Ukrainian DJ and Producer Spartaque has become a name known for raw quality on the international techno landscape. He’s been at it for many years, but got his first break in 2007 DJing at Ukraine’s Global Gathering festival, and has continued with this festival every year since. He has added other vital performances to his resume by performing at Love Parade, Kazantip, Mayday, and others. Spartaque supplements these performances and maintains the momentum by way of his award-winning Supreme podcast, in addition to numerous guest mixes on other podcasts and radio shows.
Maintaining balance between industry and artisan-ship, Spartaque has played a key role in the creation and development of several record labels, IAMT being the most highly regarded in the world of techno music. He has been nominated and awarded for his many achievements in the past decade, proving that ever since his modest start in 2005, he has become an influential artist in the world of techno.
Hi Vitalii, it’s great to have you join us and talk about all things techno. I’d like to start with your label Codex Recordings. The latest release is from The Yellowheads Inc. a remix from yourself. Could you give us a quick run through of the release?
Well, first of all, Hi, everyone and thanks for having me for this interview. Of course, it’s always fun for me to talk about techno, especially if it’s about my labels and all that work I’m doing. As for my Codex label, our latest release there was a set of three tracks by my good friends from Madrid, The Yellowheads with a remix from myself. In fact, we’ve known each other for ages. We first met in Barcelona during an Off Sonar Week. There was a small party where we all played, and since then, we’ve been really close. I also released on their label. And of course, I was also looking forward to having their tracks released on my imprint Codex as well. I thought it would be great for me to write my own remix and strengthen our friendship and support the release in this way. I believe that we yielded a great result. The release gained great feedback, and the sales are going strong, too. So, I hope we will soon make some more interesting tracks and remixes collaborating with The Yellowheads.
It’s been roughly 2.5 years since the label launched. What is the most rewarding aspect in running Codex for you?
Wow, it’s already been 2.5 years since we’ve launched. Time flies, you know. Probably the most rewarding aspect in running my Codex label is being able to show to the whole world, people listening to my music in all parts of the globe, that I’ve changed the music I used to play previously and shifted toward a kind of pro-European format of techno. People used to know me due to slightly different music I produced. In this respect, Codex label has helped me a lot. I finally could focus on my own material and release my own tracks. There was a moment of transition after Beatport closed its BaseWare distribution project so I had a certain pause in releasing new tracks. Now I have altered Codex’s concept a bit. I initially planned to have my own tracks released there exclusively, plus some remixes by great producers, friends of mine. Now I’ve made it a more open platform, offering other artists to release on Codex, including in this case with The Yellowheads. Anyway, this is a very successful project, I believe, and I do plan to develop it further. But I will come back to this issue later.
I’m sure the label parties can be pretty fun too? Which have been some of the crazier ones?
Yes, it is a very important aspect because showcases are a perfect opportunity for any brand to raise product awareness and strengthen its positions, in terms of attracting more quality artists. This summer we held Codex Showcases in Kyiv, Ukraine. Those were two rooftop parties, and we also hosted a techno stage at a large festival there called Beliye Nochi. Now I’ve moved to Barcelona, and I plan to expand geographically my efforts toward setting up such showcases and not be limited to Ukraine but go global. I’ll probably start off with Europe, with some key countries like Spain, Germany… We’ll see. As early as next week we have scheduled a meeting on this issue. I am very serious about such expansion for the Codex label and a number of really cool Codex parties will be held shortly.
All artists you’ve named have their own unique sound. Their pieces are really easy to tell among the entire bulk of tracks in a set. But with all their uniqueness and talent, they’re also my friends and, of course, I’d like to see them on my label more often. Speaking of Skober, he’s also a good friend of mine. He also comes from Ukraine and now once I moved to Barcelona, he lives at my place in Kyiv. We have great attitude toward each other, and our relations will be even strengthened by a really awesome release that will be out on Codex soon – now we’re waiting for a remix by Sasha Carassi. I believe Skober is just the right name to star at the upcoming Codex Showcase parties. Those who got their tracks released on my label are people I’m always glad to see, whose music I constantly play. Of course, each of them is unique for me and I’m grateful to all of them for their collaboration with me and my new imprint.
Can you remember the exact time your musical tastes shifted to techno? Where did the love affair begin?
