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SR – We are very pleased to see your group in our studio. Well, let’s begin, perhaps, questions to give. Your orchestra has existed for six years. And throughout this period you have conformed to a particular style that is very difficult to describe briefly. We shall speak a little later about style, for now, a question about career. How does VERMICELLI ORCHESTRA present itself today? After many years of holding concerts in Russia and abroad, after releasing two albums, which all in all appeared six years ago, you’ve done it, and what haven’t you done? And, by the way, a question about the albums, why so few? Moreover, I can tell you that albums of your do not make many sales.
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SS – We have recorded two albums during the existence of our group, this is true, but we have existed for more than six years. In 1996 the group was already developed but even before then there were several years of experimentation and searching. We select music for our records and concerts very, very carefully; we try to use some of the compositions and fragments, but then more often than not we refuse them because they do not suit us. It must be generally very difficult to compose and perform music of good quality in a mode of ongoing release with albums each year. I suggest that you listen to groups that release albums every year. Will there be many genuine compositions? I think not always. The producer of Vermicelli Orchestra, Artyom Tamazov will add to my answer.
AT – You know, really, in modern show business it is acceptable to release albums each year, and it is considered that the more of them that there are, the better. With our group it is rhythm that counts, we are not committed to contracts obliging us to release two or three or even one album each year. We simply try to make the music better and better as much as possible, and when this has been achieved then we release it, but not before this moment.

SR – You have very specific music. And ethnic, in the pure sense, you will not call your music, nor rock. There is some “flavour” distinguishing you from other group and this makes it impossible to define exactly the style in which you play. Can you somehow define what is the secret of this “flavour”? Could it be the result of influences of Petersburg rock, or do you deal solely with the personalities of your musicians?
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SS – I think that it is impossible to define what this so called “flavour” consists of. You see we don’t give ourselves the problem of working with a combination of styles; we just work with whatever style. Especially with the first and second albums, they differ stylistically, and the third album, which we are presently about to record… it differs even more. So it seems to me that it is more likely, simply, a sort of handwriting of Vermicelli Orchestra, that’s all.
AT – I would also like to add that there is a certain flavour in the selection of instruments and arrangement of parts. Our solo instruments are: the flute, the mandolin, the accordion, the cello, the drums, acoustic guitar and bass guitar, and percussion. Such an orchestral composition is significantly saturated with an unusual, for nowadays, set of instruments.

SR – Anyway, the time has come to speak about influences… It is known that you cooperated with many Petersburg musicians, was there someone amongst these people who was especially dear to the group?
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SS – Dyusha Romanov, it is so, has had a very powerful effect on me, as I played with him in both the group “Aquarium” and in the group “Shamrock”, I often recorded with him and observed how he made arrangements and composed music, so his influence is huge. My friend, Seva Gakkel, also renders a huge influence upon me, with whom I simply have many years of friendship and I would say that his influence has been invaluable. I simply cannot speak of Boris Grebenshchikov who is such a creative person that I am still under his spell now. Sasha Lyapin has rendered a huge influence on me with his play. Basically in St. Petersburg there are so many different musicians, it is impossible to list them all, including those artists that have had an influence on me. But I should mention my teachers of composition, Arcady Borisovich Tomchin and Igor Vladimirovich Matsievsky with whom I learnt.
AT – Of course it is not only Petersburg musicians who are in the list of people who have affected our work. I know for example that Sergey very much loves the group Led Zeppelin. I also like it very much and it has affected me very strongly, as have the groups Pink Floyd and Police that have rendered large influence on me. So it can be said that music from practically all over the globe influences what we do. Well, we hope that we will have an influence on the whole globe.

SR – Let’s talk about the state of music culture in Russia. Clearly it is in a state that, on the whole, is not at its best. We would like to hear your opinion with regards to this issue, in relation to music and Mass Media. What do you consider to be the possibilities in the near future for change, in the way of an increase, in interest and attention of domestic Mass Media given to non-commercial music? (With a view of a wide spectrum of Mass Media, not only in relation to our specialised type of radio for instance).
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SS – It seems to me that it is not possible at the moment, while the Mass Media are directing their attention toward a completely different audience. So, I would say, that attention is not directed toward an independent alternative layer, into which most people would usually enter.
ÀÒ – Basically this question is significantly complex. For today the problem of the Mass Media, as it seems to me, is that it is not informing the public, only aiming at entertain, and all the characteristics of the current situation result from this. If we ask any journalist now whether culture in Russia excites him or not, certainly any of them would say that it excites him. But in practice we see that this is certainly not the case, and your question even suggests so. The problem is indeed contained in this issue. The succession of each individual performer depends very strongly on how this performer is highlighted by the Mass Media. As a matter of fact, in the musical market there is a very similar situation to that of the political market, where we shall vote or not vote for this or that candidate, by virtue of the public opinion which is generated about the candidate, in fact in music it is more so. In music it is very similar. You could be Mozart and could be a musician as well known as Sharikov from the novel by Bulgakov, everything depends entirely on how the Mass Media presents you. And in the interests of the Mass Media. Firstly there is the issue of rating, a result of public circulation, hence Mass Media, we admit that radio stations and newspapers, as a rule, are interested only in known performers, untwisted, those who will bring a “plus” to their rating, instead of by those who make any contribution to culture. And this issue concerns all the musicians in our country, not only Vermicelli Orchestra, and I, we admit, I shall not undertake to estimate our creative value. My problem is that people should learn to as large a possible extent who we are and what music we play. Good or bad, let it be up to the listeners. But in my opinion, the opportunity for them to make such a decision arises extremely seldom. So there is the problem, it is a problem of communication and it will be solved very gradually. The more good music there will be, the more easily it will be solved.

