Zabelin is an evangelist for Russia's electronic music scene—and also one of its best artists. Mariana Berezovska sits down with the mystic-minded DJ and producer.English language news about nightlife in Russia often includes words like "shut down," "authorities," and "police." If you can read news or social media channels in Russian, though, you discover a different world, one with its own celebrities, podcasts and interviews with local and foreign electronic musicians, memes and jokes about techno heroes and villains. As I speak with Nikita Zabelin, one of the most popular techno DJs in the post-Soviet territories, we make it clear from the very start that this conversation won't be about tough Russian reality with empty supermarkets in the '90s and violent club raids today. We understand each other's cultural narrative and the way things work behind the European borders. And we are both aware that people in "the East" don't view the police and authorities as dramatically as journalists in the West tend to.
"In Russia, underground, state and police all exist in different dimensions," Zabelin explains. "I wouldn't say they chase or control us as some 'dangerous movement,' they just have no idea what we are doing out there. There is no communication between us and them, so often they treat us like some garbage lying on the floor. A police guy is just passing by, sees trash and throws it in a bin. And then he is off to dinner with his family. Next morning he does not remember shutting down a club or Outline festival. We just need to learn how to communicate with them. Clubs which managed to find common ground with authorities do not get shut down."
This year, Zabelin debuted on the Icelandic label X/OZ with his Trans Siberian ExpressEP, having previously appeared on Nina Kraviz's трип, which brought him wide recognition in the worldwide techno community. He and Exos, the artist who runs X/OZ, became friends in 2015 at one of трип's first parties. Zabelin sees similarities in the world's perceptions of Icelanders and Russians: both countries are remote with a lot of empty space surrounded by a cold sea, and they share a particular melancholic mindset.
"I am always in search of this fourth dimension, the resonance," Zabelin says. "Music carries a religious meaning for me, because it sustains my integrity as a person and brings balance and harmony into my life. It teaches me to distribute my energy properly, similarly to when I'm working on a music arrangement, tuning in minor details. I also feel that I have accumulated enough knowledge about music in order to live in the world of my imagination and sustain my body as an instrument to make my fantasy a reality, as a spaceship inside of which I can grow gardens and arrange my belongings on the shelves. As soon as you reach the harmony inside of your spaceship, you become more loving towards others and yourself. This is the feeling music brings into my life."
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