In response to Russian President Putin’s unprecedented and unprovoked military attack against Ukraine, the EU adopted a “comprehensive and robust package of restrictive sanctions designed to:
-cripple the Kremlin’s ability to finance the war
-impose clear economic and political costs on Russia’s political elite responsible for invasion
-and diminish its economic base”
A fifth round of sanctions was approved on April 8 with an additional 217 individuals and 18 entities now been sanctioned. “This includes all 179 members of the so-called ‘governments’ and ‘parliaments’ of Donetsk and Luhansk. In total, 1091 individuals and 80 entities have been sanctioned since 2014.”
In Ukraine, the representatives of the music community called for a ban on the Russian music scene urging all interested parties to:
- Cancel all cooperation with Russian artists, promoters, clubs, organizations, who do not actively resist the actions of their government and do not explicitly take action to stop the Russian military invasion of Ukraine;
- Demand that every citizen of The Russian Federation takes to the streets to protests against the war in Ukraine, or resists silently by boycotting his/her job, and sabotaging Russia in any other possible way;
- Remove all representatives affiliated with the Russian state from the supervisory and advisory boards of your organizations;
- Refuse any donations, funding or sponsorship from Russian organizations and their affiliates based in other countries.
APRIL 5 2022 TALLIN, ESTONIA
Dmytro Nikolaienko Muscut
My name is Dmytro (aka Dima), I have a sound artist project under my surname Nikolaienko. I was born in 1984 in Dnipro, Ukraine (the Soviet Union at that time). My debut album Loops and Cuts Soup was released in 2010 on the Ukrainian label Nexsoud run by Andrey Kiritchenko. A few other LPs The Sounds Of Pseudoscience (2015) and Ode To The Sea (with Indirect, 2016) were released on my own label Muscut. My recent album Rings was released last year on Jan Jelinek’s label Faitiche.
There is also an upcoming LP Nostalgia Por Mesozóica which will be released next month on Muscut. There are also a few singles, solo and collaborations with such artists as Tapes and Arthur Mine. Contributions to such labels as 12th Isle, Porridge Bullet, Urvakan and Kvitnu.
As a musician, what is your set-up and favourite piece of hard/software?
All these works that I mentioned are united by a love for outdated equipment, magnetic tape and a technique of making music from when all that gear was relevant back in the 60—80s. I don’t know where this love came from, but it’s just the only way to make music for me. I enjoyed it when modular synths came out a decade ago. I also notice how, more and more, other artists use the outdated gear and tape techniques, the 4-track cassette recorders etc. I enjoy that instrumentalisation of the past, which can also be observed in the movie industry. The film cameras are still used for some very special movies, or when they shoot on digital and then process the final cut with film (the latest example is Dune).
Could you talk about how Muscut came about?
This year is the 10th anniversary of the label. It was founded in Kyiv in March 2012, when its debut 7” compilation came out, including tracks from Andrew Pekler, Yuri Lugovskoy, Fleischmarkt and me. The label’s idea focused on Eastern Europe with occasional cameos from international musicians. Sound-wise, I wanted to gather the artists who share some aesthetic similarities. That, which I found out later in the book by Mark Fisher (Ghosts of my life), was called “hauntology”.
Shukai is the archive sublabel you co-run together with Dmytro Prutkin, and Sasha Tsapenko focused on bringing back to life the lost tapes from 60—90s, Soviet music for films and television. Could you give us an idea of what the experimental music scene was like in Ukraine in Soviet times?
During the Soviet occupation, in the 70s, it was not allowed to have rock or jazz bands, so the musicians were making that music under the “folk” label, which wasn’t banned. Much good music came under that camouflage, like the Shapoval Sextet that we released a few years ago. I would recommend watching the Moustache Funk documentary about that phenomenon, as it also contains some of our releases and a lot of fun facts from that era.
You released the fundraiser compilation: ВОЛЯ on March 14th featuring a number of artists on your label. How did you go about curating it and what has the response been?
It was helpful. Through that compilation, we’ve raised about 2,5k euro (8k from all the releases from February 24). After the release, which collected positive feedback, I’ve asked at least five artists to record the LPs for the label!
You have signed the open letter from the Ukrainian electronic music scene calling for a ban on the Russian music scene. On your website, you also worte, “For the past ten years, the Ukrainian label Muscut has been a home for many Russian artists. We’ve shared good together. Why are you completely silent now?”
