‘Papaya’ Brings the Party to Knoxville

Words by Brittany Norvell

The world premiere of “Papaya: Make Some Noise!” will debut June 12th at this year’s Knoxville Film & Music Festival. The documentary covers the wildly fun summer long beach party, affectionately knows as Papaya. Nestled next to the Adriatic Sea on the beautiful Zrće Beach on the island of Pag, Croatia, Papaya brings together some of the worlds greatest EDM DJ’s. The yearly event now boasts crowds of more than 500,000 music lovers each season coming from all over the world for a one of a kind concert experience.

The following is an intimate interview with DJ Damir Ludvig on this life as a DJ, producer, and writer. Damir will be playing a set following the premiere of, “Papaya: Make Some Noise!,” truly bringing the cultural phenomenon that is PAPAYA to sweep Knoxville off its Scruffy feet to ass shaking beats for one night.

What made you want to become a DJ? Who where your influences?

I was basically interested in being a contemporary music producer and I’ve been programming beats for years. Even though my friends already had the DJ fever, I was only interested in spending money on my own music. I realized that I could get promos from all the best labels for free. Soon after, I began earning money by writing for music magazines which encompassed information about music I enjoyed. I wrote for a Taiwanese magazine called P.L.U.R. and also a Croatian magazine called Arkzin. I turned into a music journalist and I even started working part time for some shows on TV.

The interesting and honest fact about this beginning is that I realized something: Having this much music would be a waste of time and energy if it wasn’t being played, or shared publicly. So, I started playing it all as a DJ.

Even though I always liked Afrika Bambaataa’s approach to DJ techniques, Sven Vath’s communication with his audience is also something that I appreciated. At the time I was very much influenced by a Japanese DJ Tsuyoshi Suzuki, who is from the project called Prana. I had the pleasure to interview him for Croatian National Television (HRT). This is why I am even more proud that, just last year, he asked me to remix one of Prana’s tracks, ‘Geomantic’.

It’s clear you like electronic music… do you have any other styles that you (personally) enjoy? Any favorite artists?

My only ultimate criteria for enjoyment is when I get goose bumps by listening to certain music. It’s as simple as that! My musical universe is not limited to electronic music. But, I can share that one of my all-time heroes is Jean Michel Jarre.  I’m involved with this project called Ludvig & Stelar and it’s a lounge music project with numerous releases on the world famous Café del Mar label. One of the ideas behind the project is bringing the worlds of electronic and acoustic sounds together. This ultimately means a lot of collaborations with singers, narrators and live instrumentalists.

I’m also very interested in the percussive ethnic music of Kodo and Za Ondekoza, and I’m fascinated every time I hear Tommy Emmanuel turning his guitar into drums. I just recently had the opportunity to watch the restored science fiction film, Metropolis (1927) with the Babelsberg Orchestra performing their live score for three hours. So far it’s one of the best audio visual experiences I’ve ever had in my life. To me, good music is good music. It’s an expression. It’s not always just what is played or what it’s called. It’s mostly what you feel.

Of all the venue’s you’ve DJ’d at, where has it been the best? Worst? Any crazy experiences or stories you’d care to share?

Even though the world famous DJ Mag put Papaya at the 23rd place of its top 100 clubs in the world, it would be unfair of me to represent the Papaya Makes Some Noise project if I didn’t strongly believe that Papaya is actually the best outdoor club in the world. Because it is! Whenever I perform there, it just tops everything else. It’s the beach! It’s the summer! It’s the mild sea air! During the after beach parties, it’s always sunny and people from at least 80 countries around the globe are there every season. I’ve DJ-ed at so many places around the world, but there is a warmth to this amazing place called Papaya. Even though they have the best lights, lasers, professional dancers and superb cocktails, it’s not just about all of that. It’s about this wonderful mix of universal party people that makes this place the perfect and exotic experience.

It is impossible for me to answer what the worst venue is, because I repress bad memories and eventually I totally forget about them. I remember funny things. Usually power outages can really spoil parties. But, even so, I’ve been to some places where people made legit rhythms by just clapping their hands and stomping; making spontaneous tribal music. On the other hand, I had bad experiences with drivers taking me to the airport and falling asleep while driving. The worst part was waking up just milliseconds before we crashed, and then the driver continued driving like nothing happened. But most of all I always remember smiles, good vibes and positivity. Basically that’s what people want when they go to clubs.

Tell me about you first show.

