Russian music is being published more and more by foreign labels. Afisha talked to some musicians and their label representatives about how they met, the question of whether Russian artists should focus on the west, and if this Russianness is somehow significant.
Proxy + Turbo Recordings
PROXY (Evgeny Pozharnov) :: musician
“It was 2006 and I was recording demos for Russian rappers and hosting parties as part of a local promo group. I made a couple of tracks that I was happy enough to play at the parties, so I uploaded them to MySpace, which was still growing at the time. And then I thought, why don’t I try to get them signed? I started sending them off to random labels. Two of them were, I remember, Boysnoize Records and Turbo. I mean, I didn’t even know that Turbo existed, and on Boysnoize’s page, I found Tiga as one of their top friends – he had that song “You Gonna Want Me.” I thought, I’ll send him a bunch of tracks. The next morning I received a message from his brother, who ran his MySpace. That’s how it all started. My hands started shaking a bit – something like this wasn’t really common in Russia at that point. There was PPK but after them, I never really heard anything. And I didn’t know much about the business, and here I had this label hotshot guy responding to me. We didn’t see each other for half a year or something, but then they invited me out to play at a party for their label. I talked to the manager through Skype. The first release was followed by a second, and so forth.
I started working right away in a foreign, mostly European market. That stage of developing in my own country passed me by – I didn’t do anything to climb the ranks of the local DJs. When I was starting out, I didn’t know any Russian labels, and then I started my own. In any case, I haven’t found anyone who works for a foreign audience, but lives here (in Russia). Russian labels didn’t offer me anything. There were some Drum n Bass ones in St. Petersburg – before Proxy, I sent them some things but they didn’t take me on.
Proxy :: Raw
Before, there was a spirit around musicians – you’d sign on to a label with a guy you know and respect. Then the market moved away from physical media – there’s no vinyl or CDs, it’s all digital. In order to release a record, a label has to invest money into its creation – producing the plastic, design and all that, but they don’t really spend much time doing it because they’re afraid of losing money. Because of that, it’s easier to share music. You’re a musician, you’ve got a track, so you upload it online, on your page, or on Soundcloud, and everyone goes and has a listen. They’re so used to downloading free MP3s, that they don’t run into any problems. I was making a mix for an American radio station and downloaded some things from VKontakte. Why not? So you’re not wasting time looking. Yea, if you’re doing everything yourself, you won’t have such a widepsread fanbase as you would through a label: it pays for promotions and radio play – they just cover all bases to ensure that your tracks are heard by lots of people. But the music is still the most important thing. I’m a resident at Turbo, and I’ve had tracks come out on Mau5trap and Sotto Voce, and remixes all over the place, I think even on Virgin. You can feel proud of yourself for that and put a little checkmark for yourself, but if you’re track is shit, it’ll still be shit. And if it’s good, then it’ll eventually get through without Virgin.
When it came to the album, in order to see it released with success, the previous managers decided to divide the markets and give Turbo to Europe and the rest of the world, while Dim Mak was to be concerned with North and South America. They know the best. Steve Aoki and I keep in touch though our music is vastly different. And regarding Mau5strap – I’m a longtime fan of Deadmau5‘ lifestyle, and I had thought about signing with his label. I showed the label’s manager my tracks – he liked them, and that’s it, it was ready. For the most part, labels don’t intrude upon the musical process. I do it, they watch, and we see where it fits.
I don’t feel that I’m treated any particular way in the west just because I’m Russian. I don’t really go out here to have fun, just the studio. The track came out on Mau5trap, I looked online and realized that half the people aren’t even aware that Proxy is Russian. The Russians thought my cover art was strange – the logo is a hammer and sickle in digital form, and under it is the track’s name which is “Whores.” They wrote things like “Who are they calling whores? It’s the hammer and sickle, so in other words, the Soviet Union is a slut?” They are such smartasses, probably due to ignorance. I’m a huge fan of the movie Predator and we merged the hammer and sickle with the digital clock image from the movie. It came out really cool. I mean, it was just created and then it caught on, there wasn’t any sort of plan.
And I don’t feel I’ve been getting treated differently because of recent events. It seems like the sanctions are happening outside of politics – but it is precisely because of the sanctions that people are suffering only here. They don’t talk about it over there, especially in music circles. In reality, the sanctions are for the individuals that are close to the president. If they start canceling the visas and close the borders, then we’d all be having a delightful time. But for now it’s okay.
I always dreamed of being part of XL Recordings – they had The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx, and Johnny L. At that time, XL was already signing artists that weren’t really underground but more mainstream acts. And after successfully promoting The Prodigy in five cities, after the mix for them, that chic was lost. Now, even Prodigy use their own label for releases and they’ve moved past XL. So I kind of got over that myself.”
THOMAS VON PARTY :: A&R Label Turbo Recordings
“I found out about Proxy when he left Tiga a message on MySpace. I went on his page, listened to Destroy and instantly knew that he was a unique talent with his own powerful voice. Did the fact that he is from Russia influence my interest? To be honest, it complicated things a bit. We had a hard time communicating with each other in English, and when it came to the official stuff like visas and work permits – that was a real nightmare. I think it had a negative effect on his career in the very beginning, but in general, overcoming difficulties is part of his artistic personality. I think anyone who listens to Proxy will be able to understand where the music comes from, what kind of a world it originated from – and that’s an important element in any art.
Proxy’s recordings are always a bit different than what we usually release, so signing him was a risky gamble. But I believed in him and I’m really happy that everything has turned out the way that it should. His music is especially great live. Of course it irks me that at a time when there are so many shitty EDM producers who become famous, Proxy’s growth isn’t really noticeable. But I’m happy with how things are going. The politics don’t influence the music – at least not for now.”
Original article can be found at http://vozduh.afisha.ru/music/otechestvennye-artisty-na-zarubezhnyh-leyblah/