One thing you don't think about when you think of Russia is house music, maybe vodka, maybe caviar, maybe the cold war but house music... nah.
Magnetic caught up with the owners of the Moscow-based record store and record label Wax Ninja to set the record straight on current Russian house music relations.
Yes, we definitely want to visit now!
How long has Wax Ninja been around both as a store and a label?
All: This whole thing started as a small page in VKontakte social network, where we (Nastya Foxxylove and Artyom Xio) just wanted to sell some records from our collections on a regular basis. It was connected to another music community page we were heading called SubUrbz. This was back in 2013. But the idea to push it to the next level and create a real shop with regular updates came later, after our visit to Berlin where we had a chance to visit some of the biggest record shops like Record Loft. At the time our old friend Andrey Mb4 had some similar thoughts, so we decided to put our efforts together. This is how we opened Wax Ninja in March of 2015. It is still operated by three of us.
Thoughts of creating a record label were in our minds since the very beginning of our journey with electronic music. Possibly Wax Ninja just putted all things together and we started to work towards our first record shortly after shop openning, eventually releasing it in March of 2016. It was 3AM by Xio.
Our second record called Jam EP should be released in February of 2017. It consists of four tracks by different Russian artists: Ksky, Babak, Xio and Pak0 . It comes under a different label named SubUrbz (next to our community page name) which is dedicated to releasing a various artists compilations.
Do many people think of Russia as more of a progressive or big room kind of sound? What is your take on that? How big is the Russian Deep House and Tech House scene?
Artyom: I think this is kind of a worldwide situation - big room is popular on big festivals, but in my opinion it doesn't really relate to music, it's more about the big shows. The terms Deep House and Tech House got very distorted in the last few years. People often confusing all these terms and genres. I think it's because of commercializing of dance music. If some underground project becomes very popular, then big labels and artists with big marketing budgets adopts its style while making it simpler for the mass listener. In the end, Tiesto releases a deep house mix, which has nothing to do with deep house in terms of musical genre.
In Russia the real Deep and Tech house scene is small. But we have some worldwide known names, like Lay-far, OL, Lipelis, Anton Zap, GOST ZVUK label - these guys are actively supporting the vinyl community, by the way.
Andrey: We have only a few promoters who can bring together 15-20 artists from different countries for one night in one place. This would be a very big event and of course people from around the world would hear about it. It happens not so frequently, but creates a certain view in the eyes of the community.
But there's a lot more events happening between these dates every week, not bringing this much attention. Here and there around the country smaller venues and promoters doing their thing every weekend and there's always something to choose from.
What are some of your favorite spots to hang out in Moscow? From coffee shops to lounges and even night clubs? Fill us in on your favorite places…
Artyom: I will tell you about Moscow clubs. Many good places were closed recently, but there are still a few places for the house heads. On of these places is Propaganda club (one of the oldest clubs in Moscow), where parties are taking place almost every day including workdays. I've been playing here a few times and this is one of the most friendliest places for such music in terms of atmosphere - people know where they come to and are ready to perceive new music.
Also there is Dewar's Powerhouse - a small club where you can often catch an interesting foreign artist on a house party. It has a very homey atmosphere and people are reacting well to the house music. I think these are my favourites now in terms of music.
Nastya: I suggest you to stop by at a vinyl record shop called DIG, where you can find a lot of interesting music for sampling, including old soviet records. It is between two districts - Kitay-Gorod and Taganka. I highly recommend to take a walk here - these are old Moscow districts, beautiful and atmospheric.
Andrey: I like to spend more time in nature or traveling these days. I like to jump in a car and head to my house which is out of town. Listening to music while driving a car is another pleasant part of this experience.
Is Vinyl big in Russia like it is in other countries like Germany, etc.? What are your thoughts on Vinyl?
Artyom: Unfortunately, our vinyl community is not that big yet like in Germany. But it's getting bigger and we see it clearly. Right now there are only a few physical vinyl shops and none of them are specializing on dance music. Indie and old rock is more popular among our record collectors. This is tough business requiring big enthusiasm, love and a clear vision of what and why you are doing it. Vinyl is almost not produced in Russia, so mostly it's imported records. And because of this it's pretty hard to compete with big online shops.
Even Russian releases are printed outside the country, because it's cheaper.
That's why we, for example, are mostly focusing on selection and client service, communication with people.
Nastya: In Russia we don't have a government support for businesses like this, even though it's related to culture.
