Boiler Room are back in the US-, back in the US-, back in the USSR. Ahead of the Russian edition of Ballantine’s Stay True on Thursday – session details here, and more on ‘Soviet Boom Bap’ here – on Monday we’ll be investigating Moscow’s murkier waters. Read on.
Johns’ Kingdom began a year and a half ago when a small group of friends decided to organize a party for insiders at the Ypsilon club. There they performed music created by any means available, sometimes lacking particular skill, but always with an urge to express themselves and discuss it in a community with similar views on music and creativity in general. No more than 30 people were in attendance.
Following that the group made a trip to Yalta; gigged in Odessa; organized DIY out of town performances and held new parties. Thus, somewhat informally Johns’ Kingdom – a community, cassette label, VK musical public group, strange sect, and occasional party series – appeared.
No one seems to know a great deal about them, as they don’t provide much detail (besides calling themselves a group of pretty unknown artists), bringing out new sounds of their projects such as Buttechno, Is My Lover, 8ousyboy, Sadist Black Cat Jeff Boomhauer, Kedr Livansky, Ebb Loops, and others via social networks instead.
Now they have a VK public page with almost 2000 followers, a series of gigs at NII, Dazed writes about them and their music accompanies a film by Andrey Loshak. Nevertheless it hasn’t got much clearer since. Though it’s safe to say that Johns’ Kingdom is something interesting, alive and genuine.
We spoke with a member of the community who, following the concept of unknown artists, preferred to remain anonymous.
BOILER ROOM: Take it away.
JOHNS’ KINGDOM: Nowadays DIY record labels are too plentiful even in Russia. Usually they do great stuff. “We started our new label and we want to…” Us, we don’t want anything; no label, nothing.
A good example here is Ildar Zaynetdinov and his label GOST Zvuk. These people are deeply into music and have been dealing with it for a long time. They are real musicians, producers with lots of experience and long musical history. Such professional approach is the way to do things.
To get right to the core of it – Johns’ Kingdom isn’t a label, nor do you want it to be one?
Right, it’s not and we’re not musicians or producers in the usual sense. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not.
What in particular do you mean?
For one, a person trying to change Russian music. Some say: “I’m looking for talents to represent Russia on the global musical scene.” We don’t have such a goal. Others say: “We want to change people, get something across to them.” We don’t. Everyone’s doing their own thing, following their own aims.
It is impossible to predict a common future when you’re dealing with a group of people.
How do you value your own music? What’s your attitude towards recorded material?
This changes daily. It’s all about honesty. Naturally, you look back at half-year-old stuff everyday, thinking: “Damn, what was I doing with this shit?” And that’s a good thing if you’re able too understand how bad it was and to move on.
I don’t like anyone who begins with copying appearances and attributes. Now they say there’s a new generation of techno-musicians. I say: “If you think you make techno, chances are you make shit”. Genre limitations are stupid.
Of course, I’d like to become a real pro with expensive synthesizers and tons of gear. On the other hand, I know people with great equipment, whose rooms are stacked with drum-machines, but the music they make is utterly terrible. There are opposite examples as well. The thing is not to let music itself get lost behind.
What will happen to Johns’ Kingdom if you become professionals?
Most likely, it will fall apart. Some grow quickly than others and everybody have their own goals. Some will keep sitting in a closet, pushing a button and feel great. I’m more interested in going places, meeting people and sharing experience.
So you haven’t agreed upon what you’re going to do next?
That’s impossible. It is impossible to predict a common future when you’re dealing with a group of people. Everyone looks for a thing of their own. Most likely it will grow and burst apart, leaving a legend. Our first disc is called The Great Lost Sounds of Johns’ Kingdom and everything will get back to this very disc. People would say: “He was a part of the Kingdom at some point”.
There was a filmmaking movement called Dogme 95, which is a nice example of a group of artists united by a manifest. The movies were called Dogme 01, Dogme 02 and so on, while the director’s name wasn’t specified. Dogme 95 plays a very important role in Lars von Trier’s biography. Nowadays the movement isn’t functional – it’s even funny to imagine von Trier and Vinterberg sitting together in 2015, writing some manifests. Both of them gone crazy in their own ways and that’s good.
Whatever genre tag your shit receives is decided without you.
Do you have a common manifest?
There are some depictive aspects, such as the ‘Untitled United’ motto, which speaks for itself.
The way it works now, everything gets divided into genres for various audience. Electro this way, techno that way. Young people who read articles about it think: “I should start making something like that”, or, god forbid, “I’m going to make techno”. Though it’s not the point. Whatever genre tag your shit receives is decided without you.
Given that, how does one start making honest music?
That’s hard. You can spend weeks making nothing but shit, when suddenly something happens and you realize that you on the right track. And you’re lost for three more days.
Clichés are hard to get rid of as well. Let’s say there’s an album I like and as I try to make something of my own I realize that I think in patterns I’ve heard before. They begin to work together as I continue and I seem to like the result. However as I listen to it once more, I realize that I’ve been fooling myself. The process itself is magical and somewhat sacred, the approach being individual.
There were lots of composers-researches in the 1960’s conducting early experiments with computer music. People sitting besides a huge computer, making charts to be sent to another city only to receive the recording weeks later and finally listen to it. You realize they’re masterpieces as you listen to them now. It wasn’t just about sound; it was poetry of sorts. And you shouldn’t bother with poetry if you’re not a poet.
Such sincerity leads to endless self-reflection. What happens when you arrive at a compulsion to give all previous achievements up and to move on for the sake of sincerity?
Of course, it’s the eternal struggle with the shit within, which tries to come out somehow. Now it’s easy to record some clichéd stuff and get signed. It’s important to be able to differentiate and to be honest – which is way harder and very rare.
Wouldn’t you like to communicate these ideas to a broader audience?
I’m not going to teach anyone and I don’t consider my ideas to be better than others. Everyone has his own head to deal with in the first place. The only way to communicate ideas is by your own example. If somebody likes what you’re doing they can analyze and look into it on their own.
Have you thought about developing this trait of denying one’s own achievements, an ability to maintain a clear self-esteem, without following the sense of success?
I don’t know. You’re trying to find some universal approach, which just isn’t there. As I make something I’m not trying to create something cool but to interact with myself; to enter different states in order to work with internal experience and self-awareness. That job rarely gets done. When you listen to some masterpiece you realize once again that all your tracks are complete crap.
I won’t lie to you by saying that I make some exceptionally great stuff, because I can see the level it’s on for myself. You can look around and say to yourself that you’re doing better than others and you’ve been noticed. But that’s a load of crap! As long as you’re guided by something below you, not above, you only make it worse for yourself. You’re not progressing.
It’s important to be able to differentiate and to be honest…which is very rare.
Looks like self-improvement is work in of itself.
That’s what it is for me. You take a pencil and a sheet of paper, make sketches and then compose a piece, based on the sketches. And present it.
And the question is whether presentation is important for you.
I don’t know. We discuss it a lot as well. I don’t really care what one might think about my music. Even Soundcloud for me is a means of communicating with other musicians, not promoting.
Johns’ Kingdom on the outside is a kind of a cassette label, a gig. There’s also the Johns’ Kingdom within – something no one will ever know of. And any given moment all of that can disappear, because death is beautiful.
All images taken from a forthcoming short film on Johns’ Kingdom – more info on that there.
This article originally appeared on FurFur – more info on that here.
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