Photos courtesy of Angie Linder from Detroit Techno Militia I’ve only met a handful of Russians in my lifetime, but the ones I did loved techno. During the late 90s when the Detroit rave scene was on a come-down, some interesting promoters and DJs started to take rise, but none were more interesting than the Russians. Having moved from their homes in search of freedom, Detroit was a landing spot that offered opportunity to start families and businesses, and a few crafty Russians wanted a piece of that rave pie. They definitely got some, and for a period of time Detroit rave nightlife seemed to be controlled by an undeniable Russian influence, which became a subject of rumor and lore.
For like a year or so, somewhere around the turn of the millennium, it seemed that pretty much all of the underground parties in Detroit were gravitating around one particular venue and it’s fabled Russian owner. This particular venue was said to also be home to a whole host of other clandestine activities, which I cannot confirm. The owners were quiet, but very mysterious, in a renegade sort of way. They gave the impression that they were not to be fucked with. They weren’t, but anytime I talked to them they seemed pretty nice and were quite humorous. It was obvious their hands were on the cash though and they were completely running shit.
At the peak of the Russian influence over raves, there was a party on the East side of Detroit called “The Russians are Coming”. It was in the upper level of a building they called “The Russian Gallery” and was thrown by a Russian collective, Biokidd. It was in a horrible neighborhood close to “Mack and Bellevue” and despite the shadyness of the party, it had some pretty decent music going down. Space Girl was the headliner and was really building her name up at that time with her hard acid-trance live P.A. sets. She was a favorite amongst many female party-goers and definitely knew her way around the keyboard. Local Detroiter and import from Lithuania, Legal Alien, was also tearing it up with some solid drum & bass.
This party seemed to mark the end of the Russian invasion as the rave scene itself was already in a declining state. Now that I think about it, raves were already over and the Russians were the only ones left with the resources, buildings, and nuts to still throw warehouse parties on the regular in Detroit. In the end, even they couldn’t survive the constant threat of police raids, and the Russian-owned rave spots disappeared just like the rest of the grimy venues we used to love.
Although this Russian wave was short-lived in Detroit, it is undeniable the effect that Russians have had on Detroit rave history and even Techno globally. Nina Kraviz is the latest Russian artist that has established a major presence in the scene. Although not from Detroit, she is heavily inspired by Detroit Techno and Chicago House music and has worked on projects with Detroit artist’s Luke Hess and Marcellus Pittman. Her style is very forward thinking and being one of the top DJs in the world will only influence electronic music further and strengthen the connections between Russians, Techno and Detroit.