PICTUREPLANE ALIVE IN RUSSIA 2013
I left New York City on October 14th and touched down early morning in to Vladivostok, Russia on October 16th, half a world and some 36 or more hours later, tired and delirious, but really excited to begin my Russian adventure. At my 6 hour layover in Moscow, i met up with Vital, who would serve as my tour manager, and the very important roles of translator, travel companion and friend for the duration of my tour. Fun fact, Vital's ex-girlfriend is now Aphex Twin's wife. Vital had promoted my show in Moscow last year, and had decided to undertake the ambitious project of organizing and booking a full 7 city Russian tour for me, this being my 4th time coming to Russia since 2010. A DIY russian tour like this for an underground american artist like myself is virtually unprecedented and most of these cities i had never heard of before i left for the trip. Since my first crazy show in a Moscow club (watch a hilarious and bizarre expose by MTV Russia on that show here ) The Russian youth, who are some of the warmest and open hearted people i have ever met, have really accepted and embraced my music and have told me that i was russian in a past life, or that i was helping them to remember their "russian soul". I think for a lot of Russians, they feel quite isolated in their country, looking on as North America and western Europe gets all of the cultural shine while they are still very much a country in transition, and one that is struggling with something of an identity crisis after the collapse of the soviet union. Getting to travel to Russia so much has made me feel like some sort of cultural ambassador and a positive link between two countries that have lots of misunderstandings and assumptions of one another. It is quite a priviledge, and means so much to me that i am inspiring these people in Russia in a positive way.
Vladivostok is located on the very far east coast of Russia, 20 miles north of North Korea on the Japan Sea. The city was an interesting mix of Russian, Asian, and European influences and sort of resembled San Francisco with all of its hills, bridges and the bay. Vital and i met up with one of the promoters of my show and he showed us around the city for a while. Exploring abandoned buildings filled with garbage and discarded heroin needles, empty carnivals, and some local thrift stores filled with strange japanese trash before going down to the extremely cold water of the Japan Sea. The tide was very high as Vital and i walked out on to a pier posing for photos while getting windblown and wet by the icy cold water crashing over the sides. I kept asking our guide if people in the fishing city of Vladivostok were at all concerned about being so close in proximity to the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, but he just said that no one really cared or thought about it. For some reason during the day, Vital purchased two different bass guitars at two different music stores, noting how much cheaper everything in Vladivostok was compared to Moscow. The show that night was in this sort of brand new arts building, a converted industrial type warehouse space with clothing boutiques and a shop that sold cel phone cases. I performed at a private party for someone who i had no idea who they were. There was an open vodka bar all night and a "casual" but strict dress code enforced by a threatening looking security team who seemed amused and confused by my presence next to most of the guests dressed in high heels, dresses and collard shirts. Russians are used to "face control" in clubs and in situations like this. Face control is basically if you don't look like how the club or the security wants you to look, you are not getting in. Face control has prevented me from getting in to more than a few clubs in Russia. The party was very packed and i think most of the people that were there didn't know who i was and were there for the vodka, but it was a really great show. One of the amazing things to me, about Russia, is how much they love autographs. After the show i was writing on peoples receipts, arms, stomachs, breasts, various electronic music machines, and a guy even had me sign his passport. I try and turn this in to a fun game where i make each autograph unique by writing a personal message each time. It is all quite flattering and fun because this never happens in North America, at least for me. After the show, much to the protest of a group of intoxicated kids wanting to party with us, Vital and I returned to our hostel for some much needed rest, waking up before the crack of dawn to catch our very long flight back across the entire country to St. Petersburg. Our personal driver picked us up that morning and drove us 40 minutes to the airport, blasting drum and bass music as the red sun of dawn sun pierced through the black smoke choking the sky from the factories in the countryside outside the city. it was beautiful.
live in vladivostok
Enjoying the free Wi-Fi and Drinking a 14 dollar beer at a bar in the Moscow airport during our layover, i realized that i had, in a tired daze, left my journal and my book i was reading on the plane, which was still sitting at the gate. Leaving anything behind in Russia is not good. You have a very little chance of ever seeing anything you lose again, but i figured that no one would have any use for my journal full of weird drawings and writings but me. but for some reason, they weren't able to find it on the plane, not giving me any other reason other that saying it had been thrown away by the cleaners. I was pretty angry and bummed out, there was close to a years worth of work and memories recorded in the journal and unrecorded song lyrics written in there. i still don't understand how it just vanished like that. We showed up to St. Petersburg that night, hours later, checked in to a hostel, showered and had to immediately then go start setting up for the show. St. Petersburg is an extremely beautiful city, with its mind blowing architecture and city canals, unfortunately i didnt get to see any sights this day because there was just no time. My show that night was in a really nice brand new contemporary art museum, called Erarta . It was an early show and i was the only performance. That night i projected a Youtube playlist i had created on a giant screen behind me while i played. Mostly of hilarious and paranoid found reptilian shapeshifting conspiracy videos. the problem with projecting a youtube playlist, is that it also projects the advertisements. So between videos of close up slow motion shots of Angelina Jolie's reptile eyeballs, there would be some random toothpaste commercial. i thought it was great. Everyone was really happy but the show was mild and small, there was no alcohol served, and i think people are always a bit unsure how to act when inside of a contemporary art space as opposed to a club. Afterwards i signed some more funny autographs and a guy took his sweaty t shirt off his back and gave it to me as a gift. Vital and I went out for some beers after the show with some friends but basically had to get right on an all night 12 hour Train headed for Moscow. I spent a total of about 6 hours in St Petersburg.
