DVS1 sees a silver lining in the looming storm clouds of COVID-19. The Minneapolis techno figurehead has suggested that artists from thriving local scenes may fare better than other touring headliners after event restrictions are lifted, translating to more opportunity for up-and-comers.
Minneapolis DJ, producer and promoter Steven Centrific (real name Steven Seuling) interviewed DVS1 (real name Zak Khutoretski) for a segment wedged between DJ sets comprising his April 25th, 2020 Twitch live stream event, Distant Future. Sitting an appropriate social distance from Seuling, Khutoretski touched on coronavirus uncertainties with reassuring optimism. Continued access to the 4,000-square-foot warehouse in which he hosts his Future Classic parties has allowed him to focus on music and safely visit with friends, he said, surely a factor in his warm disposition.
That’s not all. Such deeply rooted local presence is the very thing he thinks could help him and others like him weather the storm.
“I’m in a unique position – as is, I think, anybody who has a local community and a local scene. The world could fall apart around us, but I can come home to Minneapolis,” Khutoretski said. “I can do these parties and I can have a local base here that a lot of touring DJs either lost or never had. In the countries they come from, they weren’t built around local scenes, they were just built to get big, and have big parties and bring big names, and that was what they looked towards.”
Khutoretsky pointed out that prior to the the COVID-19 crisis, certain Minneapolis acts commanded enough of a draw to sell out events without assistance from touring acts. He speculated that further removing them from the equation might provide opportunities for more locals to achieve such status.
“I’m really hoping that this starts to grow local scenes again,” he said. “When clubs reopen, does anyone really need to book a headliner and spend a bunch of money? The reality is we have a lot of amazing locals in a lot of territories around the world who have never had a chance to shine, and those people will now be able to pack a club.”
Khutoretsky is not the first thought leader in techno to describe a scenario in which pandemic fallout democratizes the arts and entertainment. Not long ago, English electronic music veteran Dave Clarke explained why he was “hopeful for this reset” in a social media post. “I think clubs will be the first to reboot, and something I said a while ago is that the ‘Artisan DJ’ may be important as opposed to having 90% of talent flown around the globe,” he wrote.
Devious Track Record
Khutoretsky has long criticized the cult of personality that has gradually emerged around DJs. A Russian-born immigrant who spent a year in juvenile hall for distributing LSD, his career in electronic music dates back to the early ’90s. In addition to DJing and producing under the DVS1 (pronounced “devious one”) alias, he has launched event brands like HUSH Productions and venues like Foundation interwoven with Minneapolis electronic music history.
More recently, Khutoretsky has introduced event formats designed to place sound ahead of stardom. His Wall Of Sound gatherings relegate DJs to a darkened booth while monolithic speaker stacks take center stage. In a 2018 interview with DJ Mag, he postulated that the rise of festivals contributed to a broader dilution of the electronic music experience. He went on to say that he had stopped live streaming DJ sets for similar reasons – likely among the reasons he did not perform for Distant Future.
Khutoretsky has managed to hold onto the Future Classic space for 11 years, and the parties have virtually grown synonymous with the Minneapolis scene. Initially headlined only by him and other local DJs, the gatherings eventually showcased venerated tastemakers like Jeff Mills and Danny Tenaglia on the condition of confidentiality. He told Seuling that he was confident the pandemic wouldn’t derail the brand. The two of them recounted how issues with neighbors once forced Khutoretsky to go nine months without an event, but he managed to pick up where he left off.
Dustin Zahn, Z.I.P.P.O. and Petra were among the artists who performed on live stream during Distant Future. A video recording of Zahn’s set can be found on Steven Centrific’s Twitch channel.
Image credit: Yonathan Baraki