Mustafa Avdic profile


David Flores, aka Truncate, performed in Iowa in 2014 at an event named Techno Revolution 2, a pre-party leading up to Detroit’s Movement Festival that year.

“It was so cold that night, I think around 10 degrees Fahrenheit,” Flores recalled. “And we drive up to this little ballroom/event space in the middle of what looked like farm land, and there were a bunch of ravers standing outside, half naked in that cold. That blew my mind.”

In Iowa, it’s hard for promoters to book well-known DJs. It’s not as alluring as nearby Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Detroit. Compared to other places, plane tickets into Iowa are much higher, so touring DJs often choose to skip the state. But when a DJ of note such as Truncate does come into town, Iowans will show up.

“Inside, the party was a fun vibe,” said Flores. “People were dancing [and] getting crazy. I do remember there was so much bass in the main room. When I was playing, the lights from the ceiling started to come loose.”

Another person who has performed in Iowa on a few occasions is Berlin-based DJ and producer Dustin Zahn. He shared similar experiences from his times playing there.

“It’s always been kind of a rager,” said Zahn. “Everybody down there seems to get rowdy as hell … Iowa is a bit more, in my experience, festive. [There’s] hollering, shit-talking and having fun.”

Zahn emerged out of the Minneapolis scene just a few hours’ drive north and he has traveled to Iowa to attend shows. He considers himself a friend of many of the DJs and promoters who work hard to bring electronic music to Iowa. That Techno Revolution event headlined by Truncate was co-organized by techno DJ, producer, promoter and label owner Mustafa Avdic.

At 34 years of age, Avdic has been a major figure in the Iowa techno community for nearly the last 15 years. In this time, he has helped to organize countless shows, growing the presence of underground dance music in Iowa. He is among the key people responsible for cultivating the next generation of techno DJs, producers and promoters in the state.  

Avdic is also among a small group of techno producers based in Iowa who have successfully released music on various labels. He co-founded Solar Cathedral Recordings and Ekvilibrium Recordings, the first-ever techno labels in Iowa. Avdic has gained a reputation over time for the work he’s done to grow the presence of underground dance music in Iowa. “He works as best as he can to create a techno community out there. He’s very well known around the U.S. techno circuit,” said Flores.  

Techno has been around in Iowa since the early 1990s when some of the first parties were organized. Iowa promotors who attended shows in nearby Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis were inspired to come home and recreate what they had experienced. As a music genre, techno has always been regarded as counter-culture music in Iowa. Avdic is determined to bring more prevalence to the genre by growing the local community that embraces it. It’s a task he knows will take time.

“Dedication is something that techno requires and not many people have the patience,” said Avdic.

In Iowa, there isn’t much money to be made pursuing techno. The people who are involved with it tend do so because they have a love for the music and want to see it flourish in Iowa.

“I gave up the whole pursuit of trying to be some kind of big shot a long time ago,” said Avdic. “I didn’t even really have that phase, because to me, it’s just truly about the music. I hope that anybody who picks up the craft keeps that in the back of their mind.” 

Even with this mindset, Avdic has enjoyed some personal successes as a producer. His first EP, titled “Yugoslavia,” was released on Gabriel Palomo’s Zuvuya Recordings in 2007. From that EP, the Woody McBride remix of Avdic’s and Matt Rissi’s track “Oktave Jumper,” was featured on Dave Clarke’s “I Love Techno 2007” mix. Avdic’s track, “Oelle,” which was released off his own label Solar Cathedral Recordings, charted in Beatport’s overall top 100.

For the past several years, most of Avdic’s releases have been under the name Cloudy With A Chance Of Techno, a collaboration with fellow Des Moines DJ and producer Jade Reed. Avdic describes his music as industrial, deep, dark and minimal. It’s the sound he prefers because of the less ostentatious aspects that come with it.

“I just don’t enjoy the whole lasers and go-go [dancers] and lights,” said Avdic. “I just like my sick bass and dark rooms with no lights. I’m not there to impress anybody.”

