Interview: Sasha Varenitsa
Photo: Ksenia Tverdohleb

THE MAUNT is a Ukrainian Alternative/Industrial-rock band.

 ~ Released on the Много Воды label

Facebook x Website x Instagram x YouTube

You were studying in the US, what was that like for you?
During the 2008-2009 period I took a guitar class at the Los Angeles College of Music, but the college’s educational system also provided general musical knowledge and development. The emphasis was on guitar lessons of course, but I also went through various other subjects. I even worked on arrangements for a small brass orchestra.

Is there something in particular that you think you have learned only in America and would not have been able to learn anywhere else?
The thing is I’m not too familiar with the musical educational system in Ukraine, so I can only assume what the differences are. I think that, first of all, it all depends on the level of the industry and its demands. That’s what affects the educational side of things. A lot of universities have specific angles that they focus on in order for the musician to be prepared for the outside world and its challenges after he or she graduates. You gain a clear comprehension of styles, an understanding of music in general, the key aspects of a composition, production, recording, etc. In addition, you get a good technical base. And, of course, it’s all about your tutors. We’re talking about first-class musicians. Even through simple conversations with them you learn a lot. You constantly learn things. Because of the fact that the music industry in the US is way more professional and versatile, musicians have an opportunity to engage not just in one particular direction. For instance, the head of the guitar department Tariq Akoni was also one of the music directors of the Grammy Awards, and he also toured and recorded music with such legends like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Herbie Hancock. So, students not only get a grasp on the practical side of things, but also learn history first-hand.  

Is THE MAUNT you first band? 
No, far from it. I’ve been in many bands before I stuck with THE MAUNT. At first I only played guitar and then I’ve started co-producing songs.The story of THE MAUNT began in 2015.

THE MAUNT started in the alternative rock genre, but in the end it transformed into something industrial and now electronic even.  How and why did such a transformation happen?
Actually it started with indie rock. Looking back now, I see that it used to be a completely different sound. For me, it’s a long, ever-developing, intensive path. I’m constantly learning something new. At the start of the project everything was new. I studied producing, wrote my first songs, tried to communicate ideas with the band members and take into account that everyone has his own vision and taste. At the same time I going through a creative search process, through which I understood what and how I really wanted to convey in my music, and what visual component I wanted to attach to it. So I discovered music that evoked the strongest emotional response in me, learned to listen to myself and examine why this emotion occurred, and over time I learned to transform it in THE MAUNT. So the material became a more organic synthesis of all these elements and individual ideas. It gradually became more important and interesting. So now the music is really more industrial, and electronica also plays an important role in the sound. Although in general, electronic music is more about my other project Transcript.

Who is Trent Reznor for you? 
First and foremost, he is someone who inspires me in my own work.  He creates the type of music that I love. His work is timeless and is never affected by trends.  He is extremely structured and is creative even outside of music: he creates cool tech projects, is involved in innovative marketing, works on new ways of approaching gigs, and much more. I think it’s worth saying that it’s not the case of having an idol and attempting to imitate this idol.  For me it’s a story that resonates with me and I see an invisible intersection of our professional paths, or rather, the similarities of these paths. THE MAUNT, like Nine Inch Nails, is more of a one-man-band, that is, one ideologist is at the center of the project. In addition, Trent Reznor is a person who, like me, is also interested in playing music in various projects, especially cinema. His tale with cinema is unique – while not being a composer in the ‘classical’ sense, he received an Oscar for his very first soundtrack. He created a unique sound that other composers are inspired by now. Well, his long-standing creative collaboration with Atticus Ross constantly reminds me of my collaboration with the sound producer of THE MAUNT, with whom we’ve been working with for many years.

Do you follow his work in the films with Atticus Ross? Do you have a favorite?
The most listened to soundtrack would be the one they made for the Vietnam War documentary. Although in fact, I like all of their work. The soundtrack to “Watchmen” tv series was great.  

Industrial is not an unobvious genre for 2020, but when you think of mainstream genre heroes from the 90s (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Rammstein), each of them is renowned by extreme images and defiant behavior on stage. Do you have the feeling that you are too normal in comparison?
It’s funny, but I think about it a lot recently, while researching the current industrial scene. It is a great surprise for me that there are very few bands like Nine Inch Nails, where the main focus is not on the image, but on the musical component. I don’t know how far the creative path takes me in the context of normality. But

I don’t consider the genre standards to be a requirement.

