Heavy Metal has always been very popular in Russia so it isn’t any surprise that several big bands and names are willing and eager to tour the country. However, Russian bands have remained more on the underground level internationally even though they enjoy tremendous success at home. The Russian metal lanscape is definitely huge, vital and has plenty of new and excellent bands ready to conquer the scene. ANJ is one of the new rising metal names from Russia and was chosen for a crossfire of questions from Metal-Rules.Com. The band?s leader and vocalist Anatoly Zhuravlev shed some light on ANJ.
Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Well good day to Moscow, what?s up there right now ? I guess it gotta be rather cold right now during this time of the year ?!
Hi! Yes, you?re right, it?s already a normal Moscow winter, it?s rather snowy and windy?
ANJ, frankly I didn?t have that much info on the existence of ANJ before until I got given a massive promo package at the Finnish Metal Expo by your lovely manager, but before continuing this interview any further, in my opinion it would be idealistic to inquire how ANJ got started out in the first place, cos it is obvious ANJ is more than unknown outside of Russia and what does that ANJ exactly mean ?!
ANJ is an initialism for my name, one musician suggested me this bandname, and I accepted it. And the history of the band started several years ago with a common decision to gather a team to play heavy music without giving a damn what the authorities think about it.
And of course revealing a little bit about the background of the members involved in ANJ would be good to know for sure?
I started with another musicians, but also our music was less heavy? Now I play with rather young musicians who can feel this heavy metal vibe better. Our guitar player Yuri Kryukov played in different bands before ANJ, and a rather well known in Russia band called ?Legion? is among them. Oleg Lomovtsev ? the bassist ? is a very many-sided musician, though he?s now in metal he?s a big fan of 70?s rock music, and Dmitry Sachko? he?s just one hell of a drummer! Very highly skilled, persistent one.
As mentioned above I got given the cd at the Expo. While listening to the stuff, I couldn?t immediately find any other possible bands to name your influences, maybe In Extremo comes to my mind for some reason. But asking a band about their influences and how they would refer to other bands sounds pretty stupid, but I assume we could make an exception now. At least I for one paid attention to the Slavic style has obvious references in your music, or do you view this standpoint of mine, do you usually ladle music inspirations from your own culture, are there some bands having influenced musically ?!
You know, for me the main Russian treasure is not oil or gas, but its native culture, art and science. It?s impossible to live in Russia not having a notion of Tschaikovski, Rachmaninov, Glinka, Sviridov, Shostakovich and many others, or not to hear our folk music? And this inevitably finds its reflection in the work of any composer, no matter of his style and genre. In my opinion, a musician should be always open for any kind of music, so the list of my influences can be too large!
Because of the Russian letters in the printed sleeve I was more or less lost, but was the whole recording process of the album carried out from the beginning to the end in your homecountry and do you think you managed to reach and catch up the wanted sounds for your product, or is there however parts which should have been carried out in a different way ?!
We plan to release an English version of the CD with the English booklet, of course. And now you have a Russian edition. All the recordings were made at our own studios, people from ?Black Obelisk? studio helped us with the mixing work, and mastering was held at Finnvox studios in Finland. And though for now I?m satisfied with the result, but still nothing is perfect, so I think our next record will be of better quality.
I am really curious to learn a little bit about the lyrical thema. Where and how do you usually find and look for inspirations to write in your text ?!
You know, all the themes surround us everywhere ? they are love and hate, war and peace. So you don?t need to search for it, for me it?s enough to look around and inside of myself to find this inspiration.
I can?t help asking about the figures and drawning in the booklet as there are the painted pics of the following items : Wolf, swords, crosses, dismal looking street.. Are those items in a way or another linked to your lyrics or do they have some different artistic meaning and perspective ?!
All of these items are symbolic and in a way sufficient, speaking for themselves. And at the same time they reflect the general mood of the album. This work from the very beginning implies rough social background, referring to ancient symbols and pagan items.