In his DJ sets, he plays mostly his own tracks. A friend of Avdic’s who is familiar with his music once told him he enjoys the way he can intricately transition from one track to another while using three or four decks at the same time. It creates a different configuration out of music they are already familiar with.

“It’s not really mixing anymore, it’s layering,” said Avdic. “I prefer for it to be that way. To have something that I bring to the table that is unique and different in comparison to others. To have my own sound. I would recommend for any new DJ to look for your own sound and develop it because there are just too many people doing the same thing.”

His performances have been known to inspire a love for techno in others. Last year Avdic played some shows in Europe with Pete Board, a close friend of his. Board was formerly a DJ in a dubstep collective, but over time, he started to enjoy house and techno more.

“I was starting to get into house and techno and actually it was one of [Avdic’s] sets that really sealed the deal for me to want to solely dedicate myself to house and techno,” said Board.  

Board’s musical transition was not received well by the other members in the dubstep group, so he decided to leave. As a result, bookings stopped coming in because he was only known as a dubstep DJ. It was Avdic who booked him for his first big shows as a techno DJ and taught him a lot of the techniques of mixing techno.

“There are quite a few guys that Mustafa can be credited to for teaching some of the basics of DJing and getting them started … [and] showing us the right direction and the right path and how to grow as artists … because [he] wants to see a new generation,” said Board. “I’ve never met anyone who just meets someone and just wants to teach them immediately.”

Board has since relocated to Denver to further his music career. He DJs, produces and is a promoter at Beta Nightclub, organizing events with his production company, Mad Scientists Productions. Board credits the Iowa techno scene for getting his foot in the door, but he said he could make it only so far pursuing techno there. It’s why he decided to move to Denver.

Avdic has had a lot of his friends tell him he could’ve made a living as a DJ and producer if he pursued it as a career. But Avdic made the decision early on that he wasn’t going to go that route.

“It’s the lifestyle that I hadn’t chosen for myself, for the sake of being there for my son and my family,” said Avdic. “They need me as equally as my music does.”  

Having a home life is important to him, which is something he wouldn’t have had while living on the road. He instead chose to go to college and become a teacher, so he could build a stable life for himself and his son. Throughout Avdic’s life, stability is something that has been hard to come by. Before he ever came to Iowa and carved his niche in the techno world, he was a refugee of war at the age of eight. He spent time living in four different countries before he was 15 years old. His life story is one of hard work and resilience. 

Avdic was born in Doboj, Yugoslavia, in 1984. His father, Sabit, and his mother, Fata, both described him as a child full of energy. Sabit said Avdic started to enjoy music as young as four or five years old. His parents remembered that when they gave him pots, pans and cooking utensils, Avdic would play with them like they were drums.

Many nights in Yugoslavia, Avdic’s father would sit outside with neighborhood friends cooking meat and drinking beer while playing Yugoslavian folk songs on guitars and accordions.

“I’m thankful that I have such a cool dad … they would just jam until five in the morning,” said Advic. “It’s one of those things where I’ll just never forget. I know how to open a beer bottle using another beer bottle, and my dad taught me that because they’d get so drunk and I’d be the one in charge of doing that … but I was always there for the food and the good music.”   

In addition to his father, Avdic had three uncles who supplied him with music when he was younger.

“Even though we were in a socialist country in Yugoslavia, [my uncles] really loved counter-culture music,” said Advic. “So early on I was listening to bands that none of my peers would be into. Everybody was into folk or Yugoslavian rock and roll. But my uncles, who really loved western culture itself, exposed me to people like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Doors.” 

“I never understood the lyrics of any of those tracks until I actually learned English,” Avdic said. “I fell in love with actual music and not words … that’s kind of why techno really spoke to me early on.”

Avdic and his parents look back on his early years very fondly. In Yugoslavia, they would often go shopping, go out to eat and spend time visiting family.

