Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Yegor Honcharov

Sergii Ivanov is a journalist, author, host and creator of Антиподи on Ісландия ТV.

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What music-related and cultural media platforms do you read in Ukraine?
Frankly, I visit 2-3 Ukrainian websites sites: Liga, Censor, and I basically need that for work. As for resources related to culture and music, I read Katacult. I really like this platform because they write about electronic music and they do it well, plus they provide links, so I download a lot of music based on their recommendations. I am impressed that they don’t ignore genres that are considered ‘unpopular’ in Ukraine, like industrial, ambient, noise. I believe that they are doing a very important job. They are one of those invisible threads that keep us in touch with the progressive layers of progressive societies. I like it. For example, when I discover Kyiv girls who play ambient or drone, I come to the conclusion that this country is not a lost cause. Among mainstream media outlets, I’m subscribed to Slukh. They sometimes have good projects, but it’s obvious that it’s simpler. I like what Sasha Proletarsky does, he’s from Odessa, and curates projects like Artmageddon, Zvukoryad, yet it’s not underground. Overall, the idea of ​​the underground itself is about being on the verge of extreme points – either from the point of view of absolute sociopathy or from the point of view of being torn out of context and existing in its own realm. I read “ШО“, and I recently discovered your magazine and I think you are doing a great job. That’s my thoughts on Ukrainian media outlets.
I’m interested in what is happening in the world of Ukrainian music, although

I am sure that real music does not exist in relation to toponyms or state borders. Music does not exist in connection to the political system, to any processes, including geopolitical, demographic and civilizational ones.

Real music is always separated from Earth, from all those pressing problems. There are people who believe in God, so if God, or Jesus, was your neighbor who drinks vodka, comes home from work only to beat up his wife, children, and cat, but would still be Jesus, would you like that? Would you believe in him? Hardly. People believe in God because he is good. He a priori possesses certain qualities that a person does not possess. That is the reason why I believe in music. Music for me is one of the hypostases of God, although I cannot say that I am religious. There is an idiom “music of higher spheres”. I believe that this is a very good formulation, that real music comes from higher realms and it does not matter who transcends it, whether it’s Genesis P-Orridge, Coil, Lustmord, Thom Yorke or DakhaBrakha, or whoever else – it does not matter.

How do you feel about the Ukrainian media, and certain Ukrainians themselves, paying extra attention to immigrants from Ukraine who are successful? Considering the fact that the ‘roots’ played no part in achieving that success. For example, there were quite a number of articles regarding a musician who won a Grammy with Ukrainian roots, or mention of the actress who starred in the last film directed by Guy Ritchie, and so on. Pseudo-patriotism of sorts.
It’s an inferiority complex. This happens when you can’t brag or be proud of anything that is yours. People are not happy for them, and actually, they just pull themselves up to their level while reflecting their success on themselves.

The depravity of the morality of our society is that in order to please someone, you must either lower yourself to the level of the person or comply with his attempts to lower you to your level.

For example, in order to please the vast majority of Facebook users, which is the most toxic social network in Ukraine, you must be poor, silent, ultra-patriotic and ‘Soviet’-decent. Well, roughly speaking, the hero of the Ukrainian Facebook community is some kind of Pavel Korchagin wearing a traditionally embroidered shirt or Oleg Kosheva holding the ‘Kobzar’. In other words, a decent Komsomol member with a perfect hair split. A lot of people skillfully use this image and make good money from it. Returning to the question, I can say that, of course, it’s a disgusting sight. Being happy for someone else’s success feels way nicer than being happy for your own, – that is if you are a normal person. I know a lot of people, probably thousands of people, among whom there are a very large number of people whom the war left with nothing and who had to start all over. Not everyone survived: some drank, some died, some were left broken. I have an example of a very successful businessman who, in fact, didn’t lose anything there but simply couldn’t live in that reality. He sought salvation in alcohol. This is just a basic example, there can be a ton of other situations. But when I see people whom the war threw out of their homes, who lost everything, who came here barefoot and yet they found the strength to rise, they found the strength to reassemble themselves and their families, their relatives. It really warms my heart. I even wrote a longread “People from a Blank Slate” for “Focus”.I have goosebumps from talking about this. I am so happy for these people and so proud of them. I am not as happy about my own successes because I am a perfectionist and I believe that a success that could satisfy me has not yet been achieved. Let’s say, I haven’t reached the success that would allow me to leave to the so-called Key West and look at the ocean for days on end, while periodically talking with fish. But I’m sincerely happy for those people. Returning to the question, what difference does it make whether you have Ukrainian roots or not?! Seriously, what’s the difference ?! Just be happy for the person who wrote a powerful piece of music, who created a talented movie or starred in such a movie. Just be happy for the person instead of poking around in the metrics. Strictly speaking, there is nothing good in the fact that a person who has Ukrainian roots had to leave the country to achieve success. If this person left or his ancestors left, then that decision wasn’t made because of a good life. If things were good here then people would stay and create here. Like Lubomir Melnik, the fastest pianist in the world. He is good. His solo albums, as well as features with Nils Frahm, Kiasmos and so on, are divine pieces of music. Yet he is Ukrainian only ethnically because he was recognized elsewhere.
How did these Ukrainian roots help these people? Maybe, on the contrary, the fact that they did not stay here helped them to rid themselves of the disgusting qualities of a modern Ukrainian. The modern Ukrainian is very often a “twist” of some unresolved post-Soviet issues, radical Orthodox convictions, cheap quasi-Christian ethics and greed. The envy is generally one of the cornerstones of the Ukrainian mentality, unfortunately, as centuries of slavery and oppression have not passed without a trace.

