Spend a little time digging around the Russian electronic and experimental music scene, and Gost Zvuk (ГОСТ ЗВУК) is a label you won’t be able to avoid. As well as releasing some of the club and electronic scene’s most important artists, the label also acts as a hub for their talents, a creative fulcrum around which everything revolves, facilitating collaborations and shows with producers and DJs, as well as spearheading the music’s reach outside Russia (via for example a monthly show on NTS Radio). They also bring to light some of the most pioneering and important music from the Soviet Union and Russia’s past with their GOST ARCHIVE sub-label (including music from the legendary Mikhail Chekalin). Founded in 2014, the label turns five this year (with an anniversary show in Moscow at new venue Mutabor in June), and is expanding, launching a new sub-division, GOST BOOKING to help promote and book their artists abroad. That anniversary was a good excuse to get the backstory on Gost, so we caught up with founder and figurehead Ildar Zaynetdinov, as well as some of the label’s artists, to find out more about its history, its plans for the future and the modern Russian scene.

Ildar Zaynetdinov

Ildar Zaynetdinov is the obligatory interview when it comes to Gost Zvuk. The label’s founder and day-to-day manager, Zaynetdinov also DJs under the alias LOW808 and runs the art space NII in Moscow, as well producing many Gost Zvuk releases.

So Gost Zvuk turns 5 in 2019. But to go back to the beginning, how did the label get started? Can you give us a quick history of the label up to now? You mentioned the label’s origins in a group called RAD community?

It all started with hip-hop. In 2010 we launched RAD, a community revolving around street culture. Most key members of Gost – OL, Flaty and Vtgnike – were also involved. It also functioned as a label – we simply recorded music and put it online. Then came the idea of releasing on vinyl, and that is how Gost Zvuk came to be. I coined the name Gost as an homage to the Soviet system of quality standard, and then Vtgnike came up with adding Zvuk, which means ‘sound’ and we simply started releasing the music of our closest friends.

It seems that Gost emerged from the underground music scene in Russia and the parties and events you guys were putting on. Was part of the motivation for starting the label that you could take the artists who played in those scenes, and package and present their music to the world outside those scenes?

Indeed, our motivation was always about creating a platform for advanced local producers.

Outside of the people you knew from within the musical scenes you operated in, how has Gost generally found its new artists over the years? Have you noticed the style and quality of the submissions you get having changed over the label’s lifetime? How has Russian electronic music changed since you started?

Our family is growing and we are always looking for new names, but at the moment we are mainly focused on the developing and representing our key members. There’s a lot of amazing material waiting to be released. Regarding the selection, we have a simple standard – you should hear and instantly recognise the artist with your eyes closed. If the producer has found their language – they’re on board. Regarding the Russian electronic music, I believe we’ve been among those forces that have established the term, the scene itself. Gost Zvuk gave the impulse to re-discover local musical identity.

If one of Gost’s missions has been to provide a showcase for Russian contemporary electronic music, then the success and popularity of your releases abroad must be satisfying for you? And with the success of artists like Kedr Livanskiy and Buttechno abroad, does it feel like an exciting time for Russian electronic music right now, in terms of breaking more globally?

We are more than happy that our work, and most importantly the work of our producers is recognised globally. If our artists perform worldwide or release music on other global labels we consider our work a success.

The artists on Gost Zvuk cover a wide range of different sounds and genres, but what attributes would you say they share? What kind of qualities should one find in a Gost Zvuk release, and what kind of qualities attract you to an artist and make you want to release their music?

We are looking for those who found their unique musical language. Each album is a piece of art, a thoughtful statement that is challenging musical ideas, and opening new dimensions.

How important is it that Gost has a strong identity and image as a label? That it doesn’t just release records, but also puts its own mark on them visually and creatively, and has a clear and recognisable visual and aesthetic signature that affects every release?

The logo of the label corresponds with its name and also refers to the stamps from Soviet times, that were put on items meaning their quality was ‘approved’. The visual part of our releases is very important to us, the artworks are created in collaboration with our fellow artists, and Buttechno is responsible for the typography. I believe that the visuals translate our values not less than the music itself.

