Interview, photo: Anastasia Kolenkova
Translation: Elena Savlokhova
Vocals, music - Yana Kedrina
How do you like the summer in Kiev so far?
It’s great, I was finally able to relax in the heat because it’s cold in Moscow so I’m constantly tense. In my understanding, summers are supposed to be the way they are here. Throughout winter and spring I’ve dreamt about a hot summer but unfortunately it never came to my hometown.
When did you realize that you were famous?
I knew that something was up when I’ve obtained a wild fan from Belarus. At first he asked for an autograph on his VK wall, which I found to be quite amusing. Then he sent me a picture of his wardrobe and it was all covered with my Instagram pictures. This guy also has a stray cat whose name is Kedr. He messages me on a regular basis, once he asked me to wish him luck before his USE. He’s an interesting person. But overall I don’t consider myself famous. Maybe in certain circles and among certain people.
When you first started you music career did you realize the difficulties you would face?
Live performances were the greatest difficulties. When I wrote music at home, I barely had an idea of what live performances really are, when you are left one on one with the audience. As a consequence, the first two performances were horrible. Also back then I had a bad understanding of working with sound — equalizing, mixing, music parameters. But I found a way and just transferred the track onto a cassette and then digitised it back again, which smoothed some discrepancies. Eventually I independently began studying materials about music creation, read books, watched tutorials. I need to develop professionally and so I’m constantly working on it.
Based on your personal experience, tell us, what is the difference between working on your own label and the American label you are currently collaborating with?
“Johns’ Kingdom” [a Russian underground community that helped kickstart Yana’s musical career]. is an independent label that isn’t aimed at making profit. It was created to comfort the soul and it’s more important for the fellas to deliver music to an audience, for it to be heard and to just do what they sincerely love. Regarding 2MR [Two Mikes Records — an American label that currently releases Yana’s work], it’s entirely commercial. The priority is for the artist to bring in money. Their workflow is very structured and well-planned which makes it quite hard for a Russian person. I constantly disappear somewhere, forget about e-mails, interviews or am late to deliver new material. But now they are used to it and are no longer angry with me. They just put in a bit more effort to remind me of these things more often now.
To who or to what the future belongs to?
To the youth.That’s the way history goes — new people come, make changes, rethink things and with time, settle down, turn into stone, give birth to children, who eventually repeat the same cycle. I really love our current youth. I will turn 27 soon, but I’m constantly meeting those who are 17-18. I like the way their minds work. They are more free than we were. They are fearless and indifferent to the opinions of others. They live in their own reality.
Do you think that in the future the analogue and live instruments will fade into the past and give way to synthesized sounds?
I think it will never fade away, just like drawing with paint and sketching with pencils didn’t fade away with the rise of graphic design programs. Even though the technical progress makes it all easier there will still be those who will prefer to use instruments and features of the past. We are tactile creatures and until we have neural connections then I’m sure live instruments are safe and sound.
Why do people listen to music?
Because music is the broadest and most accessible form of art. When you think about it, then not everyone reads books, watches films, or visits museums. But I barely met someone who doesn’t listen to music, be it any genre. I think there is something archaic about music which is still present from the times when our ancestors couldn’t yet communicate, but could associate with certain sounds. It was a way of communication. Music also helps people, it understands us and soothes us. Music is very democratic and this is its main advantage.
What is your warmest childhood memory?
I basically spent my entire childhood with my grandparents in a village. My parents sent me there all the time and I am tremendously grateful for that. It’s the coolest thing for a kid — to explore the world somewhere in nature within the elements. Especially I remember a moment when an intense thunderstorm began and my grandfather and I stood barefoot outdoors under a canopy, and we were gazing into a field that was close to our house while embracing nature’s rage. I remember the excitement of this simultaneous feeling of fear and safety, when you are a witness to something truly real and feel connected to it. Such moments probably form the most important things in a human being. There is another story that my grandfather told me. I was very little and during a very heavy rain the drainpipe in our yard was pouring as if it was a tap so my grandfather picked me up and placed me beneath this stream of water. I don’t remember this, but the image of a toddler, that is still so innocent and clean, under the sprays of water was forever imprinted into my mind and I am grateful to my grandfather for that experience.
Are you within love or is love within you?
Love is within me. At some point I’ve realised that love is an everlasting resource you eternally have within yourself. It’s a matter of whether there is someone who is able to provoke and awaken love that is inside of you. Perhaps due to certain circumstances, love falls asleep but it never leaves you.
Without what would you not be able to create and exist as an artist?
Without loneliness. It’s the most valuable state for me and I am aiming to catch it as much as I can. In a good sense, of course. A blissful state of loneliness inside of you. When you reach it, you don’t need anyone and you begin to work with peace. If you lose this feeling then it is replaced by a different kind of loneliness: an apathetic, depressed loneliness, that leaves you incapable of experiencing anything and it’s the most cruel feeling.
How is the Yana that used to play punk rock different from the Yana that is sitting in front of me right now?
