Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo, translation: Elena Savlokhova
New generation of live electronic music.
20th October, Kiev -> Module⁸ (2 year anniversary)
What is Module Live for you?
Andrey: It’s like a child – all of the efforts, thoughts and wishes simply gave birth to Module.
Misha: Initially the goal was creative self-fulfillment. You don’t really have a place in Kiev where you can perform with such music. Everyone seemed to have a prejudice towards live performances, which supposedly loses to DJ sets. The goal was to push through this mindset and to spread this culture. Currently there is a community and a lot of guys that depend on us. If two years ago it was solely a personal project, then now it’s a direct responsibility for those in the local scene.
Sergey: A lot has changed in 2 years. Everything that is happening in Ukraine in terms of sound has a certain freshness and rawness, it’s something that is very distinctive. You can see this in all aspects of culture and music is not an exception. Music that is real and sincere is something that unites all the artists that have joined us.
Misha: All that being said, it still has to remain dance-able and of quality. I really dislike it when people create hell knows what and hide behind the word ‘experimental’. It still has to connect with you and have an effect on you.
Sergey: Something that was missing for me when attending other parties or music events was the immersive experience. I was seeking the feeling of being an integral part of it. During these two years a lot of our artists started to play improvisational music they produce, get inspired, and communicate with people. Also the sound is completely different between a live performance and the studio version.
Do you get a chance to dance during your own parties?
Sergey: Of course!
Now it’s clear who is working.
Andrey: A party lasts around 8 hours but it always feels like 20 minutes.
Misha: When day breaks you start to have the realization whether it went good or bad. You relax. I’ve never listened any artist’s performance from beginning to end. The most important part when organizing your own event is taking care of your guests. It’s difficult, especially if you’re playing too, like we are going to for the 2 year anniversary. You have to make sure you don’t get physically exhausted after setting up the location, you have to keep all the small details in mind, then you have to play and simply get through the night.
Andrey: I constantly don’t make it to soundcheck, it’s a tradition now.
Sergey: I always try to spend at least 10 minutes and listen to every single artist in order to see whether people liked it or not, whether to book the artist again. The music that we receive is a completely different thing than how it sounds live. The trajectory is similar but the outcome material is different. The aspect of the performance is very important – the way the artist presents oneself, the energy that is being carried out, and how the artist adapts to the sound of the venue. An artist can have an immense experience in production, yet be dull when performing live.
You’ve transformed from KRAPIVA into Module, and the new name has a stronger relation to electronic music, as modular synthesizers are an integral part of a live show. Could you explain the differences between a set and a live show for those who are not familiar on the matter.
Sergey: A DJ set that was created under certain circumstances and influenced by a certain mood of the artist. When an artist is playing a DJ set then it’s basically a demonstration of certain memories. When an artist is performing live then the emotions that he or she delivers are the ones that are occurring in the present moment. Those who are witnessing it become participants. You hear a story that flows – a track that lasts an hour. I think that good DJs should be able to play no less than 7-8 hours, that’s how long it takes to open up a full story. A live is limited time-wise because it’s an incredible load on the brain. Anything longer than 90 minutes becomes very hard, so it has very strong limitations.
Misha: Live electronic music is analogue, rough, dirty. There is a different approach to building a track. Producers, when creating a track, use the studio, whereas artists that are playing live and that have constraints in terms of instrument variations. You’re flexible in adjusting your music to your surroundings and the public, hence you can sound worse or vice versa. When an artist finishes the performance at our events people applaud at the end. There is a pause between artists. In DJ sets that normally doesn’t happen and tracks are just merged.
Andrey: A DJ forms a story from the 20-30 records he or she brings along. The live artist tells the story in the here and now.
So how the artist spends the time before the show is directly linked to the vibe of his or her performance?
Andrey: Yes, undoubtedly. You can draw an analogy with a live rock band. A live electronic performer plays the instrument, just like a rock musician. Hence it’s important what mood the artist is in – it all has a consequence on the sound.
Could you tell us about the community of Module and about your residents?
Misha: There aren’t that many live artists. A few years ago we didn’t even have anyone to discuss professional issues with. When we started doing parties, we’ve noticed that apart from playing it was important to start a conversation about the technical aspects of it all. Afterwards the fellas opened a studio Пластмасса, which is also a vinyl store. We’ve started gathering there, played DJ sets, and we’ve formed a nice modular orchestra. Someone who is new to the scene now has the chance to attend a jam like this and discuss any concerting issues. There was nothing like that when we started out and forums never help as much as an actual discussion with like-minded people.
