The reinterpretation of beloved classics or familiar sounds is not a new concept to music-making, much less to electronic composition. Georgy Kotunov (performing under the moniker Long Arm), is a genre-arching artist based in St. Petersburg, who captivates his audiences with moody environments created using the powerful sampling of jazz through electronic narrative. His soundscapes are painted with the warm fullness of jazz samples and a nostalgic layer of low-fi fuzz that transforms his work into an intimate experience of place. The careful arrangements with which he sculpts make Long Arm easily accessible from a more experimental facet of hip-hop. Having released a special extended edition of his second album, The Branches, with the Berlin-based label Project: Mooncircle earlier in December 2012, Long Arm is in the progress of developing new projects, while enjoying the satisfying taste of success across Europe and, increasingly, North America.
(Interview translated from Russian by Lital Khaikin.)
WBM: You currently reside in St. Petersburg, but originally, you are from Orenburg. Tell us a bit about Orenburg and what it was like growing up there.
GEORGY: Orenburg is a fairly small provincial town in southern Russia, near the border with Kazakhstan. For the most part, the town is famous for Yuri Gagarin (the first person in space!) having graduated from a local flying academy and for having lived there for some time.
For me, Orenburg is my first home. My parents and sister live there still, and I will sometimes come down with my own family to see them. Growing up there, as it is likely in any other provincial town, was not as interesting as growing within myself. I was a fairly introverted child, and many more interesting things occurred in my mind than they did outside of my window; although, the town gave me my basic skills and first experiences in music. In Orenburg, I graduated from a music academy, started writing music, playing in various bands, and for the first time, began experimenting as a DJ.
WBM: Picture yourself as the sprightly youth you were ten years ago. Who were your favourite musicians?
GEORGY: Ten years ago, I was fascinated with alternative music and electronica. I would spend days listening to Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Korn, and The Prodigy.
WBM: How do you feel about your decision to move to St. Petersburg, personally and professionally?
GEORGY: I dreamed of living in St. Petersburg from the moment I first visited the city in 2004. Professional work was the last consideration on my mind when I decided to move here. At that time, my wife and I were just looking for a place in Russia where we could live comfortably, and St. Petersburg, you might say, was the last point on the map. In the end, I think it is here that we have our home.
WBM: You say that jazz has been a great inspiration to you. Who are some musicians you find a personal connection with, or who are especially memorable?
GEORGY: In the very beginning, the reason for my fascination with jazz was Benny Goodman with his joyful and fantastical music, along with his enchanting playing on clarinet! To this day, this instrument is among my favorites! Later, I started listening to just about everything, discovering names like Billy Holliday, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, and Gene Krupa.
WBM: Why did you choose to create music in the IDM genre, instead of pursuing jazz?
GEORGY: I didn’t choose the genre in which I want to write music. The most important factor for me was having the greatest freedom in creativity! I have listened, and still listen to, not only jazz but also electronica, hip-hop, trip-hop, downtempo, classical music, and so on. All of these influence what I write.
WBM: Tell us how you discovered the Project: Mooncircle record label.
GEORGY: This happened very suddenly for me. During the summer of 2010, I began releasing new work on SoundCloud, and following my release of “After 4 AM“, I almost immediately received a message from the Project: Mooncircle label with a proposal for collaboration. I had never heard of them before this, but when I visited their site, I found several of my favorite artists releasing their music there. This was indeed an unexpected and pleasant meeting!
WBM: For your own work, where do your samples come from and how do you choose them?
GEORGY: Normally, I sample jazz from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and have lately been buying records of Polish jazz at record-stores and flea markets. I generally try to use only vinyl when selecting my samples. I will usually take a solo in trumpets, contrabass, or percussion, and use these to make my set. I don’t use big sections, and it’s more often the timbre and the dynamics of the instrument that interest me, as opposed to the piece itself.