Demokracy's Double Star EP for Robox Neotech is a 7 song extravaganza of beats and wild and soaring synths, like a hip-hop interpretation of Star Wars. Space fighters careen around songs like "Deadhead" and "Zone," with bass cannons in place of laser batteries and crushing drums chugging away in the engine room. The gentle intro of "Voight Kampff" belies the epic battle that awaits on this and "Zeroth Law," a song which asks the question: "Can a robot write a symphony?" While there are other artists working in the same style as Demokracy, this duo have the unique ability to craft songs that are at once tough as nails but with melodies that float above the fray like your favorite outer space adventure's theme.
When asked by Sonic Router about their background, the elusive producers only had this to offer: "We are Stas (aka Hmot) and Albert (aka Damscray). We write tunes together and live in the middle of nowhere." Perhaps it's that isolation that leads them to reach out and collaborate sometimes. Most recently they collaborated with Romanian producer and singer Liar on his forthcoming Lichborn EP. The EP will be out November 11 on Stas' own Gimme5 label, which has been responsible for fantastic release from Moa Pillar, Nocow, Damscray, Maguett over the past year. Happily, the collaboration with Liar led to Stas using Dopplerpad to lay down part of the track's production. The result is "Upjohn," which can be streamed below for the first time anywhere.
Liar feat. Demokracy - Upjohn by retronyms
Read on to find out their thoughts science fiction, studio processes, the digital music industry and Dopplerpad.
In the studio, what is your process like?
Well, there’s no real ’studio’, in the way you would expect. Being divided by a few thousand kilometers, we generally do our stuff using Skype and over the phone. It’s definitely improper and we’re well on our way to change this. As for our home studios, there’s not much to speak of – a couple of laptops, some midi keyboards, a pair of grooveboxes, etc. Broadly speaking, it’s more of a software-based thing.
In your music, artwork, and song titles, there is a significant focus on science fiction themes. Do you derive your inspiration from science fiction? Obviously there is a huge history of space aeronautics in Russia as well. Does that play into your thoughts?
This is true. We have great love for science fiction and everything on the topic of space, stars and whatever. Furthermore, it was our project’s original keystone, and the main reason why we started doing this. You know, the 60s and 70s, being the golden era of space exploration… people were dreaming of distant stars, faraway planets and meeting extraterrestrial life; there were tons of sci-fi novels and movies appearing every single year, which also helped to mask the cruelty and imperfectness of the contemporary world for people who stayed away from drugs and stuff. It was like a global euphoria, a dream to live for. It’s hard to say why everything has totally changed and people stopped watching the night skies and stars falling, but the fact is… everyone is stuck on themselves: for some reason, the most people care about today is the things they buy, the food they eat, the cars they drive and the way they look in the sight of other miserable ones. People are down to earth. You can count the number of decent ‘space’ movies that appeared during the last 10-15 years on one hand – the main themes today are human’s issues or some super-surreal thing like magic or sorcery. Don’t get us wrong – imagining all these knights, princesses and dragons isn’t really a bad thing but, as a dream, it’s hollow. The most attainable scenario for you then is waving a wooden sword somewhere in the woods along with similar immature men and women. Conversely, dreaming of space is a very achievable dream – with today’s technology and scientific research, everything might happen and most of us will surely have a chance to observe Earth from its orbit. There was a guy on Soundcloud who left us a comment saying "you make your listeners dream," or something like that, and we must say it was the best compliment ever… a very emotional moment. It may sound overly romantic or silly, even arrogant maybe, but we’re here to make at least a few people start dreaming again.
For someone living in the US, the music scene in Russia feels so distant. Do you have any recommendations for music for our readers to check out?
Staying away from praising our friends or listing obvious names, we’re pretty sure there are a lot of promising guys we might not be aware of yet, but will surely hear soon. Russia is traditionally brimming with talent and the development of the Internet makes the artists’ lives much easier. And, honestly, for us, both living in far-off provinces, this whole scene feels a bit distant too.
Stas, you run the G5 label. What do you think of the state of the music industry for small labels like yours?
It’s pretty unpredictable. Small labels fall into the limelight, big labels lose their positions – digital distribution changed everything. Also, today’s rankings partly depend of the names you have on board so obviously it’s an ego thing too.
The proliferation of mp3s has obviously affected artists and labels in irreversible ways. Do you think the widespread availability of digital music is ultimately good or bad? How do you deal with it?
It’s definitely, definitely good. Don’t know about Europe or US but here, if it weren’t for mp3s, 99% of Russians would never be listening to this kind of stuff - the independent stuff, of course. Even in the late 90s you could hardly find any decent music in record shops because there were no real record shops – especially outside of Moscow or St. Petersburg. Yes, there were loads of bootlegged/pirated CDs/cassettes for sale, but all of them were just pathetic and filled with shitty eurodance/local pop stuff. It doesn’t really matter where you live anymore – be it Africa, Asia, Australia or even Antarctica – you have full access to up-to-date music.
With this "iPod generation," people not only have constant access to their music, but also to the tools to make music with. What did you think of Dopplerpad?
Tools like Dopplerpad could be amusing additions to the beaten path of music production but we see neither it nor anything else replacing “desktop” software or hardware interfaces in the nearest future. Though everything might change – mainly, it depends on the arrival of groundbreaking devices, doesn’t it?
Do you have an suggestions about how to make touch music tools better?
Again, it’s a matter of new hardware. For example, if future devices had some of these mind-blowing features like… mini-projectors or whatever – can you just imagine it?! A huge seven/eight octave holographic keyboard that easily fits your pocket, something like MPC-pads projected on the floor… It’s not too hard to envision owning all these kinds of ‘futuristic’ gadgets in the near future and that’s very encouraging.
Do you see yourselves looking at these new tools like iOS devices with equal consideration as your normal studio tools? What role might they play?
Devices like iPhone or iPod Touch aren’t very easy to operate because of their small sizes. The iPad, however, is holding up as a fine addition to the traditional studio kit, and also it’s kinda entertaining to play synth solos or whatever using Dopplerpad-like software during live performances.
Tell us a little about the track you have given us.
This is a tune we made together with our friend Liar from Romania. He owns the basic idea and vibe, while our contribution is the drums and synths. We used iPod Touch (with your Dopplerpad application installed) for ambience and pads. We even tried to play the synth solo on it but almost broke our fingers – the device’s screen is obviously too small for serious performances. The track itself is part of Liar’s debut EP, forthcoming on G5 Music on November 11th 2011.
We really want to thank Demokracy and Liar for sharing "Upjohn" and their thoughts with us. What do you think, readers? How do you feel about the viability of smaller touch screens like the iPod Touch and iPhone for creation and performance? We'd love to hear your thoughts and your results!
Demokracy's Double Star is out now on Robox Neotech. Liar's Lichborn is out November 11 on G5 Music.