Inside Russia, what kind of platforms does Gost have to promote and push your music, and to expand the label’s activities beyond just releasing records. Is there a regular series of Gost live events? What kind of role do places like NII play? And I know you release artists from all over the country, do you try and have live events around the country too, where possible?

NII is the fundamental venue for Moscow electronic scene and it’s the headquarters for Gost. We do almost all release parties there and other label-related events. But sometimes we do showcases – we did some shows in Berghain, in Batofar and some other venues in the EU. We are always looking for some special occasions – soon we’re going to perform at Urvakan festival in Armenia with quite a bunch of artists from the label. We love Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and believe we should strengthen the cultural exchange between these countries.

Of the various Gost imprints, I think the Gost Archive label is really interesting, and it was though the Mikhail Chekalin release that I first became interested in Gost. What motivated you to start that label, and what was your aim with it? Was the idea that there was a chance this amazing old electronic music might be forgotten, and you wanted to bring it back to people’s attentions again?

We believe there’s no future without the past, you have to know and respect your roots and that’s the main reason we’ve started the Gost Archive series. For Russian electronic music, Mikhail Chekalin is not only a major character who has affected the scene’s establishment and development, but also a kind of symbolic figure. His music has been praised by many in the West — from journalists and critics of all kinds to Frank Zappa and Karlheinz Stockhausen, while in Moscow Chekalin’s name was excluded from the official cultural agenda for a long time: he was accused of propaganda of foreign ‘pro-Western’ aesthetics and up until the end of the ‘80s wasn’t allowed to release his works or travel abroad. This, however, didn’t prevent him recording dozens of innovative electronic compositions and contributing greatly to the development of unofficial Soviet art in general — for example, providing sound design for the famous exhibitions of ‘Twenty Moscow Artists’ on Malaya Gruzinskaya or arranging the first audiovisual performances on a specially constructed light organ. Next Gost Archive is scheduled this summer, it’s going to be an album Health Resorts of the Caucasus written by Notchnoi Prospekt in 1987, but never officially released.

You’ve also just launched Gost Booking, with the aim of booking more of your artists abroad. So are you hoping to really push Gost artists internationally now?

I’m not only hoping, I’m sure that this mission is going to be successful. Our artists are getting booked around the globe already, but what we’re trying to do with Gost Booking is we’re trying to build a system where the whole process would be easier for us and for promoters on the other side.

Finally, with the 5-year anniversary this year, how do you look back on the label’s story so far? And how would you like Gost to develop and grow, going into the future?

One of our goals is to create a sustainable system which would help producers to focus exclusively on the music. One of the pillars of this system is consistent booking platform based on well-established global connections. This is something we are focused on now and about to work on the upcoming years.


Oleg Buyanov is OL, a DJ and producer from Moscow. Currently on his horizon is the Saigon Special Room EP, which came out earlier this year on Kiev label Muscat Records, as well as an EP as Serwed, his dual project with Flaty.

What kind of music influenced you when you were growing up? 

When I was a kid my parents got tons of VHS cassettes with late 90s music videos we used to watch together: Dire Straits, Michael Jackson. In the late 90s- early 2000s, hip-hop became huge in the US and of course we reached the echoes of it growing up in Moscow, and bought some fake CDs from bootleggers. Also there were some radio shows like on ‘Stanciya 106,8’. I remember the first time I saw the Windowlicker director’s cut video being premiered on Russian MTV, it was mind-blowing!  Later in the skateboarding community we shared a lot of music with each other, mostly punk and rap (Wu Tang, Gang Starr, DJ Shadow, Misfits, Nofx, Black Flag). We were watching skateboarding videos and tried to identify the soundtracks. Once when I was 14 on my way to school I met a person who was trying to talk to me, he was very depressed because something bad happened with his kid. He wasn’t scary at all, so in the end he gave me a bunch of CDs with a few albums of Muslimgauze plus something like the Melvins or Sonic Youth, and also a small pack of dried-up hallucinogenic mushrooms with the advice to try these both things together (and I did after a while). So I was digging through a lot of genres and over the years of experience my appetite grew and I was constantly in search for sources of new music.

What inspired you to get into producing? 

