Stoned Jesus returned to Ukraine after having played a series of European gigs. In late March, there was one show in Kyiv as a part of 2016’s tour, and since the new week the musicians went to France. In summer, the band is going to visit South America and take part in one of the most popular festivals — Hellfest. With the group's leader Igor Sidorenko we managed to speak just an hour before the show. During the long talking, the frontman shared his impressions about the tour and told about the program ideas for such a big upcoming festival. Fresh ideas and groundworks, how Igor sees a new Stoned Jesus’ album and how he prepares to work as a radio host — read more in our interview.
Hi, Igor. Thank you for taking the time to talk. Today's concert in Kyiv is one of the several dozens, which takes place in just next two or three months. Stoned Jesus’ European Tour is already in full swing, its schedule is very tight. Tell us how the concerts are held and how you deal with such packed schedule?
Igor Sidorenko [hereinafter — I.S.]: Well, we’re slowly getting into a groove, it's already kind of routine. In every sense, bad, but mostly good. In everyday terms, all of this, of course, is not easy. It turns out that you're at some low levels, in the sense that you don't always have fresh stuff or the opportunity to get in the shower after the concert. And at the same time, there are always people who come to listen to you, they, literally, carry your shoulder high, buy merch, support the band. And therefore the constant presence between these two extremes, it’s somehow unsettling. The brain tries to find a balance after a while, so the whole tour you ride in a half-asleep state, always act with restraint, whatever happens. Therefore, the concert in Kyiv is different from all the others, here we are at home. There is an opportunity to recover, settle down after everything that happened on a tour. Here is a homely atmosphere.
Since January, you played more than 20 gigs in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, France etc. How would you compare the concerts in these countries? Their halls, audience? How do people greet Stoned Jesus in different cities?
I.S.: Kyiv is a home city. Here you can laugh with the audience, tease. Moreover, a certain part of the audience you know personally, and this also affects concerts perception. There are no nerves or tasks. But in general, the greet there is also very different because the Western Europe is quite spoiled and the people there are quite various in temperament. A person could stand with his hands crossed on the chest and just shake the head and that would be his maximum. After the concert we all usually discuss it, like "Damn, why didn't they hang out and mosh? We played great". That’s who these people are, that’s their temperament. And sometimes we play too early and they aren’t rocked. Or, vice versa, it's too late, they're tired. At the same time, there are areas where we are very fond of, for example, in the same Poland or Greece. There we are welcomed in any kind. People there are just crazy, they immediately burst into with the first chords in some mess under the stage, they'll even sing along to the instrumental parts. You fell yourself just some kind of Iron Maiden. This is very cool and nice. Plus in such cities we play once in a year or in a half, people have time to get bored, they are not so spoiled with other concerts, like the Europeans.
Some Ukrainian musicians called foreign audience more adult, noting that the local metalheads actively support performing bands by buying merch and CDs. Do you notice such difference between Ukraine and other countries?
I.S.: Well, I wouldn't call it adulthood. The economic situation also [affects it]. As for the merch, its production everywhere is measured in hard currency and it always costs about the same. So, there it’s 15 euros for a t-shirt, and here it’s 500 UAH, would you give 500 UAH for a t-shirt? I would not [laughs]. So we sell it for 250. It’s clear that sometimes it’s out of our pocket, but it’s important that people are pleased that they could walk in a t-shirt of their favorite band and to support us. And about the audience’s maturity, there is such a moment that music traditions are much strongly and excessively respected there. For example, we came for the first time at the Freak Valley stoner music festival, we had a lot of fun from all these long-haired dudes in bell-bottom trousers and in grandmothers' blouses. But then we just figured out that some of these people’s grandpa really could have the same look. My grandfather didn't look like that, yours, I think, too. That is it, there is a real music, and here we have a kind of rebirth, this is an attempt to try on someone else's dress or in this case grandmother's blouse. Moreover, this rebirth occurs at all levels. Many genres were not born in Ukraine, right? So here the attitude is different, here are much more likely to hand out to "hop-ca-ca" and all sorts of this kind of music, not even here are some average examples. Therefore, there is a more lively response. The band has now a slightly different period, we’re being invited specifically to give the concerts, we’re known and loved and it’s very nice.
Maybe our audience need a little more time.
I.S.: Yeah, maybe in the course of time. But we'll still be late. It’s also a question of the continuity of these traditions. With the Internet emergence, people had already listened to all possible. Five or seven years ago, when post-punk dashed with the bands like Utro. And we did also have such groups which began to being formed. And at the same time, there is such a field of musical activity that goes back to strumming on one string, as a singer-songwriter. Here we have only Sasha Boole who deals with it, by the way, at whose yesterday’s concert I had the honor to perform with singer-songwritering Voida [Igor’s side project — Noizr Zine]. So, it’s also such a huge field of music which is not experimental, it’s mainstream however it’s not so popular in our country. Something comes and stays, something doesn’t.