SR – It is known that creativity is a rather difficult process, requiring essential expense of emotional and spiritual energy. So there must be something that supplies creativity, to help it to progress. For different musicians, such stimuli can differ, but there are most definitely some general aspects. Could you possible identify such a general “engine” for your group, maybe a special atmosphere within the group, or the desire to create something new, is it possible to assign something in general to this?
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SS – Certainly this, the atmosphere within the group and the desire to make something new, but in general the supply comes from positive influence or internal influence. That is to say that influences are food for creativity.
AT – I would also add that successful concerts are also a very good stimulus. We always feel exhilarated and have increased power after a field concert, and a desire to move ahead.

SR – During the existence of “Vermicelli Orchestra” a circle of people has been formed – your dedicated admirers. There is most likely something that they have in common (of course apart from the love of your music.) What could this be in your opinion? You see, you are known not only in Russia but also beyond her borders. And what, in general, is your opinion of this contingent? This is not just an idle question for us. Working with special folk, we are also often asked this question by people who come to listen to Special Radio and performers on this radio. Of course people are mostly different, but nevertheless, if possible a mini-portrait?
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SS – I think there is a certain key or code which people learn, or this key suits their hearts. There is this common entity and it begins with our listeners.
AT – Yes, and it seems to us that this key suits people of different ages, from young to old, and people with different education and different levels of prosperity, and it is impossible to determine what represents the circle of people who like what we do. Therefore, the only probable thing, apart from the key that Sergey spoke of, which connects these people, is their attitude toward our music.

SR – By the way, about foreign countries… In the last few years in Europe there has been growing interest in ethnic music, elements of which your productions contain. At some stage you performed in Finland and your first album, Anabasis, was released under a British CD label, working with foreign musicians. How is business with the demand for your group abroad now? Are there any offers abroad, any plans to perform on foreign stages or festivals?
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AT – Yes, a good question. Interest in ethnic music has really grown recently and it has a special term, “World Music”. However, strictly speaking, we don’t really have any elements of this, we don’t play ethnic music, nor do we play “World Music”, we play modern music. And we have achieved noticeable interest: We have now been invited to Germany in the autumn, to Southern Europe in the summer, and to plenty of festivals, about ten of them. We only hope, though, that we will be able to visit these places now. At the moment we are tied up in the production of our new album, and our minds are completely occupied with this process.

SR – Despite being a big group, you hold many concerts. During the existence of your group, many musicians have “changed”. Apparently you are mobile too and are not afraid of newness. Is there anyone amongst Russians (or foreigners) with whom you want to do a joint project? Also, what could this project be for?
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SS – Yes, there are such musicians. There is the electronic group “Christmas Tree Toys”, who are very active and have been released in the West, particularly in England and France. Unfortunately they work less in Russia. We are involved in a joint project with them. We have already performed together at a big concert in St. Petersburg on 20 April, where there was also a chamber orchestra participating. And now we are recording together with them, an album where our music will be performed basically as a combined arrangement.
AT – I shall add that we will bring this project to Moscow on November 2, when we shall perform in “The Central House of Artists” music made together with “Christmas Tree Toys”.

SR – And the final question, which never fails to excite the young musicians who are only starting out in their career, what in your opinion are the main principles which a person should adhere to, who have decided to make music that they want to make rather than that of the producer of our Mass Media, and what should they be prepared for in this case?
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SS – First, a careful attitude towards the music that the musician will perform. Secondly, if the musician or group wants to become professional, I would immediately begin to think of how to perform not only in clubs but also in concert halls. This is very important. A club is all very well, but in my opinion, musicians should also perform in concert halls and at festivals, etc.
AT – I completely agree with Sergey, and to his response I would like to add that you have set a very good question, which, just like all good questions, does not require an answer, because it practically contains the answer in it already, A modern Russian musician who ants to make music which is pleasant to him, should simply make music which is pleasant to him, and this is the major principle which he should observe. And we can only wish to all musicians that if they take the opportunity to perform in this way then all will be well.
SS – In conclusion I would like to thank Special Radio for its interesting questions and to wish all of our listeners the greatest possible happiness in life. Goodbye.


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