Sergey: We have our own ‘limited’ circle of people, yet we’re always open to newcomers. A year ago we’ve decided to record one of these jams and created a podcast. We plan to keep doing it further. Apart from touching on particular topics, we also want to grasp wider things, things that could be interesting for non-professionals, or those who are just at the beginning of their journey. We have discussion panel with our artists that we usually run before a Module party.
Do the three of you have disagreements in terms of vision or is everyone responsible for their own thing?
Andrey: I wouldn’t say that it’s something that interrupts our work.
Misha: There are different aspects to it and our team grew drastically, so now our responsibilities are more distinct: someone is responsible for the video content, design etc. We trust these people and usually approve their work. It’s easier when the team is bigger. Recently we spoke about where we see ourselves in 5-10 years and things seem to be more clear now. We know where we’re headed, only the paths constantly change. In 2 years our music has changed, as well as our organizational approach and lighting preferences. For example, our stage used to be positioned on a slight rise, but now it’s in the middle of the dance-floor. Either way, people are interested in what we’re doing.
So where do you envision yourselves in 10 years?
Misha: It would be at our big festival that has its focus not only on music, but also other fields of art and closely link to technologies. It would be outside of Ukraine as it’s more in demand there and there are more resources. For example, a live artist’s fee starts from around 1000 euros, even though they play for an hour or an hour and a half, compared to DJs who play longer times, but get a lesser fee. So it all costs more and it is roughly comparable to how bands perform, take The Prodigy as a case.
What is your main job?
Misha: I’m the curator of Plivka, but the project is currently on freeze so I’ve switched my focus on sound design. It’s easier for me to work in the same field. There are times when I want to leave it all and go work as a product manager, make a ton of money, build myself a studio and invest into my art to the fullest. But those are just thoughts.
Sergey: For 5 years I’ve been developing banking payment systems. That used to be my main job and I traveled around the world a lot. At one point I’ve decided to quit and dedicate myself entirely to music. I worked for 12 hours a day, so there was no time or energy left for music. Then I’ve met the guys and we’ve started working on Module. So right now I’m a full time musician and artist. I’m also doing sound design work, write film scores, music for videos, help with mixing and mastering.
Andrey: I work at an office. And I also do sound design and music for ads, but I have less time for that as most of my time is taken up by my main job.
If you were music, what would you be?
Andrey: In terms of musical instruments I’d be an accordion. I associate myself with it because it always tears my soul to pieces. The way it opens up is more or less how I feel. In terms of genre I’d be neoclassicism (Debussy, Satie).
Misha: I associate myself with the music that I play – hard, full of drive, at times dirty. I think I have a certain pull of dark emotions that I don’t show in real life, but I illuminate it through my music. If an instrument, then I’m thinking of a drum with synth effects.
Sergey: I would definitely be a mbira. It’s atonal, unpredictable, but if it’s in good shape, then it sounds extraordinary.
Module is turning 2 and to celebrate you’re throwing a party in Carbon, which is a coalmine. Tell us more about it and what do you expect from the new location?
Misha: It’s a new place and an unprepared location. Beforehand we used to have our events in Plivka, which was a full functioning venue. Now we are faced with the task to think every single thing through and it widens our responsibilities and our to-do list. We didn’t know what the sound was like so we’ve invited a sound engineer to evaluate it. We also have to do the bar from scratch, and it’s quite fascinating as it’s an extra way to affect how people will spend their time and to provide them with options. New set design, new ideas, new level. We also used to have the need to explain things to people, whereas now this need is gone as people reach out to us and offer their own participation. The project has a certain value now so it’s easier to reach goals.
Sergey: I have a very nice feeling about it. We’ve left our comfort zone of a location that we’ve been so familiar with. Carbon is an art residency, it’s an audiovisual laboratory where experiments and synergies of different art forms are created. I’m also going to lecture for a course on sound art. The location is not yet adapted for parties, as those guys are working on it without any sort of financing. We’re putting in a lot of work. Each location has it’s own story and atmosphere, so our approach is not just to throw a party, but to adapt to its specific characteristics: lighting, visuals, to open the full potential of music inside it, to create a unique experience for our guests. Another thing that is inspiring – we’re working with a lot of new people.
Andrey: We can’t wait to see the final thing ourselves.
You’ve managed to gather 20 live artists around Module. Do you plan to create your own label and organize shows outside of Ukraine?
Misha: Well we’ve had showcases in other cities and this winter we’re going to Krakow. If speaking about showcases of Module, then we’re playing roles of bookers and managers for our artists. Starting a label is currently in the works.
