Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Pavel Fedorov
Latexfauna is a Ukrainian dream pop band who sing in Ukrainian with occasional slang.
What path led you to the decision of devoting yourself to music? What life lessons did you learn in the process?
Les: It’s difficult to separate the specific ‘before’ period from the ‘after’ period. Music has always been there. I grew up in the ’90s. And somewhere at the beginning of that decade, a fragment of a Western rock band concert was on TV. It was Queen I think. I hadn’t been to school yet, but I saw a rock band and thought, ‘Oh, it would be so cool to be like that, I want to stand on stage with a guitar just like that’. That’s it. I didn’t always play the guitar or bass. The first instruments for me were the trumpet and the flute. Then at school, the boys and I played discos in the assembly hall. Being in various bands happened much later. But music has always been in my life and I lived it one way or another. But what did I learn? I’m still learning.
Max: As a child, I was not interested in much, until at school I had a classmate who played football. Then I was very interested in this sport. I even dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. But very quickly it turned out that I’m not that great of a football player. It taught me two things: 1. Never stop looking for things of new interests. 2. Cardio is everything. By the way, this rule came in handy when I started playing drums.
Dima: In 9th grade, my brother gave me his guitar and taught me a few chords. Then I learned to play all the dope songs. Then at university, I met the guys with whom we formed a band. So I wrote a couple of cheesy songs, embarrassing songs. But I wanted to be a frontman of a band since I was 5 years old. I was inspired by the music of The Offspring.
Ilya: I walked several hundred kilometers from the age of 7 to 9 years from home to school until in the third grade, on the way to the citadel of knowledge, I met Denis and Vanya from a parallel grade. They told me about Nirvana. That’s when it struck me. We then decided to put together a band and a week later I found a guitar which belonged to my family’s friends. Denia sat behind the shoeboxes and paint cans, and Vanya was playing the phono at that time for three years already. And it seemed to me at our first rehearsal at Denis’s house that we sound very cool. I always liked electric guitars. I always hit pause and looked at them on the Scorpions – World Wide Live videotape. I used to find photos of guitarists in magazines and stared at them for hours. Now I am 29 and I have found my place. I understood
I understood that in order to be needed in a band, one must be bright on stage and responsible in the work process.
Don’t be late for rehearsals, look after your instrument and make sure that you return to the tour bus on time.
Okelsandr: I searched for my instrument for a long time, tried the accordion, the clarinet, the guitar, and even the baritone trumpet. Since childhood, I loved the distinctive sounds of synth-pop and new wave bands, so the only thing that remained for me was to try out different models of synthesizers.
Why did you start making music?
Les: Well, I’ve said a little bit about that above. At first, it was an aesthetic sort of hobby, then it became a dream to try that aesthetic. The more favorite bands and musicians appeared, the more emotions their music brought up, and the more I wanted to try to say something of my own. But if we talk specifically about Latexfauna, it started because life was boring. It was a necessity to go somewhere and to do something else, something apart from work. Otherwise, time will fly very fast.
Max: By accident. My classmates once asked me if I knew someone who plays drums and I said that I could try playing myself. So I joined their band. Naturally, a band, like all bands in the world, was formed for one reason only – to be cool and for the girls to like you.
Dima: This is first and foremost a hobby, and you get hobbies to not get bored. Plus, when you compose a song with the dudes, that you think is dope, then it’s a pleasant deal. And if others like it too then it’s ecstatic.
Ilya: I think I was born for this. Now being in quarantine – nothing gives me a bigger discomfort than the inability to go out on stage.
Okelsandr: Creating something is always extremely interesting. I was once amazed at the possibility of extracting new sounds and building something melodic out of them. Now I can say that this hobby has influenced me in the best way.
What did you learn from one another?
Les: In general, probably, how to successfully combine things that are warm and useful, your personal wishes, and what is needed for the common cause. This is a very important lesson, I mean for the band. Not all musicians succeed, really. There are people who do not know how to give up ambitions or their own ego for the sake of achieving more. There comes a time when you want to show off, to be noticed, you know? But we have learned to work as an organism. We’re really capable of doing it.
Max: I agree with Les. The most valuable thing that the band gave us was the ability to listen to and feel another musician, to find a relationship with him, and get along while working on a composition.
Dima: In music, the most important thing is not to disturb each other. Do not pull on a blanket on yourself. Everything should be done together, each instrument should sound clear, without overshadowing the others.
Ilya: My time with Latexfauna is not that long. I’ve been a part of many bands and projects, including quite successful ones. Someone stamps out albums as if on a conveyor belt, someone sits and waits for inspiration. But we seem to have the most correct approach to creativity: to create a song on an equal footing, by uniting common forces until it pleases everyone. If everyone did things with this approach in this country then we would have more music that is good.
