Mumiy Troll — The South Asian Sea Interview —

Mumiy Troll — The South Asian Sea Interview

Somewhere amidst the rolling waves and endless horizons of an Ocean somewhere off the coast of South East Asia is a sailing boat named the ▒Barque Sedov` crewed by members of one of the biggest and most influential bands in Russian history, perhaps even the world, the one and only Mumiy Troll. Finding driving mundane and airplanes more hassle than they are worth (Have you been through airport security in the last few years?) the band took to the seven seas in order to bring their fantastic music to the world, never let it be said that this band is conventional in any way shape or form. They have been at the cutting edge of music for decades and have premiered more media release techniques than any other band in their quest to find new and fresh ways of getting their music out there. During this epic swashbuckling adventure Ilya Lagutenko, the bands lead singer and founding member, was kind enough to spend a few moments answering my questions on life at sea, being the biggest band in Russia, Pussy Riot, tigers, and anything else I could pick his brains about.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I know you`re busy guys so for you to take the time to do this is really appreciated.

“No thank you! )) With Guitars ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!■

So very kind of you sir, but first a bit about your music if I may? So far you`ve released 15 records, do any of them have a personal significance for you beyond being your own creations? Your music has evolved in quite a unique way since the early recordings. Was this a deliberate move or something more organic?

“All of the albums that we have released has its own story and I am proud of all of them. I loved the journey when recording them and then the journey presenting them on tours around the world. They are not just songs, they are our real life. I don`t do diaries or blogs, whatever I want to share is in my songs.

I never had an illusion that music can be my full -time life and profession but when Mumiy Troll hit the heights in the late 90`s and became a serious thing for me I knew what kind of sound I wanted to achieve as we progressed through albums. Living in London at that time was one of the major influences on my tastes. I was really into the new wave and Brit pop thing. It was a very exciting time for music.

But really I usually just follow my internal voice and whatever it says. In my opinion the concept of our sound has never really changed from day one. It has been the obstacles around us that dictate any changes in sound. I think that is the same for most artists I appreciate. It`s how it should be really. It makes the sound less contrived, more natural.

I have to say that out of the albums we have recorded “Book Thieves■, {which was released in 2004} is the one that stands out for me right now. It was actually a soundtrack to a movie that our friend made. It was a situation where we had to follow the Directors vision for the sound and the songs but in the end it came out completely like our own thing.■

With this approach to your music and your life it is little wonder you have been given the label ▒Russia`s biggest band` it must get a little heavy from time to time. Do you find that it is something you feel you have to live up to or has it inspired you to push yourselves further? It must have been difficult for you to remain an independent artists?

“I am not an arrogant person and I don`t like boasting about it….. For me Mumiy Troll is my life, my rock, my job and my hobby that has become a huge reality which I never anticipated when I was a teenager. For me it was just a dream like it is for any kid.

The thing that we have to do most is of course keep our fans happy and keep them hungry for more of our music. This is inspirational for us, seeing the fans reaction at every concert no matter where in the world is truly special.

Being independent is difficult for any band, but as long as you have the correct ingredients including a passionate team behind you with genuine enthusiasm and the ▒will` to push further, then you can`t go wrong.

When I`m going on stage I always think it`s my first gig ever, when I do the record it is the first and only record.

▒Vladivostok` is your first full album in English. What prompted you to make the album in this language alone? Did this make it more of a challenge for you?

This album shows the current state of the band. It`s a mixture of our live experience with a rather universal rock sound. Our very good friend and owner of a The Village studio in Los Angeles – Jeff Greenberg has pushed the idea of an English language record through. He heard us recording our Russian material years back at his studio and after going crazy for it he kept on saying ▒Guys this has to be heard in English`, but I did not feel ready at that time. Six years later here we are – ▒VLADIVOSTOK`))))

The debut English language album presents Mumiy Troll`s spirit to people who do not understand us in Russian. It is named after our home city where I and most of the band members are from. It is a remote place on the Russian Pacific, which once was called the Russian San Francisco. Still only in our dreams really though.

These songs recorded in English have been heard in Russian before. Was it challenging? I would have to say yes in way as obviously when you translate words to a different language they do not necessary have the same meaning. So for some songs I had to start writing lyrics from scratch in order to have a new true meaning.

