Musical Activist- A tribute to Dmitry Vasilyev [2018-11-12]On September 7, 2018, Dmitry Vasilyev tragically died. Dmitry was an integral part of not just the Russian experimental scene, but the worldwide scene. He was not an artist in the truest sense of the word; his art was the promotion of experimental music to the listeners and this he did with real passion & commitment- moving from publishing fanzines, onto running a respected label, through promoting shows, onto writing to the definitive book on Italian experimental music, and beyond
Dimtry, began his interest in music in early childhood, first finding love for classical composers like - Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bach and others. As a teenager, he became interested in the Berlin School of Electronic Music. And then, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, more experimental and extreme music forms began to penetrate into the country, of which industrial, avant-garde, ambient and noise were a part of.
These outsider genres really captured Dmitry's attention, so much so, that in 1995 he began publishing the fanzine Independent Electronic Music (IEM), the first issued published in a circulation of hundred copies. It was created on a computer and photocopied. In 1996, a website for IEM appeared. Between 1995 to 2003 the production of new issued dipped due to arouse delays and difficulties- but during this time it became and more professional produced journal, which gained respected from around the world.
After a few years away from the production of IEM, in 2007 it was once again resurrected as a Podcast "IEM podcast", which was broadcast once a week. Between 2007 to 2018, more than 230 such weekly programs were released, in which Dmitry talked about various representatives from the world experimental scene, introduced the listeners to some of their tracks, as well as discussing work of labels engaged in publishing experimental music.
In 2004, he founded his own label Monochrome Vision. Perhaps this is the most famous Russian label, professionally producing albums within the wider experimental music genre. More than fifty CD’s where released on the label, these including quite famous names and projects, such as Le Syndicat, Maurucio Bianchi, Sigillum S, and more obscure acts.
The development of the label also contributed to the activities of Dmitry, as the organizer of concerts and tours in Russia and Ukraine. Thanks to Dmitry, fans could see and hear not only the legends of the industrial and experimental stage, but also lesser-known, but no less talented underground artists from around the world. Thanks to Dmitry's organizational talents, the Monochrome Vision also engaged in distribution activities, collaborating with many well-known foreign labels. Also, in 2012, Dmitry founded a subsidiary label Alone At Last. It was a very selective label focused in on Dmitry's personal musical preferences. For the entire existence of the label, since 2012 only seven CD releases have been released in a limited edition. But these were albums of very famous and respected artists: Francisco Lopez, Richard Francis + Bruce Russell, Mauricio Bianchi, Troum + Aidan Baker, Pacific 231 + Lieutenant Caramel, Rapoon + Pacific 231, Bad Sector.
He had always felt a special love for the Italian experimental scene. Since about 2010, he had been directly involved in the organization and promotion of an international competition of artists working in an experimental genre, Prix Russolî. Dmitry publishes annual collections of works by the winners of this competition, as well as organizes concerts of these artists in the framework of Prix Russolî.
Being engaged in journalistic and research activities in the field of experimental music, in 2017 Dmitry published the titanic work - the encyclopedia of Italian experimental music Viva Italia. The book is the author's review of articles on the Italian scene over the past 60 years. Dmitry began to collect material for this book while he was working on the print edition of IEM magazine. Thus, the work on the book lasted 12 or 15 years. The book takes in information about more than 800 musicians, with photos and detailed descriptions of their albums. All the articles are grouped into five chapters: early electronic music (1955-1980), academic music, new wave and industrial scene (1980-1984), music from the pre-digital stage (1985-1995) and all the contemporary scene (1996-2015). The last two chapters consist of independent labels review and the interviews with musicians, most of those were intended to be included in IEM magazine which was never published after 2003. Some artists were featured in IEM podcasts, as well as their music, with the intention to represent their creative attitudes at its best. Unfortunately, the idea of the book doesn't allow to achieve the same goal, but it's accompanied by the quadruple CD compilation of the same title, where you can find the exclusive pieces by many Italian artists, provided specially for this project and never released before. The book contained 785 pages of( Russian) Text. This edition is strictly limited to 700 copies.
This was followed by a series of concerts by Italian artists, dedicated to the presentation of Viva Italia. As part of this series, Russia was visited by such artists and projects as Teatro Satanico, Stefano Pilia, Cristiano Luciani, Lorenzo Abattoir and others.
