- Could you briefly present the musical career of the band ?
The band started on the 4th of May 1994 with me on bass and vocal and two other members - guitarist and drummer. At the beginning the music was close to bands such as Godflesh, Treponem Pal and Head of David. We recorded our first demo in October 1994, it was called "When Angels are Neutral". The first concert was in November the same year. After that Neutral appeared on some compilations and did a lot of concerts. In the middle of the year 1995 the original Neutral line-up collapsed due to radical differences between me and the other members in understanding the further developments of the band . In August 1996 I met Ilya Lipkin, a guitarist and artist, and Neutral was born again. The same year the next demo was recorded "The Dream that Destroys the Dreamer". It was closer to gothic/darkwave sounds. The same year we started the recording of the full-length album. The main problem was to find people who can play cello and violin. There are a lot of good musicans in Russia, but very few of them really understood the idea of the band. Neutral began to play what is called "darkfolk", and this genre is completely undeveloped in Russia. All changed in 1999 when we met Eugene Voronovski, a very talented and open-minded violinist. Later some other members joined the band - Yann on drums and Shelley on guitar. The most productive time of the band came with the year 2000 when we got very good responses from abroad (especially in Australia and Europe), and travelled to Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad) and released our first live album.
- Could you explain the choice of the band's name ?
The name came from the song title from the first demo. But the meaning
is a bit different and now it is even more different. I see Neutral as
a single tree, standing ... its roots find their own way through
the ground and its branches find their own way through the air. In Russia
we are one of the first bands playing such kind of music, so we are neutral,
not alligned to any musical communities here, but trying to form
- There are more and more bands coming from Russia. The only ones I know from their excellent albums are Moon Far Away and Romowe Rokoito (and you of course). I also heard some other industrial projects via Achtung Baby. Is there an important neofolk scene in Russia now ?
As I mentioned before, there is a very small number of bands. To be more specific there are four of them I know. Romowe Rikoito, Neutral, Kratong (a side project of some RR members) and a young Moscow band Embrace of Branches. So as far as you can see there is no scene at all, just few bands trying to form a kind of community. We all know each other, it doesn't matter if we live in different places, but we are really few in number. It's a pity, but it is the reality here. Industrial scene is more active and rich, and I can say the same about the gothic scene, but we don't belong to it.
- The Russian language is very romantic and melancholic, with a high poetic imagery. It sounds perfectly with your music. Do you intend to use it more in future releases ?
Yes, I think so.I have a lot of poems in Russian, but I cannot put them on music, they are not songs. Russian Saga was a kind of experiment, and to my mind a successful one. The only thing is that we'll maybe find different musical forms for expression in Russian. As you can see Russian Saga differes from our other songs, mostly for the strong native roots.
- You often played with Romowe Rikoito, do you have close relationships with them ?
I cannot say that we often play with them, they had only three concerts
in their history, one in Moscow, one at home in Koenigsberg and one at
a Castle Party in Poland. It is also planned another one within the
framework of Walpurgis night at fort Stein on the 30th of April -1st
of May this year. We met them in Koenigsberg last year, they invited
us to play with them at a concert, of course the invitation was gladly
accepted. They are very nice people and very good musicians , so we became
friends. They even played a cover of Diamonds In Your Hands during that
night as a gift and surprise for us. Then appeared the idea of recording
a song together. It was an unforgettable experience.
- What s the situation for a band in Russia. Are there many interestings labels? Are you well distributed in other countries, do you have opportunities to play home and in western countries ?
Here in Russia there is a very small interest to such a kind of music.
This genre has never been popular, and I find it a good thing. But the
problem is that this is also very difficult for a band to get some help
in Russia. Of course, if you have money, you can buy everything, but in
our case everything stands on pure enthusiasm. I can say the same thing
for the other bands of such kind.
There are 2-3 independent labels in Russia trying to do something, one of them is Brudenia, our friends from Koenigsberg, who released and distributed our live album ( they also released Moon Far Away " Sator" and both Romowe Rikoito albums). But as I said before in Russia everything goes pretty hard. We do not have any opportunity to play abroad, and a very small opportunity to play in Russia. In Moscow it is a bit easier, but there are not so many places we can afford with a good opportunity to play live acoustic music.
- And How is the situation in Russia now with the new Government ? It is rather difficult for us here to have an idea about what's happening in your country, as it is so big and pretty far from us.
