Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo, translation: Elena Savlokhova
What do you sacrifice for your calling?
Sasha: Our lives haha. In reality, we don’t sacrifice anything. If we would be doing this at a cost of some major sacrifice, then the whole deal would be unpleasant, wouldn’t it? It all stems from love.
What excites you the most in your field of activity?
Sasha: The fact that people need it. And all of the aspects of the process – composing, recording, performing. The rehearsal aspect is overly exciting haha.
Dima: Yes, we lock ourselves up in the studio and get excited together haha.
Sasha: Jokes aside, it’s extremely distracting when someone interferes in the initial stage of rehearsing a new song, but later when we’ve come up with the program, an outside audience is always welcome.
What are you trying to convey to the world with your music?
Sasha: I think the world should get meaning from such things on its own. We’re not a commercial project so everything happens intuitively, there are no deep logistics involved. We’re just trying to communicate our individuality, I guess.
How difficult is it to share ‘the personal’ with the audience?
Sasha: Well, you see, there is this thing, where art is a reflection of reality in crelative forms. Describing and reflecting things ‘photographically’ is not about us. Besides, we only open up in ways that we feel comfortable with, the way we want to. A lot of it is is generally a flow of fantasy, so no, it’s not difficult nor scary.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Sasha: Two fans from Novosibirsk shot a video cover of our song “Пустота” and uploaded it on Youtube. Also one of our photographs is printed out as a poster and is hanging above the bed of one Belorussian fan, next to posters of Radiohead and Placebo, as far as I remember.
What was your best performance?
Sasha: A year ago we had a solo gig in Mezzanine. I liked the heartfulness. There was also one hell of a party in Chernivtsi on the ocassion of one venues anniversary party. Icecream Fest was a blast with the crowd of schoolkids. But I think and hope that our best performance is still yet to come. We still haven’t formed as a concert band, the way we would want to, due to our constant perturbations with our sound and constantly experimenting.
Dima: I’m very critical about our gigs and how we perform, so I can’t recall anything that stands out at the moment. I can always find flaws.
Sasha: We experience mishaps all the time. No one notices them or they simply don’t care. Even an obvious setback, like something turning off, is not that big of a deal when the atmosphere and the overall vibe is good. Lately I’ve taught myself not to make a big deal out of minor inconveniences, so Dima is the one who usually notices them, as well as a few other lads who know every millimeter of our music.
Left to right: Sasha Burkov, Dmitry Mashkin
What is the most memorable gig you’ve attended as a viewer?
Sasha: This is probably a question for Dima, since I’m not very big on attending gigs.
Dima: Shortparis, hands down.
Sasha: I will agree here. It’s rare when I listen and watch someone perform twice with my jaw open.
Dima: There is this band that I really like, it’s called ‘Selfish Cunt‘, although they’re not active anymore. Either way, Shortparis reminds me of them a lot, particularly their presence. But when I asked the front-man about it, he said he had never heard of them. Another case is when I went to see Placebo, who at the time were my favourite band, but they had such a terrible performance that I simply stopped listening to them. Sometimes I don’t go to gigs at all, either because I’m lazy, or to avoid disappointment.
What question do you hate answering the most?
Sasha: ‘Why Stepan i Meduza?’ haha. The thing is, we have no idea ourselves – it’s the fruit of imagination from our friend. Although we came up with a bunch of explanations for all the various interviews we’ve done. We just liked the sound of it and its abstraction. Now it’s perceived like a brand and it’s quite a handy tag.
What’s the coolest part about being young in Kiev?
Sasha: It’s simply cool to be cool in Kiev.
Dima: It’s cool to be young, but lately it doesn’t always work out.
What are your plans for this year?
Sasha: Apart from performing – to compose songs and shoot videos. The visual component of our music requires a lot of thought and work.
Dima: Going to Europe would be dope.
Sasha: Our nearest gig [event link] is with Drab Majesty and then with Kedr Livanskiy [event link], both in Kiev. We’re also planning a solo gig on the occasion of our new album “Прощение”.
