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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Veteran DJ Brings Beat to Moscow

The beat booms out fiercely, strobe lights and lasers revealing a packed Moscow dance floor. Over a wall of hip-hop music comes the unmistakable howl of James Brown in teasing, rhythmic bursts, the record turntable played like an instrument itself. The crowd cheers and slides seamlessly into the beat of a new song, jamming to Bob Marley and the latest techno, house, and alternative rock. In his booth, like a captain at the helm, disc jockey Stanley Williams works his magic.


For over a year now, Williams, 32, has helped define Moscow's thriving club scene. He is a veteran of New York's hottest dance clubs -- spots like Studio 54, Area, Nell's and the World. With his distinctive style of eclectic cuts, all well mixed, paced and juxtaposed, Williams set the musical tone for Andy Warhol's club set at Area and kept the crowd swinging at Madonna's 1991 tour party.


An opportunity to spin records here last year exposed Williams to the growing opportunities in music and business in the new Russia. Frustrated by New York's musical segregation, which holds the majority of clubs to very narrow stylistic categories, Williams said he finds Moscow audiences as sophisticated as those in New York, and much more open.


"I have the freedom to play the way I love to, drawing from many kinds of music," said Williams, who is the disc jockey every Saturday night at Club Hermitage. Even radio programming is looser, he added. "You'll hear a hard-rock song, then Sade, Rod Stewart and Public Enemy, pop and techno. Folks here in Russia are open to everything, and they are starving for music."


Williams is doing more to feed that hunger than catering to the dance-floor set. Recognizing the vast opportunities in the underdeveloped Russian music industry, he is parlaying his experience as both a disc jockey and record-label promoter in the States into business ventures here.


"The Russian music market is a place of enormous vitality and potential," he said. "There has always been a strong music scene here, and I want to be part of revitalizing and expanding the industry, making it viable."


Towards that goal, Williams has founded Brave New Records, a recording company looking to introduce new Russian talent.


Despite Polygram's recent opening of a Russian recording division, local bands have had a difficult time gaining exposure and audiences outside of their homeland. A brief, perestroika-inspired surge of western interest in Russian bands dropped off as recording ventures failed to turn a worthy profit.


With Brave New Records, Williams joins the growing number of recording labels that have cropped up since the end of the monopoly of Melodiya, the state-run label.


In late July, he will also open Mira CD (CD World) at 30 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa. Catering to Russians looking for high-quality compact discs and Westerners hungry for a musical taste of home, the store, a Russian-American joint venture, will stock current releases from U.S., West European and Russian labels in a variety of styles. In the light of his own particular difficulties as a record-spinner in Moscow, Williams will have limited supplies of vinyl singles for his peers.


"You can get music in any kiosk in Moscow, along with orange soda and vodka," Williams said. "But many of the tapes and CDs are bootlegs, and the selection is pot luck at best. We'll offer the real thing. We'll have, or can get, anything the customer is looking for."