We catch up with Hernan Cattaneo favourite Omar El Gamal in support of his new EP on Balkan Connection.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
Omar: I am 30 years old. I live in Los Angeles, California. I started Djing in 2009 and started producing music in 2011.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Was a career in music always the only objective, were you interested in anything else as a life journey? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
Omar: I have always liked music, especially deep melodic music. I was first exposed to electronic music when I was living in Montreal, Canada and attending college. I remember the first time visiting the world famous club “Stereo” in Montreal to see Markus Schulz back in 2006; I was totally blown away by the club, music and vibe.
I never though of becoming a DJ or producing music, it came by chance when I was invited to play at one of Montreal’s top clubs “Circus” back in 2009. From a young age, I always knew I was interested in having a career in entertainment. I currently work in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, so it’s related to my passion, which is “music”.
Living in Montreal and seeing so many great DJs like Hernan Cattaneo, Nick Warren, John Digweed, Sasha, Danny Howells and many more play in clubs and of course legendary tracks like Cass & Slide “Perception”, Sander Kleinenberg “My Lexicon”, and Sasha “Xpander” had a big impact on my decision to get into music- ahh memories! 🙂
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self-taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Omar: I started music production in 2011. I got Logic Pro and started playing around and watching online tutorials. For me it was more on how the software works. The music peace came naturally.
The advice I was given is to keep trying and play around with sounds. A lot of it is trial and error. You just need to keep at it and try different things.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
Omar: The main idea or track theme is usually easy for me. It’s always that last 5% to finish the track that is hard. Sometime you just want to keep adding and changing, but at some point you just need to finish the track and start working on something else. It’s all about progress in my opinion.
– If I hit a creative block, I usually stop and go do something else. Walk by the beach, watch a sunset, go out with friends, or just go to bed lol
5. You have a new EP out this week on Balkan Connection; two deep, progressive minded productions alongside remixes from Nicholas Van Orton and Dimuth K. Tell us how you approached writing the tracks, the process behind the remixer selection and what’s coming later this year from you?
Omar: Balkan Connection is one of those true “Progressive House” labels that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. I have released couple of EPs on there and it’s a well-respected label. When writing tracks, I usually like to start the main ideas: the bass and atmosphere. Then I work on the groove after. Creating a solid bass and atmosphere sets the foundation and vibe for the track.
Milos (BC Label Manager) reached out to me and mentioned Nicholas & Dimuth as potential candidates to do the remix. I agreed right away, both are great producers, and they make really good music. Both remixes rock!
I just had an EP released on Dopamine Music (Why Did You / Are You Listen), both tracks where supported by Hernan Cattaneo. They come with great remixes from Artfaq & Owersound. I have an EP coming up on Per-vurt later on this year (Lost In Ibiza / Rise Up); both tracks were also played and charted by the “Maestro” Hernan Cattaneo. And as usual working on new music. 🙂
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
Omar: I like to listen to different kinds of music when I have the chance. I like old school melodic rock. Artists like Pink Floyd, New Order, Radio Head, Chemical Brothers, and Coldplay have had an influence on my music productions. Genres overlap, for example house music can have some elements from rock. Always be open to different styles and sounds.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
Omar: First cassette was of an Egyptian singer called “Amr Diab”. I don’t remember the last physical peace of music, but I remember Tiesto’s “In Search of Sunrise 5: Los Angeles” CD that was such an inspirational compilation album.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Omar: I am a former professional swimmer. I received the MBA Valedictorian Award from the University of Miami – School of Business for being top of my graduate class. (Yes, I can be nerdy sometimes. 🙂
I love sweets: chocolates, gummy bears, and cakes. Very unhealthy lol
9. What five tracks are you currently loving the most at the moment?
Omar: There is a lot of good music flowing around currently. Here are my favourite 5 at this time
Rico Puestel – Revelations
Ejeca – Tajmahal (Budakid Remix)
Lorenzo Dada – Your love Feat. Holed Coin
Klangstof – Hostage (Sasha Remix)
Ray Okpara – Satin Curtain (Kevin Yost Remix)
10. I know Hernan Cattaneo was a big supporter early on in your career and you also signed some of your music to his Sudbeat imprint in 2013. How important was that moment in terms of inspiration as well as being validated as an artist? and where else does your inspiration come from?
Omar: I met Hernan in 2010 when we were both playing at the “Black & Blue” festival in Montreal. I was playing early on and he was closing out the night. I went to check his set and I was amazed by his set. It was magical: dreamy, groovy, and melodic. I consider Hernan a friend and mentor. He has been supporting a lot of my music and releasing a track on his Sudbeat label has been a great honour.
I am inspired by sunrise/sunset, travelling, listening to good music, and of course life.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound like you have, what advice do you have for them?
Omar: Produce music you like and don’t just follow trends. It’s really cool to have a unique sound.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Omar: That’s a tough one; there are so many tracks, but maybe:
Motorcycle – As The Rush Comes (Omar El Gamal Unoffical Remix) 🙂
‘Finish Line’ is out now on Balkan Connection, you can purchase those release: here