With love: Philipp Gorbachev - Artists - Mixmag

With love: Philipp Gorbachev

A stroll through Moscow with Philipp Gorbachev

  • Words & Photography: Paul Sullivan
  • 12 October 2016
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We wander into a traditional Georgian restaurant and Philipp orders a feast of salads, hummus-style dips, breads filled with eggs and cheese, and dumplings the size of footballs filled with different kinds of meat. “These are khinkali,” says Philipp, finally removing his glasses to reveal dark, sharp eyes. “You have to slurp the hot juice out as you eat them.”

As Mixmag struggles like an infant with this supposedly simple procedure, Philipp tells us about ‘Unlock The Box’ – a slick, streamlined techno record initially announced via an edit of one of the tracks (“Ivan, Come On, Unlock The Box”) on a compilation for Nina Kraviz’s label – that seems to have little in common with its predecessor. The title, he explains between slurps, is based on a Russian joke – “something you say to someone when they’re not focused, a bit like a motivational nudge. I chose it because for me this music is not about getting fucked up and losing yourself. For me it’s about getting focused and having your shit together.”

Released on Philipp’s own PG TUNE label and mixed by Phil Moffa in NYC, it was created at District Union in Berlin, but apparently has nothing to do with that city’s own minimal scene – or any other for that matter. “For me it’s a celebration of my personal influences within the dance scene, including the illegal parties and small communities that I was involved with in the 00s and while touring with Cómeme. By necessity these were always about functionality. It’s the same when you are touring around the world: your equipment and sound tends to be minimal. It’s easy to turn into a studio musician if you buy too much, and then you become more isolated. So for me this album and functional kind of sound represents the idea that it’s better to be out there creating music and maintaining communities.”

The sound might be minimal, but Philipp’s performances are increasingly maximal, involving anything from a Tempest and Octatrack to hand-picked synths and custom drumming pads, which allow him to prepare sequences and make live modifications. “I really don’t think people my age want to have more DJs, as there is so much technology around,” he says. “Even as a kid I was dressing up and making performances. I would come down at my parent’s parties wearing three pairs of glasses and a scuba outfit. For me it’s about the relationship with the audience.”

We ask Philipp if these things – technology, the audience – are his biggest motivations. His answer is a complete surprise. “I would say Christianity. I know that for many Western minds the word means horrible things, but for me it is about a dance of the soul and the spirit. If I didn’t pray every day I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. As an artist you have to be in uncomfortable situations, and God has helped me through these. He keeps me humble and understanding that the only way forward is connecting with love to other people.”

As the waiter clears the tables and we slump heavily into our seats, he talks about the current Russian scene, which has dipped over recent years with the closure of several clubs and now the cancellation of Outline. Philipp remains unswervingly positive. “Obviously the cancellation of my live premiere is hard to swallow, but it’s much harder for the organisers who put it all together,” he says. “But at one level, the lack of media or industry gives things a certain purity in that it’s just the artists and the people dancing – a bit like Chicago or Detroit at the beginning. And I’m at the beginning of my career too. I have many more plans still to realise, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes my way.”

‘Unlock The Box’ is out now on PG TUNE

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