Conference hall #3 of Izmaylovo-Alfa Hotel, May 3, 2005, 14:00 Moscow time
Participants of the meeting:
S: Sergey, SpecialRadio’ Editor
A: Alexander, SpecialRadio’ Director
Asya: Translator of meeting
Audience: Danish journalists
A: Let’s start.
My name is Alexander. I’m the director of Special Radio. Let me introduce to you the editor-in-chief of Special Radio – Sergey Zharikov. By the way, he’s the leader of the legendary Russian rock group DK.
S: DK is short for Danish Kingdom (laughter in the audience)
A: … This group existed in the 80-90’s and was quite popular, including in the West, among a few Russian bands. Special Radio was established in 2001. The main reason for its creation was the situation in music life in Russia, which is somewhat strange for Westerners. On our way to this meeting, we were talking that show-business in Russia has nothing to do with music and is just a money-making machine. SO, since we have such showbiz in Russia, most of Russian music, which falls beyond the money-making format, is left out in the cold. Some musicians and public figures did not want to put up with this, and they decided to organize a center for all such music in Russia, which had no its own voice. Today, Special radio includes 18 music channels, which broadcast only music, without any ads. I will not go into details listing all the formats, but will mention only the main and the most interesting: these are classical music with baroque flavor, thieves’ music…
S: Prison music
A: .. which is very popular in Russia (laughter in the audience), Russian rock, French music, heavy metal. There are no any other heavy-metal radio stations in Russia besides us, though this music is very popular. Then we have jazz, author’s songs…
Audience: What is it?
S: songs of bards…
Audience: – ?
A: songs of Russian intelligentsia…
A: … Russian electronic, electro-acoustical music, new age, a channel of vocal-instrumental ensembles…
Audience: What is this style?
S: I’ll tell you later. There’s no analog to this music. This is party rock of the 70’s.
Audience: Do you have this music with you?
S: Not now, but we plan to release all this music. Now we’re just waiting for the authors to die not to pay royalties… (laughter in the audience).
Audience: Please tell us, what is party rock?
S: This is the music which was censored and allowed for performance by the Communist Party. Musicians played in Arabic countries, Warsaw pact countries… Later I tell you about this in more details.
A: An interesting channel has recently appeared, devoted to the music style called SEGA. This is music of Mauritius (a former British colony). Another new channel is completely devoted to such style as synthy-music (synthy-rock, synthy-pop, synthy-gothic, etc.).
Audience: What is this style?
A: Synthy-gothic? It is a heavier variant of electronic pop-music, popular mainly in Germany.
Today the daily audience of our site is 15,000 people. The audience of our radio is several times higher, about a million people. Special Radio is retransmitted by many cable networks, both in Russia and abroad.
Eventually, Special Radio is the only non-state, non-commercial radio in Russia, professionally dealing with non-commercial music.
Why is it an Internet-radio? – Because we consider the Internet the most progressive and adequate medium for achieving out goals. We don’t plan to go into the FM range in Russia or anywhere else, because we believe it is unjustifiably expensive and inefficient.
Another part of Special Radio’s activity is publishing, both at the radio’s site and publishing of music products (disks). We publish materials on actual topics in music, articles about the leading Russian musicians. Besides that, we regularly interview foreign musicians. For example, today in the Russian version of the site we’ll publish an interview with Judas Priest. We also release CDs of young Russian musicians, but it is better if Sergey will tell you about this.
S: These are the CDs we make (shows one of CDs). Generally, these discs – we’ve already released 20 of them – are an encyclopedia of contemporary Russian youth music, not a paper variant, but on CDs. Here are the 15th, 16th and 17th releases. Each CD has a booklet with pictures, information on musicians and their addresses. You can’t hear this music anywhere, neither on the air, nor on TV. However, very interesting and strong performers are collected here.
Audience: Why is this music not played?