So what is the Ukrainian mentality?

The Ukrainian mentality is the mentality of a deeply traumatized person who, metaphorically speaking, was raped in childhood, beaten at school, humiliated at university, opressed and harassed at work – it is the mentality of a victim.

Yet at the same time we have very good qualities as well. Sometimes, once every 10 years, we get fed up, which leads us to cause the perfect chaos, taking down cops, destroying state institutions, getting rid of corrupt officials and so on. It’s great. In general, Ukraine is an ideal territory for an anarchist society. The thing is – we simply cannot afford it. Neither could it be allowed by our neighbors, on either side. The doctrine of the modern world order cannot allow this. Well, we would very quickly annihilate ourselves in this case. It would be spectacular, beautiful, but very quick. Makhnovism is in every cell of the collective Ukrainian body. Actually, that’s why we are in such an ass of a situation. We cannot organize ourselves in a lasting framework of order that wouldn’t destroy us. I guess there is a certain style to it. Who said that self-destruction is out of style? I love the track by Nine Inch Nails – Mr. Self Destruct, ’94. I think the lyrics are very compatible with modern Ukraine – “I drag you down, I use you up, Mr. Self Destruct” 

How to keep your humanity in modern society, especially in the era of social networks?

Our troublesome time has significantly expanded the understanding of humanity as a definition and as a philosophical phenomenon. In our reality, humanity is often a case of cruelty.

Could you give an example of what you mean?
If you see a person degrading and turning into an animal with two brain cells, one of which is green and the other burgundy, and you tell that person that he is a degenerate Pithecanthropus, that he is going through involution, instead of evolution, and you hurt and insult him, yet it’s a humane act.

Well then, in this case, there are two possible outcomes: either he will acknowledge the good intentions and introduce change into his life, or he will start a so-called movement “you hurt my rights”.
A third option is possible – the two brain cells will change to different colors and the person will temporarily fall out of the aggressive paradigm in which he is situated. In order to stay human, you need to stay away from herds and groups, especially those that are large in scale. I was an active participant of the Maidan and I do not regret it for a second. It allowed me to become myself again. It was wonderful, despite a large number of people with who in real life I would never have anything in common. It was like some kind of injection that everyone was given simultaneously.

Freedom is a drug. That’s the absolute value. Freedom is above all. But you need to stay away from herds. A herd is always a summary of compromises. Relatively speaking, imagine a politician or a public figure on Facebook who has a number of followers consisting of a composer, plumber, a housewife with a cat profile picture, a girl with huge lips on the background of the Berdyansk Riviera, a boy with a Latin phrase tattoo with 4 misspells and so on. They all come together to support a particular persona but outside of that what do they have in common? The simple answer is nothing. They can never be together. This is always an artificial sum of certain compromises of its participants, related to their loyalty to a particular politician or whoever else.

The boy with the Latin tattoo will never like the asshole pianist because he has dandruff on his shoulders and overly tender hands. A plumber is unlikely to desire the girl with puffy lips on the background of the Berdyansk Riviera – if he’s lucky, then he might say farewell to her after the sauna. The girl herself doesn’t want any of them, she doesn’t even want that politician, she just wants to be a part of something or to pretend to be someone, apart from being the plumber’s object of desire. In reality, she just wants Brad Pitt or Leo.

