Archive for February, 2008

CHIKISS – press release.

February 22, 2008

Well, since I’ve translated the following press release for my pal Galya Chikiss’ solo project (and even got paid with a shot of Perra Mexicana), I might as well put it here:

Chikiss has formed in the Summer of 2005 in a quiet resort town of Primorsk. It’s near the Finnish border, on the coast of Gulf of Finland. Against the background of beautiful nature two Sashas – band’s guitarist and drummer – have for ten years been recording their sound waves. The band has taken a certain shape in St. Petersburg at the home studio of keyboard player and singer Galya Chikiss who had first appeared in Primorsk in January 2005 to meet some like-minded people. Thus a new period in the life of all three has started. First they jammed at a historical early 20th century Lutheran church right on the Gulf’s shore; the rehearsal studio was right under the spire. Then they moved to St. Petersburg. The joint creative process has led to the creation of Chikiss band and provided a lot of fresh ideas to the legendary Primorsk-based experimental band 188910 (named after the town’s postcode) with which it shares members. Chikiss is a colourful, beautiful and lively phenomenon in the Russian music scene. Not quite standard yet rather minimal lineup (voice, keyboards, rhythm section, guitar, reverberators), electronically specific sound of live instruments; varied scope of sounds – noise and ambient sketches alternate with dance rhythms and soul-warming outer space love lyrics. In Galya Chikiss’ songs everyone can find something, concrete or abstract, catch a moment, a feeling – a high, a loneliness, a crush, an angst; joyful euphoria and universal sadness. In the two years of existence the band has made a fair deal of progress. Chikiss took part in the St. Petersburg festivals Plug&Play, Izolenta, Zhivaya Elektronika, Sisto Party, SKIF, as well as Kazantip and Space Of Joy festivals in Crimea, Ukraine. They’ve played in all the leading St. Petersburg clubs and at friends’ parties regardless of the musical theme as they could fit pretty much anywhere. Currently the band features three people: Galya Chikiss (lead vocals, keyboards, music and lyrics), Alexander Belkov (rhythm section, reverberator, backing vocals) and Alexander Dubrovin (guitar, reverberator, backing vocals). All three of them harmonically combine in Chikiss and interact musically as a single organism.

CHIKISS “Untitled Vitamin” net release


Yegor Letov had died.

February 20, 2008

Legendary Siberian punk rocker Yegor Letov (GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA, YEGOR I OPIZDENEVSHIYE etc.) had died in his sleep from heart failure on February 19 at his home in Omsk. He was 43. Yegor has been an enormous influence on Russian punk scene, and his old songs are some of the most important anarchist propaganda ever produced in Russian language. The rage and desperation of the band’s music – which was, at its best, mindblowingly innovative yet raw – did reflect the times he lived in. Letov’s poetry, strongly influenced by early 20th century Russian futurists, has often been more important than even his music. The youthful punk rock nihilism, anarchist and antifascist politics, existential horror and breaking through to the other side were all expressed equally thrillingly. Letov’s legacy is without a doubt controversial (in part due to his political activities in the 1990s, and the morbid, suicidal shadows he cast over some fans and friends) but nevertheless great.

Yegor’s actual name and patronymic is Igor Fyodorovich. He’s the younger brother of famous avantgarde jazz saxophone player Sergei Letov (TRI-O, DK, GOSPLAN TRIO etc.) Yegor’s first bands started to form cca. 1982 or 1983 which makes him one of the pioneers of punk rock in the Soviet Union. POSEV (named after a dissident emigre publishing house) left some home-made recordings and gave way to GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA (civil defense) in late 1984. The band, led by Letov and guitarist Konstantin “Kuzya Uo” Ryabinov, was also initially orientated towards making home recordings in Letov’s “studio” GrOb Records. “We’ve staked mostly on making and distributing tape albums as we had reasons to think that live performances aren’t likely to come our way very soon, and at that particular moment they weren’t likely at all.” (Letov writing in Kontr Kult UR’a zine #3, 1991). In late Autumn 1985 after an intervention by one of the band member’s mother who was a Communist party apparatchik, G.O. was forcibly dissolved. After a series of interrogations at the local KGB, Letov was sent to a mental hospital (which was a favoured tactic of silencing dissidents at the time) – he has gone blind for a while from the drugs that he was given there. Uo, despite a heart condition, was drafted to the army and sent to serve at the space rocket launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Letov was let out of the mental hospital in March 1986 and started to record on his own. He also took part in the activities of the Omsk-based band PIK I KLAXON, also known as ADOLF GITLER.

