14.11.2012, Words by Aimee Cliff

What it's like to be a musician in Russia, by a Russian musician

Russians will tell you that Russia is a nation of contrasts. You can see extremely wealthy people and the destitute share the same sidewalks, as though it were natural. It is at once beautiful and repellent. People value their gaudy playthings – big cars and big watches – even as they wade through the grime and filth of the street.

The climate is grim, dominated by winter. Cold snow, freezing snow, boiling snow – the curse of precipitation looms large over our people. You may leave your home to find your car covered in two inches of ice and three inches of despair.

The country is entirely corrupt; no one can escape the clutches of graft and racketeering. If you want to open a business, you must be prepared to pay people to whom your life has no value. They see your money, they take it. That is your relationship.

These contrasts extend to the world of music. The landscape is ridden with shameful clones of existing international stars. There are dubiously entrenched local DJs who have no discernible musical background but end up playing with Tiesto, while scores of talented producers could not even barter their music for prison-grade cigarettes. The clubs desperately grasp at some notion of glamour, which to them seems to mean dire commercial music, “cocktails”, and girls in their dresses. It is a thin illusion, the poor attempting to resemble their imagined betters. To me, this is not serious work; it is well beneath the position I have fought to attain.

Proxy – Revolution

One incident that brought attention to Russia recently was the incarceration of Pussy Riot. Whatever your opinion of the merits of their work and statements, it is undeniable that the trial was a mockery, and a painful reminder of senseless Russian severity. The prosecutor asked for a four-year sentence; the judge decreed eight.

It can be maddeningly difficult to leave Russia. If you want to venture beyond its borders, you must steel yourself for a nightmare battle with an indifferent bureaucracy. Be ready to collect all papers concerning yourself, papers attesting to what you do, when you do it, and how you do it. But not why. They do not care.

Many young people talk about Moscow like it is the city of their dreams. I know the lie that lurks beneath the dream, and choose to live elsewhere. It is a city of “good looks”, with no sense. I live in a place with no image, no outside influence.

The positive side of living in Russia is known to those with money. If you have capital, you are the majesty. King of a Battered Chaos Empire. I have had everything and I have had nothing. The differences are ultimately worthless.

Proxy – Dance In Dark

Turbo Recordings released Proxy’s latest album ‘Music from the Eastblock Jungles, Part I’ on the 6th November, 2012.

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