Friday, August 17, 2012

When my guys meet Mutilador...

I feel guilty for moving to another blog, www.orchideestachelig.wordpress.com, but it's much more convenient to post updates from iPad there. Since I'm mostly on the run - yes, again - I often blog from trains, buses, office or the nearby park. :D

But today's big news is that my article about the Monolit guys has finally been published in the Mutilador Ezine!!! Here:

You can download the full ezine and the music/videos that go with it from here – http://www.ex.ua/load/30424633
And here’s the English translation. :)
We don’t want to be just another rock band, we wanna be real rock legends!

When I first saw the Monolit guys in the subway of Kyiv on a boring day in April of 2009, I couldn’t even imagine that:
-         they’ll talk to me within several minutes inviting to their nearest gig;
-         in a year they’ll release a successful debut album named “To live, not to exist”
-         their popularity will jump up so drastically, giving the band both a bunch of fans and a bucket of haters;
-         their latest hit titled “Tender Poison” will become one of the favorite lyrical songs of most Ukrainian fans of rock music;
-         in May of 2012 I’ll have a chance to spend 2 awesome days at their place that is at the same time the Monolit sound studio where they’re working on their 2nd album to be called “Secret Sign”.

These guys are from the city of Shostka in the Northeast of Ukraine. Their style has at first been mostly of hard’n’heavy rhythms, but now they’ve become so open for musical experiments, that you can hear nearly anything in addition to their classic heavy metal where they mostly stick to the best traditions of worldwide and Russian examples.

June 12th of 2004 is considered to be the official birthday of the Monolit band – it was this day when they had their 1st public performance. Their almost immediate success might seem suspicious unless you know where it comes from. The secret is that, despite being young and ambitious, Kostya, the band’s frontman, has already had several projects before. ”It gave me some kind of experience for developing a rock band, like image making, producing and much more”, – he explains. And you’ll make a mistake if you think all of those experiences were strictly rock-related.

In order to change the state of things
The idea of creating a rock band had been floating around Kostya’s mind for a long time, and he was aimed on the best result from the very beginning. “When creating the team, I was already thinking of big things: if we’re starting a rock band, it’s not gonna be just another rock band, but the most fuckin awesome rock band!”

Aside from the popular belief that rock music is dead, there’s also a real situation that the music industry itself in Ukraine is dead. In order to become known and more or less successful, a musician needs to work with a team of famous producers, image makers, PR specialists and others – that have their own vision of what will be accepted by the majority. They alter the musician according to these standards, therefore breaking him as a person, crossing his way as a unique and sincere performer, and creating the final image and music that they want – not what the musician is really into. Since true rock music is totally about being sincere, this way to popularity would destroy its deepest meaning. That’s one of the reasons why guys from Monolit decided to do everything on their own, including the Monolit Sound Studio and the thing they’re currently working on: their own production studio.

Another reason of the state of Ukrainian music business is that there are few worthy bands. Even if so – they’re unlikely to be competitive on the international market due to being aimed on the inner Ukrainian one. The quality is mostly far from what could be a success all around the globe. This made Kostya sure he has to do something. “One of the main reasons of why I started my own band was that whenever I heard of “rock”, particularly here in Shostka, I saw bands that were doing something wrong. As I was watching them I thought – for fuck’s sake, why can’t people do it properly? ”Kostya decided to try by himself and show how to do it right.

“The most interesting thing is that all in the current lineup share this approach – overly ambitious people have gathered within a band not only to achieve some result, but to have an overwhelming result, a mindblowing one”, – Kostya explains.

Now, when they’ve become one of the most outstanding bands in the Ukrainian rock hangout, the Monolit guys follow the same principles. This combo of perception, presentation and devotion often causes situations when people come to some event only because “Monolit are playing there”, and when they’re on stage – it’s either impossible or life-threatening to get near there. On the other hand, this creates perfect conditions for Kostya’s stagediving he has been recently practicing successfully and safely.

When rock music meets break dance
What style of music do you usually associate with break dance? I deeply doubt most people would say it’s rock. Believe it or not, the latter is possible.

Starting from 1999 Kostya has been practicing break-dance along with rock music, being inspired by his favorite movies featuring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. .His friends with similar interests and inspirations joined him, and together they started another successful yet uncommon creation – the “Lider” dance team.