S: Let me tell you, since I’m given the floor. The matter is that in Russia showbiz is the art for eyes (points at his eye). Our radio is for ears (points at his ear). Music and showbiz are different things here. So, while some people show, to put it mild, the ass (laughter in the audience), music is the most important thing for us. In Russian even etymology of the word POP is similar to ass – these words sound similar in Russian (laughter in the audience). Many musicians have no access to the public. Whatever they do, they virtually have no audience. There is no any institute in Russia, which helps young musicians demonstrate their talents. So, a part of our outreach activities is to help young musicians find their audience. However, since we still have to sell these discs, we have a kind of a format, and we can’t include in them the most sophisticated music, because it has a very limited audience. But if we have such an opportunity, we would do this anyway.
A: Just say that there’s no any Russian insight in these discs…
S: …well, why? There are good blues, good rock compositions… You see, we have a situation here, when a musician is unable to show his works to a wider audience. Now we have excellent musicians, but they play in styles, which used to be popular 10-15 years ago. It means that we pay tribute to that generation. That is to say, this music is interesting, intricate, but it is not as relevant as it was 10 years ago. And Special Radio is the only one in Russia, which works with topical music, and nobody else does.
Audience: If you have no advertising, where do you get money from?
S: Firstly, the discs are sold, more or less. Secondly, the Internet does not require as much financing as compared with regular radio or TV. In case of regular radio, the frequency itself costs a lot.
A: For better understanding, I’ll describe it in more details. In Russia, if you want to buy one frequency in Moscow FM bandwidth, besides other requirements you’ll have to pay US$ 500,000. And it’s just a frequency. To open your own radio station, for the first year you’ll need about 4 million dollars. This is an incredible sum for independent music. The Internet is much cheaper.
Audience: Why is it so expensive?
A: Such situation was specially created to exclude competition. For example, in small Latvia one frequency in FM range costs 40,000 dollars. Only in FM range they have 60 radio stations, and in Moscow we have twenty.
Audience: Why does the government carry out such policy?
S: It is natural: young people come, but old folks do not want to leave.
Audience: So it’s a matter of corruption?
A: There are only three media tycoons in Russia.
Audience: How many people have an access to the Internet?
A: The current audience of the Russian Internet users is 20 million people.
Audience: In other countries, one can make big money on selling records. Why is it impossible to do in Russia?
S: Huh! It’s hard to explain. The matter is that in Russia we almost passed to a new life, but the infrastructure remained the same – same old people, same old mechanisms. Under the Soviet system we had some kind of common property, so it was divided between clans. Some got oil, some – gas, some received mass media: newspapers and radio. The latter are people, who used to work in the ideological department of the CPSU Central Committee. All of them have relatives, whom they want to make singers, producers, MCs, musical critics, etc. It is all because showbiz in Russia is easy money. So, they hate to see competitors. It’s quite easy. That is why the Internet is a symbol of freedom for Russia, a kind of alternative. Like anywhere else, by the way.
Audience: Music you play on your radio – how do you select it? Do musician send it to you or what?
S: Basically, yes. We position ourselves as a corporate radio. It mainly addresses to our friends musicians. If the audience of FM stations mainly includes taxi drivers and prostitutes (laughter in the audience), Special Radio is the radio for musicians and connoisseurs of rare music. Even in our publications we use the language spoken by musicians, not taxi drivers. We have no occasional audience, but listeners who love music and live in it.
A: While in Russia there only one radio station, independent from the government and clans, there are plenty of independent radio stations abroad. In Russia we are the only one. Musicians send us about 100 compositions a day. These are not only Russian musicians. We have correspondents all over the world. Much music comes from America, Canada. In Australia now, many musicians play excellent rock-pop and send us very interesting music. To a lesser degree we receive music from Europe, mainly form France. I can tell you that French music now is very interesting and of high quality, covering many styles – from experimental and heavy to plain popular music. So we receive a lot, and music played on most channels is mainly sent by musicians themselves. But each channel has its own editors.
Audience: How many people work for you?
A: About eighty. This includes the salaried personnel, technical services of server support, music and literature editors – all of them are paid; we also have many non-staff workers, who work out of the office. Many of them work of the idea, not for money.
Audience: Does it mean that you earn money only by selling CDs?
