Tarakany! — “The Power of One” / New video + interview with Chris #2
YO! Chris#2 here. Tarakany! is a band that has intrigued me from the minute I heard of them... Their story is the stuff of legends, their commitment to the punk scene in Russia is inspiring, and as I’ve gone from loving them for their music to loving them as people, I know that others outside of Russia will do the same once given the opportunity to. This interview is hopefully the start of that process.
Check out their new video for "The Power of One" as well as my interview with their vocalist Dmitry:
Chris#2 - Tarakany! is the longest running and one of the most important punk bands I have known to come out of Russia, how did you find this community and what made you want to start the band?
Dmitry - It was 1991, we were 16-17 year old kids, we were watching USSR falling apart, and we witnessed the born of so called Democratic Russia. Since "the wall" fell, It's became much easier to find old and new western rock music. During the soviet times you could find it only on a black markets. It just wasn't allowed. We were so excited and inspired by the end of "tyranny", the end of Soviet regime. We didn't want to live in country ruled by totalitarian government no more. And we wanted to play punk-rock, cuz we loved the sound, we loved the look, even though we couldn't understand the meaning of what US and UK band sang about. All this led to the moment when 4 kids formed a punk band: we wanted to express ourselves, our emotions, enthusiasm and excitement of freedom that came to our country. We wanted to play music, we wanted to be on stage, to look and sound as great as was possible. And of course to make girls like us. We were not a brilliant musicians, so we weren't able to play metal, which was extremely popular those days. The only thing we could do was punk. 4 simple chords, that's it. That's what stays with us. Back then, punk scene in USSR/ Russia barely existed. We had kind of a small local communities in a few big cities, so just by forming the band we took a part in creating the whole scene.
Chris#2 - What does it mean to be punk rock in Russia?
Dmitry - I believe it was 2003-2006 when punk scene in Russia finally grew up and could stand on its feet properly. And just like in the rest of the world it started to split up. It was the time when there were a bunch of opposite opinions on what is punk-rock, in general. In USSR punk-rock from its beginning was exposed by communist propaganda as disgusting thing to bring it into discredit in eyes of young soviet man and women. In early 80-s soviet media were spreading the idea that "punk" is a product of capitalistic society and those who claims themselves punks are hooligans, misfits, fascists, they don't wash themselves, feed from dumpsters and listen to disgusting music. It's hard to believe in, but for first generation of punks in Russia that description was so attractive, so they were acting exactly like media described punks from abroad. All this, for sure, was against soviet morality.
That was the image of punk back then and it's been like this for years.
That's why when bands like "Tarakany!" popped up, people would say we were not punks, they would say, we betrayed the ideas, which, to be honest, never meant something for us. The ideas we would only laugh at, never took them seriously. And all because of we never believed that punk has something to do with the image that media built. We despised it, we had different beliefs.
So, answering your question, I can only tell you, what I think, being punk-rock in Russia, now and what it can be in the future for us. All these years we believed in human rights, anti-totalitarianism, anti-militarism, we believed in freedom of self-expression, tolerance, anti-racism and anti-nazism.
By the moment we started to play shows in early 90-s, it wasn't like you could get to jail for playing in punk band, but we had other enemies: mobsters, who didn't like our music, who didn't like the way we look and the way we act, also right-wing skinheads, who have become a serious issue in late 90-s.
But we kept playing, making records, helping other bands, promoting festivals, booking our own tours, in spite of punk was never a big thing in Russia, even in times of MTV-punk in late 90-s.
Now we are a big band, but we still believe in what we believed before and that is the reason why we are actually cannot be sure what's gonna be with us tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Cuz’ there days in Russia our agenda lies far away from what government wants people to believe in.
Putin has changed a lot in people's mind, changed their way of thinking back to Imperialistic ambitions, back to hatred of anything that doesn't fit in their world view, back to getting ready to war, to searching for enemy outside of country as well as in it.
