We've all heard about many "sudden sensations" appearing in the former communist camp in the past few years. However, upon a closer listen most didn't live up to the expectations. Even when the musicanship was there, the horrible production, or lack of originality prevented them from achieving true greatness. Simply put, Tvangeste changed my mind, being an amazing example of talent finding its way despite all the difficulties none of the western musicians have the right to complain about.
This is an account of one of my long conversations with Miron, the leader and mastermind behind this excellent outfit.
Potrokh: Is there anything you'd like done in this interview that you always wanted to be asked and nobody ever did?
Miron: Hmm... actually I'm not sure... please don't ask about our history=))))))))))))))))
Anything in your history you're ashamed of?
Nope... just tired of telling it using different ways... it has to be different for difefrent metal mass media...=))
Nah, we're all mass consumption outlets, so let's make it just an average description... year band born, members, how long have you been playing? any previous bands? Ah, fuck it, no history then...
Exact Tvangeste's birth date is 1997... but Istrated to gather the guys in 1995... Right after the army I got In Flames' "Lunar Strain" in my hands... and they made me start playing music. All my life I was a martial artist that liked metal music... but after my army duty all my life changed...
No childhood playing in school bands or your garage then? And you actually didn't even play guitar till after the army?
Nope... I was a 20 year old guy without any experience and without any ideas about how to play any musical instruments... notes were for me not more than just little black dots.
Do you read notation now? did you take lessons or learned yourself?
To be honest - no! I can't read notes QUICKLY now but at least I know the basics of mucic grammar. I have a clear vision on how it should sound... so all that I need is a good person that is able to transfer my ideas to note sheets... this person is my wife and Tvangeste's keys since 2000 Naturelle.
And she is classically trained, right?
Yes. She has a musical education as a pianist. Our Victoria is a well educated lady as well... she's an orchestra director.
I know that your primary musical influences are far from metal, and all of a sudden you decide to play it? You have to admit that sounds like a big influence!
Actually all my life I was a fan of metal music... but it wasn't an extreme kind of metal.Bands I liked were: WASP, Bonfire etc... also I was a great fan of guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai
What ARE your other influences, then? Any sweet childhood memories? When did you get into metal?
Hmm.. ha ha... it's funny ... actually one of my favorite bands was.. guess who?? (You know who..=)) Modern Taliking... I like this band even now... maybe because they remind me of my childhood... or, maybe because of their melodic lines... I dunno...
oh, I know how that goes, hehe... but what age did you start listening to metal? Cause I know there's this point in a kid's life that makes him be cool and stop listening to pussy music.
Hmm... the first metal album I got was WASP, "Inside the Electric Circus"... I recorded four songs from the Polish radio (to listen to such music in the USSR was prohibited so all music fans were able to get new music only from sailors and from poor quality western radios... there wasn't FM then yet, so all that we had were some Short Wave radiostations... I got my WASP from BBC... it was 1985
You got back from the army in 95 and WASP was in 85... 10 yr old?
You're absolutely right.
Ok, now, as for the army... what did you do there? Did you have to go through all the horrors of "rookie initiation"?
Hehe... yes, I had some illegal treatment from old soldiers...it was bad because almost all of them were from Dagestan (a southern republic in the Russian Federation)... so my martial arts abilities helped me so much... I was an explosives specialist...a very useful profession these days,hehe... I can do explosive works in commando forces, I know how to blow up different objects like buildings, cars etc... I know how to prepare different trap-mines for infantry, etc...
What exact kind of martial arts? How long have you been doing it? Was it the primary influence on your healthy lifestyle or was it the other way round? What makes people live like that?
In the beginning of my martial arts training (it was 1989) I was a karate addict... my first school was Shotokan Karate Do....but after the army (there were a lot of strong guys there) I changed my mind and started to practice different styles of martial arts, so my current style is a mix of Tae Kwon Do, boxing, some soft speed elements from Wushu and Muai Thai. Main characteristics are: very quick punches (jabs), kick to all levels (about 50% of my style is leg technique).
As for the influence, I can answer that question without any thinking... I was very surprised when I saw "No Retreat No Surrender" with Van Damme... I was shocked by Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" and "Martial arts of Shao Lin" with Jet Li!!!!! I got home from the movies and decided that I would be like those guys! I started doing sit ups and other "a la karate" stuff... it was funny but it was my first steps on the way to the strength! I don't drink and don't smoke and I've neved done it! My lifestyle is health and power. I'm a great fan of Jackie Chan and my dream is to play with him in his movie once. (You can find a link to Jackie Chan's official site on tvangeste.com=)))
Is there an ideology behind it all or is it just for fighting? what IS your ideology? How did you get it?
The main concept was (and is) tiumph of strength. I respect strong and wise people. Main ideology is: be Free, Be Strong, Be Yourself.
No satanism or anything? did you think of it a lot or did it just come naturally? Was it influenced by martial arts? What do you think of the oriental philosophy, then?