What gives you the most pleasure at such series of literally everyday performances? At the same time, what difficulties do you face with?
I.S.: Yes, it's been two weeks and nineteen days before that. Well, we have a rule of three "S", it’s sleep, shower and soup [laughs]. If these three "S" you meet during one day, it’s the coolest thing that can happen. And actually, when you're slowly getting into this routine, the brain just uses the mind-numbing defense reaction, so it’s difficult to understand what really happened, good or bad. I think it's more due to the fact that we are the band of beginners and not very popular. We do not draw enough people to be cared by a promoter about our comfort. I do not think that guys like Deftones or the same Metallica face with such problems. I think that they do not sleep in some stinking Nightliner buses, do not do laundry for weeks or carry their equipment on stage. These, of course, are real stories, that’s why I think with progress to the certain stage, most common issues will fade away. Creative negative moments, fortunately, did not happen. If six years ago I had been told that I would travel and play with such bands, moreover not just play but get a real feedback, I would have just to spit in that person’s face, because he teases me with such attractive things.
"I got the opinion that acoustic is for bands with creative impotence".
Closer to summer, Stoned Jesus, one might say, go to the next level. You are being waited at such major festivals as Psycho California (USA), Hellfest (France) and in May your tour in South America kicks off. Are you preparing something special for these performances? Will they be different from all the previous shows played in Europe?
I.S.: You know, during this tour, even the same setlist we agreed on stage. Just play and watch how the audience behaves. And here it comes: "let’s play the fast one", "let’s play the slow one" "let’s play the fast one, but short, I'm tired" — stuff like that. Of course, there are some limitations in the setlist. For example, it has been five years since the first album release, supporting it, we gave thirty concerts playing it in full every night. It’s very cool, delicious in live performances, but to play thirty concerts with the same 40-minute program based on three riffs it’s very hard [laughs]. In general, it pissed us off so much that we won’t play it this year. Therefore, today we’re going to play songs, which we have not performed for a long time, that same "Stormy Monday". Now we often play "Rituals Of The Sun" and "Wound", in which we were not into at first, and now they are with us almost every night. The same will be at the Hellfest, and South America, we will take it from there. So I already know what we are going to play half an hour set at the Hellfest. So, it's "I'm The Mountain" and another 15 minutes [laughs]. Here is our setlist, it remains to decide what will happen in those 15 minutes.
Talking about something special, last year you played an acoustic set for the radio broadcast for the first time. In the recent interview, Igor said that it went very well. Tell us more about it. Will your fans have the opportunity to listen to Stoned Jesus in acoustic?
I.S.: Yes, yes [smiles]. In fact, we have been invited to play in acoustic, and we said, "k, let's try it". We performed "Bright Like The Morning", which just called for being played in acoustic and also we rearranged these two things "Rituals" and "Wound" from the new album. "Wound" in this version sounds pretty good and from time to time I re-listen to it. So there's kind of idea of a full-fledged unplugged, vinyl and so on. But specifically, I got the opinion that acoustic is for bands with creative impotence. As well as performances with orchestra. If they have money, they will play with the orchestra, if not "oh, let's do unplugged!". In other words, if the band is only about six years, and the musicians already attempt acoustic, it's like something... [grimaces], I do not know. Maybe when we turn ten years, we will release some exclusive, organize the evening, come on stage so handsome.
"Probably there won’t be any doom parties on the new album... it will be mid-tempo and song oriented".
Can you find any time for working on a new material now? Do you have any results or ideas?
I.S.: That is a very good and timely question, because it’s necessary to be done [laughs]. It's not even because "it’s necessary to be done", but an outside man may think that "The Harvest" was made for a long time. According to the plan, it was supposed to come out in autumn of 2014, that was the idea: fall, harvest, "The Harvest". No, no way. But, we had to change the drummer, to reconsider many moments. At the same time, such ugly things like war intervened. While we had our daily jobs, the recording was being held intermittently for the tours. And, in general, "The Harvest" has only five concert songs, it’s not enough. The sixth "Black Church" is a sort of a studio experiment and we do not consider it for gigs. In other words, we have detained 30-minute material for three years, that’s why we want something new. Especially because we have some results, it remains to bring it to the guys, they will listen to, we will set in song forms and therefore will think about the lyrics. More ideas, arrangements will appear. We don’t have much time now. After three weeks on the tour, we spend a week at home during which you just come round. There is no place for rehearsals, and not for the new material. Therefore, maybe it will happen in summer. But in general, I would like to release a new album next year. I can definitely say that this record will have seven songs. Because on the first LP there were four tracks, five songs were on the second, "The Harvest" has six, so on the fourth, there will be seven. It follows thence that it will be the longest album, closer to 50-55 minutes, a double vinyl [smiles].