Ever since the first time I listened to electronic music, I really wanted to find out what the nature of these sounds is and how I could create this kind of music by myself. Then later my friend showed me software for making music on his computer: a simple sequencer (like dance E-Jay, Reason and Fruity Loops) on his early Pentium – that was really exciting! Once I got my first PC a year later, I started producing by myself, instead of playing video games. In 2005-2006 one of my older friends (RIP Michael) gave me a bunch of mini discs with some re-recorded underground electronic music so I needed a minidisc player to listen to it – that was very intriguing but took me a long time to check it out cause at that time it was quite hard to get one. Later me and my friends started going out to catch some club and festival vibes, we were looking for new music played by DJs. Through being influenced by a wide range of electronic music, I always wondered about how this music is created and what is the nature of these unusual and new sounds is for my ear.

How was the scene for this kind of music when you started making it, and how does it look today in your opinion?

At the time I started producing music I didn’t know a lot about what was happening in the independent music scene of Russian main cities. Later I found out the club scene in Russia was really huge – massive open air festivals with trance, drum and bass, techno were taking place all over the biggest cities of Russia almost every weekend. In the mid-2000s the electronic music scene and club industry was growing fast. On one side there were a lot of illegal underground rave events and on the other some commercial clubs for a richer public with more glamorous vibes were launching in Moscow. Me and my friends used to visit both and my interest was growing more in terms of discovering newer sounds.

How did your connection to Gost Zvuk develop?

Me and Ildar have known each other for more than 10 years. I think we had some friends in common that made us start working together on music, production, making music releases, and small events for new artists and performing on our own. Before we finally made it to starting Gost Zvuk, it was called RAD, a cd record label / series of events more like home parties. Later when it finally turned into Gost Zvuk records, me and Vtgnike made it into a series of vinyl releases with me and the rest of the team on board.

A signature of your style is pulling these very strange, abstract sounds (a lot of the sound on, for example, Height Difference, is very unconventional and otherworldly), and finding a way to produce them into something coming close to club music. Would you agree with that description, and would you say you’re inspired by that process?

We now live in an era where we have access to a very large amount of information, from over the entire period [information has been] accumulated by mankind. Sometimes rethinking and structuring this information gives me a better understanding and somehow sets the direction for my musical activity.

Another signature of your work is your distinctive samples, whether taken from films and elsewhere. How do you usually go about sourcing them, do you come across them randomly and they decide you’d like to use them, or do you go looking for sample material when you’re working on a song? What would you say they can add to your work? 

Back in the day I used to watch a lot of Soviet TV series and movies, cartoons and advertisements. I am still really in love with them, and since I was first influenced by hip-hop music, sampling became a very important part of making music. Vladimir Kobrin, Vladimir Pekar – one of my favourites. I think I like the sense of nostalgia I got after listening, also I really like the process of digging and searching the source for my new ideas all around.

The Saigon Special Room release features music that’s a little darker and more abstract than some of your other work. What were you trying to express with that project musically? 

I am not sure it is dark, maybe more deep and abstract with a sense of immersing dub textures. You can hear the sounds of Vietnamese woman playing flute with both nose and mouth in the background of the A1 track! This release is my vision of dub music from different perspectives, blended with some authentic Asian vibes at points, and abstract dubby electronics at other points.

How did you want it to sound?

I really wanted to make it sound of its time – re-assigned abstract dub sometimes mixed with hip hop sound. The image that I had in mind I once described like this:

“On a hot summer day, you enter the main hall of a well-known local Vietnamese restaurant. The noise of the visitors’ voices merges with the national music playing in the background. All seats are occupied in the hall and the polite staff take you to a separate room where the atmosphere of calm and comfort prevails. Beautiful interior, cool air and soft light conducive to relaxation. Exotic dishes and drinks allow you to fully enjoy the authenticity. Far away in the distance voices from the main hall are now barely audible, you are in anticipation of a great evening”.

Outside of music, what kinds of cultural objects and artforms inspire your work?

I studied psychology at the university and sometimes I consider sound in terms of perception by the human psyche. I was inspired by late Soviet avant-garde animation and art, and science movies a lot when I was working on the True White and Height Difference LP for Gost Zvuk. Also sometimes I become inspired by architecture a lot – mostly brutalism and constructivism – elements of which can be found in different parts of Russia and often quite abandoned. I try to be open to the perception of my environment and very often I can find inspiration in simple everyday things.