A: Today Special Radio is a brand. Like any brand, it is able to produce money only by appearance or mentioning. It’s not big money, but it is enough for current activities of the radio. Basically, no one planned to earn millions on this radio.
S: Money in music here is earned in a different way. For example, there’s a rich guy with a daughter, who can’t sing, but he wants to make her a singer. A lot of money can be made on it.
A: Just to illustrate how it works. In St. Petersburg there is a musician called Alexey Vishnya. He is famous in Russia for invention of the style, which is now the Russian musical mainstream. Vishnya invented Russian rockapops. He is one of the most authoritative music persons in the Russian Internet and works as a music editor at Special Radio. He receives salary from us in the form of orders for the audio content: commercials, jingles, leads-in for commercial radio stations.
S: That is to say, we help musicians make a name, and later the musician can make money on his name.
A: So it’s quite prestigious to work at our radio, and people are willing to do this.
S: That girl wants to ask a question.
Audience: What does the government say of such a form of the radio?
A: The government says nothing. We are not a government radio, so we do not exist for them. But they listen to us, we know this for sure. Among employees of commercial and state radio stations and TV channels, it is haut ton to listen to Special Radio at work. And they borrow a lot from us – jingles, topics, radio techniques of material presentation, finally, musical formats, since we already have 18 of them. But at the same time, it is prohibited just to mention the name of our radio station. There was one occasion I know of for sure, when at one central Russian state radio station a completed half-hour program about Special Radio was taken off the air. And it was taken off the air not by censors or people from the Kremlin, but the director of this very radio station.
S: They are afraid of us. (Laughter in the audience).
Audience: Do you play music, which criticizes the government or Putin?
S: (laughs) No.
A: There is no music of social protest now.
Audience: No enough courage?
S: No. It’s not the point. This is the same old business, and everyone has already understood that there is no sincerity in the protest discourse now. It’s been understood long ago.
A: If you hear a song against Putin, it means it was paid for by the Kremlin (laughter in the audience).
Audience: Do you have musical or journalistic background?
A: At our radio, among 80 people only 2 journalists are working. Most of articles and the entire content are prepared by musicians or people of other professions. For example, I work as a financial analyst in some company. Unfortunately, it is hard to find professional music journalists in Russia. Most of so-called music journalists and analysts are just unfamiliar with the subject, they have no music taste and their manner of presentation mainly reminds of the style of letters to SPEED-INFO newspaper, where readers write about their sexual experience.
S: I’m a system analyst by profession, a specialist in applied mathematics. But I used to work as a journalist at Radio Russia, in TRUD newspaper together with Novodvorskaya. Do you know her?
Audience: No, we don’t.
S: Well, you are young and don’t know these names… I used to work everywhere… But basically I was in rock music. We have 2 discs released in France and three in the US. This was the work in the framework of the Moscow conceptualism, if you know about such a movement in the contemporary Russian art.
Audience: Can you give any names from this movement?
S: Well, Andrey Monastyrsky, Kabakov, Sorokin… Do you know them?
S: Well, these people are mainly known in Austria, Germany, to be more precise, in Berlin. But if these names tell you nothing, I don’t know what else to say. In a nutshell, we are the children of perestroika (laughter in the audience).
Audience: Please tell us about the Moscow conceptualism in more details.
S: It will be difficult to do in a few words. But if you really want to know, I will talk slower and shorter (addresses to the interpreter).
S: There two matrices of mentality: eastern and western. Say, the eastern mentality is built in such a way that the subject of the thought is an emotion of a character, like with the Chinese. Western mentality thinks by ideas or concepts. That is to say, a westerner thinks more concretely. Moscow conceptualists converted one matrix (mentality) into the other. This movement was the only one in the contemporary Russian art, which caused a wide resonance all over the world. You can search in the Internet or archives, and you’ll see that the resonance was fantastic. Why? – Because the conceptualists created a kind of a Russian analog of the Western art, which is understood by a person with the Western way of thinking. However, for example, German and Moscow conceptualism differ a lot in this context. It’s in brief. The main message of the conceptualists is purely post-modernistic. This is work with quotations, understandable for a person living in the environment of a gigantic hypertext; he lives in this huge text. That is why, Western people (like you), come to Russia unfamiliar with this big text. And the conceptualists translate this big text from the local dialect into the language, understandable for you. And so, you really plunge yourselves in our Russian reality. Since European reality does not differ much from Russian reality (i.e. Russian and European realities are identical, but comprehension is different), one can experience a kind of catharsis of finding his own identity in a seemingly strange environment. Well, OK, it’s too complicated (laughter in the audience).
