WelicoRuss and the story behind skirts and make-up
Russian symphonic pagan/black metal band, WelicoRuss, is making their mark in the metal community of the isolated frozen Siberian underground. They bring to us a beautifully cold and chilling sound with their album entitled “Wintermoon Symphony”. I had the opportunity to speak with Alex Boganov about the band, their future endeavors, his personal life, and his thoughts about the NSBM.
Flaming greetings from Siberia! My name is Alex Boganov and I am the founder and leader of WelicoRuss, as well as the guitarist and vocalist. Chursin Ilya is our permanent drummer, sound engineer, and he has own solo project called ELIAS. Maxim Fomin is our great lead guitarist and cool guy, he also plays in a band Frozen Myst. The new people in our band include Voskolovich Boris our talented keyboard player and arranger and Boldin Alex who is our very technical bass player. It seems no one has been forgotten!WelicoRuss was founded in 2002 and since that time has developed a big following in Russia. How did the band come together and what was the vision for the band during the early stages of development?
The first demos appeared in 2002 and the band appeared in November 2005. It all began when my girlfriend and I went to a club for a concert of local bands.There I met Paul, our first keyboard player, who was also searching for a band as I was. After that we took up the complete band and began working together. Since that time there were many lineup changes and a lot of concerts.The world-view of all members has changed. Tours have greatly expanded our understanding of each of us as a musician; we began to understand what we want from all of this.“WelicoRuss” is an interesting name for a band. Where did the name come from and what does it mean?
The name was taken from 19th century Russian history. At that time, a rather famous politician, philosopher, and thinker by the name of Chernyshevsky started printing propaganda leaflets with this name. Also, the name itself goes back to ancient times in Russia, when a nation with this name – WelicoRuss – was in western Russia.
Are there any particular bands that have influenced you and the other band members?
Yes, of course! Nothing has come easy, so everything has a reason. I like Russian classical music of 18-19th century, dark ambient, gothic, bands like – Dimmu Borgir, Lacrimosa, Therion, Nightwish, and Aghora. Ilya listens to Symphony X, Messugah, some brutal bands. Boris likes Dream Theater, CoB, Death, and Deep Purple.Max likes the same plus SoilWork and Inflames.Alex likes more power metal, you know, elves, swords and dragons!
Your blend of symphonic and black metal is quite impressive. Who does the majority of the music and lyrical writing?
Previously, I did all the music and lyrics. On the new single as well as on the future album, which we are now recording, all members of the band have left a strong imprint on the sound and melodies. Particularly noteworthy are Boris and Ilya. I primarily write the lyrics, then together with Boris and Anastasia we discuss and change things that do not sound good. Anastasia (our style maker and lyrics maker) wrote a lot of lyrics for WelicoRuss. In any case, everything is under my strict control, because the music we play is very conceptual and everything should be in its own place.
Your music has a deep atmospheric and artistic feel to it. Where does the inspiration come from for your music?
Inspiration comes from different places – it can be after walking in the forest, and may be influenced by reading a book. Ideas float in the air, many of them I incubate for years before they are realized.
You sing in Russian, which creates a more mysterious atmosphere and makes your albums much more intriguing to fans that are not native to Russia. However, many bands will sing in English in the hopes it will expand their fan base, is this something you have considered or do you feel it will diminish the artistic quality of your music?
I think we should sing in the language in which we think and can express ourselves. And all the same we are from Russia; we must not forget our motherland, whatever it is. In any case, if our listeners want to know about what we are singing all texts can be found on our websites.
You have had two releases, both of which were very successful in Russia, as well as a new single entitled “Kharnha”. Can you tell us about those albums and where we might be able to purchase them?
