by Harry Leeds
Gmorozov is a music producer of techno, drum’n’bass, and a PhD in Chemistry candidate based in Kazan, Russia. He is currently signed to British Beta Recordings (run by John B) for drumnbass releases and to British Bad-Life (run by Autokratz) for his techno work.
Gmorozov agreed to do this interview for free and even offered to pay for my espresso, and I helped him edit a chemistry article. This got us into talking about how he felt about Russian and American culture, the differences, and we had a good cultural exchange. At the time, Gmorozov was frustrated with a particular acquaintance who was getting in his way, and blamed this on their ethnicity. After a break when we met again to discuss the article, Gmorozov admitted to having given it thought, that the person who was in his way was in his way because said person was a bitch, not because said person was of a certain ethnic group, and that the two, being a raving bitch and part of said ethnic group, were not mutually exclusive.
There was also a discussion about the village. I told him of my liking of the village, how there was a sense of freedom, and he agreed, citing the beautiful images of awaking from a hangover to a field of flowing grain, watching, literally, wild horses gallop before you, the slam of their hoofs on fertile soil washing over your noggin.
A dearth of older men plagues Russia, especially the village, because of short life spans related to alcohol, tobacco, and road accidents, as well as a political and social unrest and of course WWII.
This led to a particular case of an alcoholic who wanders around Gmorozov’s village banging old widows in exchange for vodka and food. There are no stores in this village, no good ones, but the widows have a lot of time on their hands and so they grow their own (organic, sustainable) food in ogorodi, private little gardens. The man maintains his buzz, eats like a Berkeley professor, and gets laid constantly.
In the backdrop of galloping wild horses.
Gmorozov produced music for 2013’s Universiade games in Kazan, a large and well executed event involving hundreds of foreign athletes. These would be his bread and butter of the future along with his career as a chemist. He has recently been featured in Sobaka and Karl Fuchs magazines and played with John B. He tweets here: https://twitter.com/Gmorozov
This interview was conducted and edited over two sessions in a small overpriced Italian cafe in Kazan, Russia. The views and information presented in this article are the author’s own and do not represent those of any other individual, organization, state, or institution.
Harry Leeds: How did you start getting into music? DJing, producing?
Gmorozov: Starting at age 13 or 14 every guy starts to think about how to get the attention of girls. First I did BMX. It was a traumatic experience. I mean I was injured, and after two concussions I couldn’t ride anymore. So I decided to do something else. I went to the local CD shop. In 2004 we still had CD stores. I chose the CD by the best cover and got the John B album In:Transit. I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to make my own music.
Then I started producing. In 2008 I had my first DJ set. It was in Moscow. I did a remix of the Alla Pugachova song Ptica pevchaya. It was a massive hit on The Hype Machine and got a lot of hype on blogs.
This set was in a luxurious Moscow Bar with face control [bouncers]. Guest-list-only entrance. I didn’t know which buttons to push. I didn’t know anything. It went really well. But I didn’t get any money for this. I was young and stupid just starting out. When they asked me how much I wanted I said just pay for my travel expenses and hotel. That was really stupid, yeah.
But it was my first time and I wasn’t sure if I could play a proper DJ set.
After that, I think I travelled around Russia for about two years. I haven’t been anywhere far from Kazan but I’ve been around the European part of the country. It was an amazing time. In 2008-2010, the underground scene still existed. There were proper underground clubs in every city. Not like now when you want to come a club and you get to some kind of shithole and there’s luxury clubs where I can’t play what I want. It was the golden years of the underground scene.
So what has happened since 2010?
I finished university in 2010 and started my PhD studies and had no time to play DJ sets in other cities. It takes a lot of time, and time to recover every night after a set. So I focused on production more. In 2010 and 2011 I signed my music to John B’s label. He’s now my longtime friend. That was drum and bass. I also started doing techno. With Proxy’s Mako Rec label. You know, like the shark. Mako. That’s the techno.
But basically I haven’t had much time for music since 2010.
Who do you produce. Where do you have a studio?
I have a really simple set-up. A pair of studio monitors, an external sound card and an iMac. I produce electronic music so I don’t need any instruments.
I did an official remix for Mumui Troll. I remixed Dima Bilan, Nikolai Baskov. I think I made about twenty techno remixes for different labels, but that wasn’t interesting. That was just to keep my production skills fresh.
My big project this summer was to make the soundtrack for Universiade. For the sports presentations. It was amazing and really interesting. It wasn’t dance or electronic music—it was more like sound design. It’s a tough call when you need to make a one minute soundtrack to prepare an audience to watch two guys to beat each other’s faces in.
How many hours of music did you produce for that? There must have been lots of little tracks for different events.
Oh, hours and hours. Doing this, I realized it’s impossible to make a living with being a musician because people don’t feel that musicians are worth anything. Worth money anyway. It’s difficult to make people understand why your DJ sets cost money.
