You may have noticed we have more than just a passing love for Matias Aguayo's great Comeme label. Russia is not the first place you'd expect to look for a an artist releasing on said Comeme but with this thing called the internet music spreads far and wide... quickly. Russian born artist, musician and performer, Philipp Gorbachev joined Cómeme in 2011. A self-imposed exile from Moscow saw him move to Berlin and he's since become a key member of the Cómeme stable.
Son of a champion race car driver, Philipp Gorbachev crafts "fable-like inventions, fairy tales that deal with spiritual vibes and insurgent Russian lyrics" at Aguayo's Union Studio, Berlin. His "Silver Album" this year got us rather hot under the collar so decided it was about time we had a chat to him.
So Phillipp, first up what was the first electronic record you ever heard? How did it make you feel?
I am not really a DJ but years of going out and listening DJ’s, actually watching them ‘doing it for the crowd’ is one of the things that inspired me to do what I am doing on a festival or club stage, on the one hand. I love how time runs on the dancefloor, in places like Berghain it can go for hours, but the grade of involvement in the music by the audience is great, if the music is good, you feel every moment of it. I have similar feelings when I visit the “Proun” Room” by El Lissitzky. Time and Space, New Age is on front of you. On the other hand, I witnessed a more live music context, since early years, which started in Moscow. Grooves and energy of some bands or musicians have been always something I value. Not only rock bands, but also artists like Petr Mamonov, Sergei Kurekhin, or classical performers, like Rostropowitsch, Natalia Gutman, Nikolai Petrov.
I am still confused with the term electronic music. In Russia, an electronic musician is called электронщик, is often connected with synths, “patchizm”, programming… I am uncomfortable with the question, for me it is a bit old fashioned. There is dance music. Butthole Surfers, Zvuki Mu.. pure dance music as well. Chicago, what Curtis Alan Jones is doing for years..wow! I was the guy who played Percolator on a small rave by the river back in the day.
Your sound is very Cómeme and it sounds like a very natural fit you being on the label. How did you get hooked up with Matias and Cómeme?
Great that you mention that there is a Cómeme sound!! It is an honour to hear it. I guess it is a result of the way this great collective works; you can’t hardly find a record done by one artist from the beginning to the end. “Hero of Tomorrow” EP or the “Silver Album” have so many people involved. But I tell you one secret: If you want to be a Cómeme artist, you have to become one and the main rule is here to never think if the track can fit any certain sound. If it is a good song? Yes. If it is a dancefloor classic like Pitaya Frenesí or Jagos? Yeah! I guess it is with many things like this. Ouch, that pride feelings, of knowing the result before it happens..it hurts!
By the time when Matias collected forces to start Cómeme, I have just explored the fact, that one could make dance music in a very full way. Like David Byrne says, live music. Actually since then I got able to speak. How happy I am to have had a chance to try it out and keep it! Not 10%, not 20%, doing beats after work, but just working on it 24 hours a day, collecting, producing, curating, preparing, performing and I still know that I am in the beginning. “God” asked me the question, are you really into this? And I answered Yes!! Seriously, I believe in God and I find it very fruitful. Anyway, since “In The Delta”, during a sunny day in a Russian forest, I was not anymore in a shaky mood, not really ready to handle life. Since then I feel that there are more responsibilities one could imagine. Just can’t get rid of it, it is burning from inside. Don’t know what it is. But the message since then is love.
Love is the message...
So, what was the music of your teenage rebellion?
Rebellion as a sabotage is something I never achieved to be, just can’t have enough faith in it. Rebellion for me is hard work spent with fun and freedom. An ascetic spirit (it is a bit like sport actually, in the sense of keeping up shape). It is sort of a travelling through an ocean with your own
On the subject of rebellion, can you tell us about your self-imposed exile from Russia.
It was hard to collect documents, I have spent years. But now I am through it. There in Russia we have both: wild capitalism and newly established ideology (on top of the USSR mentality), which is a hard environment to serve dance music, it is like in Mad Max, trust nobody. There are of course a few Oasis among the Hell. Now I am happy to be here, in the free western world haha, here it is at least only capitalism, the beast of it, which can be mounted. People running projects, adventures, business, recording music and getting it back from great audiences with knowledge and respect, like in France, or example, in Europe. Great environment there, people love music. Last time I played in Paris at La Gaite Lyrique, invited by Ivan Smagghe, there have been people dancing on the stage and doing crowdsurfing! Now I have a tour in Mexico, 7 gigs in two weeks. I am excited, you know, I have been working so hard, from the first beat till now, that this happens.
You produced your debut album at Cómeme’s District Union. What’s the set up down there?
When I arrived to Berlin with a bag and a broken bicycle, there has been no District Union. There was Isaac Johan. This is something that visited us with Matias Aguayo, while hanging in our empty, just rented apartments in The D, as we call the area around Potze, Potsdamer Str. in Schöneberg. So the District Union is a sort of a service station, a box, like on the raceway, where Cómeme artists can feel at home and tune their tracks, record ideas, open a bit in the production process, jam.
