Bluesbreaker Discuss Touring and Hardcore Scene in Ukraine
Herbal tea and 2 am talk about the hardcore scene in Ukraine
Bluesbreaker is a great hardcore band from Kiyv, incorporating these groovy guitars into their sound. Honestly, I didn’t have the chance to check the band prior to their show in Sofia that our friends from For The Kids Booking set up last night. Their great show struck a chord with me and since the band was sleeping at my place, I decided not to be a nice guy but to squeeze an interview with their singer Mike at 2 am while drinking herbal tea in my kitchen.
Let’s start with a brief introduction to your band. Who is Bluesbreaker and what are you doing?
Hi, my name is Mike and I’m 28 years old, turning 29 this year. I do vocals in a band called Bluesbreaker from Kiyv, Ukraine. The band has been active since 2010 and we play hardcore with different other influences, namely like stoner rock, 90’s alternative rock, and grunge.
Is there a specific message behind the band? Are there any concrete ideas or is it just a music that’s open to interpretation by the individual listener?
Well, I think the reason why we formed this band was just the intention to create something. You know, something that could be independent, I personally believe that the real music and real art isn’t something that you could buy or sell. So the DIY music scene is such a great possibility for people to release something by themselves, to make something not driven by the commercial values of the mainstream music scene. For us making independent music is still possible in 2017!
The DIY ideals is the main thing, just breaking through the usual daily routine. We all have stuff to do, all five of us have jobs, families, etc. But we also find the time to create the music we like. And it’s not for money, obviously.
So what it is like to be a DIY hardcore punk band from Ukraine? Do you find any hardships with booking tours abroad? Do you feel like being part of some international, widespread hardcore punk community and what’s different when you’re coming from a post-Soviet state?
Oh, sometimes is not that easy to find a show since we’re from Ukraine and not that many people know about us. But it’s still possible, and it’s very cool. We did our first European tour in 2012 thanks to a guy called Tim who just messaged me out of nowhere saying we should come and play in Berlin. And I was thinking about this as a pretty good possibility to visit some friends from the hardcore scene in the nearby countries like Poland or Czech Republic.
They said yeah, that’s a great idea to come and play all those places and then step by step I booked this tour. During this first European tour I’ve met lots of people and thanks to the people I already knew we’ve had the chance to make some new contacts in other cities.
Basically, it’s not that hard but I book all the tours of Bluebreaker and the other bands that I play. But I do it all by myself, without the help of some booking agency or something like that. And I’ve noticed that lots of promoters, even the one booking hardcore punk shows in Europe, will like to work and cooperate only with booking agencies. So if you write them out of the blue, asking to do a show for you band, they might not even respond to you. Luckily, I have lots of good friends in Europe, so with their help it’s possible for us to tour.
We also have regular jobs and we use our vacations to go on tour, so we don’t have the time to do full-time tours, which would be amazing for sure. We all love to travel and see new places, meet new people, etc. but we also have to sustain ourselves, so we try to do at least one tour per year. Another hardship is the prices for gas, for food, which is not very cool when you’re from Ukraine, so if we lose a lot of money on tour it’s not that easy to cover this gap. But still, it’s possible. I don’t want to complain about anything, I really love to go on tour.
What does the scene look like in Kiyv? How many people are involved in the hardcore punk and DIY music scenes there right now?
I think that the hardcore punk shows in Ukraine started happening only in 2003-2004, there was hardly any scene before that. So we don’t have this kind of a long tradition that the European countries have, so we have a little more than a decade of experience.
In 2004 the shows started to happen just because some kids from Kiyv decided that they would like to do the shows for the music that they like. And then those kids decided to form some bands, and basically the core circle of people who book and organize the shows, also do some other DIY activities like Food Not Bombs, animal rights activism, and so on. And still this is some kind of closed, small community of active people.
Right now, our drummer Alex plays in three other bands, Nikita, the drummer of Reminded, also plays in three other bands. So basically we don’t have that many people who play music, but still we have around a dozen active bands who play music regularly, record their stuff, and play the shows.
The shows consist mainly of local bands on the bill, generally it’s kind of hard to book a band from Europe or the States. Mostly because of the long distance between Kiyv and other European cities like Prague, Warsaw, or Budapest. In between Kiyv and all these cities there are small towns where it could be possible to do shows, but it’s still kinda hard to book them.
However, the shows in Kiyv are really great I think. Each and every hardcore show in Kiyv have at least a hundred kids, and it’s local bands playing only. We’ve started this current tour in Kiyv, it was on Monday with five local bands from Kiyv on the bill, and still there were around 300 kids at the gig! Everybody was having fun, stage-diving, and moshing during all the bands.