The first album “Winter Moon Symphony” was written over a long time, about 5 years and was finally released on Moscow label CD-MAXIMUM in 2008. The album is notable in that it consists of a single work of art and canvas and reminiscent of the classical symphony. All of it is done in a Siberian winter frosty style and is full of mystery. After its release, we had quite a long tour in Russia, where we presented it. A little later in 2009, the second album “Apeiron” was born on the same label and is not as conceptual as the first one. It`s something like a compilation of songs in several different themes. I would say this album is experimental – we searched for our style, our pitch, and image. At that time we had a lot of concerts in Siberia and other regions of Russia and we amassed a large fan base. After a while we broke the contract with the label because of cheating from their side. After that, we had a big break, a change of line-up, I thought about new plans of conquering the world through music and by the end of 2010 we formed new songs for new single. During the spring of 2011 we recorded the “Kharnha” single in Tonhammer Studio under the leading of Ilya Chursin and distributed it widely on the Internet as a free download release. The single is a bit different than anything we have done before, we really like it and it shows everyone how the new album will sound.
What are the current plans for the band and what do you hope for the band in the future?
The most important thing is to record the new album, release it, and promote it. Not long ago we uploaded a great new great video on our YouTube channel called “Kharnha”, I think it should help to do it. After the release of our third album we are planning to release our first DVD with a large number of tasty things for our fans from both backstage and on stage and all of our video clips!
We are currently negotiating a tour of European countries in the summer – autumn of 2012, so wait for us in your home town!
For those who may not know, can you tell us what the metal scene is like in Russia? Is it a profitable/popular genre of music there?
The scene in Russia is developing rapidly. There are a lot of new bands; there are very interesting bands, and original bands. Unfortunately, only a very few survive because it is difficult (I would say impossible) to make money with this kind of music, or any means of subsistence, and many die before they have been born. There are bands that successfully release clips, albums, and go on tour in Russia, but much less than in Europe. I want to point to the unique band called Arkona, which were signed with a huge label Napalm records and released all of their albums here, and now they are returning from a tour in North America! This is an unprecedented breakthrough and success for a Russian metal band and we’re all proud of them!
How did you get your start in music? Specifically, what drew you to the Black Metal scene?
In fact, I was an artist! And I was planning that I would become a designer or something thereabouts. But it so happened that at the age of 12 years, I found Metallica and Manowar and then my life changed! The more I listened, the more modern and heavier my tastes became – from heavy metal to death and black metal. Even at the institute, I began to write music and something turned out and a little later I began to gather a band. You see, I’m not a fan of strong pure black metal, I love the mixture of different styles, I like beautiful powerful heavy music with a deep spiritual component. I think that our music is a ritual, a sacred character.
Have you had any formal training in music or are you self-taught?
I am self-taught, like all other members except Boris, who is graduating from a higher musical academy this year. He’s a great composer and musician with his own style! As for me, I taught myself.A lot of more experienced musicians and friends taught me sometimes, many were read in the books.But, the best teachers I think are my favorite bands!
Black Metal is generally associated with anti-Christianity. What are your thoughts about the church burnings, murders, and other violence that have been associated with the black metal music scene?
I am not a supporter of open aggression, but I believe that Christianity is now – first, false, and secondly, became part of the state apparatus, and third is a state of totalitarian sect. I’m talking about Russia, and I heard that this is taking place in Europe. In addition Christianity ruined our native faith which was in Russia – Russian paganism. And it is far worse and more terrible than what I said earlier. Destroying native faith we are destroying our traditions and our people. Christianity must be on an equal footing with all other confessions and organizations, and not be lead. It should be cleaned and reborn.
What are your religious beliefs and are your beliefs incorporated into your music?
This is a very frank question for me. I have my own personal belief synthesized from different teachings and philosophies – it is everything that I could check on my own experiences. But, I know that the world is multi-dimensional and there are many interesting things beyond life. Actually, everything we are singing on new album are the hidden facets of life! Yes, the goal of our creativity is not just fool around on stage but to express our beliefs and to show our point of view. Music is an art and art should be educational otherwise our nation is degraded!