There have been several stages in my career. When I started in 2005, I was playing electro house because there was no opportunity in Kharkiv (the eastern Ukrainian city where I come from) to have access to techno. We did have some techno back then but it was such a deep underground thing in my city and I probably just missed out those parties and there was no one in my immediate contact list who could somehow influence my musical taste. But in 2007, I moved to Kyiv, and I remember the event. I believe that was a Jeans DJ Parade set up by a major mobile operator. They had a special guest at the final day, Dubfire. I remember his set a bit later, at Opium club. That was just a surreal experience for me. As I remember, he was playing minimal techno. At the time, I hadn’t heard this kind of music before and I remember myself wondering: “Where did this guy get all those great tracks?” His set has had a drastic impact on my musical preferences and I decided that this is the kind of music I would be playing now.
Riding the tide of the rising popularity of minimal techno in Ukraine, I also raised to the top level and for about 5 years I topped the ratings of Ukrainian DJs who played such music. But once again, this was not pure techno – that was minimal. Now, talking about my latest shift to a classical techno, it happened about 3 years ago. I figured out that it was high time for me to open up the world to myself and open myself to European markets. So, I changed my format radically. I believe it was in the summer of 2014, some 3 years ago.
Could you tell us about the techno scene in Ukraine at the moment? If any of our readers and your fans are travelling there where should they check out?
It’s hard for me to tell you about the techno scene across the entire territory of Ukraine because it really depends on the region. In general, I mostly tour across Europe and, while in Ukraine, I mostly stay in Kyiv. So, I can only tell you about Kyiv. And there are some really good things I want to talk about. Today, we are witnessing the rise of techno in the Ukrainian capital. Many festivals and smaller events are being set up. One of them was Ostrov festival that was held this summer. Then there were some interesting events at Closer night club. There are some alternative spots like Heaven club where they play a more melodic kind of techno. There is also this one club, Chi, which has been organizing great events. They had Dubfire and Solomun. Well, that’s not techno but anyway this is tech culture. And there is a positive trend, as well as dynamics, developing in the techno stage in Kyiv.
Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on the actual picture in other regions of Ukraine. I don’t travel there and my tight schedule doesn’t let me follow the latest developments in these areas. But I hope that promoters will invest their will and aspirations in techno culture and it will reach higher levels which were out there before the events of 2014 (the Revolution of Dignity that effectively ousted a pro-Russian president and set Ukraine’s path toward rapprochement with the EU).
Your ‘Supreme’ podcast is now approaching its 300th episode each being a live set. It’s a great way for fans to get to hear you live who cannot get to the gigs. Was this always the idea behind the podcast to push your ‘live’ sound more than a studio recorded show?
That’s right, the 300th episode of my Supreme podcast will come out soon. These are all live sets. I remember I thought one day after my wife bought me a recorder that I need to play and stream live sets because people have an opportunity to have direct access to my material and see what I play. Very often I confront the fact that, while listening to studio sets by some DJs, they do not correspond with the real picture, with what those DJs are like when playing sets at clubs. I want to be honest with my audience so the way they hear me on podcasts is who I really am, that’s how I’ll be playing elsewhere. There’s certainly some charm in studio sets but I’d like to deliver more honesty and frankness to my audience. So, I always try not to lower my bar and play my freshest material, releasing podcasts from the best events and parties I perform at. As for the 300th episode, it will be a kind of a milestone. I still have about 10 weeks to consider and make a decision on what to do next in this regard. Maybe, I’ll place my bets on strengthening and developing my Codex label and shift to a new format of my podcast. Or, maybe I’ll move to another brand. Who knows, maybe it will be a Codex Showcase podcast. So, these are the things I’m contemplating. It’s a good question, come to think about it. I will be thinking of what I can change or add. Anyway, movement is life, and change is always for the better.
It’s been a quite a year for you with releases on Tronic and the label gaining support from Alan Fitzpatrick and Carl Cox and notable performances at Aquasella Festival and Dreambeach. Do you feel a lot has progressed in your career this year?
Yes, it’s been really fun working throughout this year. It was probably one of the best and effective years in my professional career. That’s because I managed to strengthen significantly my positions on the European techno stage, get my tracks released on very important labels, change my strategy in terms of releasing music, look at things from another angle, and make friends with a great number of awesome people. I also performed at many nice events, including the largest of them – Dreambeach and Aquasella in Spain. I truly see that there is great progress in my career development and, of course, I’d like to improve these results and move on – higher, stronger, and faster. So, I believe my step to move to a sunny Barcelona was something that will lead my career to new highs. We’ll see. I have a great team working with me and we’ll do our best to bring our plans and wishes into life.
