Chain D.L.K.: First of all I’d like to know how your musical taste has grown over the years (from the formative years) and how you started to listen to “unconventional music”…
The Eastern Front: First of all we would like to thank you for the opportunity to hold this conversation with Chain D.L.K. Both of us were born in the Soviet Union and since childhood we were besieged by Russian folk, patriotic songs and Soviet pop music and due to the perverted propagandistic character of all Soviet “culture” we could not bear either Russian folk or patriotic songs. As for pop music – we never loved it and keep disliking it till now. In those gloomy times:))) we lived in former Soviet Union and we both – each in his own way – started to search for something alternative, like hard rock, metal and what is called “Russian rock” – a unique phenomenon that was born in Soviet Union in the 80s and was typical only to the Soviet Union – a series of amazing artists like Aquarium, Kino, Nautilus Pompilius – bands that were popular (in narrow circles of course) only within the borders of the Soviet Union and who, in their own unique way, succeeded to inspire current Russian singing (like Majdanek Waltz or Agnivolok or Zlye Kukly) collectives. By the way, one of the fascinating songs of cult Russian project Aquarium appears on Leger Des Heils LP but we are almost sure that nobody among European listeners will be aware of whose this song is, because, as we said, the phenomenon of “Russian Rock” – which is actually deeply folksy (except the definition “neofolk” was not invented then) – belonged solely to the territory of the former Soviet Union and never reached a European or/and American audience.Listening to this music was really a way out and an escape from the folk-pop-patriotic compendium which Soviet propaganda was foisting upon us rather brutally in those years. Our move to Israel – a free open state – 15-16 years ago opened for us the possibility of free choice and of ways to discover new horizons in music. We were listening to black metal (we even organized one metal gig), and along with that we discovered industrial and odd music like The Residents, Laibach, Diamanda Galas, Einsturzende Neubauten, Death In June and Sol Invictus; at last we reached the shores of neofolk/martial sea and what is amazing now is that we re-listen to patriotic, wartime Soviet songs as well as Russian and other folk which we hated so strongly, but of course our attitude to this music has changed totally; now we can hear not only the pure propaganda inside but we realize that hearty tunes and clever lyrics are presented as well. Thus we have re-discovered the great culture of early Soviet music of the 20s and 30s – songs sung by the great Utesov, Petr Leschenko, Vertinsky; we enjoy very much listening to these old records, which would have been absolutely wild for us only 20 years ago.
Chain D.L.K.: I’m deeply ignorant about your country and about your alternative scene, so I’d like to know: did Israel see the born of “rebel/extreme” music during the end of the 70’s? Has it turned into something more experimental? Can you tell something more about your forthcoming release “Refuse To Die – Collection Of Agnostic Flies”? If I’m not wrong it covers these kinds of bands…
The Eastern Front: It’s a little bit difficult for us to talk about this, we have been here just since the early 90s and we did not witness how this scene has been developing since that period. But as far as we know an alternative scene was developing in Israel according to a similar pattern to Europe and America. There are some Israeli projects who had their say in the world alternative culture like Duralex Sedlex, DXM, Shalosh Heit Undoubtedly, and you guessed absolutely correct, Refuse To Die is a project which is rooted in that movement. We discovered this marvelous project by chance as we were rather ignorant about the older generation of Israeli alternative scene and it was really a surprise to know that such a talent lives on the neighbouring street in the centre of Tel Aviv. Avner Altman is the only man in this project, he started to compose music in the early 80s, in 1992 his project Untouchable (Asurim BeMag’a) was born, and in the end of the 90s Refuse To Die was commenced. Avner creates his own particular individual style, he is not a very young man and the experience of his life – not so easy and sweet – is felt in his music and in his bitter, ironically tinged lyrics. Refuse To Die is absolutely an unknown phenomenon for a European audience and we believe that Refuse To Die may surprise the scene and the listeners with its weird, satirical, intelligent and profound art.
