Gazgolder’s brand mentality
Whether your heart belongs to hip-hop or you’re a techno-loving creature of the night, if you live in Moscow (or anywhere in Russia, really), you’ll definitely have heard the name “Gazgolder”. For the last 12 years, the club-turned-label-turned-brand has been rising steady, expanding its influence, constantly recruiting hot talent and working with an eclectic blend of diametrically opposed music genres.
It all began when one of the earliest Russian hip-hop stars, Bogdan Titomir, noticed a young and promising Rostov-based rapper named Vasiliy “Basta” Vakulenko, and became a kind of fairy godfather-like presence in his life, helping the artist to relocate to Moscow. Around the same time in 2005, a private club named Gazgolder was launched. Basta quickly became one of the venue’s co-owners and just a year later unveiled his debut album Basta 1 on the club’s newly-formed music label.
To this day, Basta remains the key figure in the brand’s development, still managing to devote a lot of time to making music that frequently pushes the boundaries of Russian rap. While Basta’s initial material included sappy ballads like “Osen”, in 2008 he launched a side-project/alter-ego named Noggano, which showered its listeners in catchy obscenities and charmed them with its hooligan-next-door mentality.
However, Gazgolder was never a one-man show. The label kept signing hot talent from all over Russia, most notably Saint-Petersburg rapper Smoky Mo, Yekaterinburg’s AK-47 and even the Ukrainian pop-rock band Nerves. In 2009, Basta teamed up with another mighty rapper, Guf, for a collaborative record, although the union proved to be a one-off thing.
Throughout all of these endeavours, the club on Moscow’s ARMA factory-turned-party-hub remained an important HQ, their website stating the following: “The club is a vital part of the same-titled creative union that is located in the same building. So when you’re coming here for a dinner, you may find yourself at a rehearsal, or on the set of a movie or music video.”
The part about a film set is hardly a stretch. In 2014, Gazgolder: The Movie hit Russian cinemas. The two-hour flick told the fictional story of the trials and tribulations faced by the Gazgolder team as they kicked against mean-spirited law enforcement officials. The movie was panned by both the critics and audiences: it holds a 3.8/10 rating on the country’s leading movie website, Kinopoisk. Not that the club was hurt by the criticism: it remains one of the few venues that survived not one, but two economic crises in the country, while many of its competitors have struggled with changes in trends and rises in rent. Although the club was moved in 2015, it remains in the same area.
Despite what one might expect, the club’s forte is techno music. The list of guest DJs who’ve played there include the Italian Davide Squillace, Israeli Omer Grinker, Spanish duo Audiofly and many other well-known producers and artists. The club recently announced the inception of its new Clubaret show, which is expected to add an extra glitz to goings on there. There’s also a Chinese restaurant and a tea room inside, so you don’t have to go hungry or thirsty in the rave.
The label’s ambitions clearly reach far beyond hip-hop. In early June, they released Tricky’s new single “The Only Way”, which was written by Basta and recorded at Gazgolder. Around the same time, the label announced its collaboration with Tuborg and Major Lazer, based around the Diplo-fronted collective making a record with Gazgolder’s most talked-about signee of recent years, Scriptonite.
With their unprecedented business-savvy and the ability to create practically everything in-house, the Gazgolder team show no signs of slowing down – it’ll be pretty exciting to see where this collective heads next.