Interview with Moscow Legend – Russian Grime DJ & Producer

Interview with Moscow Legend – Russian Grime DJ & Producer

Moscow Legend is a Russian grime DJ & producer giving the genre a new lease of life in Russia’s underground music scene. As a part of United gang, the self-described bass community from the country’s capital, Moscow Legend is paving the way for a new generation of UK-influenced Russian artists.

In this interview we discuss his roots, the British influence on the Russian scene and what’s next for Russian bassline & grime.

Moscow Legend’s debut EP, Tek Dis!, will be released by United on 15th May, and is available for pre-order here.

To get a taste of what he’s about, check out the guest mix that he put together for us below.

Who are United? How did it come about?

We’ve had some changes in our team, a couple guys have left, a couple have come in. Right now there are 9 members: Toton, Gunam, Dubfellah, Whitelabel, Oddkut, D-Biz, Cosmos, Big Alf and myself. Two of the gang live outside of Moscow, so they perform with us occasionally.

United grew up from a few different promos. Some of the United members put on nights before under different names, with different genres. All those genres were related to underground UK bass music. We knew each other personally and supported each other’s events.

I made a night called Grime Ting, it was a good night, but I wanted it to be bigger. I didn’t believe that it could get more attention, so I didn’t continue with it.

After that point, I saw that a couple of others didn’t get the attention they deserved, such as Toton and Dubfellah’s events. I performed at some of Toton’s nights, and saw that he’s a really good promoter, with a good selection of music, and had big potential. Dubfellah and Cosmos also did dubstep nights like Vibrating Room and Bass:weight.

I had an old Grime Ting group chat with a few people. Firstly I met Whitelabel at a rave and we found that we had the same vision on music. Then D-Biz was hungry to perform and messaged me to do some nights, so I added him to the group chat to try and come up with something. 

We understood that the other guys’ events weren’t going too well, their nights were dead. The music was good, but not many people turned up to support it. That’s how we got the idea to message them and unite all our powers into one. 

Initially Toton didn’t have any ideas, but after a couple of weeks he got back to me and said “let’s try it.” Whitelabel knew Cosmos and Dubfellah better than me, so he proposed the idea to them and they joined us. Toton asked about our name, and I said United – we united to do this thing, and at the same time it was a nice association with the United Kingdom.

Where did the name Moscow Legend come from?

I’ve been partying for a long time – since the mid-2000s – and I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime. So one time this guy, who hadn’t been to one of our nights in ages, saw me randomly in the street. He was like “Yo, Troy (that’s what my old friends used to call me), what’s good Moscow Legend?!”. I laughed at that, found it too funny. 

After some time I needed a name for my Insta account, so I used Moscow Legend, and then when I started to do music I decided to use it too. Originally I actually wanted to change it, maybe to a shorter name like ML – sometimes I’m too shy, you know! But my friends kept telling me not to change as it’s very unique. I’m still pretty happy with it.

When did you get into this music?

Back in 2008/09 my friends who were into football and graffiti showed me Dizzee [Rascal], Akala, and Roll Deep. I liked that energy, the vibes, the atmosphere, their way of spitting, and the weird and unusual sound of the beats. It seemed so unique to me, so I started listening to it more and more. Then I got involved in some dubstep events and really liked all that was going on there. From then on, I started going to all the events with that kind of music.

Who are your biggest influences in music, both in Russia and abroad? 

I think the real journey began the first time I saw the video for Breathe by The Prodigy. As a 9 year old, I felt such crazy emotions; I’d never seen or heard anything like it before! Now I know how much sick music there was at that time and even before that, but back then there was no internet, and Russian TV channels didn’t show anything cool, except on that day because The Prodigy had a free concert on Red Square. So as a kid I just didn’t know how and where I could find any interesting music. But anyway, that was a great start.

Russian music never had a big influence on me compared with foreign music. If we’re talking about grime, then my biggest influences when I started to perform were DJ Slimzee, Oil Gang, Grandmixxer. Their shows inspired me too much. The push for me to play was after I heard a DJ Spooky set with P Money in Moscow. Before I started to perform, it was Roll Deep, both as a crew and individually, Durrty Goodz, D Double E, the list is endless. I play a lot of instrumentals, so I’m inspired by producers such as Geeneus, Dexplixit, Maniac, Nocturnal, Wiley, JT the Goon, Spooky, Dullah Beatz, Sirpixalot, Grandmixxer, Boylan, Trends, As.If Kid…shit, there are too many!

How do you rate the Russian scene?

Garage has been around for a long time; guys like Timij and Vaden have been doing it since the early 2000s. Those guys are from Saint Petersburg, but here in Moscow Tiger Balms pioneered the garage scene – they did a lot of radio shows spinning both old and new music.

I’m also happy we met Robin Axford, an English producer and sound engineer who lives and works here. Having brought such original sounds to his sets, he quickly became a favourite in the Russian scene. People always support him, I think they feel his passion for music.