I can understand how this must be problematic and difficult for Muscut. That said, there have been Russian artists who have spoken out against the war putting themselves at risk and have contributed to fundraising compilations against the war. Leaving the country is not an option open to everyone.
I can see why collaborations are not considered possible at present, and I am not trying to play devil’s advocate, but shouldn’t those voices still be heard?
The open letter from the Ukrainian electronic music scene that we signed does not call to ban all Russian artists, but only those who are silent. There are still Russian artists that aren’t silent. They spread the word, and they find ways to make veiled messages without putting themselves at risk (I’m thankful to those Russian artists who support us and spread the word despite all difficulties).
It wasn’t an easy decision for me to cancel the upcoming release and some from the past, but those artists haven’t done anything. They are completely silent, and I know from the private conversations that some believe Russian propaganda, unfortunately. Some of them cannot simply accept that their government is brutally lying to them.
I cannot even imagine how it feels, but still, it’s their responsibility to overcome that feeling and find true information. They say, “Not everything is so clear”. No, it is clear – your authoritarian country, without free elections and without opposition, tries to occupy my free, liberal, democratic country.
No government is perfect, there are countries in the West to blame for crimes, but the evil proportions are not comparable! In democratic countries there is a turnover of power – in Russia, this has not been the case since 2000.
You are currently based in Estonia. How is the war viewed from there, especially considering the country shares a direct border with Russia and contributes to NATO and the EU?
Estonia helps Ukraine a lot, and it’s the third country from the top that provides humanitarian and military aid. The Estonians see everything as it is, and they have a deep understanding of what it means to be occupied by Russia from a historical retrospective.
In accordance with the Government’s decision, “Ukrainian citizens and their family members who fled the country after the Russian military aggression started on 24 February are granted temporary protection in Estonia, which means they receive an Estonian residence permit valid for one year.”
To your knowledge, are there many Ukrainian refugees at present in Estonia?
There are many here, about 20k, but I haven’t heard any from my circle. Maybe I’ll find out some connections later; we will see. The most popular destinations are Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic – similar languages and climates. Most of the people who left will not stay abroad for long, and everybody wants to go back and rebuild the country, including me.
Having to watch events unfolding in Ukraine remotely can be especially hard, what has the impact of war been on you, and your family and friends still in Ukraine?
Almost all my friends and relatives are in Ukraine now, including my Shukai colleagues Dmytro and Sasha, my parents, and two younger brothers. My parents don’t want to evacuate, and they don’t want to abandon the house and become refugees. Their everyday routine is to hear the sound of sirens and hide in the basement. I call them every day and try to convince them to leave.
Did the events of the Orange Revolution and Maidan help the artistic community to shape their response to the war?
This war looks like a full-scale Maidan. Only the territory now is the whole of Ukraine, instead of a few hundred square meters. People were prepared, as everybody can see now. Unfortunately, they were not ready for the war crimes in Bucha — nobody expected that. If the civilians had guns, maybe it wouldn’t have been as brutal.
We knew what Putin was from the beginning of the Orange revolution in 2004. That was the year I became politically conscious. I remember Georgia’s occupation in 2008 very clearly (it was August, and I was in Crimea). Then: Syria, the annexation of Crimea, and the occupation of Donbas. Murders of political opposition in Russia. And here’s the thing. While the majority of Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Georgian artists are politically conscious — most Russian artists have constantly been telling me that they are apolitical. This must be changed.
With so many people displaced, what can be done to support the artistic community?
We see and feel help and support. All the Western cities are all over the Ukrainian flags and lights. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the festivals, as I still see that the line-ups of many of the famous ones are without any Ukrainian musicians. Despite the actualisation of Ukrainian culture on the agenda, the curators still don’t see a point in inviting Ukrainian artists. This must be changed.
Are you still able to listen to / compose / perform / release music at present?
No, I’m not able to do all that anymore. From February 24th, it’s hard to think about music. The exception was only the compilation and a few mixes to promote my fellow countrymen. All my activities now switched to donations to the volunteers and spreading the word.
On a more “technical” issue, I understand that PayPal has now enabled Ukrainian accounts to receive money, whereas up until recently they could only use it to send money. This is not something that personally I was previously aware of. How did that shape streaming services in Ukraine?
