Ukrainian talent Spartaque is one of the country’s top exports for a variety of reasons. For starters he identified a lack of viable labels in his region from a young age and did something about it, not many being able to say the same, and has remained a pivotal force within the global techno community for over a decade now.
Through a variety of labels now, Spartaque has sought to fulfill his artistic vision while promoting collaborations and networking above all else to ensure high quality, forward thinking releases and the Codex imprint has proven to be the perfect reflection of that mentality.
Recently, we had the chance to catch up with Spartaque for our latest Artist Profile:
Thanks for taking the time to chat, how has your summer been so far?
Thanks for having me! This summer was great and active, indeed. There have been lots and lots of large-scale, awesome events and festivals. This summer a number of my hot releases on Tronic and Transmit labels saw life this summer, as well as on my own label Codex. Recently I released a vinyl record together with Alan Wools… In general, this summer period was one of the most successful ones in my career. That’s because I expanded significantly the geography of my tours and strengthened my positions in terms of the scale of events I took part in, so I’m really happy about it.
Really, the summer of 2017 was a blast for me.
I wanted to start with a few background questions. You were born in Ukraine, correct?
Yes, I come from Ukraine. I was born back in the Soviet period but now I am a Ukrainian citizen. I was born in Kharkiv, that’s a fairly big industrial city also known for its scientific and technology centers. And I believe this played a big role in my career development because this city is home to a pretty lively club scene and night life there is springing. This allowed me to form my DJing skills and start my career. Then I moved to Kyiv where I launched my worldwide expansion.
Do you remember some of the first clubs you stepped foot in and first parties attended?
Of course, I do remember. Those were not techno parties. Perhaps my first party in a club was some kind of a rap event. I believe I was about 14 at the time. Back then, we had no strict rules in terms of booze and things like that. That was a party for youngsters. I remember we were chilling there in the club and one of my friends knew a promoter and I was overall proud that I got into a club. We spent all our pocket money for, like, a bottle of beer. We were just drinking and having the time of our life. I still have this nice aftertaste from that first visit to a club. That was a decisive moment for me in a way. That’s when I probably decided to connect with this whole club culture
and profession which many consider unusual.
How did growing up in the Ukraine shape your view of electronic music?
I don’t think that living in Ukraine made my views shape differently from the way they were formed for the young people growing up elsewhere. At the time we were all craving for music. When I was growing up as a DJ, I was probably a third or fourth generation DJ in Ukraine. We already had DJs who toured across Europe and bought records there, I mean those who could afford it. Or they would buy records from their relatives and friends who lived in Europe. We had these house parties where they would call up the chosen ones who were able to buy the best records at the time. And then more and more people had the opportunity to buy them.
I wasn’t particularly affected because when my time came, there was a shift from vinyl records toward CDs and less people were spinning vinyl records. People started to see CDs as the major source. Then the rapid rise of the internet allowed us to get the newest releases and of course people tried to follow the latest developments on the European and global markets and bring this all to Ukraine. That’s what I was doing, too. So I don’t think growing up in Ukraine shaped me any differently from my European peers.
Today, being a Ukrainian DJ I don’t have any problems following the latest European trends. I think that at the time of such total globalization, if you are really into something, you can be at the epicenter of events even living in such outskirts of Europe.
And so, most recently, you just released an EP with Spartaque and Alan Wools on it on your Codex imprint. What was it like working with Alan Wools and how long did the EP take to finish?
Yes, it is a great EP. We produced two tracks with Arseniy, that’s Alan Wools, and also two tracks were released which he produced by himself. I really like all four of them. Our joint work was interesting for me. It reminded me of a football game. We would pass the ball to each other’s pitch – I would write something and send it over to him and vice versa. We used Dropbox to this end. It’s a rather convenient thing, you know. Despite the fact that Alan Wools is also a guy from Ukraine, he now lives in Cyprus while I live in Kyiv. At the same time, we had no problems communicating as we are using all that modern technology passing along to each other some of our ideas.
I praise Alan’s skills as he was the one who did all mastering. He’s a real talented guy in terms of sound production. He is the one whom I bet on because I truly believe in his talent and I always play loads of his tracks and I now try to ultimately have as many of his tracks released on my labels as possible. Besides our latest joint release, his new one called No Sleep will soon be released on my other label called IAMT. It will be in November. I do recommend you all to pay attention to this release. I have already played it a lot, at many festivals. So yeah, please don’t miss this one coming from the man.
When you go to start a new project like that, is there typically an underlying theme? Or do
you just kind of dive right in and watch things evolve from there?
To me it’s a creative process from start to end. I never use patterns prepared beforehand. Maybe I have some favorite hats, some claps, or the kick, which is killing for sure. I may start off from that, but in general, when I start working on a new track, I start with a groove. It may be some kick bass or some interesting percussions. Probably, you’re right, I just dive in and see how it goes. It sometimes happens so that I cling to some interesting idea that arises from the very start and just start developing it. As a rule, it turns out to be a great track, the most effective in terms of its feedback on a dancefloor.
But of course, there are cases when I work on a track for a longer amount of time, I redo many things, and such tracks, too, become my fans’ favorites. So this whole creative process cannot be explained in full. There are no certain algorithms or action plans. You launch your sequencer and start writing music – right when you have that urge, that itching. If there’s no inspiration, I try to be as far from Ableton as possible.
When did the idea for this EP first come to fruition?
