words by Alisa Mullen
This June 2021, SLOWDANCE, the musical group from Moscow, is celebrating its 13th anniversary. This is a story about strong friendship, enthusiasm, and patience in overcoming any difficulties for the sake of ambitious goals. To develop oneself in music and to envelop music around oneself.
It all started in 2008 when Misha met Yura at university. The two immediately found creativity as common ground: in fact, Yura was into photography, while Misha painted and produced music. They were both eager to make their own exhibitions and to unite artists around them. Back then, everyone met up at ‘Krysha Mira’ (which, translated from Russian, means “Roof of the World”) – a club that at that time was a very important place of pure energy with a special attitude and consideration towards electronic music and its development, where the community of young people united every weekend based on the love for the electronic music and its exclusive aesthetic. There was a desire to share each other’s findings: “We asked our DJ friends to record mixes from music that they do not play in clubs, but which they collect. These mixes, which had been collected for a long time, were then uploaded to a database for listeners: in two years, they resonated with the public very well “ recalls Misha. “In addition to the musical content, we focus on the concept and style, the general image of the content that we share. And in the end, it all grew organically into our parties, and after some time we launched a record label.”
SLOWDANCE originally started out as a podcast series with music that DJs weren’t always able to play in clubs. It soon evolved into a digital label that eventually morphed into vinyl releases, with its main focus are tracks of friends and associates of the musical formation.
A few years later, Alexey Orlov became an integral part of the project. He brought fresh energy and a strategic vision to the development of Slowdance, particularly of the label side.
But, at this point, it is worth bringing the reader attention to one moment that played an important role in the formation and development of the collective. A moment that temporarily stuck the musicians at a dead end.
From 2012 to 2015, the Slowdance team were residents of ‘Kyisha Mira’, a nightclub located on the terrace of a tall building in downtown Moscow. They held their signature parties on each Thursdays. It was their place of power during the early years for the team, where all their friends gathered together. Yet at some point, the public of the club changed and the crew stopped receiving the right response from the audience. The sincerity and exclusivity of the music that Slowdance shared were in dissonance with the unacceptance of the club and its changed atmosphere. The interests of the audience and Slowdance was not matching anymore, and the decision was made to terminate the collaboration with the club where everything started.
“It was one of the most significant events in our entire history. We stepped out of our comfort zone knowing that we would have to re-assemble our audience, which was very difficult due to the label’s past. Nevertheless, it was a deliberate step,” says Alexey Orlov. “The essence has not changed, we were (and are) still very passionate about our work. We were interested in developing the label’s artists, promoting unpopular electronic music and other genres that inspired us. We wanted to interact with audiences and the industry around the globe.”
For several years, the guys managed to scale their creative platforms: booking was managed by Alexey Orlov and SLOWDANCE began to tour the country with showcases around the world. “We personally had a chance to visit one of these amazing spots for one of our summer events, which coincided with the ninth Birthday of the formation: Offenbach’s Robert Johnson, with Margaret Dygas, Finetune and Alexey Orlov, on the lineup. Everything was very family-like. SLOWDANCE has something attractive to it, even when you just watch it from the sidelines. Probably, it’s a feeling of integrity and easy communication, a sort of friendly “Hey, look at what we’ve discovered and what we are sharing with you!”.
Local events from the music formation became a real place for experiments. In Moscow, SLOWDANCE starting hosting events at various interesting venues every month or two. The parties were held in RODNYA and in the Gazgolder club, where the guys also did several collaborations with labels like Pressure Traxx, Mosaic, Sushitech, MiniBar, Sol Asylum, and Yoyaku. In the most recent times, SLOWDANCE settled at the Mutabor club, with which the guys have developed a mutually warm and inspiring relationship. “We can put on a hip-hop vibe at a party at times” says Misha. “And recently we provided one of the location’s premises for an exhibition and a market for young entrepreneurial individuals. It had a great result, we will definitely do it more often.”
A logical continuation was the launch of our own Music Art Performance festival, the name of which speaks for itself. One of the interesting features is that it presented both a drum and bass and an hip-hop stage, aside of performances, street art exhibitions, and other activities. SLOWDANCE brought Krush, GAIKA, LTJ Bukem, Opuswerk, Dopeclvb, Vladimir Dubyshkin, Klotho, Tropical Interface, Rnbws, Saburov, and many other artists who also performed at the festival. Unfortunately, this year it was cancelled due to a lack of funding.
