An active DJ for more than 2 decades, and an active member of purveying House in his hometown, this Malta royalty and resident of the island, has a quiet yet formidable reputation around the electronic dance music circuit. Affable, and a powerhouse performer in a huge expanse of music land left deliberately open, to be explored and mapped out on one’s own, that one which he has in his stride , he has set a benchmark for being one of the busiest DJ’s in recent times. From starting out at a wedding to finding his spot-light at The Generator Club, Paceville in 92′, for DJ Ruby it’s been an interesting and color filled journey till date.
His DJ sets markedly different which incorporate the visual arts, are received with much love and followers abound. With releases on Fektive, Gods Of House, Vinyl Pusher Records, Forscape Digital and more. I recently chanced upon his gigs schedule and his LIVE streams online and it sort of took me by surprise as to how not only does he perform to and for an audience, but he also showcases and claps for dance floor music and talents through his work, which speaks of generosity and kindness towards other fellow DJs and producers, you may not have heard of before, a mark of a good man, a man who is sure of his own talent as much as the others in these times. Thus sharpening my claws for an interview with Ruby seemed the way to go..also do check out his exclusive mix for the mag that brings about a very diverse hitherto hidden face…
It’s time to meet the polite and forthcoming Ruby, and thank him for taking time out to do this musical rendevouz with us at Decoded Magazine. Not wasting time I delve in to asking him if he can give our readers and followers a low down about where he was born and brought up to start things off and he replies – I was born on a tiny island called Gozo, which is one of the three islands that make up the Maltese Islands; better known as Malta. With a population of just a bit over 400,000 my home country lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, a few kilometres south of Sicily and a bit more from the north of Africa. And as far as his formative years and any particular incident or individual who may have had a hand in getting him hooked are concerned he says – Music has always been a pivotal part of my life as both my parents were very popular folk/pop singers in Malta throughout the 80’s. My first connection with dance music was in 1989 when I was just 13 years old. My brother was the first to introduce me to it. I remember he used to purchase a series on cassette tapes called Acid House, we were both mesmerised with this new musical sound. My love for dance music kicked off from there. I can’t let go of this train of thought and goad him into being a bit more definitive about what he was listening to while growing up Ruby gets candid – I got into DJing at a very young age, so while growing up I was just listening to electronic dance music. But as a young boy, my brother and I were always with our parents at their gigs, so we were constantly listening to everything Pop of those days and all the 70’s & 60’s hit music.
From the last century in to the next, the here and now I muck about to inquire as to how he got in to DJing, back then, perhaps a tougher time to be one than the various means by which one can achieve it nowadays and he mulls over and quips – My brother was into DJing first, but unfortunately he passed away at a young age of 14. I started DJing to show my respect to him, that was back in 1991. I used to play anything that had a 4×4 beat. Back then there weren’t multiple genres as there is today. After the early days of DJing I went through literally every style such as House, Techno, Trance, Breaks, Chill, Dub until my heart found and chose a firm place with Progressive House and all that goes with it.
“I’d rather be DJing barefoot in the jungle, under the blaring sun on the beach or at an unplanned after hours in someone’s back garden rather than at a high end club.”
Skipping to the next very relevant point in my head it’s always interesting to know what clubs an artist such as him may have frequented and if there’s been a change in the vibe compared to the days of super clubbing to now, where anything goes he has a mature response ready – In a career that is now approaching 3 decades I think I played at all venues in Malta throughout all this time. So many clubs have come and gone. The vibe before was more raw, whilst these days is a bit more sophisticated. Personally I’m still a huge fan of the first. I’d rather be DJing barefoot in the jungle, under the blaring sun on the beach or at an unplanned after hours in someone’s back garden rather than at a high end club. My musings veer off to how Dance music production often falls into the trap of fetishizing equipment and over-emphasising the value of technique, but Ruby has his eyes on the prize, prioritising emotional depth and groove Ruby remarks quietly, almost as if he were talking to himself – Back in the mid/late 2000’s I’d done a lot of tracks, made a dozens of remixes and also published 2 albums. But that was another me, I used to do multiple genres including mainstream. In recent years I have not produced much tracks because most of my time goes into producing sets.
I re-edit most of the music I play, I put all a lot of work into my performances and people worldwide went on to actually discovering me for that. I think I am one of the very few that made a name out there without an active discography, but I do have very good marketing if I might add. I constantly DJ, travel and do my own events, that leaves me with very little time to produce my own tracks. Now that we are in the times when a world-wide devastation such as Covid19 has taken us all in its grip, I’m using this point in my life, away from clubs and events to do multiple track collaborations with other artists, I have also accepted some remix work and initiated efforts and time to my own 10 track album which I intend to finish by the end of summer.
When I take on the subject of the plus points of clubbing in Malta, and anything he’d like to see improved Ruby mutters – When you consider our size, Malta is a clubbing paradise. All the big names in the scene play here regularly, every summer is full of festivals, weekly club nights all year round, beach venues, clubbing villages, I think we are alright, I would leave everything as it is. Apart from clubbing, Malta has a very long history which dates back to 5900BC, there are many iconic sites to see and explore. We have a very strong culture, people are ultra friendly and the weather is immaculate for at least half of the year making it the ideal place to visit and incorporate clubbing along-side their other outings.