What’s your usual working process when you’re writing new music? 

Now it’s a more random thing. Sometimes it can begin with an idea but sometimes ideas can come during the process of live recording. I am constantly making a lot of sketches plus I already have pre-made sample packs. Recently I had a few collaborations with fellow producers, I found this process really inspiring and it helps to look at the process of making music with new perspectives.

How does your studio look?

I use a laptop a lot, plus some quite good studio monitors. I started collecting Eurorack modules last year – it’s good to diversify your approach sometimes. Can’t say I am well equipped, or maybe I just don’t need a lot of hardware for now. My setup is quite mobile and I really like to be able to produce during trips.

You’re starting your own imprint Asyncro, what kind of music are you looking to release on that?

The Asyncro series was launched mostly for my own music, recent collaborative works and for sure music from my friends. The result is supposed to be mostly electronic, I am not focusing on any single genre/style but hope it’s going to be more experimental and free form.

Finally, you’re also putting out a joint album with Flaty as Serwed soon. What can you tell us about that, and how does your collaboration usually work?

Me and Flaty have collaborated on few releases in the past: Flourite from my Jungle TV and a track Dismissed Relations from Flaty’s New Suggestions. For me Flaty is a very comfortable person to work with, [we have a] top level of understanding and inspire each other with some new ideas. We usually meet at each other’s place for a whole day to make live recording sessions. Then later we cut out the best pieces – tracks in general with a minimum of postproduction. During 2018 we had a few recording sessions and it eventually turned into a Serwed project. Working on the Serwed LP we tried to keep the dynamics of the live recording process, with a touch of the electronic music from early 2000s. The recent work is a kind of our representation of new club sound at some point based on the explorations of free-form generative sound.


Photo: Boris Vitazek

Flaty (Evgenii Fadeev) is a producer from St. Petersburg, recently seen on production duties on Kedr Livanskiy’s new album Your Need. His most recent solo release on Gost Zvuk is the Instrument No.6 EP on the label’s INSTRUMENT sub-label.

What kind of music influenced you when you were growing up? What inspired you to get into producing?

I am a lucky kid, I’ve been surrounded by the culture since I was very young. In 90s there was a kind of subcultural boom in the suburbs of St. Petersburg where I lived, and most of the older brothers of my friends were involved. Automatically we got all the tapes they collected to copy, then started messing with all that music in our circle. All kinds and styles there were, and we discovered all that and loved it. For me personally, my main interest was in hip-hop and electronic music. I started producing later as I was studying at university, so all my childhood interests naturally transformed into my current activities and life.

How was the scene for this kind of music in St. Petersburg when you started making it, and how does it look today in your opinion?

There was always a place for every kind of music. But in the 90s, it was just first steps for the new culture so most of the things that happened were emotionally optimistic, DIY-moves. St Petersburg was an original place where all those things got started, in the 90s it was a boom-place. When I started — it was around 2004 — there was already a steady underground culture in the city, so we just joined it. Now, 15 years later, I could say that culture stands much stronger.

How did your connection to Gost Zvuk develop?

It goes far, before GZ started, LOW808 (Ildar) and Artem (Miracle Libido) invited our crew WAXP to perform at their closed party with the local producers (around 2008) in Moscow. So all of us just immediately became friends with the Moscow crew. All main GZ heads were at that concert, and they’re still there with GZ. It was also the beginning of RAD as a label in a while after this meeting, so all of us were already connected musically before label started. Then once Ildar went to St. Pete and called me and Nocow (Aleksei Nikitin), we met and discussed this new thing Ild was planning, and he asked us to produce first two records for the label. So that’s how it started for my involvement. Still there doing things together and I’m happy about that.

You also have your own platform, ANWO Records. What can you tell us about that, and the philosophy of that platform? You’ve said you have “a desire to create objects with a high cultural level”. There’s also an art studio right?

It is a research lab for my artist exploration, mainly sonical things but also some visual art and technology. On the base of ANWO with Kuzma Palkin we created a reflective video system which was used in a few A/V performances. Now we work on a collaborative album which I hope will be finished this year and released on ANWO.

What’s your usual working process when you’re writing new music? How does your studio look?

