Truckdrivers arose in 2011 from the wave of ska-core crashing into the Russian DIY punk scene. That wave is now long gone, leaving almost nothing in its wake of destruction, but these guys are here to stay. They easily mix fast hardcore rhythms with ska, punk, with reggae beats, and on their new album they add a little bit of dub. In combination with honest and soulful lyrics, it’s an endorphin bomb!
One sunny day we decided to have a skype chat with Pasha Orehov, the band's guitarist and vocalist, to speak about the punk movement in their city, their latest music video, and their upcoming album.
Truckdrivers formed in 2011. Tell us, what was the punk scene in your hometown of Chelyabinsk like?
There were people doing something, but not punk rock as it should be, in my opinion. At the peak of its popularity there were all these weird harcore bands who were all style and no substance and without any attitude.
I can tell the story of how we met each other. In the spring of 2011 my band broke up. I won't even mention its name because we played some weird pop punk. One day I met Igor, who I had already known a little from an At Daggers Drawn show (the german hardcore band). The gig was organized by a guy who wasn’t involved in punk at all. We drank beer and talked about how there were no good skacore/ska-punk bands in Chelyabinsk. This meeting was a precursor to the creation of Truckdrivers.
So you just got drunk with Igor at in the bar and that's how it started?
We didn’t even get drunk, just had a glass of beer and chatted nicely. He said that he went to an underground gig in some rehearsal room and there was a hiphop artist who was performing, calling himself OneShot. I guess many people know that it's a side-project of Ruslan, but it doesn't exist anymore. Igor thought his lyrics were good and very unusual for rap music. He also played bass. And it's amazing because it's impossible to find a singing bass player in Chelyabinsk. That summer we started playing together. It was pretty lively with lyrics like "Smash windows in the McDonalds," and "Burn them all," but soon it turned into something more serious.
How did Ruslan become a rapper from the punk scene?
It was not so subculture-ish here, everyone was just friends. Actually he is from Asha, from the Afonia crew. Ruslan mentioned several times that they influenced his attitute a lot. Afonia plays grindcore. Then he moved to Chelyabinsk, entered college and stayed there, later getting into our scene.
Do you think the formation of Truckdrivers helped the scene appear or was it just coincidence?
I was pretty far away from the whole thing, I used to hang out with skaters who had nothing in common with punk rock, and after Truckdrivers appeared I got more and more into the underground scene. I think all the kids from our crew got acquainted with each other at the right time and it was mutually helpful. The band developed with the help of the kids and the kids develop with help of the band. Everyone became friends, started to hang out together, went to shows, found something new. I don't think I could call it a scene, more like a crowd of friends.
Are you friends with other bands from Chelyabinsk? I mean not only seeing each other at shows but hanging out ouside of them.
We deal with a band called Bubble Gum, but only at shows, as you said. Sometimes we help them organize something. I also helped them with equipment for their music video. Actually we are only close with one guy from an acoustic project called Grishunka. He’s probably the only musician from Chelyabinsk who is even a friend to us.
We didn't want to make a music video just to make one, like "let's go to our practice room, put our banner on a wall, dress cool, and play on the camera" style.
Why is it taking you so long to release a music video? Do Bubble Gum have the only camera in Chelyabinsk?
Ruslan has his own video studio if you didn't know. He shoots family videos.
Yeah, but more qualitatively, professionally. His skills improve every day. He got his hand on a camera and learned how to film really high quality movies. We finished our music video, a short film for the song Concrete Blocks.
So you didn't want to make a video because Ruslan wasn't skilled enough for that and you wouldn't blow peoples’ minds?
That's right. We didn't want to make a music video just to make one, like "let's go to our practice room, put our banner on a wall, dress cool, and play on the camera" style. We won't ever do that, because it's too trivial. The internet is overloaded with this, every band has such a video. We'd rather do it once to put shivers down your spine. We want everything to be done 300%.
Sadwave.com has called you very-russian gloomy dreary reggae. Do you agree with such definition?
We had a laugh at this. So here's the story. I would like to get more feedback from critics about my band, both negative and positive, so I wrote a letter to Sadwave for them to listen to us and write something. Our reggae songs are pretty dreary, that's right, but they have not seen the other side of our band, which is more interesting in my opinion. Anyway, it was fun.
Tell about your upcoming album. Will it be completely different from previous ones?
We don't try to invent something completely new, we just do what we do well, based on our life experience. Generally all our songs are a reflection of us. Whatever form we give to it, it will be nothing new. The main difference will be that we took it really serious. We've spent more time in the studio, rearranging songs. Now we are working at dynamics, to get the crowd hooked with it. We want to have an interaction, not play the same thing just louder.