Does music help you release your inner demons?
Definitely. When I think about what drives me in music, I know that in addition to some technical and professional aspects, I have a desire for self-development, I am more interested in the stories of the songs: strange, dark, personal, different. I don’t know whether it’s about freeing your own demons or something else, but it’s definitely therapeutical.  

Judging from the lyrics of your songs, would it be safe to say that you are a complex person?
Partly. On the one hand, my songs are stories that, for example, in the False Restraints album,  take place in outer space, but on the other, it is also a certain process of introspection and psychological “exercises”.

Do you think that depression or other mental disorders can become an inspiration in being creative?
Perhaps I am inclined to a rather complicated perception of the world, and I can’t say that I experienced those extreme mental breakdowns and real depression that may have led to real problems. Let’s just say that although depression is not a visible part of our work, but these moods are a rich source for inspiration for many genres of music. After all,

creativity is often born in situations of crisis. If a person has something to say through art, then it means he has stories to tell, and these stories are often far from being beautiful. In order to tell a story, well, you need to live it. If you don’t have such stories then you need to find them either within yourself or explore the external world.  

Who is your audience?
I’m still searching for my audience and I’m trying to understand who these people are or might be. I think that these are people with a certain background, someone who resonate with this style of music and discovers meanings in it.  

What’s one favourite lyric in your songs?
Probably the lyrics from the song ‘Brand New World’. I can’t call it my favorite, but it’s written about the events in Ukraine that took place in 2014, which are still relevant now.

The last THE MAUNT album came out in 2019. What was it about? 
“False Restraints” is all about stories of circumstances where a person faces something unknown, which is much larger than him. The person stands alone with his many-sided human emotions and thoughts, fears, but also a thirst for knowledge. This album is a travel soundtrack. We are just immersed in fantasy. I’m interested in making music that can be visualized. So we create our own story, a set of images, drifting into the subconscious.

During the presentation of the album, one could take note that THE MAUNT universe consists of only three colors: black, blue and luminescent white. Why is that?
Red as well. Yes, we are prone to such a dark and monochrome aesthetics, cold colors. The fact that black is fundamental feels very natural to me. On the other hand, I won’t say that the presentation concert went as planned, so the spectrum of the universe was not fully revealed.

You’ve presented a clothing line at your concert. How are you connected to the fashion world?
We’ve presented the PRZHONSKAYA collection – our brand with the designer Lena Przhonskaya. Conceptually, we promote the aesthetic of minimalism, but most importantly, we advocate the values ​​of slow fashion and conscious consumption. Each design is thought through and can serve its owners for many years. In terms of my tasks within the brand, I’m the director of the brand, and there are just way too many activities to list. Also, I’ve been writing music for our shows for several years. At the same time, the brand has been assisting in the style of THE MAUNT. This is our second collection with the band, because I want to tell a multifaceted story, not only through music or video, but also through clothes.

You also have an electronic music project called ‘Transcript’. What could you tell me about it?
It was more of an accidental thing. It started as an experimental collaboration between a guitarist, a sound producer and a clothing designer. In Ukraine even 10 years ago barely anyone produced music for fashion shows, so we united and decided to create our own soundtrack in support of one of the very first PRZHONSKAYA collections. It was important for us to convey the images and themes of the collection through the music. Since then, Transcript has long outgrown its original goal and expanded its field of activity, and became an independent unit. So today we create music for many creative projects – films, commercials, games. So it’s not just fashion. But the sound itself remains experimental in nature: electronic sounds absorbs elements of various stylistic forms. The imagery of music is important to us, we want the listener to play through the story we are trying to tell in their imagination. iFor example, our release 8848 carries listeners into the cold, almost unearthly environment of Mount Everest.

Continuing the topic of Transcript: why do you continue to walk along the difficult path of a solo rock artist instead of joining the Ukrainian electronic community, where you would be welcomed?
Because I’m following a path that I understand, a path that feels right to me. My main ambitions are revolved around THE MAUNT for now. What I see in the electronic music scene does not overlap with what THE MAUNT is all about. These are completely different roads. Transcript is an important project for me, but I’m trying to keep a creative sense of adventure. I don’t want to push myself into the framework of an electronic artist, because I will never become one, it would bind me. I would have to prioritize something else over THE MAUNT, and leave it in the background. I’m not that knowledgeable when it comes to the world of electronic music. Overall, Transcript is significantly different from what is happening with the Ukrainian electronic scene, at least from what I know. I will say thought that I maybe one day it will become a live performance, but I would still be prone to make a non-standard project out of it:  media art, technology collaborations, sound design, etc. Not a traditional club experience. 