In May – June 1987 Letov had recorded five half-hour samizdat tape albums which covered the material that GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA had by then (a selection of this stuff was compiled on Pops 2LP). Soon thereafter he had to run away from Omsk because following a scandalous gig with ADOLF GITLER in Novosibirsk there was further persecution from the authorities who tried to put him into a mental hospital again. He had hitch-hiked all over Soviet Union with his then-partner Yana “Yanka” Dyagileva (a very strong and important performer in her own right; Letov had produced and played on most of her recordings; she’d died in 1991, apparently a suicide). In January 1988, upon return to Omsk, Letov had recorded three more albums (the material was issued on Vsyo Idyot Po Planu 2LP), doing overdubs on crappy Soviet equipment. Uo, though demobbed by then, was unfit to play. GrOb Records had also recorded projects featuring POSEV’s Zhenya”Dabl” Deyev (P.O.G.O.), Vadim Kuzmin (SPINKI MENTA, CHORNIY LUKICH), Yanka, as well as Letov, Uo and Oleg “Managher” Sudakov’s long-running experimental outfit KOMMUNIZM.

In 1988 GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA started to play gigs, touring all over the country. The lineup remained unstable, but G.O. was recording prolifically, as were KOMMUNIZM, Yanka, Managher, Uo and Letov (as a solo performer). In Spring 1990 G.O. recorded an album of covers by another Siberian punk band INSTRUKTSUYA PO VYZHIVANIYU, and played its last gig on April 13 in Tallinn (now Estonia). Letov then broke up the band.

YEGOR I OPIZDENEVSHIYE (Yegor & the Cunted-Up) has recorded what is perhaps Letov’s biggest artistic achievement, Pryg-Skok LP, in 1990 – it combines garage punk, psychodelia and Russian folk into an enormously potent mixture, and Letov’s extreme, near-death experiences of the time (related to encephalitis he got hiking through the Ural mountains, and experiments with drugs and shamanism) have produced songs that are among the most incredible in Russian rock. It was followed by Sto Let Odinochestva 2LP, which is nearly as great.

In the mid-1990s Letov has come out of semi-retirement, reformed GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA and started touring under the aegis of various opposition groups, mostly of the Stalinist and Nationalist variety. Letov joined the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), and was among its most famous members for a while, along with writer Eduard Limonov, philosopher Alexander Dugin and pianist Sergei Kuryokhin. Letov, however, quit the NBP in 1998. He had later denounced the political games he played:

“I have been involved in the most extreme political camps, so I know the inner workings of that all. And I can report that all of it is very stupid and disgusting. All of it. It has to be experienced so as not to get involved in such stuff consciously, which is what I do.”

“I think that in order to live and be creative, which is the same thing, one has to be FREE. In my understanding, freedom means refusal from all the traps of this world. If I can use pompous language, I think that our civilization is a certain type of world order that is fed by certain energies – fear, pain, envy, destruction, the list could be endless. If all the NORMAL people would just get out of it, like out of a zoo, and live on a principle of self-sufficiency, self-freedom – not fighting them, not even contacting, creating our own squats, systems, labels, music, creative stuff etc. on a “do it yourself” principle – all the rest of the world will just DIE by itself. And it does, very visibly.”

“Just like we’ve been, we’ve remained a rebellious, superrebellious band. But the frontline is moving ever deeper and deeper, now it is beyond politics, ideology, religion.”
(from 2004-2006 fan-conducted interviews via the band’s official website).

In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview he claimed that he remains an anarchist, but is more interested in the environmental aspects of anarchism.

G.O. continued to record (though arguably never reaching the former heights) and tour internationally (Europe, USA, Israel, mostly playing to emigre audiences). They eventually reached a stadium rock band status. In the last few years Letov has busy reissuing the back catalogue in expanded and redone versions. He had also gotten involved in Russia’s underground garage scene. He produced and mixed a forthcoming full-length CD by St. Petersburg’s THE KING KONGS, as well as an EP by Moscow’s CAVESTOMPERS. GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA’s last full-length album, “Zachem Snyatsya Sny?”, was co-credited to YEGOR I OPIZDENEVSHIYE. Letov himself has considered it his greatest achievement. He is survived by his wife, G.O. bassist Natalya Chumakova.

