Aesthetic: Philipp Gorbachev
“I think this place belonged to a politician back in the day,” says Philipp Gorbachev, as we saunter through the gardens of an old manor on the outskirts of Grunewald, West Berlin. We finally reach a white bench in front of a pond, which is where him and his friends hang out and make a lot of noise – mostly without consequence.
The atmosphere is peaceful – there aren’t many people around; the colours are muted; the air fresh. Philipp only lives only a few minutes away by foot, and he likes how tranquil his neighbourhood is compared to central Berlin, or his hometown of Moscow. It was for similar reasons that he felt like being in nature for this photoshoot, leading Crack Magazine’s team well outside the city’s limits to the “deep forest” of Gorinsee.
Berlin living isn’t new to him, though. As a child, he lived here for a few years with his parents after the Wall came down in the 90s. That afforded him his fluency in both English and German, but the real privilege came from being able to experience a culture so starkly different to his.
“Living elsewhere helped me go back to Russia as a more open and tolerant person,” he tells me. “You know, some people in Russia have never seen a person who isn’t white. Some people don’t know how diverse this world can be, especially in music.” And with that, Philipp turned to dance music. His approach to electronic experimentation sees thumping house and techno, funk, dub and post-punk all interweaved to create a sound that can be as dancefloor-ready as it can be insular. This month he releases I Don’t Give A Snare, an album with his band The Naked Man. “This is not synced to any sort of techno clock,” he said of the project in a press release, “so what you hear is our naked soul and bones in movement.”
His music, however, isn’t without conflict – his very existence as a Russian artist is political. Moscow’s leading music collective, Arma17, who put the city on the map for electronic music, has faced endless difficulties with Russian officials. Arma17 put on Philipp’s first-ever show as a DJ and continued to help him evolve as an artist, something he tells me he’s forever in debt to them for. “The internet connected everything that wasn’t connected before, so the Russian audience became more of a community within a community,” he wistfully says. “When you come from somewhere where there are social and political problems, people want more.”
Given the socio-political unrest in Russia, Philipp’s value of the idea of community increased tenfold. He had what he describes as a spiritual epiphany of sorts; a divine shift, calling from up above. “For me, after God showed me the way, I found my path. I think it’s a choice that lies in our lives everyday – what person to be, what things to say, how to be with each other. It makes me sad that a lot of people I know buy into the cult of power,” he states. Although he’s a believer of God, he doesn’t consider himself confined to the traditional meaning of being religious; that description isn’t strong enough for him. His spirituality comes from believing in love as a multi-faceted concept – whether it’s expressed between humans, sounds or structures. Philipp’s standpoint is clear: “I was always more attracted to the concept of endless love.”
And how endless love manifests always draws back to the same idea of kinship that Philipp finds in music. “To me, there aren’t a lot of differences between being in a church or being in a club because it all has the same message: it’s about harmony,” he tells me, with a serious tone. “As a dance music artist, I feel like music has to communicate one thing: that everyone is welcome. We have a party; we dance; we all make different music; and we’re not bound by any ideas of how we should be separated. We’re driven by the idea that it will unite.”
As we leave the manor gardens, the sky is pitch black, and it’s even more silent than it was before. It’s not eerie silence; it’s more of a respectful stillness. We arrive at the long tunnel under Grunewald station, and Philipp tells me that this tunnel was one of the major sites of deportation of Berlin Jews to Auschwitz in the Second World War. We speak about how everyday he walks on the spine of history’s most abominable genocide, and it serves as a reminder of why kinship is so important. Before I walk up the stairs to my platform, he says one last thing on the subject: “Everything that is against togetherness is evil. What makes a devil? It’s disintegration. It makes people think that other people hate them, or vice versa. This is what we fight with music.”
Photography: Ronald Dick
Fashion Editor: Fabiana Vardaro @ Basics
Stylist: Veronika Dorosheva
Philipp Gorbachev & The Naked Man’s I Don’t Give A Snare is out now via ARMA