Today is never the same as it was yesterday. The process is always changing and gets upgraded. I always try to rethink my system, optimise it and make it maximally useful for creating. Usually I start searching for ideas from zero, just playing with sounds until I find something.

You also work under different names for different projects, for example Dada Ques. Does that help you to have more creative freedom?

It is the way how I express myself, it does not have any reasonable explanation I guess.

The three tracks on your new INSTRUMENT №6 EP all cover quite a lot of different styles, with Graf Ruin and Hornets exploring very different styles of club music, while the closer Rn is a more abstract, experimental art piece, a soundscape. What were you trying to create with this EP? Do you like to explore different styles on one release?

There I tried to find few proper rhythmical joints which could be used by the DJs in a club field. Whole series of INSTRUMENT records is dedicated to that meaning. More to say, these three uptempo tracks we choose for the record could be played at both vinyl player speeds 33rpm and 45rpm

Finally, you’re also putting out a joint album with OL as Serwed soon. What can you tell us about that, and how does your collaboration usually work?

Comes naturally from our long time connection with Oleg. He started the label Asyncro with SERWED record, we did 100% of the work by ourselves — writing, mixing, mastering, artwork and execution, all the things. It’s solid work, I feel good about it and the process of making it.


Moscow producer Danila Avramov is Vtgnike (pronounced Vintage Nike) was one of the people involved in the very beginnings of Gost Zvuk. His most recent release is the album Steals, which landed this February on Nicolas Jaar’s label Other People

What kind of music influenced you when you were growing up? What inspired you to get into producing?

My older friends got me a bunch of CDRs with Warp Records MP3s, and I had this French music channel Viva that showed me Windowlicker and Come To Daddy – weirdest videos.

How was the scene for this kind of music when you started making it, and how does it look today in your opinion?

The new generation is definitely more open-minded, because they were raised in a world full of tags/genres, so it’s not a surprise for anybody if you are playing horrible terror noise or an MP3 rip of a YouTube video – it all makes sense. When I started doing it – I’ve been a bedroom producer for years, so I really didn’t need any scene or anything. Just internet and computer.

How did your connection to Gost Zvuk develop? You helped come up with the name, correct?

It developed as I moved to Moscow in 2010 and we started chatting with Ildar. Back then he was doing RAD netlabel. I have bad memory, I’m not really sure if I helped with the name.

What’s your usual working process when you’re writing new music? How does your studio look?

It’s a room with no lights and it’s a laptop. LoL.

If we look at your earlier work, though a lot of it has disappeared from online, it was a lot more up-tempo and clubby. Now, and especially on the Steals album, the style is much more abstract, and there’s a lot more space in the sound. How would you say your style has developed over the years? What kind of music are you interesting in making at this moment?

I guess my knowledge is developing, not style. I think my life gives me a feeling of [my] style. So I’m not trying to change my rules of life. I basically like everything with a groove. And everything is based on numbers. Even before you know them – you can feel them. I will be always into 140-150-160bpm music.  I think what I set out to make is not what I get after I finish it, so it’s a game. I just try to learn more about everything and feed my homegrown neural network.

Another thing that struck me about the music on Steals is how delicate the composition is. Everything sounds like hours of work has gone into these incredibly detailed songs. How long did it take for you to put together that album? And what was your artistic goal with it?

The album was made over one and a half years. I’ve been making music and the tracks that seemed to fit – I’ve been putting them away for this record. Each track is one day of work… maybe pre-mastering process could take another day, but I have this rule, that’s something like – don’t make tracks take longer than one day.

Your track The Healer comes with this wonderful video filmed in Chertanovka that matches the music perfectly. How does it feel to see your music interact with other art like that, and what kind of things outside of music inspire you?

Life inspires me and you create your life. I think life should be about everything, with feeling of proportion. I find art in Russian dirt. But art is a process, and as a process it is the most inspiring. A process of making dirt from the source is real life, I try to live it. Sometimes I see something fascinating in a jpg on the internet. And I thank god for internet.

With Steals now out, what are you working on now? What’s next?

I honestly don’t know what’s next. Follow Vtgnike on Facebook.

Keep up with Gost Zvuk and purchase their records at gostzvuk.bandcamp.com. Gost Zvuk anniversary party at Mutabor, Moscow on June 1

All photos courtesy of Gost Zvuk