On the first days of the war, I posted on social media that the real help for the Ukrainian artists’ community would be a fully operational Paypal – which it is now (before the war, the “receive” function was not available in Ukraine). Paypal is the only way to get money from Bandcamp, for example, and now it helps a lot and helps thousands of humanitarian and defence volunteers all over Ukraine.
Finally, could you recommend a book / film / artwork / podcast / series that best captures Ukraine for you?
Maidan, by Sergei Loznitsa (a great documentary film about Maidan); Donbas, by Sergei Loznitsa (great feature film about the occupation of the eastern Ukrainian cities by Russia started in 2014); Moustache Funk (nice documentary film about the phenomena of Ukrainian underground music during soviet times) and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, by Sergei Parajanov (classic!)
APRIL 6 2022 INTERNALLY DISPLACED
Vogel Ray Troxellemott
Well, hello world, I’m Vogel Ray, I escaped from Kyiv and my music project is called troxellemott.
I was born in Zaporizhzhia. I have no musical education. To begin with, I was listening to indie/trip-hop/all-that-music-with-guitars and playing drums. I had no clue what the letters I, D, M meant until I discovered Trifonic and, by chance, a friend took me to a live performance by r.roo.
Then I suddenly realised that I had been listening to Amon Tobin for several years already and… a kind of self-identification happened. It was unspeakably much more fun than guitars, because you literally could produce any sound in the universe.
What is your set-up and favourite piece of hard/software?
I’m the-laptop-guy kind of musician and never had any impressive set-up. It’s just my computer and Ableton Push 2. I’m really not that much interested in collecting hardware. I’d rather build my own DIY strange devices and at some point I nearly started circuit bending experiments (a huge inspiration came from Ereh Saw). I think it’s the first thing I’ll try to recover after the war (I’d be happy if that happened earlier).
How did you go about composing the soundtrack for the art installation about Chernobyl?
It was my friend’s [the artist Margarita Hasanova] project for a festival and I used pictures to catch the vibe. I always use pictures, I think I wouldn’t be able to make music without looking at an image or picturing some kind of fictional or real landscape.
How would you describe the experimental scene in Kyiv and Kharkiv and Ukraine in general?
I love them both. Or rather, all three. But the Kyiv scene seemed to be a bit overwhelming, whereas in Kharkiv I felt I could do anything. It was really inspiring and liberating, we had plenty of ideas that remain unrealised.
How is the situation unfolding in Kyiv and how would you describe the impact of war on you, your family and your friends?
Although Kyiv continues to be a super dangerous place because of the rocket shelling, a lot of my friends and relatives decided to stay in the city. Life there is surrealistically beautiful, with all that underground shelters and the sound of sirens accompanied by church bells.
Everybody now has a track with an air raid siren. But I fled. And the siren in my track Trauma is not from Kyiv, it was written months before the war. So, it’s kind of a strange case of prediction. Trauma also contains children’s voices and arriving trains. It reminds me of the evacuation trains we took together with hundreds of thousands other people to reach the Western Ukraine.
As for me, the war brought depression. Heavier than I had before. With an infinite number of reasons for that.
With so many people displaced, what can be done to support the artistic community?
I really think that the artistic community is coping well with the situation.
People help each other on an unbelievable level. They crowdfund on an industrial scale, they host and coordinate refugees, they buy military equipment for the territorial defence forces, organise fundraising concerts, feed the hungry and take part in the information war.
It’s not just about the artistic community, but all Ukrainian people have now turned into battle angels of help. I’m sure this is the biggest of our advantages in the war against the aggressor.
Are you still able to listen to / compose / perform music at present?
I have difficulties with that. For example, I can’t listen to my husband’s music without crying every single time I try. But I’m going to finish and release my debut LP Ankht that was meant to be released just after the war started. Ankht means “anxiety” and there’s blood on the cover art, and the fucking sirens… so, when, if not now?
APRIL 6 2022 INTERNALLY DISPLACED
Dmytro Avksentiev Koloah Voin Oruwu Tropical Echobird
I am a sound producer, director and artist from Kyiv, Ukraine. For more than 15 years I have been making music and performing under different aliases + do a lot of stuff for movies, theaters, tv commercials, etc… You might know me as Koloah, Voin Oruwu or Tropical Echobird.