So, if you are opening a record shop, you will be working on the same terms as a grocery shop. For example, I know that in some of the european countries there are preferentials for record shops, because actually it's almost a museum. People come here for culture and spiritual enrichment.
Andrey: The industry itself is not that established as in Germany. But I would say that the interest is growing the same rate as other countries.
More and more people are getting into it. And while some of these people are just following the hype, some of them (also those who are in the game for years) are really finding something important for themselves and will stick to it for a long time. Vinyl will stay as a format for music lovers and collectors.
What are some other artists and labels to keep an eye on coming out of Russia?
Artyom: Boorane, which recently released a great record on In-Beat-Ween Music (Lay-Far's label). Petr Serkin and his Freedom Sessions Records, Fox Trax run by Sickdisco, OL, Lipelis, Anton Zap, GOST ZVUK label run by LOW808, Capital Bass label run by FStep.
Nastya: By the way, Boorane has a joint hip-hop project with Mr.Robberhood (who is a member of Kovsh group) where they making a hip-hop based on a soviet music samples.
Another interesting label to look at is Sealt which is specializing in experimental electronic music like IDM and industrial. Label owner Evgeniy Kuleshov creates a very authentic designs for his releases using materials such as wood, plexiglass and leather. Color vinyl with engraved artworks and 10-100 copies runs attracts with its exclusiveness, but not to take your attention away from the music itself.
There's also Kirill Sergeev aka Kito Jempere (Freerange Records, Dirt Crew, Let's Play House) also known as Saint Petersburg Disco Spin Club. Check out his live band!
Andrey: I would also note Yuri Shulgin for his very musical approach in his productions.
Udacha is known for quality deep house, but not only. Label owner Aleksey Kalik (A5) described their choice of sound like "warm, soft, pleasant, partly psychedelic".
For those who are more into minimal/tech house there's a label called BodyParts Vinyl. Those guys were pushing their sound pretty constantly for the last few years.
And of course, watch these guys from our Jam EP. They will definitely push some more this year!
If you could recommend one or two festivals to a visitor, which ones would you recommend?
All: This year we had a great event called Present Perfect Festival by Roots United crew, which took place in Saint-Petersbourg. They have big plans for 2017 as well. One possibly already heard about ARMA family events, which have a diverse choice of artists but with a bit different approach. Their Outline is the biggest urban-festival of electronic music in Moscow. It was taking it's place twice already since 2014, but unfortunately was cancelled in 2016. We hope they will continue in 2017.
Who are some of your inspirations as far as artists and music scenes?
Artyom: I can name a few key artists and labels for me - Rob Playford, Omni Trio, Kerri Chandler, Terrence Parker, LTJ Bukem, Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove, Nervous, Hospital Records, Good Looking. As you may see, they are all from 90s.
Nastya: Theo Parrish, Erykah Badu, Moodymann and Norma Jean Bell. Japanese scene - Takeshi Fukushima, Miyazaki Izumi, Yukihiro Fukutomi, Soichi Terada & Shinichiro Yokota, Jazzadelic, Satoshi Tomiie and blacksploitation movies soundtracks.
Andrey: I met Artyom when we both were listening to drum and bass music, so we both have the same idols from that era. In terms of scenes I would mention UK Hardcore (1992), US Garage (1994), Old-school Hip-Hop. From a more recent years that would be Rene Pawlowitz aka Shed (and all of his alter egos), Moodymann, The Timewriter. I also like Zenker Brothers sound and how they run their Ilian Tape. Did you know these beautiful labels of their records created by their mum? :)
Do you guys have any plans on being in Miami this year?
All: Not this time, but hopefully later! :)
Tell us something about Moscow or the Russian scene that might surprise us.
All: Recently we had an official Mixmag magazine (in russian) opening! (mixmag.io)
We have actively developing synthesizers DIY culture. These guys experiment a lot and create different "sound object" devices.
One thing about Moscow in general that usually surprises foreign people is that we have a free Wi-Fi in trains while you moving underground! Though it's not available on the stations itself like in some other countries, which is another awkward thing. :)
Does Trump frighten you like he frightens us :)
Artyom: I'm trying to be far from politics, because if you want to understand it you need to dedicate your whole life to it. Otherwise everything will be spinning around wild guesses and mass media information, which is mostly a propaganda. Of course, there's a lot of articles about Trump's strange behaviour on the internet. For me the most important thing is a peaceful sky above. If Russia and USA will be friends, it's just going to be good for all of us.