channel. As his channel grew bigger and bigger, we realized that it was not good to have such a wide variety of musical styles on the channel, so I decided to create my own channel. I did this with his full support.
Having made the decision to start my own channel, I had to think up a name for it (I’m really bad with names and not very creative when it comes to this). I knew that I should not limit my channel to a narrow genre (e.g. calling it something like Deep Progressive), so since I love Progressive and Deep music such as Techno and Deep House and like to go on voyages into different soundscapes, I had the idea of naming it after an explorer or journey man. I thought if I named the channel Progressive Astronaut, that the name would represent the deeper side of music perfectly, because astronauts go into space and space is deep and black, sort of like the music I like.
Basically, Progressive Astronaut was created, because of my utterly huge love for electronic music. There wasn’t a platform available (at the time), which handled promotion in a professional matter, and so I thought that, what the producers really needed was a way to be heard across the globe. That was the motivation, to try and create a professional global platform for electronic music.
This year, another person has joined the Progressive Astronaut team and we have decided to explore organising Progressive Astronaut events. This is a brand new avenue for us. Progressive Astronaut now has bases in both Croatia and United Kingdom.
What is Progressive Astronaut’s greatest achievement thus far?
I would have to say that it is the genesis of Progressive Astronaut events. We turned something digital into something physical!
On 6th of May you organized your first party at The Qube Project in London with Kastis Torrau, Donatello, Dale Middleton and Arnas D. How long did it take to organize this event and why did you choose exactly these artists for your first party?
This event had to be organized very quickly! I’m not sure we would work to such a tight timescale again. The first meeting at the venue was around 11th February – that was when it was mentioned that they had a slot available on 6th May.
It was difficult to find a venue – London is a tough city, lots of venues are closing down because of entertainment licencing problems. Dance music seems unpopular with the powers that be in the UK, despite it being part of the cultural milieu for more than 30 years. It is not fair that it is treated with such disregard by the ruling elite.
This is a new venture, so it was great that The Qube Project wanted to take a chance with us, because we are brand new in the events field. The Qube Project is a great venue with a top notch sound system.
Contract negotiations for the venue hire were eventually concluded on 3rd March. After that, the DJs needed to be booked very quickly – tickets went on sale on 21st March, only about 6 weeks before the event. It felt like quite a rush to get everything done in time!
Why did you choose these DJs in particular (Arnas D, Kastis Torrau B2B Donatello and Dale Middleton)?
I think this comes down to wanting Progressive Astronaut Parties to be associated with the very best progressive music! The headliners for our first party, Arnas D, Kastis Torrau, Donatello and Dale Middleton are all brilliant! The reason they are known in the scene, is not because of some slick marketing campaign, they are known because the quality of their work is simply outstanding. They haven’t just produced one good track, or some good sets – their work is consistently fantastic over a period of years. We feel privileged that they agreed to work with us. The first night was very special indeed!
Progressive Astronaut knows good music – that is absolutely what we’re about, so going forward, we will be picking artists for parties based on our knowledge (which is not insignificant) of this genre. I think we’re in a great position to always be able to select the most credible artists for gigs and to construct line ups that make fans of the progressive genre go weak at the knees!
So after organizing your first event in London, UK, do you plan to organize events anywhere else?
Maybe, but we have only just had our first event, so it’s very early days to be honest. However, never underestimate an astronaut’s ability to boldly go, where no other promoter has ever gone before. Our focus will probably be in London to begin with. It has a big dance music scene (and very few progressive nights), so it seems there is an opportunity to continue doing events in London. Nevertheless, given that we have a base in both the UK and Croatia, maybe we could consider doing some sort of festival in Croatia someday. There do seem to be more and more festivals cropping up in Croatia.
What do you find challenging in organising events?
We have never done this before and so to a certain degree, it’s all challenging! With this event, we intended to stream it live over the web, video each DJ’s set, record the audio files for later upload to SoundCloud, have a face painter, have an actor dressed up as an astronaut, have a merchandise stand, provide limited edition event t-shirts for all the DJs – this is a lot for a first event and it meant there was an awful lot to think of on the night! And on top of that, both of us involved with Progressive Astronaut have full time day jobs.
Handling all the details takes time. For example: the actor dressed up in a replica Apollo Mission space suit – he needed to be helped into and out of his costume at various points in the evening. He did a fantastic job! We probably needed to delegate responsibility for looking after him all night though. He was looked after, but it was another juggling ball to try and keep in the air.
With this event, most of the decisions about the event have been made by one person. On the night of the event, there needs to be more than one person who is making sure things are running smoothly. The biggest single problem with the first event, was that the timescale for mobilizing everything. It was really too tight.
Could you point out, what are some of the drawbacks to organising dance music events?