In the semantic system.
This is more relevant to semiotics as semantics still must be reached. If society is already divided, and people consider themselves essentially obliged to choose a side, they identify themselves by some of the freshly acquired signs. I do not know what prompted the girl or that guy to take this side. No one knows. Maybe she likes that color more, he likes beautiful girls, and the pianist is just certain that he is saving Ukraine’s culture. Everyone has different motives and goals. I try to stay as far away as possible from all these groups, especially from groups formed on a political basis, or on a common religious belief. I consider this to be a rudimentary phenomenon, which, unfortunately, we could not rid ourselves of. It’s as if Kyiv still has a tail while the rest of the world evolved not to have one. We walk with these invisible tails. You ask: “How to remain human?” What is the starting point of that and who is rating it? To be human for yourself or in the eyes of someone else?

For yourself.
There is one path and this path is existential. You just need to keep your ground. What Stirner wrote in his work “The Unique and Its Property” – no one has yet invented anything better. You have to be a loner, in the best sense of the word, and talk to other loners sometimes when you want it, without putting a strain on yourself. There will always be a herd will always be so even despite hate – listen to other loners. Because an outsider always causes distress, often hatred, but it’s still a curiosity. Not that I absolutely want to ignore any collective processes, for example, from time to time I help raise money to help those sick or to the front. This is an example of just a good collaboration of people, but one should not overestimate its scale. I am very close to people who are professionally involved in charity work. Having written about or misfortunate: a person can get 2,000 comments saying “stay strong” but only receive 5,000UAH from those 2000 people. It may be obvious to say, but the main idea is to be yourself and not try to please someone else. Besides, it’s impossible to please everyone. I am generally very surprised by people who are trying to please everyone and be liked by everyone. What for? For what?

Perhaps it’s an inferiority complex from childhood traumas.
I’m not even sure that it’s inferiority. A human does everything in order to please someone. For what? I see no benefits in this. It is important to be able to say unpleasant things to yourself. If you act like an asshole, you must be able to tell yourself that you are acting like an asshole. If you offended someone, you should be able to say “sorry”. Yes, apologizing is often painful and unpleasant. You may not like it, but it has to be done. This is necessary first of all to you. It doesn’t humiliate you – it raises you. Overcoming one’s vices and fears is always elevating. You need to protect your territory, build your own individual pillbox and keep your defense because the herds have never done anything good in the history of mankind. All good civilizational breakthroughs are associated with specific names, the names of individuals. Remind me of anything that was done by a herd? A herd never wins. It may be involved in some processes that in the long run will grant good results, but that’s pretty much it.

It can be led.
Then who leads it? We are still talking about the loner who leads the herd. I don’t believe in the collective consciousness. There are memes that have created a certain number of minds. If there are 10,000 people with the flu, we don’t emphasize them on this basis. How do 10,000 people with influenza differ from 10,000 Zelensky fans or Poroshenko fans who are fanatically loyal to them? All of them need to be treated. It is necessary to treat all fanatics, whether religious or political. People who get the flu or coronavirus are really unfortunate people, they are unlucky. They need sympathy, yet at the same time, they need to be kept in quarantine.

Isn’t there a difference between flu patients and fanatics? What about the mindfulness of choice?
No, I believe that this is not a conscious choice. I believe that this is a consequence of the manipulation of consciousness and embedding the mind with certain memes. Most people lack internal critical cognitive mechanisms, they have no cognitive immunity. In this sense, it’s easier for me – I’ve trained that through reading books ever since I was a child. I always tried to stay away from Soviet education and all these collective events. In order not to join the Komsomol, I deliberately got arrested by the police. The following day, the district police officer came to school so everything was postponed, and then the Union fell apart. My pioneer tie was ‘decorated’ with badges of anarchy, The GO, Sex Pistols and so on. Therefore, I do not believe that people can consciously choose to be a part of such a herd and degradation. Let’s say there are people who suffer from some mental disorders, and they are absolutely certain that they are consciously doing something. The person who considers himself, sorry for the banal example, Napoleon, is absolutely sure that he is Napoleon and he consciously does it. Another thing is that his consciousness, at the moment, is in a slightly different condition than the consciousness of all the others. Why not think about that? The fact that a person allegedly agrees with something internally and thinks his arguments are based on common sense is nonsense. It’s not a fact.

