The mountain similar to Everest. The interview with the band "Gourishankar"
Алексей "Astarte Eel" Иринеев
The art rock band Gourishankar from Syktyvkar is probably well known for many amateurs of this very style. After 15 years of its existence, this band became extremely popular among the admirers of the art and progressive rock. For this band, the quality is in the highest position than the quantity. The fact that Gourishankar released three full featured albums makes obvious this idea. «Music should strike fire from the heart of human soul» - it is a very famous Beethoven's saying. With the fact of its existence, Gourishankar confirms that music is able to create the entire worlds. Among the stylistic accessory of this band, we can mention «Eclectic prog». And it is really so: the band from the Syktyvkar is equally eclectic, progressive and experimental. We talked today with the founder and bandleader Alexander who told us about the latest epoch-making album "The World Unreal" and about the content of the art rock, showing us a magic and secret world of the real rock art.
— "Gourishankar", what does it mean? Why did you choose such a strange and intricate word?
Translated from Sanskrit "Gourishankar" means "the mountain similar to Everest". We stumbled across this very name. But, as we know, there is nothing in the world that can happen by chance.
— How did it happen that you have decided to work in the art-rock? It was the decision from the musical point of view or the art-rock in your opinion is a new philosophy?
From my childhood, I used to listen almost only the art-rock and nothing else. Other genres seemed to be too simple and superficial to my mind. With the course of time, I expanded the boundaries, but the art-rock is still the most unrestricted area for different musical experiments for me. You were right in saying that the art-rock is like a new philosophy. It can have all kinds of forms. No matter what kind of music I did, they say, that my music has some additional reality that is characterized by a sort of a sick fantasy and detachment from the ordinary world.
— Why do you think that the art rock is a smart music for the smart people? "Smart" is the same as "intelligent" or this word has deeper meaning in your opinion?
Not every art-rock release I can call the smart one. It happens very often when the smart music is too far from the art-rock area. "Intelligent"—this is definitely much better. "Smart" sounds too pretentious and has a chance to become a word with negative connotation. I can add that the art rock needs some artistry and aesthetic qualities, but these are aesthetic qualities.
Gourishankar in 2002
— What is the difference between the art rock and the progressive one in your opinion? What is more suitable for Gourishankar?
Popular opinion centers on the fact that the progressive rock is a more complex and creatively enriched form of rock music. But, I want to separate the progressive rock from the rock itself, because as a rule, they have different creative aims. To my mind, the progressive rock was like a continuation of the traditions of the classical music. In some different forms of course, I'm talking about the tools. Therefore, the art rock is a subgenre of the progressive one. It has its own strongly marked methods and standards. It is very difficult to say that the Gourishankar's music has something in common with the art rock, but it is definitely fit well into the progressive rock. On the west, we are referred to "Eclectic prog", but for me this classification seems to be like a special place for those groups, that is difficult to classify.
— And if we talk about the lyrical side of your work, how important is it?
If you mean the content of the songs, I can say that for me it is not important if compare with music. This very content gets the necessary sense and colors only in the context of the completely musical concept. It is so great when the convergence of the music with verse strengthens the effect. But, as you know, we have texts in English, and for me it is difficult to understand how well this convergence work, because I'm not an English language speaker. As for Russian language music, I can say that a text is important for me, but the singer's ability to show his or her dramatic side and necessary emotions, to improvise, to look for some unusual sound, the multidimensionality of his or her playing are of the utmost importance. I want to see the personality first, and not only a musician who can sing a note or two. It goes without saying, that the sensibility in the feelings and state of mind, and on the whole the emotional side play a big role for me.
— What are your lyrics about in your latest album?
If I start to explain the content of the songs in few words, the sense will be quite trivial. I can only say that Jason is the author of the whole lyrics and wields the pen in professional way. The content of his verse is highly dramatic and full of the world concept. It is an integral part of the work.
— Why did you decide to call your new album "The World Unreal»? What unreal world it deals with?
Here raises the question of reality and illusiveness of the existence. What is the social realm? Is it genuine? Is there the number of the realities? Can we see and perceive them? And etc.
Gourishankar in 2010
— What do you think about the following saying: the musician and his music can create the new and special reality?
I totally agree with it, I use to create it regularly.