How would you characterise the techno and electronic scene in Kyiv, both in terms of venues and labels and how does that compare to the rest of the country?
I think that the Kyiv electronic scene is one of the most interesting and original underground music scenes in Europe. For past 10 years it has been constantly growing to become more and more unique. Now in Kyiv there are a lot of cool clubs, labels. There are many festivals and the number of people visiting is constantly growing. I would also like to note the unique style of artists who are improving and developing their own sound. Not copying others.
In an interview with Âught magazine, to the question, “Do you think Kiev has its own sound?”, you indicated that, “Kiev has its own lifestyle, its own rhythm.” Did the pandemic alter that, and do you fear that the war will dissipate its unique spirit?
I think that pandemic, in some way, even played into our hands because during the second wave, while all world was in lockdown, we had sick parties and festivals and all Europe was raving in Kyiv. War can dissipate it, but not destroy it. I believe that when we win this war Kyiv, and the whole of Ukraine, will be become a hot spot on the world’s map of art and music.
Did the events of the Orange Revolution and Maidan help the artistic community to shape their response to current events?
Kind of, I guess. The Orange Revolution, Maidan, COVID, now this war. Too many trials for our young country. But Ukrainians are very strong people. We are hard to break. And after all this is over we will be even stronger.
You signed the open letter from the Ukrainian electronic music scene. How would you qualify the response of the international dance community to the war and is there more that could be done to help Ukrainian artists?
I think that not all artist understand WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE. I am very disappointed by this. While atrocities are being committed, a lot of people from the community are suggesting to us that we should find a solution and make peace. What the fuck is the solution? How else can you relate if 80% of russians support this war and this violence and sincerely wish us death?? For me, this nation is scum. The world community does not want to get to the bottom of things and think that they understand everything from their point of view, whilst pretending to give us advice from their comfortable, and heated European apartments, at a time when monstrous attacks and genocide of the nation are taking place here…
Also I want to add that now all our male artists are stuck in the country without opportunity to perform because we can’t cross the border. Some of them retrained and are doing other things: volunteering, fighting or doing some kind of job they never did just to earn some money. But some are still making music without any profit and means of living. So, if you can, support our artists by buying their music [Support Ukraine Artists & Labels spreadsheet].
The late, queer British filmmaker Derek Jarman talked about dancing as a political act during the AIDS and Clause 28 years. Does electronic and techno music have a role to play at present?
Music cannot be out of politics nowadays. We are living in such a time. And those who say otherwise just want to turn a blind eye to the terrible things that are happening around. Music is also a tool. In war, all means are good. If music can somehow hasten the day of our victory, I will use these weapons along with others.
What’s been the impact of war on you, your family and your friends?
Well, at present, 24-28 February have been the worse days in my life. I can’t even describe to you what I felt then and what my life was. Now we are kind of used to living under these conditions and we are trying to deal with it somehow. And I can even make music from time to time in the intervals between the sounds of air raids announcing missile attacks. It’s fucking crazy. I would never have imagined that I would ever live in times like these. But thank God I’m alive and all my loved ones too.
Are you still able to listen to / produce / release music at present?
For the first 20 days I could not. I was in shock. I am still in shock, btw, but now I can deal with it. So, I tried to help and do what I can, volunteering, etc.
Then, when my mind was ready, I tried to make music and step by step I even finished the ambient album I started to produce just before the war. It will be out 15 of April. You can support our refugee fund by buying it on bandcamp [Serenity by Koloah is available on pre order].
Are you able to think about the future?
It’s the only thing that keeps me going.
You are heavily into cinema as well, could you recommend a film that captures Ukraine for you?
It’s definitely the movie by the great visioneer Valentyn Vasyanovych called Atlantis (2019), it’s worth watching.
APRIL 7 2022 – POLAND
Katerina Yan Waveskania
I’m a Ukrainian artist and sound producer. I created the Waveskania project in the summer of 2019 for my own meditation and experiments, which sometimes I would share with those interested in DIY, Lo-Fi and experimental musical aesthetics.
Before that, for almost 15 years, I was studying various aspects of musical creativity, I organised local events in my hometown and together with a colleague/partner in life released more than 100 hours of music under a different project.
