"The country has been through so many terrible moments in our history that maybe things have shifted to just being in the moment - about facing what's in front of you."
Philipp Gorbachev has been gently simmering away at the heart of Moscow’s electronic music scene for some years. The producer began releasing singles in 2011 before a debut album, ‘Silver Album’, was released in 2014 on Matias Aguayo’s hip Berlin label Cómeme. Gorbachev followed it with ‘Unlock the Box’ in 2016, this time on his own label, PG Tunes.
His music blends techno, house, avant-garde dance and the jagged edges of post-punk. Ultimately, it always very much feels like a live dance group more than a purely electronic one. Which makes sense, because as a young boy growing up in Moscow this was his intro into the world. “My mum took me to see groups like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, David Bowie, and Einstürzende Neubauten,” he tells me from Berlin, where he splits his time with living in Moscow. “So my main introduction to music was not through buying records but through listening to it live and I think this really changed my life.”
On top of having parents with tastes that many would find envious, he was also growing up in a period of vast change in Moscow, amongst the collapse of the Soviet Union and the birth of rave culture. They were key developments, he explains. “For most people where you live there is a backstory to friends and family, a history of where people have lived etc., but in my country when the Soviets came to power, many millions of people died. Millions of people who had their own opinion and wanted to do something good have been killed by the state and millions of people have been thrown in jail all of their lives. Plus there’s all those who died in the Second World War,” he says with a palpable poignancy in his voice.
“Then in ’89 when Soviet power cracked completely, the ’90s in Russia was… it wasn’t like the ’90s in the traditional sense, like people think of grunge and MTV. It was total anarchy everywhere. If you wanted to sell something like Coca Cola, then you would have been the first businessman who is selling these sorts of things; if you’re throwing a rave then it’s going to be the first rave in the country. The absolute first ever rave in the whole country, without any history and without any connection to the international context. You start from scratch. I was very happy to live in a country where everybody was starting from scratch and was a little bit confused.”
The wipe the slate clean feeling amongst people meant the birthing of new identities, new sounds and, well, new everything. It’s the melting pot approach that Gorbachev hangs onto today, as he reflects back on that period. “I grew up in a super funny time,” he says. “There were no rules, just total anarchy – no state, the society was very young and everyone was digging out their own model of how they feel. It had nothing to do with being proud of being Russian, no nationalism at all.”