You guys hail from Russia. Now in Western Europe, it is hard to get an objective view of the metal scene in Russia. What can you tell us about it, in terms of acts, genres, fans, gigs, etc.?
Russian metal scene is in full shit now. Everything is holding on a principle "do-it-yourself", - in fact, what you mean for 'scene' is absent here. Everything or almost everything is working at DIY principle here. So that's why it's hard for you to get an objective view for Russian metal scene - there's no such a thing. There are a lot of bands and musicians here - and many of them are really good and have perspective, but no labels and concert agencies of your level, who would be seriously interested in sponsoring and promoting them. Nobody needs it except musicians themselves and a close circle of people, who are interested in conception of true metal scene in Russia. For now Leshak takes great interest in creation Russian Extreme Folk Familia, community of bands playing black/death metal and using in their music and lyrics historical or ethnic themes.
Are you totally free to make and perform whatever music you want of like, or is there still a certain degree of control by the government?
On the assumption of what I've said earlier, our government doesn't give a damn about metal music, provided you don't scream about Hitler or propagandize another form of extremism. But even then you'll have to try hard for anyone to notice hahaha. Since we are far from politics and maintain the band ourselves, we were never controlled by anyone. We feel free about everything, so we create, play and record we consider necessary, and therein our creative freedom turns as undoubted advantage, because the only thing we depend on is how much money do we have at the moment. But we'll try to overcome that too. Keep waiting for the next album, it will be coming soon!
Is metal socially accepted in Russia, or do you encounter social barriers?
I cannot say that metal is socially accepted in Russia. It's easy to get punched in the face for having long hair or wearing merchandize clothes. It can be the cause of street fighting with aggressive adjusted youth from others subcultures. That's more peculiar to remote regions - the farther the worse. Most of people don't accept our culture and suppose metal music is for freaks or other outcasts, but it becomes just another incentive for us to be more steady with respect to any living conditions. I can say that in a certain way we achieved more solidarity within our ranks because we have to deal with that.
Whas it hard for Leshak to get a record deal? The music you perform is far from unique, so I can imagine that record companies are critical.
Actually I can't remember any Russian band combining Slavonic folk and death metal and lyrics about mythic creatures from Slavonic legends. But if you name a couple of bands for me – perhaps, I'll find out something new. Making the recording was not as easy as we wished it to be. In part, it made us glad – overcoming difficulties we became more close as a band. Now we are working on a new material for our second album, I can only say it will be more qualified and heavy in comparison to the first one, maybe even more experimental. The large majority of music labels in Russia work with European and American bands only. There are numerous awesome musicians, but also a lot of low-grade shit, which is adorable for amateurs. Unfortunately, local band ranks lower foreign ones in Russia, and when people have to chose they focus on fashion trends, not on uniqueness of the music. And therefore many young bands have to pay labels for producing their material. Stygian Crypt prefers to work with Russian bands, that is rare for our country. SC is really good label that is not indifferent about Russian metal music. We had no problems getting a record deal, the boss of the label offered a deal right after he listened the album.
What can you tell me about the history of Leshak? Does the name 'Leshak' mean anything in Russian?
The history of the band begins about 2006, when I brought together our first membership by that name. A year previously I tried to form pagan metal band, but that idea ended in failure. Of course we got some inner problems during four years of the existence of Leshak, but nowadays we are really harmonious team. For now we have two new bandmembers – flutist Zuks joined the band in 2008 and bassist Owl came in 2009 right away Yzh retired. Speaking about the name, Leshak is dialect form of a Russian word Leshiy. It is the spirit of dark forest witchcraft in Slavonic legends. Mankind is the enemy for it. It is the allegory of the Nature, a form of personification of the Nature.
And, subsequently, what can you tell us about the members of Leshak? Who are you guys actually?
