Ukrainian DJ, producer & promoter Detcom’s life changed drastically in mid February when Russia declared war on Ukraine. Detcom swiftly made the decision to remain in his homeland and fight against Russian genocide. His life is now in stark contrast from pre-conflict times, where he was an integral part in Kyiv’s vibrant techno scene, swapping turntables for AK-47’s and dance-floors for bunkers. We sat down with Detcom to learn more about the conflict on the front-line.
The immense juxtaposition in Detcom’s social media archives between life before war and the present time, was not only harrowing but overwhelmingly honourable. Within the blink of an eye Detcom goes from promoting forthcoming releases & plugging show’s he’s running, to carrying high volumes of ammunition and parading upgrades to his AK-47. Detcom is now is part of the fully fledged & ravenous Ukrainian military. Fleeing Ukraine was never an option for Detcom, even before the conflict had started Detcom was pre-pairing for battle.
“I knew one day it will happen, so I was getting ready. I practiced with weapons, tactics, first aid. Yeah, that was the best investment I made in the past year.”
Before I delved into the in and out’s of life at the forefront of a war, I wanted to learn more about Detcom’s life within techno and life before discord in his homeland.
“My name is Daniel. I’m a techno DJ from Kyiv in Ukraine. I’ve released music labels like; Planet Rhythm, Krill Music and many more. I run my own party, Dots, and one of the last parties we did was a collaboration with Boiler Room, last September. I had a lot of plans for expanding my party Dots to a bigger scale, but then the war came. So I’m not a DJ anymore, I’m on call in the army.”
I wanted to gain a bit more of an insight into the history of Kyiv’s techno as Detcom seemed to be a fundamental cog in the cities nightlife.
“After the events of 2014 when Russia started an economical and political crisis war with Ukraine, it influenced a lot of people. Some people demanded activism. So a lot of underground, and illegal bodies rose up against centuries of oppression, such as CXEMA.”
“So because these events, there was a lot of attention on Ukraine, and especially Kyiv. So people from other countries wanted to explore what was going on here. So people came to Ukraine & Kyiv, and went home and told stories of how they had a great time and then more people continued to come here. More parties and more festivals, that are really diverse. And, of course, we have many talented artists here in Ukraine.
From what I had heard from Detcom and stories from friends that had travelled to Kyiv to party, it had a distinct sense of freedom, and that fed right into the parties, and the crowds acceptance of new music and diversity within the parties. Kyiv had been coined as the new Berlin, as the cities etho’s lied in a tangent of Berlin’s rave scene which blossomed in the mist of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“When I first started raving in 2006, I was speaking with DJs from other countries that played here and they were saying how crazy the crowd is. I remember them saying that they had never seen people dancing so hard, so crazy, so intense. Kyiv is still considered something new, something fresh, like fresh air because, you know, Ukraine is a post Soviet Republic and all those times during Soviet Union and years passed, it was tough inside. So I guess, techno and rave was a fresh air for us and a new expression.”
Having previously spoken to Detcom about playing at Boiler Room, I asked if we could reflect on this time in his life.
“It’s kind of difficult to think about this time. Doing an event with Boiler Room was another milestone for me, I was thinking about it every day, and I was getting more and more anxious. I wanted everything to be perfect, and it was. I heard no complaints on the night. I’m always anticipating something, like my first performance, my first release and so on. It’s difficult now as my memory is totally mixed up. I’m mostly thinking about military business now.”
Detcom further reflects on his time in techno as a DJ, producer & promoter, but refers to it in the past tense, as if life had very much entered a new chapter.
“That was a great time and I definitely look forward to doing this all again one day. Once all this nonsense is over, I’ll be able to get back to music, get back to the dance floor. But now, all I’m thinking about and all I’m concerned about is being useful here in our army and helping our civilians on the deoccupied settlements and helping us get to victory.”
It became harrowingly obvious that Detcom’s life before conflict seemed nearly irrelevant or insignificant to his duties now. He reflects on life as DJ with great devotion, but a stark sense of agony. We began to speak about the last event he ran just over a month before Ukraine was bombed for the first time.
“That party was one of the great ones. Nicholas [Narciss] is a great and funny guy and he really loves what he’s doing. He’s a great artist and his music is great. I really like the way he expressed himself on the dance-floor. People loved it, they were screaming like mad. The people that stayed until the end we’re coming up to me saying ‘Jesus fucking Christ. Thank you for that. That was amazing. I’m waiting for the next party.’ That was the best feeling as a promoter, when people are really impressed and love what you do.”