Sergey: A label is something that’s already happening. We just lacked equipment to record multi channeled. We have everything now. We always try to record performances by our artists, as there are a lot of improvised and unrepeatable moments that only happen once. There is one important aspect though – the artists adjusts the sound entirely for the venue and its acoustics. So the recording could sound entirely different on another sound system. It’s vital to record on multiple channels, that way you can adjust the sounds for a proper release.
Chance and unpredictability of a moment are the integral parts of a live.
That’s what we want to deliver to the listener.
Misha: All in all things develop gradually and naturally.
Among all the artists out there who stands out for you?
Misha: Blush Response, Schwefelgelb. The entire aufnahme + wiedergabe label is great. Emptyset. And Jeff Mills on the drum machine – so masterly. I used to be a drummer so it affects me a little extra.
Sergey: Frankly speaking there aren’t that many great live artists in the world within our specific field. A lot of people sent us their music that sounded great but the live was what we call a ‘performance DJ set’. They don’t play the instrument, they’re just great producers who play a live. I’m more interested to see how these people would play a complex DJ set, I think that’s where they can better open up artistically, but not in a live that is just a replay of studio tracks that have already been produced. But I could definitely point out Blawan, Karenn, Surgeon.
Andrey: I’m more into the experimental side. Aphex Twin, when he was just starting out, on one of his shows I was extremely impressed by his equipment. There was a PC on his stage and those were the times when laptops weren’t even used. I don’t get all of his work, but he was always someone who impressed me.
Sergey: We at Module appreciate it when the performing artist is a virtuoso of his own instrument. It’s about expression.
Is there a ‘dream’ artist you would like to book to one of your parties?
Misha: For sure it would be Blush Response. I would also like to mention that I like what Worn Pop is doing. It’s great to book artists that are not well known and open them for our public. There is a big pool of artists that are not famous currently, but who will for sure be hyped in a couple of years.
Tell us about some of the fuck ups you’ve faced with Module.
Misha: Sound issues. Once the main console sent the signal to the computer in the main hall and the rent guys gave us a broken cable, and we couldn’t find another one on such short notice.
Sergey: It looks like a cable for a modem, but that’s at first glance. Our sound guy said that we won’t be able to find another one 15 minutes before the events starts. Out of nowhere that light guy shows up and fixed all of our problems with a chewing gum.
Andrey: I remember that feeling so vividly – the fact that you have to explain this to people.
Misha: We also lose artists quite often, especially when we give them free bar cards.
Sergey: Live artists could play even longer sets, but sometimes they play less of the agreed time. We’ve had a situation when an artist finished a set 10 minutes earlier and just left.
Misha: Or while we’re trying to find the artist who plays next, and the one that has been playing during his time slot had turned soaking wet.
Sergey: Or how we’ve printed out posters with the wrong date and now they’re hanging at our homes.
What is the most unexpected track in your playlist?
Misha: Out of the weirder stuff I like Кровосток.
Sergey: A Georgian choir. It’s very beautiful. I also have a folder of music that NASA had sent out into outer space with the Voyager. It’s a rather interesting mix. It’s fascinating to see what music and sounds were chosen to represent the human race. I hope that the next spacecraft will include some modular recordings.
Andrey: Слушай Экзорцист, Mean, which is Russian abstract hip hop. And I like Кровосток as well.
What was the best gig you’ve attended as a viewer?
Andrey: If taking into account the recent ones then it’s Knigi. I lost the grip on reality during his performance. The way he moves, his energy… Simply insane.
Misha: Outside of Module then I was very impressed by Nah last year on Brave. Shortparis. I also expected something very different from The Horrorist’s live, but I really liked the energy he presented.
Sergey: At Brave! Factory Festival this year I really enjoyed Kangding Ray. I really liked Stanislav Tolkachev at the same event. Also our residents have spontaneous collaborations sometimes, and during one of those in Port, Misha united with Nikita (Friedensreich) and they delivered a very impressive live.
If you had to choose between sex and music, what would you say no to?
Misha, Sergey, Andrey: To sex.
Misha: When you hear 300 people scream it’s way better than when you hear one person scream.
Andrey: And after a performance you’re in this state for a much longer period of time.
What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
Andrey [lights a roll-up]: What would be my soul’s pleasure once Module is a success? I’d open my own restaurant or pastry shop.
So at night you play a live in a coalmine, and during the day you bake macaroons.
Sergey: Macaroons with the Module theme. Our team also has dream of creating a residency somewhere on Bali with no pressure from the outside world – to wake up and do stuff together.
[Sergey lights a roll-up]