Proxy: Music from the Eastblock Jungles

Marcus Barnes

Proxy 300x225 Proxy: Music from the Eastblock JunglesProxy hails from Russia and makes music that is often as tough and uncompromising as the Russians who are stereotypically portrayed in western films and TV shows. He was inspired by a now legendary show by The Prodigy in Red Square back in the mid-Nineties and has been fascinated with making his own music ever since – his new album Music From The Eastblock Jungles Part 1 & 2 is a brilliant collection of music that epitomises his style perfectly. I caught up with Proxy recently.

The artwork on your album has a political slant, a very Russian political slant and the name is quite upfront. What’s the theme behind the LP?
The theme is simply not having any barriers. I guess there is a minor political slant but it’s more of an anti-oppression thing. It’s about smashing generic ideals about things, that’s why the cover is smashed. I guess this filters into the music – not being constrained to make a generic thing and just celebrating the idea of making what the hell you want again. Not following anybody else’s style.

Have you felt oppressed living where you do? Either musically or just in life in general?
Not oppressed as such but being from Russia makes it much harder to get visas for certain places at times. Trust me on this. I’ve had many bad experiences.

Why did you decide to make something that is so overtly allied to Russian ideologies/symbolism?
Well, to put it simply, a lot of Russian imagery over the years has been incredibly powerful and ‘strong’ so to speak. The music I make is from some very powerful electronic machines and the sound just married so well to peoples’ take on Russia always being the bad guy! The western world grew up on films where Russia was always the baddie! The Electronic Hammer & Sickle logo is a tongue in cheek logo based on the famous flag. I just think it’s a very cool-looking logo. You may like this… I wrote a lot of this record on a vintage Russian Synth called a ‘Polivok’ (featured in the image at the top of this interview). It’s a big heavy thing that I wrote Raven on. I don’t care what people say, nothing makes a noise like that machine. They are very rare. They look cool too.

Tell me more about the Polivok. How did you manage to get one?
They don’t make them anymore. Old Russian analogue engineering – very hard to find. I am The Proxy, I can get these things!

When did you come up with the idea for the album?
I always wanted to do an album. I was making a lot of tracks and having them released so I had the idea of doing a double album as there was that much music. The first disc was a collection of records that had been out since 2009 with some new tracks on and disc two was more a collection of much newer album material. I guess it’s been two years in the making once I thought about doing it – next time will be quicker!

So you’re planning another album then?
Too early to say but it will definitely have my ‘sound’[...] Possibly more vocal ideas on the next one.

How has your sound been influenced by the overall theme of the album? Did you make adjustments to the way you produce in order to get a very ‘Russian’ sound permeating through the music?
I am from a country draped in deep tradition (like all countries I guess) and I guess I wanted to have an ode to some traditional melodies in a modern way. You can decide if I managed to do that! I am not sure if I made adjustments as such, but subliminally I guess I have always had Russian sounds in me. Translating them to a format that will knock walls down was not easy but I think I have given it a good go.

Are there any local musicians, from any genre, who really inspired you as a youngster?
Truthfully – no.

That’s a shame. How is life in Russia at the moment?
Papers papers papers. With Russia there are always so many papers to fill out to do anything. I hate papers. Russia is beautiful in so many ways and desolate in others. It is a nation of contrasts in so many ways; beautiful girls/ugly men. rich people/poor people. Russia is good. Russia is always interesting.

And what’s your background?
I don’t come from a financially rich background, if that answers your question. My family are very rich in other ways though. Strong people.

When you were growing up, did you have much access to western music?
There was no internet then so not as much as now. We only ‘heard’ about these great acts. When The Prodigy came they broke the mould for acts to tour this place again.

When did electronic/dance music first filter into your life?
It was the mid-Nineties when The Prodigy played Red Square. From that day on I had to build my studio.

Where do you live and where was the album conceived/created?
I live in a place called Orekhovo-Zuevo. This is where my Mako Studios is. It’s very cold and inspired the title of my album. It’s the ‘East Block Jungle’ here!

Can you describe Orekhovo-Zuevo a bit for someone who’s never been there?
[Laughs] Okay, it’s cold and grey! (Not cold all the time). Like all parts of Russia it’s a contrast, yes it’s cold and grey and the buildings are very square and ‘block like’ hence the ‘Eastblock’ name. However, it also has beautiful forests with horses etc. and can be very warm in the summer. As I said there is not much middle ground in my country!

What’s your opinion on the music scene there, both commercial and underground?
This is always a tough question to answer as the commercial sound is heavily influenced by the commercial records in your part of the world. They don’t sound any better over here trust me! There are some decent undergound producers over here. It’s just sad that not so many of them break out of this country for the rest of the world to hear.

Where’s good to go clubbing-wise?
Moscow always has cool places to go. Many places, but I don’t like the whole champagne-type clubs – of which there are many.

Who are the local talents that we should be listening to?
I reckon you should check out Oiki and Saint Raider. They are decent talents and cool guys.

Is there much scope for someone like yourself to make a good living from music in Russia?
That’s an interesting one. I don’t make the sort of music that the big champagne drinking spenders want to hear. My music is made from the soul and not made to soundtrack somebody’s shallowness. I do okay but it’s my international set-up that makes me what I make. I love travelling and bringing my sounds to different parts of the earth.

Where have you found your music to be the most popular?
Well, the USA has been good as has Australia and parts of Europe; UK, Germany, France etc. They are always great parties.

What attributes (musically and personality-wise) have you acquired from growing up in Russia?
I guess my surroundings have dictated my album and my sounds. There is an undoubted bleakness here and coldness & aggression – however there is also hope and great beauty here. I grew up with the world using Russia as the bad guy in many films. The reality is very different. Come over sometime! You will have fun.

Do you ever feel pressured to be the opposite to those ‘bad guys’ in films? Do you think that has affected the national psyche to a degree?
No No! People must understand we Russians have a tough sense of humour too. At times I guess it annoyed some people but it created a perception of this place. It’s funny. I like it!

What are you hoping to achieve with your two-part album?
I want to summon the apocalypse with this record. It’s a personal achievement to release an album as a producer, and to be able to tour this is a really great thing.

What are your plans beyond the album?
Well I want to tour this. Take a short break. Finish up some remixes and I hope to be working with somebody pretty special soon. Also my USA tour begins this summer. Then I start writing all my new music. So bring it on.

Proxy’s debut album Music From The Eastblock Jungles Part 1 & 2 is out now on Turbo Recordings worldwide and Dim Mak in North America

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