Trying to gauge the feelings of someone at war and trying to relate to those feelings is rather unthinkable for someone that lives in a peaceful and free environment, but when Detcom describes running parties in his hometown, and the fevor running through his voice as he recounts the last rave he hosted, it seemed impossible not to understand his situation in that melancholic moment. Even if it was just for a second.
I was interested to hear if all of Detcom’s friends and family shared the same drive and passion in fighting for Ukraine as he did, or did many choose to withdraw from Ukraine in search of safety.
“You know, even before the war, it was tense. And there was a lot of discussions of will Russians attack or maybe they’re just trying to scare us, to destabilise the economical situation. I knew that one day it will happen so I was getting ready. I practiced with weapons, tactics, first aid. Yeah, that was the best investment I guess in the past year.“
“When I joined the Territorial Defence I made a shout out on Social Media and the next day my friend MRD contacted me and got me connected with a reporter from Norway. They asked me a few questions about why I decided to try some territorial defence and from these few posts, I guess some people got inspired and followed my example, there are two guys that I know from the nightlife working with me now.“
“People are full of patriotism right now. It’s actually really difficult to get into the Ukrainian army right now, people are waiting on a big list, because too many people volunteered. All of our brigades and companies are full, but they don’t have enough weapons. So people who aren’t in the army are doing as much as they can through volunteering and helping civilians get what they need.“
Detcom’s sense of urgency in a time of crisis was formidable to say the least, but I was interested in how quickly he was enable to enrol in the military during a time of termoil.
“I was getting ready for war and when things started to get tense, I called some of my friends and said that we need to have a plan. What we will do when war starts? When I woke up in February my friends told me ‘its began’, so we met up and went to a recruitment station. We waited there for two hours and later we got a contract from territorial defence, and they just wanted to know our location, and then we were listed. In next hour, I’ve got my AK. Half an hour later, I was already on my first shift.”
“Later after that we had some lectures about our weapons. We were divided into squads and platoons with some commanders, later we got a uniform. It started forming like a real army, now it is a real army, but at the start it was disorganised.“
The sheer resilience of the Ukrainian people is a testament to how human’s can react in a time of crisis. I reflected on the lack of experience that most the army had, moving from every day jobs to carrying heavy firearms in a fight for freedom. The sheer tenacity of the Ukrainian people to fight for what is there’s, and for what is profoundly right, without fear of incompetency on the battlefield, showed me a fight within humans that seemed somewhat alien to my unproblematic existence.
“Experience is gainable. Three months ago, I was just a DJ. All I knew this was clubbing, making techno, creating techno parties. Now, I know how to drive a pickup. I know how to fire weapons. I know some tactics. I know how to give a first aid. And I know how to properly dig trenches.”
We then went on to speak about his present location and what military work he was doing. I knew I had to thread lightly on this topic, as the military have to be discreet.
“When the battle for Kyiv was won, even though it came with a big price. I guess you’ve seen the news, what happened in key regions such as Bucha. The next week the chief commanding officer of Ukrainian Armed Forces General Valerii Zaluzhnyi sent an order that are battalion moved to Mykolaiv region on the direction towards Hassan region. So basically I am on the southern front right now.”
“Well, we stayed in trenches for three weeks. Now we’re back getting some rest in the city. Next week, we will we will change locations again, closer to the front line.”
Detcom then explains how he sustained his injury, which he described as not a real injury, due to the fact he is desensitised to the warfare surrounding him.
“It’s not quite a real injury. I was just looking around the city, we have some call it a day of fall when we’re are allowed to leave the base and just go to shops, go to post office and maybe have a coffee. I was walking down the street and Russians fire an MLRS Missile. One guy from another company is dead, two guys wounded, I was thrown a bit away with blood so I hit a wall with my shoulder. I have no injuries, but I was concerned about my shoulder. A few days later I went to a doctor’s office and he said that’s it’s fine I didn’t suffer from a blast at all ,and I was really lucky, but my back hurts because of the type of sneakers I was wearing, and this damaged my leg. So I need to stay away from duty for ten days.”
Detcom’s unwavered demeanour while talking about a near death experience was chilling, and told a tale of a man that had become accustom to trauma. He expands on the situation, recounting it as a regular occurrence.
