Buttechno: In Conversation

Pavel Milyakov aka Buttechno has been on our radar for some time, leading a new school of Russian producers with little regard for uniformity in their creative output. A long time producer, Milyakov first turned heads in 2015 with a string of self released records and affiliation to the Johns Kingdom collective “The voice of Moscows DIY music scene” and collaborators with contemporary fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy.

Label and genre boundaries don’t present themselves to Milyakov – He’s released stomping house on Anthony Naples’ Incensio, breakneck Electro on cult Japanese label City St Giga, an ambient full length on The Trilogy Tapes under his birth name (as well as a grittier EP as Buttechno) and a full length on Minimal Wave sub label Cititrax.

We speak to him just after the release of his most fully realised project to date – badtrip – a 9 tracker EP on Nina Kraviz трип. Having previously appeared on last year’s end of year VA, badtrip is an exploration of the various styles and post-Soviet sound palette that represent the most alluring facets of his work. We speak about the concepts behind his records, European perspectives and looking backward towards Russian influences.

Having followed some Russian labels for a while around 2012, I felt there was a very organic aesthetic and sound around Russian electronic music from labels like Udacha etc, and it was much more dancefloor orientated come around 2014/5. Was this a result of shifts within the European industry, or had this music always been around and this was it first getting noticed?

I think that there was no significant shift to the more dancefloor music in 14/15 here, we always had all styles of electronic music being represented from local producers since early ’90s. It’s more the matter of trends, about which kind of music is more in demand on the floors at the particular period of time. Also its a matter of what people are interested to dig into. Now on the big local festivals I see mostly DJs that are playing industrial techno and EBM kind of music, while there are loads of quite interesting music communities that create new and interesting music in variety of genres.

From an outward perspective, even in the ’00s, were Russian producers looking outward for inspiration? Or even were you aware of the big DJs/producers in the industry? (think Sven Vath/Ricardo Villalobos etc.) I always imagined these things would have less influence which led to a lot of the freeform experimentation.

During the ’90s and ’00s Russian producers for sure were looking outward for the inspiration. But the most interesting projects were not just copying ideas and forms, they were trying to create something new out of this inspiration. Nowadays it’s not about looking outwards or staying isolated, we are trying to have no borders at all. Trying to have no walls to look over them. Music ruins these borders and barriers, because its language is universal.

The title of the EP obviously alludes to a bad trip and there’s a certain nervous energy about the moods. I know Nina has mentioned reaching dreamlike hallucinatory states from sleep deprivation – is this one of those or something else?

In case of my album badtrip is not about a dreamy state, it’s more about the journey that is quite often being represented in cinema or literature or fine arts. In classic ancient literature the main character is often going through this kind of “trip”, facing the fears and enthropy of this (or another) world to either die or get the desired catharsis in the end. Usually this “trip” is full of obsessive thought loops and visions of apocalyptic and catastrophic images.

I know Nina often has very distinguished stories and concepts, often trips, that releases are centred around. Your track titles often sound like project files but are your larger releases always telling a story as a whole? I felt like Cherskogo Drive and La Maison De La Mort (as Pavel Milyakov) did so in a big way.

My song titles — right, they are more technical than poetic. Every time I do a release I do not try to “tell the story” literally and as a narrative. It’s more about the overall concept. Images of the each song tuning a listener to a different kind of mood and in the end they all combine in a solid piece alongside with the cover image, album title, etc. So every time it’s a complex conceptual work for me.

Trip is probably the biggest label you’ve released on in terms of audience. Did this come about due to creative similarities between you and the label, or do you feel this record was to be your most accessible to a straighter techno audience?

I think it’s quite accessible ’cause it has pretty much a straight 4×4 structure, but for me it is just a form. I work in different forms, constructions (and deconstructions) and each form is good only when it fits the concept well. I used to do pretty much danceable releases as well as experimental — it’s just the form being different to create different images for different concepts. Because I am trying to represent the images of my own world, not to create a “dance album” or “noise album” for different kinds of audiences.

Every work could be perceived through different layers. It’s great that for someone these tracks are just good to dance to, but I’m sure that it could be perceived as a more complex thing than just a dance album. I do not force listeners to see and discover all these layers but for me it’s really important to create them and I always love to discover these kind of things in other artists’ works.

You are touring a lot of festivals now, how have you adapted to this change? Do you feel you can present your full range of experimentation and people will come and see that or do you feel compelled to present something in the context of a festival set?

A few years ago I used to tour more but now I tour less, mostly working at my studio. I play club nights, but I really love when I’m being invited for the experimental live sets in interesting locations, like it was with this year’s Atonal. I’d love to have more of these kind of shows in the future for sure. On big festivals I sometimes combine experimental and danceable music in one live set, depending on the context of the festival, time, location, etc.

I prefer to play in strange and non-club locations, to research its possibilities in terms of sound and light and plan to prepare more interesting work in these terms next year. I try to move towards more artistic performances, it’s more interesting for me. The way I represent my sounds should become more complex and conceptual work, as well as my releases.

I remember a quote from Levon Vincent that was something like “I want to go as big as I can with it… I want to continue to do what I’m doing with as much success as it permits—within the boundaries of my personal style” Is this something that resonates with you?

My aim is just to do my thing honestly and while it will grow and expand I will try not to lose the essence of my art.

I feel like there’s a massive trove of unmined Russian music due to the importance of labels like ГОСТ АРХИВ, Galaxiid and of course your RA podcast, I feel it’s a regarded view that Russian electronic music is in a golden age, but does this show it’s always had this depth of quality?

I think that Russian music always had artists with depth of quality, it’s just now easier to discover them through appearance in mixes, reissues on the labels you mentioned and other kinds of electronic archives run by enthusiasts. It was much harder even 10-15 years ago, but now there are a lot of ways to discover it, which is great. I appreciate such labels and individuals who are investing their time into discovering this legacy and sharing it with the world.

What should we be looking out for in the near future, be it from fellow Russian producers or yourself?

The ones to watch on the Russian music scene and projects I’d love to recommend are Flaty, INFX, Perila, Roma Zuckerman, Vtgnike, and Burago.

badtrip is out now on Trip

Words: Declan Law

Featured Image: Oleksandra Trishyna

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