Tell me Viktor, do you often find yourself performing in such quiet venues as the one in our rock and roll lounge here at the Culture and Sports Center? Usually your audience is a yelling, rambunctious, dancing crowd – basically very open with sharing their emotions.
Viktor Tsoi: Well yea, not usually. But you have to consider that the audience wasn’t made up of teenagers – they’re normally the ones making all the noise. And furthermore, these are the kinds of shows where it’s just myself and a guitar. It’s not really the scene for a noisy reaction.
Do you need noisy reactions?
VT: No, what’s necessary for me is to feel something. That’s very important.
Right now, windows are opening up for local rock music. The doors have been unlocked, a breeze is blowing – anything is possible. We’re not hiding in the underworld anymore. Do you believe in the conscience of this change of the winds?
VT: You know, I don’t really care. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter to me where I play. In an apartment, an underground club, or in a venue with 10,000 people. I have the opportunity to play and I play. If there is no such opportunity, I’m ready to do it for free. Right now I have the chance to perform more widely – and I use this, but not always. In any case, I do what I like. Needless to say, it’s whatever the situations allows, including the political state of affairs in the country.
And you don’t think at all about the integrity of those who so vehemently speak about rock music – like music is a sick child who needs tenderness?
VT: No. I’m fully aware of this chaos and I don’t trust it.
What do you trust?
VT: I don’t know. There are people that I trust and people I don’t. There are those whose trust I don’t need to doubt, and there are others whom I don’t find honest. For example, someone who, two or three years ago would proclaim, “Oh how terrible, how disgusting – the schmuckery, the banality! And now they’re saying, oh how wonderful, our rock stars, they’re such fine young men, they really fight for what’s right…”
Have you ever felt that you are fighting for the right thing?
VT: It’s probably more accurate to say that I do what I enjoy, and in terms of some of the obstacles that needed to be overcome – I looked at all of that philosophically. Because I knew for sure that I wasn’t doing anything bad. Looking at the big picture, all the conflicts of rock don’t affect me. I don’t care about that. I care about relationships with people – as a whole. And I wouldn’t trade places with – who can I say…Well, anyone well-known from the Estrada* scene.
What’s happened in our country with rock music, do you think it’s normal, this thousand year generational conflict or is it insignificant?
VT: Of course there is a bit of a problem…between the “parents and children” because it always turns out that the parents hold the power – in other words, people from a different generation, people who don’t understand and don’t feel close to that which bothers, worries, and excites the “kids.” And they don’t see it as inaccessible to them, but unnatural, maybe abnormal. As opposed to the “kids,” who see it as their own, as their culture and all that. This kind of conflict is ever-present and it’s everywhere. Even in the west, all the bands, all the trends and the tendencies go through it. And then everything new runs into resistance from the old. But fate played a part with our music and the country’s situation, which we refer to as the stagnation period. And that speaks for itself. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s very strange when you’re writing songs that have nothing seditious in them, but they are perceived as such – as an abomination. Furthermore, the thing that you yourself know for sure, that you can fill up a venue of thousands, and the people will come, will listen, will answer, and suffer with you. But really, isn’t it strange, in all seriousness to assume that the venue will be full of assholes and idiots? If you read some newspapers from three years ago, that’s how it was for some dimwits, and it was taken as truth in the last instance.
It’s strange when you know that you work, that you’re alive, but nobody notices you and they pretend you aren’t part of nature. But in reality you are different, you’re not the way that everybody is used to – you’re not so shiny, brilliant, and pleasing to the eye. And for that you get excluded from people’s fields of vision. This, I think, in another country would be impossible. I think it’s a characteristic that belongs only to us.
To hold on and not let go?
VT: Yes, exactly. And simply – not to notice. On an official level. At that same exact time, the audience, in a great big mass, sees you, knows you, and loves you. Many people suffered because of this. We’re young, at least we got here in time. But there were others, older people who didn’t make it – they broke down and left. Even from life, they left. Vysotsky* is a great example.