How do you usually start composing and writing a new ANJ song, do you write together in your rehearsal place or one of you composes a riff or two and shows up at a rehearsal place to show other members how to play it ?! Or what is your method ?!
I usually write the music and lyrics and bring them to the rehearsal and we start playing! Sometimes it takes only a few minutes to create the final sound for a song, and sometimes work lasts for months? It depends.
Despite several bands use their own mother language in their lyrics to have the cultural atmosphere and vibes brought from their own cultural background, but however have you ever considered switching the language to English in order to capture a possible market in Central Europe and of course elsewhere, or do you view the Russian languange is a part of the ANJ concept ?!
The concept of the band is very simple ? for Russian audience it?s Russian, and for other countries it?s English. We?re now working with English version of the CD, and it will be finished shortly.
The whole booklet of the album is for obvious reasons printed in Russian, which of course may cause the translation problems for non russian speaking people, but is there possibilities of releasing the english version of the cd in order to catch the attention of international metal magazines, agents and festival organization ?!
Somewhere in a month we?re gonna finish the work with English version of the album, with an English language booklet. Of course I understand that using English we?ll be able to try get us to some international festivals and have a lot bigger chance to succeed.
But however the booklet looks really high quality indeed. Did you have invest a lot of money to come up such a good looking package ?!
Thanks. I hope the costs will be recompensed. But according to the sells, the decision to make an album with beautiful and expensive inlay was worth it!
Speaking of the videos available from your site for the free. On The Devil?s Vengeance members of the Swedish gothic outfit as well as Finland?s own Spiha have been involved in the making process of the video. How did you get them to appear to the video ?! And speaking of the video, it looks extremely professional in every aspect, how much did you have to spend your money and working hours to get it completed ?!
We got acquainted at Tuska festival, and the idea to involve the musicians from the other bands into this video has risen very spontaneously. Lotta and Henry Lee Rock have a perfect look on the screen, they successfully lived the life of the characters they played. I myself was a director of that video, and all the shooting was made with a great crew, so the costs were not so considerable. The mixing process took a lot more time, but the result was worth it!
There is also some kind of story on the Devils Vengeance video, could you shed a little bit light on what is about in the story line ?!
A young guy and a girl occasionally found themselves near a desolated mansion, a motor in their car died, phones are also silent? They get nervous and have a conflict. They decide to look for someone to help them and go into the house, but it turned out that it?s not empty? There is someone who watches them. The young people come in, and the girl finds a beautiful red dress and wants to try it, though her boyfriend is against it. She starts behaving like enchanted, while the guy is going upstairs to inspect the house. He finds a dark room where the walls are covered with different portraits of men, and one frame is empty. In the room nearby he uncovers another picture, showing the Master of this mansion surrounded by beautiful girls. The guy is getting very scared, it seems to him that the portrait comes to life and the painted characters follow him, so he understands that they should leave this place immediately and rushes downstairs. But the girl is already drinking the wine left on the table, she doesn?t know that it?s poisoned. The guy is in despair, he could not save his beloved, so he also sips the wine and dies. But the girl? Instead of dying, gets into another world ? the world of love and harmony, where she sees the Master and can?t resist his fascination? She becomes his concubine and forgets about her earthy love. She even doesn?t mention her boyfriend, who became just another picture in the Devil?s gallery, and together with the Master awaits for the next victim.
Besides Devils Vengeance, ANJ appears to a couple of other videos, Waiting, Sweet Words, Street Fight. All of them have been put on one DVD output including the live gig shot at the Bike Show in St. Petersburg. Is that the best way to get your videos distributed and spread all around after all ?!
Without any doubts, the best way of our videos distribution would be just a direct sale, but now it?s not established yet? I hope that we?ll solve this problem in the nearest time.
Judging by a number of videos as you have released, do you have some channels showing metal videos ?!
No, unfortunately there? no such channels. Sometimes our videos are broadcasted on different channels or satellite TV in Russia and abroad.
Let?s have a series of traditional questions about gigging. How many gigs do you play there in Russia during a year and where is the biggest following for ANJ, either in Moscow or St PetersBurg ?!
