Interview with Nickolay Karphushin of ROSA INFRA
You just released a new online single Oil Sonata that can be heard on the band’s official Youtube profile. Describe the two songs recorded for this single and what they were written about. I understand the songs are part of a larger storyline?
"Oil Sonata" and “Ot 18 i Starshe” ("18 years old and older") will be included in a future conceptual album. It tells a great story about a fictional parallel world. There lives a young man named Temok, who comes into a war. There he encounters the most terrible horrors and injustice from both sides of the conflict. He is confronted with cruelty, violence, murders, betrayal and cowardice, but at the same time he sees courage, mutual support and true friendship. All the dual nature of humans revealed in this war. At the end he even meets the first and only love of his life: a military nurse named Roza. And she did not allow him to break down as a person. Finally, he realizes that, like the other members of the war, he is only a puppet in the hands of rulers of those countries for which they are fighting.
Why did I call this single "Oil Sonata"? Because most of the wars in the world are carried out for resources: minerals, oil, gold, political power etc. But the government invents propaganda for the people and confuses the people. And for all these young men are more willing to go to war and kill their own kind on the other side of the conflict. Those, in turn, proceed in the same way, but for opposite reasons. But in fact, they have nothing to share in that regard. The Earth is for all.
In the plot there is an important mystical background. A certain alien creature of a parasitical kind took over the souls of the citizens of the country (Greyland). The creature is of giant sizes, possessing sharp wits which are only for the benefit of power. The Monstrous Worm is his name. He does not care who to deal with for gaining his objectives be it God, the Devil or Man. It is only to devour. But basically, God and other righteous forces do not accept this, and Man can be influenced by this creature only through dim visions of the subconscious. So the Worm entered into an alliance with evil forces. This is a terrible meta-physical parasite that feeds on human emissions of greed, lust and all the basest passions of mankind. Gradually, people are fattening a Monstrous Worm with their emotions, so much so that he grows to giant size and is capable of wrapping his body several times round the big city. This monster stretches around the world his ethereal tentacles/suckers, through which mankind continues to nourish him with greed. This radiation is called “rajas”. So it created a cult of consumption in the world. And his main adepts, rulers of global corporations provoked the war through its puppet governments around the world, to increase their wealth and influence. A victim of one of these wars became Temok, as well as his country Greyland and brotherly people in neighboring Blackland.
How did you devise and develop this concept for the band? While you were developing it were there any science fiction or occult TV programs you drew inspiration from? Is any of it based on real life events?
I came up with some of the ideas for the concept long before the creation of Rosa Infra. It was almost fifteen years ago. Back then I only practiced as a composer and musician. My outlook was greatly influenced by the book “Rose of the World”. Its author was the Russian poet and philosopher Daniel Andreev. Unfortunately, I cannot explain in the framework of an interview all the complex principles of this philosophical doctrine, but its main sense is the unity of world religions in universal brotherhood, in a universal love and co-creation. An important aspect of the Rose of the World is the assertion about multidimensional, multilayered universes and in particular, the trans-physical multilayer of planet Earth. As a basis, I took on the principle of a plurality of otherworldly dimensions of our planet. But, of course, the concept of our upcoming album "Meta-Koma” is from a lot of my personal ideas; in particular, this Monstrous Worm which originated in one of the internal layers of the Earth. I came up with this creature on the basis of my own life experiences. It is a concentrated embodiment of the cult of consumption. The cult makes people mannequins without sincere emotions, the feeling of love, deprived of the ability to create sincerely. And the worst thing is that the need for spirituality and self-improvement disappears Instead, people live just for money and glorification of their ego, and the thirst to consume endlessly. Unfortunately, this excessive consumption is already affecting the Earth's environment, causes a lack of resources and provokes wars. Based on these observations of life, I have developed the concept of my creation.
How many books has Daniel Andreev written and published in his time? Are there other publications of his you have read, that you would want to mention in this interview?
