Leonid (Lenya) Lipelis is a super talented musician, one of the best Russian DJs, our friend and modest man with big heart. He’s the finest representative of Moscow musical freaks that make this place so exciting to come today. L.I.E.S. opened disco department to release his edits, Lenya’s got the Midas touch: he can easily play Soviet records on festivals and his own techno remix of Lata Ramasar in a tiny bar and the crowd will go mad. We talked mostly about music, you can hear more stories from the man when you will be in Moscow
When did you grow your iconic beard? Who did influence you to do it?
It naturally appeared on my face few years ago without any special treatment, and it gave me this kinda grown-up image (haha), so I just left it there, you know… When I was young I had a poster of David Mancuso in my room and I was dreaming about the moment when I’ll be like him: wearing a beard, tuning soundsystems and abandon mixing! But that was in parallel universe, I became a manager in a big company there and everything went kinda wrong. In this world I have my dad, who wears a beard since it started to grow as well. He said that it was only one moment when he completely shaved it to see how it looks like and nobody recognised him at his job so he never did it since then, I’m just using the same kind of formula for me.
Will you buy the next super hit 12″ from Todd Terje? Why?
I definitely want another Preben goes to Acapulco, not kidding!
I meant situation like this: the record came out, you liked it but you know that everybody will buy it… Do you think «I will not play it cause everybody already know it»?
It just either good enough to buy and play or not, no matter who else play it. Sometimes when everybody else playing it already I might skip but after a while buy it when I realize I really like it and hype goes down a bit.
You don’t drink & smoke during your DJ sets, so where from you get power?
Let’s finally break this myth. I do drink! But I’m not doing it before my set usually, because of lack of motivation I have when I start my set drunk. But either I drink or not, power comes from the people on the dancefloor, so even though I could be real tired, if there’s people to dance — I’m there to play it till the end!
Did you feel comfortable last time you played live? Compare it to DJ sets, what do you prefer?
I played three solo live shows in front of public so far and first one was a pure experiment, I was going to play 25-30 minutes and guys who was playing after was not even in the club when my prepared part of set was done, so I had to improvise for another 25 minutes. So it was pretty much just two times when I did it properly and I had a lot of fun playing, but it’s hard to compare to DJing which I do for around 11 years already. It was really fresh and strong experience, one of the most powerful feelings I had, though it’s a bit less of freedom because you stuck with tracks you prepared and can’t be too flexible, but way more flexible in terms of breaking things down and adding new parts on the fly in the other hand.
Moscow is not your hometown, how did you get there?
Basically I took a train, it’s pretty much the only option to leave my hometown. There’s not much music activity there and it was an escape for me, I just felt that there’s just not enough people who love disco there (laughing)… My older brother and some friends already lived in Moscow so it was pretty easy choice of destination.
Moscow DJ scene feels compact but very healthy. I mean there are around 10 great guys and almost all of them are also producing. Was it the same 5-10 years ago? Is it Denis Simachev Bar nurtured these «Moscow dozen»?) Tell also how did you become a part of it
I wouldn’t say that it’s that compact. That’s way more people here making great music and not really being known outside, and you’re probably talking about the «disco scene» or something. But it’s not just them playing and making music here, it’s a really strong techno and house movement now and guys who just make electronic music with not sticking themselves to certain genres.
Within my circle of friends it’s people who I met on the way of living, like Arsenii, who I’ve been working with on my first job in Moscow. And I met Alexander from Poima there as a customer (that’s him who made me playing this first proper live show at his party). I met Lipsky brothers at Solyanka club which was a strong connecting point to all of us. Mark Schedrin is basically from my hometown, so I knew him way before moving. DS Bar is really important place for all of us of course, that’s where you see best DJs playing all the time and a lot of your DJ friends are coming to dance, I couldn’t say that it’s the one that connected us anyway.