On February 21 Yegor Letov was buried at Staro-Vostochnoye cemetery in Omsk, next to his mother’s grave.

Some tributes:

Artyom “Robot” Petrov (THE KING KONGS): “It’s a blow. Of course, it may sound high-blown, but really this is the end of a big story. He had influenced everyone. Turned everyone’s brains around, one way or another.”

Jason Flower (MEXICAN POWER AUTHORITY, Canada): “This is very saddening news about Yegor; punks and anarchists around the world have lost perhaps the greatest legend of Soviet-era and post Soviet-era underground to have ever lived.”

Alexei Nikonov (PTVP): “It’s a pity about Letov. Who’s up next? For all his freakouts, he was a part of our lives.”

Liner notes from Optimizm CD reissue:
Poganaya Molodyozh / Optimizm is basically the first united lengthy G.O. album which was recorded several times during 1985 and at the same time regularly released under all sorts of exotic titles: “The Best of G.O.”, “Diarrhoea Sounds of G.O.” (double album, pt. 1 Poganaya Molodyozh, pt 2 Optimizm), “First and Last G.O. Album”, “Omsk Punk History”, simply “Grazhdanskaya Oborona” etc. Quality-wise, all these recordings were of varying horrendousness and absolutely inhumane towards the listener (instead of drums, played and recorded was anything from a suitcase to a young pioneer’s drum to a hi-hat that was nailed to a piece of wood, the words were exteremely hard to understand, absolute lack of tuning etc.) There were really strange versions: one of the albums was nearly completely played on a DIY keyboard synth (!), another one (which also didn’t survive, regretfully) was interperced with absurdist, extremely short speeches and insets in the spirit of concrete music a la mid and later period KOMMUNIZM. In these recordings, apart from me and Kuzma, an x number of all sorts of people took part, the names of some of them can’t even be remembered now. The whole thing ended in late 1985 when the band was mercilessly dispersed by the oppressive organs of the state, I was forced to go into a psychiatric asylum, Kuzma – to the army, and all this material sort of hung in the air for a couple of years. For the first time it has appeared with bearable sound quality on album / compilation “Red Album” which I recorded on my own in the Summer of 1987. What the so-called “first” G.O. albums are, known among the people as Poganaya Molodyozh and Optimizm – they are basically remakes of the material off the aforementioned first, very lengthy 1985 G.O. album, recorded largely between January 12 – 22 in 1988 after Kuzma Ryabinov came back from the army and rehabilitated. At the same time some songs were completely redone (just like we did a year later with POSEV album), some were remade using the ancient (1985) tracks. The albums thus completed were remixed and rearranged several times over the next few years. This time you have one of the first, original versions. We were dividing the material among albums based on these principles: Poganaya Molodyozh included songs by POSEV, as well as those written in the earliest period of G.O. existence (November 1984 – early Spring 1985). Optimizm has the later stuff, from Spring – Summer – Autumn 1985, apart from ones like “I’m an Illusion”, “Children’s World” etc. which were successfully played and included in Red Album.
The bonus tracks are previously unneeded, alternative takes and versions, as well as material that wasn’t used before at all.

Yegor Letov, July 4, 2005

A word-for-word translation of a song that Letov had written in the mid-1980s and later redone on “Sto Let Odinochestva”:

Traces in the Snow
he looked into my back clenching his teeth
everything was seemingly real
but as he looked more attentively he suddenly realised
that i don’t leave any traces in the fresh snow
the ours thought that i’m a stranger
the strangers suspected that i’m fucked up
and all of them thought that i’m dangerous
since i don’t leave any traces in the fresh snow
and the dead mouse rots in the pocket
and in the pocket the dead mouse rots
no one’s ever gonna find anyone now
since i don’t leave any traces in the snow
i would’ve long been buried in the snow
i would’ve long been driven into a hole
i would’ve long been traced by my steps
but i don’t leave any traces in the fresh snow

BOYNYA NOMER PYAT interview for Croatian zine Vapaus!

February 6, 2008

Well, another interview, this time translated by mimoid and yrs. truly for Croatian zine Vapaus where it’s going to appear in (what I thought was still called) Serbocroatian. It’s with another mate of mine, based in Tatarsk and once nicknamed Deth [sic]. He plays in BOYNYA NOMER PYAT who are recommended, and is also something of a crust theoretician, amongst other things.

