INTERVIEW WITH YARO SMIRNOFF OF ROCKETS PARALLELS
Rockets Parallels formed early in 2014, and was founded by former members of The Lateless. What led to the disbanding of The Lateless, and which members of that band decide to found a new band?Hello everybody! I must say that initially Rockets Parallels was a side project of former members of The Lateless. My brother Nick and I have planned this project to express ideas that didn’t fit in the framework of The Lateless. The two bands existed in parallel almost a year. At the beginning of 2014 we recorded a single called "Beginning" and collected material for our debut album. In autumn of 2014 divisions and internal conflicts began in the band. My brother and I decided to close The Lateless since both of us were its driving force and the founders of the group. Immediately after that we decided to focus on Rockets Parallels and caught up with our old friend Vyacheslav, who also played in the very first cast of The Lateless. We decided to start recording a new single called "I Rock I’m A Star". Later we filmed a video for this single. Having formed the crew and accumulated materials, we started recording our first album. The recording took place in our own studio. In March 2015 we released our first album "Abstract". Tracks from the album are already played at different metal and rock radio stations of Russia and Europe. The album was ranked the 68th in the overall national Russian charts and #17 on the charts in Saint Petersburg. Now at the moment we are in a small promotional tour for the support of the album. And I present to you the members of the Rockets Parallels: Yaro on bass and vocals, Sava on guitar and Nick on drums.
Did The Lateless perform a final show before disbanding? Are the ex-members of this band keeping in touch today?
We decided not to arrange a farewell concert or tour just to gratify our ambitions and turn it into a puppet show. We don’t need it. So many stars are doing it and after a year or two, they are coming back to play again. A vivid example is the Scorpions who for the past five years used to play their “last” concerts but still release albums. It’s not respectful to themselves or their fans. In fact, when the money is gone everybody suddenly recalls that they were once successful musicians. That’s not our story. It’s necessary to respect ourselves and others. We are in contact with our former band members but very rarely. We don’t see each other although we live in the same town. We don’t know what they’re doing now.
It is rather strange how many well established bands supposedly decide to call it a day and go on “farewell” tours and suddenly make a “comeback” a couple of years down the road. It does seem like a scam and disrespectful to the fans who buy merchandise and pay three figures to see their favorite bands live.
That's right. It's disrespectful, especially to their followers and fans. Many of those bands simply don’t care and make profit. Unfortunately the world is reduced only to money and those who have more rule over it. Money makes musicians and filmmakers to be formatted and to think format. Now no one want to think after watching a film, all what they need is pure action and computer graphics. All money are used for it and nobody cares about actors’ professionalism and putting deep sense in scenario. The same situation is in music. Look at all these "new" bands that sign major labels. They are all the same, with the same scripts. That's why the groups that are really worth something are usually lost in the ruck.
On the other hand, I personally don’t think it’s worth it to pay that much to attend a concert and I see no reason I should support a system that would exploit me financially. Musicians (as well as writers and performers) see it similarly, which is why more bands are taking more creative control over their own work. Are bands doing the same in Russia?
If we talk about the so-called comebacks, yes, it happens in Russia too but not very often. And pop-artists and some rock groups in our country do it. But I must say that if they are known and popular in Russia, nobody knows them in Europe and in the United States. Most of our top performers, which are shown on our television, and have expensive video clips, they don’t have any value actually because they have only Russian audiences. Prices for the tickets are very high. In general, I must say that in Russia, even for a good foreign groups tickets are very expensive too compared with Europe. Because of this, my friends and I almost don’t go to concerts.
The independent film industry has gained ground and set new standards in moviemaking while Hollywood has run out of ideas. And more independent film review sites have appeared that analyze big name productions rather than take them at face value. The same can be said for the underground metal industry as independent labels have survived passing mainstream trends and the bands have loyal fan bases. Do you see things continuing in this direction?
Almost every month I find independent groups from Russia or Europe. It says that the underground is in progress. When your music is sincere, the audience feels it and then the audience starts to support the group, buy merchandise and go to concerts.
Was the new video for I Rock I'm A Star filmed and produced independently? Tell the readers about this video.