Currently we are searching for a professional sound engineer who can make a good mix. The difficulty in mixing our music is that it's very different. For example, there will be a pure dub track on the new album. There will be so many reverberations and looped delays, I can't imagine how to explain all this to a guy who has never heard it. We have dub, ska, a little bit of hardcore, and street punk moments. And we will have to explain everything to the engineer. We'll try.
Most of our listeners are people 16–18 years old. And that makes me glad. Youth is interested in our art.
Is a good sound the mark of a good studio and sound engineer or first should you sound good? Wouldn't you like to go to a trustworthy studio, like where Distemper recorded their albums, for example?
I don't trust such things. If some special group of people recommend a studio that doesn't mean it's a good studio. First and foremost, everything depends on the musicians. Musicians must give the sound engineer their vision of sound, not vice versa. There is no standard, at least in punk rock.
One old friend told me he lost interest in Russian punk rock after he realized that there is nothing to attract an adult to it. Do you think Truckdrivers could attract people who are growing up?
Recently many of us have grown up and had to face a choice: to work in a bank or to make something of our own. So there will be a lot of motivation for some action songs. But most of our listeners are people 16–18 years old. And that makes me glad. Youth is interested in our art. But I think that people over 30 can also listen to it easily.
The song Concrete Blocks is about tramways driving fathers throwing their minutes of freedom to the fire to work. It's understandable for adults for sure. A 16-year-old teenager could probably not understand.
Yes, see, you've answered your question yourself. We have songs with serious meaning. That's why we filmed a video for that song. To make the chemical processes work in your brain, to make you do something.
There is also an interesting line about Saint Petersburg in the song, where you call it “a strange city with Neva” and, as it seems to me, you feel grievance about people changing Chelyabinsk to it. In your opinion, why Chelyabinsk is better than Saint Petersburg?
Chelybinsk is better because it has a close knit community, who are always there to help you if you are in trouble. It’s too easy to move to another city. It’s better to foster a local spirit, so we try to do.
You've released all your previous records yourself, but now you've decided to find labels for the new album. Why?
First and foremost, money. We want to release it on vinyl. Five hundred copies minimum. And it's very expensive for the three of us. That's why we need labels. And I want it to be mutual work. The labels could be promoted with us and we could be promoted with them. I've found good labels that love our music.
What about crowdfunding? You've mentioned you have a little army of fans. You could ask them to give you money for that release.
I think crowdfunding is definitely not for punks. You have to pay huge percent to the site. Generally our listeners are...
I don't know if they are poor, but the truth is they support us by buying CDs, and that's good. They do it consciously. They want t-shirts, they want CDs. We get some money out of it and invest it back into band. Everything's honest. Asking something is not cool in my opinion.
How is vinyl now relevant in Russia and in provincial cities like Chelyabinsk?
Statistics of vinyl sales make me glad. People have begun buying records because they bring out a bunch of feelings. Digital technologies are good, they provided an impulse for development, but... one sees, touches, hears, and feels a smell. When someone takes a record, feelings start to come forth. They take it, feel it, touch it, appreciate the design, and then put it on a turntable. I think it's the correct perception of art. That's why I want to put out our music on vinyl. On physical media in general. We organize parties called Roots, Rock and Wax for the promotion of music on vinyl.
Could you tell me more about these parties?
We show that wax is cool and people have started to understand it. We try to create a culture so that people aren't sitting at home in front of their computers but going somewhere, doing something. One day I met a guy named Ilya, DJ Keepa. It turned out he's into collecting funk records. He invited me to a party once, told me that it's a crew of wax lovers. Then I was thinking it's party where everyone shows off to see who has the coolest records, but it's just guys who are passionate about music. I came there and they asked me to put some of my records on a turntable. I'd never been a DJ, I had no idea what to do. Ilya simply said "push this button, touch this, and put here and here." It really drew me in and we started to make those wax parties. We've organized ten parties already.
What is the most recent record you have bought?
The most recent record I've really bought...I just went to a local record shop, dug in the 7 inches and found a 50-ruble ($0.7) record with some shitty rock 'n' roll. It was so shitty that even 50 rubles were too much for it. If you mean albums that I've ordered consciously, I now have a copy of a pretty rare Black Star Dub Collective and Autonomads split. They're kind of ska–dub–punks. They play anarchistic dub that I enjoy very much. I've hunted for this record for two years and finally got it on discogs.
What is the most valuable record in your collection?
