Droning post-punk covers of Soviet and post-Soviet pop performed by a group of guys from Ufa, is the latest obsession over at Metropol in the realm of Russian music. It’s not often that groups who share their music via VK*, have such a distinct and mature sound. With the leader of the group, who hides behind the pseudonym Райан (Ryan), we discussed his views on copyright lyrics, Glinka, and anonymity.
Misha Tsigan: We’ll start with an original question – how did you get the idea to record covers of Perestroika* pop?
Ryan: We like those songs. When I play them, I feel good. Playing songs from that period – it’s like sex with a mature, experienced woman – you could play them a hundred times and not get tired of them. They are decadent compared to the infantile pop releases of recent years, that have the appearance of tasteless juveniles, whose faces you forget the next morning. Take for example Nataliya Vetlitskaya – maybe she’s not a great singer, but she knows her worth and just looks so luxurious.
Misha: Your childhood coincided with the end of the 90s and the start of the 2000s – where does the interest towards Perestroika and the Soviet aesthetic come from?
Ryan: As a kid I always listened to records from that time – I think that left its mark. I felt the aftertaste of Perestroika the same as all the kids during that time did, right up to 1998. Then we saw the appearance of different moods and our childhood came abruptly to an end.
Igor: My childhood absorbed Estrada*, and even the culture of the pre-Perestroika times, fed through the meat-grinder of the newly-found 90s freedom: uncensored videos, TV shows with that distinctive amateur editing – all that had so much more honesty – it was less glossy than nowadays, and it was impressive.
Misha: You named the band in honor of Chernikovka – a neighborhood in Ufa. What kind of influence did it have on you?
Ryan: Chernikovka is home only to me, but I didn’t spend my childhood in the parts where you could find empire style architecture and alleys, which were confusing in their comfort, but on the outskirts. A few minutes walking from my house you would find the railroad, and right in our yard we had a huge abandoned barrack. My window had a stunning view of Kurochkin Mountain (wooded hill in the northern part of Ufa) and rows of garages that lead up to it. I don’t know how this place would have influenced me had I not moved to the city center when I was 12 – I probably wouldn’t be giving this interview. But to be honest, the place does carry a particular nostalgia.
Igor: Well now everybody’s gonna wanna know about how depressing Chernikova is, and about all the crime that goes on in that area, sort of on par with Ust-Ilismk, but on a million-city* scale. Well you can keep waiting!
Timur: Generally speaking, 60 years ago, Chernikova was surrounded by military and oil refineries, so its character has been shaped correspondingly.
Igor: Yea the 90s here were cruel and lasted a long time, we have the stories, but now everything has become pretty decent, although you can still feel Perestroika’s veil: the poplars, the benches, men coming back from their shifts, the old Zhigulis* in the courtyards. It seems like the majority of musicians are originally from the northern part of the city, and even the open-air gatherings tend to take place in Chernikov’s forests and industrial parks. In any case, I bought half of my pedals off of some shaggy haired rocker guys at their houses in Chernikov.
Misha: In your eyes, why do you think so many groups from the Ural and Siberian regions take inspiration from the 80s and 90s era?
Ryan: Maybe because everything is fleeting – what’s cool yesterday has been forgotten about today. In its cultural scarcity, it all gets eliminated the further you get from the capital. All that remains is that which has withstood the test of time. But sometimes I don’t understand who we are even playing for – I get the feeling that, despite “so many groups from the Ural and Siberian regions,” this type of music is received much better in the capital. At our last concert in Ufa, it seemed like the local audience consisted mainly of drunk schoolgirls. The club had no stage, so we were level with everyone watching us. People were falling all over us and the settings on our gadgets got messed up, so we were sounding about as good as if those schoolgirls themselves were playing instead of us.
Igor: We do live in the Urals, and I wouldn’t say that there is some sort of emphasis on citing any particular musical era. Hardcore, punk, heavy styles – it’s all there, and you could say that inspiration is drawn from those culture as well. Unlike electronica, guitar music is restricted by progressive development from a technical point of view, and references within that are to be expected. Everything is cyclical, and everything is restricted. For now, the reminiscence that we have has yet to reach blatant copying.
Misha: What lifts you up above the everyday? Besides Chris Kelmi* and Electroclub*?
Ryan: I love Russian classics: Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Borodin. I remember once, a friend from Chernikov invited me over to drink some Shihan beer and listen to music. We put on a Glinka record and I was stuck in that wonderful place for a week. Different people came and went – cadets, violinists, weightlifters – but only the music didn’t change. I actually got fired from my job, but it was worth it. In fact, in the very beginning of Ti Nesi Menya Reka, you can hear the first chord from Славься.
