Grebenshchikov's Soviet Rock Gets a Makeover
- By Sergei Chernov
- Dec. 01 1998 00:00
Forget the image of Boris Grebenshchikov sitting quietly on his chair singing Dylanesque ballads while flutes and violins hover in the background.
The grand old man of Soviet rock has remixed himself, and his seminal band Akvarium, with the help of two of St. Petersburg's trendiest groups - electronic dance act Deadushki and alternative group Tequilajazzz.
Grebenshchikov and his two collaborators will perform Wednesday at DK Gorbunova to publicize the result of their work together, the album "Boris Grebenshchikov and Deadushki."
On the album, Deadushki - with a little help from renowned British producer Paul Kendall - make over some of the classics of Russian rock that Akvarium and Grebenshchikov made together in the 1970s and '80s.
Grebenshchikov doesn't consider them remixes, but "cardinal remakes" of the old Akvarium songs.
The main impulse for the album, Grebenshchikov readily admits, was envy.
"I was typically jealous of the fact that Tricky or Massive Attack can produce certain sounds, but I can't," he said in an interview last week.
Looking for possible collaborators, Grebenshchikov listened to many DJs and acts - from artist and musician Sergei "Africa" Bugayev to popular DJ Groove - but nothing worked.
"Everything I heard here [in Russia] was commercial and uninteresting and not at all comparable with what was happening in civilized countries," he said.
Eventually he found the answer right under his nose when he heard a demo tape by Deadushki, a St. Petersburg project formed last year by Viktor Sologub and Alexei Rakhov.
"I listened to [the tape] and gleefully found that what they were doing was ... on the level of what the Western groups I like were doing," Grebenshchikov said.
Sologub and Rakhov played alongside Akvarium in the 1980s as members of the ska band Stranniye Igry.
The first attempts at remixing Akvarium songs at Sologub's home showed real promise. "We took the old Akvarium songs we liked most, like 'Prekrasny Diletant,' or 'Beautiful Dilettante'," Sologub said.
Grebenshchikov then added a new vocal track, "in accordance with the [new] aesthetics of the song."
Deadushki followed by sampling an old samizdat recording of the song's cello line, before adding a jazzy vibraphone break. "[It] had nothing to do with the idea of Akvarium as it was in 1981," Sologub said. "The result was funny, like sitting in front of a television, pushing buttons and watching the programs change."
Working in London's Mute Studios last April and May, Kendall - who has worked with artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and Erasure - added the finishing touches.
The insignia on the album cover and concert posters - a web-like symbol fished from a book by fantasy writer Michael Moorcock - symbolizes chaos, Grebenshchikov said.
"Now is undoubtedly a time of chaos, and what we did correlates pretty well with the times," he said.
The slightly younger, punk-influenced Tequilajazzz, which experimented with Grebenshchikov over the summer, will give Wednesday's concert a slightly younger dimension.
"We liked Akvarium when we were at school," said bassist and vocalist Yevgeny Fyodorov. "They were no less an influence than the Clash or the Police."