The dance team could be seen both as a separate performer having own shows in different cities of Ukraine, and also as a part of Monolit’s stage performances.  «There have been times when both projects – Monolit the rock band and Leader the break dance team – were developing separately. Later several collaboration shows took place, when both rock band and the dance team traveled to some festivals, and Leader’s show was a prelude to Monolit’s performance. The latter is being announced, the dance team comes out to perform, and only then the rock band appears. The two teams have performed simultaneously too – my Leader guys were creating the show while Monolit were playing some most powerful songs’ parts. I’m planning to develop this performance element even more, to make it more interesting, but I’m not sure when exactly I’ll get my hands on it.»


Sex, ninja, rock-n-roll.
If parents hear their child wants to be a rock star, their kind and vivid imagination is most likely to give out the classic image of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” style of fun, therefore causing inevitable resistance and misunderstanding. And again, the Monolit guys break the stereotype.

While the sex part is one of the essential ones in their image, they replace the “drugs” with “ninja” (as written on Monolit band tees – Sex, ninja, rock-n-roll), meaning a healthy lifestyle with lots of sports workouts, and, of course, leave the rock-n-roll part in it’s classical meaning.

I’ve been lucky to spend 2 days at their place in Shostka. The cozy wooden house  is the rehearsal base and the Monolit Sound Studio at the same time. This is the place where the band is currently working on their new album and uncommon cover versions of famous rock hits in the meantime. Aside from working on their own material, the Monolit band often lets other friendly bands from the city of Shostka rehearse at their base. As Vitya – the band’s sound engineer and cameraman told me, the sound of someone doing it is the one they hear most often.

I managed to witness one of such off-the-record jam sessions – Paul switched his usual bass guitar to a guitar, and Kostya showed unexpectedly good skills in playing the drums.

But the second day of my trip brought even more pleasant discoveries.

«I’m deeply convinced that certain habits are artificially charged up. There are awful things happening in our society: we’ve been convinced that drinking beer is so normal, cool and stylish…I think alcohol, smoking and drugs are nothing else than slavish habits being spread on purpose – so that people would spend more money destroying their health, be dependent and controllable in order to let some other people make profit of them.» – Kostya argues.

“I’ve been brought up with the right attitude towards freedom of choice. Of course as a kid I was curious and tried to smoke a cigarette when was about 5 years old. But when I tried alcohol, I was like – what the fuck, it’s disgusting! I couldn’t understand what’s so cool about it”, he adds. The Monolit band is all about being strong and all-sufficient – it’s only them who defines who they are and what they’re gonna do, and it’s up to the listeners to accept or decline it. Surprisingly for stereotype and mainstream-driven Ukrainian society, including the rock music fans, plenty of people approve these guys’ lifestyle, some have taken it up too. And as a journalist I can say that it’s a true pleasure to interview sober and good-looking musicians – at least there’s eye-candy and it’s easier to transcribe the interview later!

“What is more, none of my heroes smoked, for some reason. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the others. Well, there might have been movies where their characters are enjoying cigars, but it was obvious that it’s not the reason why they’re cool. I first understood I don’t need that, and later it became a lifestyle. I don’t consume alcohol because I don’t have a wish or urge, and this is the real strength, the real feeling of freedom, since most of those who drink alcohol do it either because they cannot do otherwise, or because they’ve been persuaded that its cool, and if they don’t do it, there’s something wrong with them.


By living a lifestyle without alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, yet with a lot of sports workouts, Kostya proves that living this way is cool. Other band members gradually started sharing the same approach.


“I didn’t come up with this at once, - Paul says. Kostya has been into sports for a long time, since childhood or something. And I started to understand why I did harmful habits about a year ago. First of all, I was wasting time and money. And what is more, I got that I was only doing it of  boredom. When I was a student we had developed a tradition of drinking beer, we had got away from homes and started doing it. And then I understood I’ve gained it as a habit that is really stupid. ”
On day 2 in Shostka I was lucky to witness Paul’s and Kostya’s workout. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d keep thinking only movie heroes can do it. Or maybe these guys are upcoming ones?

And even here rock music is with Monolit. They work out to their fave songs. I’ve only heard rock this time, but, as Kostya and Paul told me later, it’s not the only style they like. Here’s another stereotype broken: who the hell said that rock stars should ONLY like rock music?

Kostya made me curious by joking at Paul saying he used to be a rap fan. As soon as Paul said it is true and that he really enjoyed that style of music and still likes some of it, another question arose: what’s among the preferences of Monolit, who themselves are already in playlists of so many people?

