How I Communicate was a monster – but it wasn’t the first great record you need to know about from Lay-Far. And based on the critical acclaim for his own records & new releases on his In-Beat-Ween label, it also won’t be the last.
After I heard How I Communicate, I had to go back to look at what else you’ve done. Seems like it’s often the case that I get excited about a bunch of records that everyone else already heard. Where do you come from and how long have you been making music?
Thank you, I’m appreciating the enthusiasm! Although I’m based in Moscow now (the capital of Russia), I’m coming from a far away northern town of Ukhta, which is about 2000 km Northeast.
Creatively it’s been a pretty long way for me – a sort of a detour: starting in the end of nineties as a b-boy (Kaleidoscope crew represent) and a passionate music lover and then gradually developing and shifting my passion towards DJing and music production. I remember my first music experiments in 1999-2000 on a PS1-based sequencer/game called “Music” then changing to early incarnations of Ableton. At that time I was doing it only as a hobby on weekends. But as soon as I quit my job my first official releases started to pop out by the year 2011-2012.
“There is a new generation of creators – new dreamers, eager to bring something new, unique and useful, even if it’s not always easy or expected. Frankly speaking, it feels like a renaissance here now.”
It’s probably more obvious now with the Boorane EP you worked on, but there’s definitely a strain of Hip Hop in your DNA going back to “A Piece of Devotion.” Which came first: dance or Hip Hop? Which one has a hold of your soul?
Yeah, Hip hop is what started it all for me: music, art, dance, creativity, lifestyle! It resonated with me and my teenage friends, growing in mid- to late-’90s. Out of four main hip-hop disciplines b-boying turned out to be the most democratic and affordable for us back then: turntables, studio equipment, records were too expensive, so was the spray paint to create a decent piece on a wall, but for b-boying you just needed a place to sharpen your moves, a couple of decent sneakers, a sport costume and lots of imagination and persistence! That worked for me!
What is the local scene like where you live?
I keep on saying that – I think Moscow and the Russian music scene in general is booming now! Sometimes I can’t believe the abundance of music life we have at the moment: all the great venues, clubs, festivals, talented music producers pushing the boundaries, promoters, DJs, etc. It may sound contrasting to what people are used to expecting from the country. But it’s easy to explain as well. In the ’90s and ’00s, Russia was going through lots of social, political, economic turbulences, which affected everyone here – we are still feeing the echoes of these times, true. But to me it feels like a different country now! All these past experiences coupled with the overall life improvement of the present give the local artists and their art a certain edge! There is a new generation of creators – new dreamers, eager to bring something new, unique and useful, even if it’s not always easy or expected. Frankly speaking, it feels like a renaissance here now.
Do you think a local “sound” still possible? Like I’ve heard two records from Moscow lately and it seems both of them could have been made in London, France or New York. That’s not a criticism of Moscow as being faceless – music from the other three cities is often just as interchangeable too.
No doubt we are living in an open world, where cultures are freely interacting on any territory now. That’s the beauty of art – it knows no boarders!
I believe a “local sound” is still possible, but only under the condition the artists are working closely together. Take the West London Broken Beat sound – it was a very local scene, created by a bunch of friends, which in the end went global and led the way for other things to happen!
If we speak about Moscow this model is not working here due to large distances. The same applies to the Russian music scene in general. So all these producers, myself included, are scattered across this huge megalopolis with our own influences shining through. In general we end up working alone – in the best case there can be certain collaborations, not contributing to the sound unification.
However it doesn’t mean there are no common features. It feels like almost all music created here is very melodic, soulful and a bit moody, which can be credited to the influence of our folk music and geographic location. DIY attitude and Lo-Fi esthetics also seam to be prevailing due to the socio-economic factors.
It’s fascinating to me that we have this kind of underground taste that has never been supported by anything like “mass media” and it stretches & unites people all around the planet…
Yes, music is that unifying power! One of a kind! But it can stretch to other genres we don’t necessarily like – I mean EDM and all that.
In the end of the day it’s not about whether the music is underground or mainstream – these are all tags. There is timeless mainstream music and crappy underground sh*t with no soul in it! So it all comes to “the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I’m happy there are events/festivals in this world, that help uniting the lovers of real soulful and forward-thinking music like SunceBeat, Southern Soul Festival, Vocal Booth, Dimensions, Defected and many others!
I knew How I Communicate was something of a phenomenon when several members of our staff reviewed it without having been assigned anything. How long had you been working on the tracks that became “How I Communicate”? How did you get it to Local Talk?
Thank you! The whole process of conceptualization and working on the main tracks took me about a year – from September 2014 to October 2015 – but it was a very intense one. There is a track on this album, which I started working on back in 2011 and I managed to finish only for this album. The timing was right and it fit perfectly with its message – I mean “Another Way (The Siren Song).”
As for the label – Local Talk were interested in working with me on an album after I did my Communication EP in 2014 with them and I found this cooperation really fruitful!
Everybody has to balance like 5 or 10 different jobs these days. Do you ever feel like you’re worn thin (esp when you release records that break through like How I Communicate did)?
Well, at the moment the music is what I do for my living – it gives me a chance to provide for my family and pay the bills! But it’s nowhere near easy. By music itself I mean multitasking activity: touring, putting out records, doing remixes, managing the label, selling merchandise, giving production master-classes, promoting parties, the list goes on. So yeah, hustling 24/7!
What was the last thing you got excited about?
The birth of my two sons – Artemy and Arseny! They are twins. The best thing that happened in my life, for sure!
So tell me about Boorane. It’s two guys, working together, and you produced it?
Boorane is the project of two talented producers from Kaliningrad, Russia: Boora and Krane! They wrote and produced all these tracks. As for me I managed and partially co-produced this EP, also being responsible for the conceptual /background work on the release as the A&R. Frankly speaking I’m overwhelmed with all the positive feedback and attention the record managed to attract including Gilles Peterson, Karizma, Kai Alce, Ashley Beedle, just to name a few and some great press, including your magazine! This clear-cut concept of taking cues from hip-hop and producing dance music with a bit of inspiration from Soviet music legacy and culture seems to resonate with lots of people. I’m really happy for the guys – they deserve it!
What’s next for you?
To keep on keeping on! At the moment I’m continuing to tour the world with the album, doing remixes for the labels like Wah Wah 45’s, Atjazz Record Company, etc., as well as getting back into general production routine. After I completed the album I was actually feeling a bit drained. I think I put too much energy and thought in How I Communicate. Couldn’t start a single original track afterwards, although the remixes or edits were going well, ha-ha. All I needed is a bit of rest – a step back. I’m feeling the forces are coming back to me now! So I’m planning my next album with a bunch of other unrelated music projects – quite diverse as well. I have some nice plans for my label In-Beat-Ween Music too: a follow up to the debut EP by Boorane, as well as a powerful compilation, featuring Karizma, Atjazz, Nubian Mindz, Introbeatz and myself. Watch that space!
Boorane’s Thru Jazz To Mars is out now from Lay-Far’s In-Beat-Ween Music.
How I Communicate is out on Local Talk.
Originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #134 featuring Lay-Far, Inaya Day, Danism, Minneapolis Exchange and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!