We woke up at 8 am as the train pulled in to Moscow Central Station. Looking like some haggard weirdos, we were immediately profiled and stopped by Police officers while some plain clothes narc looking guy started yelling at Vital. They argued in Russian for about ten minutes while the police stared me down, i didnt know what the hell was going on i was a little nervous because you do not want to fuck with the russian police. After a while. they let us go. Vital explained that they had kept demanding him to "hand over our drugs" and that they knew that we were carrying (we didnt have any). They threatened to search us which would have been bad, as Vital explained they most likely would have planted drugs in our bags then demanded money from us. So i guess we got off lucky. Hello Moscow! We flagged down a car to head to Vital's house. In Russia, if you want a ride, all you have to do is just stick out your hand and a random car will pull up to you and ask you where you want to go, it is its own micro economy. It is of course a little dangerous, but it is always far cheaper than a regular taxi, and no one thinks twice about it. We chilled at Vital's apartment for a while eating breakfast with his roommates and catching up on some email shit before heading down to some offices for an online music site, like a russian pitchfork, where i did a live streaming DJ set of all russian trance music that i had downloaded the day before, but played all slowed down to 100BPM. It was pretty goofy and casual as i just ate breakfast pastries and drank coffee the whole time. Meeting us there was my close friend, Maria, who i had met my first time in Moscow in 2010. Maria and i have stayed in contact over the years and we hang out and have crazy times together whenever i am in Russia. She is a total goddess of inspiration, and has always come to my rescue in a country that can be confusing and disorienting, a legendary muse of the highest degree. After the DJ set, we left to go to soundcheck at the club where i would be performing that night, Solyanka. Solyanka is a high end club for more adventurous sounds and the people with a taste for them. They have an incredible Funktion One sound system (some of the best speaker systems in the world) and a really fancy dinner menu. Its a sick spot. I got to eat some borscht (traditional russian beet stew, i am obsessed) before Maria and i headed back to the cute hostel that i was staying at to nap and chill out for a while.
cathedral in moscow made infamous as it was the location of pussy riot's "punk prayer"
maria backstage at solyanka club
Walking back to the club for the show, i was talking with Maria about Russia's increasingly harsh and conservative stance towards LGBTQ individuals. I think because of this, it is common for a lot of people in America to make negative generalizations about Russia just from what we see online, (with some good reason of course). Maria, being someone who has been in relationships with women, was explaining to me how, in the cities, it is just not this way. Most young Russians in cities are progressive and very tolerant and welcoming to gays and lesbians. the intolerance is really mostly due to their mafia style government of old men who are stuck in soviet times, trying to win over the opinions of the more conservative working class people, people who are more comfortable with Russia's past than its future. Maria stated that Russia will not change until all of these men die. She equated it much to America, where we have a conservative government and most people who support that conservative agenda live in more rural communities, and it is rare to witness it first hand unless you are trying to surround yourself with people who think that way. Before i had left on this trip, i had people telling me i should boycott Russia because of its stance towards homosexuals, which i just found to be terribly counterproductive. The russian people shouldn't be blamed or punished, as they are victims of a highly corrupt and conservative government that doesn't have the best interests of the people in mind, much as we are in America.
The show that night was insane. Opening for me were some of my friends, The Stoned Boys, who helped bring me to Russia and played at my first Moscow show in 2010. They were playing all new shit, real next level driving acid techno with all live electronics, sort of like Moscow's answer to Teengirl Fantasy. It was incredible. Russian youth really know how to party, and I brought the house down. One of those moments in your life where you get affirmation that all is good and you are on the correct path in the decisions you have made. Maria and i didnt leave the club until 6 am. After doing bumps of coke with some weird dude in a bathroom, we walked around an empty Red Square as the sun rose tripping out on Russia's incredible history on that spot. It is just a really powerful and intense place. It is true that after the construction of St. Basil's cathedral was finished, the Tzar at the time had the architects eyeballs removed so he could never create anything as beautiful. Brutal.