Listen to the new LP “Forgiveness” now
Do you get nervous before going up on stage?
Sasha: The only thing that gets us nervous is the technical aspect of gigs, whenever something stops working all of a sudden, or the sound is shit.
Dima: Yeah, we have to connect a lot stuff. I’ve seen more serious sound set ups, of course, but still it’s quite a hustle for the two of us.
Sasha: We once performed with Kedr Livansky in Mezzanine. If you stomp your foot there and add up all of the pressure from people dancing in the audience, then the stage just starts moving. The power supply unit just fell out of the socket and the drum machine just disappeared from the mix so we just had to stop performing one of the songs, to figure out what had happened. In cases like this, I get nervous and angry about the technical issues. If we played acoustic music then there would be no worries at all.
Tell us about the fuck ups you’ve encountered as musicians.
Sasha: It was back in 2012, I think Kostya was still in the band with us playing the synth, and the gig was recorded live. We’ve never presented ourselves as people who use bad language, but after listening through the recording, we’ve realised that we were cursing a lot inbetween the songs, when we were talking to each other. We didn’t pay attention that the mics were at close range. I wouldn’t go far as to say that it’s some major fuck-up in our careers, but it was hilarious to listen to that recording afterwards.
What’s the worst aspect about living in Kiev?
Dima: There are not enough trash bins, I keep walking around with cigarette butts in my pockets or hands and sometimes it gets annoying so I end up littering. I also have a small godson and whenever I’m out with him, I realise how difficult it is to move around the city with a stroller: pits, broken asphalt, lack of ramps. It’s a very uncomfortable city.
Sasha: Transport, traffic. The marshrutka is hell on earth, starting with the concept itself and ending with the rudeness of its drivers. The problem of the transport infrastructure puts a strain on people’s mentality and faith, in the worst way.
Are you logical in your decision making or you follow impulses instead, both in work and life?
Sasha: The latter. I’m all about creative chaos.
Dima: At times, I can lose my temper and follow an impusle, but normally I try and think rationally. I can even get into some sort of mess, but it would still be rational.
What is the weirdest thing someone had said to you before or after your performances?
Dima: Our very first gig was at a wedding of one guy we know. So one of the guests suggested we use a saw, as a musical instrument.
Sasha: Yeah, there is this extravagant instrument – a hacksaw. You drive the bow along the blunt side, while the other hand bends the steel ‘sheet’. The altitude of the notes change, due to the shape of the arc and its degree of bending. The resulting sound is familiar to the one of a theremin. What prompted that person to make such a proposal? Probably a changed state of his mindset, caused by the celebration.
What recent trend annoys you the most?
Dima: Sasha doesn’t like modern Russian rap music.
Sasha: I wouldn’t go as far and say that it annoys me, I just don’t dig the whole concept of harassing your musical colleagues and opponents.
Dima: So wait a second… You like Face?
Sasha: Not like I’ve listened to anything other than that clip about the burger. Let it be. The musical component in the form of a monotonous trap song got me fed up. I think it hit a dead end, with purchased minuses that had been used before, but the lyrics and visuals are quite entertaining. Especially with Фараон. Either way, nothing is annoying, apart from hardiness and not accepting the new, but it’s not a trend really. Everything that happens in the context of human evolution does so for a reason: crusades, war, even the atomic bomb, apparently. But what can you really do about it? I don’t believe that humanity will ever get bored or if it destroys itself. We’re quite the vivacious and agile species.
Dima: I’m not annoyed by any trend. Once I hung out with my cousin, back then he was 16, and our age difference is 10 years. In conversation with him, I caught myself thinking that I mumble a lot about whatever the young kids were up to these days: vaping, spinners, and all that other stuff. It reminded me of how my parents were always teaching me morals, with or without a reason, how everything is wrong and that ‘there was a time when…’ etc. I disliked that feeling so I try to avoid that sort of thing.