“I liked metal when was a kid. Then got tired of it and wanted something else. I started listening to some Russian rock, along with rock with a dash of jeering, like the Nogu Svelo band that seemed rather deep back then, they were mocking in an interesting way. Now I don’t think so, I’ve understood there’s mostly primitive stuff. – Paul recalls.  “Tastes change – at least once in half a year I get interested in some new music of any genre. What has been stable during the last few years is my fascination with Jack White. I used to have “all-times” idols in the past, but now I’m not really into that. Or maybe… Guns’N’Roses. Even if I don’t listen to them for a certain period of time I know that any time I decide to add them to the playlist – their music will be appropriate. They’re at the same time rocking and lyrical. Though I don’t really like the current Guns’N’Roses. I’m more into them of the 80’s. 90s. ”

Eye candy
If you ever happen to visit Ukraine, and Monolit’s gig is somewhere on the schedule – get ready not only for good music, but also for something to stare at. These guys are known for style experiments. When I first met them, they looked like classic rock stars – long hair, leather and jeans. One of the following gigs featured Kostya with braided hair and Paul without any hair at all. Max the guitarist was at first a rock guy with long blonde hair, then cut and styled it in another way, a few recent gigs showed him wearing a hat and several new piercings. And Serhiy the drummer switches between long hair and a neat cut – each gives him a new image. I didn’t recognize him at first at one of the shows. :) Concerning Kostya’s story with braided hair,- it ended in the shortest style I’ve ever seen on him. This is how their brightest music video resulted for the frontman.

The flaming (literally) “Naprolom” (“Straight Ahead”) video was being made for several nights in an abandoned industrial building, featuring real flames and cold weather. During filming of one of the scenes Kostya accidentally got his braids burnt and decided to try a new image.

For the playlist
“Naprolom” is one of the central tracks of the band’s debut album “To live, not to exist” that has been launched and loudly presented in 2010 in the Bingo concert hall. All songs on the CD – except the bonus tracks – are in Ukrainian – even though the members mostly speak Russian in everyday life. There’s also a stereotype slaughter here: in Ukraine it’s often believed that you cannot be a patriot if you speak Russian most of the time. The truth is that everything depends on the state of mind only, and there are a lot of true patriots in Russian-speaking regions of the country, where the language is just a historical heritage.

There’s been a massive advertising campaign for the album presentation both within the rock fans community and social networks, and mainstream places like… the subway of Kyiv, where I was proud to see posters with familiar faces. The event was a double concert since there were two bands presenting new albums. Together with Monolit, there was the Symfomania band, so no wonder the hall was full of both bands’ fans at first, and more kept coming as the show went on. As far as I know the presentation was being filmed by a team from one of the biggest TV channels of Ukraine, and the guys are planning to release it as well.

What’s also curious about Monolit is that their albums and the trilogy of singles are available for free downloads from the official website. In one of the previous interviews they said that it’s impossible to stop spreading of music on the net, and that it’s nothing else than publicity – so it’s good for bands who aren’t worldwide-famous yet, but desperately want to become like this.

Just after they got off the stage on the album presentation day, Kostya said he already has enough songs for the second album. Now I’ve been told more – that the CD is to be titled “Tayniy Znak”(“Secret Sign”) and will include the songs in Russian. The band is currently working on it in their Monolit Sound Studio posting updates on their website. Now it says they’re done with recording guitars and are into doing the same with vocals and keyboards.

In the meantime they don’t let their fans get bored. Starting from last year’s autumn Monolit have been releasing their “Laskovyi Yad”(“Tender Poison”) trilogy of singles. All are  available for free download from the official site – www.monolit.shostka.net.

And again, these guys seem not to be able to live without experiments. Who could think a rock band could ever do a nice…dubstep remix of their song? Apparently one can, since such a version of the “Laskovyi Yad” really exists on the 2nd part of the EP trilogy. The 3rd part contains the same song in an even more unexpected style: darkwave. Each part has 3 tracks – both traditionally powerful heavy ones, and also some of them unplugged.

Monolit bear the status of one of the most active bands about concerts: they’ve already had more than 300 gigs in over 100 cities of Ukraine, and are receiving invitations from abroad – here they’re choosing carefully what’s the most interesting for them. Though these months they’re totally absorbed by studio work on the upcoming album. Concerts are now more of unexpected exclusions.

Nevertheless, no one forgets about Monolit. The band members are online almost all around the clock replying to numerous messages from fans. Even the most hilarious inquiries get a witty reaction. They’ve recently started a page on Facebook so that people from abroad could contact them as well. Say “hi” in your language here: http://www.facebook.com/Monolitrock, or at their new website www.monolit-rock.me that is to be launched this summer.

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