And so, at the beginning of this fall, the life of Dmitry Vasilyev was tragically and unexpectedly cut short. I am sure that there is no doubt about the legacy he left behind. His contribution to the development of music in general, and experimental music in particular - is priceless. I personally knew Dmitry, we met several times. Unfortunately, I did not know him that well, but nevertheless, we had joint plans that could sadly be not now realized. I will remember him as a kind, calm person, an excellent conversationalist and a real “musical activist,” as he called himself.
In preparing this article, I read and watched several interviews with Dmitry. I remember his last sentence from an interview he gave to the online magazine Darker. (http://darkermagazine.ru/page/dmitrij-vasilev-ja-schitaju-sebja-muzykalnym-aktivistom?fbclid=IwAR3pdOuTsuASe4fxPS69IYzQ6iiIR8Xx3hTrOYJq-ygToGErUR72P-nToW4 ). To the last question, whether Dmitry has further plans to publish other books, he replied - "There are no plans for books yet, but there are quite a few other projects that I would like to have time to accomplish. Having time to do - the most difficult thing ..."
After Dmitry's death, on his Facebook page appeared hundreds, or maybe thousands of posts from his friends, acquaintances and musicians, with whom he once worked and was friends. These are memories, condolences, warm words, photos ... There are a lot of photos ...
In preparing this article, I contacted several musicians and friends of Dmitry. I asked them to say a few words about him.
Ñhristophe Petchanatz: I met Dmitry Vasiliev a few years ago when he was travelling in Europe to meet musicians... I was honoured that he chose to go to Lyon to see me. We spent a day together, talking and walking. His erudition about experimental music was incredible. But we also talked about his son, his mother, this apartment full of records... we talked about everyday life in Russia, not always easy, and mushrooms. I was afraid that one day an error concerning mushrooms would be fatal. A few years later he produced the record Ostinatii 2 recorded with Denis Tagu on drums. It was great for me to appear in the Monochrome Vision catalogue.
The disappearance of Dmitri, whom I thought I would see again one day or another, does not seem to be real. It's a fiction. Tell me it's a fiction.
Paolo L. Bandera(Sigillum S): When I met Dmitry for the first time in 2017, we had been already in contact for some years, due to his passion for Sigillum S and the resulting collaborations: the occasion was, of course, his Italian tour for the VIVA ITALIA presentations.... and I was overwhelmed by his sheer enthusiasm, extremely deep knowledge and totally nice attitude.
I was very “prepared” for the experience (up to the point that I had asked him to bring me 5 copies of the book / CD box set), but the actual experience of discussing for hours with him, while he was attracting huge attention from everyone in the “scene” , was unexpected.... emotional and fully intellectual at the same time.
This led to him organizing my SSHE RETINA STIMULANTS trip to Moscow, together with Simon Balestrazzi, in March 2018, and ... this was IT !
In fact, Dmitry not only organized everything in a perfect way (and by the way, the DOM venue and the audience were 100 % awesome), but he also walked us around to so many unique places, while meeting so many interesting people, that I got practically in love with the city and its inhabitants/culture/environment... unbelievable.
Just a few days before his tragedy, we were texting each other, as I was enquiring about possibly having Sigillum S in Russia..... he will never see that happening, but, nonetheless, he will always be with us... EVERYWHERE, FOREVER.
Sascha Stadlmeier (Emerge): I got in contact with Dmitry by e-mail. A few years ago he wrote to me and asked about trading some CDs. As I liked his label Monochrome Vision for quite a while, this was more than welcome. In Spring 2018 he invited me and Jan Kruml (Instinct Primal) for a tour in Russia. Hi picked us up at the airport in Sinferopol and we spend 2 days together in Sevastopol where I had the chance to talk to him about a lot of different things, music and many other topics. I experienced him as a very intelligent person with a lot of ambitions and many interests through being very modest especially regarding his musical activities, which were so many beside the label and this was quite unexpected for me. Dmitry considered Sevastopol as sort of a second hometown and showed us around as much as possible despite a rainy day. Treating us first hand as friends and welcome guests. This was a really wonderful and inspiring time I'm very thankful for.
Ñarsten Olbrich: Since 2006, Dmitry and I have been in contact and exchanged postal CDs to bring us closer to our labels Monochrome Vision and Ebus Music.
In 2012, Dmitry gave us (Watercolored Well) the okay to release the CD "Arsonists Rebirthday Audition" on his label, which brought us some resonances from Russia. I still remember the hot phase when I worked intensively with Dmitry on the layout and the creation of the info text including its translation into the Cyrillic script. At that time we emailed several times a day.
