Techno Moscow – Arma17

If you are between 17 and 65 and really into those sometimes industrial, or deep or whatsoever techno tunes and visited Moscow at least once, starting 2009 you definitely know what this all buzz about. Seems there’s no one young man or girl who doesn’t talk about the death of nightlife in Moscow these days. Well, my mind – true. But all icons remains for ever as we all know. Earlier this year I caught up with the creators and founders of legendary techno space ARMA17 and found out of how to stay cool in tough environment of Russian economy and spirituality.


Who else knows the club better than its co-founder and permanent resident for all 6 years; and who knows the audience better than a face-control guy?

The heroes are – Natasha Abelle, widely known DJ and sound producer, and of course THE man, who lets (or doesn’t) you in – Vasili Vorotnokov.


KALTBLUT: Natasha, you are really legendary person on Moscow techno scene. You launched ARMA17 back in 2008 and were DJing there up to now. Please tell a bit about your background. Why have you decided that music is your thing?

Natasha Abelle: Well, actually I have an academic music education. I studied playing the violin, but quit at the age of 16, so I can say that I’m linked with music since the beginning. It happened that my DJing started simultaneously with making parties. It was really funny back at a time. We made some open airs, where everybody danced to different mixes, but everything whirled so fast that in a year we started setting up more or less professional parties. Then I had a strong desire to DJ by myself.

KALTBLUT: Did you study that?

Abelle: I even went to a DJ school and now it’s just fun to remember. Of course real practice started when I began to make serious parties, so I’ve just been gaining experience. And I’m DJing for 11 years now.


KALTBLUT: Lets get back to ARMA17. I frequently appear as a producer in my photoshoots, so I know, that usually you have and idea of what the outcome should be, but the in reality it is always different – worse or better, but different. I guess it’s same with all creativities. Tell me please about the club. What was planned and what you had in the end?

Natasha: To me, the club is a living body. You can tell it is what it is only at this very moment, and it’s definitely different in a month and you may even not recognize the place in a year. At least I speak about the club, which is interesting for me to build. Something always has to go on. If it is static, it just doesn’t work. Planning ARMA17 we’ve been focused on progressive house, but in half a year of its existence we realized that we get much more satisfaction playing different king of music. So this is how we discovered techno.


Vasya: I remember that actual idea was to make kind of Ibiza spot in Moscow, but it worked just for the very beginning. To me, later it went to let’s say “Underground Ibiza”. We invited Ricardo Villalobos, who came in early 2009. I remember I wasn’t on a face control that night, so I enjoyed him inside the club, and there were about 3000 people. Everybody has been raving and it was real success.

KALTBLUT: Over the years of existence the club has taken in its walls such artists as Ellen Allen, Rhadoo, Mike Shannon and Villalobos of course. It’s interesting how they reacted on your invitations. It probably was a bit scary for them to visit Russia, wasn’t it?

Vasya: First parties at ARMA17 took place once in a month and then I worked not only at a face control but also met artists at the airport and escorted them to the soundcheck and so on. Of course they were a bit confused, but then they saw that there’s Starbucks here, people are okay and all in all Moscow is more or less common European city, so they relaxed and everything went smooth.


KALTBLUT: Speaking about artists, I know that different clubs make really tempting offers to artists they invite, so some DJs even refuse to come to Russia again for less money. Did it ever reflect on ARMA17?

Vasya: Absolutely not. Every artist, whom we invite once, falls in love with the club. We always try to build really close relationships with our DJs. Some of them can even be called a part of our family. For instance, guys from [a:rpia:r] (the record label – Kaltblut). We were first in Moscow to invite Romanians. It was “LOG Sunrise” in February 2009. Rhadoo, Raresh and Petre Insperescu, became our dear friends then, and nobody, but Gipsy (the club – Kaltblut) I guess, ever had them in Moscow up to now.


KALTBLUT: Discussing various cultural phenomena of our country, including nightlife, first that seems important to me is the audience. For me it was definitely risky to open a techno spot in Moscow in 2008, but it seems in 2010, when I first came to Arma 17 there already was a certain cluster of “tech-lovers” in the city. The question is – how people changed over the years?

Vasya: Of course the audience has changed. It became kind of wider. Back then nothing like ARMA17 existed, so there were no places for people to get inspired. But here I want to mention, that despite the audience is much bigger now, its quality is still high. There are more places with fine music, hence there’s opportunity for people to compare and analyze and it definitely leads to evolution. Moreover I can’t say we have any specific audience in ARMA17 now. There are a lot of beautiful people, whom we are very happy to see at our club. We are like a cozy melting pot, which has a space for everyone.


Abelle: I would better say not a melting pot, but a field. The field, which unites people and when you get on it, you feel as a part of something big. It is really cool to experience that, to understand you affect it and interact with it. This is totally true the audience is mixed now. You can meet anyone in ARMA17. Young generation also joins, and what is good, all in all the audience is really intelligent, bright and nice.

KALTBLUT: At the end of 2014 everybody noticed that nightlife is practically dying in Russia. How can you comment on that? Is it just economic reasons or there is something beneath?

Abelle: Everyone is talking about that right now! As for us, we have fewer parties, but those that take place are WOW. ARMA17 absolutely does not feel that stagnation. Clear that now we all pass through a weird moment, sort of a pit. “Solyanka” is closed; “Gipsy” and “Monasterio” are closed as well. Not to mention even we have a big break. By and large there are two or three nightspots left. Although I can’t say that nothing happens. Generally any crisis is good. It’s time for reinvention. Everything unnecessary falls off. There’s a chance for us to get pure and fresh and enter a new life with pride.


KALTBLUT: Everybody hates the question about plans, but as soon as I am a sassy journalist – tell me a bit about your vision of the future. Is there a landmark for your development? Do you plan to change anything?

Abelle: The question is really complicated. Of course we want to find a new home, that’s why requirements are quite high. In general, the process goes on and we do like as it goes. We keep everything a secret, but when the time comes we’ll make a statement.

Vasya: We make pop-up parties at Manufactura (huge post-Soviet half abandoned factory – Kaltblut) now. The club develops dramatically. Every party is a celebration, which people wait for with bated breath, so I believe Natasha is right. Now ARMA17 experiences transformation, so we will turn our entrance to a new space into a precious event.


KALTBLUT: ARMA17 is Russian Berghain. What you think?

Abelle: I spoke on this hundreds of times. Berghain is my favorite club ever, but there is an interesting thing – we launched ARMA17 way before I visited Berghain. And it’s different. Fair to say it’s more feminine. ARMA17 is smooth and graceful. It has a feminine soul.

Vasya: I agree that we are different. Berghain is a place of worship now, so there are too many tourists for me there. ARMA17 is more delicate in this way. Beyond controversy Berghain is a power spot, as well as Arma is, they are just different. And the feminine soul – yes. There always is a spirit of celebration. At every party. I didn’t feel this in Berghain.



Photography by Sergey Rogov and Andrei Donine