Rose Popovics was sitting with her husband, Viktor and her future EDM superstar son, twelve-year-old Alex. This was their first time experiencing the glam and hustle of the Winter Music Conference. All three were nervous and excited, especially Alex, whose parents watched him with unbridled affection. Rose and Viktor were polite, engaging, and vigilant, guarding their fledgling as he took his first solo flights among industry movers and shakers.
They were on the pool deck only an hour before, watching DJ Alex Ariete (and dancing to his music) as he spun a set in the mega-sophisticated sound-and-light system framework rumored to cost WMC about 250 grand for five days. All that sonic technology was in Alex's hands, and he worked the system like he was born to do it.
Rose and Viktor met with Beachmonkey for an interview after Alex finished his set and they took him to lunch. “We've spent thirty thousand dollars to help him become a DJ,” said Rose, a financial investment that hints at the rearranged schedules and emotional stress that come with such a commitment on the part of his parents. Hassles notwithstanding, Viktor and Rose appeared every bit as enthusiastic about his WMC debut as their son.
Give us some general background info on Alex and the family. Rose, how did you and Viktor meet?
Rose: We met at the Ballroom Dance studio in 1991, we were both seventeen years old. I was a new to the studio. Viktor already had a dance partner when we started dating. I started training more and more and few months later I became his partner. We were then competing for several years.
When and why did you leave Serbia?
Viktor: We left at the end of 1993, shortly after graduating high school when the war started escalating in our area. We immigrated to Hungary and were refugees there. Four years later, in 1998, we came to Florida and fell in love with this country. Alexander was born in 2002.
Rose: When we immigrated to the US, we wanted to get an education and start a good life here. Viktor got his bachelor degree in Aviation Business Administration at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, graduating in 2002, 8 month after Alexander was born. When Alex was one month old, Rose started getting her education. Rose graduated in 2009 with a Doctorate in Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University.
How did Alex get into DJing?
Rose: As a child, Alexander was guided into sports like every other boy. At the age of four, he started going to gymnastics and tae kwan do, both for four years. We were not sure why he was not progressing and advancing in those sports, so we decided to change and let him try other options. He tried tennis, volleyball, and soccer at the age of seven and eight, and he still did not excel at any of them. The only passion we noticed that Alex had, was when we would go to private parties or weddings. Alex would dance non-stop and entertain the crowd. When we bought the iPod, he would listen to that music for hours. So when he turned eight years old, he was old enough to start with hip-hop classes at the local art studio.
Since we were ballroom dancers, we thought that he could also try to do that type of dancing. And sure enough, this became his real love and passion. At the age of nine he started competing in Latin Ballroom dancing. In September 2012, when he was ten years old, I received an email from the art studio where he took his hip-hop classes that they are starting a new class for the kids called DJing. And I thought to myself, Why not try this? He was with his iPod all the time, listening music and dancing.
3 months later for Christmas 2012, I bought him a Numark controller that changed our lives forever. Alex got his first gig for New Year's Eve, then the wedding followed and so on. After 6 months of attending those DJ classes we decided to switch to private lessons and help him learn more and master the DJ craft. Besides DJing, composing and music production, Alex is still actively competing on a National level in Latin Ballroom dancing in Gold Junior 1 category.
Alex enjoys nature and outdoors, beach, parks, playing in dirt or sand, playing with fire, rocks, sticks…When he was younger, Viktor used to take him camping three or four times a year. Those are his favorite childhood memories.
Alex, what was it about DJing that attracted you? Why not soccer or something else?
Alex: THE MUSIC!!! There was no music involved in any of the sports.
Spoken like a true house-head!
Viktor: Alex did not enjoy contact sports where he could get injured or hurt. He was always alert about his surroundings and possibilities to be harmed. We remember when he was playing soccer, his favorite position was a goalie. That was the time when he could quietly sit inside the net and dig a hole in the grass field.
We saw you making the rounds during the International Dance Music Awards. You gathered your courage and walked right up to the some of the biggest DJs in EDM to give them a demo. Who did you meet during WMC?
Alex: Besides superstars like Steve Aoki, Hardwell, R3hab, Oliver Heldens, Nicky Romero, Eelko Van Kooten, Watse De Jong, Terri Bjerre, Kaskade, Galantis, Cato K, and DJ Serafin, I also met many wonderful artists, DJs and singers who are all trying to make it in the industry.
Describe your fan base demographic. How do you plan to increase it?
Alex: I have fans from all over the world, all ages. They are mostly EDM lovers… Hopefully, people will start following me because of my music.
Describe the musical genres that you like to play and produce.
Alex: I like to play any genre of music including ballroom type of music, but if I could choose I’d like to DJ EDM and house music the most.
I produce electrohouse, house, and progressive house music.
When will you play in Serbia? Would you play in Bosnia, Croatia, or Montenegro, or do you feel that you might not be welcome?
Rose: Music is a uniting theme for the whole world and it brings people together. Alex was not raised to dislike people of different backgrounds or cultures. Times changed there too and we are sure that he would be welcome everywhere he goes. His dream is to spin at Exit Music Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, where his parents are from. This is one of the largest music festivals in Europe.
You sampled a speech by Martin Luther King in your song, “Treedom.” Why that quote?
Alex: To unite all the people together from all the cultures and backgrounds.
What were the hardest things you as a family had to face?
Viktor: Lack of knowledge or experience in the entertainment industry, not having the background in this industry. For Alex, balancing school, free time for his playtime, time for music production, ballroom dancing and competitions. As parents, finding time to juggle work, driving Alex to different activities – time consuming because of long distances – and free time for parents' personal interests.
The hardest things in Alex's career?
Viktor: Alex is at such a young age – people are hesitant and do not believe if they only hear about him until they actually see or hear him DJ. We also needed to find the right people that will convey the knowledge and are willing to help in his further music production development. Last of all, bookings – the club managers and event promoters are not familiar with all the laws pertaining to hiring minors, such as whether minors are allowed to work at night clubs as long as they perform and are not the actual guests. We need access to the right people: producers, event promoters, etc.
How do the relatives in Europe react concerning Alex's early career choice?
Rose: Alex’s grandmother and uncle are his biggest supporters. They follow everything and are very involved. Other relatives are kind of supportive but most of them are not really interested. They may not understand the magnitude of the possibilities and opportunities in this country, and might be in disbelief that he can really possess that kind of talent.