But you had to pay attention to the shining examples of a different sort as well. Like with the “Musical Ring”* from Leningrad, the audience would “barter” with the bards. To be honest, it wasn’t that pleasant to be a witness to – how the young, filled with aplomb and unshakable confidence in the truth of their own taste, the kids frantically attacking the elders, who through their life, carried their sincerity and outdated romanticism.
I most definitely don’t want to be comparing, I don’t want to sound insulting, but I’ve been listening to your songs, which I really like – and the feelings are the same. The same feelings that overwhelm those poor bards, that your fans tried to trample with all their power. Music is another rhythm – another, in a word, poem, which expresses feeling about the same. So where is the conflict? You understand?
VT: I think so, yes. Their poetic language, the language of symbolism, the imagery that makes up the song, it all sounds insincere. And the fact that they still sing the songs still, not noticing the falseness, breeds mistrust and discomfort. I don’t understand how nowadays, you could listen to songs about how wonderful everything is when we are sitting around in our tent by the campfire, and how wonderful it is, look at all the love that we’ve got here, our friendship, and so on. There aren’t many people who would believe this. And they don’t. And they’re doing the right thing. Maybe at one point in time this was true – maybe people really did sit around by the fire, singing. But nowadays no one believes in all that – in the romanticism of stroyatradov* and all that that entails. They don’t believe in it! Because it’s all gone.
What do they believe in?
VT: You gotta understand, they really lied to us with all that.
And you feel like you have been lied to?
VT: Of course I feel it.
And in your circle of acquaintances, are there people from the “by the fire” generation?
VT: There are. But they are…they are exactly those people that understood that it’s passed us by…Well, take for example Boris Grebenshchikov*, when he’s singing alone with a guitar, or like, I don’t know, Kliachkin*…these are people of different tendencies.
I recently heard Grebenshchikov sing…Vertinksy*. We come around full circle, no?
VT: You see now, Vertinsky, him we believe. As a person who is pure in his soul. And in him, in his poetry, his songs, you feel his sincere faith, without a drop of any “commercial” nature.
Have you given any thought to publishing your poetry?
VT: No, I believe they should be heard along with music, or rather, with a band. This last year I haven’t been making music – I’ve been shooting for films.
Do you men Sergey Solovyov’s* Assa*?
VT: That one and a documentary about rock. Right now I’ll be shooting with Kazakhfilm* in a picture called Needle as the working title. The main character’s a junkie.
Is that interesting to you?
VT: Well, interesting how? Of course trying yourself out in a film is interesting. I think actually, you need it. Because if I want to (and I do) be out in the public sphere, if I want (and I do) to reach an equal plane of dialogue with the audience, you need to widen your sphere of activities. I’m not on the side of those who proclaim that people don’t understand us. That means you need to do more – so that they do understand you. That’s why I need poetry, and music, and painting, and films, so that it’s easier to find a common language with others, especially with those from older generations. It’s hard for me in those situations because they think differently. Obviously, people can’t all think the same, but understanding each other…that we should do. That’s what makes us people.
Original article can be found at: http://vitya-tsoy.narod.ru/inter.html#05
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)
Vysotsky – “The most famous Russian bard.”(Kulichki.com) Singer-songwriter, poet, and actor. “Though his work was largely ignored by the official Soviet cultural establishment, he achieved remarkable fame during his lifetime, and to this day exerts significant influence on many of Russia’s popular musicians and actors who wish to emulate his iconic status.” (Wikipedia)
Musical Ring (Музыкальный ринг) – A music tv show based in Leningrad which premiered in 1984 and went off air in 1990. It was again resurrected in 1997, running until 2001.
Stroyotrad’ – стройотряд :: student construction teams. During summers in the USSR, college students would go away for several months during their summer breaks to remote locations to serve as part of construction teams. For their service, they students earned big paychecks.
Grebenshchikov – One of the pioneers of Russian rock music. His solo work as well as his participation in the influential band Akvarium make him a household name.
Kliachkin – Soviet and Russian bard, singer, and composer.
Vertinsky – Russian and Soviet artist, poet, singer, composer, and actor.
Solovyov – Russian director, producer, writer, and actor.
Assa – 1987 film that brought Russian rock music from the underground to the mainstream
Kazakhfilm – film studio located in Almaty, Kazakhstan.