The coronavirus hits its victims the say way as does Ukrainian political propaganda – the same unfortunate people who are infected against their will. The same goes to propaganda in the US or in Europe that suffers from the plague.  

What’s the flipside of power?
For the person or for society?

Let’s go with the individual first and then society.
It’s a loss of identity, it’s always a trauma, it’s always withdrawal from your real self. I know it. I obtained my ambitions of power at the age of 27. I was one of the youngest prosecutors in Ukraine in 2004. I wanted it, but I don’t know why I needed it. I was assigned to work early, in my fifth year, and I ended up in a system where I needed to grow further. I worked a lot in order to achieve it and then I achieved it. And then what? Then everything seemed the same, only the district, region, level and so on changed. But overall, it was all the same. I realized that at the age of 27 my life has already ended, that “everything is going according to plan”, as Yegor Letov sang, and this would be my forever life. It broke me. It was not just a blow, it was an internal void explosion.

How did you overcome it?
I didn’t say that I did. I didn’t manage. It broke me because, in order to achieve career well-being, I had to abandon a number of qualities. Not knowingly. Some qualities were somehow lost in the system. I just realized that I was 27 years old and my life was over – I knew everything that would happen and how my life would go according to schedule. I’d have my Moleskine in front of me, framed by day and by week, and fuck, that would be forever. Then I had a very severe psychological breakdown, from which I tried to get out of in numerous ways: with the help of alcohol, tranquilizers, antidepressants, by communicating with people who could give me some advice. But nothing helped, nothing helped at all. I just survived it somehow. And I might not have survived. There are people who fall ill with a serious illness, they are told: “You will either get through it or you won’t.” I survived, but I still have this gigantic scar from that period, so since then I have been clearly convinced, I know, I saw for myself that

The flipside of power is the destruction of your real self. 

You have to use an avatar, you must become a golem, you must clear yourself entirely to make room for meanings for people on who you will now depend until the end of your life. That’s all. The same applies to everyone – and to presidents too. It’s just that many of them are happy with it, they like this kind of life, they think that it makes sense. I, as a person who was engaged in creativity, music, and literature from childhood, suddenly realized that that was it for me and that I would sign papers until the end of my life.
Although there was a time when I really did the right thing. In the late nineties, I worked in the prosecutor’s office in Lugansk during the gang wars in Donbass. I worked as a detective. We had no protection. All the cops were bribed by bandits. I was taking part in the investigation of murders, including working on active gangs. Back then I thought that I was doing the right thing. Everything was very clear – you are the law, and as a decision of public consensus, you are identified as good. Subjective, but good. If there is a person who violated the rules of public consensus and its conditions, then such a person should be in prison. Everything is very clear. You feel like someone who takes out all the shit. The work is unpleasant, but it’s clean after your work is done. When you become a boss and, if you become a person who cannot change the system, then there are two options: you either become part of it or, like a wolf, you bite your paw off and try to escape from there. I will tell you honestly that I left a lot there, both my health and my self-esteem. This is despite the fact that I understand that I’ve done a lot of good things and several dozen criminals, thanks to my efforts, ended up in jail and did not kill anyone else. Often, when some people start saying to me: “You’re a former prosecutor,” I reply: “Dude, you have a daughter, for example, imagine if I didn’t put that dude in prison and he would come to kill her and rape her.” Where is the guarantee that he wouldn’t? Let’s not joke with the butterfly effect, these are very serious things. But in terms of how I dealt with it personally – it was a terrible experience.

If you could change something from the past, what would you change?
Two things. I wouldn’t let my band fall apart in 1996 and I would finish recording the LP, not just the singles. Well, and I wouldn’t smoke, probably. That’s all. Globally, I would not change anything. Everything that I went through by the age of 30 was terrible for my mental state but it was a tremendous chunk of experience. I looked at the world through the eyes of a sixty-year-old man. Combined with my natural infantilism, it produced strange results. But I don’t care to be honest. I am often called a knucklehead or a sociopath. But I do not care, I do not have authorities whose opinion would be so important for me that I would want to change significantly.