Later, that project was closed and I continued my musical path already as Waveskania, producing ambient/drone, as well as electro, techno, downtempo and minimalism stuff.
Now I work in a multigenre area, in which different musical directions can be combined together, bizarrely and cinematographically, under the general tag “underground non-commercial electronic music.”
Ideally, I try not to be limited to certain tools and I use everything that comes to hand to make the palette and the structure of sounds more diverse, and to achieve a deeper and more comprehensive experience.
However, at present, my favourite toolkit is perhaps the Zoom H4N Pro that I use for field recordings (unfortunately, now it works only as a dictaphone and isn’t available as an audio card/recorder). I later send the field recordings to the semi-module Gleetchlab app for post-processing, or to my compact Elektron Digitakt sampler, where I manipulate the sound further (such as changing the point/start of loop, retriggering, lowering the bits of a sample, lfo-modulation and so on…).
Also, as a reference to create an audio track, I like to use my own samples recorded with early analog and digital equipment, which I have been collecting for 10 years. Alternatively, I use software (one of my favourite digital audio software companies is Arturia) that allows me to find and create interesting sound combinations. Then, with a sampler and/or DAW I bring the sound to the end result (mostly through Reaper and Ableton).
Considering your Waveskania project was created in the summer of 2019, you have been very productive in such a short period of time, achieving a highly accomplished sound. Would you say you have found your musical voice or are you still exploring different avenues?
I research actual musical concepts, their combination and application in the context of my vision, whilst also trying to deepen previously acquired knowledge. So, I can say that I found some “formulas” that make the sound of Waveskania recognisable. On the other hand, because I like to use various musical techniques, and do not limit myself to a specific genre, I am also in a constant process of exploring different directions and influences.
You put your time during the pandemic to good use, with works like Gutters Drum inspired by lockdown. Does music help in times of adversity?
Music has always had a special impact on my psyche. At first, this process was intuitive, then it became more conscious, opening new ways of perception and methods for “setting” brainwaves.
For example, for many people it is no secret that when we listen to what we perceive as “unpleasant” sounds, we can observe blood pressure changes, sweating, allergic reactions on the skin and other amazing symptoms, whereas, the music we perceive as positive/pleasant, has a soothing effect and contributes to the production of endorphins, dopamine/serotonin/oxytocin and other hormones, relieving stress thanks to the special activation of the pituitary and hypothalamus.
As for Waveskania, I take great interest in the creation of a state in which the brain waves form an increased amplitude and have a lower frequency. This, for example, occurs at certain rhythms of the brain during the slow phase of sleep, in which the waves reach a frequency of 11-15 Hz, which helps to achieve a sense of meditativeness, relaxation, as well as improved memorisation, etc.
This is one of the directions that I find useful personally for myself, because I like to explore not only the aesthetic side of the production process, but also apply available technologies to study the question of the effect of sound on emotions, psyche and behavioural factors.
How would you describe the experimental scene in Kyiv and other parts of the country?
I was born in Kryvyi Rih (Dnipropetrovsk region). I lived in my hometown almost all my life and only recently (a couple of months before the start of the war) I came to live and work in Kyiv. Therefore, I’m not sufficiently aware of the development of the local experimental scene to comment. That said, during my stay in Kyiv, I did attend a number of events, with familiar Ukrainian colleagues and invited projects from abroad. I also had the opportunity to visit the lectures, master classes and jam-session, organised by the school of electronic music Модуль Exchange, and was also invited to a couple of music studios. The way I experienced it, the music scene in Kiev is a constantly developing organism, eclectically absorbing new ideas and open to interaction.
As for Kryvyi Rih, alas, I would say that many years of efforts in creating a stable local electronic scene were not crowned with success. There are several projects that create quite interesting experimental music, but, unfortunately, they don’t play live due to the indifference of the local public and to financial constraints in finding suitable locations and in leasing sound equipment.
Nevertheless, the situation is slowly, but gradually, changing. For example, before I went to Kyiv, the city began to form a community of creative enthusiasts, with whom I organised several eclectic events in the “Winter Garden”, located in the local house of culture. Also, people have begun to periodically hold raves in nature and in abandoned industrial locations, of which there are many in the city.
Are you still in Kyiv, or have you moved to a safer part of the country if not abroad?