Audience: If someone sends you music criticizing Putin, would you play it on the air?
S: The point is that it’s hard to imagine such music. I tell you this. From 1989 to 1993 I used to be an image-maker for Zhirinovsky. Remember, he won a half of the Duma during elections in 1994? How did we promote him?
Audience: Was it the time you would play such music?
S: Hold on, I’ll tell you and you’ll understand. Here’s how we promoted Zhirinovsky: on a truck. Zhirinovsky used to make speeches in the street, and we flocked around with banners “No to Russian fascism!”, “Down with Zhirinovsky!”, “Down with revanchism!”. These banners draw attention and people jump at the bait. Afterwards, Zhirinovsky used to give us a banquet. So, if you want to promote Putin, you’ll sing songs against Putin.
S: The current situation in Russia doesn’t differ much from that with Eltsin. Though Putin is a KGB officer, he’s a westernized man, more understandable for Western people. That is why many people in our country live without thinking who is our president, they don’t care. No one thinks about to say anything for or against Putin. If you are paid for this, then it’s OK.
A: Nobody sings against Putin today, everyone tries to make money.
S: It’s an interesting fact, by the way. Consciousness of a Soviet man implied that someone always listens to you: some audience – KGB, Party, militia – and you always address to it. But now everyone knows that nobody cares about you and nobody will listen to you.
A: That is to say, if you see criticism of Putin, it is also paid for by the Kremlin. This is the way of things in Russia, at least. I don’t know how it works in the West.
S: No one cares about this. Neither for, nor against. If you propose another president today, people will stay indifferent. Just leave them alone.
A: People in Russia today are doing their things, and the government is making its business.
Audience: So, people are afraid to contest against Putin?
S: (laughs) No one is afraid. No one just cares. There’s no customer.
Audience: Why did you say then, that the Kremlin pays for criticism of Putin?
A: There’ll be a conflict, if the both points of view are not presented, because instead of the Kremlin someone else will talk against Putin, and this is pregnant with “loss of spatial orientation”. If people don’t care and will not criticize Putin, only if paid for, the Kremlin has to voice criticism against itself in order to observe plurality.
S: This is an alchemist low: if you want to possess power, master your extremes. You should know alchemy – it’s a Western cultural tradition. This means that one should know how to act on behalf of his opponents.
Do you think we are just carrying a torch for this now? – No, really, no one just cares now. Without radio and newspapers, in couple of months people would forget who the president is and what country they live in. Say, our political faith is as follows: we would like to see more technical people in the power, because we work with new technologies and it’s important for us that the power understands importance of these things, of this entire kitchen. It would be much worse, if some ignoramuses take power. This is our purely pragmatic approach. And it doesn’t matter whether it is with Putin or anyone else. The king is made by his entourage, so it’s very important for us that the president’s entourage includes as many technically literate people as possible. I don’t know; maybe those who manufacture candles have different interests in power, I just don’t know. All the interests are based on vary simple things; there’s no use to dig deeper. By now, Putin is good for us. He’s never threatened us (laughter in the audience). We have no problems. Maybe Putin listens to Special Radio in the evening, after sauna (laughter in the audience). Chubays listens to us, I know this for sure.
Audience: Is Special Radio the only non-government radio in Russia?
A: In the Internet it is not the only one, but the biggest Internet-radio in Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia. There are other Internet-radio stations, but their audience is much lower. I can’t tell for them. Rating of Special Radio among the world Internet radio stations, and especially in Russia, is very high.