But to me writing songs in any language comes naturally be it in Russian, English or even Chinese (I have studied Chinese before and can speak fluent mandarin.)■

You`ve been aboard the Barque Sedov for a while now. Do you think you have got the hang of sailing her yet and was it difficult to learn? Do you enjoy being aboard the boat? Where have you visited so far that was particularly memorable and why? Where are you looking forward to visiting?

“My band and I (apart from Yuri our guitarists who is from the Ural) grew up in Vladivostok and served in the Russian navy. It is already in our blood being on board of a ship out in the sea setting up sails but we have definitely learned more about holding sails. I actually did a sailing course with the Royal Yachting Association many years ago in Southampton – so that experience definitely helped a lot.

We are loving every moment of it. We have been on board for most of its journey flying under the white sails in the ocean. We were not only performing normal marine duties but also recording a new album on board.

We played in port cities in Germany, Finland and the Baltic states and even made a quick stop to play a concert in London (which was part of the Olympics opening ceremony).

The most memorable moment for us was playing a concert on the day of departure for the world voyage in St. Petersburg. Pretty much everyone from the city came out to see the ship set sail and see us perform on board then wave good luck while lining up along the harbour.

Our next leg is exploring South East Asia and Africa.■

Being a big animal lover I`ve heard of your charitable work and I know that you`ve been quite involved in raising awareness of the Amur tiger. How did you first get involved in it? Do you think that celebrity involvement helps with conservation efforts significantly?

“The Amur tiger is a symbol of the area in the far east that I come from. I was introduced to the head of the AMUR fund in London and was asked to help with some public awareness projects which gradually developed into quite a mission.

Ten years later I found myself launching an idea, an international charity music/ball event ▒Saving the Tigers` which ended up being an important part of the International Tiger summit in St. Petersburg. Vladimir Putin and heads of States of 13 so-called Tiger countries attended the summit but also celebrities like Leonardo Di Caprio. He personally donated a large sum of money to the cause, Naomi Campbell co-hosted the event with me.

I compare Tigers to Independent music- rare, hard to survive but brave and beautiful “

The Amur tiger isn`t your only charitable involvement. You`ve also been at the forefront of tackling local minorities` issues within Russia and helped PSI to organise and awareness campaign against AIDS. Are there any other causes you are involved in? Do you intend to add any other charitable causes for the future? What moves you to become involved with these organisations?

“I`d love to help others out as much as I can. But I also feel totally uncomfortable in the areas which I do not feel a special connection with. Recently we got in touch with Seashepherds team. They needed a temporary shelter, and I truly wanted the Port of Vladivostok to accommodate them. Ocean Ecosystem Conservation and sustainable fishing is really another thing I`m fascinated with supporting. I`m a big fan of ocean lifestyle and sashimi…but there is some trouble there. I knew it as my hometown`s “fish mafia■, involved in black market sales with Asians for years now…■

You obviously care a great deal about Russia and its people. What did you think of what happened to Pussy Riot? Do you think there was another way for their protest to be heard? What are your hopes for the political future of your country?

“The jail sucks. Female jail sucks even more. The problem is I personally cannot find any artistic ingredient in what they did. Moreover some of those actions are too ..gross for me. I may not be that sensitive about the religion thing, but the “orgy■ spices are way too much for me.

I travel a lot and I can see the whole world facing a major ideology crisis..Russia, China, Mexico, Middle East..who is right who is wrong? Ancient Chinese would say that it is a curse to live in the time of changes. I`ve seen it all through the last 20 years, been raised under communism, then almost overnight everything went topsy-turvy. Yesterday`s party bosses became oligarchs..I hate to hate anything,. I would love to be able to love every single thing on the planet and beyond. I know it`s not easy, I know it is almost impossible But I am still trying to be “the Poet and not a revolutionary■. I came from a little town on the sea (which happened to be major Russian navy base on the Pacific), I never wanted to jump on the Trans-Siberian train, I was more curious about what was behind the oceans horizon.■

Having already been the first band to have their video broadcast on MTV Russia, launched your own social network, performed in the Eurovision song contest, toured all over the world, and won numerous awards, what`s next?

“We made it into the Russian history books too, ha ha ha… for music and style that influenced a generation. I`m too bad in marketology planning. We`re in the process of filming our sailing trip. It will end next summer. Live what you live, love what you love. What`s next is what we are doing now and will more than probably be the lyrics for a new song or two. That`s what I`ve always done. Why stop now?■

Mumiy Troll will be heading back to the UK next year for a single headline show at London`s Shepherds Bush on the 25th of May 2013 provided we can get them back from their grand seafaring tour that is!