It is exciting to encounter an absorbing sound unheard before. To realize the existence of a whole new realm of artistic diversity, hidden just a click away from one’s casual comfort zone of forums, blogs, and fanzines. Or simply out of reach. Blasting through the speakers of an alternative club a thousand miles to the east or any given point of the compass. Yet, it can be overcharging. Who could be the creators of this mysterious rhythm? What is the philosophy they live by? What are their rules? How do they dance and dress? Most importantly: “Would I fit in?” So many questions and if at all merely an obscure cover of a frameless album unsuggestive of clues to hold onto. A potential and alluring home away from home looming on a fleeting horizon fading behind the veil of a hypnotizing melody, but just a promising assuredness remains: The music will stay forever. Scene Explorer is a series of interviews dedicated to passionate producers specializing in preserving and supporting alien music genres and their manifold communities, to bring on the answers, put a spotlight on their cultural roots and highlight the challenge of maintaining a scene and keeping it fresh.
Uniting an elaborate bunch of exciting characters Muscovite’s independent label Raw Russian is focusing on various styles of electronic music, deeply entrenched in, and inspired by the local reality of life. From nostalgic house over progressive techno to a nuance of experimental ambient its offered range is an arcane repository of unfamiliar dance tunes. Owner Aleksey has worked on collaborations with native and international artists likewise and is consistently extending the catalog of interesting releases.
Hello Aleksey, it is great to talk to you again! Today I would like to fathom a little bit of the heart and soul of your label to let people know, what they have been missing out on to this day. For starters: What was the first kind of music that deliberately fascinated you lasting and in what way did it influence you?
Privet, glad to have a talk with you. When I was younger, I love rare Russian post-punk groups and psychedelic rock. The first man who like influenced me in the music and stuff was a leader of dark reggae group – Komitet Ohrany Tepla (Комитет Охраны Теплы) – Oldy and the next one is leader of oldschool Russian punk group Himera (Химера) – Edik Strakov.
Even in deference to the rather adventurous corners of electronic music spaces, Raw Russian’s preference of popular traditional styles like house and techno mixed with unconventional experimental sounds is relatively maverick. You describe your undertaking as promoting a music guide to a new post-soviet underground scene. What share did your background, specifically being from Russia, have in motivating you to start this project?
We started this label with my old buddy who died in the 2021, so for now I am the only one who rule the Raw Russian’s world…but back in 2016 our main label goal was to collect and help to Russian and post-soviet musicians. In the 2018 we are founded our distributors who helps with physical release and digital distribution and for now continue our musical friendship.
Nostalgia seems to play an important role, affecting the vibes of this modern take on regional electronic art decisively. The Dembelsky Albom by Prisyaga for example was partly created with an old-school Soviet drum machine. Interestingly when we refer to western music as nostalgic, it is often a matter of consumerism, dedicated to products and trends of the past. It strikes me that the east to a greater degree focuses upon how music was done back then or else what it meant to make it for the original artists. Is this applicable to the community that you are hosting at Raw Russian?
Yes, it was. But for now, we call ourselves as a worldwide collection of best underground musicians all over the worlds. Without borders, without genres.
You have published various compilations including artists on and beyond Raw Russian. The R U S (Russian Underground Sadness) series is one of them, complying with the works of young and talented producers from all over the nation. It is appreciated for its variety of styles, the beauty of raw patterns, and the deepest abyss of Russian sadness as big as Russia itself. I remember one of my favorite journalists saying that he felt an intense and omnipresent melancholy when he traveled the country. What do you think is the source of this collective grief?
Russians are a priori depressed; you can see this cold depression on our faces and in our grey towns. So, if you will put all these things together plus add a deadly longing for the past you will get this most enchanting Russian reality reflected in these compilations.
Volume 3 of R U S does not only feature Russian artists but musicians from Ukraine and Belarus alike. As a progressive thinking artist, I was not surprised about this line-up. Tracing the relationships of these nations with western eyes I must admit it did astonish me. Was it something special to you to gather this array of artists jointly on a single release?
I think no because we are all brothers. In that case, we have special departments of Raw Russian: Raw Belarusian and Raw Ukrainian, with only Belarusian and only Ukrainian underground musicians.
Are there any musical differences regionally, like certain sounds that are fashionable specifically in one place, for example, Ukraine, and add to the diversity of the Underground Sadness compilation, or does it depend rather on the individuality of the music makers?
I think that the more southerly a musician is, the more house music prevails in his music, and the more northerly he is, the more ambient his music is. Just a little observation.
On June 20, 2021, Raw Russian released a new sampler of another series. Russian Girls Like Raw Vol. 2 is the second compilation, entirely consisting of female native producers and musicians with their unique vision of a modern Russian sound. A song on the self-titled EP by unraw is called the anger of white straight man. Is it generally distinctive for the label to be outspoken about social issues and support such causes?
We always support to women producers and musicians. So, this is the main reason and idea for the RGLR series. Unraw’s EP is more like a gift to a passed friend, I do not think he put any meaning into the names of his tracks, rather it is a stream of consciousness.
Traditionally the provided music based on electronic beats is widely suitable for dancing and relaxing in a calm atmosphere. Live shows are just getting started again in clubs around the world. Are you excited about it? Will Raw Russian and its artists be taking part in public events when it is possible soon?
I hope that in one day we will bring our masks off and will dancing at the clubs like we do in the past.
As the last point: What can fans expect of Raw Russian in the future? Where can people listen to the music for the first time and how can the label be supported?
I think you must start with our Bandcamp page: Music | Raw Russian (bandcamp.com)
And then try to check out our special Spotify playlist: Raw Russian – playlist by Raw Russian | Spotify