I get paid well for music, but that’s only because I produce music. People know my music, they know my remixes, and they want to bring me to their cities. You can only make a living in music in Russia if you are part of the industry. We don’t have an industry for underground music. If you play in Rai [a popular, luxurious club, now national chain trans: Heaven] you are part of the industry and maybe you are paid well. You can tour cities where we have this club, and the clubs will organize sets for you. They pay you more, but you’re not an artist, or a producer, just an industry whore.
The Industry Whores are who?
The human jukeboxes, they all have the same tracks in a bag. The guys are scum. They come to a party and before they start their set they are like: Where is my free alcohol? Where is my pussy?
When guys come from Europe, they are very respectful. They are polite, they come for the music. But a lot of Russian DJs now who are part of the system think they are rockstars.
It’s strange because Europeans when they come to Russia usually complain a lot, and Russians in Europe think everything is so cool and amazing. But with DJs it’s the other way around for some reason.
Where was the last place you played?
In Jam Bar. I started at 1.30 a.m. and got home at 5.
It was a really interesting experience because I hadn’t played in Kazan in a long time. I got there and there were 17-year-old girls [ed. Another word was used here] shaking their thighs under the cheapest music I had ever heard. I played a really sophisticated techno set which I had spent 2 weeks preparing.
When I started at 1.30 a.m. the dance floor was clear. I was playing hard-minded techno. After about half an hour the dance floor had filled. We were dancing together to much more sophisticated music than those girls are used to hearing.
Do you feel like you were teaching them to enjoy better music?
Yes. They didn’t seem interested at first. But it was an amazing experience. I teach people to listen to this kind of music because I spend so much time preparing.
Have you been performing in other cities?
Last winter I was in Samara and Tolyatti. That was just visit my friend there. He was a friend from a long time ago, from the first time I went around Russia playing in different cities.
Years ago it was like: you get on a train and guys meet you in the city where you play and take you to your hotel. You play your set and go home.
Now everything is much more sophisticated because everyone thinks of himself as a superstar. I love playing in other cities, and I miss the feeling when you come to a different city and nobody knows you personally, and you play your set and afterwards, everyone is waiting to meet you. To be your friend. I want to do that again after my PhD thesis.
But I haven’t been touring and I’m not that well known.
Do you want to tour when you’re done with your PhD?
I’ll need to spend more time on making music. I think I have been forgotten. I must revive myself then. I want to starting playing DJ sets abroad. That would be much more interesting. In Europe you need to get on a label with nice promo so you can get booked. I’d like to do a live show.
The first time you do a DJ set it’s wonderful and amazing, but do it 100 times and it’s not. I have enough stuff to do a set of my own music.
But, to be honest, I am getting old for that and am more interested in doing soundtracks. For movies, for example. Less dance oriented music.
Where could you play your own live music? How would you make that happen?
Posts on VK [social networking site]. I have a ready live set. So who wants me?
We have several small scale booking agencies and they are all my friends and are waiting for me to start with my live sets. So that’s how it’s going to work.
So are you playing more sets?
This week at Bonifacy. It’s an amazing place. [ed. Has since closed down, Gmorozov played the farewell show]. A small warehouse party. I am doing a set, half vinyl.
The most interesting thing about me is that I live in deep Russia. Even if I produce good music, the underground can’t bring me to their cities because it’s expensive. Despite the internet, I work like I’m on a different planet. Because of geography, and because I don’t go to the parties the rest of the world goes to. I have an independent voice.
Would you move to Moscow? Go to those parties?
I would never move to Moscow, that’s not my city, however yes, the parties they do, the artists they bring are of the biggest scale in Russia.
I like Kazan. It’s nice. You have good food. You have… despite all the redneck mentality we have quite good culture. Unlike Moscow which is crowded with people who don’t belong there. [ed. This section was truncated. Politely, it was suggested that some who go to Moscow clubs are there to get laid, do not care about music, and often have families at home they are ignoring in favor of clubs. These were a type of unclean person, and a type of FURM – Fat Ugly Rich Men]
What do you predict the future of club music to be?
The future is awesome, is how I see it. We have evolved a lot since 2006. It’s not just stupid electrohouse anymore. We have given the world a lot of well known global electronic musicians and it’s getting better exponentially.
If you want to make a living it will get better.
The problem is nobody buys music and they don’t sell records. Musicians tend to be poor. We are in a transition period still. All the great musicians will find a way to stand out against the shitty musicians, the awesome ones will rise up. They will have gigs and sets and will make a living.
You people who consume music tend to have more sophisticated taste. DJ can’t just play Tiesto anymore. You want something more interesting. Two or three years ago people would go to Tiesto and now people are thinking, no, I’d rather see my own favorites, my own personal sets of groups I like better.
We are starting to have an underground culture again.
Harry Leeds is a translator of Russian poetry, a prose writer of food and culture (Lucky Peach, The Journal, Roads and Kingdoms, Black Warrior Review), and a general lover of things unreasonably priced and far away. He has an MFA from the University Florida. You can find more about him at harryleeds.com. Tweets @mumbermag.