Igor: I’m just a hard worker, toiling away at the factory, putting on concerts. There is no such thing as rising above the everyday, get outta here!
Misha: You have a wild variety in terms of style – from witch house to chillwave. Are you looking for your signature sound, as they said in the USSR, or are you meshing different genres on purpose in your covers?
Ryan: Sometimes I get curious about how a composition would sound in a different key – that’s where the experimentation comes from. But I hope our signature style will develop with time…there are very few people who want to be “one of many.”
Misha: There is the impression that you are moving from lo-fi to a more clean sound, like Ploho or Буерак. Is that an aesthetic decision or does it have to do with reaching and appealing to a wider audience?
Ryan: First and foremost, we do that all for ourselves and we don’t have that goal of appealing to a wide audience. And in regards to the quality of the sound, I’m not gonna lie, that’s probably a technical question rather than an aesthetic one. During one of our usual drunken hazes, we accidentally destroyed our portable little studio on which we recorded our very first tracks, and now we are forced to keep recording in the format that we are stuck with. Besides, if we’ve learned to make a clearer sound, then why not? It’s not as if you think that Ploho or Буерак made it their goal to record in a manner that would make them sound lo-fi? I don’t think so. It’s just that back then, they didn’t know how to make a better quality sound, and now they do. That’s all.
Igor: If, under lo-fi, we are assuming a set of technical practices, which draws a parallel to the sound of a known musical era, then no. We don’t have a particular vector of motion that jumps from sound to sound.
Ryan: Yea, and anyway, what kind of person in their right mind would consciously work toward sounding like shit? It’s like those idiots who rip the knees on their new jeans to look cool – some sort of poseur shit. I know that some people like our early lo-fi tracks, but we only sounded like that because we couldn’t do anything else. But don’t worry, we sound just as raw live as we did before.
Misha: How come dark covers of soulful pop sound cool, while if you do the opposite, it’s terrible?
Ryan: I’ll give you this example. We haven’t once tried to cover contemporary pop songs – in the end it’s like that joke, “what do you get if you mix a pound of shit with a pound of jam?”
Misha: Will you be covering any Eurodance?
Ryan: That’s an improbable idea, in my eyes. It’s just as awkward as performing live in English, while in Russia. I know a lot of people do that, I myself sinned this way when I was younger, but anyway, no. Unless you mean a Russian speaking artist working in that genre, then it’s not out of the question.
Misha: Will you be revealing your original songs to the public anytime soon?
Ryan: We have a lot of our own songs, and we’re now wondering if we should release them as Chernikovskaya Hata or if it would be more correct to have it as a separate project. On the one hand, it might seem like it contradicts the initial concept, but on the other – the members are all the same, and the sound is too. We’ll probably have to toss a coin.
Misha: How come you hide your real name from your audience?
Ryan: We don’t really hide them anymore – not as thoroughly as before, anyway. But I already kind of regret it, to be honest. During concerts, we try to be on the same wave as the audience – I like that intimacy and the trust in each other, but recently, it’s not always appropriate.
Timur: I’m neither inclined to hide nor to advertise my name. Is it really so important, how a musician is called? The music is more important than a name.
Misha: How did the concerts in Moscow and Saint Petersburg go? Where did you make your debut at the start of March?
Ryan: It was great, the organizers really did their best. Despite the fact that we had some difficulties with the sound in Saint Petersburg, I think that everything went quite well. And Moscow, there was something really wild going on, in a good sense. People were going out of their minds, coming into one single stream, it was like a ritualistic orgy. At one point I was getting worried that people would hurt themselves, so I was trying not to provoke them, and held myself together for the most part. Although I was recently told that someone did get hurt. Unless it’s a rumor, get better man.
Igor: It was a most excellent reception – a cardboard Yeltsin and the right kind of Dagestanis. I was impressed.
Original article can be found at http://mtrpl.ru/hata
Boyarsky – refers to Mikhail Boyarsky, a Soviet Russian singer and actor, born in 1949
VK – VKontakte, the largest Russian social network in Europe, founded in 2007
Perestroika – A political movement, characterized by the reformation of economic and political tendencies in Russia and the USSR during the 1980s
Estrada – A typical Russian phenomenon with roots in the fairground culture, literary evenings, and the Russian theater of the 19th century. Estrada encompasses everything from music, theater, and poetry recitations, to dance, puppet shows, and the circus. (Hubertus Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia During World War I)
Million-city – a category of cities in the Russian Federation whose population exceeds one million
Zhiguli – a popular Soviet compact car model introduced in 1970
Chris Kelmi – A soviet and Russian rock and pop musician and composer, born in 1955.
Electroclub – a Soviet electropop group, active from 1986 to 1993