"We often hear that "Seven Thunders" is the best album. I’m certainly a bit frustrated because many didn’t get "The Harvest".
Aren’t you afraid of the long album idea? Recently, retro time tracking, records for thirty to thirty-five minutes, so called, retro time tracking are quite well received.
I.S.: No, I'm a big prog rock fan, so for me such 40-minute albums with one song on each side of vinyl, it’s quite normal. Actually, this form is closer to me. Quantity does not mean quality. So forty, 45 minutes is ideal.
With "Seven Thunders Roar" you changed long doom motives, adding more riffs, drive, and diversity. "The Harvest" has already become a kind of mix, along with the upbeat "YFS" and "Here Come The Robots", there are such tracks as "Rituals Of The Sun" or "Black Church". What can be heard on the new record?
I.S.: Yes, I can just say it won’t be moving in any one direction. We often hear that "Seven Thunders" is the best album. I’m certainly a bit frustrated because many didn’t get "The Harvest". But at the same time, it’s necessary to understand for whom we play, because there are fans of the genre who really appreciate "Bright Like The Morning" or "I'm The Mountain" very well. And over time, we understand that not all people like these ten-minute songs, the audience must be kept in good shape. We also get bored by playing monotonous things. Probably there won’t be any doom parties on the new album and I wouldn’t say that it will be a mix of one album with another. Remembering my groundworks today, it will be mid-tempo and song oriented. As to sounding, we would like to reflect our live sound. Minimum of some overlays, just three persons, bass, drums, and guitars.
As we know, you have a number of side projects, which you pay attention to from time to time. Tell us about them in more detail. Do you deal with them now?
I.S.: Yes, we are now working with Krobak, yesterday we had a rehearsal and bass recording. This year the album comes out, it's such an instrumental, post-rock, prog project. There's a violinist, two girls on bass and drums. And other projects are in varying degrees "freezed". As these singer-songwriting project Voida, which spotted last night at Sasha Boole’s concert, and neo-prog project Arlekin, which also has been running from my youth, when I was keen on such music.
In the interview, discussing the band’s new sound on the album "The Harvest", Igor mentioned the idea to rewrite the first two records with the producer Sergey Lubinsky. Is there a possibility of a re-release? What do you think, whether early compositions do not lose that, so to say, the atmosphere, because of which they once were liked by your fans?
I.S.: I understand that people may like the atmosphere, this amateur stuff. But, for example, when I listen to "Seven Thunders" first I hear the uneven drumming, my not well-played notes, premature solo, and structures. And people often admire, saying "wow, so it was composed by some demigods". Nerds composed it [laughs]. At night. We recorded it during two nights. I’m not sure about the albums, but there was a thought to rewrite some songs or the whole "Seven Thunders" because we really like how it sounds live now. It’s maximum cool for three people. And the ace of trumps in it is our Victor [drummer — Noizr Zine]. He plays very awesomely, he feels the music and matches the way we play. So, actually, "The Harvest" I really like because of Victor’s play. Yes, he can tap the stuff with a stick [smiles].
"Here Come The Robots"... gives an idea of what is going on with the band".
Last time I pay attention to the parallel development of Stoned Jesus’ branded merch: good prints, covers, and posters. For example, I liked the "Indian" two-sided T-shirt last year. Who is responsible for these band’s artworks? Tell us about this part of work in detail.
I.S.: There is Yura X ninja, who draws for Robustfest and art for various bands. He does it all very professionally, done a great job. There a lot more people with whom we worked together and it’s a weak point. Recently, our first t-shirt turned five years and therefore I made a retrospective with all that we had on Instagram and it was horrified. We had such t-shirts [shrugs]. Who gave the go-ahead to print them, were there people who really buy it? [laughs]
The past year, there was the video "Silkworm Confessions" release — your fourth work together with the Ukrainian director Victor Priduvalov. Tell us about your collaboration.
I.S.: Well, this video to some extent ended Priduvalov’s trilogy. And at the moment, I think we fully realized the mutual creative ambitions. He’s certainly not a common man, all the legendary and so on. He has his specific vision and it would often be contrary to our own. It’s the same situation as with t-shirts. On the one hand, you want to take the process into your own hands, and at the same time, you want everything to be done well. Not like someone sees it. Therefore, at this time, we do not consider the question of the videos at all. This is such a thing, which seems to be serious and requires investments, it gives a good feedback. But perhaps it is not a priority. In the first place now there are new songs, some touring business. And if we talk about favorite music videos, my favorite is "robots" ["Here Come The Robots" — Noizr Zine]. It is very minimalistic, and the song itself is the hit. It gives an idea of what is going on with the band. And recently there was released another favorite, by the way, also Priduvalov’s work, the live video "Wound". So, if some bookers contact me today, I'll just send to them these two videos.