It’s pretty hard to answer this question because we’ve been working on this release since spring. If I’m not mistaken, the idea came up at an 11,000 altitude. In general, an airplane is a place for me where I write a lot of music because when I’m at home, I mostly deal with management issues, promoting the Spartaque brand and both of my labels. Unfortunately, at home I have not enough time for production, let alone stamina. Airplanes are different in this respect. That’s a place where I don’t get distracted, where annoying emails are not bothering me, where there are no Facebook or WhatsApp notifications, where you can be left alone with your ideas and music. So I think the initial
groove for this EP came out during one of my flights on tour.
What were some of the main influences that went in to the creation of the EP and structuring it the way you did?
Today it’s hard for me to say what influenced the structuring of this EP. We definitely agreed on the fact that it would be better in terms of marketing to first put out our joint tracks and then go for solo tracks by Alan Wools. We decided to make a track which would be released “vinyl only,” which yielded great results. This was the best-sold record among all released on Codex label. You’re asking about structuring but, you know, it’s just a creative process. There is some light marketing strategy, of which I’ve told you, but it’s mostly about creativity than about some plans or graphs. We saw it this way and that’s how it emerged before our audience.
When did you first get the idea to start your own label, and if you had one piece of advice for artists looking to start their own independent label, what would it be?
Actually, Codex is not the first of my labels. I’ve already had three. The first one was called Perfect Groove Foundation, which we launched in 2007 with a friend of mine, DJ Bruno. It was in Kyiv where I worked for Virus Music. We sat in front of each other, both making music, and agreed that it was rather difficult for a Ukrainian DJ to make to Beatport so why don’t we open our own label, and so we did. We even released records, and that was a real furor among Ukrainian and Russian DJs. That’s because there were few labels back in the day, and it was difficult to get hold of some new info and get a clue of how it’s supposed to be set up. But again, once you’re really into something, you can make it.
Later I moved away from dealing with the label and focused on developing my own career. Besides, differences arose between the two of us on how to release new tracks. Anyway, it was a really significant experience for me. Then my IAmTechno label emerged, which I opened with the already-mentioned Virus Music. That was the major event provider in Ukraine at the time and those guys wanted to organize a Ukrainian techno festival. I came up with the idea to open a label and we decided to name the label the same way they wanted to name their festival, IAmTechno. We decided to tie it all together within a single brand, a common concept.
They later quit their festival thing while the label remained. The only thing I changed was shortening the name to IAmT in order not to upset the fans who see techno music a bit differently. Indeed, techno music can take different shapes so claiming that this is techno and this is not would be a wrong thing to do on my part. So by undergoing this light rebranding I escaped all possible arguments and resentment from other artists.
As for my Codex label, it’s the youngest and most promising one. I aimed at being able to show my new vision, my own techno that I play at the moment. I also wanted to attract top artists, to work jointly on releases for this label. So this was my concept and now we are following it nicely. I am really pleased to see the outcome. In general, it’s perfect for me.
As for the advice to those wishing to open their own label, I’d probably advise not to. You shouldn’t open up your label unless you’ve already gained some success, unless you accumulate a great number of friends, connections and contacts to actually be able to attract quality artists on your label. It is a very difficult task, even for me today. You shouldn’t fall for spontaneous cravings, harboring naïve hope that you will succeed and everyone will come running to work with you. They won’t. Until you have your concept figured out or even if you already have it and see how you will be developing it, you better put this file to a back shelf and come back to it in some two or three years. Seriously, guys, don’t rush it with a label. Be as alert as possible and then you will get the desired result.
What do you have in the works for Codex in the near future?
Indeed, I have lots of great releases scheduled for Codex. The next one will be by Matthew J from Italy with remixes on the pieces by a highly-acclaimed DJ Jock. This is the guy whose tracks are often played by Carl Cox, Alan Fitzpatrick, Pan Pot, and many other top artists. I also enjoy playing his tracks and I love his production work. I am happy that he agreed to work with my label. Then there’ll be a remix by Alan Wools, and it’s also great news. He’s done a great job.
There will be a release by Yellow Heads with my remix, then there will be an awesome and highly anticipated
release – my two joint works with another cool Ukrainian artist Skober. A legendary Italian techno producer Sasha Karassi will be making a remix for us, too. It is also very cool, and I can’t wait to hear this remix.
Then there will be Hungarian hitmakers Steam Shape, the guys who are brilliant techno producers. They have a great vision within this style of music and now they get released on a huge number of top labels, so I’m happy to have them, really. A no less famous producer from Canada Weska will be making a remix for them. Another release scheduled is my own. I have already confirmed a remix by Boris, and we are now in talks with some other remixes. I will elaborate on that once we have everything confirmed.
Anyway, these will be top artists. As I’ve said, Codex to me is a perfect networking platform and I’m happy I’ve launched this label. I’m even more happy to see that I’m able to attract top artists now.
Do you have any major plans for the rest of 2017? Any key gigs to look forward to?
I can tell you more about the upcoming events this autumn. Just last week I played at a great club Industrial Copera in Spain’s Granada. I had a chance to see for myself this great location and I’m really happy I performed there. I made friends with those guys so I hope that I will be returning there to play again and again.
This week I’ll be playing at Portugal’s Pacha Ofir at the season’s closing where a great lineup is expected. Carlo Lio will be playing as well as Deborah De Luca, me, and a good number of local DJs so I’m in great anticipation of this event. As for some other major locations, I’m looking forward for my gig at Madrid’s Fabrique on November 18, celebrating a birthday of legendary Code parties. There will also be plenty of smaller events. In general, my touring schedule is packed up to year-end. So I recommend that you follow the updates on my Facebook page and my website spartaque.com where I try to publish all of my touring news and confirm the dates. You will find all relevant information there.
That’s it for today, thanks for those interesting questions. I had a good time answering them. Thanks for the invitation.