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Bondarev [Interview]

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Russian artist Bondarev has been a DJ for the better part of two decades, sharing the stage with some of progressive music's most iconic names, while operating as the booking manager for Saint Petersburg's famed WARPP Club. As a producer, Bondarev first emerged in 2017 with a release via Crossings, a project which would lead to key discography credits courtesy of aboriginal, Mango Alley, Proton's Particles and most recently via WARPP's label, where he operates as the AandR. Now, presenting his first remix of 2023, Bondarev debuts on roku with a powerful take on Blanka Barbara's 'Descending Into Heaven'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Bondarev to learn more about his remix of 'Descending Into Heaven', his studio process, inspirations, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

Hi Danil, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hey guys. Thanks for having me. Sending you love from Saint Petersburg.

Right now I'm sitting on a break from construction (we're building a recording studio with friends) for the last week I've been here, 10 hours a day. The last thing I listened to was DJ Ruby's set from Treff8 club in Moscow.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and otherwise, please.

I don't have a specific daily schedule as I don't work in an office or anything like that. I travel a lot and my schedule depends on the country I'm in. If it's Thailand or Asia, I usually get on my motorcycle and go to breakfast in the morning, then go to the beach. If I'm at home in Russia, I do my label stuff in the morning and then it's pretty hectic haha. Now when we finish our studio, my routine will change quite a bit as I have a lot of ghostwriting orders.

There have been quite a few amazing electronic music artists to emerge from Russia like yourself, what was it like growing up there and who were some of your local heroes? Who did you look up to and why?

I think it's no secret that Russia has a huge amount of cool artists in different genres, you can go to any Beatport section and everywhere in the top will be Russians, especially in Organic House, Progressive, Melodic House & Techno and Downtempo. For me I can single out Volen Sentir, Makebo, Krasa Rosa, M.O.S, K Loveski, Ewan Rill, PROFF, Montw, Anton Borin, Anton Make, Tali Muss, Zuma Dionys, Fake Mood and many others. I think there is no point to answer why I like them, just listen to what they do and everything will fall into place.

If you were a tour guide for nightlife in Russia, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

There will definitely be WARPP, Odyssey Festival in St. Petersburg, Plombir in Kazan, Yauza, Supermetall, Gazgolder, Blanc, Treff8 in Moscow, Embargo Villa in Rostov-on-Don. These are my favorites

Where do we find you if you are not DJing or socializing at clubs? And doing what?

I think I was born for DJing and music in general, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. Maybe a graphic designer (which I am, but I still make posters for clubs).

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I've been trying to write my own music since 2010. But I released my first EP only in 2017. I was very lazy and I was always making up excuses for myself, like: "I'll buy some monitors and a sound card and I'll start writing" Then when I bought all this stuff, I still didn't do anything. I guess I had to go down that road to get where I am now. I learned everything myself on YouTube, there were times when I asked for help, but none of the producers I knew wanted to help me, which I resented at the time, but now I realize that it was necessary, otherwise I wouldn't have learned everything myself. One piece of advice I can give you is to rely only on yourself. Now there is so much information on the Internet that you can learn how to assemble airplanes, the main thing is your desire. You must sincerely want something to give yourself to it completely.

You have a new remix of Blanka Barbara out now via roku, tell us about the production and what was it about the original track which made you want to remix it?

Yeah, it's a great remix to be honest, as I was very inspired by the atmosphere in the original track. I started making it on the train when I was going home to St. Petersburg after the show in Moscow, but then I abandoned it for a few weeks. Then I came to Armenia and after some time I started making it again, but completely from 0 and lying on my bed, because I didn't have any other comfortable place at that time.

This is your first appearance on roku, what is it about the label that makes it a good home for your music?

I like the music made by the guys: Da Luka & Jorgio Kioris and of course I'm always attracted by the visual part. It's as important as the music that is released on the label. Since I'm a graphic designer, I have a good eye and to be honest when I see bad cover design or whatever, I'm not interested. Although there are rare exceptions when the design is very bad, but the music on the contrary is very good).

Let our readers inside your studio, what is your current setup, and what tools are featured heavily in the writing of your ’Descending Into Heaven’ remix?

As I said in the beginning - I travel a lot and usually my set-up is MacBook Pro and Beyerdynamic DT 770 pro headphones. Mostly im using only VST plugins, but sometimes when I come to my friends studio in Moscow I use some analog stuff like Prophet 6. Remix was made with only VST plugins. Now in the studio that we are building will be more serious, Focal Alpha 65 monitors, Audient ID24 audio card, fully prepared acoustic solution in the room. Also in the near future I plan to buy Ableton Push 3 and some effect pedals

Let’s talk about production for a moment, where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play? Or do they at all?

For me, the best way to inspire is the process itself. We have an expression in Russia like: appetite comes with the meal. It's the same with music. I can go through my samples or hear some interesting sound and I'm blown away. Sometimes I can't do anything for months, just demos. But usually it happens when I just don't spend much time on music (yes I'm lazy) As soon as I start to systematically open my DAW and do something, inspiration comes back to me.

And regarding remixes, what do you look for in a track in terms of inspiration that make you want to put your own stamp on it?

I've noticed that most of the time it's the atmosphere and textures that get me, sometimes the melody. You might have noticed that I don't really like doing remixes, I've only done 4 of them so far. But now I'm going to fill that void :)

I like to do collaborations with artists, that way you can learn a lot from each other and catch your own exclusive vibe, it can happen that you and your partner are so much in sync that something incredible can come out of it.

How much road testing or friend feedback is collected to help make that decision? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

I have my close friend who is not a famous DJ or producer, he love to produce but only for himself. He the first who listening my demos. Also Anton Make, Aman Anand, Anton Borin, they are always receiving music from me. Sometimes I’m not testing too much my music, when I’m 100% sure. Before play any finished track I send it to my friend for professional mastering, and testing only after this.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

I hate mixing, so I've trained myself to do it immediately, as much as possible. That is, I try to do it right away so that the final mix sounds great. But I'm still learning and learning, of course.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

You hit it right on the spot haha

I've been playing for 17 years now, since I was 15 years old and for me it's more than just pushing buttons, I'm fully committed to it and of course working with the audience is also very important as well as professionalism itself. I can say with certainty that I'm a great DJ in every way haha, after all I've spent 17 years doing this 😁

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks, and also, your work as a producer?

I'm sure that DJing had a huge influence on my development as a musician. It's a huge springboard of basic knowledge and understanding of music in general, how it works and how it affects people on the dance floor, with all this knowledge it was much easier to enter the world of production, especially after so many years behind the decks. Terminology, and everything related to DJing is very intertwined with production. I know a lot of people who started to write music but never played it and then they got behind the decks and didn't understand how to behave and most importantly how to manage an audience, and I've also seen a lot of DJs who became producers - I think it's the best combination. First you play music and then you write it.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

I'd probably build a top-notch studio with the latest equipment (but I know I don't need it).

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book, and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Sunset - Be Svendsen Live

08PM - 09PM - Henry Saiz Band

09PM - 11PM  - Volen Sentir

11PM   - 01AM - Kasper Koman

01AM  - 05AM - Guy J

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

“Inner and Outter Worlds”, “Samadhi” documentaries (must watch, you can find it on YouTube)

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Travelling, it’s most important thing in my life after music.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

A lot of music coming this year, also I have coming Asian winter tour including Sri Lanka, India, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Bondarev's remix of 'Descending Into Heaven' is available now via roku: https://bit.ly/3EbStaK

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