Self-Portrait: Pletnev

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius has had quite a buzz surrounding it of late. The music, characterised by cold chugging rhythms, has been pouring out of the city in abundance, spearheaded by a new wave of producers, collectives and promoters carving out their own distinctive sound. One producer emerging from the pack is Russian born Pletnev. Previously operating under the guise of Ponty Mython, he ran a label and party in his then home of St. Petersburg but a joint business venture with his brother saw him relocate to Vilnius in 2014.

Here, he further honed his production skills steering his sound in a new direction leading to an impressive string of EPs on imprints like Meda Fury, Bahnsteig 23, Le Temps Perdu, Fleeting Wax and Secretsundaze sister label SZE. With more releases penned for this year we locked him down for a chat to find out more about his unique approach to production. This sits alongside a mix of 100% unreleased original material that cruises through broken African rhythms and cold percussive chug.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

When I was a kid I was recording music videos from Viva2 channel to the very end of every video cassette with movies I had. Usually you have 10-20 minutes of extra time – enough for 5-8 songs. I was spending hours catching my favourite ones, usually euro dance and happy hardcore. This is when my taste started to shape, with guys like Mark Oh, Dune, 2 Unlimited. Ah sweet time it was!

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Actually yes, I spent five years in music school studying accordion – parents chose it for me. The accordion was twice bigger than me, everyone was smiling seeing me playing. Oh god, I hated it so bad. No way can I play something on it now. Later I took piano and guitar lessons. The plan was to become a rock star – accordion was the opposite of the cool musician image.

What led you into music production?

I always thought that after you learned some music theory composing is inevitable. It’s like a new language you started to learn and want to talk it straight away. Though it works not for everyone. I found that out later meeting people who were so good in music and had no desire at all to compose. So I just started to produce any music around my taste, from piano arpeggio to indie rock.  Later, when I started DJing, my own music became more groovy because I tried to fit it to my sets.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track? How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Since I was familiar with music theory I started to produce music without any samples and pre-produced stuff. But eventually it became boring for me because every result was predictable and sounded alike. That’s where I started to mix it with samples, noises, YouTube interviews, everything I met on the internet, and it was way more fun.

When I’m in the studio I’m starting with a few bars loop and trying to make a working groove out of it. Usually it contains 5-6 layers – drums, percussion, bass. Then I turn it into a 5-6 minute track and starting to play melodies, fxs and pads over it. Sometimes I have an impulse and I want to do tunes only with some pieces of analog stuff I have on my table. Other days I want to do something out of loops I harvested from old records. Funny thing is that quite often people can’t guess if it was produced with analog hardware, VST plugins or if it’s an edit of a rare 80s tune.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio? Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

It never works for me. Every time I have idea in my mind and I want to build a track on it, it always fails. Only full improvisation. Good for me that I can do music with any tools I have around at the moment, could be just an old ukulele or a laptop with apple headphones or a fully equipped studio.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Oh gosh, sometimes it takes months until I’m happy with a tune and consider it finished.

What’s the most important bits of kit that makes a Pletnev track?

In every tune I’ve done I hide a prayer to Satan – reserved, fxed, barely understandable, but it’s there… You know I’m kidding, right?

Are there any producers or artists who have had a big impact on the way you make music?

I’ve never met a person who would have same approach to do music as me. Back in a days when I started to compose music in my small home town, there were no YouTube lessons or somebody experienced around. I learned everything by myself.

What kind of stuff do you reach for in your DJ sets? Can you tell us three records that are firmly in your bag at the moment?

I’ve been DJing for more than 12 years already. Thought I’d get bored by today but nope, still fun! Nowadays I like music with ethnic flavour, with heavy percussions, but less funky and more cold. I guess it’s the Lithuanian influence. At 2018 I tried to put these to my sets too often:

  1. Rare EBM remixes of old Depeche Mode tunes
  2. Fakundo – Shoes EP
  3. V/A – Opium of the People LP

You live in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, which has started to get some more recognition across the pond. Can you tell us a bit about the scene in the city? Which DJs, parties, producers and venues are doing good things for the scene locally?

Happy to be in Vilnius at this exact moment, something big is going on here right now. The story started years ago long before I moved here in 2014. I mean the growth of the local scene, shaping of a tastes and a search for its own unique sound. Today it pays back with good clubs with juicy programs, like Opium & Kablys, and amazing parties like Smala & Digital Tsunami who have become worldwide brands already, festivals like Supynes, Digital Tsunami and Yaga. But what’s more importantis people who come to support, to listen and to dance.

Just a few names who make quite a buzz at the moment are V, Manfredas, Duo 12 inčų po žeme, Tadas Quazar, Roe Deers, Discotag record store, Minimal Mondays team and many many more.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Pletnev material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

I tried to make it eclectic so it won’t be boring. Expect everything from African downtempo to noisy breakbeat. Half of the tracks are going to be released in 2019, others are demos which I unfold for the first time.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any bookings or releases we should know about?

Really exciting with my forthcoming EPs for Le Temps Perdu, Hard Fist & Feines Tier imprints in spring and summer.

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