Interview: Mumiy Troll's Ilya Lagutenko

posted October 26, 2009

by Corinne

Mumiy Troll's Ilya Lagutenko

Have you been enjoying your North American tour?

Absolutely! We never had such an extensive tour in any foreign country ever; so itís not only about performing, itís about [an] absolutely new experience. We kinda see ourselves as [a] young American band for [a] couple of months...like in a movie.

Can you share any good tour stories so far?

Every day is new stories...but itís becoming a routine in a way. Our roadie got this Supertank plastic glass in Flying Jís the other day, and we were like ["]why you need that empty?["] He told us it can work as a really good filter dispenser for cameraís flashlight. You should see [the] dining truckers in Flying Jís watching him doing this - some of them went ["]woahhh! Russian engineering!["]

In Boston, some fan asked us to sign his 2 dollar bill, and I told him itís a superstition in Russia - you don't get any banknotes signed, that means you lose your money. He begged ďPlease itís my lucky noteĒ and so on. So, I told him, ďTake your chance, I warned you.Ē The moment I signed it, believe it or not, our tour bus lost the air pressure and we couldnít get the door open to give it back to him. We had to wait for the driver to come to fix it next morning.

Youíve only recently started releasing songs in English. How has working in English affected the bandís process?

Nothing really changes. Itís just a bit more people involved in the process, as sometimes Iím going too far with my language experiments. You know, you should always be aware of that line which divide experiments from excrements :) . I usually got advice from my bi-lingual friends. We don't want to trick anyone with too much complexity...and if our drummer who does not speak a word other than Russian [can] understand what Iíve tried to say in English it is usually a victory. :)

How do you find English speaking fans identifying with Mumiy Troll?

There are some people who have a fascination with Russian culture, and believe me, you hardly find anything worthier than Mumiy Troll in modern Russian rock music. Iíve heard stories of some Universities (in Colorado and California) using our songs for Russian lessons. There are some people simply curious enough in worldwide rock scene and they are happy to learn that there is a decent rock act out there in Russia. I guess itís a sign of modern times. People start to think more globally and music is a great medium[.]

From my perspective in the US, there still seem to be a lot of stereotypes and preconceived notions about what Russia is and isn't, especially in terms of politics and censorship. As a working musician, what are your thoughts and experiences relating to that? Can you debunk any of those notions we might have?

Oh youíre absolutely right! Tell you more, itís absolutely the same thing about stereotypes about US. And we are happy to be one of those people who not only talk about that - we just get our guitars and ourselves and come to you simply to talk your language (at least music language) just to prove there are some different things. When we played a live morning show in San Francisco - one of those when random people simply drop by - we sang couple of songs acoustically, we had a chat with a host. And then this big American man in his 60s came to talk to me after the show, and he was so grateful that he finally saw live Russian guy, who actually speaks normal things, sings nice songs and he said he was sure the Cold War was still on and even worse...he had tears in his eyes. It was like a revelation for him - sometimes those moments are worth more than hundreds UN talks and those thousands useless diplomats. I just feel like that. At least 2 people feel like that. Itís a good start..you gotta start somewhere[.]

Letís talk about the video ďMe Eskimo (Polar Bear).Ē Now assuming the band isnít in any of the costumes, the band doesnít even appear in the very suggestive video. Who came up with the concept? How involved were you with the video? What are your thoughts on it?

I came up with concept that children['s] toys involved in some grown-up activities. I shared with concept with my friend Roman Korovin, a Latvian artist who was based in NYC for few years. Next thing, he asked me if Iím not against human size polar bears and cucumbers. I was not, and in few months time he invited me to watch our new movie. I burst out laughing! However our enthusiasm has never been shared by Russian TV...so itís ended up on web. Yeah, and one day some guy came to me on the street and said ďYou probably don't know me, but I was part of your video - I was a cucumber! How funny is that?Ē

Who are some underrated bands that you think deserve more attention?

There is band in Russia called BRATIA PO RAZUMU (Brothers In Minds) in early [']80s - they recorded 2 absolutely stunning albums, they used sampling technologies when not many people in the world did that. They basically did what any mtv hitĖwriters [are] doing now; chose great riff/sample from [']70-[']80s band and mix them into absolutely original songs. Bearing in mind in Soviet Russia they hardly had tapeĖrecorders, let alone samplers, synths etc. Lyrics and grooves were amazing. Iíd love to cover them one day[.]

Actually, I tried to do the same following their path, but my solo-album never [could] get to that quality. So I ended up in rock band.

What have you been listening to recently?

On tour we usually get music from the bands who are playing same venues or cities or fans who want to impress us with their own vision of our songs. I got this out-of-this-world conceptual record from Colorado rapper named Brad Dickie, He wrote something Iíd call a Rap-Opera version of Alice in Wonderland using samples of my own Russian songs mixing them with Kung Fu attitude..weird stuff.

If you could have written any song what song do you wish you had written and why?

Hotel California, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Losing My Religion...sometimes you got this feelingóthat should be me here doing this..but I still want only David Bowie to write Major Tom.

Anything you would like to add?

Like they say in Russia - less words more action!