Before the war, I planned a trip abroad and managed to leave the capital just a few days before the Russian invasion. War found me in Lviv, where I prepared myself for a trip to Poland, where I’m now.
What has your experience of the war been and have you been able to work on your music during the past few weeks?
Perhaps the most difficult question. My experience of the war consists of fragmentary memories and facts: about a couple of weeks before the start of the war, I realised that the danger was very great, I gathered my things and left. My acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family, and almost everyone was optimistic and stoic.
In Lviv, I found myself having to wait for a train for several days and I spoke with many who left dangerous areas, like Kharkov and Kyiv. Most of them had to leave their apartments, cars, and all their belongings. Some lost their loved ones. I would frequently see crying women and children who were forced to part with their loved ones.
At the station it was possible to find food and drink, and volunteers helped people find a place for the night. It was difficult to get to the train because of the never ending crowds of refugees. People were forced to stand in line for many hours, without even going to the toilet for fear of losing the opportunity to board the train. I saw people passing to each other children aged 1-2 years, who had lost their parents. It’s really sad.
Poland welcomed us very warmly and I was amazed by the fact that so many Poles showed compassion for Ukrainians and offered assistance. Volunteers gave food, essential items, sim cards and advice. Because of the large number of refugees, almost all hostels were crowded. You could meet Ukrainians who tried to work out logistics and settle everywhere.
During the past month, I took out my equipment several times, but I just couldn’t engage. My psyche is blocked and all that I can do now is to listen to music and to look for inspiration in field recordings, trying to recover by walking in the mountains, and preparing for the next step.
You have recently participated in Liberty, the latest fundraising compilation put together by Igor Yalevic and released by Flaming Pines. There has been a lot of support on Bandcamp for this type of work from the international community. What else can be done to help out?
I’m really grateful to Igor for this opportunity and I’m glad that the collection has come to the attention of a large number of people. The situation is such that people around the world gradually begin to get used to war in Ukraine, perceiving it as something latent and ambiguous. Nevertheless, the Ukrainians are in dire need of support, to preserve their fighting spirit and the desire for self-identification, which is very difficult under present circumstances. Here are several useful links: Come Back Alive; Zgraya; Help The Helper; Vera Loganidi; NFNR.
Could you recommend a book / film / artwork / podcast / series about Ukraine?
The Gates of Europe: A Histоry of Ukraine, by Serhii Plokhy. It describes the history of the development of Ukrainian identity in the context of the incessant confrontation of the West and the East.
Ukrainer, a multicultural media project, illuminating the ethnic and anthropological features of the Ukrainian territory, one of the leading missions of which is to overcome mental barriers and stereotypical perception by the Ukrainians of their own country.
The film Mr Jones by Agnieszka Holland, the story of the journalist Gareth Jones and his attempt to expose the truth about the Holodomor.
APRIL 7 2022 INTERNALLY DISPLACED
Oleksiy Sakevych Endless Melancholy
I am a self-taught musician from Kyiv, Ukraine. My main solo-project is Endless Melancholy, where I record different kinds of instrumental music – modern classical, ambient, electronic, etc. I also used to play guitar and keyboards in Sleeping Bear and operate an independent ambient label called Hidden Vibes.
How has your set-up changed over the years and what is your current favourite piece of gear?
When I only started making music I started by using virtual instruments only. Making music «in the box» (by means of computer software only) is always a good starting point – you can experiment all the time and decide which piece of physical gear you would like to get for yourself.
To be honest, I never had a real home studio full of different gear and synths. I never could afford that, both financially and because of lack of space. So my approach to recording music is still combined – I use both physical and digital instruments. As a guitarist I own an electric guitar and a pedalboard, I often use them for adding color to my soundscapes. My favourite pedal is my reverb Strymon Big Sky. I also love my Tascam Porta 02 MKII multitrack tape recorder. The last thing I purchased was a Panasonic RQ-L11 mini cassette recorder. I got it on February 17th and never used it because the war started.
My family and I had to leave Kyiv because it wasn’t a safe place to stay with kids. For more than a month already I have no access to any of this stuff because I am temporarily displaced. Every day I am dreaming of the moment we will be able to say, “OK, now it’s time to go back home.”
You also play with Sleeping Bear and have always been open to collaborations. Indeed you seem to foster a community spirit with your label Hidden Vibes. With so many people displaced, how are you managing to keep connected?