It seems you were hanging out with all guest DJs in DS Bar ))
It’s actually Orange and Grisha Nelyubin who works there now and it also used to be Mark working there and I’m just a little helper, picking somebody up at the airport when nobody else can do that.
Last year you released some 12″s on some very very hot labels, how did it all happen?
Let L.I.E.S. one go first. I met Ron in Mangiami NYC in 2012, he played with Brennan Green who actually introduced us to each other. He was already booked to play DS Bar three weeks later, so I met him again and we spent some time here, and I played him some tracks and edits I did. He liked Weirdshit and Rumours and it took few years to pack an EP and finish mixing and stuff, but I think an idea to put it out was already there.
With Public Possession it was also pretty simple. I had a bad insomnia that week and there was a setup near sofa I’ve been sleeping on because Brennan was in town and we were jamming a bit. And one morning when I was trying to sleep but it didn’t really happened I started to play with a synth and made a bassline, so I decided to record a sequence to try using it later. Once I did that I decided to do drums quickly and then added pads and guitars. So I decided to record it to tape right away. After that I finally slept few hours and when I woke up I recorded it back from tape with some space echo and that was it. Guys came in a couple of days to play at the bar and we met them at the airport with Grisha and Egor Holkin. They had no time to go dig here so I offered them some spares I had at home as a present (I usually pick up good records when I find them cheap, so it’s usually some extras of Soviet stuff I have) and I just hit play on this track just because it was last audio file saved on my computer and Marvin was like «What’s that?» so when the track was coming to an end it was already signed.
You are quite into unknown names from Soviet era, tell about some your last discoveries
We found a record called «Sochi” last year, which is a compilation of songs about the city and there’s a pretty cool summer song with super cheesy chorus that needs to be cut, so hopefully you’ll hear an edit of it being out soon. And there’s some crazy tune by Mikhail Boyarsky I found on a 7″ digging with Andras and funny soviet rip-off of «Hotel California». Some of my last year soviet favs are in the mix I did for you and my Beard in Dust record on Bahnsteig23 is actually 3 soviet tracks out of 4, so check it out too!
Man you have tons of gear at home. Did you start creating music on computer or with some instrument? U know we have idea to start making some beats — what will you advice us to start from?
I started with a computer, my older brother was making music at the time and it was Rebirth at first, then he showed me Reason and gave me a pack of samples some of which I still use, like vocal sample we found for Simple Symmetry’s King Solomon’s Mines, it comes from that exact folder I have since 2004.
Also when I was real young we had a piano at my grandmother’s place and I was playing it. I never studied in a musical school or so, it was just self practice and my friends showing me scales and telling me how it all works.
If you guys start making music now you should either just stick with a computer first or visit some friends’ studio and see what works for you or just go dwell in numerous YouTube demos of insane amount of existing instruments that might lead you to not hearing new music or running this blog anymore, so be careful!
How music is born? Is it the biggest challenge for a producer to translate intangible music from his head to physical instruments?
In my case music is mostly being born in actual process of playing an instrument so there’s no such problem. But that doesn’t mean it comes easy.
You are playing everything, I mean you’re hunting records in any genre. But have you taboos?
Yeah, I don’t play expensive records, they’re for posers. Neither I do play cheap ones, they’re for losers.
It sounds like you always have some unreleased surprises in a bag, last time in Moscow we heard a couple Open a secret: what’s next release-wise?
I’ll spoil a little secret, there’s a remix I did for Lata Ramasar which hopefully going to be out this year through incredible Invisible City label. Also there’s new TMO record coming on my good friend Kirill Sergeev’s label. There’s a track you might heard in Acid Arab’s sets last year. The whole record is less melancholic than one on PP, but more dark and aggressive in a way. There’re some edits coming to keep the dancefloor hot (That’s A Steal#2 I’m putting out really soon and my edit record on another label as well) and also remixes I did for Andy Butler’s Mr. INTL label. Thanks for supporting all the previous ones btw, that’s really pleasant