We got the idea of this video spontaneously; we just decided to film a simple video without problems and pathos, just for fun. We rented a cheap camera; some parts were filmed in our studio; then we added part of our rehearsal. The final scene was filmed at my house. All filming and editing was done by ourselves. We spent about six hours in total for filming, editing and processing. We sent this video to the guys from Blank TV, and they played it on their channel. This summer we plan to film another video for the song "We Are Nothing". We plan to do everything by ourselves again.
Are you satisfied with the results of filming I Rock I’m A Star with the equipment you used? How do you plan to film the promotional video for We Are Nothing and why was this song chosen for your next video?
It could be better to be honest. We have big experience at this matter but the equipment doesn’t work well, alas. But we finally were quite satisfied with the result. A lot of material was out of focus and blurred so it was necessary to edit it a lot and search for compromises. About the video for “We Are Nothing”, we plan to start filming at the beginning of July. It’s difficult to answer why we choose exactly this song. We just wanted to.
How much work did the band channel into building their own recording studio? Is this studio in a location close to the band, or is it in one of the band members’ homes?
This home studio is in our drummer’s home. We dreamed of our own studio for a long time. Almost since our band was formed. Because this is very convenient and you can always record something, in order not to forget your sketches and drafts. Also you don’t need to waste time, don’t need to spend money to go somewhere. We created this studio little by little; as we grew as musicians our studio grew. We often spend money we gathered from our shows to purchase equipment. But the result was worth it!
What is the atmosphere of working in your own studio like when the band practices or records there? Do you think more bands are going to build their own studios for the same reasons?
When you're in your own studio, you feel in full control over your work. You don’t have to worry or keep track of time; you feel complete control and peace of mind. The studio work doesn’t like fuss and panic or you will make poor-quality duplicates. Sometimes we allow ourselves to drink a little but not much. We never really get drunk at work because it's bad for the quality. I think it's very comfortable of course to have your own studio but of course it costs money. Everyone has to decide for themselves if they need it or not.
How much creative freedom does the band have recording their debut album in his own studio? What sort of equipment are you currently working with?
It is very comfortable and practical to have our own studio. It’s not necessary to adjust to the schedule, you need not to pay money to anybody, and you have freedom to do whatever you want without limiting yourself in time. You are fully free in everything. We don’t have a lot of equipment in our studio, just some amplifiers, computers, sound cards, a few guitars and microphones; this is enough for us to record. Now we bought a more powerful computer and made a small software upgrade. Of course, we do mixing and mastering of our material in the studio. It is necessary to point out that the last album of The Lateless was also recorded at our studio, and all of my solo albums were too.
What role do computers and sound cards play in your recording process? Do you notice any differences from recording with traditional analog equipment?
There’s a big difference between digital and analog music recording. I had the experience of analog recording in the late nineties. If you can’t play and aren’t prepared to record, all work is failure, and you should go and rehearse. Now digital technologies are in every movie, photo and musical release. Even the media became digital; it is progress and you can’t avoid it. I agree that now it becomes easier, and any mediocre and dull musician suddenly becomes virtuosos. But as a rule, live performances usually show who is really capable of playing. Today we can’t live without computers unfortunately. Even answering questions for this interview, I use a computer. This is our life.
As far as live performances go, will they still be a deciding factor in determining whether a band can play and has genuine talent? Bands who can’t afford new technology at present still seem to be making a name for themselves. The internet has been a help, because social media is technology that really benefits musicians and helps them promote their work.
When any band performs, it‘s obvious immediately if they are able to play or not, if they’re professionals or dilettantes. Live performances show at once what you can do. The internet certainly helps bring music to any audience in the world. Social networks also help on that. Years ago it took months or even years to make your group known in another country; now it’s much faster because of Internet technologies.
How far has social media gone toward giving bands more creative control over their own work?
In my opinion the media couldn’t give the bands more creative control or any kind of control at all. We are an absolutely independent band; we don’t have any record label and we are free in everything. We are writing and playing as we want to do. I think this is the right way for any creative process.
How many songs were recorded for Abstract? In what ways do the new songs differ from The Lateless’ material?
The entire album was recorded and produced by ourselves in our studio. Post production was also by ourselves. Nobody helped us, and we did not ask for anybody’s help. Even the cover of the album was done by ourselves. Originally we wrote about thirteen songs for the album. We played them at rehearsals and realized it was better to release less material than to release a bunch of trash. So the album includes only nine songs. I am sure that people will hear and understand the differences. Now we have male vocals and our music is different. We changed the sound, the whole concept is totally different, and so Rockets Parallels and the Lateless are not similar to each other. The Lateless is like a book that we have read and put on the shelf. Now we have opened a new book and named it Rockets Parallels.
