Interview Theodor Bastard for the German magazine ZILLO. (Eng)

Interview Fedor Svolotch (Theodor Bastrad) for the German magazine ZILLO (10/2013). English.

Q: Could you please name the band member(s) who/which answer(s) these questions, as I have to integrate that within my article? Thanks!

Fedor Svolotch:  The project founder, musician, sound producer.

Q: Could you please give us a short presentation of you? Band history, members, musical conception?

Fedor Svolotch: I begun as a solo musician with experimental noises at my home studio at the beginning of the 90th. This part of our history is described in detail at our site. I’m on tour in Eastern Europe at the moment, so I apologize if my answers are not extensive. But in brief, everything changed when our vocalist, Yana Veva joined the band. When we begun to perform live for the first times I was amazed by her voice and what hypnotic influence it had on the public. In my opinion Yana has a rare and unusual manner of singing. She is a unique vocalist who can work at the studio and record vocals with first try and sing live almost identical to the record. Actually, Yana would have to give this interview, but she never gives interviews as she thinks that the music and the songs tell more than words on paper. So it is my burden to speak on her behalfe.-)

Q: As Wikipedia says, you changed your musical orientation once from an electronic background to a more organic sound…What were the reasons for this change? Looked back: Was it the right decision?

Fedor Svolotch: I think that this is a natural thing – we change and so does the music. I consider it to be a spiritual path. I don’t get some bands who do the same thing again and again every year. Moreover, once I begun to study folk music, russian as well as african or arabic, I realized that all these songs from different corners of the Earth, in fact, are very close to each other. They have the same roots. All those contemporary musical styles are just small leaves or twigs of the enormous music tree. Being inspired by traditional music is as though to touch the foundation of human culture and history. When you realize such things you pass the point of no return. Futher more, when I took an interest in an arabic drum, darbuka, I got a teacher from Lebanon, Osama Shahin, an outstanding musician, on of the best darbuka masters of the world. As well I took gluttural singing lessons from Radyk Tulush, the vocalist of the famous Huun-Huur-Tu. Yana studied indian and arabic melodies and vocal techniques. And, of cause, it can’t but influence our music. How can this be regretted?

We have visited lots of countries, have worked with many great musicians, even now, being on tour, I’m astonished every time when we come to a city for the first time, to Budapest, for instance, and the people already know our songs and are very responsive to our music.

Q: “Oikoumene”: That`s the name of your new album: Would you like to tell us something about the production process? Something special you would like to share with us?

Fedor Svolotch: In our previous releases we used a lot of electronic sound: synthesizers, samplers, some sound effects. But working on :Oikumene” I and Yana wanted to make an album which would be entirely different from our past realises, taking a live acoustic sound of traditional folk instruments as a base. Just listen how udu drums, talking drums, spring drums, didjeridoo, calimbas sound – it is just fantastic. Having a certain skill you don’t need any electronics! I thought over the sound for a long time, experimenting with different percussions beginning with kongo and up to african drums udu and so on. I even made some percussion of coconuts and metal springs. But the most crucial discovery for us was the sound of persian frame drum, daf. This marvellous instrument has booming low sound and pulsing bass. When we recorded a session with this instrument a sound patterns, finally, put together to form a united sound concept. Working on the album we were helped by a lot of unique musicians: Rampur Rani from India, Aki Navaz from the Great Britain, the leader of the famous FunDaMental, the french singer of african origin Julien Jacob and even a zulu choir recorded for us by Aki Navaz in Britain We recorded the album at studios in France, Spain, Britain and Russia. This was amazing experience.

Q: What does this album mean for you?

Fedor Svolotch: I think it is our best work. Yana used lots of new vocal tricks. Her voice attained a different sound. She is one of rare musicians whom you may have known for a long time and still, every year, she can surprize you. And, as well, I’m truly proud of the sound which we developed at the studio – this is not ethnic or folk music in literal meaning, having played folk instruments we still preserved our style in the scope of contemporary music.

Q: What are the main differences to the albums before?

Fedor Svolotch: We made an album totally different soundwise from our previous works. It seems we used archaic instruments, but, nevertheless, the album sound is modern and we maintained our own style.

Q: What does “Oikoumene”: dealing about? Why did you choose this track as album title?

Fedor Svolotch: The concept of Oikumene comes from the Ancient Greece where it meant not only borders of the inhabited by people Universe, but simultaneously a certain limited area of human cognition. Figuratively speaking, our world. After all, we all are human and doesn’t matter where we live, in what distant corner of the Earth, we still are children of the Oikoumene. We have a lot in common with the powers of Nature, with trees and plants which neighbor us, but we forget it sometimes.

Q: Your sound seems to be a mixture of Neofolk, Trip-Hop, Ambient and Dark Wave…Would you agree? Why do you mix so many genres?