“It sounds horrific but maybe I’m a bit cynical, because I actually got used to all these air raids and stuff because it’s happening constantly. It happens in Kyiv and it happens here, because here is the front line. Russia mostly targets in residential area’s, so I got used to this.”
I asked if Detcom would be comfortable sharing some other moments of tragedy during his time in the military.
“We were guarding the second line of defence when it was moving forward and the clean up of Bucha, so all these horrors that you’ve seen in the news, I’ve seen them with my own eyes.”
“Here I see a lot of destroyed buildings and damaged infrastructures. For example, for three weeks, there was no tap of water because Russians destroyed the water supply. It’s okay, now, it’s already repaired, but still…”
“The hardest thing for me was when was looking at people when I walk around the city through gardens, outposts and on the roads, checking cars to help the police. Especially the first days was it was really hard for me. People were really scared and really anxious. Well, now I guess a lot of people get used to as they try to live as normal as possible, but it’s still not normal.”
Detcom had been totally open throughout the conversation and totally transparent in how he described his feelings, and admitting to becoming somewhat cynical and desensitised to the chaos and damage that lyes on his doorstep. It seemed that the mass catastrophes that are seen on news outlets across the globe, didn’t affect Detcom, but rather the emotion that lyes behind the rubble, on the faces of the people of Ukraine, that sense of devastation that can’t be captured by a camera, but only by those who rome the streets, can then reveal the true affect of war.
We then spoke about the atmosphere within the Ukiranian troops, as I was very curious to see how the morale was, as they enter a new and uncharted time of conflict.
“You know in one of speeches before the war Putin said that Russian soldiers believed that people in Ukraine will treat them as liberators and in fact he was so wrong. It was like Russians didn’t expect it, such such a big resistance because a lot of people are joining the army and territorial defence and the National Guard. But also, my for example, in northern areas, here in Nikolai, just ordinary civilians are making Molotov cocktails, helping to build barricades. These Molotov cocktails, were thrown to Russian vehicles just at random.“
“They didn’t expect such a big resistance and they didn’t know what the Ukrainian army is capable of. Because the war didn’t start on the 21st of February, the war started in 2014. Our army has experienced eight years of warfare. So it was his first mistake. Also, as it turned out, the so called second army of the world is demotivated.”
“From my experience, I can say that the Russian army is a joke, the only threat they oppose is from the air and artillery, every battle on the ground, especially from what I’ve witnessed, they are weak, they’re losing it, they can’t properly move. They just hear the first shot they start running randomly and screaming, showing their position.”
“We know that we are definitely gonna win this war. Whatever it takes, because with the help of western partners, we now have a lot of weapons. These weapons are more powerful and more effective. Because before this we had all this old Post-Soviet stuff and it’s very old and ineffective, but even this junk we managed to withstand our ground.”
Detcom’s tone of voice and expression totally changed when speaking about the path of war that faced him. Any sense of doubt or lack of clarity was out of question, his lust for victory was obsolete and it rose above any qualms or obstacles. His assurance in his military and their willingness to adapt to the task at hand was irrefutable.
I asked if he would leave us with a final message before I let him go.
“Yesterday news came that Finland and Sweden are now applying to be in NATO. Putins first excuse to invade Ukraine was that if Ukraine join NATO, then NATO will be at his borders, well NATO will be near his borders now. I wish to congratulate Sweden and Finland for taking such a great step. The whole world learned a lesson from what’s going on in Ukraine. I hope these countries will join NATO soon and then they will help Ukraine to join this alliance.”
“I also want to say a big thank you to to people from Europe and USA who support us especially from electronic music scene. A lot of DJs especially supported me and they helped to get me an upgrade for my AK-47.”
“Most of all I want people to continue to keep Ukraine relevant. Continue asking your government to help because this war is not only about Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s imperialism is crazy, and they will never stop. So we’ll definitely have to defeat it. Finally, we don’t need any assistance except weapons, weapons, weapons, weapons, and more. I guess continue imposing sanctions against Russia. That will definitely killed this. Thanks”
“I really hope that when this is over, after we rebuild, I’ll be back on a dance floor. Maybe I’ll get some international gigs and I’ll wait for you guys in Kyiv for some proper techno action. One day, when we will all live in peace and prosperity.”
You can donate to Save Life who support the Ukrainian army HERE.