Maneuvering around being a DJ, he also fills another very important role in the night life business of the country, how was it that he took on as a promoter of fine dance music parties, how did that come about and I also know of his deep association with the little master Guy J, if he could give us a look in to that side of his life – Between 1998 & 2012, or let’s say for a good amount of 15 years I have been part of organising countless number of events which has varied in musical genres. These include big shows for thousands of people, bringing over super star DJs, hosting regular weekly club nights and co-organising parties with popular international brands such as Renaissance and Ministry Of Sound. After a 4 year promoting events break, think it was 2016 I rebranded myself and re-started organising parties which endorse underground dance music only. From doing a yearly event in partnership with Guy J to launching a concept called Secret Series to inviting guest artists such as Jeremy Olander, Emi Galvan, Subandrio, Miss Monique and Stereo Underground at my Ruby & friends Parties, Malta now has a thriving Progressive House scene, on that note when I ask whether he ever considered moving to another part of the world Ruby is quick to charge – Not really, I love Malta and it’s quite easy to get anywhere in the world to DJ in no time these days. I also regularly do my own events on the island so it would be definitely impossible to move. Malta will certainly be my base for ever, say’s the old school heart. Even though part of the scene he had been off the radar for a better choice of words and he quells my thoughts by saying – Because I was so focused on the local scene. I was doing very big successful events, both mainstream and underground. That was until I decided that is now time to just play what I truly love and try to break in the international scene. Luckily enough many people around the globe discovered me very quick and then it was a chain reaction.
“The Progressive House scene is very small when you compare it to others but there are a lot of talented producers, so it’s very difficult to pinpoint particular artists”
In the past year and a half my followers on social media have exploded, everything I put online goes viral and now I’m also blessed to have regular gig requests from around the globe. So very grateful at the end of the day. I don’t want to let the momentum of the flood gates to let up, so I swish on to which music labels according to him are releasing strong meaningful dance floor oriented music and he is effusive in his praise about – I mostly play Progressive House, so for this genre, if I had to pick 3, I would say Balkan Connection, Droid9 & Clubsonica. Other labels which are more on a harder Progressive edge, and that I support a lot are Aboriginal, Kitchen Records, SLC-6 Music and Freegrant. When I crane my neck out for the obvious curiosity about who he thinks are the artists that are making a difference in the industry and he is quick to overall the effects and goes on to steal my views on this matter – The Progressive House scene is very small when you compare it to others but there are a lot of talented producers, so it’s very difficult to pinpoint particular artists. However I have to mention that most of the tracks produced by Argentinas, Sri Lankans, Russians and Israelis in particular, are always good.
When one sits to produce is a whole different ball game to when one is gigging, does he start with a preconceived idea in mind or is it mood dependent – Being a track or a set, for me, music is a journey of positive emotions. When I prepare sets, perform live or produce music I always stick to that ideology. And when I pursue his approach remaining the same to remix work, whether he is different from when he is making his own he rambles on with – Not at all, same approach as I do for my own track.
I delve deeper in to whether apart from DJing, Ruby cultivates any other pursuits he then passionately talks about how he is a self taught cinematographer and video editor – It’s a fact I do all my video promos, direct and edit my video sets and produce all the after movies of my own events. Recently I also got very good at graphic design, so yes these days I have also taken over in doing all my artworks. After being forged from a different fire and doing things off the beaten track are there any places, namely club or festival, that he had the best time playing in recent times he mentions names that you won’t hear a DJ talking about in the underground circle – Certainly OZORA Festival in Hungary, Guys Bar and Eden in Koh Phangan.Which reminds me to ask him about his prolific residency in Thailand, how that’s working out for him and as to his participation there later in the year when things perhaps look better and he sounds comfortable with – Been going to Thailand every year since the early 2000’s.
I have a very special connection with Koh Phangan which is an island roughly the same size of Malta. This island has a very spiritual vibration, every January or February I’m always there for a few weeks where I get to play at the best underground dance music venues. This year I was lucky because I had done all my scheduled gigs on the island before the pandemic hit. Yes of course I’ll be back to Thailand in early 2021, hopefully all will be good by then. Before that I also have to return to Asia to do Pakistan and India in September, but all depends on the current situation. And to the other burning question about what his thoughts are on the current scenario globally, to finish off if he has any advice to throw at youngsters during these excruciatingly tough times and also what makes those key qualities to be a successful performer in a decade where everyone wants to get rich and famous too fast and too soon… his words echo on – Make the most from the current situation, everyone is on a stand still you are not alone. Do as many things you can that in normal days you had no time to do. Once the world restarts you will miss the extra free time you had so don’t waste it. My only advice is to be true to yourself. Play, produce, perform and be a master at what you truly and honestly connect with.
In a bold and confrontational mood Ruby has gone rogue with his exclusive 90 mins mix for our readers, when I ask him to give us folks a look see in to the soul and heart beat of the set he remains stoic and in character to say – I have countless number of Progressive House mixes online, for the readers of Decoded Magazine I prepared something different, something that I wouldn’t usually play in a club, but it’s a musical session that I feel very connected with. If I had to name the flavour of it I would call storytelling, an organic and multicultural downtempo set wrapped around the long and slow burning structures of Progressive House. I’m a very spiritual person and this alternative mix showcases just that, so goes the DJ and performer who is often seen bringing packed dance floors to a crescendo plating out a complete turn around.