Critically-acclaimed DJ, Solomun talks to Glass about his new album and working with Jamie Foxx on his next single

BORN in the town of Travnik in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1975, then promptly relocating to Hamburg with his family, Mladen Solomun, now better known simply by his surname, could have never imagined growing up to become one of the most famous DJs in the world.

Notably, winning Best DJ, Best Producer and Best Melodic House DJ, not once nor even twice but four times at the DJ Awards, and with numerous residencies in Ibiza within his repertoire, Solomun after more than a decade, has returned with a new album.

Titled Nobody Is Not Loved, the 12-track album takes you on an electronic roller-coaster spanning genres, bpm’s and themes proving once again why he is one of the best.

Solomun by Niels FreidelSolomun. Photograph: Niels Freidel

Rewinding back to his childhood in Germany, Solomun recalls the moment that music struck the chords of his heart for the very first time. “It was my aunt’s record collection that I used to go through as a kid” he begins recalling, “Inside there was a ‘Best of Elvis Presley’ vinyl with Suspicious Minds on it.

And since then, until this day, that track has kept returning to me throughout my life”. Though the vocal range of Elvis may have sparked a love for music, Solomun followed his father’s footsteps in construction briefly before pursuing a career in filmmaking and starting his own production company.

“At the peak of my film-career, I wasn’t even able to simply watch a movie” he explains. “I was constantly dissecting every element and only thinking in cuts, dramaturgy, arcs of suspense, framing etc… that was mental.” Undeniably good at what he did, something lacked. Through various experiences and experimentations, the road he walked down led him to rediscover his passion for music. The chords in his heart began to play.

Solomun by Chino MoroSolomun. Photograph: Chino Moro

Fast forward to today, 16 years on from his first release, countless awards, residencies, festival headlines and tracks later, Solomun is bringing out a new album. But, before we speak about this new project, I quickly ask him what his standout moment has been. “Can’t have been that good if I can still remember it, can it now?” You can’t help but smile at that answer.

“To be honest, I didn’t start out with the plan to create another album, it was a gradual process” declares the DJ. Five years ago, is roughly the time the DJ recalls becoming more experimental and “adventurous” with genres reaching a point where the idea of an album seemed like the natural next step. “Then, what we now know as ‘Home’ was the first track that actually affirmed the idea of making an album”. With a tight touring schedule, the space to create music was limited however bringing in Jakob Grunert – “one of my oldest friends from over 20 years” – and friend Siriusmo, the trio began to spin the wheels on ‘Nobody Is Not Loved’.

Solomun by Chino MoroSolomun. Photograph: Chino Moro

When asked about the inspiration of this project, Solomun is very direct about the experience music gives you. An audience, no matter the gig, party, festival etc, is full of people, many of whom are consumed in distractions like their phones – “I understand that people want to capture moments, but often at the cost of losing the real, actual moment” discusses Solomun.

“When I say music loves everyone then we need the momentum to unite and awaken people … it’s hard to achieve this momentum when you’re listening to music on the side. Music, in my experience, reaches its highest state in these sacred spaces, to be enjoyed to the fullest extent. And when people and music come together in these spaces, there should be no distractions”.

With this comes the debate regarding the increasing digitalisation of our world which Solomun worries about, but with this in mind, he made this album as “a plea against the limitations that we build for ourselves. Because I think music is too big and too important for that. We need diversity and we need community, that’s what has always made us human”.

The album has eight collaboration tracks, featuring Jamie Foxx, Zoot Woman, Anne Clark, ÄTNA, Isolation Berlin, Tom Smith and Planningtorock – something Solomun admits was “one of the most rewarding processes” of making this body of work. This is an album that needs to be listened to from start to finish as every track takes you somewhere different and presses play on a new feeling as you are taken through genres and tempos.

“I’m very very happy that I was able to incorporate my broad interest in musical genres here, and I’m happy that the final track-list tells a story, just as I had hoped,” he says.

Solomun and Jamie Foxx Behind-the-Scenes of Oceans

The first track on the album is titled Ocean with Jamie Foxx on the vocals, naturally, I asked how this came about. “Ocean has an incredibly long story” begins Solomun. Commencing with the idea of speech rather than singing, Solomun played with the idea of having an actor do this. Samuel L Jackson was originally open to this part: “We got excited like little kids in a candy store.”

Unfortunately, after intense pushing to make this come to fruition, it didn’t. However, the name Jamie Foxx popped up and Solomun loved the idea more, “I’ve always really admired Jamie. He is such an outstanding talent with beautiful energy.”

With February and March periods of time sacred to the DJ as he plays in Tulum, he declined going to LA and instead emailed the actor’s management with the proposal. “After three months of no reaction I thought, that’s also a response. Maybe he was just too polite to say it’s not his thing”.

Instead of admitting defeat, Solomun and his team studied Foxx’s performances incorporating the way he sings and acts and made an entirely new instrumental tailored to him. “He loved it”. Of course!

Busy schedules made this nearly impossible to put together, however, Foxx rented out a studio whilst filming in New Orleans and sent it back to Solomun. “Later we did finally meet at a restaurant [pre-corona]. He played the track from a boombox and sang it live in front of the other guests in the restaurant. You can’t imagine how great this felt”.

My final question to Solomun was a simple one. What do you want people to take from this album when they listen to it? “In today’s world, the willingness to listen to an album in its entirety and to perceive it as a whole, not just to pick single tracks from it, is already worth quite a lot.

“So, my biggest wish would be for people to take their time to create their own momentum, and maybe, at some point in the far future, look back to this moment and remember it”.

by Imogen Clark 

Nobody Is Not Loved, Out Now. Available to stream / download here.