Sadly, with Sleeping Bear we’ve been inactive for at least a couple years already. We put out our last EP called Vorokhtah in March 2020, but it looks like it was our last breath. We haven’t played a show for at least 4 years. Everyone is busy with their own lives.
Talking about keeping connected, well… Internet made our lives much easier. Communicating online, finding new connections, releasing the music – a couple of decades ago these things for a guy like me would have been nearly impossible. I like this small ambient/modern classical internet community. It is small but very open and friendly. Artists, label owners, reviewers – most of these people have never met in real life, but everyone seems to know and support each other.
How would you describe the ambient / experimental scene in Kyiv and Ukraine and is there an audience for it?
I haven’t been very active as a performer lately. For the past couple years I mostly focused on simply living my life. I always preferred just recording music to playing live anyway. But, well, I can say that there used to be places for experimental music in Kyiv for sure (and in some other big cities such as Dnipro, Lviv etc.).
In Kyiv we have a bunch of clubs (Closer, Mezzanine etc.) where experimental artists from all over Europe used to play. There are also some really great artists such as Heinali, Gamardah Fungus and others who play lots of shows all over Ukraine. Mostly it’s in small, cozy venues for 100-200 people.
My favourite live shows in Ukraine happened in Odesa, in the Lutheran Kirche. I played there several times both as Endless Melancholy and with Sleeping Bear, and every time the acoustics were great and we had great feedback from people.
But there are bigger events too. There was this Ólafur Arnalds show scheduled for July 2022 in Kyiv. I’ve been waiting for this for about 10 years, and of course, I got tickets to this show the first day they went on sale. Obviously, it’s not happening anymore because of the war (even though there is no official info yet). Guess I’ll have to wait another 10 years for it to finally happen in Ukraine.
How would you define the impact of war on you, your family and your friends? And could you describe a typical day if there is any such thing?
It’s a nightmare that never ends. We used to live in a civilised and peaceful country, and I could never even imagine that horrible war crimes would’ve become our reality.
Can you imagine trying to save your and your kids’ lives hiding in a bomb shelter? Fleeing your home? Having your relatives being murdered by soldiers? Cities being bombed? Having your home destroyed by a missile and many other terrible things? Neither could I, but it’s a sad reality for millions of us today. I thought we were living in Europe in the year 2022.
Talking about me and my family, we had to leave Kyiv and go to a safer place in Ukraine on the first day of war. The first few days were the most horrible because of the intense battles going on.
A typical day… I actually lost the count of days. Everything that came after February 24th feels like one long day. What I normally do these days is taking care of my family, regularly donating money to the Ukrainian Army and humanitarian institutions, encouraging my followers to do the same via my social networks, spreading the awareness etc.
Are you still able to listen to / compose / perform / release music at present?
It took me a month to slowly start listening to music again, but honestly I don’t enjoy it at all. For me listening to music is about comfort and peace of mind. When it comes to composing music things are different. I have some ideas I would like to put to life but I can’t because, as I said, I have no access to my gear at the moment.
How would you qualify the response of the international experimental community to the war and what is the best way to help?
The response has been tremendous, especially during the first few weeks, and I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who showed their support. I received lots of donations through my Bandcamp accounts though I never asked directly for this. Dozens of people from all over the world sent me words of support. I received many interview and compilation requests, and I appreciate them all, even though I’ve only been able to contribute a piece to For Ukraine Vol. 1 a compilation released through Headphone Commute and curated by Mike Lazarev and Hollie Kenniff. There is also my piece on the compilation Liberty from Flaming Pines label but it’s an old one.
Talking about how one can help… There are numerous ways. Spreading the awareness, going to anti-war meetings in your city are among them. Talking about donations, one of the best options is donating to volunteer foundations helping our Army and refugees such as, for example, Save Life. This one is verified and provides maximum efficient support to those who are in need.
Are you able to think about the future?
My ability to think of future is slowly recovering. There were days at the beginning of this war when I couldn’t even make plans for tomorrow. Then my planning horizon extended for a week ahead, a month ahead… However, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. No one knows when the war will be over and what our country will be like after it. I prefer not to think about it yet. Right now my main focus is keeping my family safe and making my feasible contribution to Ukraine’s victory. What happens after, we’ll think about it later.