My first professional gig took place in a strip joint with exotic dancers. The bar was located next to an army base and sometimes dancers would join soldiers on the way out. It was very far away from where I lived and after this 8 hour gig I had to wait for bouncers to drive remaining dancers where they lived. Bouncers were very polite gentlemen and they would kindly ask me to stay in the car and wait while they were tucking girls in. Sometimes it took them more than 60 minutes, but I guess they were dedicated to their duties.

You’re from Croatia, I know you’ve DJ’d all over there world. What countries have you performed in? Any crowds better than others?

I never see people at parties that rival other countries. But, I do have to agree that there are some different vibes on various dance floors. Not necessarily in terms of better or worse, but in terms of accepting their differences. I’ve played in the USA, UK, Taiwan, Switzerland, Spain, Slovenia, Japan, Israel, Italy, Greece, Germany, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Belgium, Austria and many other places around the world.

Honestly, I’ve enjoyed a variety of cultures! For example, there is nothing like the politeness of a German audience, the passion of the Spanish, or the respect for Japanese experimentation. I’m still fascinated with the amount of alcohol the Brits can take without collapsing.

I was born in Croatia, so the Mediterranean type of beauty on the dance floor has always been my thing, but I will always have a great acceptance with people in the USA. Maybe it’s my accent or something? Anyway, things have changed so much in Croatia in the past 10 years and actually everybody comes to Croatia these days. Papaya is definitely one of those places that helps Croatia stay on the clubbers “must attend” and “must do” maps!

Tell me about your experience during the filming of ‘Papaya’.

Since the beginning of Papaya club on Zrce beach in Pag Island, someone was always capturing moments on video. Eventually, there were piles of recordings just waiting for something to happen. The team of professionals led by the director Vanja Vascarac, producer Simun Kulis, and writer Livia Knapic finally took things into their own hands and created 10 years of Papaya in one single documentary.

The protagonists of this film are the world’s top DJ’s and producers such as The Shapeshifters, Carl Cox, Seth Troxler, Alesso, Axwell, Hardwell and Crookers just to name a few. Zrce Beach and Papaya club are practically the summers home of the Armin Van Buuren, Nicky Romero, Snoop Dogg, Swedish House Mafia and Tiesto. This is why the excitement for this film has existed way back before work on the film has even finished.

Now after the film is done, a new team has taken over. My role is to specifically promote at festivals. I’m very excited about being a part of the Papaya family and my role in this huge project.

You’re also a writer, producer, and film director….tell me about some of your other projects.

I have been involved in so many music projects such as DIFFO, Fresh Style, Dogma, Dogma 3000, Rotterwolfe, Legura, Seven and many more. Also, I have written music for TV shows and documentaries. I’m currently working on releasing Ludvig & Stelar’s second lounge album, and working on a couple of dance singles under my own name.

As a film producer I’ve worked on the award winning film Astralis an Institution, a documentary that won 3 awards at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. I also co-directed the film, co-wrote the screenplay, wrote the score and selected all the necessary readymade music by various authors.  The process of filmmaking is very similar to music making. But, from my perspective, it requires much more focus and time.

Any advice for youngsters looking to get into the electronic music scene? Any wisdom you’d like to share with the next generation of music makers?

I work a lot with youngsters, because I’m a lecturer at the DJ Academy for young DJ’s and also an instructor at the EMI Institute for young audio producers. I’ve noticed that so many of them want to be involved in activities for the sake of popularity and various wrong reasons. Most of them become DJ’s or producers in order to achieve popularity overnight, but actually most of them just get disappointed and quit overnight. Popularity is just a side effect behind hard work. It’s never the leading drive for a good DJ.

DJ-ing is so easy these days when and if you want to sound like everybody else. But, if you want to have a certain edge and recognition, it takes time. Every day there’s a couple of thousands of releases and it’s impossible to listen to all of them. So it’s important to focus on lasting values. This is probably one of the most difficult tasks, because trends are constantly changing. But this is what gives you focus. Same goes for music production and probably all aspects of life.

The world premier of “Papaya: Make Some Noise!” music documentary begins at 9 pm at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square, admission is $10. Helping ring in this premier in proper KFMF fashion, DJ Damir Ludvig will perform one of his world famous electronic sets at 11 pm following the documentary; admission for the show is $10 at the door. Make sure to save the date – June 12th. Put on your party pants and practice your glow stick twirling party goers, this fun-filled live music and movie combo is sure to be one for the books.



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