It’s not a bad thing actually.
Yes, but people who want me to consider them as authorities do not think so. When I came here and started looking for work, they kept saying that I need to learn from certain people. I asked: “Why?! That person is mediocre.” Seriously. I’ve read an article from someone who I supposedly had to deem an expert – a rhythm of shit, semantic contradictions, cliches, just plain obnoxious. I will not write like that, because I am ashamed to write like that. I don’t want my mother to read it or father, who both are philologists and know their stuff. I’ve spent my entire childhood with books and most of my youth, and that is why I simply must write beautifully. Over time, of course, the bar of self-requirements falls, or rather, you learn to separate moments when you write something for mass consumption and when you write something for yourself. Did you ever think why McDonald’s sells us a bigmac and doesn’t decorate it with rosemary or rose petals? Yes, because it’s fast food. Their whole task is to sell as many bigmacs as possible. People who come to McDonald’s come for fast food. Therefore, it is so important to take the forms people require. If you use the references to music, then I like all these collaborators of Brian Eno and other ambient musicians, when atmospheric, shapeless music is dressed in the form of rhythm so that people just feel more comfortable dancing. Therefore, I use forms of classical journalism and journalism, but at the same time, I try to bring in elements of ambient music. As for creativity, everything is very strict with me – no compromises. If I sit down to write something artistic, then I don’t have any compromises at all – I don’t want anyone to like it, so trends and marketing can go to hell.

What books impressed you the most?
My ultimate favorite, for several years now, is Cormac McCarthy. He wrote “The Road,” “No Country for Old Men”, but “Bloody Meridian” is his most powerful novel. I just bought it in London in the original language. I even have a tattoo dedicated to this book, that’s how much it impressed me. You won’t believe it, but when I was flying to America, I began to read it on the plane, read it in America, and upon returning, I read the last word when the plane landed. They said the turbulence was crazy but I didn’t even feel it. I haven’t been so lost in something for a long time. This is probably one of the best books of the 20th century. At least it is at this moment, for me. If someone has written something better then I shall accept it upon discovery. I really love Vladimir Sorokin. He’s great. He is not just a writer, but also a very skilled stylist. Have you read “Blue Lard“?

Oh, you absolutely must. It’s hard to explain. This is a person who masters any literary form. In the novel, he dissects Akhmatova, Platonov, Nabokov, Dostoevsky and so on. He perfectly mimics them. Since my parents are philologists, I consumed a lot of Russian literature. It made a serious impression on me. From what has remained with me for life – Platonov, of course. Before I met Cormac McCarthy, I seriously considered Platonov to be the best writer of the 20th century: no one knew how to work with words like him, the Russian word, both before or after him. He is a man of tragic fate and of course he is a genius. If you asked me to name the top 5 writers, it’s McCarthy, Platonov, Rabelais, Cervantes … “Foucault Pendulum” by Umberto Eco is particularly orgasmic. Especially in the Ukrainian translation made by Maryana Prokopovich. I don’t speak Italian, but I didn’t read it in English, I read it in Russian and in Ukrainian. I can surely declare that the Ukrainian translation of this book is a hundred times cooler than the Russian one.   This brilliant work by Maryana should have been awarded a prize, but I haven’t heard if she was given something for it. This, by the way, is about assessing what we call Ukrainian culture. Sometimes you don’t have to invent anything, you can simply do your job skillfully and expect respect for it. How many people in this country translated Umberto Eco who is a professor of semiotics, at such a level that people would want to read it? Read it and re-read it?

How many people will even take notice of that?
Who knows and it’s rather sad. It’s where we begun this conversation – Kyiv girls who play ambient, who do their job talentedly. I am proud of them the same way I am proud of Prokopovic. 

Speaking of the notorious Ukrainian mentality, when we were just starting out, we received more support from other countries, because here it is a rare occurrence when you are supported, especially at the beginning of your journey. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to work with foreigners than with Ukrainians. Okay, then back to music. What was the most memorable concert you’ve attended?
I attend concerts with my son. The paradox of life: he is now listening to the same music that I listened to at his age. The cycle has passed and the same thing is in fashion again. Let’s say, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive. It’s clear that our playlists are not identical, but they are very similar. He plays himself. His band ZFeelZ is now signed to a label. I look, listen, and attend concerts. I like to watch them grow. Together we attend a lot of concerts. I really liked the Faith No More concert in Krakow in 2015, Enter Shikari at the Alexandra Palace, in London in 2016. This was the last point of their tour and they did everything in an adult manner. Now their popularity has slightly fallen, but then it really struck me. They were very cool. I really enjoyed the King Krule concert in Vilnius. I thought he would kill himself in the end. Seriously, I thought he would kill himself on stage. The man tormented his Mustang so much that blood whipped from his hands. Tonight he released a new single, which is great. Incidentally, I met him at the hotel and I have pictures with him. I’m lucky that way. I can meet Yellow Days on the street in Soho in broad daylight.