Unfortunately, many of his works were lost. Andreev lived during the reign of Stalin and this creation was outlawed. In particular, the novel "Wanderers of the Night" was seized and destroyed when Andreev was arrested and imprisoned. But many of his works have been saved and published in our time. For example, the long poems "Iron Mystery" and "Navna". The first poem tells the story of meta-history of the twentieth century; that is, the events that take place in parallel with the other worlds of history. It is described very simply, and the struggle is told between the forces of God and the forces of anti-cosmos (the demonic hordes) and it shows how it affects the reality of our world. In a sense I can say that my album "Meta-Koma" describes the same thing, but it is applicable for the twenty-first century.
Where can your newly released tracks be heard besides Youtube? Since these songs were released on the net, how much feedback have you gotten? Is this material also being released on CD?
"Oil Sonata" is an online single. In Russia, it is available for free downloading. Public reaction to it has been very active. In social networks, these two songs caused a mixed reaction. The fact that my music typically uses low tuned guitars and bass. Our material is performed on 8-string guitar. There are a lot of atonal melodies and musical experiments. With one half of the public, it caused delight and rumors that Rosa Infra engendered a new genre of metal. Another part of the audience took the release negatively because of its non-standard sound. But I was expecting such a reaction. Anything new always carves its way through difficulties. I should add that we are always focused on creating an unusual, distinctive sound. It is a sincere creation!
How long were you practicing as a musician and composer before you founded the band? When you started Rosa Infra, was it your intention to create something nonstandard that hadn’t been tried before?
My first musical sketches that had not yet become full-fledged songs, I began to compose on guitar in 2001. Then I began to master professional musical programs and learned to manage synthesizers. I went for several years to courses of compositions and arrangements. By the way, I was never limited to one or two genres of music. Always I am listening to a lot of metal bands, but also very interested in electronic sounds. When I first became acquainted with Industrial-Metal, I finally understood the direction to promote my creativity. But at the same time, I felt that the world is too much into the same type of bands. And not only in industrial music, but any other genre. So I quickly moved away from the imitating musical idols and began to experiment and develop my own style and concept of sound. And by the way, the songs from the upcoming album "Meta-Koma" I wrote back then. But they were still too raw and needed work.
But by the time of the creation of Rosa Infra in 2007. I was interested in the genre of Gothic Metal. I really liked the albums of Type O Negative. They had an impact on my creativity. First time Rosa Infra existed as a gothic-metal band. Our first album “Change of Scenery”, released in 2012, was influenced by this genre. In Russia in 2007 it was extremely difficult to find musicians who shared my musical outlook about experiments with unusual sound. So I had to compromise, and I had a few years to play in a more simple and accessible way for the audience. And at that time such a genre was Gothic Metal.
I do not like to remember the Gothic period of Rosa Infra. At the time I loved these songs. I liked to write melodic and romantic music. But by the release of the first album, I was sick of this genre and was anxious to get back to longtime musical experiments. At the time of the release of our EP "Inframorphosis" in 2013, which first included a few songs from the upcoming album "Meta-Koma", it became clear that Rosa Infra completely changed genres. I must say that the abrupt change of style has had a negative influence on the musicians with whom I was working. They were always quite conservative in terms of creativity and were not supporters of the deep concept. They arranged a genre in which we played the first five years, and they did not want to change. By the time I wanted to work on "Meta-Koma" we reached our limits, and I had to almost completely change the band. Yet some of them I am grateful for their participation in my project, for the effort and responsible attitude. We just have different priorities in life.
Are you the band’s guitarist? Explain how you compose material with an eight string guitar and how it differs from composing with a six string guitar.
When the old guitarist left the guitars for the album were not fully recorded. But what he recorded was unsuitable for Mixing. So I had become the guitarist and completely re-recorded almost all guitar tracks for "Meta-Koma." For these unforeseen reasons work on the album last much longer than I had expected.
About 6 and 8-string guitars: in fact there is no fundamental difference between the 6-string and 8-string guitar. At least for me. There is just a wider range of sound’ you can use low notes. I needed that for my experimental material. In this sense, I believe that it does not matter on what instrument you play, but what exactly you play. Many people have a stereotype that if you have an 8-string guitar, the style will be similar to Meshuggah or Tesseract. I have great respect for these bands, but my music is very different from them, I have my own style.
How many musicians are working in the band with you? By what process did you find band members who were on similar wavelengths?