Hi. What’s up? Can you introduce yourself for people that read this zine? Where do you come from?
My name is Alexei Shvedov. I live in a small Russian town near Novosibirsk. Along with my friends from different cities we make e-zine Diversion (crust & Japanese hardcore). Also I played in two crustpunk bands – OTKAZ OT NASILIYA (RIP) and BOYNYA NOMER PYAT. Today besides BOYNYA NOMER PYAT I work on the project UBIYTSY BUKV (noisepunk). Not long ago we’ve create a message board in English dedicated to Japanese hardcore. Also we’ve made three short films between 2005-2007 and also I write prose (bizarre sci-fi) from time to time.
What was your first introduction to punk rock or hardcore punk?
I began listening to punk and hardcore when I was a young schoolboy, it was around 1987. The first bands I heard were CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, HYPE, DEAD KENNEDYS, D.R.I., PLASMATICS and AGNOSTIC FRONT.
What kind of punk do you like to listen to today?
I prefer Japanese hardcore and crust, also I like crust from other countries (especially not modern), various old hardcorepunk, obscure ’77 punk, so-called progcore (bands like POLARIS, HAL AL SHEDAD, KOLYA), Swedish trallpunk… and a lot more… I’m definitely not interested in metalcore, modern hardcore and emocore.
Did you have any band before OTKAZ OT NASILIYA?
Yes, since 1990 I played in several punk-bands, but for the most part they lacked any social or political overtones: SIBIRSKIY MASTURBATOR, O.M.O.N., ORGAZM NE NASTUPIL. One of the most interesting bands that I can mention is DEGENERAL KREIZ (1992-95, instrumental noise). Not one of them is known abroad, but once I’ve seen a song by O.M.O.N. on some compilation.
So what can you tell me about OTKAZ OT NASILIYA? Why did you call the band like that? Who was in the band? Which bands influenced you? How did people react on your music? Did the band have some political background?
The name of the band was taken from some book on Eastern philosophy which I was interested in those days. OTKAZ OT NASILIYA is Russian translation of the term ahimsa (non-violence or disviolence). The lyrics were pretty dark and sociopolitical for the most part. Though sometimes they inclined into reflections. Despite the fact that I was interested in sXe ideology at that time, I was more attracted by crust and discore. People from TOCHKA ZRENIYA, P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. and others helped me to make a recording. There were two albums recorded, both were released on Moscow label Popa Begemota Records in the late 90s. The first demo was also published on 4-way split tape (SzSS label, Russia). Besides positive reviews there were some negative ones when people not into crust judged it totally inadequately. It looked both wild and funny.
I heard that OON was sXe band. So, are you still sXe? Can you describe your attitude towards sXe (I mean why are you sXe, if you are..)…
OON wasn’t a straightedge band as such, though I called myself sXe at that time. But that lasted for two years only and hasn’t reflected on band’s lyrics. Only there was a song “No To Alcohol” (later it was included in some Asian compilation tape), but it was not against alcohol primarily but against people who couldn’t control themselves in this matter. Today I regard straightedgers with caution, I don’t have interest or even sympathy for their music, lyrics and living attitude. But at the same time I prefer not to consume alcohol because it’s very comfortable, practical and pleasant.
Why did the band break up?
There were too many conflicts among people during recording and in real life…
So, after OON you formed BOYNYA NOMER PYAT. What does that mean? What kind of music you play? Do you still play?
The first demo of BOYNYA NOMER PYAT was recorded in 2005, though the material was prepared much earlier. Previously many local groups had the opportunity to record any time and for free because some of our friends worked in a small studio. But after the studio was closed it’s problematic to make any records. That’s the reason for such delays. Still I did want to play crust-based music, but without the DISCHARGE influence, so BOYNYA NOMER PYAT sounds like something between TOTALITAR, CRUDITY and Japanese crashercrust. Again I’m on vocals and guitar. The name of the group was taken from eponymous novel by Kurt Vonnegut – “Slaughterhouse-Five”. Two demos and split with UBIYTSY BUKV (all this had never been released but is available for download in mp3 format) were made. On the second demo I partially used tapes that remained after rehearsal of the third album by OON which has been never recorded.
Why you are those two bands only studio projects?
It’s very difficult to play in a band with people who do not share your opinion about reality. The problem is even not in different ideology nor in politics but in different perception of the world and personal attitude towards some processes. Also some of the musicians I played with became nationalists and I had no intention to collaborate with them. That’s why last records were performed with session musicians. Or from time to time I make it on my own (last BOYNYA NOMER PYAT recording).
What can you tell me about your e-zine Diversion? Why it’s only in Russian?