Talking about Victor Priduvalov, recently became aware of his joint project radio Submarina with producer Vlad Lyashenko. Now there is a dense work on creating programs grid, one of them will be "Long Play" with you as a radio host. Tell us more about this idea, what will this program be about? How do you see yourself as a broadcaster?
I.S.: Program, in fact, takes into account that I was not tied to one place, as a radio host. It's like... a freelancer [shrugs]. Recorded a couple episodes and then go to the next tour. The program will be about the cult music albums that have influenced many generations of listeners and musicians. On one side, the choice will be based on my personal taste. It’ll be albums that I like and about which I can freely talk about. On the other hand, there’ll be albums which simply can not be kept in the dark. Even if I did not listen to them, I'll have to download, listen to, read the criticisms and prepare the report or something else. Today, I know exactly what the talking will be about I have even prepared everything about The Beatles’ album "Revolver". Just everyone is very fond of their "Sgt Pepper" [The Beatles’ eighth album "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" — Noizr Zine], but the fact is that without "Revolver" there would not be "Sergeant". Just then they began to experiment with the studio, and all sorts of interesting things, and so there was "Revolver". And "Pepper" is just a kind of "sequel" for a more general public, which has been more widely understood and accepted. When I was preparing for the program, I listened to it again and it's a very cool album. I caught myself on a thought that the same "Tomorrow Never Knows" is replayed by the whole psychedelic world and up to this day can't replay. And they won’t because they were kings, that's all [laughs].
As we know, all Stoned Jesus’ members retired from office works and now all of you deal only with the band. It could be said that you are one of the few Ukrainian professional musicians, whose income depends entirely on your metal band activity. How comfortable are you in the present status?
I.S.: Quit. Or were fired [laughs]. It all depends because there is a certain amount of risk. For example, everything I earned on the tour and my laptop were stolen in autumn in Brussels. During the fall, I lived for 10000 UAH, not counting the apartment payment. But, at the same time, we’re coming up to such level that we simply do not have the possibility to look for some kind of a permanent job. I can't say that music is the main source of income, cause it's not quite right because there are all kinds of part-time work. Sometimes I write articles or some things that can be measured financially. Victor, as far as I know, also earned some money with audio and video editing. There are simple side jobs to help in a very hungry time. The fact is that we have set big goals. At least it’s to buy our own equipment, we simply do not have our backline, or it would be good to have our own rehearsal base because now it’s all crying shame.
"A failed musician is a music journalist", — there is a hurtful and not always truthful phrase".
Behind the band, there are first expensive tours and, to date, more than two hundred live performances. What goals do you think have not been reached yet and what are your main purposes for today?
I.S.: You know, the more I do all of it, the more I move away from any illusions. I look at other bands, chat with them and understand that there are no such goals as "I'm going to perform at Madison Square Garden in 2017". It's all trumpery, unnecessary things. If you start to play the guitar and think about something like that, you should stop it. It doesn’t work like this. It’s like with problems which are solved as they arise. If there is some variant or ability you should work on it, that's all. The same with Hellfest. Clearly, we have bookers and everyone who works on this issue. Yet, a shitty band would not be taken to this festival's line-up. So, there are small parts of one picture and it gradually shows up, like a puzzle. Of course, there are some desires and ideas. But it’s better to sit and work being focused on the result than to visualize yourself stadiums.
And the last question, what would have happened instead of Stoned Jesus? Have you ever wondered what would your life be like outside the band? Igor, as far as we know, studied to be a foreign language teacher.
I.S.: Yes, I did [laughs]. Honestly, sometimes it throws in a shiver when imagine myself at some office doing the unloved job. You know, like a copywriter, sitting and trying to force himself to squeeze out eighth text on the same topic in an hour — nightmare! Hypothetically, I think it still would have been something related to music. I've been writing all these articles because I probably would have somehow got into all these things. Like "a failed musician is a music journalist" [smiles], — there is a hurtful and not always truthful phrase. Maybe I would have chosen this way. Perhaps the same copywriting and through it, I would have tried to pick up the creative literary themes. But then again, it might turn into a sheer routine. And, you know, from the first band’s tours, I really feel the interest to the entire process of booking, logistics, tour organizing. It’s like a task which is very fun to solve. So I think that if ever musical creativity ceases to be interesting, maybe I'll find myself in booking or music journalism.
Interviewed by Yuri Somov
Translated from Russian by Anastezia