Would you like to interview musicians?
With pleasure. I think that we will do that at some point. The Antipodes project was originally conceived in such a form that people who were my antipodes would come to the channel and we would discuss things in a harsh manner. But you never know where the format will take you. As a result, it turned out differently than expected. We try to invite different people who are antipodes to each other. This is much more interesting because if you are always against something, you will become a hostage to one singular role. We invite completely different people. For example, Adolfich will come tomorrow, and after him, we’re expecting the Minister of Defense. These are such different people but it just makes things so much more interesting. Of course, I would like to integrate a maximum number of cultural representatives as well. I think we will deal with this in the near future. I would not want to dwell in politics and solely speak to public figures.

Ukrainian politicians are celebrities more than celebrities.
It’s true. At one point in time, our politicians were merely a clan of money-grubbers and embezzlers – as quiet and inconspicuous as the Masonic lodge, a company of people with a secret handshake, “Hieros gamos [ed. note: a ritual copulation], etc. And then Schuster came and made everyone rock stars. It’s a Russian formula, he just used it in Ukraine. From blowing ministers to ensure his well-being-being Lyashko became a media person who now monetizes from his own image. Yulia Tymoshenko started on the leaflet “Freedom to Yulia” that was glued to a lampost, and is now the ‘mother’ of the Ukrainian nation, as she positions herself. Petro Poroshenko, thanks to Schuster realized that having gold teeth is not a good look. You can go on with these examples infinitely. They became rock stars. They act like rock stars. Have you seen how Kiva behaves? Well, he behaves like an average Westcoast rapper who walks in a hoodie and baggy pants and so on. By the way, if you translate Kiva’s speeches into English and add a couple of beats, you might end up with a good album as a result.

I would say it’s closer to Russian rap.
Russian rap is an aftermath of the western mumble rap of sorts. 

A rather bad one.
Modern Russian rap is just “bad.” So if you keep Kiva’s speeches as they are then you have a popular album of Russian rap, if translated into English – an unpopular wannabe mumble album. The only thing about him is the fact that he won’t kill himself with drugs, like Lil Peep. Unfortunately, he won’t get murdered like XXXTentacion.

The rockstars reflect the country. Let’s be frank. Do you know who are the main rock stars in Ukraine? Among men it’s Poplavsky, and among women – Nina Matvienko.

They completely fall into the paradigm of patriotism, which does not prevent them from receiving money on corporate parties of pro-Russian politicians. These are the Ukrainian rock stars that we have. Poplavsky, Zibrov, Nina Matvienko – these are Ukrainian ‘rock’ stars. Vakarchuk is not a rock star, neither in parliament nor on stage. He came to parliament in order to become a pale copy of Petro Poroshenko. And so it happened exactly like that. He came to music to become a pale copy of Oasis and all Brit-pop bands from the mid-nineties.

Only there is no one he can publicly argue with.
If there is a hypothetical “brother”, then he is a representative of the Lviv intellectuals, so he cannot tell him to fuck off and punch him in the face. The Gallaghers of a country. This covers our previous discussion about people joining herds. I dream that the herds in our country would argue whether Blur is cooler than Oasis, instead of arguing whether Poroshenko is cooler than Zelensky, or vice versa. The eternal questions: “Who’s guilty? What should we do? Oasis or Blur?”.
I would like for us to tear shirts on ourselves and argue who is cooler between Yuko or Dakhabrakha, for example. That would be a normal thing. In the meantime, until people here are willing to gnaw each other’s throats just because someone loves Poroshenko, and someone loves Zelensky — nothing good awaits us.

Not a single politician is worthy of people having such vicious arguments in his sake, even the best one. In general, no one is worthy. Not a single idol is worth it.

Jesus is not worth cutting his throat for. I hope you do not justify the means of the Inquisition and the Crusades?

Of course not.
If Jesus is not worthy of that, why is Yulia Tymoshenko worthy? I am very sorry that somehow we somehow return to the canvas of all these characters. But, on the other hand, speaking about them is a very simple way to portray how deeply stuck we are in a small-town mentality, with an ideologically narrow gap between the worlds. We’ve also returned to your question about being proud of someone else’s accomplishments, – by the way, that was a great question. That is a very good observation.

It’s everywhere. It’s like an eyesore that hurts every time when you monitor Ukrainian media. A disgusting trend.
I honestly know about this, but I haven’t paid attention to it, and here you are with that question and it explained a lot to me. Listen, Leonardo DiCaprio’s grandmother is from Odesa, let’s make him president of Ukraine. Why not?