Chain D.L.K.: What made you choose to start your own label? What has been the initial “manifesto” and are you still sticking to it?
The Eastern Front: Actually we started our label by chance. We never had such an idea, we were absolutely ignorant about how people start off and carry out this enterprise:))) But because of the idea of Albin Julius to release his CD in Israel we had no way but to start doing it. We had no name, we had no concept, we had no agenda, we had no website. Everything came later, after Der Blutharsch CD was released. We were learning how this thing works in process and gradually the idea of what we want and how we want to work was formed. Today we understand rather clearly what exactly we want, though we are just in the beginning and we have to learn a lot and work hard.
Chain D.L.K.: Neo-folk, industrial, experimental music and all the different offshoots (dark ambient, etc) were born from different backgrounds even if during the years bands kept blending the genres. Your releases cover all of them, so: what are the things you like most of each of them and generally, how should a band sound to be signed for The Eastern Front?
The Eastern Front: The first and only criteria – we must love the music we produce. But it does not mean that if we loved some album in for example 2007 and released it we will certainly release another album by the same artist in 2008. Our tastes are also changing… J))) There are projects which we are prepared to release again and again: having said that, currently we do not plan to release on The Eastern Front any project working in the dark ambient field, probably because of the innumerable quantity of albums in this genre lately, which overloaded the scene and which actually do not differ so much from each other….Though of course it does not mean that the genre of dark ambient is forbidden definitely on our label! That is why every artist working in any genre is invited to send us his demo, we never refuse to listen to something new because there is always a chance that there is a hidden treasure that the world must be aware of:))) And if we love it certainly it’ll be released!
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the best thing a small label could do to avoid the mp3 piracy problem? Is this affecting you, also?
The Eastern Front: We think that there are no ways to avoid it and probably it is not so necessary; we believe it does not threaten small independent labels. Downloadable MP3 may even help to spread the word (or a sound in our case:))) This scene is not a territory of brainwashed pop audiences numbed by flashy and importunate advertisements into buying CDs of pop stars in an automatic manner. We have neither the tools or the opportunities to put up huge advertisement of a newly released album on some building on Times Square or Piccadilly, or to â€˜whirl” some clip on MTV: Actually this is not our target at all, but we all need to be heard somehow, somewhere and by somebody, and downloading mp3 and buying a copy of an album afterwards (maybe! J)) is also a way to spread music. Although from a selfish point of view it’s a little bit irritating – you work hard, you invest money, energy and spirit and somebody gets easily the result of your hard labor – just by one click… and the artist gets no cut either… but ok, it’s up to the public’s conscience:)))
Chain D.L.K.: You organize concerts and events (I read that you started your activity first with the Der Blutharsch Israeli concert). How has the following been and what are the concerts you remember most fondly?
The Eastern Front: Indeed, sometimes we organize something but it is not the strong side of our activity…. Actually we started organizing metal gigs as we mentioned in the beginning of our conversation, later an idea to organize a Death In June concert came to our mind and we made the idea come true (we are still happy with this) but we do it very seldom; sometimes we organize something local, and our next event will be Svarrogh – Agnivolok performance in March 2008. We cannot say that today we are fascinated by the idea of organizing live gigs due to awful difficulties. We live overseas and everything turns out to be twice as difficult as in Europe – crossing borders, getting working permissions, unexpected strikes at the airport, bankruptcy of the venue and so on and so forth – anything may spoil a carefully planned program of a live performance as we depend on thousands of people – from a clerk in the Ministry Of Education who may or may not recommend an artist for performing in Israel to the soundman in the venue who may be ill or in a poor mood on that day so that the performance will be disgracefully spoiled. That is why we try to avoid organizing performances: we feel rather helpless and not able to control the situation by ourselves from A to Z.
Chain D.L.K.: Your releases are well packaged (three panel covers, etc) and graphics in general are an important thing to you. Is there a project you couldn’t release because it was too expensive? If so, what was it about?