Very different. That Yana had a lot of fears she didn’t want to overcome. She was hiding behind other things like, for example, that band Hesburger [Russian punk band in which Yana sang in 2008]. It was scary to be myself. Yet it’s also an interesting question who you are on your own. But in that time I was definite that it wasn’t me and I have a clear understanding that it took a lot of courage to start doing what I’m doing now. It’s like trying to reach out to your essence through music, overcoming fears by diving into them. For example, I don’t really like performing, it’s much more comfortable to work on music at home. It’s a different way of communicating whereas on stage you are so much more vulnerable. But I face my fears in order to become stronger.
The song “Ariadna” is inspired by the myth of Theseus and is about the thread that guided him out. Do you think that something is leading you through life or is everything happening randomly?
Overall, there is a certain connection of the songs “razrushitelniy krug” and “Ariadna”. The “krug” [circle] is the labyrinth itself. I wrote it during a difficult period of my life and it raises the topic of the state when you are confined within yourself, in a certain paranoia, schizophrenia, a reflexive environment. I wrote“Ариадна” when I needed to feel that there is a way out of this caged system and this song gives me hope for salvation. Ariadne is not necessarily someone or something. You can be her yourself. Getting back to the question, I would say that if you are honest with yourself and you make decisions that you consider to be sincere then the universe will know it and the universe will guide you.
Did you have a dream you truly cherished but now you are happy that it never came true?
Yes! My entire family, including me, thought that I am destined to be an actress. From my very early childhood I took classes in a theatrical studio, then from the age of 14 I’ve professionally performed in a youth theater and when it was time to go to university, I obviously chose a theatrical course. I wasn’t accepted in the first year and in the second year I failed the last contest right before enrollment. In that moment I surrendered to life’s circumstances and decided not to pursue it anymore. The following years I had no clue who I was and it was extremely difficult to decide. But now I am grateful to fate that it took me away from the theatre institute — it distorts and breaks, it turns people with feelings into robots. As a result, I studied literature, which gave me so much more and so I am glad that my childhood dream never came true.
What topic will you never touch in your art?
I won’t speculate, but as far as today goes, I wouldn’t get into the topic of politics. It’s a controversial matter: should art interfere with politics and vice versa, even on the example of the 20-30s of the 20th century Soviet Union, where art was directly linked to politics and the value of culture was strangled. Only what pleased the government was allowed. Politics may be reflected in art but only if the artist is sincerely interested in it, only then it will work. I currently prefer to stay away from this specific topic.
Some publications call you ‘the queen of Russian underground electronic music”. How do you feel about such ‘titles’?
To be honest, I’m very amused and at times even irritated by such things. I always troll things like “100 greatest music videos according to Afisha”, or “Pitchwork wrote about her”, “the hope of Russian electronic music”. What the hell? I don’t consider myself a queen of anything. I know the amount of powerful electronic musicians out there and I still have a long way to go. I don’t even call myself a musician, because I take such things very seriously and for me it’s a rather loud word. Perhaps in the future I will be able to call myself that but for now I’m just doing my music. So I think that all these titles and phrases are ridiculous.
Are there any people that you consider to be your life mentors?
Yes. It’s Alexander Pushkin, Yegor Letov and Sergei Kuryokhin. They are all very different yet each one of them inspires me in their own way. Letov has a certain pre-death agony about him, as if you are walking with a chainsaw while screaming with delight. He once said that he doesn’t understand how one can do anything without faith and hope, even hammering nails. That’s what I admired about him, that he never lost faith and walked with a sword of truth in forests of fear and chopped everything on his way. With Kuryokhin there’s a different story and he certainly has another approach. A troll-mystifier, although he fiercely burned with music and he always had a moment of thrill in his life. I really like people like that.As for Pushkin, I like a sort of childlike sincerity in him, despite the fact that he binge-drank, did drugs and was an asshole. Yet at the same time his poetry lacks egoism in comparison with other poets of the Silver Age, where every word reeked with self-demonstration. But Pushkin, like a child, lived through each word and let each word run through him. The way he described the sea was as if he placed a microphone near the shore and the waves describe the sea themselves, and he just wrote it down.
What is the role of provocation in art?
A priori, art should bring out a certain emotion, a certain state of affect in a person, so that something in his or her brain flips, the poles shift. For example, Kuryokhin had a lot of elements of shock in his creativity, with the help of which he brought society back to life, which at the time was incredibly ossified. He masterly did it, not in excess, and his art was not limited just to one provocation. But quite often it is used in manipulative objectives and then art obtains a different shade to it. Like the Leningrad band. They think that they make fun of social and human vices when in reality they lie to themselves, because they operate in the same coordinative manner. Perhaps in the beginning their actions had a sense of truth to them, but now Shnurov hosts a tv show on Channel One and then for some unknown reason ridicules it. It all got to a point where none of it makes sense really.
Cats or dogs?
If it’s a stray then my love goes to both. But in terms of getting a pet then I would probably go with cats because dogs require so much love and attention, you have to constantly interact with them and I, unfortunately, wouldn’t be able to provide all of that to the fullest.
What would you wish our readers?
Walk towards your fears, overcome them and then everything in life will be just fine.