Because he doesn’t need Ukraine.
Well yes. In fact, the people who are doing this and who attract all these images, I’m not sure that even they need Ukraine. That is, Ukraine that they need does not exist. And it never will.

They’re simply trying to create a brand from Ukraine. The quality is questionable, but it’s still a brand. It works somehow. That’s what they do with all these artists…
Because our president is Monica Zelensky [ed. note – A reference to Monica Lewinsky, who was embroiled in a sex scandal with former US President Bill Clinton]. Real art exists generally in another dimension, with which we communicate through a very thin, intangible umbilical cord, unfortunately. Of course, I would like for us to someday become wholesome.

What excites you the most in journalism?
One of the characters of ‘Foucault’s Pendulum‘, a detective, says an excellent phrase: “I just do a wicked craft, and the worst part is that I like it.” The same thing for me. I don’t know what journalism is and whether it exists at all. What is journalism? BBC standards? No.

Did you know that BBC standards, which Ukrainian journalists love to restrict themselves by, exist exclusively in Ukraine. The BBC has never heard of them.

Another variation of the fucking Komsomol: journalistic solidarity, a media workshop, and that sort of thing. If we talk about the phenomenon itself, then I like talking to people, both real and imaginary. It doesn’t matter in what form: epistolary, in the format of conversations or the format of writing some artistic sketches, stories, and so on. I like to communicate. I don’t know who needs it more – me or other people. Probably me. This is what I do. Through my internal filters, I pass on things, events and share them with people. I try to do it as honestly as possible.

Is there a particular person you’ve spoken to or interviewed who was the most memorable?
I apologize for banality, but you know, I can say that we work in such a way to open up people from new perspectives. For me, every person who comes to speak to me is interesting. We simply don’t invite uninteresting people. We don’t have this thing like on TV channels, where it’s all repetitive and you speak to the same people all the time. I am grateful to the project in which I take part in, for the fact that we have been granted complete creative freedom and nothing limits my choices other than my internal moral laws. Moreover, we are now significantly expanding the list of people with whom we will communicate. Communication with many of these people will be perceived by a separate part of society as a spit in the face. Well, who said I mind doing that?
Of the people with whom I spoke, I remember a man named Stas. It happened around 1992 in some basement in Lugansk. There was a drug-punk gathering and then Stas appeared. He looked like a hero of Platonov’s “Chevengur“. He just emerged, opened a 96-sheet notebook and began to read. Absolutely brilliant. Almost 30 years have passed, and I can’t forget some of the things he said. Phrases like, “the world consists of pine trees and instincts, we are friends with the trees, and instincts are acquired.” We were stoned that day. He really struck me. I walked for a very long time in a state of awe. It doesn’t fade still. Incidentally, I integrated it into one of my stories. It was a genius in his purest form, it was incomprehensible where he came from, he was restless, and he vanished effortlessly. I’m not at all sure if it happened. Maybe he is a figment of my imagination. Well, probably he was real. He disappeared somewhere and probably died since that encounter. Probably. Because people whose work stands on such levels do not live long. It was just a man who came in, drank a glass of ethanol, smokes a chem cigarette with a syringe sticking out of his vein, which he forgot to take out. At the same time, he opens his notebook and begins to read something that both Kharms and Borges would be jealous of. This was the most memorable interview. I talked with him for a while, provided that he was not a figment of my imagination, but I think he was real. By the way, you are the first person I told this.

Thank you, I appreciate it. Do you have a favorite villain, whether fictional or real?
I could say that Petrov is, but Petrov turned out to be not bad at all. By the way, he disappointed me with this.
Petrov: Should I get up, approach someone, punch them in the face and then come back and sit down?
Ivanov: Well, I would like you even more after that. What does a negative character mean? An interesting person always has a double foundation and is always ambiguous.

The villain may be negative, but this does not mean that he is necessarily bad in the direct sense of the word.
The judge from “Blood Meridian“. He echoes a little with the character of Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Men”. I don’t understand why this novel by McCarthy’s was not screen adapted yet. This judge is a grander character – a bald dude, a thug judge who whacks dozens, hundreds of people. In order to make money on Native American scalps, he forces to scalp Mexicans, just to make more money. Moreover, he takes care of a boy with a mental disorder, and when they are robbed, they just walk naked through the desert together. I don’t want to spoil much, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a character more negative yet at the same time attractive. The same feelings go out to Stas. The finale of this novel has the perfect rhythm and it is pure joy. It’s like breathing air out on the balcony on your birthday when you are 10 years old; you know that your friends are coming over, they’re bringing presents, your parents are with you, and everything is just great. Everything is perfect. Age and time form slightly different ideas about beauty. As for the character in real life … Do I respect or despise him?