The Eastern Front: Thank you very much for the compliments! We always think about how the CD should be packed and try to use maximum fantasy and taste within the constraints of such a prosaic thing like a budget:))) Yes, there have been ideas in the design which we were eager to carry out but because of the cost we backed down and came to a simpler version. But indeed we have never refused to produce something because of expensiveness or something of the sort. Packaging is important but music is much more important, you agree, don’t you?On the other hand undoubtedly it’s an essential thing for us – design and graphics. We believe it has to be a part of the whole concept and an album without right packaging/artwork, like a faceless mp3, loses a lot in its way to the heart and mind of a listener. Sometimes you may buy a CD even not knowing what kind of music is recorded on it but the packaging looks so attractive that you believe that it cannot contain something unworthy. Long time ago while being in London and digging out London music stores we bought an album of Blood Axis just because of its interesting artwork, even though we did not know then what Blood Axis was at all. We believe and hope that some well-done packaging and a clear and intelligent concept of the cover may attract a potential listener, even if he has no idea what kind of music there is inside; if the artwork of the album is figured out competently, it will reflect precisely the musical idea and coincide visually with its musical content – it is this very result which we are aiming at in a release. Examples of such a perfect combination of musical and visual content exist here and there and we hope to reach this level one day.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell something more about T’an! Kaven!! Ash!!! your industrial sub-label and why have you decided to divide genres by creating it?
The Eastern Front: The idea of T’an! Kaven!! Ash!!! was born later, in 2006. We were looking for a possibility to release experimental stuff in small quantities and at low budget within The Eastern Front but somehow realized that it was not a good idea. That is why we established T’an! Kaven!! Ash!!! as an experimental subdivision of the main label The Eastern Front. The musical line of the sub-label is quite different from The Eastern Front line, it’s more experimental, avant-garde, noise, ambient, a mix of all these genres… Actually the concepts of both labels are quite different but regrettably most of reviews and mailorders simply do not pay attention on which label we release an album and label it automatically as released on The Eastern Front.The whole idea of T’an! Kaven!! Ash!!! is a pure experiment and the title of the sublabel which translated from Hebrew means ” Aim! Load!! Fire!!!” is an allusion to the chance to reach the heart of a listener like a bullet may reach its target… or… not, exactly like the sound of music may not reach the heart of a listener:))) but we try!
Chain D.L.K.: What are your next projects?
The Eastern Front: We have a really “Napoleon’s expansion program”! In 2008 we’ll release new albums of Bleiburg, Damiano Mercuri, Tony Wakeford and many more. What we really want is to raise our label to a better level according to the slogan “Quality, solidity, spirituality”
Chain D.L.K.: Are there some bands you’d like to point out for our readers?
The Eastern Front: If you mean the projects we are going to release on The Eastern Front this year, we’d like to point out Miel Noir/B-Machina split, probably these names may seem new to the audience but it is not exactly so. Miel Noir is another project of Dimo Dimov – a brilliant musician, whose marvelous project Svarrogh is well known on the neofolk scene, but Miel Noir is a new project with a different concept and you’ll have the opportunity to hear it soon this year. B-Machina is a new project of Austrian Bonemachine – an industrial act which has quite a lot of releases under its belt. We believe that the cooperation between these two projects has led to very interesting results but of course it’s up to the audience to judge!We think that our future release Allocutio by Surma – an absolutely unknown act from Ukraine – is worth remembering, too. Allocutio is a conceptual album touching the theme of occupied Ukraine in the years of WWII.And of course Refuse To Die with its weirdest album “Collection Of Agnostic Flies”.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there something I missed to ask that you’d like to tell?
The Eastern Front: We’d just like to thank you once again for the attention Chain D.L.K. has paid to our label.
Visit The Eastern Front on the web at:
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Marco Pustianaz]