We?re just at the start with forming our audience. And for now the biggest following and support is in Moscow and Moscow region. I hope that after our Russian tour we?ll get bigger response.
Where has been the largest audience where you performed ?! Maybe that St. PetersBurg motorbike show in 2003 or has there been even bigger events where you have attended ?!
You?re right, the biggest audience was at St. Petersburg on the Bike show. But there were another big concerts in Moscow, for example Friday 13 festival.
ANJ will be testified at the MetalMania metal fest in Poland. I don?t remember having that much Russian bands booked for that fest. Maybe one, but a long time ago. But how did you manage to get booked there and are you going to ?blow up? the whole place with the massive pyros ?!
MetalMania is a very famous festival in Russia. It?s a great honour for my band to perform at this fest. And as for the other Russian bands? I guess that?s a question for them. I think that the ones who makes maximum effort to succeed have the right to be honored with this success.
I noticed a pic of you with Udo Dirkschneider in your website, did you tour with him ?!? But in general have you opened for foreign metal bands there !?
This was the only experience for us playing together with such stars as Udo. It was really very interesting and unforgettable concert, we supported him only in Moscow.
ANJ seems to have a lot of visual things in liveshows, pyros and all kinds of extra things set up on the stage?Hmm? This without any doubts has kind of reminiscient of Rammstein?s live show? I can?t help asking again, how much are you influenced by their visual pyro style ?!?
We pay attention to the pyros only when it?s possible. I don?t want ANJ to associate for rock fans only with colourful shows and pyros. We can also gig without any effects. But of course, when we have an opportunity to make a cool show, we make it! And it has absolutely no relation to Rammstein.
After watching your videos and pics from your gigs I became really curious what I can expect to see at an ANJ show ?! Could you a little bit describe your show??!
Well? We just come onstage and rock so hard that no one can say that we made only 50%!
I have always been aware of Russian people?s passion and interest and devote to heavy metal as there are a lot of new bands having risen up. What is the exact situation as far as new Russian metal are concerned, are there some bands which would be worth of checking out and keeping an eye on ?!
Hard rock and metal are still in deep underground. New bands appear, of course, but there?s no one who could get interested in producing such kind of bands. And the musicians themselves sometimes lose interest to the music they play? But I hope that our example will help the other bands to have a little faith in themselves again.
Metal has had a long tradition there in Russia since the 80?s when bands like Master, Aria put their first albums out, but the atmosphere of that time wasn?t that quite supportive toward metal bands, but do you even nowadays have to struggle to get gigs and attention for your bands ?!
That period was the highest peak of metal movement in Russia. And now it?s getting just heavier to succeed in this sphere?
All right what kind of plans do you have for the future of ANJ which will be carried out with 100% quarantee ?!
We plan to go on tour in Russia to support our album ?Under The Intent Target?, also making the English version of this plate and selling it abroad. Then we?re going to shoot one more video and record another two albums.
More and more bands seem to do tours there, for example old metal and hard rock legends UDO and Scorpions have played there constantly and of course Slayer. But do you often to go out to check out bands ?!
When I have such opportunity I try to go out, but this opportunity is so rare?
Before quitting the interview totally I am forced to inquire your all time fave bands and of course metal related? So name the five most important releases from your point of view ?!
Well, let?s begin with Metallica, my most favorite band ever, with their ?91 Black album? Though I like ?St. Anger? also a lot! Slayer?s ?Reign In Blood?, ?Beneath The Remains? by Sepultura ? and their latest ?Roorback? is also great! And also some stuff from AC/DC, hard to choose something exact, maybe ?Back In Black?? It?s so many significant albums of all times that it?s just hard to pick five of them!
I therefore thank you for your time and this interview? I wish you all the best and hopefully ANJ will be testified in Europe really soon.. The last words are yours..
Well, thank you for the interesting questions, take care and rock on!
The Official ANJ site
Big thanks to RAG DOLL (Metalkings.ru) for arraging the interview