Satanism has a lot of wise thoughts but I can't consider myself as a satanist since I'm completely atheistic... it's kinda Myselfism... I don't recognize any gods and think that religion is a destiny of weak-willed sheep. My ideal is a Free of another's ideas and ideals Human. I respect some points from Zen but the Cult of Teacher makes me angry... obedience... what can be more idiotic?? Obedience to somebody is a sign of weakness... I can't tell You that there was one clear influence. It's my life's experience... my way...
Let's call your ideology "Egoism" :)))
Nope... Egoism - the style of life for people that can't see anything but only THEIR EGO.... I respect my friends, relatives.... and I'll do anything for them, that's the main difference...
Now, what's with positioning yourself as a "prussian" band? We all know that Kaliningrad is what used to be Koenigsberg... but, do you think it makes you more European or something?
Actually, I don't care if it makes me more or less European... I live in Europe geographically (Kaliningrad Region is a small Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania)... I can consider myself as an eastern european without any doubt. As for "PRUSSIA" - look: You know that there was Koenigsberg before Kaliningrad... that Kaliningrad region is a former German territory, but do you know that before the Germans these were Prussian Lands? That before Koenigsberg there was an ancient prusssian dwelling Tvangeste? I bet it's new information to you. The same about almost all people... Prussian history has been forgotten... and we tried to pay homage to an ancient nation!
This ancient nation, did you study it? Go to museums?
Our first CD "Damnation of Regiomontum" was dedicated to the Prussian Tragedy... there was only one... the latest song about my point of view... not about ancient times, damned christians and brave warriors. With "Born to be Kings of Innerself" I tried to share my thoughts with all metal fans... "FireStorm" contains two main lines..."freedom of mind" and "prussian theme"... we tried to combine two main themes... but enough: the new CD will be about the present, about my main concept I told you already. Prussian theme was great but it's too much to make a third Cd about it! we have a lot to say, a lot to show and I believe that this new transformation of Tvangeste's style won't disappoint anybody!
Ok, now, I know you're a good web designer and a successful businessman - what is your formal education? Or, did you learn it all on your own again?
Hehe... not as successeful as I wanted to be!=) Thanks for your kind words, though! I have a Bachelor's Degree as a Computer Programmer, but I do web development because it's much easier money and, to be honest, I am not a very good programmer... web develpment is a really good business so we have a small web development agency together with Naturelle (she's a designer also).
Care to share on how you met and got involved? Was it music first, then personal or the other way round? Not that many metal bands can boast such a productive relationship!
It was a strange meeting. Naturelle was invited to our debut live show in 1997 by our keyboardist. She saw me (in make up=)) and said to herself "yeah.. a funny guy... I like him"... so I had no idea that she was a pianist! She didn't tell me about that until......... 2000!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it was an insanely big surprise for me when she said to me once "yeah I can play keys" and showed me her abilities! I was stunned and decided to work with her. You know - it's so great to have a keyboardist and wife in one!=))) So "FireStorm" was made by me and her and I'm really glad of this partnership! Her favorites aren't the same as mine at all so it helps us to find new, unusual forms...
So, you married her and only THEN found out she played keys? She must be mighty pretty for you to jump straight to marriage then!
Exactly!... And yeah.. hehe..yeah!...=))
What's with the glasses? Not exactly a "metal" thing, huh?
He he... yeah Man... I was asked this question a million times by our fans since our latest photosession... but You're the first who asked this question in an interview... actually it's a part of me. I'm not a stupid poser so I don't want to take my glasses off to look "more attractive". I just wear glasses, that's all... ask John Lennon why did he wear glasses? It was a part of his image... the same thing about me. On the other hand - have you ever seen BM guys wearing glasses?... no... so I'm kinda unique...(joke)
I'm sure many people would like to know what kind of gear you use, what setup? I imagine with your kind of music, you would have a home studio?
Man, actually it's a hard situation.. being Russian I don't even have a good guitar! The "Firestorm" album, all those orchestra and choir parts were created with... 4 octaves of midi keys for 100 bucks and a cheap Jackson DR3 fake... it's too bad, but good instruments are just a dream for us... our previous bassist (Vano Mayoroff) borrowed a good guitar for live shows... all our CD's were recorded using somebody else's instruments, so all my gear is my mind, my imagination....
So, what do you use, then??? Any digital gear? A computer?
During the creation process we use: a PC (as a drum machine + SONAR for recording), guitar, keys, microphone... plus our imagination.... we lay down the sequence and then the musicians at the studio play it. And for our live shows, since we aren't able to play live with an orchestra and a choir (we aren't Scorpions yet =)) we use DVD... there are orchestra tracks, metronome tracks for the drummer (in his headphones)... I think that's all.