An important event for the label was the release of the Finetune project album in 2019, which had been in the works for about 4 years. Misha worked on the music and the live set, and the rest of the team worked on the implementation of the performance and created the covers for the records. The idea was to draw a picture of more than 36 square meters in real-time, consisting of more than 350 vinyl envelopes laid out on a plane.
“We were searching for a venue for this performance for a long time, initially we planned to do it in an open space so that we could shoot from a drone and show the entire piece of work and also capture the process of its creation. At the same time, Mutabor appeared, and at some point, we realized that the main dance floor would be perfect for the performance stage. Despite many technical issues that we had to deal with, we found a solution in the end. For example, in order to not walk over the envelopes, we made a mobile bridge 6 meter long with wheels, which were moved by two volunteers staff each time. And when everything was ready for launch, the lockdown happened, and everything was delayed for another year. But luckily, the project has been implemented, and we can finally expose it and move on further projects” says Misha.
“We continued to develop our label and did not leave the game as events organizers. The parties series continued, and for local artists and promoters was a great platform, because of the impossibility to book foreign artists due to the pandemic. Everything focused on locals, ”notes Alexey Orlov. “On one hand it was great, but on the other hand, to master everything that we invented, we no longer have enough people. We are constantly looking for people to join the team, but they must share our values.”
Currently, the backbone of the SLOWDANCE team is Yura (the only one in the team who is not a musician, and from whom the team has been waiting to play a set for 13 years), Misha and Alexey Orlov. They handle almost all administrative, creative and managerial work. In addition, Misha is the art director of the project. Recently, Denis Potapov joined the team and he is responsible for the local Russian booking of the label’s artists, communications, and helping with administrative tasks. Tagir and Alex Indigo are in charge of the Slowdance recording studio – a place of power and a gathering point for the band. Dan Jumkinsan is the label musician also responsible for video production. Vanya Panfilov is the technical director, who is responsible for the technical aspects and he participates in the creation of installations and the harmonious ergonomics of the space. The team also includes Dasha Georgieva, who is responsible for the placement and support of the artists, and Katya Mikheecheva, responsible for promo, who joins the team during the organization of large events.
“Among other things, we began to feel the overall cohesion of the entire industry. There is no support from the state, but there is support from friendly musical formations. This is the case when you understand that you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Everyone understands that the better the party at the neighbouring promo group is, the better it will be for you, and then for someone else, creating a virtuous cycle. A person goes to a cool event and tells everyone about it. People talk about the musicians they hear and discover. This is how it works. In addition, we constantly go to each other’s events, and for example, Tagir was recently invited to join the line-up of ARMA for the first time. This is a cultural exchange in the name of the common good” says Alexey Orlov.
SLOWDANCE may seem like just a label, for some it is a party series, but if you look deeper, it is a large musical community. A platform for creativity and self-expression for young talented bands and musicians.
Using a variety of tools and capabilities, Slowdance brings a whole echelon of musicians together, including the side events, which provides the opportunity to show up for those who they find interesting. Some of these independent artists have grown to have a vinyl release on the label, while others have become regular faces on the lineups.
“We observe the scene development with inspiration. And if there is an opportunity to contribute, we are always glad to do so. We have a club in Perm, we call it the ‘Russian Robert Johnson’, a tiny location. It’s for vinyl players only. We initiated performances by artists such as Vincent Lumieux, Louris, Merin. And today the founders of this club have already launched their vinyl label, they’ve released Vincent Lumieux on it. This is development, these are huge steps, and we are happy to be involved, ”says Alexey Orlov.
Nowadays, the music formation is planning to further develop its MAP festival, as well as to complete the 10th vinyl release by the end of 2021. They also plan to launch a digital imprint on Bandcamp for non-dance, alternative, and more experimental music. As we see, it is most likely just the beginning of their productive creative path and for everyone involved in SLOWDANCE.
We can conclude this piece with how important it is to feel comfortable in what you do and love, even if you need to take a few steps back or sideways in order to achieve this comfort – comfort in relationships with an audience, with your party neighbours, with your mission within this massive industry, which everyone builds for themselves and their followers. Don’t stop looking for it