Life in Poland before the collapse of communist rule in 1989 could be broadly summed up as: little money, unpredictable water and electricity supply, heavy policing, hours-long queues for groceries, little freedom of cultural expression. Little wonder that, for youth, the following decade was one of glittering exploration and expression.
The nightlife scene in ’90s Warsaw was characterised by its DIY approach, no doubt in part a hangover of the decades when the walls had ears and censorship was everywhere. Collectives like Boogie Mafia were at the forefront of the growing club scene, while Recognition Recordings – one of Poland’s foremost electronic labels – was set up in 1999.
These days, Warsaw’s underground scene faces the same challenges as those in cities everywhere: pushing against the popularity of commercial music festivals and, not unsurprisingly, gentrification.
Deep in this current mix is Rrrrkrta, challenging constraints and pushing for a more queer-friendly, inclusive flavour within the Polish capital’s club scene. Having founded Brutaz (a techno-specialist record label) in 2016, the DJ’s introduction to techno wasn’t in the most conventional of ways, “In 2011 I took acid and lost a bet and had to go to a big techno club. I loved the experience and I yearned for it again and again, waiting for particular records to be played.”
This then led to Rrrrkrta working in Berlin’s The Record Loft, a famously extensive vinyl shop, and saw him take his further-developed knowledge of techno back to Warsaw where he currently resides.
“I met some wonderful people and finally understood the DJ culture as an oral history,” Rrrrkrta recalls of those formative Berlin experiences. “One that, to this day, I feel like I need to be a part of, as it doesn’t work without people that listen and figure out ways to transmit it.”
As to learning more about Rrrrkrta’s clubland adventures once back in Warsaw, we had an email exchange…
How did you first develop a passion for DJing/raving/music?
I got into a quasi-romantic relationship with my high school teacher that later on resulted in me being kicked out of the university. I felt rejected by the very lifestyle I had chosen. The people I met at parties (even though I hated techno music at the time) offered me an unconditional sense of acceptance, though.
What’s special about the Warsaw club scene?
A false sense of expectation and fulfilment. Our spaces and desires are gentrified to such an extent that we’ll do anything to be perceived as having fun. It’s a social status thing where, in fact, many of us don’t get a chance to experience spaces that offer free access to immersive sound systems and, most importantly, safe spaces. We look down upon our everyday music life, as the audience is entirely focused on commercial music festivals that try to dress up as leaders of opinion, while actually being devoid of a sense of exultation.
What makes Warsaw’s club scene special is that it waits for someone with a little bit of money and ingenuity to help us fight off the constant lies that constantly prevent any notion of self-respect, pleasure and focus within the underground music culture over here.
What challenges does your scene face?
The fact that we’re unable to solve our issues without being discouraged by the fact that we’re not a major European city. The DIY culture here doesn’t have any money it can use, but the bigger issue is that there are very few people that are willing to offer themselves to the community. It has to change or we’ll never be free from this corrupt society we’re in. It has to be changed not by statements but by putting a queer shoulder to the wheel.
If someone is visiting Warsaw, where do you recommend they go?
None of the venues are consistent, so I guess you’d have to check there are any queer parties happening (organised by KEM or To be Real; maybe Oramics, too). There are some lovely people around Syntetyk party as well. Then, the venue that is pretty hit-or-miss but does their fair share is Pogłos.
Are there any other DJs/promoters/performers from the scene you’d like to shout out?
Ania R finally started deejaying and she’s been with Brutaż right from the beginning, so that’s one of the options. Any party that Niemy Dotyk organises is worth checking out. It is odd and screams and you can watch things grow. When it comes to performers, it’s good to check out some untamed modular dreamers like Wilhelm Bras and Mirt & Ter.
Also, at some point in my life I met the Szczepańskie sisters. Paulina heads Psish, [which is] an ephemeral group of anarchist stage and fashion designers. Natalie co-runs a label called Glamour (with Julek Płoski) that I would also recommend to check out. I also have to mention that we’re starting a new party quietly along with Marie Malarie and Kosma, who I consider as hard-working and whimsy. They’re able to keep you occupied late at night. The party is called Czas Przypływu and it takes place at Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny.
Any dream guests at future parties?
If I had to throw a party tomorrow, I’d try and bring Mx Silkman, Magda Bytnerowicz for DJ sets or persuade The Connection Machine or Wojciech Rusin to do a concert. Also, that composer called Teoniki Rożynek needs to start playing live on her own, she’s so good. I was never able to bring Carlos Souffront or Mai Nestor. But maybe some things have to remain unsaid to make the whole experience complete.
If you could play a set anywhere in the world, where would it be?
My family’s home village, Murzasichle. It’s really right-wing, troubled and commercialised now but I still remember my uncle’s metal band rehearsing in the shack by the driveway.