We began to make “Diversion” in the late 2005 after me and my mate got tired of explaining what is crust to various people in letters. It all began with compilation of a detailed FAQ in Russian and then it was expanded with translated articles and interviews. Later we began to do interviews ourselves (ISKRA, D.S.B., INEPSY). Since the zine is focused on Russian readers all materials are published only in Russian. Also there was one paper issue which included best materials from the website and many exclusive materials. On the one hand the zine justified its purpose – the number of questions like “what is crust?” became smaller now, but on the other hand – we unintentionally launched the process of the so called “crust fashion” (“all things change into fashion”). And it’s terrible. Today the site is updated ever more seldom and I even had an urge to close it at all.
I see that you like d-beat music. So can you tell me what’s d-beat for you? Today almost every band is d-beat because this shit started to be popular. What kind of d-beat you like: stuff like TRAGEDY or “old school” stuff like SHITLICKERS, DISCLOSE…?
I like old Swedish d-beat (CRUDITY, BOMBANFALL, NO SECURITY etc.) very much. But modern stuff rather repels me, especially all these European bands in the last fashion which bred like fungi. Also I don’t like DRILLER KILLER, SKITSYSTEM and stuff like that. I like TOTALITAR, KRIGSHOT, Japanese bands ANSWER CRYING, KRIGSHOG, DEVASTATED GOES, CRUDIA… I don’t like DISCLOSE very much, they sound too monotonous. TRAGEDY worship seems to me rather absurd. Especially if we take into account that TRAGEDY adopted all the main features of their “trademark style” from Japanese hardcore (some of their imitators have no idea about this and as a result they’re copying from a copy without any suspicion about the existence of the original). I’ve listened to TRAGEDY when they only appeared but today I’m not interested in them at all and I even haven’t listen to their last LP.
I’m from Croatia. Do you know any band from here?
Alas, I don’t know any contemporary Croatian bands. And after your country split into many fragments I no longer understand anything at all. Some time I’ve listened to old cassette compilations of Yugoslavian bands, but by now I remember little of it.
What can you tell me about your town scene? Is it hard to find places to play? Do you have some squats?
In the 1990s in our town there were several interesting bands and projects, but after one studio (which was also the place to jam) has closed everything has gone downhill. In my opinion, now there are no interesting new bands in our town, and the people who used to play punk in the nineties (myself included) prefer to do studio projects. A couple of years ago out of curiousity I went to a gig by some local pop punk bands, but that was just out of curiousity. So as far as punk rock is concerned everything’s dead here now.
Do you have problems with nazi skinheads? I heard that you in Russia have big problems with them, they are well organised and they kill people.
In our particular town there are no physical problems with nazis, although sometimes I have to take part in stupid debates with them because some old acquaintances have become nationalists, so I meet them sometimes, no matter if I want it or not (thankfully it doesn’t happen very often). In general, Russia has a lot of problems with nazi skins. They target both DIY activists and “normal” people. In the last couple of years nazi skins have committed several high-profile murders in different cities. They kill in the middle of the day and at night, always in a crowd. And that seems to be spreading. The more stupid the ideology – the more followers it has. All of Russian segment of the internet is full of nazi propaganda and descriptions of their “exploits”, and nothing could be done about it. I mean, the resistance is there, but the phenomenon is on too large a scale to be uprooted easily. As they feel their relative impunity, the nazis are getting more and more insolvent. Recently in Moscow a crowd of such mad teenagers have killed a well-known chess player from Yakutia (their choice was, of course, random). Most of them were arrested but naturally that didn’t reduce the number of their followers. The state doesn’t show much interest in the problem (although at times it does pretend), and most nazi attacks are treated by the police as hooliganism.
How is situation in your country right now? Is it hard to live in Russia?
In my understanding, Russia is a totally monstrous country with absolutely insane mentality. When it went from faux socialism into fake capitalism everything here got even more perverted, and all of life is going on as if in absurd theatre. Although, of course, you can adapt and not pay attention to it all, taking those monstrosities simply as natural phenomena like rain or hail. The education system isn’t good at all and is falling apart all the time, same thing with culture. I’m annoyed by glamourizing and propaganda of criminality in the mass media. The salaries are generally too low and do not correspond with prices for goods and services, although in the big cities it’s a bit easier. The police are corrupt and criminalised. There’s no hope at all that the situation will improve.
Do you want to add something in the end?
I don’t really know… Maybe I’ll just tell the readers of your zine that they shouldn’t follow some stupid fashion and not do to others what they don’t wish for themselves. – e-zine DIVERSION – BOYNYA NOMER PYAT – OTKAZ OT NASILIYA– Japanese hardcore message board