the stoned boys in moscow
st. basil's cathedral in red square
old public execution spot in red square
We woke up at the hostel the next night at around 6pm and went out for American style hamburgers in some funny restaurant with Route 66 posters and pictures of cowboys and shit, which i guess is a very new and popular trend in Moscow now, "american food". i must say, being like 15 dollars, my burger sucked. After our american meal, Maria and i went to Andrew's house from the stoned boys where a bunch of people were chilling drinking vodka. They are such sweet hearts and have a really cool crew of artist and musician friends, like this rad band Glintshake. We spent a few hours bonding over grunge band music videos from the 90's between vodka shots before i had to head to another club where i was DJing that night. I later Djed for about two hours and met this amazing girl who had an enormous "real is a feeling" tattoos right above her ass. I told her she ruled i would always be her friend. It was a great night but Vital and I were pretty drunk and had to leave the club to go to the airport for a 8am flight.
chilling 8am at the airport
pure vibes in the club in moscow
When we arrived at the airport they wouldnt let us on the plane because i guess we showed up 5 minutes too late to check in. So Vital and i had to sit in the airport for about 7 hours waiting for another plane to take us to Togliatti, a town i had never heard of. It was really fucked. Having not slept, we got to Togliatti very late and had to go straight to the club where i was to perform. Togliatti is a small industrial city, with really nothing there except a huge automobile factory which i guess employs over 100 thousand people. At the show, i was feeling pretty fucked up from not sleeping, performing to a small crowd of maybe 20 people thinking to myself, how am i even here in this place right now? It was surreal. One awesome thing was some really cool friends i had made from previous trips to Russia, drove 5 hours from their city of Kazan to hang out and see the show. A really sweet crew who i had some deep bonding moments tripping on ecstasy with inside of a rural house the year before. Kazan is also where i filmed my video for "black nails" After the show, i was exhausted, and we all went back to this strange sort of hostel/house where i slept for about an hour before Vital and i had to be up again to go back to the airport for a super early flight to Ekaterinburg. Another city i had never heard of. Times like these are why you always see musicians wearing sunglasses.
We got to Ekaterinburg and drove straight to the hostel we were staying at and immediately passed out for a good 7 hours, we had been awake and drunk on vodka for nearly 3 days! Later that night i performed in a really beautiful club built out of a converted soviet textile warehouse. The promoters had somehow managed to collect all of these enormous plants from the local library, which were put behind me while i played as the room was filled with smoke and lasers. There was also a glowing case of red bull that i thought was a nice touch. Tons of kids came out and went totally bananas during my set, riding on each other shoulders and moshing around, everyone said they had never seen a monday night be so crazy. That night i got a great compliment, this girl came up to me and said "i dont know what this music is, but you turn me to wild dog" I felt rejuvinated and alive. The next day we had a much needed day off and spent it exploring Ekaterinburg, which is a really crazy looking city. There is an extreme juxtaposition between hyper modern architecture and decaying soviet buildings and large abandoned warehouses. We walked along a winding river filled with trash and ducks as it was snowing and came across some awesomely weird public sculpture of an enormous computer keyboard. The photo of me standing on the keys is for some reason my most liked instagram of all time. I guess people like to like stuff that has to do with computers while they are on computers. We found a restaurant that served some borscht, because i was feinding, and later went back to the club i had performed the previous night so we could drink beer and espresso and watch a man play Tchaikovsky on a grand piano. A sublime russian experience. That night while we slept in the same room, Vital and i both had dreams about pouring gasoline on things and setting them on fire.
It was another super early morning heading to the airport, this time flying in the smallest plane i've ever seen to Ufa, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Ufa) another city i had never heard of. That day we hooked up with the promoters of the show and they showed us around the city, taking me to these wild industrial slums and this burnt out and abandoned soviet observatory on the top of a large hill, looking out for miles over a vast river that snaked off in to the russian horizon. After, we got to go to one of the promoter's mothers house for a home cooked meal of meat and potatoes with pickled green tomatoes. His mother spoke no english, but i kept thanking her for the meal, it was just so nice to sit down and eat a warm meal made with love in someones home. It was a really honest and passionate moment, and things like that are one of the reasons i really love DIY touring. The show that night was in a small club packed with people. Everyone seemed so happy and genuinely tripped out and appreciative that an American artist was there. I had a great time. Afterwards, this man approached Vital and I inviting us to this other club that he owned, where he threw a makeshift private after party in this super empty but lavish club. He kept bringing bottle after bottle over of expensive russian vodka just for our small table of people. It was like the whole club was our own VIP room. I dont remember too much after that but we were really going for it because i was going home the next day. I woke up in our hostel to the promoter guy asking me to sign 5 autographs on separate pieces of paper for his friends and family, Which i thought was just a hilarious way to wake up. my surreal life. We drank green tea and hugged goodbye as Vital and i headed to the airport, in mutual agreement that we had just had a great fucking tour.
There really is no place like Mother Russia.