Sasha: We’re fans of the kiev fellas from the left bank – Optimus Gang. To people of an older generation it might seem weird and stupid, but in reality it’s a big pucnh back to all those mainstream comedy formations. The dialogues are beyond dumb, the speech is incoherent, it’s utter nonsense – and that’s the whole point and meaning of it. It’s fresh.
If you were given 1 000 000$ to invest in Kiev’s culture, how would you distribute it?
Dima: I would invest it in cinema. I know a lot of talented fellas and I know for a fact how short the film industry is on financing. In terms of music, one can simply buy a guitar or a synthesize, a moderately ok-ish computer – and you’ve got yourself a recording studio. In the film industry things are a bit more complex. It’s very problematic in our country.
What do you dislike the most about yourself?
Dima: I’m very lazy. At times I don’t want to do anything at all. I like to play video games instead of doing something productive, for example.
Sasha: The illness of procrastination is the modern day plague. With the excess of information it’s very easy to waste your precious time, while simply watching some nonsense on YouTube.
What role do the visuals play in your music?
Sasha: A big one, just as for anyone else who goes up on stage, takes pictures, shoots videos, releases records. Lately, we actively try and participate in all aspects of the visual component, in order to like the final result ourselves. This creates a more wholesome imagery that reflects our personalities. We used to shift all the decision making to photographers, designers, stylists and directors, hence some photographs or videos never came to see the day of light, as they did not resonate with us as a band. Some that did come out were also questionable. But you live and you learn, so now we approach the visual related matters and processes on a deeper level. For example, the artwork for the last two albums were entirely curated by us and in this regard – we are quite pleased with the result.
If money and paperwork were out of the question, what city and country would you want to live in?
Dima: I’d live in Kiev, which strictly speaking, I am doing now. I love Kiev a lot and I’m rather sentimental in this manner. Friends, family, familiar and native streets – all of this is much closer than anything else could possibly be. I haven’t been to a lot of places, in all fairness, but whatever places I’ve visited – I’ve always missed Kiev.
Sasha: Dima even applied for a biometric passport. Someone has travel plans haha.
Dima: For instance, I’ve been to St. Petersburg before the war started, I went for a gig with one of my other bands Seahorse. My bandmates left straight after the gig and I’ve decided to stay a little longer, just for a few days. I just strolled the city, took pictures. I like the city a lot and it resonates with me for a number of reasons. But on the 3rd or 4th day I wanted to go home like crazy. I just got fed up. In the context of travelling, I’m interested in a lot of things, like going to Japan and Manchester. But to live there? Probably not.
Sasha: I hold the same viewpoint. I don’t have thoughts about the possibility of moving some place else. Only in terms of travelling. Who doesn’t like to travel? Only a fool, probably.
What did you learn from each other?
Sasha: Dima is teaching me punctuality.
Dima: And I’ve been unsuccessful at that, so far. Sasha teaches me the craft of patience. I’m a rather egoistic individual, in a lot of aspescts, especially in those concerning art. He taught me to compromise and to sometimes let go of my ground. I think it’s a good character trait.
Sasha: Dima also taught me patience, but in relation to people – to close your eyes on faulty character traits, to accept a person as he is. Of course, if the person is not a complete asshole, but thankfully, there are no assholes within my close circle of people.
What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
Sasha: ‘What software do you use when creating your music?’ A question like that, for example. The answer would be the Steinberg Cubase 9, which I bought a year ago and I am extremely proud of this decision haha.
Dima: Yeah, no one ever asks about the technical side of things. Although, it might not be of interest to people. We’ve had an experience at a radio station, where the focus was to discuss the musical instruments that you play. The guests were bandura players, flutists, pianists, etc. We were asked to talk about guitar accessories and components. Sasha prepared for the show as if it was a seminar, he even came with printouts.
Sasha: Ah come on, people are interested actually. We get comments under our videos or private messages from people who ask what synthesizers we use and what samples we integrate.
In your opinion, what is the one thing that every single human being should experience at least once in life?
Dima: I think everyone should experience the feeling of love.
Sasha: Full stop.