A multidisciplinary artist from Moscow, Pavel Milyakov does everything from creating brand identity and posters for the Nauka i Iskusstvo (NII) club to composing soundtracks for Gosha Rubchinsky fashion shows. A couple years ago he founded Johns' Kingdom, an artist community which brought underground suburban producers to light. This became a starting point for his own project Buttechno. At out request Pavel shared his main inspirations and assembled the mix reflecting his creative method.
A few years ago, my friends and I played something close to punk in the group Midnite Cobras. While searching for a new sound, we began to experiment more with form and make our compositions more complex. We gradually became interested in electronic music – that’s how the community Johns' Kingdom and my personal project Buttechno came about. At the time, everything was done intuitively, but after some time I understood that I wanted to write music 24/7.
My approach became much more serious, and completely different things began to interest me. I began to study the theory of sound synthesis and solfeggio. And it’s a completely different and very difficult task to listen to other people’s material. I listen to Japanese Noise and 1980s computer music, musique concrete, and spoken word poetry. Buttechno isn’t one homogenous thing either: my recordings sometimes include both guitar noise and samples from old jazz records. You can go onto discogs.com, search for musicians, find the labels that they recorded with, look up new releases, and so on indefinitely.
First of all, I’m inspired by crazy musicians, in the best sense of the word. Musicians who can remain open to things beyond the established conventions. I suppose you could call it “avant-garde.” Terrence Dixon is a prime example, especially for music where your selection of instruments is limited: you could have one drum machine or one synthesizer, for example, and that’s it. And he managed to create things which would be impossible to reproduce even with a large number of acoustic instruments. Music like that blows you away, and you understand how it’s possible to work with any tools.
For me, it’s important for music to contain some kind of intention that is difficult to describe in words. It’s just that sometimes something resonates inside you and you think: that’s the shit. And it has nothing to do with a specific genre or form – in techno there are limited patterns, just as there are limited dub riddims [the Jamaican Patois pronunciation of “rhythms” – Ed.]. But among the many tracks that are the same speed or use the same instruments, some find an inner reverberation and others don’t. In one of his interviews, Mika Vainio, of the Finnish minimal electronic duo Pan Sonic, said: “There’s a lot of techno stuff that somehow, mysteriously, doesn’t catch the groove.” It really is a mystery how there can be good and bad music which, at first glance, has been made according to the same rules.
Sometimes I sit down with my instruments in the morning and write music right up until the evening – between six to ten hours a day. I like studying new musical layers, trying to do something myself – perhaps trying to catch exactly that groove. And it’s very difficult. It’s sometimes the case that you sit there ten days in a row and nothing works out. I record a great deal of average, second-rate material that I always finish off and store in my personal archive even if I know it’ll never see the light of day.
Overall, I would say that I’m trying to create my own kind of musical language. There are some elementary, basic concepts in music: minor and major melodies, syncopated rhythm. It’s important to be able to use those, but I’m concerned with other things. Aphex Twin, for example, created his own personal scales and harmonies which no one could replicate – that’s the researcher-theorist path. But there are other routes you can follow. Keiji Haino explained in an interview how he enters a music shop, chooses an instrument he can’t play, and thinks up his own way of playing it. And in this way, often by accident, completely unexpected things start to emerge. And for me, just as important as mastering the abstract language of music and instruments – is not becoming their hostage.