— What kind of world would you like to create with the help of your music?
I don't want to create; everybody has his or her own world deep inside. I just want to explain, to describe, to understand, to develop and to analyze the world that I already have in my soul. So, my world is a part of something magnificent. I don't want to create the artificial "ghosts". They are not viable and as a result, they are devoted to destruction.
— Do you use the contiguous styles growing out of the traditional art rock on purpose or it happens in a natural way?
The musical critics and classifiers try to put us inside the boundaries of the art rock. We have never been inside them. If we talk about the progressive rock as a fertile ground for the experiments, the use of the different stylistic forms can exist. At some time of his developing, the progressive rock changed his category from the complex and innovative to something usual, simple. As a result, there is the lack of ideas. Nowadays, to resemble somebody is enough for being classified as a prog-rock band, no matter if you have something new and creative to say through your music. As a common thing, the amateurs of the prog-rock make a stand for the purity of the style. They are not very glad to hear the experiments that go beyond the prog-rock boundaries. To my mind, these experiments in our music are well balanced.
— What do you think of the opinion that the music of Gourishankar reminds soundtracks?
I used to hear that. My good friend is a film director, he considers the music of our band as a soundtrack to his life, and he has a dream to do a movie about us. Isn't it great?
— What film will be suitable for your music?
They say that "Order and Chaos" from our latest album is suitable as a soundtrack to " Mad Max". The main difference between our music and the soundtracks is that it is self-sufficing. In the case of soundtrack, this fact happens not so often.
— Will you please tell us about the most exceptional composition from this latest album "Truth stays Silent"?
This track was creating for such a long period. We began to work at it 10 years ago. Many things were changed. We have a high standard, so the responsibility was also huge. I'm not satisfied with the result to the full. Nevertheless, it is cool; I don't think that everyone can create something like this.
— What is the meaning of the ethnic tune, which we can hear in “The World Unreal” in your opinion?
I just wanted to show something vivid, something that we can see only far away, something that can pass the connection of the different centuries and generations. It is just the colors of the musical palette and nothing else.
— What is the most successful and remarkable track from your new album in your opinion? Will you please tell me why do you think so?
Personally, it is difficult for me, like for founder, to emphasize only one track. I like all of them and at the same time can criticize all the tracks. But if I try to forget my fatherly love, as an amateur of the music I would pay attention to the first one ( 2nd in the album after intro) and the last one. They seemed to be the most fundamental ones.
— Will you please tell us about the musicians which worked at “The World Unreal”.
So, Jason Offen, English singer and poet. He used to visit Russia several times to work at the album and just to have fun here. His cold and marble voice fitted in with the atmosphere of the album. As to his poetry, it inspired the music with unusual content and images (shapes).
Svetoslav Bogdanov- the uncommon drummer from Saint Petersburg. He has an amazing and original fingerprint. We used to work with a very technical English drummer, but he, somehow, judging by his playing, did it like a drummer of a prog-metal band. But I was looking for more elegant and delicate sound. As a result, Svetoslav did the needful.
Moreover, there were some backing singers and instrument makers. In the second track “Order And Chaos” you can hear the ethnic Komi-vocal. For the foreigners, it usual remind the Middle East singing. It is funny, by the way.
— What is the main difference between the new release and the first two albums Gourishankar?
The main difference is that it is more adult and mature work.
— Do you want to work with the famous musicians? With whom than?
We had a chance to work with some notable musicians. I have already told about it earlier. Moreover, we even used to start work with them. But whether their past merits fall on our shoulders like ball and chain or other different reasons did their part. Nothing worked out. The result was unacceptable. I wanted to find something specific for my music, something unique, and something that you cannot hear earlier in the works of the other bands. That is why if I had a chance to work with Rick Wakeman or Peter Gabriel I will refuse this opportunity.
I don’t really like the bands that has the line-up like a public thoroughfare. I like when several people cooperate during the long period of time. I like to see how they grow and develop together, how they become a unique system.
There are some musicians, strange to say but in Russia, with whom I will be glad to work. I will not tell the names. But these are the musicians of the new formation, very original, madly gifted. Will I have a chance to work with them or not, I don’t know. There are many affecting factors. The main is- the ability to have a positive communication with me.