After the change of the composition, we have four men. There is Elija Afanasiyev on bass; Roman Rogojnikov on drums; me on vocal and guitar; and for the keyboards should soon come to a man whose name I'm not going to mention yet. Now he is auditioning. To find people who would like to play the steel cables on the construction crane instead of strings was really very difficult! Unfortunately, very few musicians in Russia would have been obsessed with infra-low sound just like me. We mostly prefer the sound like Iron Maiden or Manowar. And similar bands are too much. I never liked the old Heavy Metal with high voices and screaming guitars. For me, the main essence of metal is brutal and powerful, with low growling sounds. It is similar to the power I've always wanted. And in my songs I did the utmost effort, lowering the guitar to the limit. Elijah really liked this idea, as well as Roman. They, too, were looking for something special for themselves in the music.
How and where did you manage to find copies of Andreev’s publications? What else do you know of his life as a writer?
The writer himself died in 1959 and his wife of many years saved his manuscripts. But in the 90s his work was first published. I bought "The Rose of the World" at a bookstore. Daniil Andreev is a son of a famous Russian writer, Leonid Andreyev. By the way, you can free download the first six chapters of the book published in English at http://rozamira.org/rm/.
Do you know of any books that were written and published by Leonid Andreyev in his time?
Leonid Andreyev is representative of the Silver Age of Russian literature. He is considered the ancestor of Russian expressionism. In his time were published many of his short stories, novellas and novels. One of his most famous works is "Judas Iscariot."
How would you say Rosa Infra’s material differs from that of Meshuggah and Tesseract?
As a musician it is hard to describe the difference without professional terms. But I still try. Meshuggah also use low tuned guitars, that’s true. But their experiments longer appear in polymetric riffs and drums. But we focus on atonality and elements of dodecaphony of Schoenberg (a composer and avant-gardist in the early 20th century). Moreover, in such a system, I often use the strongest dissonance (tritons and minor seconds). Meshuggah has always used only growling vocals. Rosa Infra’s vocals are much more diverse. Of course, the dissonances in their songs also meet periodically in the instrumental accompaniment. But I decided to go ahead and use the dissonant chords and atonal melodies not only in guitars, but also the keyboards, and sometimes even vocals when singing clear voice. I do in those episodes where it fits into the atmosphere of the song. For the unprepared listener this music with its abundance of dissonance may seem like howls from Hell. But I as a composer especially like to create such an effect, because "Meta-Koma" describes a WAR and it cannot be euphonious.
How familiar are you with Schoenberg and what aspects of his are most influential to you?
I would not say I’m closely familiar with his work, but I like the principle of his work – dodekafonia. When during the cycle no note of 12 semitones is repeated twice. This creates a very strange, unusual, and even alien music. But I did not copy his technique completely, since in my compositions there are many repetitions and sequences, typical for metal. Another thing is that the very structure of these pieces, I tried as much as possible to withdraw from the common standards.
How have you discovered that writing and composing with dissonant keyboards and vocals enhances the band’s creativity?
I have long noticed one unpleasant thing: all the music that has been published the last fifteen years (with few exceptions) gives rise to the feeling that I had heard somewhere. Rock music no longer seems to be progressing. At least, I cannot name a single direction, which would have produced a revolution in the genre over the past fifteen years. Yes, there is Meshuggah. Perhaps they are the only band in my opinion that has had innovative ideas in metal in those years. But then there are many similar djent-bands that replicate the sound of Swedish innovators. There was nothing new after that. There are very few original bands now. So I started writing music with non-standard decisions. But on the other hand, it would be a riot for the sake of rebellion, if I had to push those chips all in a row. I use dissonance in those episodes where they really are appropriate: where it describes the agony of dying soldiers, mine victims; the unbearable suffering of the soul from the horrors of war. To the listener it should break the heart. And in those moments, I as a composer and vocalist begin to break the heart of the listener ruthlessly, as in life. After all, the purpose of art is to convey the subtleties of reality in such a way to cause a rise in the soul of the observer’s senses, catharsis, enlightenment. From seeing the suffering of people through the arts also comes enlightenment, but in another sense. Enlightenment through compassion. Observers already passes through all the pain and horror he sees and hears in the product. And so he learns to empathize to others in real life. This is my moral motivation to use in the creation of dissonance. And from a purely practical point of view, it’s always interesting to work with what goes beyond the usual stereotypes. For example, the first use of the Tritone, I heard many years ago in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze. It's unfortunate that Jimi had not often experimented with such unpopular intervals. But on the other hand, he was playing very unusual music for his time and made a contribution to the development of rock music. A dissonance that if you listen to and competently apply it, it gives the music personality and drive. And this is one of the main features of rock music in general.
