Etapp Kyle, a.k.a. Sergey Kushnir is one of the most famous Ukrainian DJs. In 2015, he became a Berghain resident and before this had played in the Moscow club ARMA17. Today, Etapp Kyle is released on such labels as Ostgut Ton, Klockworks and Semantica Records, and plays at parties all over the world. Though, he enthusiastically talks about musicians from his native Chernivtsi region, proving that it doesn't matter where you come from if you remain open to the world.

Before his performance in Kyiv Closer, we've talked with Sergey about his approach to producing and performing, creative confidence, experiments and plans of launching his own label.

When I've plunged into real techno, to my mind, I decided that I no longer want to deal with commercial clubs.

Before school, I lived with my parents in Germany and heard different kinds of music there - mostly disco and pop. But all that vanished as I moved to my grandmother in a village near Chernivtsi. There, around me, mostly sounded Ukrainian and Russian pop music or folklore, at the very best. In a while, I started playing the synthesizer in a local group, we performed mostly at private events.

I started DJing in Chernivtsi, at a time when there wasn’t any electronic music in our clubs. If you wanted to perform, you had to play what the owners wished. Later I was appointed as the art director of the club in the city center, and we become among the first to start playing electronic music. But after a while, everything changed again and in 2008 it began to look like Kyiv glamorous parties - girls in high heels with champagne and suchlike. I quickly lost my interest in such a scene and decided that I wanted to start working in production. So, I began to explore the basics of music creation and at times recorded mixes in parallel.

Photo: Sven Marquardt ©

About a year later, I met Nikita and Kyryl, who eventually became my best friends, they were close to ARMA17 and introduced me to Natasha Abelle. The guys gave her my mixes to listen, as a result, I was invited to perform.

Ben Klock changed my idea of how to play techno.

In 2012, a friend invited me to a music conference in Berlin. At night I went to Berghain. They didn’t let me in, but against all the odds, I stopped by in the morning (usually, if you are said “not today” at the entrance, it means that this weekend you won’t get to the club). Ben was playing that day, and his musical selection impressed me deeply. I remember that Sunday I was dancing for 8 hours.

I returned to Ukraine on a wave of strong inspiration, as that trip became an impulse for creating my first tracks. Nikita knew about that, and once he called me at three in the morning from a party in Armagh, where Richie Hawtin was playing. He asked me to send that material, he recorded demo discs right in the club office and handed them to Richie, as well to Steffi and Ben, who performed in Moscow a day later. In a week, Richie contacted us and we started our dialogue about the release of my track “Drama” on the compilation of the renewed Minus label. Of course, we agreed, but then Richie went on tour and did not answer for a long time.

Ben wrote to me. After listening to all the music we sent him, he wanted to release a record. But the thing was that Ben didn’t see the release without “Drama” - and I've already promised this track to Richie. And after much consideration, I decided that Klockworks was closer to my sound, and explained it to Richie. He reacted with understanding, and as a result, he still released my other track. This was a turning point that changed absolutely everything. A few months later, Richie invited me to play at his ENTER. party in Ibiza, and a week later I was performing for the first time at Berghain at the Klockworks Showcase at the invitation of Ben.

Now I can play what I believe to be right.

I began to feel much more confident after a year of residency at Berghain. When you often play in one place, you begin to feel the music deeper and understand the audience, it always encourages you to play something new. I think that my background of Chernivtsi also played a significant role in this, as there it was necessary to monitor the dance floor carefully, because when people left, the club lost its money, and you get in trouble with the owners. But the mission of the DJ is to express his vision of music in a peculiar way. So, thanks to the experience of residency in different clubs, today i can take the liberty to play what nobody expects from me.

It is very important to play for people, but first of all, you are playing for yourself.

People who don’t understand this music or are not ready to understand leave the dance floor and remain only those who I need, and I play what I like. At Berghain, the residents set a certain tone, so everyone who comes to play here for the first time is trying to do the same as the residents.

I started to experiment with genres because our audience is educated and ready for this. Although sometimes I go beyond so much that even at Berghain people were asking what it was? To some extent, I even like such a reaction.

You have to come to the club and create your own vibe.

Many come to the party earlier to listen to what others are playing, to understand the mood of people. But this is not for me. Usually, I come to the club 5 minutes before the set starts, because I never compromise in music and won't adapt to what was played before me.

I often worry before sets when I play in Berghain - it's some kind of nightmare. But this is due to the fact that in Berlin I feel myself home and I am often afraid to oversleep and be late for the set.

Music is a passion, I've never considered it as work.

This is not the production of car details with a guaranteed initial result or quality: you either feel inspired or not. It happens that you can't write music for a very long time, and this is normal. I used to worry about this, but now I’ve focused on quality, I’ve started to treat my tracks more carefully. When you write a track just because you've promised it to a label, it often loses its sense. The music is better when you are not focused on recording a track that will give you the next boost in your career, but on recording what really comes from the heart.

It's not necessary to release all music.

I realized this only a while ago, as before I thought in another way because each track takes so much work. But frankly, there is a track from one of my Klockworks releases that I no longer like. I don't want the situation to happen again. Thus, I decided that the music should remain unreleased for some time, maybe I would show it to someone close, but I won’t release it right away. Eventually, appears an understanding of whether this track will be just as good after years or not. I'd like my music to be outside of trends and time frames. Some of my favorite records are over 20 years old, and they still got a relevant sound, sometimes it's hard to believe in it.

Photo: Sven Marquardt ©
In the near future, I'm going to open my imprint.

It will be a platform for new young artists. There are some talented guys from Chernivtsi, and you won’t believe how cool their music is! Recently I played one of their tracks and someone asked me whether that was Aphex Twin?

Since the beginning of the year, I've canceled more shows than for my entire life.

As recently I've returned from vacation and rebooted a bit. I realized that last September I was at home only for two days. Two days! But only 5 of those 15 performances were really good. I’ve visited three continents in one month, played in new places. But if you have a tour of a dozen parties, there is no time left for yourself or your personal life. It happens that during weekends I sleep 2-3 hours in total. In some way I like it, it's a drive. But still, I decided that it's better to play less, but at events of higher quality, and also to focus on work in the studio. Such an approach has fundamentally changed everything.

I do not want to play in clubs where the program is filled with trendy names.

For me, it's important that the person who invites me clearly understands why he is doing this. Sometimes that thing happens when you arrive, a driver meets you at the airport, takes you to a hotel, you are paid for room service, then you come to play, and all this without even knowing who invited you. As a rule, such parties don't have a soul and vibe. I prefer a more personal approach, especially when talking about art.

In recent years, I've experienced some pressure due to the influence of social networks, eventually, I realized that they are not important at all.

They create a certain image of who you should be, what you should do, how many performances to play, and so on. But following others, you simply lose your personality. As a result, I rethought their relevance, deleted all the content from Facebook, and now it’s just a page for events so that people can see where I perform. On my Instagram, it’s not even written that I’m a musician. There I can lay out some things of a more personal nature, communicate with people.

Sometimes I think of taking a half-year vacation and go to write music in Chernivtsi.

Before moving to Kyiv in 2014, I had a very romantic period there, the thought of which sometimes inspires me. I didn't have as many opportunities as now, and that greatly spurred me. I had no job and practically all my time I devoted to music writing and self-development.