DISTRESS interview for Peruvian zine Holocausto.

February 2, 2008

DISTRESS – not to be confused with similarly named bands from Yugoslavia, Germany or Italy – are a Russian d-beat band that has been around for about five years. They have heaps of releases, toured various European countries a few times, and I guess there are quite a few interviews with them in various zines. Since the following one, with their singer Alex, would be published in Spanish, I think there’s no harm in putting the English version here.

Hi ALex. Could you tell us about the beginning of crust in Russia? And about DISTRESS? Is it big the scene in Russia?
Hello! D-beat / crust scene is new to Russia. At the moment it’s very small, and most of this scene is young people between 16 and 18 years of age. Like every new thing, it’s interesting for them. All of this activity, music. But I don’t think it’s serious for them, that it’s their culture and lifestyle. At the moment it seems to me that there is a big interest in music, in the look (dreads, patches, shirts), that is, there is a certain fashion that appeared now, and the messages that the bands or activists within the scene want to get through to them aren’t noticed by many. Perhaps such a situation exists elsewhere too. We travel a lot, we communicate a lot, but somehow this situation is more obvious for me in Russia. When we started with DISTRESS in 2003 there was no scene whatsoever. I guess at the time few people were interested in that part of the scene. And I think that was exactly the reason why the band didn’t have a permanent lineup for a long time. We played with a lot of session musicians, also with musicians from other punk and hardcore bands, tried to tour and record, but no one stayed in the band for a long time. For many people who played in DISTRESS it remained a strange culture, and the way the band was going wasn’t for them. At the moment I’m the only original member. Frequent lineup changes didn’t give much of a chance to be more active but we always tried to do something. Last year before a European tour our lineup had changed again, and after the tour one of the guitar players quit the band. Now there’s four of us, but we’re still active. And if we’d return to your question regarding the scene in Russia, I think that we can seriously talk about a crust scene here in say five years, when it would overgrow this upsurge in so-called popularity that it experiences now and when only the people who are actually concerned with problems of our sick society (wars, environment, animal and human rights) will stay in it. We shall see, the scene develops and I’m very interested in seeing what will be there in a few years.
When I listened to DISTRESS for the first time I thought it was a Swedish or Finnish band. Is your purpose to sound like that?
No, that wasn’t what we were shooting for. It wasn’t any sort of “commercial” step if I understoof your question correctly. We like the Scandinavian scene, and it’s our love for Swedish and early Finnish punk that has been a large influence on our sound.
Nowadays, what are your plans as a band?
It’s hard for me to discuss our plans now, but there’s a lot of them. Maybe we will try to play more gigs, go on new tours. But it’s not always possible, and a lot of things depend on a chance to get a visa for this or that country. The visa system is a big problem for us as a band. We don’t always have a chance to play gigs outside of Russia. In November 2007 we were supposed to do a minitour of Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland) but the consulate refused a visa to two of the band members. As a result, all of the gigs of the tour were cancelled. But still, for this year we already have planned a few gigs in Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. We also have finished recordings for two releases. One is a split CD with WHEEL OF DHARMA from Finland and the other is a split CD with SUBURBAN SHOWDOWN from the States. I hope all of this is going to happen soon.
To keep a band, recording in an studio or making tours. Is it difficult?
I have told you a little about organising tours. Yes, it’s not always easy for us but it’s possible when you want to do it, when you really do. We’re doing it ourselves, and no one is going to make it for us. The bands are always facing some problems (tours, recordings). It takes a lot of time and energy, and not everyone is ready for this. It’s not just a Russian problem, it’s a problem for a lot of bands all over the world.
Do you know the scene in South America or here in Peru?
We have a lot of contacts all over the world but I know very little about the scene in South America. I have a few records and tapes with bands from Peru, and also a while back I was in touch with kids from Venezuela, APATIA NO. But that was a long time ago. We’re always glad to have communication and new contacts. Contact us.
What do you think about piracy, ripping records, copyright, etc.?
Copyright is shite. I can’t talk about piracy because I don’t know how this industry is developed all over the world. But I liked the form of piracy that has been developed in Russia until recently. Russia is a developing capitalist country with low living standards. Not everyone who lives here can afford a CD or DVD for 10 or 20 euros. Many people’s salary is 100 – 150 euros per month. In Russia it’s a good alternative to the large recording corporations and major labels. Ripping records isn’t for me. I like original editions, vinyl etc.
What does DISTRESS do about actual issues like animal abuse, politics, environment, etc?
We’re not taking part in the direct actions. In Russia such actions are very rare. Russia is a totalitarian police state where most of the population supports or tolerates the state policy. But we support the ideas of various autonomous organisations such as the ANTIFA movement, ALF and PETA, FNB, ABC.
Do you wanna add something to this interview for our readers?
I don’t know. There is a lot of evil and violence in the world. But there are people who do care about what happens tomorrow. Let’s think together about what each of us can personally do so that tomorrow wouldn’t be the last day of the human race. LOVE & PEACE, NOT WAR.

