Interview by Vard Aman

Near Manaus in Brazil the dark clear Rio Negro joins the muddy Amazon and the water from two rivers flow beside one another without mixing, distinctly separate for a distance of about 6 km in the same river bed. It is known as the “Meeting of Water”, and such an unusual natural phenomenon has made it one of the main tourist attractions in Manaus. In Moscow, Russia, the beautiful melodic vocals of Slavic Folk joins the heavy, powerful guitars; pounding drums; and electronic elements of Industrial / Industrial Metal without mixing, distinctly separate from each other in the same band, and throughout an entire album and 3 track maxi-single. They are known as Risha, and such an unusual and unique blend has made them one of the hottest new prospects around. I spoke to two of those responsible: vocalist and bassist, Rishafox (also known as Risha, and sometimes, on the odd occasion, as Irina Lvova), and guitarist and programmer, Andrey Ostrav.
 
Hi, welcome to FMW. Nice to be able to talk to you!

Risha & Ostrav:  Zdravstvujte!

So, how did the three of you meet and when did you decide to start Risha?

Risha: We met a long ago. I was 17 then and it was probably my first time on stage, exactly with the musicians who play in Risha now. After that we were scattered about different music projects but 2 years ago we met again. I and Ostrav have created the idea of Risha and Alex, the drummer, joined us thereafter.

Tell us a little about your musical background, previous bands, and your session work.

Risha: Oh… During my not-that-long rock’n’roll life I played with about 20 bands, went on a European tour with Arkona, performed at big venues in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, as well as in small underground clubs all over Russia. I always played in bands that differed a lot by style.

Оstrav: For about 8 years with the drummer Sasha we made part of one of the cult Russian industrial gothic bands of the 00’s – Deform. We toured over our endless country from side to side, shared stage with famous Russian and foreign bands like Korn, Papa Roach, Marilyn Manson, Eisbrecher, Deathstars, etc. This was fantastic!

Irina, do you still play for Vespercellos?

Risha: Hmmm… We decided to postpone this project until the time its members would each become a star. )))

What was the inspiration for the name Risha?

Risha: I was! )))

Ostrav: Right! In fact when choosing a name for the band we decided there was nothing better than to name the band after the amazing red-haired lead singer. But there is another side of it. In the Vedic tradition, which is tied closely to our native culture, “rishi” are wise men to whom gods have disclosed their anthems.

Most people have become familiar with the general sound of Slavic Folk Metal, but Risha provides something new and very different. Can you describe your sound to us? And how did you come up with such a unique combination?

Risha: We don’t play folk-metal, this is a significant reservation. From the very beginning I wanted that to be more industrial or nu-metal, like Rammstein or Oomph! but with Russian traditional songs in the basis.

Ostrav: That may sound bold, but our music is a new wave of the style. More young and up-to-date, more open. We differ from typical folk-metal bands by the way of thinking – not only we use heavy guitar riffs and folk instruments, but also samplers, synthetic sounds, we mix live rhythm-section with electronic beats. We are modern people used to live and think wide, with the today’s material reality of the post-industrial society, but we honour our native culture. That’s how our sound is born.

Would you say Folk music is on the rise in Russia? Are people becoming more aware of their cultural history?

Risha: One can clearly observe a rise of interest to Russian culture now. Even at Eurovision song contest these were Buranowskie Babushki to represent Russia. I can’t say for sure if people learn more about the culture, but they definitely become involved and absorb it.

Ostrav: I think, the more there will be eclectic of modern and traditional culture, the better. It just shall sound in tune with the time. People of the world will be learning something new about each other.

What was the reaction to Risha’s music the first time people heard you?

Risha: For some reason, they all like it. )))

Ostrav: It’s a true interest. It’s the time of summer festivals now and we often play in front of a new audience. After a few songs the guys in mosh-pit are definitely with us.

What is the letter Ѣ (yat) that you use on the album cover or “Leto” and why did you decide to use it?

Risha: They used this letter in ancient times in Russia. This is a reference to the roots.

Ostrav: I think it’s a very cool letter. I like it a lot. )))

What inspires your lyrics, and the moods that you generate and/or reflect in your music?

Risha: I think it’s all connected. Lyrics of Russian traditional songs create moods, and the moods influence the music.

Ostrav: In fact, this is pure magic. Traditional lyrics are minimalistic to the limit and they describe the most common everyday scenes, but together with a folk melody this creates images and moods being truly unlimited!

Give us a bit of background to “Улетай на крыльях ветра”. It’s a very beautiful piece of music. What made you decided to do your own version of it?

