Don Craig and Doug Steele
We are now well into the summer, it’s been a year since the Nightlife section has thrived at the PASSPORT Magazine Moscow, today it’s our Birthday! I thank everyone for their support, their reads and feedback, your ideas are always welcome at email@example.com
This time we will explore a new genre of the nightlife, after all Moscow Nightlife isn’t all about glamour, house music and posh friends—if you know what I mean. Moscow has an accessible Rock edge to it that has been upheld by people like Don Craig. Many ex-pats know Don Craig and Doug Steele as some of the top event producers and project investors in the nightlife industry with that exact Rock edge. Hard Rock Café, Shamrock Pub, Bar B.Q. Café, Punch & Judy Pub are just some of the projects under their belts. For people who like to simply have a good time with no strings attached, gigs and real shows, the events and venues these guys produce and own, are definitely the best in town. I managed to get a little time in with super busy Don and even busier Doug who shared their few cents on the nightlife scene in an interview for PASSPORT.
Miguel Francis: What brought you to Moscow and were you involved in the nightlife industry before?
Don Craig: I started out in Moscow with a project called New York Motors where I came in as a consultant to help set it up in 1993. I played in a couple of bands, one of which was called Trenton. To be honest, my family has always been in this type of business. My mother ran several restaurants and bars and my sister presently owns a restaurant in West Virginia. There were a few events happening back in 2001 and there was a meeting Pontiac organized with DJ Stanley Williams which turned into a night we called Alternative. It was an weekly event which presented ex-pats with the opportunity to network for a couple hours and then turned into a rock bar afterwards, that’s how this all began.
Miguel Francis: What is your musical background, what do you listen to? Do you play any instruments?
Don Craig: I play rhythm guitar, I try to write songs but I’m not always good at it. I like a lot of music, broad spectrum really, from the old stuff like Elvis and the Rolling Stones to the recent Coldplay, Travis one of my favourites, and some obscure bands like Three Doors Down.
Miguel Francis: Now my favourite question I ask all the ex-pat event producers, do you think Moscow nightlife is a bit polluted with this heavy glam and sometimes unnecessary posh?
Don Craig: Absolutely, but there’s time and place for everything. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m more about doing something where people can afford to come and have a good time. I’m not into buying a thousand dollar pair of shoes when there are three-dollar beers, good music, and good people which you can enjoy and have a great time.
Miguel Francis: As a nightlife-event-producing-veteran, what places would you suggest for ex-pats to visit?
Don Craig: Of course you have to come to the new Chesterfields on Novy Arbat, Rock Club/Bar/Restaurant because it’s my pet project. This place has a stage, live music on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Then you gotta check out Papa’s Place because it’s an experience. Papa’s by sq. m. is probably the busiest place in Moscow.
Miguel Francis: How do you juggle between being a Moscow event producer, businessman, as well as an avid club-goer?
Don Craig: Actually I am not that much into clubs. I enjoy music, I enjoy dancing but that’s something more on the occasion for me. I get more satisfaction from creating an event and seeing people enjoy it rather than just participating although it’s nice to take a vacation once in a while. I sleep 3-4 hours a day. (smiles)
Miguel Francis: Besides nightlife, what else is it you do right now or have done before?
Don Craig: I consult. I’ve worked in automotive business, financial leasing, then construction and now I’m in consulting for the Food & Beverage industry.
Miguel Francis: What are some of the pluses, some unique perspectives in being involved in Moscow nightlife business sector for an ex-pat?
Don Craig: Sure there are ins and outs, the network is a huge plus really. You can network one night and make more business contacts then you would if you scheduled these meetings throughout a whole month. Good people instantly connect with good people and it’s always a good night. If you had a bad time in Moscow it’s your own fault. Can’t blame me, I’ve given you all the tools! (laughs)
Miguel Francis: Do you feel that you are a Muscovite by now?
Don Craig: Yeah I’d say pretty much after 18 years.
Miguel Francis: I have a lot of friends from the West always asking me if it’s dangerous to come to Moscow, what do you think?
Don Craig: First off it’s no more dangerous than any place around the world and actually I’m more comfortable walking the streets here at five in the morning than any place that I’ve lived in the States. If you ask for trouble you can always find it. People should let their guard down here, with no preconceptions and have a good time. Russians are generally good people!
Miguel Francis: What are you looking forward to in the future?
Don Craig: Retiring to a beach bar, hopefully mine and living out my days playing music! I’m also excited about your band playing soon at Chesterfields!
Then I caught up with Doug Steele and here is what he had to say about Moscow’s nightlife.
Doug Steele: All these big clubs out there, they concentrate on a thought that I completely disagree with, this face control which alienates people and keeps them away. Clubs like Imperia, Soho Rooms and alike, pump so much money into the intricate design half of which you won’t even see because of the club’s lighting, but the question is do they get their return on investment? It is this plastic society as I call them, very drug infested, house music, with people that are forgetting how to have fun. Look at Rolling Stone, how much money did they invest into their renovation? Nada. The place is alive and packed, variety of tunes spun by the DJs, normal crowd having fun, fairly accessible face control. I’ve been here 17 years and never appreciated this high-end club scene. The funny thing is they’re running out of themes, and when you run out of themes, you run out of customers. Look at Clubs like Rai, Pacha, they say themselves, “We don’t know what to surprise people with anymore.” Ginza did a nice job pulling people out of those loud, pointless environments into Club-like Bars where people can hear each other speak, dance, mix and mingle and have fun. Moscow is so concentrated on its image that it’s forgetting how to have fun! When we started Papa’s, they were playing loud house music at 7 PM and were wondering why there aren’t any customers. The tricky thing is the guests won’t tell you why they left, they just won’t show up again.
This is it ladies and gentlemen; fun is coming back thanks to Doug Steele and Don Craig. If you need something fresh in your life, I say you take their advice.
I have to say, I first started my musical path when I was 7 at the Musical School of Rostropovich here in Moscow. I performed at the Rachmaninov Conservatory when I was 8 years old with my first composition Morning in the Mountains before I immigrated to the States in 1996. In the states I got my first Guitar when I was 14 and started playing Blues which then went into Punk and then Alternative. When I came back out to Moscow in 2004, Dyagilev and the House scene pulled me in. I’ve been commercially involved ever since, part-time doing Radio work and voice work for major radio stations and some commercial artists in the House music scene. In 2005 I left for LA because I was tired of Moscow in general. After I kinda permanently moved back here again in April 2010, I continued the house music scene and worked within the nightlife industry part-time.
In December 2010, I realized that I missed those alternative rock days of mine. Ever since I’ve been working on an alternative rock band project called INFLUX, deriving its inspiration from The Pixies, Sex Pistols, Dio, Nickelback, Coldplay, Depehce Mode, Bush & Nirvana, taking my vocals back to Rock and picking up my rhythm guitar. We will be showcasing something very soon at Chesterfields and if you know me then this might surprise you, but if you’re up for something new and interesting, lets have a Rock night out—and soon! That is the next PASSPORT Nightlife Tour. To join our nightlife tour group in which we go around and check out various Moscow clubs, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org