When you travel a lot in Europe, Charles De Gaulle Airport is a place you spend some time, sometimes your flight is from Terminal 1. Once we got inspired by its architecture and system. The District Union is build using the same geometry – you have tables, flexible modules with equipment
(the good half of it consists of good analog machines from Schneider’s Laden, as for example the Vermona MK II synth). No screen monitor, no big mixer in the middle. Get in and make a hit, ask other union members for advice and get it even better. Play the machines as Little Richard played the piano. Some concepts proved in here.
Wow I’ve just read Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers guests on the album. Didn’t see that one coming. How did that come about?
Cómeme is great, these guys give me so much space of creating new music and ways I want people to hear it. Like the “Silver Album”, not possible on any other label. “Hey Matias, I think it is a good idea to ask Paul Leary to mix the album” Matias Aguayo: “YEAH!!! Try it out!!!” Paul Leary: “I am a rock guy”. Philipp Gorbachev: “Yeah, I know. That’s why I am asking you to mix a dance record”!! Working with Paul was one of the best moments I had in music. He ended up not only doing an audio job, but added many important details on top, he is credited as a co-producer. So the “Silver Album” has been partly produced in Austin, Texas and tested in a drive through that land, before being confirmed on a similar drive in my Mercedes in Berlin. You should check out his solo album, called “The History of Dogs”. I have heard that he does not love it, but for me it sounds amazing! Or they way he produced first two Bad Livers album. I admire things that are so much better than music I do. This is the case.
And John from Battles too?
John Stanier is in Berlin from time to time, and we hang out sometimes, you know, go to Berghain (Berghain floor) or to get some German food at Rogacki.... When he visited the District Union, I rendered the elements of a programmed beat and assigned the drum sounds to YAMAHA DTX 12 and asked him to play exactly the same. He nailed it, although it is not a usual setup he plays with. Have you seen that picture WARP posted after a “Battles” gig? The drum podium is full of sawdust from drumsticks. John inspired me much in creating my own band, called The Naked Man. I found a best drummer and a best bass player I could. Now we are getting more and more tight playing together. First task was to reproduce the album songs, now we already have a bunch of totally new ones.
What were your original aspirations as an artist? How do you think you're shaping up?
From the beginning. Go back to yourself and understand that you are weak alone here. That you are bad. Super bad. Like James Brown said. Having God helping you to dig this is a great help!! And then try to make small steps to make good things here in this world. I still believe that dance music audience is one of the best ways to share what I get. You know what I am talking about? All the rest is hard work, pretty calculated, but the answer is yes, cause it’s all about love.
Who got you hooked on electronic music?
Zvuki Mu and their friends, the natural environment of my Russian childhood hooked me on high energy performed music. Me and my friend have been collected almost everyday by Sasha, the bass player, and after a Ka Ra Te lesson in the fields, he showed us thing like “Stop Making Sense” gig, Woodstock.. Cult movies and then we jammed together, that was when I was 15. I was on drums and singing. My father, a former racing champion is also someone who believes more in himself, he was driving in Moscow with a huge “Afro” and tapes with Talking Heads.
What one piece of software or hardware could you not make music without?
Love and the audience! Imagine doing music for yourself.. The next thing is pure technological question. I made lots of music with Yamaha DTX Multi 12. It is great that guys at Yamaha created this one, it is so DIY friendly. You can create endless kits of your sounds, and play it. You can deconstruct a programmed techno sequence and play it live, same sounds, but your groove, rhythm phrase. This has been the basic technique of the ‘Silver Album’. Check it out:
What can we expect to hear from you in the next few months?
There is non-stop music work going on at the moment. Have to put together new dance tracks, then there is my band. I wish Philipp Gorbachev would be a tennis team. Playing more gigs this fall, it is the Arrest Me Tour going on now, started in Sydney. You know, I am so happy with it! I have been working a lot and finally I can see the people and play it for them live, physically, in presence. I am going to Mexico in October, then France, Spain and Russia, as far the booking departure knows.
You will soon be able to listen and if you are a DJ, play Silver Album DJ Edits, a project I curated in order to give DJs simple versions of the album songs. Danny Daze, Matias Aguayo, JD Twitch (Optimo), Ana Helder and Barnt are the DJs I trust, that delivered top edits. Out digitally this fall on Cómeme.
First and last record bought?
In Russia I have been a client of Gorbushka. A mekka for pirate production. I would buy tons of CDs for 100 RUB (2 Euros) each, from saved lunch money, mp3 collections.. That was the way I educated myself. And the first Vinyl record I bought was in Berlin, aged 23. It was.. does not matter. Let it be Basic Chanel, Phylyps Trak II. The last one was an audio book on Vinyl about Captain Cook’s great trip, in Australia. No, seriously, a great album by Richard Ian 'Rolo' McGinty aka Pluto called “Rising”. UK record by the way.
What's your answer to everything?
Action, hard work, big fun and silence. (I don’t take drugs). Honest response. I am pretty much into DâM-FunK, out of the techno world, he is the one doing interesting stuff.
Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?
All the same time and more, you should come to my next gig!!
Philipp is online. His website can be found here