Helvetune Interview: Djinn City

Timur (left) and Aidar (right)

Timur (left) and Aidar (right)

Timur Mitronin and Aidar Khusnutdinov are a new pop duo from Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. Right now the two are working on a project using archived recordings of traditional Tatar music (both children of blended Russian-Tatar families). Continue reading to discover more about Tim and Aidar - two very inspirational and creative individuals. Djinn City are ones to lead the path for independent artists.

 

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How did you both meet? When did you begin producing music together? 

Aidar: We've been friends for more than ten years and even played in the same band (it was pretty bad), but we never wrote songs together until last year.

What or who inspires and influences you the most?

Tim: For me, anything can serve as a catalyst to the process of writing music – a pop band, a virtuoso guitarist or an unknown composer from the Baroque period. At the moment I’m inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich, not only as a composer but also as a person. Shostakovich wrote his first symphony at the age of 19 and came a long way from living under constant threat of arrest (and possibly execution) to occupying respectable posts in the government. But whatever his position or the state of his health was, until his very last days he kept working tirelessly, writing music.

Aidar: My influences range from folk songs I learned from my grandparents to classical poetry and surrealism. Musically right now I’m inspired by Blood Orange’s last album. I love how Dev Hynes took his own field recordings and spoken word pieces that were emotionally important to him, like the fragment from “Paris Is Burning” documentary, and made them part of the songs. I’d like to incorporate such meaningful sonic fragments into Djinn City's future songs.

Tell me about your studio. How would you explain the atmosphere? Do you have a ritual or routine when you begin to create?

Tim: We usually work together in one room, building the song from scratch or developing a track one of us brought to the studio. We throw in as many ideas as we can and then take turns elaborating on them. While one of us sits at the piano, guitar or computer, the other usually reads a book or checks his Instagram feed. Breaks help you get a fresh look at the song. They work like a “Refresh” button.

Aidar: Song ideas can come from conversations, usually with Tim, but other people too. I can be turned on by a phrase that works as a song title or an idea for a song. I like working from the title. I also like using pop cliches and making them alive by adding real-life details, like in the chorus for “All I Wanna Do.”

Is there a hobby outside of music that contributes and rejuvenates your creative process?

Tim: My two favourite hobbies are yoga and table tennis. Practicing both of them helps me enter the “here and now” state of consciousness and get rid of unnecessary thoughts.

Aidar: Reading. I mostly read classical Russian and American literature and nonfiction books, but I also immensely enjoy interviews with obscure bands and life stories I find on the internet.

This one always interests me the most: What are the main instruments you use?

Tim: My main instrument is Suhr Modern guitar. For composing, I use Apple MacBook Pro.

Aidar: Me too. Computers are at the heart of our setup. I am also passionate about synths. I don’t have an impressive collection because my studio is also my one-room apartment. So that creates some limitations. And limitations, as we are often told, are the driving force behind creativity. At the moment my go-to synth for bass sounds is DSI Mopho. For analog pads and strings, I use Roland Alpha Juno. Pianos, organs, and mallets in our songs come from Nord Electro 3.

Image via Djinn City | Tim’s guitar, amp and pedalboard. Pedals: Morley Power Wah, Ibanez Tube Screamer, TC Electronic Flashback x4 delay, Xotic EP booster

Image via Djinn City | Tim’s guitar, amp and pedalboard. Pedals: Morley Power Wah, Ibanez Tube Screamer, TC Electronic Flashback x4 delay, Xotic EP booster

Today, more musicians create and release their music more than ever before. How do you deal in regards to originality?

Aidar: Being original is being yourself in the first place. We’ve recently started discovering our first and almost forgotten music impressions by taking inspiration and melodies from the music that has surrounded us here in Tatarstan from day one.

Tim: It began last summer. I went to Tatar villages to record traditional songs from old people as part of my ethnomusicology project in the conservatory.

I'm curious now. Can you reveal more about your current project, please? 

Aidar: Right now we’re working on a bunch of songs that use melodies and voices from those trips and are packing our bags for new expeditions this year. We try to use this material with care and respect.

Tim: We’re also learning to play traditional instruments – Bayan and Quray. We plan to start playing them at our shows in 2017.

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(Time for some fun closing but still serious questions.)

If you could blink your eyes and become another musician (alive or dead) for a day, who would it be and why?

Tim: I would become Richard Wagner. He was the most influential person in European musical space in the 19th century. Wagner was a rock star of his day: he was poor, but led a lavish lifestyle, took part in the May Uprising in Dresden and at the same time had extensive knowledge of philosophy and mythology and managed to create pieces of art that still amaze and provoke controversy. So it would be very exciting to become Wagner even for one day.

Aidar: My grandfather (he wasn’t a professional musician, but always began his day with singing) or Orpheus.

Say your music was a Robot, what would you name it?

Tim: Могҗиза. It means wonder in Tatar.

You're on a mission to Mars. What would one song be a must in your playlist?

Tim: Schubert’s Ninth Symphony.

Aidar: A field recording with sounds of nature seems like a wise choice.

Image via Djinn City

Image via Djinn City

A wise choice indeed. And a thousand thanks, Tim and Aidar. It has been a great pleasure to get know you both a little more. Djinn City is one to watch in 2017. Help get their music out there! From my ears to yours.

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Have a listen to their latest single, Don't Lose My Number, below. You can also visit my first post featuring Djinn City and their first single, All I Wanna Do, here.

Enjoy and share the music.

You can get social with Djinn City on Facebook, SoundCloud.