In May last year Bassiani and Cafe Gallery, the two leading clubs of Tbilisi in Georgia, were raided by the Georgian police with a threat they would be shut down. The authorities linked the clubs to five drug deaths that had taken place over the past two weeks. According to Bassiani, about 60 people were arrested, including the club‘s co-founders, Tato Getia and Zviad Gelbakhiani. Right after the raids, thousands of locals came to the streets to protest, and the demonstrations received the worldwide electronic music scene’s widespread support.
Finally, the clubs were reopened.
Inspired by the powerful and emotional response of the city, Héctor Oaks has recently released “As We Are Saying LP” on Bassiani’s own imprint. The release is a dedication to the club‘s perseverance, as well as its main room Horoom.
Monument is delighted to have a talk with Héctor about his work and inspiration behind the release, the protests in Tbilisi and his relationship with Bassiani.
Hello Héctor, on 7th December you released your first album on Bassiani. The album is inspired by the events around Tbilisi, Georgia. How did you approach the production and how much time did you spend in the studio?
Hi there! I was actually already involved in the production of this album inspired by the marathon sets I did in Horoom. Somehow, the special energy of Bassiani and the amazing experiences I had there inspired me to write the album. When I was in the process, these events happened and everything made sense. It was like closing the circle.
Before the events you already produced a track for a Bassiani EP. If you would compare this track or any other release from a different imprint with your new album, what would you say?
Move In Circles Walk On Lines was pretty much the track which with everything started, I’d say the album takes the vibe and style from that. It’s more stripped down, more raw, but that was the inception. It also happened at the same time with several other changes in my life, when I started to feel really confident as a DJ and as a producer. I think it is all related.
One track is named Horoom Reclusion, named after the floor where you are known for playing marathon sets. Please tell us about the track, and about your relationship with Horoom.
This one is one of the most special tracks on the album! For those who know my music, it is also the most unusual one. The track is just a way of showing respect to Horoom, because there I feel I can play and do whatever I want. People know me, like me and they will follow me. I had most of my best times as a DJ playing in that room. I learned how to play very long sets, and the energy of the people there; who never let me stop, was something that is now part of me. I have to say that last time I played in Bassiani’s main room with Anetha was one of the best nights I remember in Tbilisi. And now, after all those sets in Horoom, I’ve told the guys that I want to play now a bit more in Bassiani. I think the time is right.
You said this album is a portrayal of the spirit captured inside Bassiani and an homage to all people who found freedom in raving. It is the soundtrack of your revolution. This sounds very political – is it?
I think it captures the spirit of a moment and a generation with which I truly feel connected. And it just sounds like this: powerful, raw, serious but full of hope.
Besides of Bassiani and other clubs such as KHIDI and Cafe Gallery, people coming outside Georgia might not be aware how the local scene is. What, for you, makes the Georgian scene special?
The local scene in Georgia is still really young and fresh. Even though the clubbing scene has already established itself on the international level, it’s just around 5 years old. Because of that I feel that the crowd is more open, curious and welcoming.
Let‘s talk about the events in Tbilisi. In May last year Bassiani and Cafe Gallery were raided by armed police. Where were you, and how did you learn about the events?
I was in Berlin when all of that happened and I was shocked to hear about it. Seeing the videos of my friends being arrested, and armed people on the dance floor made me quite angry. But I believed that those passionate young people there would fight back. I was sure that it wouldn’t end like that.
Before the police raid, how was the relationship between the authorities and the clubs in Georgia?
I think authorities didn’t really understand how powerful this whole scene and the movement was. I think these events in May made them realise that those clubbers are the people who care about their ideas, and that would stay together to fight for what they believe in.
How about the drug policy? How is it like?
As I hear from the people in Tbilisi, it is really strict and people get arrested for a minor quantities of drugs. Nevertheless, people still take the risk and spend lots of money and energy to get something for the night. This kind of prohibition has never worked in the history, and I think the government there must understand this soon and establish more humane drug policy.
The case of Bassiani shows the huge meaning of the club culture for a country. How is the electronic scene of Tbilisi and Georgia?
The music scene there is more of a social movement than a simple scene. The scene is mostly made by the young people who believe in, and fight for the ideas of freedom and more open society. It has a really big importance for a country like Georgia, where the church is really strong, and gets lots of support. Luckily both clubs reopened and the owners were released.
How is the situation right now?
Right now the situation is calm, but the government is quite unstable, so you never know what to expect. Hopefully they will leave the scene alone.
One of the club owners said the scene is still in danger, especially by conservative and right-wing politics. Seems like it is an ongoing culture war. Why do you think the club culture is so despised? What needs to be changed for this conflict to be resolved?
This whole scene is despised and demonized. It is because the conservative and right-wing politicians are, in fact, afraid of the young people. They feel threatened by their open-minded approach to the future of their country. But as I said before, I am sure that all those great young people who I met on the dance floor at Bassiani, will stay strong and keep fighting.
Have you played in Bassiani after the events? How was the mood of the floor after the protests?
At the beginning people were slightly doubtful but now, some time after, it just went crazy. People really need this music, and you can feel it. It is so powerful. The vibe there specially after the protest is something hard to see anywhere else, so I truly recommend to every raver to go there and be part of it!
Finally, how does your future look like? What can we expect from you?
Right now I’m really excited about everything that is happening, and the future looks really promising. I’m touring quite a lot and I’m heading to some of the greatest festivals of the coming summer. Surely, I’m working in some new music, and getting both of my labels OAKS and KAOS scheduled. I’m also working with Cem in the craft of Herrensauna’s new label.
I get a lot of positive energy and feedback from both of my residencies in Bassiani, and in Herrensauna as Cadency. It’s an important event to me every time, and I want to keep it like that. Playing records is what I love to do the most, it makes me feel alive. I’m constantly challenging myself in order to get better, making myself and, above all, those who are on the other side of the booth to have the greatest time.