My friend and teammate Whitelabel always makes people go crazy on the dance floor. All these people do collaborations; their night Гэридж (Garage) at Powerhouse in Moscow is always full. The scene is alive here, still underground, but the music makes people dance, so I think there is potential for it to be bigger, and play on bigger stages.

Do you think Russia needs grime, bassline and garage?

We have a huge country – even one city like Moscow is very big. So I’m sure that some people need it and some are maybe not ready. Ten years ago was a better time for UK music here, we had a lot of UK artists booked on a regular basis. It’s hard to say what happened, but they disappeared at some point – maybe because people grew up and stopped raving, family things and all that.

At the same time, the new generation of ravers grew up on different trends and genres, like techno or modern rap. I reckon that the new generation will get bored of these genres and start searching for something new. That’s how our music can grow again…we’re waiting!

I can already see that this community is growing slowly – since United started, older people who made nights and music time ago are trying to jump back in, and I see younger followers who rate the things we do and are trying to become DJs and promoters too, which is great to see.

Bumazhnaya Fabrika, one of the venues United played at last year, closed recently. Is there a problem with these sorts of venues being targeted by authorities, or not being financially sustainable?

As far I know Bumazhnaya Fabrika will open again soon – as I understand it, they failed some club technical standards or something which they must sort out before they can reopen.

But yes, sometimes shit happens here with clubs. Sometimes it’s about the government, sometimes not. It can’t be said that it’s a great time for underground promos to find a proper home and a club with decent conditions. There’s only a few here and there isn’t much choice. All of them have some pluses and some minuses.

Are there any UK collabs in the pipeline? 

I can give you a big list of plans! Our link ups with UK artists are getting bigger, but unfortunately we don’t have any external finance support to do everything we want. It’s hard to do it all just by ourselves. That said, we have a couple of plans coming soon.

What similarities and differences are there with the UK music scene?

The UK is the home of the music that we’re spreading here. It’s been around in the UK for a longer time, so the support is stronger. Plus it’s about the different cultures that each country has: Russia has its own history, one that’s different to the UK’s, which explains the differences.

That’s especially the case with the music we’re spreading. I’ve been into it for more than ten years and I still can’t say I know everything, there’s so much to find out. However, I know some guys from the UK who started getting into it because they have the legacy from their parents: for example, the father of my friend was a jungle DJ time ago, so that guy grew up on that music.

In the UK, grime has started to be overshadowed by drill and UK rap. Do you see the same thing happening in Russia?

Modern Russian rap and modern US rap are big here. Old-school proper rap and hip hop has always been here, but this modern thing is huge now. I know that drill is getting bigger and bigger in the UK, but I can’t really say much about drill in Russia as I don’t really follow Russian music at all, only some underground and bass artists.

What’s the best gig/set you’ve played?

Difficult question. I think the one United did inside the one of big Moscow bridges – our guest was DJ Squarewave. Another one was at Pluton with DJ Slimzee. It was a big honour to play on the same stage as him, and that rave was massive. 

I also like our regular raves with the more humble, family vibes. The different people we perform with are all on the same wavelength and all the guys are such nice people. I think I love all the United nights: it’s my home, family, vibe, the atmosphere is 100 percent.

Who are the most talented Russian MCs/DJs?

First up it’s each and every one of my team: I know how all of them believe in the thing that we do and how hard they try to bring the best vibes to the crowd.

Robin Axford is in Moscow – even though he was born in the UK, he’s a local artist really, and he inspires me every time I see him playing.

I also love to see Tiger Balms in action, they’re always on positive vibes.

Big Roba Sound System – two dub producers and sound engineers who I have a lot of respect for. Those guys are doing great events, bringing over artists from the UK and other countries, and they have a very powerful sound system which they built themselves.

A.Fruit – such a great producer, sound designer and engineer, running her Get High on Bass parties, doing tours and sets in other countries.

Spacesurfer (aka Nebrashka, Trizna, Хандра) – such a talented guy playing different styles of music with a few aliases – he’s underground and underrated!

Dubraw – a crew from the south of Russia doing high quality raves in Krasnodar. They’re also putting on a two-day summer festival near the Black Sea, with mostly UK bass music. We’re calling it the Russian Outlook, it’s absolutely sick.

Mechtatel DJ – with vinyl-only head-cutting dubs every time and has such a big collection of great music. A very unique person on our scene.

Stace.bum and Dognuts – keep your eyes on these newcomers who have set dancefloors on fire since their first set. These guys also started a project called Beside where they broadcast DJ sets playing UK bass music.

Headspace – a dubstep enthusiast, DJ and producer, part of the Grechafank promo, which is also bringing UK artists over to Saint Petersburg.

Fat Vibez promo – run by DJ Timij who has been spinning UK music since the early 2000s. A proper bass head, doing raves in Saint Petersburg and bringing over UK artists, too.

Garage Inflections Promo – Run by the legendary DJ Vaden, doing mostly garage nights in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Distant Roots – very talented dubstep, grime, bass producer, a close friend of United, and one of his dubs is coming out on our first EP UNITED 001.

There are more names still and I think I’ve forgotten some, I hope they will forgive me. All of these people I rate and respect much – family tings.

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