Audience: Do you have radio announcers?
A: No. I will tell you why. People all over the world listen to our radio and we can’t afford speaking only in English or, moreover, in Russian. Our audience mainly consists of foreigners and we should be understood by a Russian and an Indian. Our principal language, understood by everyone, is music.
Audience: In Denmark, concerts organized by radio stations are very popular. It promotes both the stations and musicians. Do you practice this?
S: In Russia, many stations are doing this, but such festivals are usually sponsored by brewery companies. Special Radio does not organize such concerts, because we our radio is corporative, and we already work in a new environment. In our case, the propriety line is drawn by musicians themselves. We don’t have to bam people saying we’re cool; people already respect us.
Audience: Don’t you want to expand your audience?
S: You see, we don’t need casuals, those who use music as a background, who don’t live by music and don’t care about it. They have their own radio, FM. For the general audience our language is difficult.
A: We know pretty well the format of our target audience and work only with it.
S: Since we have an Internet-radio, we monitor our work very closely: we see who listens to us, how many people and even why. We constantly dialog with our regular listeners or who tries to listen to us, but fails. He fails, not because he technically is unable to download, but because he can’t understand what music is playing. We know who don’t listen to us and don’t count on them. We know that some prisons listen to our radio with permission of the prison warden.
A: Here’s an example. Once we received a letter from Vietnam; some guy wrote that his village had been connected to the Internet, and every evening after work people gather at the house with the Internet, and its owner puts loudspeakers on the window sill, and all of them just sit around and listen to channel 6 of Special Radio. This is the biggest acknowledgement I can imagine. People specially come to listen to music they feel close to themselves. These are those special people, for who Special Radio works.
Audience: Besides articles, do you have other journalism activity?
S: All formats, existing in the world of music journalism, are present. We even have our own Internet TV channel.
A: It’s called Special Rock TV, and we play videos of Russian independent musicians.
S: By the way, there you can watch a concert of DK.
Audience: For example, will our meeting be published somehow?
A: It will be published on the English page of the site as transcripts, which we’ll surely send to Lynn before publication.
S: It will be like cross-pollination – you feel good and we’re just fine. Maybe we’ll have other visitors. We don’t have the Danish channel yet. I just have Danish shoes – ECCO (laughter in the audience). But no channel yet. But shoes are great (laughter in the audience).
Audience: This means that Danish musicians can send you their music?
A: Not only can, they are already sending. There’s a wonderful Danish band called Sparkling. In her interview to Special Radio, Marian Gold from Alphaville listed the band among his favorite groups. After this interview, guys from Sparkling contacted us and send their music. We are going to interview them soon. From the early days, Special Radio plays such an excellent band from Denmark as D.A.D. (cheers in the audience). Tell your musicians to send us their records.
Audience: A question to Mr. Zharikov: how did you feel when you came to Special Radio from TRUD newspaper?
S: Ooh, a good one. As though she (nods to the girl who asked the question) knows by biography. The matter is that DK band had an anti-Soviet image. There was a special KGB department, which dealt with us. Then everything changed, all this anti-Soviet stuff lost its topicality, and I found a job of a political observer in TRUD newspaper, to be more precise – in its weekly supplement, where new market economy was promoted. At the same time I worked at Radio Russia. It was the time of democracy, and I hosted the Russian Journal, though later this name was stolen from me. This program was devoted to Russian emigrants. I decided to quit music for good. Then I met Zhirinovsky; it was in 1989. Then I helped Zhirinovsky establish the Russian branch of European Synergy, an international organization headed by Robert Sroykers, a Belgian. There is a branch of this organization in Denmark too. This structure was preparing unification of Europe. I published by magazine ATAKA. There was a French guy, Giyom Faye. We met, talked and understood that the modern world is ruled by laws of images, i.e. any policy is the art of images. Then I returned to music. Today, Special Radio has more influence on minds than IZVESTIYA newspaper. Our French friends came to the same conclusion. Same happened to Giyom Faye. Fashion is the topical image. So the entire politics lies in the field of mass kitsch production. Coming back to the question about Putin – he wants to be friends with us.