Okelsandr: I was even more convinced that routine work on material and being demanding on yourself have a decisive influence on the creative result.
If looking at Latexfauna as a single human organism, which part is each one of you?
Les: Oh, that’s a hard one. Well, the head and the heart are Dima. It’s not an exaggeration. He generates a lot of ideas, writes lyrics, he sets the emotional tone of each track. He shows us the song and we quickly seize its harmony. And then, ‘Dima, how did you come up with this? What film should play in your head? What emotion?’. It’s always the case. Sasha Milnikov – I don’t know what kind of organ he would be, but he manages to make a key move at the right time to form a song. Without it, many tracks would not be what they are. The rest of us can be both the hands and feet, or any other body part. I don’t drink, but I don’t mind being the liver, for example. It’s a good body organ.
Max: If talking in the context of body parts, then Dima is the heart of the project, he carries blood and heat to all of us. Sasha is the head; he forms abstractions of musical forms. Les and I are the legs. We embody pace and rhythm. Ilya is the hands because only he can suddenly grab you very strongly and shake you. Well, or gently pat you, it depends how lucky you are.
Ilya: I am what makes you feel arousal and waves of pleasure throughout the body.
Okelsandr: We are the fingers of one hand – we can do a lot and we are strong and resourceful together.
What was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life? What is your definition of beauty overall?
Les: You forget such things in the routine. Apparently, I have not experienced this yet. Because otherwise, I would not have forgotten.
Beauty is when everything is so simple that all complex things become clear in a single moment. And then, you no longer have thoughts in your head and you can see things as they are.
Dima: The most wonderful thing in my life was my first mushroom trip. It’s very difficult to describe this feeling. Back then Dima the neurotic stopped existing and a new Dima took his place, who realized that
being alive is not that scary. You can enjoy life instead of hiding in the ruins and be content with small things.
Ilya: It’s difficult to name one thing. I learned to see beauty from Orwell’s 1984 book, there were lines that forever changed my perception of beauty:
“As he looked at the woman in her characteristic attitude, her thick arms reaching up for the line, her powerful mare-like buttocks protruded, it struck him for the first time that she was beautiful. It had never before occurred to him that the body of a woman of fifty, blown up to monstrous dimensions by childbearing, then hardened, roughened by work till it was coarse in the grain like an over-ripe turnip, could be beautiful. But it was so, and after all, he thought, why not? The solid, contourless body, like a block of granite, and the rasping red skin, bore the same relation to the body of a girl as the rose-hip to the rose. Why should the fruit be held inferior to the flower?”
I really like to find beauty in people. The beauty of nature has always attracted me to a lesser manner. Someone has cool ears, someone has nice shoulders, and someone looks like a wild cat, for example, like Gina Gershon from the movie ‘Bound’. I also like big mouths. Just like Gina Gershon.
Okelsandr: I repeatedly caught myself thinking that I remember this incredible sunset during my youth – with the summer warmth, the light wind, and a sense of enjoyment of the moment.
One should seek out beauty in the harmony of the world around us.
If you had to choose between music or sex for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Les: Haha, I would be lying if I said music. Well, it’s purely a scientific issue. Sex is one of the basic needs of the Maslow pyramid. It should be satisfied. It would be very romantic and somehow elitist to choose music. But that would be untrue. Although music can give you goosebumps. Music can also seduce. But that’s where it ends, I think.
I got into music for the purpose of having sex, what are you talking about.
Dima: It depends on the sex and depends on the music.
Ilya: One cannot exist without the other. I put fiber from one box into both. It’s either all or nothing.
Okelsandr: Sex, because the evenings of musicians are usually busy with non-erotic things.
Do you have disagreements about the music you create? If so, how do you compromise, if not, why not?
Les: Of course. Maybe for guys like Trent Reznor, it’s not a thing because he writes everything himself. But we just openly discuss our differences, approaches, and feelings. It helps. The main thing here is not to try to hide something, to cover up, or somehow ‘cheat’ your position. Deception is the worst thing that can happen. It’s better to voice your thoughts. Just say, ‘Yo, dudes, this ain’t working, let’s think it through.’
Our songs are movies. You can’t edit in a scene from a western into a space odyssey.
Max: We constantly have disagreements, but that’s the whole point of the work process.
Only in aggressive environments growth and evolution take place. Only through working out “conflicts” you come to new solutions.
Dima: There was even a time when we’ve completed a song. But then we honestly asked ourselves, ‘Is it really that good?’ Maybe let’s fucking rewrite it?”. So we did. This is how, for example, the track Космос came to life.
Ilya: All our quarrels occur in a very intelligent and reasonable manner. It’s important that we have an art director who has a vision, and who doesn’t pressure us with his authority.
