Lithuanian producer and programmer of the country’s globally renowned Opium Club, Vidis Čepkauskas, this month unveils his second release for Nautilus Rising, the label of seasoned pro’s and Glasgow Sub Club residents Telford & Domenic. The ‘Confusion’ EP, under his ever-popular V alias, sees the Le Temps Perdu Records boss navigate a maze of emotions across three different versions of the title track.
Domenic Cappello is regarded as one of the most accomplished in charting cosmic dancefloor journeys. A skill honed over many years, not least the 25 (and counting) as a resident of the Sub Club alongside regular sparring partner and fellow selector Harri. As Nautilus Rising boss, alongside Telford, he has signed and released music from Lord of the Isles, Alex Smoke, Lazaros, Vince Watson and Love Over Entropy.
We were keen to get these two together and their discussion didn’t disappoint…. So tuck into their chat and discover what life was like growing up in the Eastern Bloc, Lithuanian clubland’s current challenges, the worst gig weekend ever, a shared love of Scotland and… how whistling calls out the devil.
What were your first memories of music growing up in Lithuania? How did you first hear and get into electronic music and how accessible was it?
It kinda crept in via friends, TV, radio, events, press, later – the internet…
I remember a worn out and much copied cassette of Selected Ambient Works, which was brought in by a British lad who came to teach English in one of my home town schools. I remember watching House TV on VIVA and Chill Out Zone on MTV, which arrived with our country’s independence. I remember listening to the first specialist shows on radio stations and asking anyone going abroad to grab a copy of DJ Mag. Also, my first visits to “Prieplauka” in Klaipėda (Lithuanian seaport) which was a kinda proto-club.
Also just recently I’ve realized how important reading was. Before the internet got fast and file sharing became widespread I would print out piles of papers with plain text articles and interviews and reviews. I read about so much music before I’d even heard it.
“You have the right to freedom of expression. But only until 10 pm”. I saw this a while ago regarding nightlife in Vilnius. What’s the story behind it and has it been resolved?
It’s complicated. Or multilayered. To say the least. On one hand, a certain crackdown on electronic music events and clubs has been happening in the last few years. There have been raids of automatic-gun armed, black mask wearing, dog unleashing special units. Also a lunatic photojournalist, self-proclaimed “warrior of light” following these raids through and reporting on them in one of the biggest news outlets. Making suggestive photos of night clubs and their visitors picturing them via handcuffs and stuff. Also stating in accompanying texts that he and the guys with guns are gonna clean this city up from gypsies (!) and night clubs full of drug addicts. Yeah, you’ve heard it right, that was the narrative and message. But then the bar and club owners started fighting back. The stories of unjustified and excessive use of force broke out, and it all went back to normal. Normal meaning that nightlife, clubs, and dance music is still evil of some kind but automatic-guns were put to rest.
And then a new venue opened in Vilnius’ railway station in spring 2019. A cool, trashy place, with their “club” made out of old train carriages. They were really heavily raided from the very beginning and it caught a new fire via social media. A protest rave was organised at the end of June and all the main Lithuanian clubs, promoters, festivals put their weight behind it to say stop stigmatising and discriminating us, just let us be, start a dialogue and look for real solutions. But as time was passing by more and more details emerged, it appeared that the venue didn’t have any sound isolation, didn’t respect neighbours, lied to cops and to their tenants, Lithuanian Railways, along the way. They had to close down end of September. In their own words it would sound like “You have the right to freedom of expression. But only until October.”
Long story short. We have our own problems and challenges but there are no major limitations to freedom of expression or assembly. And generally speaking, the scene is doing quite well. But we also have some smart guys who sometimes want to use the credibility of the scene and hide behind the popular banner of protest rave just to establish and advance their business against all rules and in disregard of communal interests.
How long did u end up spending in Scotland, what were the main cultural differences – good and bad between Lithuania and Scotland and did u find it strange that your English was better than most of the Scots u met?
I was there for 2-3 months. Maybe 2,5. I can’t remember exactly. Work and Travel was for students so it was as long as the summer break. And it was more work than travel actually. We weren’t the part of EU and Eurozone back then, the currency rate was high, so everyone tried to make the most of it to improve their lives back home. Not much time for culture. I saw rocky shores of the Northern Sea, big fields of strawberries and brussels sprouts, as well as the local supermarket. I found out that Scots say “pack up” instead of “pick up”. I had to learn that humans, just like berries, are sorted into First and Second class. And that hard working immigrants go into Second Class tray. Later on, I’ve learned a thing or two about Scotland through music. But I will have to come back one day to get better acquainted with Scottish culture in a broader sense.
Your music is pretty unique, what’s your process in making a track and what music do u listen to for inspiration?
Inspiration can be anything – beat, cool bass-line, progression of chords, old stuff or new, some production trick you’ve noticed someone else is using, overall sound or vibe, the particular day’s mood. Also, it’s important to say, that I’ve never been a “producer producer”, all my production efforts have always been collaborative. So anyone who’s in the studio with me always adds to the end result. I’m going through a very intense moment in my personal life at the moment. My wife and I are taking care of 3 little kids. So V stuff is usually made in 2-3-4 day studio sessions. I plan these getaways in advance, I leave home and family and disconnect completely to work on music, and then get back to usual routines.