And in the studio... First of all we recorded all metal parts (drums, guitars, basses) at the Polish SELANI studio, because they are very experienced guys in metal stuff recording, then we made pre-mixes for each song and went to Kaliningrad to record choir, orchestra and my/Olaa's vocals... after all work at TV 4 studios (Kaliningrad) was finished we went to SELANI again and... were shocked - there was a horrible synchronization problem! We were destroyed! But our Kaliningrad sound engineer Alexey Artichevski did magic!!! He cut all tracks (each of our songs contains about 100-120 tracks) and made them play together with metal parts using just a PC and a mouse!
Who else recorded at Selani?
We decided to enter SELANI because it was one of the more famous and professional studios in Poland. They recorded Vader, Behemoth, Lux Occulta, Christ Agony, etc... As an additional thing that made us enter the studio was Szymon Czech - a well known in Poland sound engineer. Together with him we have recorded and mastered all the songs for "Firestorm".
Oh yeah, and the drummer... is it a drum machine?
He he... nope Man, after our first CD "Damnation of Regiomontum" was released by Norwegians we got a great deal of good responses from metal mass media...and one of the worst thing that many reviewers noticed was the "bad drum machine sound"... yes, at that time we used a drum machine because it's too hard to find a good drummer in our region, but on "firestorm" it's a live drummer. We invited a virtuoso player from the Polish band DOMINIUM - Cezar Mielko. This guy did really great work and I'm glad that our new CD's sound contains such excellent drum work! now.
Any news on a permanent drummer, though? Found one yet?
We have an agreement with Cezar - he'll join Tvangeste for any live shows.
Do you tour a lot, any European plans?
we get about 5-10 live show invitations every month from all over the world. But because of big inner problems we aren't able to play live. I'd love to visit many countries - we have so many friends in this world but... it's quite impossible right now.
Who were the show offers to play with? And why can't you play them?
We could play live with Cradle Of Filth, Mayhem, In Flames, Moonspell, Ancient, Windir...all these invitations were not accepted because of the inner situation in the band. The main problem is "we are Russians"... so we need visias to all countries... and it's sometimes quite impossible to get visas for all members. As an additioanl problem - Tvangeste consists of 8 members... so if one visa costs 100 (100X8=$800) - quite a bid "additional payment" that makes live shows organizers "to think"... for a long time we had no drummer....and it's so hard now to play with Cezar because we have to rehearse...but he lives in Poland and we live in Russia... but main problem for now is our guitarplayer... He's in jail now. For a serious thing... he has killed a man. It was self defence so we are hoping for the court's positive decision. One night Nikolay was attacked by a drunken idiot with a knife. Benig a professional fighter, Nikolay was able to defend himself, but he did it too rough, so the man is at the cemetary... and Nikolay is still jailed. We can't play without him since he's our friend, our brother, a part of the band. We should support him and be with him all this time.
A true "black metal" story!
Nope...a "true BM story" is when one friend kills another in the back for stupid ideals or a weak stupid asshole blows his head with a gun. Nikolay's story is our life....
(Yeah, it was a joke)... well, I hope you guys live through it, seems like it came right when you were about to get worldwide known... how's it going with the album sales?
According our first (September) sales report our sales are going just great! we were restocked five times at Dark Symphonies so far. Our CD is selling good at Red Stream. "Firestorm" was licensed by some major labels (like Metal Mind for Poland and Germany) we got extraordinarily good reviews, some important awards "band of the week on CHANNEL 4/UK, The best BM act in CIS countries, "Album of the year".. I'm happy. WCP is doing a really great promo campaign...
And a band like that just can't go out and play, huh? what a fucked up world, I wish those whiny little bitches who call themselves "black metal" here stopped crying and blaming the world for their ineptness! Now, I'm sure you've heard some people comparing "Firestorm" to CoF's last outing... What can you tell them?
Actually, I respect all musicians. I don't think we are better. But You're right - we have fewer possibilities...if we were from... hmm... Germany or USA, for instance...we would be Children of Bodom's , Opeth's or so level known. Like Jackie Chan said "I'm not a super star... just a successeful guy. I was the right man in the right place".
But, if You don't know (he he) - our "FireStorm" was ready in february 2002...1,5 years before CoF's release. So I'd say - they sound like Tvangeste. But, of course - CoF are "mega super international stars"...I like their stuff, but sometimes reviewers make me angry... I don't like any comparisons to Cradle... we are so different! The best cure is to put on 2-3 tracks of Cradle of Filth and then some Tvangeste's songs... we are the same as Bach and Mozart are the same... both of them are classics... but so different. We have different song structure, different feelings... maybe sometimes my vocals remind Dani's, but ask Dani about it and I'm sure he'll laugh....
Definitely a positive attitude! Any final words for the readers?
Your intrerview was unusual, deep and really interesting. Thanks for the chance to introduce Tvangeste to your readres. We have many good friends in the USA, so I'm sure we'll find many new friends after this interview is out! Thanks Man!!!!