Risha: We wanted to try our efforts with a fundamental work. “Fly Away on the Wings of the Wind” from the opera “Prince Igor” by Alexander Borodin is just like this. On the one hand, we were afraid to lose, as there are plenty of versions of this work in the world, but on the other hand this gave us interest to create our own interpretation, different from all others.

How do the songs from “Dorozhenka” (Road) differ from “Leto” (Summer) in general?

Risha: To a certain extent the names of the works speak for themselves. “Summer” was bright, colorful, energetic and cheerful. “Road” is languishing, thoughtful, with reflections about meaning of life and attempts to find a solution on where to go further.

Ostrav: “Road” is a darker release. There are more gothic moods in it – despair, uncertainty, magic of unexplored lands. At a moment Risha, Alex and I together caught this common feeling, we found ourselves on the same wave. As a result, heavier and tougher tracks appeared.

The songs on “Dorozhenka” are also very different from each other. Tell us a little bit about the story and the mood behind each song.

Risha: “Road” is the choice everyone of us has to make every day: to go to the left, to the right or ahead, but the main point is not to stand in the same place. As I was writing the chorus of this song, I wanted to mirror some life situations being thorny and difficult: If you go to the right – you’ll grow in the soil, / If you go straight – you’ll forget yourself, / If you go to the left – you’ll break a vow, / But don’t stand still, don’t stand still.

Ostrav: For me, “Road” is a despair of a man far from his motherland and a feeling that the point of no return is far behind.

Risha: In “River” it’s different. Everything is bright and optimistic, and only the music reminds that everything has changed.

The third track is “Spring”. As I’m singing it, there is fire in front of my eyes. It’s a feeling of internal flame that calls for a run before my nose, and I don’t know where.

Ostrav: In this song there is an image of loneliness and deadly expectation. This is a sort of dedication to the belated spring 2012 that came only at the end of April.

Is there any difference between Russian and Belarusian folk music?

Risha: Sure. A non-musician might not notice that, but Belarusian folk music has a different colour, melodic rules, song form.

Tell us a little bit about the videos you’ve done: “Russian Folk vs The Prodigy” and “The Songs that Remain”.

Ostrav: “Russian Folk vs The Prodigy” was a joke on the 1st of April. At first we wanted to make a track to which people would dance and go crazy at our shows. Being a fan of The Prodigy, Alex proposed to make a mash-up with a wide known traditional Russian song. What can be more famous than our “Porushka” (“That’s Why I Love Ivan”)? This is a sort of irony, banter. So we made it and it appeared to be a blast! We didn’t have any plans to record this track or shoot a video for it, but it was an eve before the fool’s day and we decided to gladden our fans. We went to the studio and recorded it and then we spontaneously appeared in our rehearsal room with a photo camera and a couple of lighting devices. So it was a funny and relaxed trip with an ironic video as a result.

With the mini-movie “The Songs that Remain” it’s a different story. We wanted to decrease the comic tension created by the video “Russian Folk vs The Prodigy” that made a lot of noise. We had a dark and serious single coming so we filmed something contrasting. Varying from vital to destructive footages of modern Moscow (our home-town) and a little story about what possibly awaits humanity in the future. This mini-movie carries the same mood and images as the single “Dorozhenka”. These are two parts of the same conceptual work. First watch the movie and read the story and turn on “Road” right after.

Do you have any plans to do a video clip for one of your songs?

Ostrav: Videos are a very important part of creativity for us. And on top of that this is the best way to get Internet audience to know our music and concept. We plan to make a full-fledged official video to one of the songs from the album “Summer”. Moreover, we are working on that to our utmost.

How often do you play live, or tour, and what is the audience response to your live shows?

Ostrav: Now, as the band is growing, we try to play maximum number of gigs in totally different places and for the widest possible audience.

Risha: Every month we go play gigs to other cities. The response is diverse: people either sing and dance in a ring, or stand motionless, excited by what they hear.

Ostrav: Anyway, we feel that people are surprised and they like it.

Have you played outside of Russia / CIS?

Risha: Not yet, but we’d like to.

Ostrav: We are keen to go around the world and show our native culture to foreign countries!

Have you started thinking about your next album yet, or is it still to early to talk about that?

Risha: This is the right time to start thinking of it, but it’s too early to speak about it. I’m superstitious. )))

Ostrav: Right, everything is good in its season.

What do you do and like doing when you’re not making music?

Risha: I don’t make music, I live with it. It’s impossible not to live.

Ostrav: Music takes almost all the time. Even if I’m out of creative process, I always think of it.

OK, thanks so much for talking with us! We’ll certainly be keeping a keen eye/ear on Risha in the future!

Risha & Ostrav: Thanks so much!

 

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