It's not too much to tell actually. I am fascinated by mythology and history of different nations, especially Scandinavia – it won my heart forever. Frontline (vocals) takes a great interest in entomology and collects any trash. Owl (bass) has a passion for Warhammer and reading Terry Pratchett. Zuks (flute) is fascinated by the 60s-70s, movies and music of that age. Tchortovrog (drums) is a real collector of heavy music, listens to a great number of bands, also he fixing electronics constantly. So, that's something about us in brief.
What do the members of Lesahk do for a living? Do you still go to school/college or are you already part of the working-class?
I am in my fifth year of Moscow State University of Culture and Arts, Frontline recently graduated Moscow State Forest University, Owl works at the jeweller's, he graduated Moscow State University of Applied Biotechnology last year. Zuks works in Moscow Nordic School.Tchortovrog is in his third year Russian State University of Tourism and Service.
I would describe your music as black metal with influences of folk music. Do you agree on that?
I can't agree with that. We never planned to make something specified as we were writing songs, 'Chertovorot' was recorded at a heat, never mind any style. So it turned out to sound close to death or trash metal with influences of folk-music. Although most of us rate black metal highly, there's nothing connected with it in our music. But that is only the question of time – for I don't know what would our new album be sound like. Perhaps, some forms of black metal will be there.
The used folk elements…are they typical Russian elements or are they also inspired by other cultural influences?
When we create our music we're mostly inspired by our own cultural heritage. We never use Scandinavian motives in our material – so there are typical Russian elements only. But that doesn't mean we deny the importance of other cultures – and we take a pleasure in listening bands from any part of the world, which use ethnic motives in their music.
Since your lyrics are all in Russian we have no idea what they are about. Please enlighten us…
'Chertovorot' couldn't be called a conceptual album. Several songs in a sarcastic way tell the story about the orthodox priest, who being alcoholic, hypocrite and coward, personified image of modern member of the orthodox clergy, and him running into the powers of nature and devilry incarnate. In the first case he just got a fright and managed to run away. But in the second one he was not that successful – and ended his life with his body torn apart and cooked in the kettle; and his head pinned on the stake – all accompanied by the dance of deuces ('Chertovorot'). 'By the Paths of Leshak' is about spring, the awakening of the nature, about the mermaids naked (drowned women, either not dead or alive) and the water sprite; And the Spring itself, personified in the beautiful maid, walks by the forest paths, waking up all from the winters sleep. 'Shulikuns´ Dances' – an instrumental allegory on small malicious dancing deuces. 'Dark Forests are from the Land up to Sky…' is the most epic song from the album; it tells about the pagan times passed away long ago, about the forgotten valour of warriors and the ancient pagan gods, who spend the rest of their days far beyond; and also about the burning boat and eternal love, this song is sight to the distant past. And 'Was Wollen Wir Trinken' – I guess there's no need to represent, everyone knows this Breton song about the booze.
What is it that you want to elaborate or show to the audience of the people that listen to your music? Or is that not important to you and do you guys just play and compose for fun?
Of course we make it not for fun! Our music is the way of self-realization, a large stream of energy, which flows when we're united. You can see it on our gigs. We strive for self-expression through the dark edges of our culture and legends, by means of our songs we want to bring the echoes of the times long gone, and revive chthonic creatures, don't let our cultural heritage being erased from the memory of the modern generation, Russian or not. Every nation has its own mythology – traditions, legends and folktales. So has our nation. People should remember that. Without knowing your past you cannot face the future with confidence, which conceals new battles and victories…
Are there any plans for Leshak to play in Western Europe, on festivals for instance?
If there in Europe would be anyone interested in invitation Leshak to play a gig – we will be glad to come. Europe has all the conditions to organize a worthy concert, to make both fan and musicians satisfied. I think we will be able to make a hellish carnival for the audience. We had played more than ten gigs all over Russia in 2009, so we are experienced enough for that. On the occasion of European concerts – organizers can email me anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact us on MySpace
And finally, are there any last words you would like to direct to the Dutch people?
Face the future with confidence, and never forget the experience of the past. There are a lot of differences between our nations, but in spite of that let us learn to understand and respect each other. Listen to worthy music. Stay Folk, Horns!!