A: This is Putin who wants, but we don’t care.
S: We don’t care, but we are pleased. You see, the World has changed a lot. Philosophers call it a game epoch.
Audience: What is the difference between your work at Radio Russia, newspaper and now, at Special Radio?
S: Of course, it is more interesting now.
Asya: What’s the difference?
S: The difference is that when all these newspapers and magazines in Russia were reforming, but it turned out that they failed to reform. Work in governmental and non-governmental structures differs much. Today I can discuss most of topics with our director, Alexander Evgenyevich, but in TRUD newspaper I couldn’t do this. They remained the same elements o the old Soviet system. Though I had good bosses at the newspaper, but these bosses obeyed to other higher-ranking bosses. And it gave rise to some peculiarities. It was very obvious at Radio Russia. I was given a hoof. Why? I’ll tell you and you’ll be laughing. Eltsin was a hard-drinking guy. Once, at 9 PM, when all people were eating their borsch, we said on the air that Eltsin’s batteries had run down (laughter in the audience). The former mass-media minister, Poltoranin, heard this. He said that we are Zionists, and we should be kicked out to Israel. And we were kicked out from Radio Russia. But it was fun, anyway (loud laughter).
Audience: What if you say something like this about Putin on Special Radio?
S: About Putin? I think, Putin will be the first to laugh. He’s a different person. Eltsin was a party functionary. It was important for them who supported whom. They are absolutely different with Putin. Poltoranin was Eltsin’s friend. He also drank a lot. And he called to the radio also drunk. What seemed a kind of an actual conceptualist gesture or revelation now is regarded as epigonous, even from a purely artistic point of view. Schtockhausen, a German composer – do you know him? – said that the entire actual art ended on September 11, 2001. It’s true to some extent…
A: … it hard to make a cooler performance than to destroy 2 towers and show it live all over the world – there are no conceptualists who could make it better.
S: … it is called a direct action. The situation in Russia is also changing, it should be understood. It is moving slowly and hard, but it moves forward and will arrive. This a new generation; no matter what you tell them, how much you swear at them, they will go on doing what they planned. These are people who used to think and act intrinsically.
A: Most of population in Russia is politically indifferent. 99% of population is just doing money. Don’t forget that Russia is a very poor country, and most of us live worse than unemployed people in Europe. People have become more pragmatic: they have no time left for political struggle, unlike in the West. They work from morning till night. Young people, the stronghold of all revolutions, work, earning money. Even students don’t strike, because all of them are working. That is why people are very skeptical about information fed to them. Often this information is purely entertaining or shocking, to get away from monotonous working days. We would be more pleased to read about a man-eater shark in the Moskva River, than to watch latest news about Putin.
S: Yes, once we wrote in the newspaper about a man-eater shark, which appeared in the Moskva River. We received a lot of letters, asking for continuation of this story. Why? Everyone has his own truth. People, generally, need common lies.
A: It is typical in the Internet: most of the Russian Internet is just pornography, or sites about UFOs, or pricks dot ru, as we call them. Pure entertainment. 90% of large Internet newspapers are based on the yellow press principles, with headers like “A Russian actress fell naked in the ice-hole…
S: … and was raped by a maniac pike”.
Audience: All you said sounds as if you don’t care about Putin. Who do you support then?
S: Ourselves, our own project. This is the way of thinking in Russia. Politics in our country is also a game, and people position themselves with these or those, but actually support only themselves and their interests. May be it’s too cynical to say, but it doesn’t matter who has the power; it is more important that they left us alone, and we are just fine. It doesn’t matter who got the power, parties don’t differ much. Your parties are different, but our parties are the same. For example, Yavlinsky has no difference from Zhirinovsky or Rogozin. They are birds from the same old Soviet nest. Another example, Khodorkovsky. Everywhere they shout – Khodorkovsky, Khodorkovsky… But he’s a former Komsomol functionary.