“I don’t think I’ll ever live better than I lived then. We had a nice life in Yugoslavia,” said Sabit. “It was just perfect because … I was young. I had Mustafa, my wife … my neighbors; we just had fun almost every night … we had enough money for a good life in that period.”

Around this time in the early 1990s, Yugoslavia was experiencing political turmoil. In 1991, the Slovenians and Croatians voted for their regions to secede from Yugoslavia. In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for their own independence. What followed was a series of violent conflicts that would forever change Yugoslavia. That same year, as a result of Bosnia and Herzegovina claiming independence, the Bosnian War began. Soon after, Bosnian Serb soldiers came to the Avdic home. At gunpoint, the whole family was forced to leave.

“When the war started, our life changed 100 percent,” said Fata. She and her two children, an 8-year-old Mustafa and his 2-year-old sister, fled to Germany. Sabit stayed back and joined the war. The three of them relocated to Bad Berneck, a town in eastern Germany where a lot of Bosnian refugees were being housed in an old hotel. Fata’s sister already lived there and was serving as a translator for the Bosnian refugees. Avdic worried for his father and the safety of other family members who remained back home. All the while, he had to adapt to a new life in Germany. He learned to speak German within a year, and he quickly understood the culture by watching films.

“I think stereotypes are the greatest thing ever because they’ve really helped me to assimilate to every culture. When you learn certain stereotypes, you can adapt,” said Avdic. Being able to adapt to his surroundings allowed him to be more open, make new friends and experience new things. This is what allowed him to be exposed to electronic dance music. “There was a little bar in Goldmuhl called Gruner Baum, which means Green Tree, and I walked by and I’ll never forget I listened to [Snap!’s] ‘Rhythm is a Dancer.’ That was the first time I loved the 4/4 beat. It was like a heart thumping.”

From this point on, Avdic was enamored with dance music. He started watching Viva and MTV and was introduced to electronic artists such as Sven Vath and Jeff Mills. This exposed him to other music beyond what he had heard living in Yugoslavia. Avdic eventually transitioned to meeting other kids who were passionate about dance music and they would share techno cassette tapes with each other.

While Avdic was growing up in Germany over those three years, the Bosnian War brought death and destruction back home. Ethnic cleansing resulted in over 100,000 deaths of mostly Bosnian Muslims. In 1995, there were 8,000 men and boys massacred in the town of Srebrenica. It was the first incident of genocide in Europe since World War II.

Avdic lost family members and family friends in the war. One of the uncles who had introduced him to rock and roll when he was younger was killed in action. His father was shot three times and sustained wounds from a grenade explosion but was fortunate and survived. However, the moment he was injured, he was standing next to his sister’s husband. They were both struck with bullets. They missed Sabit’s heart but fatally wounded his sister’s husband. 

The Bosnian War is a period of their lives neither Sabit nor Fata enjoy remembering or talking about. But as Sabit put it, “The best moment in my life was when they came home from Germany.”

The war ended in 1995 and resulted in Yugoslavia dissolving into different countries. The Avdic family returned home to what was now Bosnia. However, nothing was like it was when they left.

“To the age of eight, everything really feels like a dream because the infrastructure was demolished and destroyed, including my own home,” said Avdic. “To me, my past really seems like a dream because it only exists in my mind and pictures.”

After their return, they suffered through a difficult two-year period living in Bosnia. Landlords treated refugee families poorly, so they were forced to move around a lot. Many people lost everything during the war, and the economy needed repair. People were generally worn out from everything they had experienced over the past three years.Avdic used to have trouble discussing this period of his life because it was such a depressing time for him.

“I’ll forever be thankful because during the time in Bosnia I was living through from ’96 to ’98, it was music that was saving me from insanity,” said Avdic.

In 1997, they were fortunate and received the opportunity to join several family members who had moved to the U.S. around that time. Sabit wasted no time and immediately started the process to move to the U.S. After a short period of living in Croatia during this transition, Avdic and his family arrived in Ankeny, Iowa, in 1998. From there, they had to rebuild their lives from nothing.