PTVP interview from St. Petersburg Times.

February 1, 2008

Exorcising the slave

Local punk band PTVP premiers what it says is its definitive album.

Staff Writer

Mikhail Lagotsky

Alexei Nikonov, frontman of punk band PTVP, says the band’s new album is its musical and lyrical manifesto.

Heavy on social and existential themes, PTVP’s new album, is the band’s manifesto, according to frontman Alexei Nikonov. Having mixed psychedelic rock and punk, the band, one of Russia’s best, came up with what Nikonov describes as “Jimi Hendrix playing in Joy Division.”

“I went to a concert today, and there was a guy singing how he was sick of [Russian music radio station] Nashe Radio and things like that, and I realised how petty it is,” said singer and lyricist Alexei Nikonov, whose punk band PTVP is premiering its new album, “Zerkalo” (Mirror), this weekend.

“The fact is we are witnessing a very serious situation, a historical process, and that’s what I wanted to reflect in this album. Of course, the title is not original, but after listening to the album, it will be clear what it’s about.”

PTVP, whose full name is Posledniye Tanki v Parizhe (Last Tanks in Paris), is known for its uncompromising criticism of the political and social situation in Russia, most famously on its 2001 album “Hexogen,” named after the explosives used in the terror attacks in Moscow preceding the Second Chechen War and, eventually, Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

According to Nikonov, PTVP, has finally come up with what he describes as “essentially our definitive album and our manifesto.”

“In a sense it’s a return to our roots, it’s the music we wanted to play when we were kids,” said Nikonov, who spoke to The St. Petersburg Times by phone this week.

“Now we had a chance to record this album. It’s dark, depressive music, not the short, upbeat songs that we have been playing all our lives for some reason.”

“Mirror,” the follow-up to last year’s self-produced album “Freedom of Speech,” is being released on the local alt-rock Kap-Kan label, which put out PTVP’s CD single “Usual Day” late last year. The 13-minute track is also available on the album.

“Because the CD is a dying form, we wanted to release the album — it might be our last CD album, so we wanted to have a large number of copies released,” said Nikonov.

Before settling on Kap-Kan, the band approached a number of other labels, but negotiations usually stopped when managers heard the opening track, “Million,” which, translated into English, goes:

“Good morning, Beslan / Good morning, Chechnya / Good morning to cops / Good morning, my country / My free country / A million kilometers of shit.”

“I used social topics, because the situation is amazing, it amazes me; everybody drops on their knees and cries ‘cool!’ Even if they are not endangered. Nothing threatens them, nobody seems to do anything to you, if you say ‘fuck off,’ but everybody cries ‘cool!,’ I can’t understand it. So I wanted to express my attitude to it on this album,” said Nikonov.

Nikonov said that he has been influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Nikolai Berdyayev and Lev Shestov as well as the history of Russia as a whole.

“Speaking of lyrics, I used to lower the standard a little, use some irony, like [in songs] ‘Deflower, Baby’ or ‘A Bullet for a Bourgeois,’ but I speak rather seriously here, in every song,” said Nikonov.

“This album’s lyrics could be used as poems, which I cannot say about any of our previous albums. It even scares me a little, because the album turned out to be perhaps too serious. But there could not be any other album now, because the social situation around is such that I have no desire to make a positive, entertaining album. I think it’s even inappropriate in the historical process that we’re going through now.”

