Cxemcast 079 – Gael

Where are you talking to us from?

I’m at home in Odesa. 

How long have you been living there? 

My family’s been living here for many years. I’d been living here for a long time before I left to study in St. Petersburg and I’d come to visit for a couple of weeks in the summer. I’ve been based here for the past 2 years as I wanted to stay with my family, take a break in my activities and do more composing. A period of conscious isolation, Odesa is well-suited for this.

Why exactly?

I don’t feel solidarity here, there is no team spirit. I haven’t managed to do much here together with someone. 

Why did you seek isolation? 

I’d been living in St. Petersburg for a long enough time, about 10 years, and I was doing music and working at the same time. My job was about music as well, but still, it was more about survival, there was no way to make music properly, as I am able to do it here, dedicating all my time to it. Well, also this thing with constant parties. I started my DJ activity then, so it was constant nights out, guests, etc. And then, I just moved here. I have relatives here, my mum lives here. I stay in and make music. And there are no interesting parties. 

Not a single one?

Well, there are young crews like techno svora that organize these sort of dark events, but it’s not for me. I usually don’t go to parties; to go out somewhere I don’t play, it must be something fascinating, some kind of live or something like that. 

Does this happen often? 

Very rarely, but there was one just this Sunday, I played there. It was in Theo, a theater where Gena Potreba works. However, the previous concert was like a year ago. Maybe something else is going on, but there isn’t a venue where you could just come by. There is More Music Club, but it’s a rock music venue and the atmosphere is corresponding. I hope the events in that theater will be more frequent because it’s very cool, it’s got a cool entourage, the place itself is nice, and the sound is also great. 

Are there any other projects in Odesa we should pay attention to?

I like the vision of the USU educational project. It’s a recently transformed Sonar Music School. Some interesting young DJs, who studied or currently work there, are Rennst, Cantrust, Rha. So far, this project has got an Instagram account and a huge empty room, but they’ve got big plans. It’s the same school with a newly assembled team, there’s a lot of people and investments, as well as a whole new place, which is under construction. I teach DJing there and sometimes, if asked, I can help with advice because I have experience in this field. 

You release on Odesa’s prominent label System. How did you first get in touch with them? 

Oh, that was a very long time ago. Vanya and I have long known each other, probably since we were kids, from the age of 15 or something. So, when I returned a couple of years ago, we connected online somehow, and he was about to fly from France the next day. We immediately realized that we were thinking along the same lines. System has already existed for three years then, a wave of their large parties took place without my involvement. Now, they are sometimes here, sometimes in France, and we only managed to organize two or three events together and that’s all. Like this time, for instance, I’m here, they are away. 

You can tell based on your Soundcloud output that your music has become heavier and more experimental after you did your first mix for System. Is there a connection? 

Actually, I'm moving away from this sound. I realized that I want to release something that reflects my internal state and is not my reaction to the external. My next live for System with Rinse France was already calmer. System gave me complete freedom of expression, and we have an excellent understanding of what is relevant for us. However, speaking of DJ sets, I still want to play only hard music in clubs. 

Speaking of the internal state, how would you describe the role of screams in your mixes? For instance, in your mix for Cxema or in the one for Comme Des Larmes. 

Internal state is important in regard to the composition of my own tracks. The mixes are a different story, and screams are there, I assume, because I am a silent and calm person. Mixes, even though some kind of creative conceptualism in the form of a story is present there, are still about the crowd, about the interaction, whereas creating your own music is a private, individual experience. 

You dedicated your recent EP Night Tales For Insomniac Animals to your mother, who, as you have stated, endowed you with love for music. How exactly did she influence you?

 Yes, my mum has always had excellent taste in music. When I was growing up, she hooked me on trip-hop — she used to listen to Portishead and always loved rock music in general. She’s due all the credit.

Is she from Dagestan herself? How did you end up in Odesa? 

Yes, we all are from Dagestan. My dad served in the Soviet army here. I was very young when they moved to Odesa. 

How did your mum get hold of music records at the time? 

There were cassettes already by then. Although there were vinyl records in my childhood, Nirvana, Prodigy, and all of this kind of stuff, it was on cassettes. 

Do you visit Dagestan often? 

I went there just recently for the first time in 20 years. I was traveling from Tbilisi to Makhachkala by shuttle bus, it was such a trip, they are so crazy on serpentines. Since that was my first time in Dagestan in a long time, it was very interesting. Speaking of underground culture, there is still no such thing really, people might point fingers. 

Do you have a traditional upbringing? 

Unfortunately, no, my parents are atheists, but I am really drawn to this sort of thing. My family is Russian-speaking, that is, I don’t know the local language at all, plus there’s a lot of things mixed together. There are a lot of nationalities in Dagestan, my relatives are Russians, Avars, Kumyks, and Tatars. So, Russian was our only common language, and no one was particularly committed to religion. 

You recently performed with ambient live. How did it come together? 

It was a very experimental concert with seating. I had to adapt to the circumstances, and they inspired me to create a program with voice and guitar. Besides, I got my St. Petersburg friends involved as musicians, which made this program unique. 

Was this to some extent an improvisation? 

Yes, one part was practically a jam session because I met the cellist and pianist only once before, but my program and several tracks with the vocalist were prepared in advance. It was in a small concert venue, in which I wanted to put chairs and create my own video for more thoughtful listening. 

How did your journey in music begin? 

I went to a children’s music school where I studied classical guitar, then I went to college, then left, then I studied in St. Petersburg at the jazz faculty. Yet I’ve learned about electronic music not so long ago. It definitely didn’t start with clubs. I just wanted to learn how to DJ and went to a DJing school. I started going to the clubs to find out where I want to play only later. 

What inspires you now? 

Cinema is both my big goal and what often inspires me. I really want to compose music for film.  I think it’s where I could use my musical capabilities to the fullest. And, of course, the processes and changes taking place in my life and my consciousness also inspire me.  

Can you recommend a movie? 

I liked Uncut Gems recently. Oneohtrix Point Never wrote a soundtrack for it. The same director also did Good Times with Pattinson, and Lopatin created music for this one too. For American films, they are very unusually shot. Even though they are criminal dramas, not my favorite genre. 

What is your vision for the near future? 

There will be several releases on cassette compilations, an album on System, and a live performance. Sometimes, I rehearse with local musicians in Odesa. Real-life interaction with people is really inspiring.

Cxemcast 079 – Gael
Interviewed by Maria Ustimenko.
20.02.2020
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