The times we live in though – so many assholes but no one worthy of respect.

What about the figures of the past?
Sartre, maybe. He was an absolute bastard, but a talented one. Could I respect him? I think yes. Salvador Dali is an absolute scumbag, but yes to him too. There are many villains in the past worthy of respect.

Why is it difficult to find those who are around now?
You see, those people who are considered to be negative for one reason or another, they usually turn out to be total scumbags, so respectively, there is nothing to respect them for. Or they turn out to be not at all negative, like Petrov. I know how difficult and ambiguous this person is, but, believe me, among the universally recognized moral, socially positive people, you can hardly find anyone… In short, he is much better than he is trying to seem. If you imagine Petrov in the form of an iceberg, then this whole tip means nothing really. You need to look at what’s underwater because when you look under the water, it absolutely eliminates the tip. But there are such depths that you cannot explore, depths that can manifest themselves in some way, and no one knows if you can even accept it. In general, my relationship with myself is not the finest. I despise and respect myself. There are times when I don’t communicate with myself at all. I had such periods in my life when I totally hated myself. Maybe this will be perceived as if I dodged the question to avoid a quarrel with someone. Do you know why it’s easier to talk about people from the past? Because they are no longer here and they’ve done everything so it’s much easier to draw conclusions about them. In a hypothetical extreme case, Sartre’s diary will pop up, in which he wrote that he was hiding under the pseudonym Eichmann [ed. note – The German officer directly responsible for the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War] and he came up with the Holocaust stuff. This is a delirious example, but you get my point. What I mean is that little can change in their legacy. In the present, people are constantly changing, they are becoming better and worse. This is a value judgment, but people change and become different. Besides the fact that people are changing, the point is changing with respect to which estimates are made and with respect to which a person is changing. From the point of view of formal logic and common sense, it is more reasonable to evaluate processes in statics, therefore I prefer to evaluate people who have already stopped their actions. I can assess a specific activity, a specific fact, a specific phrase, a specific act of a particular person. But I never deprive this person of the opportunity to do something differently – be it worse or better. There is a category of people who are absolute scum but let’s not talk about them on the pages of your esteemed publication. Let them live. They are already punished by the fact that they are scum.

What was the most memorable question you were ever asked?
I once spoke with a man sentenced to life imprisonment, he was even sentenced to be shot, but then the death penalty was abolished. So a man came, face full of wrinkles, tattoos on his arms, in an orange robe, and I needed to interrogate him on some matter briefly. He was treated with reverence – after all, the man was sentenced to death. He was taken to the investigation room, we sat down, and I don’t know why I remember it, but he asked who I was, so I told him that I was a law student and then he saw that I had some kind of book with me. If my memory serves me right, then it was a book by Charles De Coster about Ulenspiegel. I love this author very much, and even when I was in Brussels, I went to his grave. The monument is the form of Til, the protagonist of the novel. As a result, he approved my book and asked what I would advise him to read. It struck me so much because a person was basically sentenced to death. I don’t remember whether a moratorium was imposed on the execution at that point or not, but even so, it was a life sentence nevertheless. Typically, prisoners asked to get a date, cigarettes, or something like that, and this dude just asked what he should read. That day I realized that I probably made one of the main conclusions of my life –

At any stage of life, even during the most terrible and darkest times, in moments of utter doom, you can always grab a book and just read.

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
I really love it when I get asked questions about music. I really like music, very specific music. If I were asked which band influenced me the most, I would perhaps say NIN, Faith No More, My Bloody Valentine, Pixies.

What band would you want to join?
Good question. Of the modern ones, I really like the Deli Girls duet – an industrial act with female hardcore vocals. I love Clipping. Maybe even MGMT, I really respect those dudes. But if you take the absolute, I would like to become part of any project with the involvement of Mike Patton [ed. note – shows tattoo].

What is your dream gig if time and place were out of the question?
I would love to visit Woodstock in 1994 when NIN performed. A primeval fury, a heroin explosion. It was more than a show.


Translation: Elena Savlokhova