I would love to see some more bands from mainland Europe or the States coming to our city, that will help the kids in Kiyv to find some new bands and hear some great music, but then again I’m happy that we have such a nice and vibrant local scene. Even if we have the shows only with the local bands, there are still pretty cool and I think it’s great to be part of this kind of a hardcore scene.
Besides the big distances, do you think that some bands prefer not to play in Ukraine due to the political situation? Also, what about Russian bands touring in Ukraine or touring together with bands from Russia?
Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, the distances are so big that it’s not that easy pay back the gas money when you play a show. As for the political situation, I don’t know, Kiyv – despite the fact that we are around 600 km from an actual warzone – Kiyv is pretty safe. There are no problems, you can just come and do whatever you want to. It’s safe to come as a tourist, it’s safe to come as a band and have a show. There are lots of big bands coming regularly. I mean big rock bands like Depeche Mode, or Marilyn Manson will play in Kiyv this summer.
As for Russian bands, I think you’re right, it’s kind of hard to cross the border right now. Because our border police or the Russian border police, they expect that people who come to Ukraine from Russia or vice versa, could be some potential spies or some kind of people who might be interested in some kind of terrorist activities. So they inspect you a lot. So crossing the border is kind of pain in the ass, but still it’s possible.
There are a lot of Russian post-punk bands who regularly tour in Ukraine during the last couple of years without any problems. Also, I will set up a show for a Moscow based band this July and I hope everything’s gonna be alright. Despite this conflict that still goes on, we have so many friends in Russia and don’t want to break this friendship, our bonds are still strong. All this shit that happens is in between the politicians.
Do you think that hardcore punk scene in Ukraine is growing, you have such great festivals like Mayak fest in Odessa and it seems that there are pretty tight bonds between the people?
Yeah, I believe that a lot of younger kids have got their way into the scene. They’ve discovered the music and the message all by themselves. Not just the music but also the ethics of the DIY hardcore punk community and it’s great.
For example, we have the band called TANK-2000 where 2000 is the year of birth of these brothers, one of them plays the guitar and the other plays the bass. It’s really cool they are just 17 years old and so stoked to be a part of the scene, play the music and create something.
And I agree that there are great festivals and bigger shows that really help people to feel productive, to become involved in the hardcore punk music. I really hope that the scene will grow and the people will discover the DIY ideas for themselves.
Currently, you’re on tour in the Balkan countries south of Ukraine like Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, where are you going further and why did you decide to come to these places?
So far we’ve had amazing time on this tour. We already have four tours behind our back but all of them in the Western part of Europe. This is great but we already know a lot of places there, although this Eastern part of Europe is the most interesting one for us. We are all really interested to see what do you have here. Cities, landscape, architecture… And if it’s possible to combine this kind of stuff with playing music, it’s really awesome!
I’ve decided to book this tour last year and it was supposed to happen in August 2016, but then I got in touch with people from Greece and they told me it’s not possible to do it in this period of the year since nobody is there. It’s too hot, you know. Everybody’s going out to the seaside or in the countryside. So they advised me to get back to this idea later.
So after discussing it with the rest of the band, I decided that early May 2017 is a good time to do it. Everything’s great so far, today we entered Bulgaria and we’ve noticed that your country is really beautiful. You have lots of different landscapes, so many valleys and meadows, and then suddenly mountains are starting to appear. They are all covered with trees and everything’s so green. It looks great and tomorrow we will go to Greece, which is really interesting country. And we’re stoked to go the former Yugoslavian countries afterwards, we will play in Macedonia and Serbia.
If you go to Western countries like Belgium, Germany or the Netherlands, they are pretty cool but everything there is pretty well organized that sometimes you lost interest. We want to see something wild and hectic. Today in Bulgaria we saw a fight between two drivers on a gas station, which is like a typical thing for post-Soviet countries but I’ve never seen anything like this in Western Europe. We definitely have a great time and wanna see the wilder side of Europe.
Thank you for the interview, anything else to add?
Yeah, I really liked the show in Sofia. You have this amazing venue with the skate ramp and the show was great. We’ve had amazing time and right now we’re finishing our first proper LP containing 10 new songs. And I hope it will be released by the end of the summer, we will definitely give you a shout to review it on DIY Conspiracy. We hope to release it on vinyl whether by ourselves or through the help of some DIY label from Europe.
Thank you for the interview.