For the double anniversary of his label (the 50th publication / the 10-year label existence) appeared from the then recordings hitherto unpublished piece "Jimmie's Pagan" on the 3-CD compilation "MV X: Monochrome Visions 2004 - 2014".
For the areas of electronics / experimental / noise / avant-garde / musique concrete etc. I would like to call Dmitry's work internationally significant.
Also in his radio show "Independent Electronic Music" (IEM) he played us.
We also talked outside of the music: Since Dmitry often commuted between Russia and Ukraine, I crushed him to his real impressions when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula. The interviews I read with him were intelligent and meaningful. And I really liked that he posted pictures of himself collecting mushrooms on FB.
A reordering of our CD is unfortunately no longer possible.
Alexey Borisov(ASTMA, Волга, F.R.U.I.T.S.): It still does not fit into my mind that Dmitry is not with us. A true enthusiast of his business, a reliable partner, a good person, passed away. He loved unusual, experimental music and died unusually, even mysteriously .... We will remember him, in our minds, he is always with us and invisibly present at our concerts and events.
Richardas Norvila(artist, performer): Can we talk about the modern Russian Intelligentsia? In the case of Dmitry Vasilyev - yes, yes, and yes again!
Svyatoslav Ponomarev(Purba): I know him only a couple of years and we haven't talked much. His thoughts about music were always balanced and accurate, or he didn’t respond at all about this or that project, but never condemned anyone. He inspired confidence in the depth of evaluation. A rare man in his place ...
Jan Kruml(Radio 1): Dmitry was a good friend, music enthusiast, diplomat and pure soul. His legacy and spirit is here with us. There will be films, albums dedicated to him and we are working on the "Dmitry Vasiljev festival" next year in September at DOM in Moscow.
Lorenzo Abattoir(Nascitari, Satanismo Calibro 9: I'm thankful for all the support he gave to the scene. Dmitriy has sacrificed a lot of time and energy to support many artists like me. That's honourable!
Alexander Starostin(Theodor Bastard): He alone cost hundreds of journalists and a dozen labels. His vigorous activity captured and admired. How much he did to popularize experimental music is difficult to even describe. For example, he recently released a huge book about the Italian experimental scene. What has become a big event for Europe. His enthusiasm, love of music, was literally infecting. We met back in the late 90s - early 00s, when the first issue of his journal Independent Electronic Music was released. And when we began to publish our magazine “Bulldozer” in St. Petersburg, Dima wrote several articles for us and helped with materials, translations and contacts. In those days we often visited each other. He also observed the birth of my, then still quite experimental, project Theodor Bastard. I remember his apartment littered with the circulation of the ÑDs, which he printed for various noise artists, whose names to many would not say anything and collections of records and discs. Until the end of his life, Dima was interested in and developing the experimental scene. He published unique artists from around the world, led audio podcasts. I still not believe, that he is gone. Dima, we are all will miss you very much. And thank you for everything you did!
Cristiano Luciani(Cris X):
In 2012 I released my work in collaboration with KK Null and Dimitry wrote me an email to trade our cd’s so I discovered his beautiful label Monochrome Vision. Some years later we met in Italy and I’ve found him a very sensitive and intelligent guy. It was a special meeting. This year I played in Moscow (he has organized my gig at Dom venue) and I spent some days with him and I felt that we were becoming close friends. I was very happy to talk with him deeply about music, art and life. His passionate feeling about music was really intense. He was one of the kindest and most honest person that I have ever met on my way. He will miss me forever and I’m devasted about his tragic death.
John Duncan: It's still difficult to think of who Dmitry WAS - I still hear his deep resonant voice, see him looking down at me through those glasses as if he's still with us. His brilliance had a way of sneaking up unexpectedly, just when it seemed that he was oblivious to his surroundings he would say or do something that proved he was intently aware of them, of us, give gifts that spoke volumes of his sensitivity to each of us and the value he assigned to our friendship. There is plenty of evidence to attest to the exceptional diligence he brought to researching the most obscure corners of experimental music throughout the world, from the magazine he published decades before the internet to the authoritative CD box set Viva Italia. One week before his death I saw him content with his life, with what he was doing to promote the creative activity he cared so deeply about. He often talked rapturously about being in the countryside, which was where he was, on a day spent with friends, when he drowned.
Thanks to all above for their input/ thoughts about Dmitry
Photo credits: menu pic by Vittore Baroni, 1st by Sergey pakhomov, 2nd pic Cristiano Luciani.
Related links:Sergey Pakhomov