Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Musician Interview: ALEX SIGMER

INTERVIEW WITH ALEX SIGMER

Julia Filchenkova told me of your extensive body of work, including your published books, your musical recordings, your promotional videos and your tours across Russia. Describe the circumstances under which you started your career.
First of all, I want to greet the American readers. Because of political wars and jerks on both sides of the ocean who threw tons of mud at each other, it is difficult to speak about music. However, my opinion remains the same, that music and art in general is above the mercantile and geopolitical interests of separate categories of citizens. I started a career as a musician in Ladek in 1993, when the country was on its knees. Me and Dmitry Martynov assembled a band called Galaxy M82. Of course, it's funny to listen to these amateur records. But then we did not seem so. In 1995 I joined the army, while he gathered a team whose style cannot be determined until now. It was some hellish mixture of Ozzy Osbourne and Russian punk rock with elements of Russian folklore. Horror in one word. When I returned from the army (to join was the duty of all men in Russia), I collected his first adequate part. Six months later I joined the black metal band Miktlantekutly, which released two full-length albums. In 1999, I gathered a new group. The basic concept laid in the foundation is consistent chanting and personalized space sounds. I have accumulated quite a number of songs on the theme of non-space, and the band recorded two albums. Now we’re going back to basics and beginning to work on cosmic songs. For our years of hard work, we have not been able to write great conceptual fairy tales. In support of the revival of the idea I spent an eighteen-month tour across Russia. The performances were in Kaliningrad, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Arkhangelsk, Cheboksary and many other places. Then I put the play in my novel "All The Sins Of Mankind." This year I had to change jobs because the heads of local administration Yulia Vdovichenko and Ms. Ryabikova created intolerable working conditions. Despite this, I continue to work on creative projects.

About that eighteen month tour you mentioned in which you visited Kaliningrad, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Arkhangelsk, Cheboksary, do you have any tales to tell about fans you met or how your material was received?
Frankly, I do not know where I am known in such remote regions as Kamchatka, but they received me warmly. I cannot select any place separately. In all of them I was given a lot of time and attention. In Vladivostok I went down to the underground bunker Primorsky Territory. In Chuvashia National I was treated to kakayshurpi soup, in the Urals I was treated to dumplings were treated in the Urals and in Rostov-on-Don I was treated to barbecue and hemp salad. Nice to know that I now have a lot of friends not only in Russia but worldwide.

In what ways, if any, has the political system in Russia had an influence on your songwriting and lyric writing?
The political situation in Russia in the 90s when I was growing up was difficult. This could not affect my perception of the world, where warring and daily killings were a reality. By a happy coincidence, at this time in my life there was a person who radically changed my inner world: my stepfather. He was from the capitalist world, which seemed to post-Soviet teenagers something unusual. At the time I started writing my first poems, which were filled with western mysticism. Now I write less political lyrics. Our country has become stable. Of course, the confrontation between the two superpowers remains, but at the policy level. I sincerely hope that the Americans think so too. In my novel, of course, there is plaque policy. And the verses are sometimes obtained with exaggerated patriotism. However, I am sure all of this is from the heart. I myself have always been in politics, indirectly. It puts into practice various patriotic designs.

How long were you serving in the army? Do you remember many of your experiences from that period in your life?
Under the law of the Russian Federation, all boys aged eighteen are required to serve in the army for two years. I was no exception. This time, the formation of me as a person, as a man, as a patriot of the motherland. I got there via the military profession. I was a radio operator. I finished the service with the rank of sergeant. While serving in the army I was a shy and modest boy. but somewhere inside I felt the maturing musical maniac. During my time in the service I met with Roma Azarov who recorded an amateur record. We recorded directly in the unit, secretly from the commanders. However, it later became known to all and I was sent to the brig. In general, my time spent on military service was an important period in my life. I became independent, realized a lot of things and realized that music is something I cannot betray and will not betray you. It helped me to cope with the lack of understanding of others.

Do you have any poems you wrote during the 90s? Have they been published anywhere, or do you plan to publish them?
I published them along with some short stories in a collection I released the year before. Now I find them a little naive, though demonic. Here is an excerpt: "I go into the dark forest, and get drunk out of their graves. In the mist, the dark night of the spirit begins to wander terrible. Satan."

What was the title of the book your poems and fiction were collected for? How much of your work was collected for publication in it? Are copies of this release still available for purchase?
I produced the book in limited editions. All of the copies have already sold out. I plan to re-release the edition next year. The book includes poems from 1990 to 2003. I don’t even remember how many of them were released. The book includes several stories. One of them has characters much like members of the LGBT community. It discloses the savory side of human relationships. To keep the intrigue, I will not reveal the plot.

Describe the storyline of All The Sins Of Mankind, the setting and characters, and the time period it takes place in?

It happens in the new Russia, in a fictional town. A group of young people commit a bad deed; they inadvertently killed the cat during a children's game. After that things become tragic. One of the men crushed the poison of loneliness and considers himself the supreme arbiter. He starts to process the other young people, breaking their destinies. As a result, one commits suicide, the other goes crazy, and the third goes to the monastery and the rest of his life suffers. The leitmotif I wanted to convey to the reader was the evil side of human nature. You need to be alert. Evil on a universal scale is not necessarily associated with wars and natural disasters. The seeds of evil may take root in small towns and villages, poisoning the light of life and vulgarizing the concept of enjoying life.