This is a really cool release. I wrote its headliner, In and Out, and first played it at Spartacus night club in Marseille. The crowd welcomed it really well, and when Frankyeffe offered me to send him the tracks for his Riot label, I had been already aware of the label, known its owner, liked playing its releases, and generally appreciated his choice of tracks. I was really glad to work together, make real friends and strengthen our cooperation. So, I gave him those two tracks. The release came out well. He’s already sent me some feedbacks. Besides, many people wrote me personally and their assessment was positive and pleasing to see. I hope that the release has contributed well to the entire flow of techno. And I also hope that many more DJs will enjoy the track and play it in their sets. Now it’s my turn to wait for tracks from Frankyeffe for my Codex label. I believe he will also send something interesting and we will make top news with our new collaborations.
Could you give us your current top 5 tracks?
This is a really difficult question. Each week, a huge number of good tracks are being released. I do try to follow the latest material thoroughly. I can name up to 40 favorite tracks. Among those I’ve been playing in recent weeks, I could name SteamShape – Ball Lightning (Frank Biazzi Remix). This track will soon be released on Codex.
Then it’s D.Mongelos – Fever [Orange Recordings]. This is a producer from Argentina, a great guy. He also used to be released on my other label, IAmT. Fever was released on Orange Recordings label owned by a friend of mine, Steve Mulder. A nice job indeed, with such a melancholic melody which I really love playing.
Then there’s a real thriller by Bertzi – I Scary Too [Vaulture label]. This work is mega dynamic, with its highly explosive groove. Each time I play it it works perfect. A super piece, really.
Another one on my Top 5 is D-Deck – Formant. This guy comes from Italy, also a good friend of mine. It will soon be released on Transmit Recordings, owned by NY-based DJ Boris, who’s also my friend. That’s a really great label he has. We’ve long been friends with that guy and I was also released there this year. Great R&R. There are always tracks there that work perfectly. And Forant is a great example.
Are there any new artists breaking through who are currently getting you excited?
This one has always been hard for me to answer. In fact, it’s difficult for me to highlight certain artists. I like to support their talent that is obvious for me. For example, it’s Alan Wools who is not only a great sound producer but also an awesome DJ. I always try to support him as much as possible. We also make tracks jointly and I get his cool tracks released on my labels. In general, it’s understood that we are living at the time when a huge number of talented musicians are entering the market. I try to give maximum support to some younger sound producers and play their tracks. The answer to this question can be better found in track lists to my radio shows. I’ve recently been playing tracks by young and generally unknown DJs, without focusing on the reputation of labels and artists. I always try to support new artists and new names.
Let’s now move onto your Decoded Magazine presents mix. Is this a selection of what you’re currently playing in sets or more of a studio mix of tracks you might not necessarily have chance to play?
This is a recording of a live set but once again, any live performance is something unique for me. I spend much time sifting through new releases, to play the freshest pieces in my sets. So, I have all my material fully updated within about a month. As for studio mixes, I don’t see any sense in them. As I said before, I always prefer to show my audience the way I really am, and how I work at clubs. As a rule, I record plenty of material and when someone asks me for a podcast, I always have something I’d like to share.
Thanks for your time Vitalii. Before we bring the interview to an end is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks a lot for the interview, and I hope to see you soon on the dance-floor.
01. Radio Slave – Grindhouse feat. Danton Eeprom (Len Faki’s Hardspace Remix 2)[Rekids]
02. Alan Wools – No Sleep [IAMT]
03. Spartaque – ID
04. P-Ben – Retro Classic [Funk’n Deep Records]
05. The Southern – Bring It [IAMT]
06. Arjun Vagale – Radiate(Feat. Juliet Fox)[Odd Recordings]
07. Kaiserdisco – Styx [Tronic]
08. Frank Biazzi – FlashBack [MATTER]
09. Simone Tavazzi – Frequency [Syncopate]
10. DJ Shufflemaster – Re:Weekender (Gary Beck Remix)[Mindshake Records]
11. Ramiro Lopez – Twisted(Feat. Juliet Fox) (Pleasurekraft Remix)[Odd Recordings]
12. Lucas Freire – Feed your Need (M.I.T.A. Remix)[Voltage Records]
13. SteamShape – Ball Lightning (Frank Biazzi Remix)[Codex]
14. Alex Luhr – Kymera [Parquet Recordings]
15. Spartaque – ID
16. Julian Jeweil – Answer [Drumcode]
17. Spartaque – Floppy Headache [Codex]
18. Robert Johnstone – Arpeggiator [Gynoid Audio]
19. Niereich, Hackler & Kuch – Blackstreet [Collision]
20. Devid Vega – Irregular Express [Riot Recordings]
21. Spartaque – ID