Arguments + Facts (Russian newspaper, founded 1978, headquartered in Moscow)
Viktor, since when has your group been around?
Everything pretty much started in 1982 when the first album so to speak was put together. But at that point we didn’t really have the band, I was performing as a singer-songwriter. Some musician friends from Аквариум (Akvarium*) and other bands would help me out.
And on what rights does the group perform?
Independent rights. We’re attached to the rock and roll club in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) where you can watch the shows and we have rights to perform through them.
Does being in that kind of position put a limit on your creativity?
No, on the contrary. Right now we basically play as much as we want. It’s true that since we are doing it ourselves, performing can’t be the only source of subsistence. That’s why we all still work somewhere. I work in a boiler room as a fireman for example.
Where does Kino practice?
Anywhere. In apartments, for one. We don’t have set conditions for our work, or our own equipment, just instruments – that’s all. Without a doubt this can be an impulse for creativity, but first and foremost it’s reflected in the quality. If we had the space, the equipment, an engineer, then you can work with the sound. But for now, the listener herself is forced to imagine how it should actually sound.
There is a point of view that Soviet rock, in the first place, is about music, and the words are secondary. That’s the thinking of some people like the leader of Поп-механика (Pop-Mechanica)*, Sergei Kurehin. What’s your point of view?
I believe that words play a huge part. It’s oftentimes the case that lyrics dominate the music. And this, in principle, is the sole way for independent bands, to survive in some way, since on the contemporary level of development of reproduced audio recordings, we can’t compete with western musicians, who have the opportunity to record in certain special studios, making much better quality music.
Independent musicians just aren’t able to acquire all the technicalities, the instruments, cause it’s all really expensive, so we’re edged out of the competition, even in regards to the professionals musicians in our own country. And if, on top of that, our lyrics were to be weak, then really no one would listen to us.
It’s not uncommon that, when a band gets to a professional level, half of their fans will turn their backs to them.
It’s possible that that happens because in that situation, the band has to compromise themselves. With our honesty, we can be forgiven for almost anything: and let me say, in an unprofessional game, and even our amateur poetry. There’s a million examples of this. But when the honesty is gone – nothing can be forgiven.
But isn’t it true that the artist considers himself honest, but in reality…
You can consider yourself as honest as you want. The important thing is, do others consider you honest? The person that knowingly writes music to make a living, but sings about being a fighter for ideals – he won’t be believed.
Why is rock music still meeting with opposition?
Because the individual that is creating something new is always fighting with the old. He always finds himself in the midst of a conflict. This, as a rule, is always a bit risky. But the cult of mediocrity, which is being widely discussed right now, came about from the logic of, “no matter how things end,” and “perhaps it’s not better than what exists now, but at least everything will be peaceful.” And the one who falls into this system automatically adjusts to the average level – he taps into a long-time obsolete system.
When we hear about the youth’s interest in rock music, we are almost always reminded of how it came to us from the west…
From the west we only got the form: electronic guitars, drums, amplifying equipment. But borrowing a form doesn’t mean that the music, in its entirety, is a borrowed phenomenon. I believe that right now, it is a very much alive form of music, and furthermore, this music which remains a social phenomenon, is folk art of the masses – of the public.
In your songs, there is some sort of disorder within man. And if you were to find yourself in completely ideal circumstances, what will happen then? What will you sing about?
It’s hard to say. I have my own position in life. I write songs and to me, that’s a necessary process. I write about things that happen around me. I don’t think that by introducing some sort of material benefits, you could put a truly talented person to sleep. Of course it will be harder – harder to understand each other, for example, the one who is lost versus one who has been living comfortably for some time. And there is little chance that the latter could write truthfully about the first one’s problems.
And what do you think, what kind of songs should be written about kids’ problems?
You know, I write songs not because they need to be written, but because I’m personally affected by these problems. It’s exactly when it’s “needed” that it ends up inauthentic. And if I’m not bothered by something, if I can’t feel what’s caught on to me, I can’t write a song.
So it seems like you need to write about what you’ve experienced yourself? You penned an anti-war song “I Declare My Home a Non-Nuclear Zone,” though you’ve never lived through the horrors of war?
You see, although this topic has been delved into by many, no one really, in essence, has taken it seriously. The ones that write pseudo-patriotic and pseudo-antiwar songs are not to be believed. I wrote that song because the idea of war really worried me and still worries me.
Can rock music solve problems?
In principle, rock music on a social scale is quite a powerful thing. In the circle of musicians, there are people who others trust, and those people could do a lot. If we were given more opportunities to perform, in newspapers, on television, to share our points of view on different topics, then maybe my music and my words would be something else. But since I don’t have that opportunity so to speak, I try to express everything through song.
Akvarium – Russian rock group formed in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1972. Having released 28 studio albums over a span of 40 years, the only member who has remained constant in the band is founder Boris Grebenshikov. http://www.aquariumband.com/info.html
Pop-Mechanica – Russian rock group formed in 1984, consisting of frequently changing band members from «Аквариум»(Akvarium [Aquarium]), «Кино»(Kino [Movies]), «Странные игры»(Straniye Igry [Strange Games]), «АВИА»(Avia), «Игры» (Igry [Games]), «АукцЫон»(Aouktsion [Auction]), «Новые художники»(Noviye Hudozhniki [New Artists]), «Джунгли»(Djoungli [Jungles], «Три-О» (Tri-O).