Sharing Sound – An Interview With Russia’s Mr. Chak

Sometimes I enjoy going back to read interviews that I either conducted with people or re-read ones with people who I value their opinions, creativity or stories that have some how inspired or influenced in me.  One of the people that I conducted an interview with and featured back on the old HP&B site was with DJ and collector, Mr. Chak from Russia who I met via MySpace and we instantly built up a connection because we both shared an appreciation for not only funk & soul 45s but also Blaxploitation and exploitation cinema. Looking back at this interview made me realize that moments in time like this are something of a rarity especially during a time we’re everyone’s into something cool at the same time and we all see this via social media so there’s nothing special when meeting in the real world. The element is always in the surprise when you find out someones appreciation for things are very similar to yours especially when coming from two different parts of the globe. Since conducting this interview, I’ve had the pleasure of going to Russia 3 times to play parties with Mr. C who really holds things down in what was once (at least to me) a very unsuspecting place for funk & soul music. It’s been an honor to joint the lineup of some of the worlds finest funk & soul DJ’s like Keb Darge, Tobias Kirmayer, Ian Wright, DJ Muro, Mr. Fine Wine, Jazzman Gerald and J.J. Whitefield to name a few who have played the legendary Fun City Shingaling and Northen City Soul Club parties.


*Interview conducted in 2012

When it comes to interviewing people for the site we try to seek out those that quite possibly you’ve never heard of, those that aren’t famous world wide but have just as many records and knowledge as those with juice. One such person who comes from one of the last places you would expect there to be a heavy Funk & Soul scene going on which is Russia, and the man who helped to keep the culture alive is St. Petersburg’s own Misha Chak. This guy knows records and presses them, he knows Blaxploitation cinema as if he’d visited 42nd Street in it’s glory years, Soviet soundtracks? Of course, why wouldn’t he. Allow me to introduce to you The Fabulous Mr.C.

There’s a few DJ’s that I always look forward to hearing mixes from because I know they’ll play something that flips my wig and you’re one of them. How long have you been DJing and collecting 45’s.

Thanks, I’m glad people like you can find something new in my mixes. I’ve been doing my thing for about 15 years in St.Petersburg. Record collecting, DJing, promotions, parties etc. In the early days I used to DJ with my 12’ and LPs but didn’t liked 45s at all, imagine that! At that time I was more into Hip-Hop / scratch stuff, so 45s in my opinion were too unstable for any manipulations on the turntables. I preferred properly recorded 12 inchers. In 2004 when we booked the legendary Keb Darge to one of my parties it changed everything. Keb played deep funk killers like Earl English “Tryin’ To Make Ends Meet” (Six Toe), The Highlighters Band “Funky 16 Corners” (3 Diamonds), Heem ‘The Music’ Monster “Wake Up” from Philly and he also played some nice modern soul 45s. The sound from an old original 45 was incredibly good on a proper sound system and I was like what the f*ck? He played all that at the age of 50 and I was only 28, but I realized I could play this music forever, because it was made with passion for the dance floor, so everybody was dancing and going crazy. Now 45s is my main format for DJing and I love it even if it is an expensive hobby.

Your party Fun City Shingaling is the most successful 45 night in St. Petersburg and definitely one of the most successful of it’s kind worldwide. How did the idea for your party come about and was it received well by the people?

Well, Shingaling is a new club night, we’ve been doin’ it for 3 years. I used to DJ in club “Sochi” with friends, it was dope and the owner of the club asked me to come up with a specific name for our parties for better promotion. I said ok let’s do the “Fun City Shingaling” which is quite unique name for a party. It’s also a title of one of my latin records by Joe Quijano plus I like the idea of having Fun in the City and doing the Shing-A-Ling at night, so that’s the story. By the way, we’ve already changed locations 3 times, also have done extra sessions in various spots in town. I have done various Funk and Soul parties in the past 8 years but “Fun City Shingaling” is definitely not the biggest club night, in 2006 we would packed 400-600 people in larger clubs, but nowadays we’re doing smaller ventures. I was thinking about it recently and I can tell you that our parties probably look like Funk parties in Japan, even though I’ve have never been to Japan, but seeing footage of only 100 people on the dance floor in very small clubs/bars is a great feel. Even in such small places we’ve done live shows with The Soul Surfers (before we even made all those 45s in USA) and it was great! I like big parties were you can meet new people, but it’s also nice to have 100 friends and regulars on the dance floor enjoying the music that your playing. The venue is small, but we play BIG records on the Funk and Soul scene and our club night is still #1 of all 45s party in town and all the best 45 DJ’s and collectors worldwide have and want to play with us.

I know your deep into Funk and Northern Soul but what other genres can people expect to hear if they visit one of your nights?

We play strictly vinyl Funk, Soul, Latin, R’n’B, Popcorn and Jazz 45s for the dance floor. Most of our stuff is vintage 45s from 60s/70s, we don’t play much 80s or 50s, but we also play new releases if it sounds good. I love all that stuff, but when I get booked for other parties I can also add some Hip-Hop, Beats and Breaks and even Roots Reggae.

One of the things that I always enjoy is going to a night and getting free promo like buttons, stickers and posters but I noticed that you do something a little different. You press up a limited run of 50 Fun Club 45’s to promote and support the night which I think is incredible, you even do different labels for each release that all have a vintage look to them. How do you choose which songs should be made exclusive for this occasion?

