Interview with Ilia Lagoutenko and Sdwig from `The Best of the Edge’

Kirsten O’Brien:  `Mumiy Troll are Russia’s biggest guitar band. They are swamped by crowds of screaming fans throughout their homeland, sell loads of albums and have sell out tours wherever they go. Things haven’t always been easy for them though. They grew up in the coastal city of Vladivostok, which is near China, North Korea and Japan, during the 1980’s, when pop and rock music was heavily controlled by the Soviet government and recording and releasing records was not an easy business. So here to tell us more are Russia’s number one rock group.’

Ilia/Sdwig:  `Hello dear listeners. My name is Ilia and a friend of mine, he `s a bass player `and my name is Eugene — Sdwig’ and we are from Mumiy Troll. We define ourselves as a rock and roll band but people usually are comparing, you know, trying to figure out what kind of music to place, or just to stop all these debates and discussions, we called it Rockapops.’

’Originally we are from Vladivostok which is far east of Russia, just one hour flight from Tokyo and 10 hours flight (from) Moscow so we’ve been a bit quite distant from all this cultural life in the capital city so we decided to create our own. And Vladivostok is a nice place by the sea, not really a big place but we had lots of ships coming from all over the world, even in spite of (the) iron curtain and all this communist kind of peril, we still could get some information on what’s going on in the world, so we had this little hole in the iron curtain.’

’So I started my first band even before I became a teenager, so I decided to change my railroad toys and plastic guns for something else, which supposed to be a band because I saw these pictures in glossy magazines of bands like Kiss.’

’At that particular time, I didn’t really think about it as a career and it was more like a hobby, which wasn’t really a popular hobby with Russian government officials and stuff. So my parents said, oh you’d better enter the university .so since early 90s we still were together but we just went different directions, choosing different professions in life, so I graduated from university with Chinese language and Chinese economy and I spent a few years in China after that and, Eugene?’ `I worked on tv at that time, like a computer designer.’

’It was like a big boom in rock music in (the) 80s, 85, it wasn’t really underground music, it was like underground movement because you can’t really release records and you can’t really be on tv or promote yourself in a way like you do or like people do in Russia today’ `there’s  just one official rock band that actually played and made records.’

’But then times changed basically and you’ve  heard about all this perestroika and reforms and new market policy in Russia and wherever actually (the) government took this country, but musicians, they got the chance to expose themselves. Five years ago we just met by surprise in Moscow with an old friend of mine and he said: `oh do you still write your songs and why don’t you record a proper album in a proper studio and I will try to promote it in Russia, maybe sell’ it or whatever. So we got together again, we decided to make it in London, for the first time and we didn’t have any proper studio experience, nothing at all, so it was basically with the help of a friend, they’d got some advice, and we made this album in two weeks.’

  `And since then it took off and surprisingly it became number one in Russia and that’s when we decided, oh we have to think seriously about it.’ `But nobody actually expected it to be so big.’

  `And it’s quite exciting because, you see, Russia is a huge country and it `s not like your tour in England for instance; you’ve done like 20 dates all over the place and between the cities it’s like 20km. In Russia if you go away from one place to another, it’s either 7 hours by bus or 10 hours, or 3 hours flight,’ `our longest bus route was eight and a half thousand km, from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk.’ ` I’m still quite fascinated about playing northern territories in Russia, so called oil cities, really small places, not a lot of people there, where they just dig oil in temperatures of -40 and -50. But people are nice and usually we get really good crowds over there and it’s just an absolutely different experience. You know, all these big places like Moscow and St. Petersburg, you know the audience and they’ve seen it all, you know, it’s like in any other big place and you usually put (on) this great show with stage design and fireworks,’ `dancers,’ ` backing singers, symphony orchestras and sometimes you come into these nice little places, like Sakhalin Island, for instance, not for music, for a kind of adventure.’

’We are not looking for easy ways in our lives, you know we are from Russia, we’ve got this habit to overcome difficulties.’

Spetial thanks to Jane Lambourne (