It is not easy for me to explain the situation in Russia, because it is a very long story. What I can say is that some things are really better and something still needs to be done on some other things. The process is not easy also, but the situation is better than a few years ago.
- Russia stands for me as a fascinating country, and it has a high cultural past and present, but it also stands as a mystery, maybe because of all these years of communism, during which it was very difficult for us to get informations. What s your view about it ?
Russia is a country with one of the greatest cultural legacy and traditions in the world, I think. The problem is that we need to settle some very serious economical and political problems, that I'm sure, exist in every country to the certain extend. Speaking about the cultural side of our life, Russia is an open country for everybody interested in our traditions, literature and history.
- Russia has got a huge mystical history, do you intend to explore it for future releases ?
I am not very much in mysticism, but I find some things interesting. I think there will be some reflections of Russian pagan traditions in our music, I have just common thoughts on how to express it through music, but nothing certain yet.
- Which part of the Russian history does particularly interest you ?
I'm very much interested in WW2 history, and of course The Great
Patriotic War in USSR 1941-45.
- What's your opinion of Europe, and what's the opinion of Russians about Europe. How do you see the next future of our Continent ?
Well, it is a very difficult question. I think Europe is a large chest
full of mysteries, a great storage of legends and ancient traditions. For
example, being in England in 1994 I had a feeling that each town keeps
secrets of the dark times. The good thing is that in Europe the spirit
of the old traditions co-exist with the achievements of the civilization.
In other words, Europe has a lot to tell to the one who is really interested.
The bad thing is the strong American influence Europe experience nowadays.
I would prefer to stay away from discussing politics, but to my mind this
influence brings nothing good for the european countries. Speaking about
the future of Europe - I hope it is in the hands of open-minded people
- You will leave Russia very soon to another Continent for a time. Do you think this experience might influence your musical tendencies ?
I dont think so. I have visited several countries with very different
cultures and traditions, but I have a lot of ideas to express in the present
musical form, that I would still prefer to cultivate this field. Maybe
someday things will change, but I think not in the nearest future.
- Which are your main musical and artistic influences ?
Well, as for music, it is Sol Invictus, Current 93, Irish folk music, some bands from the early industrial wave (TG, SPK etc). In literature it is Clive Barker, Julio Kortasar and works on WW2 history.
- What's the importance of the moon as a symbol for you ?
First, the moon guides my horoscope sign - cancer. The moon is a mystery, a language of nature hidden from the masses, the eye, that watches the world sleeping and all the deeds, performed during this sleep.
- What's your relation to Nature ?
Nature is everything. The most horrible thing is that technology makes
people weak and lazy, it also makes people kill for fun. It will oneday
kill the mankind, or it will degradate the humanity . The problem for the
human race is to find the reasonable balance between using the natural
sources and development of the technology to satisfy its desires. But this
kind of balance is impossible to reach, I think.
For me Nature is a source of inspiration , it is the most beautiful and strangely changeable thing in the world.
- Have you already planned to release a full-length album soon ?
Yes, sure. We've been working on it since 1996, due to financial problems it takes so much time. But now it is almost finished and we have some offers to release it abroad.
- Your website is mostly written in Russian, will there be an English translation ? Did you create the site by yourself (the design is really well done) ?
Of course, it is just a question of time. We have a lot of work to do, after we finish our album the site will be reconstructed and an English version will appear also. The most amount of work on the site is done by our friend and colleague,Wolfsblood and also Ilya Lipkin, who is also an art designer. Wolfsblood is an editor of the Russian webzine Seidr, dedicated to pagan cultures, dark folk and mysticism (including russian ancient pagan traditions). I highly recommend it to all interested in such things. This zine is a basic information source of our comunity. You can find it at http://seidr.woods.ru. (English version included)
- And the usual Heimdallr question : which are your 5 favourites records ever, and which are the 5 last ones you recently bought ?
5 favorites ever :
Backworld "Isles of the Blest"
Nature and Organisation "Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude"
Current 93 "of Ruine and some Blazing Starre"
The Pogues "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash"
I don't buy much music, there are some albums I really enjoyed recently:
Backworld "Holy Fire"
Current 93 " Soft Black Stars"
- A last word ?
Thank you very much for the interest in our music, it is a real pleasure
Hope we'll meet someday somewhere in Europe...
Thanks to Ash for his kindness and patience in
answering these questions and thanks to The Icelord for the picture.
Heimdallr webzine / May 2001