to catch up with faces that have been consistently creating movement long before hitting clubs and festivals was the ‘cool millennial’ thing to do. Via the tastes and talents of Mr Horror we got the hook on an exclusive mix and some candid insights into life as a DJ and creator in one of the most musically gifted cities in the world: Chicago. While his true craft may be his immense photogenic presence, you’ll find the Russian native holding down the frozen tundra of the Mid-West club scene.
Your Life, What Is It?
Imagine the movie Point Break – but there’s a lot more chorizo tacos. Jokes aside, I hold down a full-time gig as a web developer outside of DJing, which is nice because it means I always have weekends off for gigs. I try to stay as busy and involved with as many creative outlets as I can, and embarrassingly get lost way too much in Chicago even after being here over a year.
Break down the mix for us.
The mix itself fits into a series mixes that I’ve been working on called “Quickcuts”. They generally are shorter, but the idea behind them is to get my mind right with a smoke and then record a ‘quick’ 20-30 minute take on my decks and record it. One take, no do-overs – put it out as is. I’ve also always been a huge fan of playing on nostalgia, and I’m mostly a hip-hop/club DJ so that fits pretty naturally. Plus ‘Big Willie Style’ is my spirit animal.
In this decade club and dance music has seen both peaks of immense success and dismal depths of debauchery. How has the game changed, what’s stayed the same? How have you had to adapt?
I’ve been DJing for about 7 years now…goddamn I didn’t even realize it’s been so long. The biggest challenge from me was adapting from the mentality that I came up in (traditionally speaking DJ’s were never put on a pedestal, we were hidden somewhere in a corner providing an uninterrupted mix for a club of people) to the glorification of the modern DJ (huge stages, being the focal point of the event, crowd all facing them). I still remember my first big booking (12th Planet in Milwaukee, WI years ago). 1200 kids, sold out, and I was so stoked on my set and nervous and throwing it down on point that I never even picked up the mic to tell the crowd who the fuck I was.
I think that overall people are starting to realize that they can create their own pockets and affect their own communities without having to “join” one as it were. Stuff like Soulection out of the West Coast, Moving Castle on the East, Hyperboloid out of Russia – just repping what they want to rep – which is super awesome. Obviously with the technology days it’s become more accessible, both from a performance and production aspect – which is I think is a mixed bag. There’s been a lot more really creative and unique music being played and coming out, but an even larger amount of tepid and bland stuff.
Who/where is your audience. What type of crowds do you generally play for?
What type of tunes gets the most praise/reaction from crowds lately?
It depends on the crowd. I love playing on nostalgia, especially when it’s timed correctly. This generally only works in a more club setting though.
My favorite trick is combining super recognizable rap acapellas with newer beats. The freshness of the beat keeps people interested, and the lyrics make them go off cuz who doesn’t love shouting the hook to Party by DMX.
Who/What do you see exploding in the current year?
I see a huge resurgence of people caring about intelligence in their music; regardless of genre. I think we’re already starting to see that with movements and collectives like Soulection and the Dilla beat resurgence / “future” movement that’s been happening. The kids that were PLUR’ing out to Skrillex three years ago when he hit the scene are finally growing up and wanting something more, and I’m super excited for that.
I already see a definite trend towards more intellectually challenging music and less party music. Kids are shifting into preferring melody over energy, composition over aggression – the people that grew the big EDM bubble is all getting older and obviously tastes change. Overall, as always, there will be some new big shift in the mainstream (I’d guess “deep house” or “g-house” as it’s called, or at least a 4×4 beat resurgence) – and outside of that everyone will continue to piss and moan about it. I just hope that the pissing and moaning results in more cool music.
Tell us about the scene in Chicago.
That being said, I love that there’s always something to find here. Musically, creatively, and artistically you can find stimulation in any form, or from almost any type of outlet.
Your SoundCloud page has a slew of your own edits. Are you still dabbling in production or getting more into it?
We’ve seen the explosion of the ‘everyone is a DJ ‘ trend. How does somebody who truly wants to move crowds stay relevant and get booked? How do you stand out from weekend warriors?
Just do you. Nobody wants to hear a Mr. Carmack ripoff, or a Rustie clone. Those sounds and artists already exist, show the world what your own voice sounds like, most of all. As a performer, just put the time in to learn a bit of how to perform / the equipment. It astounds me how many times I’ve opened for large international touring acts, and I have to help them hook the decks up because they don’t know. I’d be ashamed if I showed to a gig and hadn’t at least at one point spent five minutes Googling “how to hook up turntables”.
What advice would you have for yourself when your started DJing.
Sobriety in the club can be a very valuable and underutilized tool. I really applaud my friends in the industry that are able to do that.
Don’t work off-contract unless it’s with a real good homie. I learned that one pretty fast though.
Really focus on your live technique, specifically how to keep a crowd (it seems to be an art that’s lost on the kids coming up now – they’ll prepare a set and then just stubbornly continue on that sets path even if people aren’t into it). I still remember the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Chicago don Zebo play. I just stood there and watched what he was doing, he never once lost anyone off the dance floor except to buy a drink. I went home and practiced for like five hours while simultaneously crying to myself cuz I thought I was good.
What can we expect in the near future?
I’ve got a few shows coming up in the area, but mostly my goal is to try to get some original content out. I know I just got to Chicago too – but I’m definitely trying to make moves out to the West Coast ASAP. I’m so sick of winter.