meet kedr livanskiy, a key player in moscow's underground electronic music scene

As she shares her new music video and discusses the current wave of DIY Russian music, art and fashion - from Gosha Rubchinskiy to fellow producer Buttechno - get to know Kedr.

by Frankie Dunn
27 September 2016, 6:00pm

Adam Gerrard and Mike Simonetti stumbled upon Russian producer Kedr Livanskiy on Soundcloud and reached out, securing her music for their US label, 2MR. Cue January Sun, a brilliant EP inspired by the harsh Russian winter, where the run-down buildings stand frozen in time and the surrounding countryside frozen in ice and snow; and a US tour, by the end of which the three of them were firm friends. But before 2MR, there was Johns' Kingdom, a Moscow collective involving her best friends. Together they explore new ideas, they create, and they throw the best parties.

Key players in the underground electronic music scene of Moscow, the kids of Johns' Kingdom met while studying film at the city's School of New Cinema and bonded over Death Grips. Although they now focus on music, the group still have a keen interest in film and so when it comes to music videos, they're in their element. When creating visuals for her new single, Keep Your Word, things were a long time in the making. Kedr describes the track as, "the stupidest song on the album" lyrically (it's in Russian, and about taking responsibility for your words). We don't think it's stupid at all. She shot the video with her friends in St. Petersburg; starting out under the strobing lights of a basement club before taking the party to a nearby speed boat that they rented for a couple of hours. With all of its glitchy synths, reverb-laden vocals and expertly placed whistles, we think it's perfect and wish we were right there with them.

Take an exclusive look at the video and get to know Kedr as she shares the story behind the visuals and discusses the burgeoning Moscow DIY scenes across music, art and fashion; from Gosha Rubchinskiy to fellow producer Buttechno. Part of a generation unafraid to move forwards and beyond their country's Soviet past into a new world dreamed up by themselves, meet Kedr Livanskiy…

Hi Kedr! Tell us a bit about Johns' Kingdom…
Johns' Kingdom is less of a label than it is a community, a collective. Which means that label is only a small part. Yes, there are different compilations with the participants of, indeed, a community. If someone new is getting released, someone unknown, it means that he or she is a part and becomes a friend. There's only this type of connection present here.

Who else is a part of it?
Let's say that now it's everyone who is involved with Nauka I Iskusstvo club, musicians, and film critics as well. And masseurs!

What should be expected from a John's Kingdom party?
Well, it's more about music than dancing, but involves both.

What is Keep Your Word about?
It's the stupidest song of the album. It's like an assault of sorts. It deals with the idea that If you uttered something, you have to be responsible for your words. It's an insolent type of fable. Collocation. But actually this is stupid talk, what the song is about, I think, the energy it carries is clear anyway whether you are able to understand the language or not. It's a wreaking of aggression of sorts, and this I guess is the main sensation of the song.

Did you direct the video yourself?
We did it with a director friend. He shot one video already for No More Summer Rain. I don't know, we understand each other really well and and he perfectly feels me aesthetically. We work together. We just go, I give him body plastics and he knows great how to shoot and edit everything.

Tell us a little about making it…
At some moment completely by accident we found ourselves in St. Pete at the same time. I called him up and we decided to shoot. I handed my tickets to Moscow back in and stayed for a few days. We decided the way it would be on the spot and invented a stupid dance. We gave a call to our cool friends in Tallin and invited them to feature in the video, because they are incredible guys, very expressive and willing to do anything. Next day they were already in St. Pete. The same day I gave a concert in the most old school St. Pete club Griboedov and befriended the young guys who are in charge of everything. They gave us access to the whole basement and allowed to do whatever we want, which we greatly appreciate. Also poured us beer for free.

With the money earned at the concert we rented a boat for a couple of hours. The captain freaked out a little. Imagine me in a slip, we tie a naked guy up. The captain must have thought we were shooting a prelude to a porn movie. Actually it was just us, our ideas and the magic of the moment. And everything appeared by itself. Everything fitted like a puzzle and cool options were popping up unexpectedly.

Who else stars in it?
Two guys who dance with me — I met them when I performed in Tallin. Actually getting to know people is one of the advantages of every journey, any artist will most likely tell you that. Two mystical characters with a stroboscope - we got to know them at the shoot - they are the director's friends. Cool beautiful young guys.

What's the most important lesson you learnt at the School of New Cinema?
To search for truth. To search for method, to convey the meaning not only through verbal language, speech - this is what books exist for anyway - but through editing and the language of cinema. Overall it has affected our approach to music as well. So it's about perceiving music both through sound and arrangement, not only through melody and text. There are also editing, rhythm and all. There's a big story in this as well.

What movie do you feel your discography would best soundtrack?
At the moment - gothic drama. But I would write completely different music for a movie by the way.

What changed in the last few years that sparked the current DIY Moscow scenes in both music and fashion?
What happened is that a new generation of people have grown up and ceased to be ashamed of their Soviet past; stopped seeing things as limited. There was a complex that we were lagging everywhere, while there was a musical revolution all around the world with technologies, opportunities et cetera. Our parents have this complex. Like a lot of artists, especially in the 00s, they simply copied things because they were afraid to say their own words. Now we are searching for ourselves and our own place in our history, and we are able to look at Russian history as a whole, because we were born in a new time without the traumas of our parents. And so, that same search is now happening through music and fashion. Self-identification. These methods have the fastest reaction to a reality that is so rapid. And while it's clear that on an official level there are no movements, while we are young, we search. We try to make sense of things. And we are very active about it it because we want to sort it out.

Is there a supportive or competitive atmosphere? I know Buttechno soundtracked the Gosha show last year for example…
It's cool that fashion is now closely connected with music. And — once again — as there's less time required for production that in cinema for example, fashion and music are way more flexible and react to all the changes faster. Both Gosha and Pasha are artists in the first place, that's why they have united their efforts. At the end of the day they are groping for the same thing. The atmosphere is great now. A lot of clubs are being opened and many different artists appear, with different visions and points of view.

I hear you have a history playing in punk bands… do you miss that live band element?
What I likely miss more is the attitude to life at the time; it was simpler and more fun. It was the same in music; pop punk as a genre was easy and we didn't make a big deal out of lyrics and music. It just was fun and we carried the energy and caught it from the audience. Pointlessly and mercilessly at some physical level. It's a whole different approach now. Torturous at times. Of course I miss rehearsing together with the guys and all the beer that went along with it. I miss the team and creating collectively. When you're alone, you're alone. It's great, but it's a completely different story. More reflection and all - there was none back then.

Do you find making music a form of escapism?
Partially, yes, but nonetheless it's not an escape from reality. It's an attempt to enhance reality and imbue it with new characters and forms. The world which has been explained to us and made clear — explain it your own way, raise new questions and live in it. Not in a world of imposed notions of beauty and all. In essence the world is a white sheet and fuck it all, assemble it as you please, reconstruct anew — this is one of the meanings of creativity for an author, but that's not it.

What have you learnt about yourself on your recent tours?
I've learned that I'm able to drink for two weeks and not die. And that I have lots of energy.

Where's the best place you've been?
New York, but I am yet to visit Japan.

kedr livanskiy
music interviews