Alex Uhlmann & Iceleak detail life in Milan during the COVID-19 crisis

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown, we thought we'd take it upon ourselves to interview select Luxembourgish artists living abroad and get their take on what the situation is like in their respective cities. We begin our series in Milan, the center of Europe's first big coronavirus outbreak, interviewing songwriter, producer and DJ Alex Uhlmann, as well as Filippo from EDM producer and DJ-duo Iceleak.

- Tell us about the career path that led to where you are now in Milan.
Alex Uhlmann : After school in Luxembourg, I moved to London for music.  Following a detour in Paris, I ended up living in Berlin where I signed my first record deal with my band Friday Night Hero.  A few years later, I joined Planet Funk, an international collective based in Italy.  After a while, the travelling back and forth became a bit much so I decided to move there.  Today, I'm a solo artist based in Milan, although I am often in Berlin where I have a pizzeria called Futura.
Iceleak (Filippo) : I was born from Italian parents, and after I graduated from high school, I went to pursue an engineering degree in Milan, my family’s hometown.

- What is one of your favourite experiences you’ve had in your career?

Alex : One of my favourite memories was when we played for the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monza stadium with Jamiroquai and the crazy night out in Milan I had with Jay Kay afterwards.  Another amazing experience was when I met David Morales and we decided to make music together... We have released two singles since and went on tour together. I've always looked up to him as a kid, working with him is a great privilege.  Another great moment was a tour of Russia which I probably wouldn’t have visited if it wasn’t for the band...


Filippo : So far, the highlight of my career was when I got invited by Spinnin’ Records to attend their festival in Miami. Every year, major labels and artists meet in Miami for the Miami Music Week. In 2018, after releasing “Don’t Leave Me” and signing “Wavy” with Spinnin’ Records, they were kind enough to invite us to Spinnin’ Session in Miami. The setting was simply amazing : Spinnin’ had rented out a massive hotel along the Miami South Beach shoreline, all their major artists were present, so we were able to hang out with people like Mike Williams, Don Diablo, Lucas & Steve, Zonderling, EDX and many many more. This was a dream come true for us and it made us want to work harder than ever in order to belong with this artists.


- Describe the current situation in Milan. How are people in general getting on with the travel ban?
Alex : People here have understood the seriousness of the virus and nobody goes out in the streets in order not to harm the weaker members of the population (even though it’s not true that the virus doesn’t affect the younger generation)... It’s a very tough time but we’ll get through it!  My girlfriend is 9 months pregnant but we've decided to have the baby here despite of this situation.  I think that most people will be better to each other after these times, appreciate the little things.
Filippo : The situation in Milan is really weird. Over the past three weeks, things escalated very quickly. At first, people were only worried a little bit but talking about it a lot. Little by little people started wearing masks and we all started looking at each other with a suspicious eye. Now since Sunday, March 8th we’ve been ordered to stay home at all costs. The streets are empty, all the bars, restaurants, venues, museums etc. are closed. We’re only allowed to leave our home to go grocery shopping and to go to pharmacies. It all seems surreal, kind of like a movie. With the travel ban, I’m now stuck in Milan on my own (my parents are in Luxembourg and my brother in Sweden). I think people are very conscious with the travel ban. We all realize how dangerous this situation is and I don’t think anybody is taking any risks with it.

- What was the vibrant music industry like in Milan before COVID-19 crisis? What impact has the situation had on the industry there and how has it affected your plans so far in 2020?
Alex : The national music industry lives in Milan.  But not only music.  Milan is also home to fashion, design and a lot of other industries.  It is such a vibrant city and to see it completely still is frightening.
Since the shut down, the music industry has been completely on hold.  There are obviously no releases, no gigs, absolutely nothing.  Only the radio is still going and most DJ’s have been broadcasting from their homes.  Lots of musicians are playing from their homes on social media... A lot of campaigns for donations have been started so that the heroes of this crisis, the doctors and nurses, can continue to do their vital job.  People sing with each other from balcony to balcony to give each other hope...
I was supposed to have my new single released in May but we will have to move it to September, but to be honest I'm not thinking about that much right now though.  The important thing is to stay united and to stay at home as it's the only way to fight this virus.
Filippo : Milan is one of the clubbing capitals in Europe and right now it feels like a ghost town. All the events that I was supposed to attend are cancelled. It's definitely going to be a big financial blow to the industry. Nowadays, most of the money is in live performances and I honestly don’t know how my fellow artists are going to cope with this. Even for us, we were negotiating some shows here and there in Italy and now everything is off the table. I really hope it’s going to get better soon but I’m not too optimistic as social gatherings such as clubbing events will probably be the last things to come back to normal.
- What advice do you have for artists who have had their plans, particularly shows/tours, cancelled to continue to thrive in the industry?
Alex : Not to give up.  Better times are coming!  Can you imagine the positive energy when this crisis is over?  Let’s all stay at home so we don’t have to wait too long.
Filippo : It’s gonna be really tough for all of us, but at the same time this is a great opportunity for artists to lock themselves in the studio at home and produce the best tracks possibile. As an artist, we rarely have time to sit down for long studio sessions so I hope we will be able to take advantage of this situation and come back stronger than ever.
- You're stuck at home now.  Any favourite music releases you'll be listening to?  Or favorite TV or movie obsession(s)?
Alex : A song I've enjoyed lately is ‘At The Door’ by The Strokes. I'm listing to the new Tame Impala album right now and artists I like recently are Lucy Rose, Shelter Boy and Tamino.  But my favourite artist in recent years is RYX.
In terms of TV shows, I've just watched Narcos Mexico which was good but I’d recommend the Maradona documentaries if you haven’t seen them.
Filippo : I totally fell in love with two recent releases; "Gravity" by Diamond Eyes and Porter Robinson's "Get Your Wish".
I just restarted South Park during the quarantine which I can’t stop watching. Yes, we can call it an obsession!

- How about any local restaurants you're already craving?
Alex : Having a restaurant myself in Berlin, where things are heading in the same direction, I know how incredibly tough it is right now to survive in the Food & Beverage Industry.  That means that first of all I hope my favourite places will still be there... The first places I’ll go to are the ones owned by friends of mine, the ZOG Bar at the Navigli and the Frank in Lambrate.  For food, my first visit will be to ’Taglio’ in Via Vigevano.  But I'm mostly craving an ice cream from ‘Gelateria della Musica’ walking home on a summer night after a few drinks..
Filippo : I'm a simple guy and I just miss my local sushi place and McDonalds, but I think that’s the case for everybody. We just miss the simple things in life. 

- When all of this is over, what destination would you most like to visit and why?
Alex : All the parts of Italy that I don't know well yet like for example Sicily. Italy will need all the support in terms of tourism that it can get.  Having said that, as it is the most beautiful country in the world it won’t be much of a sacrifice.  ;-)
Filippo : Luxembourg definitely.  I miss my friends and family and I can’t wait to be able to see them again.
Stay tuned for more insight into the life of Luxembourg artists living abroad during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information on how the public can support artists during this time, please visit our latest article here. If you are an artist or company in or from Luxembourg looking for financial support during this time, please visit the Ministry of Culture's latest information and support options for the cultural sector here.