Nikonov compares the promotion of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as Putin’s “successor” to Ivan the Terrible who passed the formal power to baptized Khan Simeon Bekbulatovich, while restyling himself as “Ivan from Moscow,” to return to the throne 11 months later.

“We are present at exactly the same historical situation, only in a different guise, and I couldn’t help expressing this on the album,” he said.

Whatever official propaganda says, life in Russia has deteriorated, according to Nikonov.

“It’s a commonplace, it’s so obvious that it’s not even funny anymore,” he said.

“The hopes that Westerners had relied on in Europe didn’t come true, all in all. Churchill had his pictures taken with Stalin, despite the harshest criticism. The same happens now. Whatever regime there is in Russia, the West will never take any radical steps to help radical circles here.”

According to Nikonov, the clampdown on civil liberties and suppression of a political opposition can only lead to the emergence of radical groups, such as Narodnaya Volya, or People’s Will, responsible for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881.

“We have come to a situation when the creation of such parties as Narodnaya Volya is inevitable. This is not a call to violence, but a lesson from history,” he said.

“The preservation of the regime that the presidential bunch undertakes is parallel to the course of Tsar Alexander III, which only gave birth to a wave of terror. What form this terror will take, be it Islamic or social, is a different question, but it’s inevitable, because, when society is squeezed out of the legal process, the political struggle intensifies.

“That’s what I wanted to speak about on the album. If ‘Hexogen’ was rather detached, on this album we have made our social position clear from the start. We’re trying to establish ourselves in this historical situation.

“We don’t answer the question ‘What is to be done?,’ we’re just trying to understand how to remain human and free under slavish circumstances. In this sense, we reject Aesopian language as the language of the slave. The opening song is manifesto-like and social, as well a couple of others. The rest are existential.

“Because the fact of the matter is not Putin, it lies much deeper. That’s what we are trying to understand on this album, that’s why we called it ‘Mirror.’ We’re trying to look into ourselves on this album. Why we have remained the same slaves we were? An attempt to exorcise the slave from ourselves is perhaps what this album is.”

The tone of the lyrics has had a profound effect on PTVP’s music, Nikonov said.

“It has even influenced the chords. If we had everything in major on all the previous albums, all the songs on this album are in minor.”

Musically, “Mirror” is a blend of punk and psychedelic rock, according to Nikonov, who said it was influenced by the band’s early heroes, such as Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus, The Stooges and Television.

“It is an homage to all the bands we listened to as kids. It’s very different even from our earlier albums, that all sounded different. Everybody who heard it in its early stages were a little shocked that it was us. But it is us, whatever it is.

“Our attitude to the sound has fully changed; we recorded it even more live than before, on purpose — it took us four hours. We didn’t use any overdubs; we only had a guitar, bass and drums, three instruments, a classic lineup. There’s a lot of guitar psychedelia, which is not typical for Russian punk, but we still tried to play punk — how we understand it.

“We wanted to make an album the likes of which nobody has made in Russia before; a genuinely garage album. We even recorded it in a church; we got into debt over it, but somehow we paid it off.”

PTVP recently united forces with Televizor, one of the leading bands of the 1980s perestoika rock explosion, famous for its uncompromising protest songs such as “Your Father Is a Fascist” and “Get Out of Control,” to oppose the political climate in Russia at a double-bill concert at Orlandina club in December. On stage Nikonov joined Televizor frontman Mikhail Borzykin to add vocals to “Fed Up,” the band’s 1980s anti-totalitarian anthem.

“It was a landmark concert for me, in a way, because I grew up on his songs, I immediately remembered myself, how I was listening to his ‘Fatherland of Illusions,’ when I was 15. I would have never imaged that I would be singing ‘Fed Up’ with Misha,” he said.

“I’ve always liked his stance, too, very individual — he has never danced to anybody’s flute. I would always be happy to play with him. His new songs show what [DDT’s Yury] Shevchuk and the others have lost as they were chasing after studios — he has not lost his sound judgment.”

To make the album’s release concert affordable for fans, the band that, apart from Nikonov, features guitarist Anton “Bender” Dokuchayev, bassist Yegor Nedviga and drummer Denis Krivtsov, has set the ticket price at a relatively low 200 rubles ($8). Every ticket-holder will also receive a free copy of the “Usual Day” CD single, according to Nikonov.

PTVP performs at Port at 8 p.m. on Saturday.