A: … and he’s never been a multimillionaire. This is not his money. He’s just a financial manager of one former Soviet clan. He was initially appointed to this position to get in jail in the end. And all so-called Russian oligarchs – they do not own anything; they are just attached to clannish property.
S: Berezovsky is the same, they are all the same. This is our capitalism. We know this, but we don’t care. Let them eat each other, we don’t care a bit. We have our own project, just leave it alone. It’s not only our point of view; you can ask anyone, who’s not engaged in this game.
Audience (to Zharikov): So, in the beginning you participated in politics, and now quit?
S: Well, for me Zhirinovsky was a conceptual project, art, a performance, a game. Public politics in the situation of the state confusion is ideal for a creative person. We just sculptured him. He was a talented mummer, a genius medium, but intellectually – quite an ordinary man to play his own game. We used him as a scarecrow for western journalists. Once we so scared a journalist from Stern that he just ran away in fear. It was because we had an order for a figure, who could voice comprehensive mass cliches. It was a mess in the country, and Eltsin brought the old nomenclature to the power. And to keep his democratic image, he needed fascists sitting on his back. Images are always contrasts. That is why people in the West said: Eltsin is a democrat, because Mussolini-Zhirinovsky is behind him. And everybody agreed that it would be better to have Eltsin than Mussolini-Zhirinovsky.
Audience: So you fulfilled the government’s order?
S: No. We were kicked out from Zhirinovsky as well (loud laughter in the audience). Secret services gave us a kiss-off. They said, you created him, you should remove him. And we said, no way, it’s your job. The Jews have a good image of Golem. We created a post-Soviet Golem, and they were afraid that Golem will act against them. They came to us and said, disavow him quickly. We refused. It was just funny. Moreover, Zhirinovsky did not pay us; it was a purely artistic interest. And those guys from secret services never had a habit of payment. How could we just ruin our creation? By the way, we introduced Zhirinovsky to Le Pen and other notorious public. We trimmed him to Mussolini (laughter in the audience), provided him with appropriate rhetoric. And you say “music”! – This was our September 11 (laughter in the audience).
Audience: Is your radio making anything special for May 9?
S: No. This is a field where a different game is played. As we said, it is the game epoch: everywhere games are played. It is a common image of “historic victory”, which has a very ambiguous meaning. In reality, somebody earn something on this, somebody tries to argue something during this celebration. Since we are not in the game, we are not there. In this context we are very non-ideological; we don’t play hide-and-seek with any party. It is easier for us – we can say what others can’t.
Audience: For example, what journalists from Moscow News will not tell us, but you will?
S: About Khodorkovsky, for example.
A: They’ll tell you a lot about the democrat Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned for truth, or about fighting against him. Nobody in particular fights Komsomol nomenclature.
S: … because all of them are from there. Or, for example, you will never be told that Berezovsky was a laureate of the Lenin’s Komsomol Prize in 1979. And this is, you know, a nomenclature of a higher rank, a very old Soviet nomenclature. So, shake spaghetti off your ears, as we say (laughter in the audience).
Audience: If you have such things that Moscow News will never dare to say, maybe it will be interesting to make a program about this on the air?
S: Nobody is really interested in it. It could have been done even without us, if anyone is really wanted to.
A: I’ll try to explain the thought we expressed earlier. For more than five hundred years in Russia, the state was imposing something upon its citizens. In czar times, it was the law of serfdom, slavery in fact. In Soviet time, it was socialist values, which disguised the same slavery. And now it’s the time, when the state does not demand anything from its citizens. It continues cheating – regarding money, information. It continues imposing on population certain cliches, which are advantageous for the state, via radio and TV, but finally it has left people alone at home and at work. It has never happened in Russia. And no matter how much we laugh at Eltsin, how much we talk that Putin suppresses democracy, Russia has never had such times as now.
Audience: You said that you would not make such a program, because it would have no audience. What is the reason?
S: Firstly, young people; they are more indifferent to politics than we. We talk about some Khodorkovsky, but they just don’t give a damn about anything. They just don’t live with it.
S: Because they have different values: to earn money, to buy a car, an apartment, to pick up a girl…
A: Or quit this country for good.