Chris#2 - With Anti-Flag we have always challenged nationalism and have seen it used as a tool of the powerful to separate, isolate and marginalize people; that makes this connection of Tarakany! and A-F Records so important to us in 2018, when people want to push a Russia vs. America agenda... when it is by far our supposed leaders who are doing the work to separate us. How can we as Americans and you as Russians work to challenge this nationalism and demonstrate our commonality over our differences?
Dmitry - Rock'n'roll is the answer - or at least, this is one of the answers at the moment. When destructive strategy and the way of dealing with things used by our politicians, we're facing risk of cultural isolation. That's why it's so important for us that this record has come out on your label. Your willing to put it out is a huge demonstration of a wish to overcome all the disagreement causing enthusiasm and faith that together we can handle it. Anti-Flag as well as Tarakany! are the bands that do what can be done to help people understand each other, to respect each other. To not play in those games that politicians want us to play. Music, songs, concerts, just a human relations have always meant more and had a bigger influence that even the most aggressive strategies. Both bands from that generation of people who still remember Carter, Reagan and Brezhnev with Gorbachev, who remember what "Cold War" is, what the threat of Nuclear war is.
People and Governments are not the same.
Chris#2 - Talk about The Power of One and choosing to do an English-speaking record... were you nervous or concerned with this process?
Dmitry - We had an experience in recording songs in English before. We would usually go to the studio and record "Russian" ones first and then I would record "English" as well. That's how "Freedom Street", "Rockets from Russia" and "Russian Democrazy" done.
However, the difference between the records I mentioned and "The Power of One" is that from it's first demos and even ideas, from first song to last it was planned as a two-language record. While the other never were fully recorded in English, they would have a few songs in English and the rest in Russian
Unlike a lot of German, Italian, Scandinavian or even Japanese bands we can't go focus only in records in English, because mostly in Russia people do not speak English.
That's why we have to double our efforts.
Just imagine, you've just finished your song with all emotions, putting a lot of energy in it, with backing vocals and stuff, wiped the sweat and started one more round in different language.
Talking about the record. We had this plan, to do it in English as well, we asked for a help of our friend who's name is Travis Leake (native American, born in LA, who currently lives in Moscow and who also a songwriter). He helped us out with translations, he was also a producer of recording vocals "English" vocals, worked with me on pronunciation, phonetic stuff, rhythmics (which is quite different in Russian and in English).
For me as a singer that was the most difficult part of recording. I would lose 1,5 - 2 kilograms for a session. I would sweat every time I sang. That was really exhausting.
That's a good thing English is no more just a language of Britain, but the language of the world, so it has different accents, it assumes national differences.
All this make me believe we managed to express ourselves in foreign language good enough to understand us worldwide.
Chris#2 - Lastly, tell us about Killing Pigs, how the fuck did you get so many guests? Or was it as easy as it was to get me? I loved the band so I jumped at the chance to sing on a track for the record! Ha!
Dmitry - When you write songs about things that are just not popular at all in the society you live in, you very well understand you will get a lot of negative feedback, so when you have people with same beliefs, it makes you stronger.
Talking about this record. We were hoping that all these people would help those ideas get through prejudices of those of our fans who consider themselves "open minded".
By saying "hey there! we're not crazy if we choose to be vegetarian, look around there are bunch of guys who play in the bands you love, who share the same ideas, take a look around, Chris Barker of Anti-Flag that you loved so much, is vegan as well and he supports us."
As for the guests. To be honest all those guys are so kind and so generous, It wasn't that difficult to get Russ Rankin of Good Riddance or Yotam of Useless ID sing on this record.
We all are just people, we all go to shows and festivals, mostly we all have accounts on Fb, so it's much easier nowadays to reach out to someone. And you did reach out to them, It appears they are just like you or your friends, not "rock stars" but people, who believe in certain things and who is willing to support you.
I also have to mention a few more guys, we also had a helping hand from Willem of Antillectual and our friend Nico of German band Rogers who has also helped us to produce the record.
Apart from "Killing Pigs" we also have "What can I change" with Nicola from Millencollin which is a great honor for us as well.
It's been a great pleasure talking to you, Chris, thank you very much!