How long had you and Dmitty Martynov known one another before you worked together in musical projects? What made you want to form a band together?
I knew from an early age. We are neighbors who live in the same house. He withdrew from the music business as he has a family with two children. We rarely see each other. When I returned from the army we participated together in one project which has not appeared on stage. The group was created spontaneously. He played guitar and sang songs by Viktor Tsoi. When we talked about our work, he said he had a song. I offered to write them down. We read the magazine "Model Construction" and Dima soldered all sorts of things for a guitar by the schemes of the magazine. It was a fixed idea. Our only alternative was to drink vodka with peers, engage in robbery or go to the gym. We chose communication at home and making music. By the way, we were in the same college and received the profession of chef and confectioner. I still love to cook.

Describe the music you and Dmitry worked on for Galaxy M82. How did the two of you record the material?
Only the master copy is preserved. It was recorded on audiocassette. In the 90s studio recording was made in makeshift conditions. We did not have drums; instead we used the trunk of an accordion, tin cans and the twelfth volume of the collected works of Lenin. Now, when I decide to take a break from the stage, I plan to digitize these records and reissue all my albums professionally. I’ll do so next year. I need to fix my body, soul and brains. Americans invented whiskey, and now I cannot think of Black Label. This album had nothing to do with the space theme. The songwriter was Dmitry. It was actually a copy of a popular Russian group known as KINO. The microphone was attached by adhesive tape to a MD-200. We recorded while our parents were at work and we skipped college.

Describe the two full length releases that were released by Miktlantekutly. How did you progress over those albums?
The first full-length album features classic black metal, with black metal vocals and relevant paganistic text, a frantic pace and atmospheric keyboards. This is what characterizes this album. The second album has become closer in sound to Samael. On it, we changed our sound and lyrics, and I was on vocals. It was after this album I decided to build the project with the space orientation in the lyrics. Although the thread of paganism sometimes slips into it.

Did the two releases of Miktlantekutly receive any press outside Russia?
If you count Belarus and Ukraine, there are strong pagan traditions so the first album was a success. The second album gravitated to industrial so accordingly it was a different kind of audience.

Did you have your own studio when you and Dmitry recorded? How many studios exist in your area where bands can record their material? At what point were you able to acquire a drum kit to record with?
Dmitry and I recorded our album in makeshift conditions. Smolensk used to have two studios, where bands could record. In nearby towns; Bryansk, Kaluga, Orel; we could not afford to record in the studio. Now in Smolensk there are seven studios at different purses, all insanely expensive. There we recorded one track, A Sinful Love, at the most affordable budget available to young musicians. There are studios that specialize in heavy sound, but I do not like the sound engineers’ approach in Smolensk. So I recorded in other cities. The album "Na Nebo" I wrote in Bryansk and we stylized the sound at the end of the 90s. The album "Morgue Refrigerators" we recorded in Mogilev/Belarus. I needed a modern sound and it is the European approach in the studio Arzamas 16 that I liked. The sound engineer was Denis Manionak. I purchased drums in 2003 because my main project involved the use of electronic drums. I believe that musicians must buy their own tools rather than wait until the group leader does it for him.

Describe the local black metal scenes in Russia. Over the years I have been in contact with a couple of bands here and there, but I imagine you know much more.

I don’t gravitate too much toward black metal, but in view that I played a long time in this direction, we kept in touch with many of the pagan groups in Russia and abroad. This direction is well developed in the Republic of Karelia, St. Petersburg and Moscow. There are many national black metal bands locally based in Yakut, Pomeranian, Chuvash, Tatar and so on. In the Urals and Siberia black metal is not as popular. In the Far East they listen to alternative. In South Russia it’s rap and pop. Rock there is a rarity. Americans would find it difficult to understand Russia without visiting it. Many regions here have their own musical preferences. I have already talked about Karelia which borders on Scandinavia. There are strong pagan traditions in heavy music there.

What time period are the pagan traditions in Russia based on? How much study have you done on Russian paganism?
Pagan tradition in Russian music is not always related to black metal. It should be borne in mind that ancient Muscovy and Smolensk professed polytheism. I never was fond of Paganism or Satanism. I like Orthodoxy. Of course, I have many friends who are Gentiles. I am familiar with the whole clan in Russia who worship the ancient gods but I do not have anything to do with them.

Explain how you began to include the space theme in your work. What were the earliest results like?
I took an exam in geography and the first song was born in my head about the sun. I sat down to write the concept. In addition to the solar system there were written works dedicated to stars and other objects such as the asteroid Eros, Polaris, Pollux Castro etc. Fans met this material with enthusiasm. Still, many of us are waiting for the execution of these songs, and I can tell you we will soon return to the stage with this material.

How many releases with a space theme do you have out altogether? Are you working on anything new?
At the moment there are three releases with a space theme. The debut album Deimos, the live album Cesium Rhymes and the album Saved The Day. Most of these albums have instrumental compositions. The first and second albums had a lot of experimentation. The third space album is quite independent. Now we are working on recording a full-length album of the solar system, including the satellites of some planets. All can be found on the band's website and social networks. However, the recording quality is deliberately understated. We are currently reworking the site.

How soon do you expect your next full length recording to be released? How do you plan to advertise and promote it?
I plan to release the full version of the album next year. I think that in six months I should start to look for a company that will produce this material. If the conditions are not suitable I will be releasing it independently.

Where outside Russia would you want to perform in the future? Does this include playing shows in the United States?
It all depends on the proposals. I am pleased to be delivered in the United States. If the situation is stabilized. I will be playing in the Ukraine.

Alex Sigmer official website
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-Dave Wolff

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