Is it really true whistling should be avoided when visiting Lithuania? Whistling is found to be both rude and is thought to call ghosts or spirits?
Haha, I have a suspicion this one comes via Telford (co-owner of Nautilus Rising & Sub club resident), your in house expert of all things Lithuanian. It is an old saying to tame the kids actually, if they shout too loud or whistle, we say “don’t do it you’re gonna call out the devil!”.
I’m not a youngster anymore but you’ve been around even longer than me. Do you ever think of when should you retire from DJing and night life? On one hand, the scene is getting older, which is a natural process, and I’d like to think that I, or anyone else for that matter, can go on playing, making music, promoting for as long as I can, feel passionate about it and stay relevant. On the other hand, every time I hear Pete Tong voicing over another Essential Mix, I think ‘Jeez! Shouldn’t he let it go and allow someone younger to decide on them essential tunes and mixes of today?’.
Harri is 304 years old and still out every night of the week, I still feel young compared to him so as long as he can keep going at his age so can I. As long as people keep making great music that inspires me I’ll always want to play it out on a good system ,its not like this is a physically demanding job. I hear lots of DJs moaning about schedules and how tired they are etc .well cut back a bit, it’s pretty simple. This is a job that we should feel very privileged to have. You turn up play records you love, drink cold beer and have a laugh with friends, yeah let us retire and stay in and watch shite TV at the weekends instead.
This one is a little bit of a cheat. I will tell a little story, rather than pose a question, and let you reply to me with one. I can’t help it but tell anyone from Scotland how I made money for my first pair of decks. I was picking strawberries in the Windy Hills farm near Arbroath in Scotland. It was quite popular back then – so-called “work and travel” schemes for students of “Eastern Block” countries. It was a back-breaking summer for me, even more, it was the time of some serious tests. One of the Scottish female managers was offering drinks and food for a male contingent of our little strawberry campus in exchange for casual sex with her and her friends on the weekends. I didn’t subscribe to that and still, I want to believe I did the right thing. Bought my decks afterward. So… do you have any inspiring or soul-crushing stories of overseas visits for musical work and travel?
I have a soul-crushing story or funny depending on your sense of humour.
A good few years ago I was playing in London on a Friday and had a gig on Saturday in Madrid. The promoter in Madrid said it was a 4-hour set and could I play house and disco, this was still back in the days when it was vinyl only, no USB, no CDs.
So I filled my old metallic record box full of house and disco and off I went. The gig on Friday was great (Plastic People) my mate from Glasgow who lives in London met me at the gig and gave me a really nice top he’d had made, he was just starting out on his own fashion design company and he was giving me one of the first things he’d had made. He was rightly proud and I was very happy as I finally had something that wasn’t made in Matalan.
Saturday morning I’m in the cab to Heathrow with the new top sitting on my lap I’d dressed in a rush and almost slept in and missed the cab. as I get out the cab the top falls off my knees and into a big muddy puddle, that was a sign of things to come. My flight is delayed for 4 hours so I decided to treat myself to new headphones, I check my records in and the flight is delayed for another 2 hours. I phone my mates to find out the football scores and hear my team got beaten with a last-minute goal, this day just keeps getting better. Finally, I get the flight and when I go to grab my record box off the carousel and I nearly throw it over my shoulder as I’m expecting at least a 22-kilo weight. The record box is empty!! Someone from baggage has stolen all my tunes. I’m nearly in tears as the disco records are all pretty rare and worth a lot of money, the house stuff I could get again.
The promoter takes me to his mates house who’s a DJ and leaves me in a room with a pile of records to pick as I’ve still got a 4 hour set to do. The guy has no speakers so I spend 3 hours listening and trying to pick records from this guys collection (at least I had my shiny new expensive headphones ) while they all leave me and go out for food.thanks guys.
The party goes as well as can be expected apart from someone standing on the cable of my new headphones and ripping it out of the phones. I have to DJ for the last 45 mins with no headphones and another guys records to a packed club, I just want to go home by this point. Anyway, after very little sleep I get the flight back to Glasgow with my empty record box, snapped broken headphones, my new muddy top and with my football team having lost the league. I see my girlfriend waiting for me and I’m just so glad the weekend is over and I’m finally back home, I go to give her a well-needed hug and I trip and head butt her in the face. The end!
I have the impression that most old-timers have their own nonmusical ways to rest, recharge, get fresh and excited about music and parties. Be it books, movies, jogging, ranting in The Guardian comments section or beekeeping What’s your recipe?
Old-timers? You’re lucky you are in Lithuania. 🙂
I recharge by having a pretty normal family life during the week, best try and avoid hanging with Harri as I can’t keep up with him. I also like slow walks in the park and moonlight strolls through Govanhill.
And this is the remix of the previous question. What are your recent musical discoveries and inspirations, whatever the format, releases, podcasts, concerts, parties, festivals?
I’m discovering new music almost on a weekly basis but I absolutely love an album I just got by Sa Pa. Also anything on firescope.
I think I know the answer, but still, are you Leaver or Remainer?
Remain, fuck Brexit!