Do you like partying and the nightlife in general?
I’m more into the music itself rather than the partying. Also the atmosphere of where the music is played. I often attend parties where the lineups don’t exactly correspond with my own taste, but the context shifts once the music and its energy transforms in a particular space. That’s when it excites me. I love to study music, and, also life itself with its numerous directions captivates me. 

What is the most memorable gig you’ve been to in Ukraine?
Massive Attack.

What’s the best concert you’ve been to outside of Ukraine?
Incubus at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. It’s a legendary unique band that performed in a legendary venue, an open amphitheater in Hollywood. The atmosphere of that place is marvelous. My time in LA was a enchanting. Well you would think that this is not the most obvious choice and that this music is not for the general public, but the show was completely sold out. Everyone sang along through the entire gig. Also I would point out Pearl Jam’s performance at the Open’er Festival. It’s a very significant band for me personally. 

THE MAUNT just presented a new piece of work – “Blackout”. It’s not even a music video in the traditional sense, but rather an interactive media project. What is it all about?
Blackout” is an attempt to integrate technology into the world of art. Conceptually speaking, the image of an internal chase is intertwined with the external physical movement, in which we decided to engage the audience. THE MAUNT’s music references science fiction, anti-utopias, futurism. Therefore, for quite a long time I’ve looking for an opportunity to create a certain digital universe in which music would involve listeners on a physical level. I am glad that as a result it became a unique experience not only for the band, but also for the local industry.


It’s symbolic that the release of Blackout coincided with the Blackout Tuesday in the global music industry. Do you believe in mystical coincidences, the magic of events or numbers?
From experience, I can say that many events happen at the moment they have to happen. And even if nothing turned out the way you wanted it to before, it seemed that everything was still going according to plan, as a result, everything was going very well. I can’t say that the coincidence in the case of the release of “Blackout” seems to me to be some kind of positive event, due to well-known reasons. This coincidence is rather ambiguous. 

What is your song ‘Blackout’ about?
It can be interpreted in different ways, depending on who is listening and their prior personal experiences. Yet one definite meaning would evolve around the protagonist of the song being in a place of darkness of sorts, he is surrounded by both a physical and mental emptiness. And here, on the edge of anxiety and despair, he wonders how and why did he end up at this spot. He is trying to make sense of his path.

Will the story of «False Restraints» end after this release?
No, we’re planning another release of the “Message” music video soon. These were two songs from the album, and the story had to be visualized. ‘Message’ has completely different imagery, it’s a non-classic video in the context of video production. It’s almost an entirely digital dimension. We ,mainly used the Kinect technology, which is based on live filming and emotions. The technology is not at all new in the global context of things, I’m talking about implementing it in a different artistic way. And strangely enough, for the Ukrainian music scene this, again, will be something new. I don’t know of anyone who shot with Kinect or with other software related tools.

Are you working on new music right now?
I am. Because of the quarantine, I have more free time to devote myself to music, be it composing new music or working through some demo details, which I will later finalize in the studio. As of this moment I can say that there is enough material for a new album.  

Do you work solo or with a band?
I work solo right now along with the band’s sound producer. I am the author of the music, and the majority of work has always been done in the studio. That’s the standard workflow format. There were different periods in time when we worked more detailed together with musicians, but, you know, a ‘band’ nowadays is a very flexible concept. Today, the band consists of two people in front of a computer screen, and tomorrow it consists of 10 people on stage. I love both.

What do you think awaits us in the future?
I am not a prophet and I’m not a futurologist, but in the last year I’ve strongly felt that something significant is going to happen on a global scale. In fact, it’s inevitable in one form or another given the fact of what is happening with over-consumption, environmental issues, and other challenges linked with the information flow and modern technologies. It happened, and the entire world froze. No one is fully aware of the consequences that await us after the measures that were taken to fight against a global epidemic.

Technologies develop so rapidly that hardly anyone has time to figure out how to control their own creations in the future, and what these can lead to. Just like any era at its initial stage, some time has to pass in order to comprehend that actual state of things, and during this phase unpleasant things may happen. I think this is the challenge that humanity will have to surpass in the near future. 

Translation: Elena Savlokhova