Fedor Svolotch: It is very complicated for me to speak about these genres. Among the mentioned I know only trip-hop and ambient, but we definitely don’t relate to them much. And it seems to me, the most numbers of the genre names originated in 70-90th to help the owners of large music shops selling vinyls and then CDs somehow catalogue music. Just to put it on some shelf for the convenience of customers. Then journalists added to this as they needed to define music in their articles.

Q: If you had to describe your sound to someone? What words or band comparisons would you choose?

Fedor Svolotch: As Frank Zappa once said:“speaking about music is the same as dancing about architecture”. I completely agree with him. How can one describe to a blind what it is to see? How to define a sound using words? And is it necessary?! If I were asked the question I simply would say this: come to our show and hear it yourself.

Q: Your songs are very atmospheric, archaic and mystical…How important is this for your sound? How important are the folk elements in the songs? Are you very bounded to folk topics?

Fedor Svolotch: Music can’t exist without folk elements. Do you not agree? Do you want an example? Dance music, listen to african ritual drums or the ones of the north american indians – the same beat! I can give a hundred examples..But it is a shortcoming of modern music, being a ls moll leaf of the tree growing from the roots of tradition and each such small leaf thinks itself to be an entire universe, forgetting what roots nurture it. A tree with no roots dies. Do you get this analogy? I agree that some traditional and ambient elements are traced in our music – partly because of Yana’s voice and partly due to the use of folk instruments. After all, how long is it possible to continue playing the same electro guitars or the standard drums? Are you not tired of listening to the same music all the time? I, personally, can’t stand standard sound patterns.

Q: “THEODOR BASTARD is one of the most unusual contemporary Russian world-music collectives.” This is taken from your

Facebook site. So, why are you so unusual?

Fedor Svolotch: Oh, I don’t know. Facebook is run by our management and their task is to evoke some interest in our music among people from different countries, that’s why, probably, they put in this stupid phrase.

Q: Your musical influences are, according also to the Facebook site, Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Bauhaus, Unkle, Horace Andy, Elizabeth Fraser, Peter Gabriel and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. What would you say: How much of these bands and musicians is actually in Theodor Bastard?

Fedor Svolotch: I love Pink Floyd, their sound management and their concepts. All those years have passed and the band is still significant. Massive Attack are also innovators as well as Peter Gabriel is. All these great musicians have constantly been looking for a new sound, experimented with arrangements. I’m very pleased that such names are placed beside ours.

Q: What is the general lyrical conception of this album? What are the songs dealing about? Please give one or two examples! Thank you?

Fedor Svolotch: Music is an universal language and it speaks for itself. To feel and understand music one doesn’t need words. We try to be as abstract as possible when we write our lyrics. Working on “Oikumene” we implemented the rare african benga language and the indian nahuatl. Sometimes Yana sings glossalias, what if a part of ritual vocal practices of many peoples.

Lyrics excerpt: Will disappear in the heart of wood, will burn as a juniper, will be a steppe road dust in the air,

Very little is earthly share, very little is earthly share, we will live!

Q: Is the Russian scene very vivid these days? Some interesting newcomers or talents you would like to share with us?

Fedor Svolotch: Unfortunately, the russian scene is much influenced by the western music. I’m not saying that I don’t like western music, I’m saying that I don’t like imitations. Why do you need copies if you have originals? And in my opinion it is unnatural when a russian band sings in English and tries to copy british guitar sound or german Schwarze Szene. There are few russian bands, which I may name: Teatr Yada, but their vocalist Yan Nikitin died last year. Ole Lukoie and Aukcion.

Q: What links you to Germany?

Fedor Svolotch: I respect german philosophers – Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Heidegger. And, of course, german music starting from Vagner and Karl Orf and up to Stockhausen. We traveled a lot in Germany and in 2004 we released the album “Pustota” at the german label Pandemonium. We toured Germany several times with our german manager Sabina. Among other things we stayed fo a week at her place in Swabia and I, literally, fell in love with southern Germany, with Schwarzwald, with Bavaria Beautiful nature and wonderful people! I hope that upon realising “Oikoumene” at the Dance Macabre label we will visit Germany again giving some shows.

Q: As I saw, you`re performing live quite often. How important is it for you? How much do you enjoy this?

Fedor Svolotch: A concert is special living magic. Without the audience, without the energy we interchange during the shows our music would not exist. We perform each song live before starting recording it to feel its energy and spirit. performing live is very important to us. A musician with no concerts is just an engineer. Lots of our ideas and concepts are born after performing live.

Q: What`s next? Your aims for future?

Fedor Svolotch: A new album, new concerts. Soon we are releasing a vinyl record at the label MiruMir

Thanks a lot! All the best and until soon!

You are welcome. Always a pleasure. Thanks for the interesting questions!

Zillo 10/2013


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