Yep, I’ve made tons of prints, silk prints, offset prints, flyers, stickers, posters and finally pressed 5 different 45’s with different labels in a collaboration with Funk Night Records in Detroit. The reason for this collaboration was a recent discovery of a new Russian band called The Soul Surfers. Those guys recorded numerous demo tracks, some real killers and then sent them to me. I remember I played the ”Soul Power“ demo to local DJs and friends and everybody was like “what a fucking tune!?”. It’s hard to believe that it was recorded by young russian students in a town called Nizhny Novgorod. it was a dirty recorded deep funk killer from a Russian motor town on the Volga river. I have never heard anything like that produced and recorded locally in Russia. The guys definitely have a vision but a proper release is not only about good music it’s also about the pressing, mastering, label design and marketing. Most of the new records look shit, the one’s pressed in UK look fake if it’s on 45. I love the classic look of singles pressed and designed in the USA and for all 5 Fan Club releases I tried to do my best to make them as good as possible, like all classic vintage 45s. All of them pressed at Archer’s pressing plant in Detroit Michigan where Motown Records pressed their 45s. First ever Russian Funk and Soul pressed in Detroit, just imagine. All the tracks were recorded on old soviet microphones, played on vintage musical instruments, mastered by my friend Didier at Timmion Studio in Helsinki and finally pressed in Michigan USA, what a great combination, huh? They look cool and play great coming from raw home studio recordings. We made 50 each as limited run (Fan Club Specials), each record looks completely different then FNR made 500 each for global sales in a classic FNR design. The first release was sold out in a few weeks everywhere from Dusty Groove, Turntable Lab to Jet Set in Japan and many other record stores in europe etc. The first Fan Club release was a promo only and not for sale but strictly for DJs who played with us, it was the first record from Russia with pure heavy deep funk sound and a blast 45 with very positive reviews worldwide. Following the initial release they did three other 45’s of their own Gospel, R’n’B, Downtempo Funk and even a funky cover of the famous soundtrack The Good, The Bad and The Ugly all recorded under different names. It has to be a different labels in my opinion and I reworked a few vintage labels, I’m crazy about vintage 45 labels can you tell? We ended up with Fun City Shingaling (a prototype of Funk City Records, NY), Mr. C exactly like the classic Mr. G (Red,Black,Silver) label, famous Jackpot which looks super cool for exotic sounds and Chakster (a prototype of Custom Records) for R’n’B. On the last release we used our own copyrighted Pipe logo. All records printed with pantone color process like it should be, not CMYC like most of the modern labels, I’m proud of the Fan Club releases, they are really cool. I’m not a designer by the way, I just enjoy things having an authentic look and feel.

When I was first introduced to you some years back, it was actually your poster designs that caught my attention before I even heard you play. I guess it was that same feel that others get when they see a Hot Peas and Butta poster design, what’s your inspiration being the designing of them.

Hot Peas and Butta stuff is cool too, it was fun to see you and DJ Cash Money’s faces all over those crazy blaxploitation posters! When I grew up and started going to night clubs the flyers and posters were very important, it was like an invitation to another world, a journey to the heart of underground music scene, I’m talking about St. Petersburg circa mid 90s. Those guys always mentioned technical specs of their JBL sound system on the flyers, it was so inviting. Something about a DJ and his records, people were crazy about music that no one can’t find anywhere else, and they partied all night at a 50s bomb shelter with a laser light in the middle. Apart from the club scene classic soviet cinema art posters played a major part then I came across the Blaxploitation genre. Posters are really something special in design, it has to be a quintessence of the movie, a very attractive image. I love all kinds of vintage posters from classic Porn to classic Hollywood and across the genres. But the craziest stuff I’ve seen recently was vintage horror posters from Ghana.

I’m still amazed that even in Russia there’s someone who has an appreciation similar to ours for Blaxploitation films and classic cinema. What are a few of you all time favorites?

I love 60s-80s Soviet crime flicks, spy flicks and detectives of the golden era when the music in a movie was funky. Soviet composers did a great job, and Soviet cinema delivered plenty of nice flicks, with most of the soundtracks still unreleased on vinyl. I have some nice samples prepared for upload on my youtube channel. As for the blaxploitation I was hooked by “Blacula” I’m a big fan of vampire flicks, but this is the funkiest blood sucker, the intro and opening theme of this movie just blewed my mind. “Trick Baby” is a great blaxploitation flick, “Detroit 9000”, “Black Samurai” is the craziest flick with a great soundtrack and amazing trailer too. “Foxy Brown” with Pam Grier, “Slaughter” and “Slaughter’s Big Rip-off” “Superfly” for sure, “Willie Dynamite” and “Melinda” just to name a few.

One of your Fun Club 45’s was done by The Rhythm Cowboys which I’m assuming is a fictitious name was a cover of Morricone’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Morricone is one of our favorite composers hands down in the film world, what made you decide to cover that song, make it really funk and even add an amazing break to it?

It was one of the earliest demo I received from the band and one of the tracks that proved a high potential of the band to me. I played it to Frank from Funk Night Records and he was hooked, o wonder, it’s a great cover. The story behind it is one day the musicians watched this movie together then tried to find some funky covers of “The Good The bad and The Ugly” theme and later they realized there are no funky covers! So they just made one of their own, pretty simple. None of the musicians in the band had ever heard of the Funk Night record label before so I did tried to work it out with the label for a commercial release. It was nice to make it in Detroit.

Most DJ’s that are serious about collecting records are usually into collecting other things, do you have a passion or hobby outside of DJing?

My main hobby before I even got into DJing was skateboarding. I do not really collect anything besides records nowadays, but my other expansive hobby is Hi Fi audio equipment.

What’s next for the adventures of Mr. C and Fun City Shingaling?

I have more plans regarding my label, but it’s a top secret and I can’t tell you anything at the moment. Same with a new venue for more parties.

Check my blog http://WWW.DJCHAK.SPB.RU for news and stuff.

Thanks to you Skeme for conducting this interview!