Audience: In Denmark, for example, it is very popular among youngsters to participate in political life.
S: We had a similar situation during Gorbachev. People thought that they participated in political life. And then they realized that they had been cheated once again. I also cheated, being Zhirinovsky’s image-maker. I’ve just told you how we cheated. In Russia, lying is political merchandise.
A: All the people in Russia just understood that it doesn’t matter how you approach politics; you’ll be cheated anyway. So people just lost interest in politics.
S: An example: Why did Zhirinovsky defended Hussein? Because, they say, Hussein presented him with a couple of oil-derricks. That’s all. So Zhirinovsky pretends to fight for freedom of Iraq, thanking Saddam for the generous gift. You remember that in 1996 Zyuganov refused his victory in presidential elections. He won elections and refused. Why? Because Eltsin is the same communist, they both are from the same party.
A: Everybody, finally, started understanding that their life can be improved only by their own labor, not by political activities. A wise man understand very well that in there is no politics in Russia, and just cannot be. So, those who mess around in this arena, have reputation of beach-combers, who are just unwilling to work. Most people understand that whatever they are told about good or bad Khodorkovsky, good or bad Putin, it will not add money to their pockets. They just need to work.
Audience: What is the portrait of your audience: more young or elderly people?
A: Very mixed company.
S: Since we have channels of different formats, the audience is very different. Each channel has its audience. There’s a good term – subculture. So we have subculture around each channel. Prison songs – cons are gathering there. Do you remember, I told you about party rock? Let me tell you about this style in more details. Its audience is very interesting. When you visit their sites, everywhere you’ll see Lenin’s quotations, portraits of Brezhnev, revolutionary marches are playing. They are completely crazy, but they are our audience. And there’s no any politics in it. So, we, new Russians, whom they hate, give them a chance to listen to the music, which they love most of all. Why? – Because they are just unable to organize their favorite content by themselves. These people are 50-70 years old. Translate texts of these songs, and you will roar with laughter. Nothing can be funnier. Musicians used to tell at our site how they recorded these songs, how much they drank, how the sound engineer was turning knobs (shows chaotic spinning movements), but they still like it.
A: In musical circles there is a definition for these musicians – “labukh” (cat), a combination of two words – “labat'” (to play) and “bukhat'” (to drink vodka). So they drank and played, played and drank (laughter in the audience).
S: The most important for us is the coverage, to have all music with us. We, people who render this service, are interested in any music. One thing is my personal tastes, work is a different thing. Basically, we like any music, party or anti-party. You should understand this, because it is normal everywhere, when you are doing your work, you cannot expose your tastes and emotions directly; first of all, you want people to like it. We have different audiences, but we like them. Sometimes it is funny when we play them up, but we always feel sympathy to them, to communists and anticommunists.
A: Our main feature is plurality.
Audience: What is prison music?
S: Prison? Do you such a term as pentatonic? It’s a Chinese musical mode with five notes in octave – not eight, but five. It is neither minor, nor major in tune. For example, is someone sings this song, it is not quite clear if he cries or has fun. He can smash you up as well.
Audience: Is this music without feelings?
S: No, its feelings are ambivalent, ambiguous. Like psychology of criminals. The difference of our music collection from others is its authenticity, i.e. if you want your music to be played on our radio, you should have served a term in prison. For example, we have one Tuvinian, who was sentenced for raping three times and spent 45 years in prison. He sings love songs (laughter in the audience).
A: Another thing they would never say in Moscow News is that today, under the democratic regime, more people in percentage terms are in prisons than during Stalin’s times.
Audience: Is it true?
A: In prisons, people sleep in three shifts on one bed.
Audience: Why is it so?
A: It’s a separate large topic.
S: Prison music is so popular because a large number of people passed through prisons. And this channel is the most popular. There are so many things here; it’s hard to explain in a few words. But this direction also formed a subculture.
A: Let’s finish then.
S: Any more questions? Then, that’s it. Take the discs. Though there’s not enough for everybody.
A: Thank you all.
Audience: (thunderous, prolonged applause).