“You start from zero. You have to fight. You have to work,” said Sabit. Avdic learned to channel the hard-working mentality of his parents. As a 14-year-old new to America, he once again used stereotypes to fit in, which helped him find his way.

When Avdic came to the U.S., he hadn’t forgotten his love for dance music. Once he became old enough, he started regularly attending events throughout Iowa, immersing himself within the electronic dance music community.  In 2004, Avdic attended Together, a yearly event in northeast Iowa that would bring in DJs from all around the country. Avdic said it was an event which changed his life.

“I was so passionate and in love that I had found an all-night event [to attend],” said Avdic. “At [Together], I had met everybody who was involved in the music scene at that time.”   

Friendships he formed at Together would eventually lead him to meeting Matt Rissi, a leader in the Iowa techno community. Avdic attended Rissi’s Halloween event named Inferno because he was a friend of one of the DJs performing. Rissi recalled that he nearly kicked Avdic out of the show because he kept hanging out in the DJ booth. After Rissi realized Avdic was a good friend of the DJ, they started talking and hit it off. By this time, Avdic had already started producing music, but he hadn’t yet learned the fundamentals of DJing. Rissi taught Avdic how to DJ, and Avdic showed him how to produce music.

After a few years had passed, in 2007, when Avdic was 23, he and Rissi made their debut release, the “Yugoslavia EP.” Avdic said the title was a homage to where he came from and the life he lived in Yugoslavia before coming to the U.S.

They would have one more release that same year, before they decided they wanted to get into the business of running their own label. Later that year, they did what no one had tried before in Iowa, forming Solar Cathedral Recordings, the first-ever techno label in Iowa.

“There was humbling and equally impressive rapport from the global community [about starting a label] here in the heartland,” said Avdic. “I always tell people, if you want something hard to do, try promoting techno music in the Midwest.” 

Nonetheless, they found instant success from their first release. It was an EP from Avdic and Rissi, titled “Them Crocks.” The EP contained a Dustin Zahn remix of the title track. “Zahn’s remix, charted right away on Beatport, and Iowa was on a global map,” said Avdic.

Solar Cathedral Recordings released music from artists all around the Midwest and Europe. There were up-and-coming artists as well as more established ones. Some of the names included Dustin Zahn, Mike Gervais, Woody McBride, Christian James, Dejan Milicevic, DJ Misjah, and Mladen Tomic.

“These are all old school guys who contributed so much to the scene, so it was quite the honor to have them be a part of a little techno label from Iowa,” said Avdic. “We were creating a gateway of bonding. Not just within the Midwest but the world.”   

Through a mutual acquaintance, they were introduced to Marea Stamper, The Black Madonna, who oversaw the distribution company Groove Source. She helped them distribute Solar Cathedral’s tracks to over a hundred platforms such as Beatport and iTunes. Stamper would send them blogs of all the reviews of Solar Cathedral’s tracks and the people who were supporting them.

“I never thought I’d see the day where Chris Liebing, Joseph Capriati, Laurent Garnier or Slam would be supporting my sounds,” said Avdic. “To me, that was probably one of the most humbling things in my life.”

The label ran for three years until 2010, and after 19 releases, they decided to close it down. They didn’t have crazy sales numbers, but Avdic stated that was never the point.

“We knew we weren’t doing this for the money to begin with,” said Avdic. “It’s pretty insane to see the change and growth in people in where they were from back then to now. It’s been an honor to watch them grow as artists and an even bigger honor to have had them be on my label to help promote electronic music in Iowa.”

Their decision to close the label was due to various reasons. They both had personal endeavors of their own they wanted to pursue. Avdic said he was dealing with things in his personal life, such as the birth of his son, and needed some time to step away and focus on that. Ultimately, being just a two-man operation and only being in their early 20s, they didn’t have the resources to take Solar Cathedral Recordings to the next level.