How did you go about choosing what songs would appear on the album? Name the songs that were chosen?
They were chosen purely intuitively. If you listen to the music and something inside makes you rock and stamp your foot, you are on the right track. I want to name and shortly describe all the songs. "Alpha" is the intro to the album and preparation of the listener for the next song, called “Madman.” "Madman" tells the story of a man who sinks deep into himself and his thoughts and actions, he is angry with the world and ready to commit suicide. "Never Seek" may seem strange but it’s a love song about a man who is looking for it and waiting for it constantly. "I See The Stars" is a philosophical song that makes you think about the divine consciousness; it has a sacred meaning of choice and belief. "Abstract" is the title track of the album. It’s instrumental by its own musical structure. It’s a typical song, but the melodies which sound together don’t quite fit to couplet pieces and that is why it’s abstract. "I Rock I'm A Star" is a comic song that tells about life behind the scenes of music and touring, about concert business. "Falling Down" is another philosophical song which tells the story of the inner spiritual growth and human progress. It’s about how people are starving for knowledge and how it burns them quickly. Everything should be paid. "Beginning And Progress" is also instrumental. It consists of two parts, some musical sketches and a flight of ideas. "We Are Nothing" is the most pessimistic song in the album. It’s meaning is quite simple. The man comes to the end of his life and asks himself what’s gonna happen in the afterlife, what did he live for and what will come after. "Omega" is the final song of the album. It’s made in an electronic way and there are a lot of different melodies mixed with each other. I really like it. It’s one of my favorite songs that I wrote.
Who conceptualized and designed the cover of Abstract? What does the cover depict and what is it intended to mean?
I created the cover. This is the result of my experiments with Photoshop and other graphic programs. And the cover of the album came out spontaneously. I showed it to the guys from the group; they also liked it and they decided it fit our album. If you take a look at the cover and think more deeply, then one can see the circle is like our world, the planet where we live. And the structures which are depicted in the circle mean everything else that this world contains including humans.
Since Abstract was released, has the feedback from independent press and social been favorable?
I am pleased to say that the independent press and social networks gave really good reviews for “Abstract”. We got a lot of positive reviews (mostly at Russian sites of course). We haven’t seen any bad reviews at all and this makes us proud of our work.
When did you begin to experiment with Photoshop, and what made you decide to use Photoshop to design the album cover? Are there any magazines or webzines of note that you can mention gave you favorable reviews?
I am a long time user of this program. I use it mostly for photo editing. I always liked the pictures that were created using this program. In fact, it may seem strange but I'm not really good at using all of Photoshop’s features. But I always wanted to do something for the band by using this program. But independent artists ask too much money for their work, so that’s why I decided to do album cover by myself. And all band members liked the result of my work. Are there any magazines or webzines of note that you can mention gave you favorable reviews? We haven’t sent our promo to Europe; mostly we sent our material to different webzines and Russian music sites. When we finished our album we had a promo-tour to support the release of “Abstract” and we decided to tour only in Russia yet. About articles and feedback we had a lot and here’s only a few (all of them are in Russian):
Is your area in Russia home to independent labels you would consider signing to? Or do you plan to continue releasing your work independently?
I don’t know any unfortunately, but maybe this is even better. Here there are no independent labels to support metal or rock music, no labels who could help any rock band with an album or tour. Our industry died before it was born. Here some people or groups of people try to help musicians by themselves. Some big independent rock sites also exist but that’s all we have.
Has the band played in neighboring countries since releasing your debut recording? Would you plan on playing the US one day?
We don’t have any show in nearby countries yet, but we have plans to in the near future. We plan to visit Baltic countries for example. We also got invitations to play in Germany and Croatia. About the USA, I think we won’t play there because we don’t like the outer politics of that country. USA interferes into the inner politics of other countries all over the world and tries to teach other nations how to live, by imposing their ideals and “democracy”. We have our own retaliatory sanctions against the country; we won’t play there. Though it should be noted that people in the US have become hostages to the policy of Obama. We don’t blame ordinary people who live there – only politics.
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