How much has internet downloading helped Rosa Infra since you began releasing material online? Have people in neighboring countries heard your material?
In our time, to distribute your recordings on the Internet is the most effective way to bring creativity to the people. Few buy CDs except some collectors, at least in Russia. The public targets downloads from the Internet. Unfortunately, albums from underground bands do not pay off. In Russia in general it is very difficult to promote metal bands, especially in Death Metal, Djent and Industrial Metal. But there is the opportunity to distribute our records worldwide. We have fans in the Ukraine and Donbass, Belarus, Israel. On our releases have been several positive reviews in Europe.
Does Russia have web zines with editors who want to support local bands increase their fanbase at home and abroad?
I can only speculate on the basis of personal experience. Unfortunately, what I have encountered in this area is very poorly organized. Major webzines are not interested in the underground. In Russia, as a rule, in this environment, everything is decided by money or acquaintances with influential people. If the band does not pay, they are not interviewed or promoted in webzines or magazines. We have absolutely no support system for the development of metal movement. To participate in major festivals, you need to pay large sums of money to organizers. The system of record-labels is nominal. In fact bands are compelled to pay for absolutely everything from recording to shooting videos, promotion on the Internet and the media etc. When we released the first album, the label didn’t organize any city tour to promote it; there was no decent advertising. There was only one review in Russia's Headbanger. That's all. And then, six months later, when it was too late, we had to negotiate for publications, ask friends who work there, or people associated with them. All major publications for our group only appeared thanks to the people who were our fans from Russia, Israel, Ukraine etc. But this help is very unstable. And this is typical for the Russian metal underground. Unfortunately, because of the situation in Russia really talented bands don’t become famous, and those who do simply have commercial acumen. Marketing is essential to any band. There is no doubt! But when this supersedes everything, including creativity, then we obtain the above-described situation. I have often observed this lamentable outcome: a talented artist with amazing material recorded one album or two, and then breaks up because no one goes to see them because there is no money for extensive advertising, etc. This has been the case for a long time, since 2008/2009. I see many bands every day and more than half of them do not understand why I took guitar in hand. I don’t know, maybe I'm wrong, but I always thought that rock and metal are ideological, not just entertainment.
What countries would you want to travel to in order to perform, where bands have more of a chance to get publicity in the press? You mentioned a few locations where the band has a fanbase.
You know, I'd be happy to go wherever there is adequate and interesting people who are open to dialogue, have thoughtful perceptions of creativity, and open to spirituality. And I'm sure there are a lot of those people in Russia, the United States, India, China, Italy, Finland, Norway, Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, England and the rest of the world. Specifically, I’d like to play in Ukraine. But unfortunately, it is almost impossible to play there because of the civil war in that country. And so coincidentally, my lyrics in its meaning have been very uncomfortable for the current government of Ukraine. But I wrote them about much earlier events in Kiev and was shocked when my lyrics proved prophetic. Also, we'd like to be on all the major metal festivals in Europe and the USA.
What social media sites have most helped the band get their name around outside Russia? How many bands besides Rosa Infra have had to stream their material on those sites to be heard outside Russia?
As I can see, the promotion of groups can help any meta-portals that have high traffic and broad information support to a particular band. Alas, I am not well versed in such matters as ideally, I should not deal with cases of promotion of the band, but the managers or directors. In Russia, such a profession exists only among the top groups in which from the beginning have invested a lot of money. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the only option that would have helped us promote would have been a serious sponsorship or support for major metal labels and media in Russia and abroad. Unless of course we’re talking about international recognition. And frankly, I do not know what these two options seems more utopian.