Okelsandr: Everyone’s tastes and views on the form of music are often different, but there is also confidence in mutual decisions. Differences of opinion at the stage of discussion helps to reject bad ideas because after many attempts there will be something that will finally ‘come’ to everyone. The main thing is to try out different options and not be afraid to rewrite something that is nearly finished, yet is imperfect.
What do you feel when you look back at your lives?
Les: Hmm. Actually, it’s nice to remember the past. There have been all sorts of times. A lot had happened and it was good too. If I was offered to change something in my past, I would probably refuse. I’m glad I was goth as a teenager, for example. It was a good and interesting subculture. Or it was good that I chose this particular uni because that’s where I met the guys. But it’s also nice to think about the future. Although it is a little scary.
Max: Two feelings: the first is, ‘Wow, so much has happened’, the second, ‘Wow, there is not much time left but you still have sooo much to do.’
Dima: That so far everything I wanted has happened.
Ilya: That I did everything right. I like where I am right now.
Okelsandr: I’m quite satisfied, but you can always do better. So I keep on trying.
Is there someone who inspires, real or fictional?
Les: Oh, there are a lot. Well, for example, Superman. Clark Kent is cool from many points of view. Firstly, he’s a modest guy from a village, although he wears red shorts over his pants. But he is not alone in that. Secondly, no matter how disappointed people are, he never holds a grudge against them. Each time he helps as much as he can. He’s a very balanced dude. Thirdly, despite all his super-features, he is not starstruck. When he wears glasses, no one recognizes him anymore, and he is not offended by that. So be like Superman.
Max: I am inspired by such personalities like, for example, the drummer Travis Barker, the chef Jamie Oliver, the showman Dwayne Johnson, and the modern legend Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this regard, I am very pop. But it seems to me that everything is simple here. You should be a fanatic of your business with an absolutely clean outlook on the world around you – and then you probably have a chance not only to bring something new to the world but to bring things to a completely different level.
Dima: I like Quentin Tarantino for being unpredictable.
Creativity must be unpredictable. And amazing.
Ilya: Zhenya Mikhailenko – a Ukrainian chef and owner of Food vs Marketing. He created the best ramen in Ukraine. The dude debugged all the processes and created such an ideal product that when critics give him bad reviews he either tells them to fuck off or says that you can’t please everyone.
Okelsandr: Despite the kitsch and predictability of the pop culture of the ’80s, it captivates with its honesty, the romance of movie heroes, and the music stars of that time.
As a young band from Ukraine, what disappoints you in the local music business?
Les: Not that it disappoints, but it’s rather upsetting – the lack of developed infrastructure in this industry. We are no longer the first wave of Ukrainian music. But oftentimes organizing a concert in a regional center takes a lot of work for our director Bory Ginzhuk. It’s impossible to find partners on the spot. It hasn’t grown but I understand why it happened this way.
Max: The speed with which the music and show business market in Ukraine changes is disappointing. But I am glad that despite this, every year new faces appear and are prepared to try to change this.
Dima: Yes, the market is too small.
Ilya: It’s disappointing when there is a popular single on a global scale and our local show business copies the entire thing, both the audio and the visuals. It’s so stupid.
Okelsandr: The overall underdeveloped state of the market disappoints and the obvious inferiority complex of both the artists and the public. You have more respect for artists and concert promoters who manage to do something spectacular, original, and at the same time financially successful.
What film, book, or anime reality could you recommend and why? Would you like to experience the realities of these fictional worlds?
Les: Oh, there are so many cool stories in the world. Comic books: Gideon Falls, Bedlam, Among the Sheep, Mor. These are all very cool stories outside the popular worlds of DC and Marvel. Although there was an issue in Batman that I remember very well, where the Joker simply destroyed Harvey Dent. Dent was a prosecutor and a fighter against crime until he became a two-faced man. And so the Joker said to him, ‘If one catastrophe was enough for you to give up your ideals, were those ideals really yours?’ It’s a very cool thought!
I wouldn’t want to be in Gotham. From many points of view, we are already there.
I am a fan of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Fountain’. For me, it has a lot of meaning. And the music is great. I suggest checking it out. Books: ‘Eclipse’ by Philip Dick, ‘Atlantis Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand, ‘Possibility of an Island’ by Michel Welbeck, ‘Neuromancer’ by William Gibson. Of course, I would like to visit the world of ‘Neuromancer’ because this is a world where everything is technologically possible. Google’s Ray Kurzweil says this is the world we’re moving toward as a civilization. If it would be possible to be in that world as a tourist I would definitely book a tour.
Max: I can’t really recommend anything because I read mostly specialized literature.
Dima: ‘Chapaev and Emptiness’ by Pelevin. It’s very fascinating to surf in different realities and epochs. When I first smoked Salvia Divinorum, I experienced something similar. I realized that there is more than one reality.