“Every week there’s like 5,000 releases that come out on Beatport, and to separate your music from all those people and stand out, you need to have literally a full-time marketing team,” said Rissi.

Avdic and Rissi both decided the timing was right to go their separate ways. Following the closure of Solar Cathedral Recordings, Avdic took a couple years to finish college and focus on his son. He said he needed this period of his life to rejuvenate and do what he felt was best for himself.  

This hiatus lasted until 2012 when he made a bet with his son’s mother that he would book his favorite artist at the time. That artist ended up being Luis Flores and he was booked for the first- ever Ekvilibrium event, Avdic’s new production company formed alongside Jade Reed and Justin Time. From there, Avdic would expand Ekvilibrium beyond a production company and into a techno label. Avdic sees Ekvilibrium Recordings as his second movement in his efforts of bringing more relevance to techno in Iowa.

The first release on Ekvilibrium Recordings was Mike Wlkr’s “Tomb Runner.” Avdic said the release was a homage to Iowa producers because it featured Iowa producers such as Mike Wlkr, Jade Reed, Cory Simpson, Pete Board and Avdic himself.

Ekvilibrium Recordings has also featured music from the likes of Forest People, Eddie Krystal, Fory, Amir Razanica, Anthony Jimenez and others.

“It’s really just handpicked people who I have faith in and the sound they bring,” said Avdic. “I walk them through what I want them to do for our label. I don’t force or push people to send me something. I let them take their time and develop their sound and not rush anything. As stated prior, techno is patience. Ekvilibrium is amazing. If you go on Beatport and look at every single artist on there, they are very truly unique and deserving of everything that is coming to them because talent is something I cherish the most.”

Avdic hopes that the presence of Ekvilibrium Recordings will motivate more people in Iowa to learn production. He has in fact had people over the years send him tracks, and he often will work with them so they can improve as producers.

“I work with them back and forth to give them advice and mentor them as to what they need to grow and develop a cleaner sound, everything from transitions to sound design,” said Avdic. “All of it really put together takes a lot of knowledge and growth. [With] a lot of these young guys nowadays, the problem is that you can acquire the gear and equipment easy, but [as far as] the talent itself, you can’t just jump on a bike and expect to take off right away.” 

“One thing about Iowa is we’ve always set the standards high when it comes to either DJing or production,” said Avdic. “You don’t get around if you’re not a good DJ or producer and you come up and you want to show off. You take some time to prepare for that … [and] there should be a certain level of mastery that people develop. We should all hold each other to higher standards, not just as artists but as human beings.”  

“I don’t like to just say I want to be a positive role model and then do something completely opposite,” said Avdic. “I’ve learned the importance early on of following through with keeping your word and what you’re going to achieve. My ultimate goal is that I hope people keep that same perspective and are motivated to achieve the same.” 

Presently, in addition to running Ekvilibrium, Avdic works two other jobs to support the label and his family. It’s hard for him to make it out to events as much as he used to, but he still finds time to be involved in the scene. For the last five years, he’s helped organize the monthly club night Beat Experiments, which has been a reliable event for those wanting to experience quality techno.

“I enjoy being backstage more now and watching things from afar and observing,” said Avdic.

Avdic’s work through Solar Cathedral and Ekvilibrium has brought more notoriety to Iowa producers and he is optimistic for where the techno scene in Iowa is heading. Across the state, veterans like Matt Rissi and The Invasion crew are still consistently organizing techno shows, while the younger generation of DJs such as the IowaTechno collective are starting to emerge and take things over.

Though he has no plans of stopping his efforts any time soon, Avdic does sees himself as passing the torch to the younger guys. He believes the community in Iowa is doing things the right way in order to grow.

“A lot of us who have been doing this for a long time are a really tight-knit group,” said Avdic. “We communicate with each other and are respectful of [each other’s event dates] which is something that is important if you’re going to build a community. I think throughout the years, Iowa has done a really nice job at placing itself on a global map.”