Ukrainian-Russian producer Wyro on finding solace in production: “When you open Ableton, it chills you out”
A minimal house and techno producer tells us about his Ableton Live techniques, and how opening the DAW helps him forget life’s turmoils
Wyro performing with modular gear
For Ukraine-born, Russia-raised producer, music mentor and label owner Wyro, music production isn’t just a creative act, but a place of safety and solitude – a brief escape from the tribulations of real life.
Wyro – real name Kirill Kalashnikov – is now based in London. He says hello over Zoom, and tells us about the past few years, which have been nothing short of a whirlwind. He left Russia just before the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and lost his home. Instead of returning, he was forced to – in his words – “float around the planet like some rock in open space”, embarking on a nomadic adventure spanning countries such as Sri Lanka, Bali, Thailand, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania, Vietnam, Turkey, Serbia, and beyond, leaving behind his synth-clad studio in St. Petersburg. This chapter, lasting 15 months, marked a period of both exploration and introspection, as he collaborated with various musicians and vocalists for the first time.
Making music on the move was not a massive change for him: “If I’m being completely honest, I always used a lot of software because that’s how I started.” He says. “It’s what I was accustomed to. For instance, I really love Xfer’s Serum because it’s incredibly fast and visually comfortable.”
In terms of modular gear, he has had to adopt a digital replacement, however, in the form of VCV Rack, using Mutable Instruments’ plugins such as Clouds and Braids. “It’s not quite the same,” he says, “given that you’re constantly working with headphones and a laptop, hunched over. It’s not as enjoyable as having a physical instrument.”
For Kirill, who wants to make music as quickly as possible and not spend hours making new drums and such, he’s keen to reveal his love for helpful Ableton Live templates It’s sped up his process and allowed him, he says, to focus on the other elements of the track that build emotion, so that the drums simply support this core element of the track.
“There’s about eight minutes of separate tracks for the kick, hi-hat, clap, and percussion – you know, all in different drum racks.” He explains. “I have my favourite stuff ready to make the process quick, you know? There’s a dedicated section for the kick, around eight minutes long, with a high-pass filter already applied. Why add a kick every time you start a track? Doing this every time got tiring, so I did it once, saved the template, and now I don’t start tracks with drums.”
We chat on and on about sticking with the ‘perfect’ kick drum and not worrying about over-using a drum if it works. However, there’s a more real elephant in the room that Wyro isn’t scared to address. He goes on to open up on the unique challenges he faces as someone with ties to both Ukraine and Russia and what it meant to lose his home.
“Many musicians lost studios and motivation”
“When you read the news, you don’t feel like creating.” He says. “I mean, you definitely don’t want to make dance music. Sometimes you lean towards ambient music, just to unwind. That’s been my approach lately. Escaping these thoughts, diving into sound work – it’s like meditation. Focusing on one thing, the sound, silencing the noise and random thoughts. When you open Ableton Live and start doing a new track, you just have one path. It chills you out for some time…. but once it ends, the weight returns.
“Many musicians lost studios and motivation,” Kirill says. Noticeably emotional, he tells us about how he still has friends in Russia and Ukraine whose only way of making money is through putting on parties. The risks are high and he doesn’t envy them, he says. Luckily for him, the dance music production school he teaches students at, Tramplin, can be operated remotely.
Using this platform, students can learn how to make a variety of dance music sub-genres, and Kirill can utilise his own diverse knowledge to help get ideas over the line. The most exciting moments, he says, are when students have big ideas “burning inside” and just need that small technical nudge to get them where they need to be. “That’s super inspiring”, he gleams.
We say our goodbyes and agree to go to a rave in the city together one day, having discovered a shared love for minimal electronic sounds. Kirill smiles. After a globe-trotting, chaotic two years of using music and technology to escape turbulent times, Wyro is finally happy and settled in one of the most music-rich cities in the world.
Listen to Wyro’s latest album, Focus, made during the past two years, out now on his own label Engineer, via Bandcamp.
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