(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
Hans Kumpf: My Trips to Russia
1980 - 1984
• page 4 • Leningrad / August 1983
Sergey Kuryokhin and Friends: Leningrad Collective Improvisations (english)
Hans Kumpf's article was first published in the German newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten on 26 August 1983. Read the article in German >>
Pictures published on the page are by Hans Kumpf and artist (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.
Two limp and lanky figures, one of them neatly dressed in a three-piece-suit, drag in a wooden table. They are carrying it upside down, with amplifiers, speakers, etc. on top of it. A session is about to begin in the LTO-81 Club, the temporary home of the unorthodox Leningrad literati. In the fuggy room without wallpaper Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov put the table back on its feet and prepare it for the session. Old irons are hung from it with chords, metal bars are fixed to it, a knife is stuck into its edge. Connection with the amplifier is provided by a pick-up microphone.Dull, shrieking and rattling patterns of sound are echoing out of the speakers while the various metal parts are set vibrating. The two 'zero musicians' , as they are called by their colleagues, practise a denial of all melodic and rhythmic conventions. But despite their rebellion they prove to have a sense of musical communication and sensitive interaction. After the concert, the two musicians go back home - no one knows where they live and when they will show up again.
And they, themselves, certainly don't know that in the West, too, there are people experimenting with metal objects, only with better electronic equipment.
Alexander Kondrashkin, percussion
In one corner Alexander Kondrashkin has set up his percussion instruments. Necessity, meaning the lack of money to buy good instruments on the black market, is the mother of invention in this case. Some tin cans will do the trick. During an improvised concert, Kondrashkin proves a keen partner. He has jammed with various local free-jazz musicians but , normally , he is a member of a rock septet called Strannye Igry, which, translated, means 'Strange Games'. The fans are familiar with the group only through concerts (one even in Moscow) and' cassette copies: new wave with machine-like drive and repetitive stacati. Such live music sounds too anarchistic to the ears of the culture bureaucrats. During the rehearsals, however, the ensemble develops beautiful melodies in leisurely tempo.
Vladimir Boluchevsky, saxophone (left), Sergey Kuryokhin, saxophone (right)
Eleven musicians participate in the jam session organized for me in Leningrad. Two sax players have come from Moscow just for this occasion: Igor Butman and Sergey Lyetov. After the first part of the concert, consisting of collective improvisations, we decide to play duos and trios. Boris Grebenshikov is the first one asking me to join him. He is considered the most colourful figure among the progressive Leningrad rock musicians. Equipped with an axe, he demolishes a chair, destroys a bench and smashes bottles: a happening of a destructive kind. Before that, Grebenshikov had produced sounds from a tea-pot, wind instruments and - with a bow - from an acoustic guitar, proving that this smart-looking guy is not at a loss for ideas for provocative experiments.
Boris Grebenshikov, Ivan Sotnikov, and Timur Novikov
His group is called Aquarium, and singer and guitarist Boris Grebenshikov sees himself as the representative of the new Soviet wave. Many of his semi-official concerts have ended in a row. He is in trouble with the official artistic committee, where harmless texts are presented for approval, concealing the fact that during the performances more robust sounds will be heard. The pressure of their fans, he says, is becoming so strong that the monopolistic record company Melodiya sooner or later will be compelled to produce a record.
Unknown, Vladimir Volkov, Sergey Letov, Hans Kumpf, Sergey Kurokhin
The thirty-year-old student of mathematics gives examples: Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine'), today's most popular Russian rock band, had been active in the underground for years before receiving a contract for a record.
For the time being, however, Aquarium has to record, quite unofficially, in the studio of some theatre. The group's latest production bears the title 'Radio Africa'. The music is rather soft and entertaining. The concept of the ensemble - eight musicians altogether - is based on parody of all musical genres.
Sergey Kuryokhin and Boris Grebenshikov
I ask Boris Grebenshikov to write down the text of one song which is important to him . In 'Rock'n'roll Dead' he goes: 'What nervous faces! It's a drag! I remember, there was a sky, I don't remember where. We meet again, we say hello. But something's wrong. Rock'n'roll is dead, and I am not’.
Such frustrated and resigned sounds have nothing in common with the officially dictated, exultant patriotism. 'It is my intention to create an alternative reality, another dimension,' Boris Grebenshikov explains to me. The consequence: 'I can't work as a professional musician because the system in our country rejects someone like me.' Thus, he is forced to make money by working as a nightwatchman , and it is little enough.
Sergey Kuryokhin, the keyboardist of Aquarium, makes his living by playing the piano during gymnastic lessons. He also plays saxophone and has been thrown out of various conservatories on account of his nonconformist musical behaviour. He found worldwide recognition with a solo record which was released in England, but because he is not an officially recognized musician, the free jazzer can't play outside of the Soviet Union, not even in neighbouring East European countries.
Boris Grebenshikov and Sergey Kuryokhin
Restrictions, however, can't throw them off their track , these disturbing Leningrad punk rockers and jazz musicians. Boris Grebenshchikov, who calls Brian Eno his idol, says: 'I always want to continue creating different things! ' But there are considerable obstacles to his ideas: although he owns an electric guitar of inferior quality, 'made in the Soviet Union', he has to find an amplifier and speakers before every concert - somehow, somewhere ... Hans Kumpf
|Courtyard of 'Club 81' on Pyotr Lavrov Street (=Furshtatskaya), August 1983
Participants of the "Leningrad Collective Improvisations”,
standing, from left to right:
Hans Kumpf (clarinet), Ilona Henz-Haberkamp, (musicologist, public),
Igor Butman (saxophone), Arkady Dragomeshenko (poetry), Timur Novikov (utiugon), Ivan Sotnikov (utiugon), Sergey Letov (saxophone, bass clarinet), Alexander (Aleksandr) Kondrashkin (percussion),
front row, sitting:
Boris Grebenshikov (guitar and "small" instruments), Sergey Kuryokhin (saxophone),
Vladimir Boluchevsky (saxophone), Vladimir Volkov (double bass)
Not in the picture, but also participating at the jam session: Vyacheslav Gayvoronsky (trumpet)
Leningrad, 1983 • Archive Hans Kumpf.
Russian names: Клуб-81, Сергей Курёхин, Владимир Болучевский, Игорь Бутман, Аркадий Драгомощенко, Вячеслав Гайворонский, Борис Гребенщиков, Александр Кондрашкин, [Ханс Кумпф], Сергей Летов, Тимур Новиков, Иван Сотников, Владимир Волков, (Е-Е) Евгений Козлов