Ilya: I would like to get inside the Yellow Submarine cartoon.
Okelsandr: Films: Get Carter (1971) with Michael Kane. Valhalla Rising (2009) with Mads Mikkelson. They keep you in suspense and entertain at the same time. Books: a biography “Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed” by Paul Trinka, it impresses with the description of details and the extraordinary character of the artist.
Abstractly speaking, if you were music, which instrument would you be and how would this choice reflect your personalities?
Les: The bass guitar, of course. You don’t become the bass so easily. This instrument is often ridiculed in all sorts of jokes. Therefore, there is a tendency to underestimate its role. But the mass, along with the drums, makes the cabin swing to the beat. The bass guitar is a dark cardinal of music. It has a cunning character.
Max: I would like to be a saxophone. The saxophone plays either the simplest part in the background or it leads a solo in the center – it’s very about me.
Ilya: I am the Fender Stratocaster. No doubt about it.
Okelsandr: Something made of brass. The horns, for example, have a wonderful timbre and melodic parts.
What are some of the things that you’ve never done but you really want to at some point?
Les: Stage diving. It’s a crazy thing. But I can’t even imagine what it’s like when you actually do it and I’m not entirely sure that someone actually catches you at all. People just pick you up. Like the ‘Leap of Faith’ in Assassin’s Creed. But to dare to do it takes balls.
Max: I would like to fly into outer space.
Dima: I would like to ride a jet ski. I’ve never done it before, although I could have done it every past summer, I never dared to.
Ilya: I want to ride roller coasters in America.
Okelsandr: To climb a mountain above 5,000 meters to feel that you can go even higher.
What was the wisest thing you’ve heard?
Les: Never spend money you don’t have. Unless you can borrow it from your relatives. But only if they are prepared to forgive your debt.
Max: At school, the phrase of one of the ancient Greek guys stuck in my head – “I only know that I know nothing.”
Dima: It’s better to be healthy and rich than sober and sick.
Ilya: “We’re all gonna die, so let’s be nice”. © Iggy Pop.
Okelsandr: A piece of advice that said that first, you have to plan and only then act.
What piece of advice would you give to humanity?
Stop trying to save the planet. Everything will be fine with the planet, no matter the temperature, with or without living beings on it, with or without a crazy radiation background. The planet doesn’t care. It’s a solid ball in space that flew before we existed and that will continue to do so once we cease to exist. It’s a better idea to save your own ass. All the calls to save the planet are really calls to take care of yourself. And humanity does not know a better world for itself than this one.
Max: It’s a good question, but I’m not ready to answer it and I wouldn’t want to say some nonsense. I will think about it and make sure that next time someone asks me – I will have an answer to that.
Dima: That’s too difficult for me.
Ilya: Eat lots of fruits and stay out of jail.
Okelsandr: Support space exploration programs.
What’s the most memorable question you were asked?
Les: If I could be replaced. I’ve been asked this question several times in my life. Somehow that’s what happened – whether it’s possible for someone to do the same things at work without me. I now think about it from time to time.
Max: People constantly ask one very memorable question at the checkout in supermarkets: ‘Are you 18?’
Dima: In kindergarten, I was asked: ‘Is your pillowcase covered in boogers?’. I lied and said that it was not. My heart was pounding.
Ilya: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? It’s the dumbest shit.
Okelsandr: What do you want to do in life?
What is your goal as a band? What are you trying to achieve?
The purpose of music is, above all, to entertain. People use music for just that. They paint their days with music, be it when traveling or during other important moments in life. Our goal is to write as much of that as possible. If we manage to do that then I think we will become a very successful band in every sense of the word.
Max: As Les says – ‘We must become a cult band for Ukraine!’.
We already are a cult band, but only few know about it. For now.
Ilya: To play, to perform on stage, to go on tours, to earn tons of money and spend it on all kinds of nonsense.
Okelsandr: Not to write thoughtless tracks and to never stop evolving. To enjoy concerts and the positive emotions of the audience.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would you answer?
Les: I don’t get interviewed that often so I’m fine with any questions.
Max: I never thought about it, you always think only about those questions that have already been said out loud and you will have to repeat the template answers. It would be interesting to talk about the mistakes that I made when I learned to play drums in bands. Maybe it would help someone. But this is an entirely different conversation.
– Dima, why are you so god-like beautiful?
– I don’t know, I’m shocked myself.
– How did you manage to lose 10kg?
– I stopped drinking alcohol for 6 months and worked out twice a day.
I’m really proud of this.
I looked like a bun my entire life and only at 28 I’ve managed to finally see my abs.
Okelsandr: Questions about my favorite leisure activities. Sometimes you want to satisfy your craving for hedonism.
Translation: Elena Savlokhova