In London, it has to be that there is a fair amount of competition for punters, even with venues closing down. Although Progressive Astronaut has over 30,000 followers on YouTube, these are people all over the World. The difficulty is getting people to come to an event that they haven’t heard of before.
What are the most important elements to organising a good party according to you?
Haha! Well, we do not claim to be an authority on this just yet… we have only just had our first party. That said, I think that a sense of fun is what makes festivals so great, so I expect we may try to incorporate some slightly wacky element in to all of our events.
I think the biggest success for our first event was the astronaut – we had extra UV lights put in the venue and so when he was on the dance floor, he looked luminous and unearthly. The effect was out of this world (and into another)! We’ve seen so many cool astronaut selfies and photos since the event, people seemed to really love it! Job well done!
If you could organize an event anywhere in the World with your all-time favorite artists, where would it be and what would be the line-up?
Ahhh well, there is a club in Amsterdam called Milky Way (Melkweg)… now, if you were an astronaut, wouldn’t this be the perfect place for an astronaut party?! It’s a big venue though, not sure we could fill it just yet. So, short of being able to teleport people to the actual milky way, Melkweg in Amsterdam would be the choice – or maybe Gashouder, because being inside there is actually like being inside a space ship!
In terms of all-time favourite artists, Sasha & Digweed would have to be on the list, but then it would be great to have a sound reminiscent of the ‘90s, so labels like 23rd Precinct and Limbo Records from Glasgow – do Billy Kiltie and Stuart Crichton DJ?
Then, moving forward in time – live set by Space Manoeuvres! Together with sets from Faskil and Sebastien Leger, that would be extraordinary.
Then, maybe we should travel East a bit to the modern day, someone like Dmitry Molosh, who is so massively talented, also Moshic, Petar Dundov, Guy J, Guy Mantzur, Sahar Z and Desaturate (so many fantastic Eastern sounds). And then of course going West, it would be great to have Hernan Cattaneo, Cirez D B2B Deadmau5, Marcelo Vasami and new up and coming act Fairchild (love their work so, so much).
What are Progressive Astronaut’s current favourite tracks?
I think Betoko’s latest ep on KATERMUKKE is massive (Betoko – Solarium EP)
I love these other tracks too:
Maribou State – Rituals (Sasha Remix) [Last Night On Earth]
Interpol – Everything Is Wrong (Solomun Remix) [2DIY4]
Khen – Never Lose Your Innocence (Original Mix) [Sudbeat]
These are some of the tracks I really enjoy listening to and playing at the moment, but all the rest of the tunes I like can be found on my YouTube and Soundcloud channels.
What are Progressive Astronaut’s current favorite artists to look out for in 2016?
Well doing what I do, I discover a lot of new (new to me, not necessarily to the world) DJs and Producers. There are so many talented people out there, that I find it hard to select just a few of them… but at the moment I really like Cid Inc. Everything the man puts out goes straight to my favorites.. Other artists whose music I enjoy are: Guy Mantzur, SevenDoors, Alex Niggemann, Eric Prydz, Jeremy Olander, Solomun… just a few off the top of my head!
What are your thoughts on the technological advancements in terms of performing? Do you think that software like TRAKTOR and Ableton enhance the artist’s creativity?
I think that as music technology becomes more sophisticated, it gives DJs and producers the opportunity to explore live performance in new ways and it also expands creative possibilities for building unique sets. I think technology is making it easier for artists to express their feelings and visions through music, which is great! I think that software like Traktor and Ableton can enhance artists’ creativity, if the artist chooses to use such software for that purpose. Ableton is perfect for live sets!
What are some of the best Global events, clubs or festivals you would recommend visiting at least once in a lifetime?
Amsterdam Dance Event would be top of the list. The population of Amsterdam is 750,000 but during the week of ADE, it goes up by another 350,000! That’s 350,000 people, who all love dance music. It’s a brilliant event. They have so many excellent venues there – the whole city seems to support it too (including the ruling elite). It’s not just about the raves, it’s the professional side of it too. We will be there this year. (In the meantime you can read The Sound Clique’s fest-guide to Amsterdam Dance Event here.)
I would also recommend Exit Festival in Serbia, which is definitely second on the list. What the guys behind it have managed to achieve with Exit Festival is simply amazing!
Bloque Festival in Greece is also another brilliant festival, and is on our list for 2016. If you love the progressive sound, then this is the festival you need to attend.
There are so many other festivals we would like to visit, but these ones are at the top of our list at the moment!
What are the plans for Progressive Astronaut in 2016?
Well, I have just finished university and my final year project has been to create a Progressive Astronaut website. This will be launched really soon. And of course, there will be more parties! Stay tuned!