The very first vinyl record I got was The Clash London Calling. It was given to me by friend who passed away. He was never fond of vinyl. Last fall he died tragically, he was 23, so this record is very valuable for me. This thing has got memories and I will never sell it. It's the most valuable record, I guess.
Was your love for music on physical media the impulse to open your Punky Dog online music shop?
I have a dream. I would like to help good bands do what they do so that a lack of money and job wouldn't stop them. I wanted it to be a platform where bands could competently sell their merch in Russia and worldwide. Someone told me once that all DIY in Russia is characterized by carelessness and shit. He's right partially, because a lot of things are done incompetently. I can give our recent release by Ukrainian label Mira Voice as an example. We were waiting for this record to be released for three years and after we got it everything was messed up. Tracks were not in right order. There were problems with customs, in which the label also must take part in solving, in my opinion. But Mira Voice... when someone thinks it's okay to delay a release for three years, I have no words. It's pure bullshit for sure.
That's why I wanted to make a competent store, where everything works well and bands can get some money. I want to give a part of me to punk rock with this store, because it helped create my personality.
Pasha Orehov: I would like to play on a big stage. The problem with all these fests is that you can easily step into shit, but our reputation is very important for the band.
You said that you have gone on three tours already. You've never done it by van, always by train. For me touring by van is the only way to go. Why do you prefer trains?
I don't know, that's how it happened. It was problematic for us to find a driver who is similar in spirit. After 3 tours it became romantic to travel by train. The whole Through the Whole Map EP appeared that way. We got emotions and thoughts and released them into this EP. Actually I planned to buy my own van, tried to find different ones, but I recently got my license taken away for a year and a half and stopped thinking about it. Now we're planning a tour for the fall of 2016 and will go by van this time. We found a guy who will drive us. He's a friend of Pavel Myatnyi from Kirov, he's an athlete. Pavel said he's a cool guy and there is no reason not to trust him. I will disclose a secret and reveal that we want to go on tour with Pavel Myatnyi together. We can move rock'n'roll mountains with him, really.
After three tours can you analyze the Russian underground. Have the level of shows promotion grown?
It depends on how much the promoter is into it. There are some DIY guys who put on shows and don't give a damn about quality of the backline. And there are promoters who put on shows at such a high level that it's better than commercial shows. But it's always a lottery. Anyways, after 3 tours we've got contacts and have realized who we want to cooperate with and who we would like to find an alternative to.
As someone who promotes their band, do you care how you look on stage? Do you care if your mates dress not that well?
Recently the band Pornofilmy came to us. They are very good guys, I've talked to them, they know what they're doing, playing rock in front of thousands of people. They took standard punk, translated it into Russian and play it competently. They have jackets made specially for concerts. They even had a photosession where all of them are in Bad Religion t-shirts. It makes me smile. Not negatively in any case, I just find it funny. We don't give a shit at all, we dress on stage how we dress in life. Someone even mocked the fact that I always play in a shitty Operation Ivy t-shirt which I almost always wear and Ruslan plays in a Gogol Bordello t-shirt. Shit, it's just things that I love. I love that hoodie and stopped wearing it only because it is frayed, but Ruslan still wears that t-shirt. It has huge holes and I guess he doesn't fix it on purpose. All in all, be yourself!
Usually people in big cities like Moscow always notice how you dress. They need a show and music is in second place.
We don't give a shit, that's not our people. We are what we are.
When bands start to grow up some of them start to have irresistible desire to "extend their audience." Usually that means taking part in big festivals with no punk attitude. Have you ever had such a desire and do you think it is worth changing minds about such festivals that are like that?
You can always try. But I would never play the Nashestvie festival.
But what if they invited you in 2015, before the weapons exhibition, for example?
Actually I'm interested in big festivals. I would like to play on a big stage. The problem with all these fests is that you can easily step into shit (playing with some fencewalkers bands), but our reputation is very important for the band. I really like the Ogni festival. It's done by guys who are into punk rock but now decided to make it bigger. It's a very cool fest. But others...
So if someone calls you and says "Hey Pasha! I have twelve reasons for you to extend your audience,” and dramatic music starts playing and every thing is in slow-motion and the atmosphere is like you signing a contract with the devil, would you tell him to piss off?
No, I wouldn't. I would chat with him and try to get the maximum experience of it, because you should know your enemy.
Do you have moments of crisis when you want to quit everything? How do you deal with that?
Yes, it happens sometimes when you are overloaded. I'm very thankful for the encouragement of my girlfriend, who helps with warm words. And then there is band practice. When you come to rehearsal and you get shivers down your spine from your own music, all the stress leaves you and you realize that's what you need to fight and live for.
Anything else to say?
Wait for our upcoming album, it will be cool.