Young. Talented. Humble. Determined… Seems like the stars have aligned for Wolfgang Gartner’s latest undertaking, Popeska. Wolfgang took this 19 year old in, and signed him to his label, Kindergarten Recordings. Just the other day, I was able to catch up with this extremely gifted producer and chat about his musical upbringing, his recent TRAMPS LIKE US experience, his relationship with Wolfgang Gartner, + more. Ralf (aka Popeska) is a prime example of an ordinary guy accomplishing extraordinary things. He let us in on many of the factors that molded him and his production. So whether you are a laptop producer trying to make a name for yourself, a music junkie, or a part of Popeska’s rapidly growing fan-base, there’s some wisdom in here for you.
TheMixster.com: What first attracted you to producing electronic music?
Popeska: As a musician, I started playing piano really early. Having started so early—at the age of 5—I just got burned out, you know? When I got into high school, I just got bored of it and was looking to keep doing new things. One of my friends introduced me to STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), and they mix electronic music with the same organic stuff that I was really into. Eventually, I was like’ this computer stuff is really cool,’ so that new edge really helped me to keep myself inspired.
TheMixster.com: It’s really cool that you played the piano, because listening to your music it seems like you incorporate organic sounding orchestral instrumentation.
Popeska: Yeah. It’s been key dude. My music would be totally different if it wasn’t for that kind of upbringing.
TheMixster.com: So you’re accomplishing some incredible things at the mere age of 19. And with producers like Porter, Madeon, and Arty, it’s clear that age isn’t really stopping anyone from achieving their goals. What do you most attribute to your success at such a young age?
Popeska: I guess it’s just one of those things where age doesn’t really matter. Music comes out of people. It’s not one of those things that experience really shapes, you know? Experience will help you bring out the ideas you have in your head. That kind of inspiration and that musicality inside of you, that’s ageless. I attribute my success to the fact that I made my music because I really liked it. People who make their music with the idea of success, sometimes lose the soulful element in their music. I really don’t care about what it is that I’m supposed to be making. I make it because I feel it. That’s what it comes down to.
TheMixster.com: Music has gotta come from the heart. I agree with that 100%. You can’t force it. That’s how you get the sound you’re looking for, ya know?
Popeska: Yea, totally.
TheMixster.com: How do you feel your taste in music has influenced your production?
Popeska: I actually don’t listen to a lot of electronic music. I was looking at a Beatport chart the other day and had a hard time picking 10 electronic songs that I actually knew. I normally listen to folk, alternative, and indie stuff. I love Phoenix—they’re one of my favorite bands. Modest Mouse. All that kind of stuff. I’m not sure how much it shapes my music but maybe knowing that and going back to listen to my music, you can hear the influences.
TheMixster.com: Totally. Whether it’s electronic or not, if it’s music it’ll inspire you in some way.
TheMixster.com: That tune is actually really sick. How did you and Wolfgang Gartner originally get involved with each other?
Popeska: It kinda started at the end of my first semester in college. Adrian Martinez—who was Wolfgang’s manager—hit me up a while ago and was interested in managing me. It was a long complicated process. But basically, he started managing me. And Wolfgang has had this label for a while and was looking for something to get the fire started. So being under the same managing family, he looked at some of my stuff and was interested in releasing some of it. I’m really flattered that he picked me.
TheMixster.com: The dude’s brilliant. Were you star-struck when you first met him?
Popeska: When I flew into LA, my manager took me to his house the very first day. I met him and he was excited to meet me. He was so down to earth. It was hard to be star-struck by this guy who was so down to earth. You know? So at the same time, this guy is an absolute genius. I’ve always looked up to him. I remember when 5th Symphony came out, and Illmerica. Meeting the guy was obviously crazy, but like I said he was just a really cool dude. Awesome guy.
TheMixster.com: You’ve been in San Diego quite a bit lately. How was your Tramps Like Us experience a couple weeks ago?
Popeska: Tramps Like Us. Man, that was crazy. I met a lot of awesome people. Even being the opener of the show, which is normally like ‘ah whatever,’ the crowd was INSANE. Such a fun show man. The people, the venue, everything.
TheMixster.com: Hell yea! As far as I’m concerned, there are no openers for Tramps Like Us. All you guys on that bill are bangin’, crowd slayin’ artists. Absolute madness.
Popeska: That’s what I’m sayin’ man. It was great. Really awesome experience. The lightshow was so awesome. Like, I didn’t even know I had a lightshow because I was facing the crowd and whatever. So I was just playing and stuff. But I see the pictures afterwards, and I’m like “WAIT WHAT?? I had that behind me?!”
TheMixster.com: That’s awesome.
Popeska: That was a good surprise. *chuckle*
TheMixster.com: So you’ve got your release Karmameter coming out on Wolfgang’s label, Kindergarten Recordings, September 17th. How long have you been working on that release?
Popeska: Um, I started it while studying abroad in Barcelona this summer. I started as soon as I landed in Spain. I probably finished the whole thing in about a month. I really went H.A.M on these songs. I really made sure they were in tip-top shape. Me and Wolfgang spent a lot of time really making it awesome. Like perfecting it. We definitely went back and changed a lot, to make sure it was really good. It took the whole summer to get it to where it’s at. I’m really really proud of it.
TheMixster.com: All the previews are banging. I’m looking forward to it’s release in a couple days. Last thing, do you have a favorite song on the EP?
Popeska: I like each individual one for its own reason. It’s all dance music, but like I said, I really like them for their separate elements.
TheMixster.com: Alright, I respect that. Is there anything else you wanna say before I let you go?
Popeska: Dude, I mean thanks for taking the time to do this. It was really cool.
TheMixster.com: Yeah, of course man. Good luck at your show tonight at Voyeur (w/ Helicopter Showdown). That place is fuckin’ poppin’ all the time. So have a good time, get healthy and good luck with everything moving forward. You’re killin’ it.
Popeska: Really appreciate it man.
Be sure to support Popeska, and check out his bangin’ 4 track EP, Karmameter, available NOW on Beatport!
By: Saro Chalian