— Will you please describe the process of working on the video of the main track from the new album? What the conception of this very musical video?
I gave the free reign to the director and didn’t participate at all. He examined the lyrics, created a camera report, chose the actors and with the help of camera operator took a picture. My daughter Sophie participated in this video. I like to watch it and I hope that you like it!) Thanks God the director likes the intelligent music as I do and the art-rock too. I didn’t ask him about his thoughts that he used while creating this video.
—Which art-rock bands do you like? Which music do you listen just for enjoying yourself?
I’m the musician, but first of all I am a judge of interesting, smart music. The music of high quality. So, the content is of the utmost importance for me. I have also the collection that consists of 3000 Compact discs, I like to collect the music in the same old way; these are my favorite bands, singers and musicians. So some of them are too rear and I tried to find them all over the world. There are some that are too difficult to find in the world web. The art-rock in my collection occupies nearly 1/3. This is the classic art-rock of 70s-80s., of course. I don’t listen the modern art-rock, actually. The problem is that the modern one differs from that magic music of the “Golden Age”. But the art-rock is just the part of my collection. I bring your pardon, but I do not want to tell you what I like to listen. This is so private for me. I don’t know how did it happen, but only small amount of people knows my preferences. I am so meticulous about music that I love to listen to. I have even the pictures of the founders in my family photobook among my relatives.
— Your band has an anniversary this year- 15 years. Is the new album an anniversary one? Should your listeners wait for some surprises?
Last year with the help of the Alexey Koslov fund and the Art-Beat music the anniversary box set was published. It consists of the first two remastering albums and previews that titled “1st Decade”. The album “2nd hands” was published as a vinyl record. In the future, we want to release the last albums as a vinyl record and digipak “The World Unreal”. I cannot say whether it will come true or not, but I would like to. In years to come we don’t have any plans for the new album. Yeah, we can name “The World unreal” as an anniversary one. My goodness! We are 15!)) This is too much.
— Did you celebrate the anniversary? What does this date mean for you? Which of your achievements you find as the most important ones?
I invited my friends to one cozy coffeehouse and here I get up an event just for two hours. First I delivered a lecture about the evolution of the progressive rock all over the world, and the last part of the evening was about the new release. We watched the video, talked to each other, on the whole the event was warm-hearted. Nowadays the presentations and the anniversaries of the prog-bands are celebrated in this very way.
Yes, we have lots of achievements! You can read about them, for example, in Wikipedia. And this fact is very meaningful. So the most important achievements certify the fact that our music took its simple position in the world musical art, because regularly, I receive messages from people all around the world, they are happy that they had a chance to listen to our music.
— What about Gourishankar’s plans for the next 5 years? Do you have some goals?
I afraid to plan ahead, but I would like to continue. You know it is too difficult. I hope that in 5 years we will have some new themes for our art work, I just can add that I don’t have anything else to say in my music.
I have a great desire to take part in the tribute to Alexey Koslov’s “Arsenal”. We already had a conversation with the producers about it. Will it happen or not, I don’t know.
Moreover, I want to make a remastering of the last album, because we have a failed result. Steven Wilson will help us with pleasure.))
So, it is better not to wait something interesting. In this way, the news will be a pleasant surprise.
— What about the gigs?
Gourishankar is a studio project. For me, the gigs are rather different way of the musical performance. There lots of bands which gigs I would like to visit but their studio versions I don’t like at all. Gourishankar don’t have gigs and we don’t even plan them. To tell the truth, we don’t know there to find good musicians and for whom we will play, at least in Russia.
— What would you like to say to your admires?
I would like to say that they should learnt how to understand the music. The understanding of the art is a very hard job, just like the creating, and sometimes it is even more difficult. We can see the lines from the Andrey Dementyev’s poem “Regret Nothing” – “Let someone plays the flute so that it's something but these tunes are derived yet from your own soul.”
Don’t have a consumer attitude towards the music. Please, respect the musicians. First I underestimated all the music that I love today. Only after five time of listening or even more, only after that I brought an insight experience. I can say that the music that I loved from the first time, later became not so interesting and it even disappointed me. Learn to listen attentively and catch some magic things, learn to find the diamonds and only in this way you will be reworded.
- Thank you for this interesting interview!
Aleksey "Astarte Eel" Eerineev