Describe the lyrics on your debut album Change of Scenery and how they progressed on your EP Inframorphosis?
The lyrics of Change of Scenery and Inframorphosis are very different, as if they were written by different bands. I would say that between these releases Rosa Infra were completely reborn as a group experienced in the music genre, category of texts, and general atmosphere. Rosa Infra on Change of Scenery wrote romantic-gothic lyrics, no more. Rosa Infra on Inframorphosis and Oil Sonata is much more sincere and professional. Frankly, I hate the first album. But at the same time, I realize that it was a stage of creative development, albeit full of errors, but that it was necessary to go through to come to the material that we are doing now.
In what ways was Inframorphosis an improvement for the band in your eyes?
Perhaps starting with this release began to be realized my true creative ideas. And exactly as originally wanted: powerful, low, dark and epic. And of course, in terms of the meaning of lyrics in "Inframorphosis" I'm very honest with the audience and myself. All that came before it, was a warm-up, the breakdown of the pen.
Describe how the lyrical concept we discussed began to take shape with your latest material.
This material describes fictional reality, but of course the prototypes is the reality surrounding me. Over the past thirty years the world has seen many wars, coups and revolutions. But peace, prosperity and happiness have not come to the societies in which these horrors occurred. This leads me to a lot of thought. To gain inspiration, I watched a lot of documentaries about the war in Chechnya, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and other hot spots. But it was only a small part of making the lyrics of "Meta-Koma”. Part of the heroes of this great story are echoes of my personality. And the image of the military nurse Rosa in Cathedral Soul. This is the great feminine spirit that is present in every major nation in the world. This holy soul is the focus of all the qualities that embody the concept of WOMAN: love, kindness, caring, compassion, fidelity, motherhood. Unfortunately, most Western nations (including Russia until recently) have almost lost touch with their cathedral souls in the world the cult of brutality, violence and hedonism. For the same reason transphysical in my story "Meta-Koma" was war. Especially because there is one more subtlety of the plot: a Monstrous Worm stole the cathedral soul of Grayland. Therefore, the link with her was almost completely lost. Approved small spoiler: the main character who calls Temok, accidentally succeed to get in touch with her because of the tragic events of the war.
Are there any specific world events that came to mind while you were writing the lyrics to Meta-Koma?
Besides the Chechen wars, the wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq, the instrumental song "1986" was inspired by the Chernobyl disaster. But in the end, I decided to make the story as it brought together all the military events and tragedies in the general concept of WAR, applicable to any major conflict. I have already mentioned that by chance, without any intention I predicted the civil war in Ukraine, although I wrote the lyrics on this subject one or two years before these tragic events. And, frankly, I'm afraid to know it. This is the case when you're right, but you do not want to be right. Because innocent people die, and instead of fighting for the interests of corporations and the rich, they could love, to have children, create and produce something useful, beautiful and eternal.
Can you provide a synopsis of how your lyrical concept develops on your upcoming full length?
One of my main ideas was to show that in war there is nothing attractive and romantic. Only the movies show us brave and noble soldiers-heroes who falsely fall from mortal wounds and lay dead with open eyes in neat form with perfect hair, and frozen with white-toothed smiles. In reality, in war there are so many examples of valor, heroism and generosity. But this is more like a short burst of sparks on a background of dirt, the stench of rotting wounds, suffering, cowardice, government betrayal the people, and animal instincts. And the consequence of any war is post-war syndrome. And the people from past wars live the rest of their lives with broken psyches and cannot find their place in an ungrateful society.
How do you expect the storyline to develop on the band’s future releases?
All the above facts form the skeleton of my story will be held a single line through three albums. And when the force of the physical world is not able to protect humanity, then forces of trans-physical world can protect it. But there is a subtle nuance: protection does not mean that these forces will drive a man from childhood. Anyway, man himself builds his destiny, makes a decision, but the higher powers are trying to help him in this way, to suggest that a person does not get lost in the dark times. Only the force of his own will a person decides to succumb to despair, frustration and power of Evil, or to follow Light, humanity, creation and love.
Rosa Infra at Facebook