Chris Helmbrecht is one of Moscow’s most high-profile expats. Ad man, helicopter pilot, professional snowboarder and ex-policeman – a mix he calls “a bit schizophrenic” – he is now putting his mark on the city’s nightlife.
Helmbrecht, 39, always was a party animal. Originally from Germany, he deejayed in Munich and organised parties in New York and in Spain before making the move to Moscow six years ago. Besides running a small advertising agency, he has teamed up with a group of friends to organise parties in clubs and private locations under a controversial name – “Labelfucker”.
Russians who like this promo group are sure that the word means someone against labels. But Helmbrecht’s explanation is different: “In German it’s a slang term for a label lover, someone who’s totally into them. In Berlin people say that Russians are like that.”
In an interview last year with CNN, Helmbrecht put it like this: “For some people the [Moscow] nightlife is the best in the world, but for me it’s very commercial and posh….. Moscow is dominated by posh parties, but it’s no different at a subculture place like a techno club — you’re always judged by the labels you wear, the car you drive and the music you identify yourself with.”
LF has organised parties at a diverse range of clubs, from Solyanka to Wall Street Bar, and doesn’t judge whether to let you in based on what you’re wearing. Still, you need to be on an e-mail list to receive an invitation (with an address and an entry password). Getting onto the list is possible through the LF web site (www.labelfucker.ru) or its Facebook page.
Recently Helmbrecht took on one more job, as Director of Special Operations at Pacha Moscow. While the club’s posh image might appear to contradict what LF stands for, Helmbrecht said he considers this club different from the others in the city.
“Soho Rooms – the restaurant is classy, but the club itself looks cheap in my opinion,” he told The Moscow News in an interview. “Rai is very kitsch. Solyanka is very artsy Berlin-style designed. But Pacha is designed like a fairy-tale with all those lights, furry things on the top, glass details. It’s not cold or cheap, and doesn’t look like anything else you’d usually find in Moscow.”
Helmbrecht doesn’t approve of face control, saying that party people are the most important thing for him. He wants everybody to feel comfortable at his parties, and “face control is already one thing that makes you uncomfortable”. Those with the password won’t be turned away unless they’re too drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
When asked why he organises free parties that are not targeted at wealthy people, Helmbrecht jokes that he’s “a rich kid”. He runs an advertising company with clients including such huge companies as Volkswagen. LF, on the other hand, is not about making a big profit. There is only a small business aspect to it, he said, “because when you throw a party in some loft, you need to rent it, or pay for a sound system and DJs — that requires sponsors”.
Helmbrecht said that being Bavarian might have helped him in the Russian business culture. “In Bavaria most of the business is based on relationships and connections,” he said. “You help your friend, he helps you. Not necessarily with money, or ‘otkat’ as it’s called here, but something like favours. It’s a very common system in Bavaria, not approved by the rest of Germany. They think it’s very corrupt and unfair, because they can’t get inside. But it works in Russia, in New York – everywhere in the world, in fact.”
Summarising his LF work, Helmbrecht said that it’s a kind of legacy that he will bequeath to Moscow.
“At some point I will leave this city, as I’m a nomad,” he said. “And I will know I’ve changed nightlife culture a little, which is a beautiful thing.”