Do you like Death Metal?
Yes, a lot of them are very close to me and I often listen to them. Some we even sang on stage. Really like – At the Gates, Arch Enemy, Death, Cynic, Aghora, Carcass.
Most black metal artists use corpsepaint.Is there any other significance in using face paint besides an attempt to look like a corpse?Do you find it adds to the on stage theatrics or is it a gimmick to get attention?
In general, yes, makeup draws attention strongly on the one hand, the other is the conception – we make something in the likeness of the ancient warriors or magicians, who came here to broadcast to the people! Nothing the same with the corpses!
How do you feel about the neo-Nazis who have taken black metal and created yet another sub-genre of music (NSBM) which promotes Nazi beliefs through their music?
We do not have any relation to these movements despite the fact that some of their ideas seem to me interesting. Let me remind you that we are against aggression in the real world.
Why did you choose to incorporate symphonic elements in Black Metal?
Since childhood, I loved symphonic music. In my opinion the Symphony gives a sense of globality, scale, lyricism, and subtlety where it’s needed. It’s much more interesting to me than to just play rock. Different musical forms, textures, and changing instruments allow us to create very interesting images!
What do you do for a living in Russia? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have any children? Pets? Are you just a regular guy under the corpse paint or are you really an evil corpse?
I am probably the oldest in our group – I’m 27, and the other musicians are something like 22- 24. What about married or not I would not say. No children or animals! They would just all die from our music! They say that in life I am the same as on stage!
Do you have any hobbies besides music, such as taxidermy or knitting?
To be honest the music picks up almost all the time, but as for me I like to explore a variety of books, watch interesting movies, spend time outdoors in the woods, talk to my friends! Ilya is well versed in electronics and mechanics, therefore, enjoys spending time under the car. Our bass player Alexey has its own rehearsal base – he is constantly looking for it, our guitarist Max played in two bands – Frozen Myst and Ungraved – so he is obsessed with music. Well, Boris likes playing computer games and talking with the girls!
What does your mom think about you wearing corpsepaint, leather, spikes, and being in a symphonic black metal band? If your family doesn’t support you how do you deal with it?
My parents believe in what I do, in spite of the outer view and music. They see it as something more than just music. As far as I know, parents of other musicians are either indifferent or just supportive.
Why have many male members of your band (as well as many other bands) decided to wear long black skirts? Hasn’t metal always embraced and promoted being masculine? Or is this again another gimmick to draw attention to yourselves?
It`s not just skirts – it’s such tunics which were used in ancient times. We made it more modern. The imitation of the super-men we leave to Manowar.
What are your live performances like? Do you use a lot of props? Do you enjoy live performances?
Yes, we love to play gigs! Our DVD will be released very soon so you will see how we do it! We are trying to turn ordinary trash-metal into something like ritual and mysticism, to create unity with the audience, at least just shout together.
Do you have any pre-show rituals? And what do you do after the show… hang out with girls, drink vodka, and have sex?
Before the concert we like to remain in silence, tuning in what will be. After the concerts we do different things – sometimes we retire with some girls, sometimes we drink beer and vodka, but more often soak in the tub washing makeup off the face!
Is there any advice you would give others who are just starting out or who would like to start their own metal band?
Well the main thing you need to decide whether you need it, and the most important question – why? Gratify your vanity? Be like Metallica or Slayer? It is stupid! It is necessary to create truly magnificent images.You need to give people a feeling of happiness and wrest them from this unattractive everyday life. Well, the second – to work a lot and go through many difficulties.
What other genres of music do you listen to and what is your favorite non-metal song?
I love the ambient such as Robert Rich as well as symphonic music. Often listen to the Russian cult band DDT, I like folk. About my favourite songs – I would have to recommend Robert Rich – Book Of Ecstasy.
The unexpected question! Hmmm, I think – Him – “Wicked Game”!
The last two you must unite!
I wish you always open a new quality music for you! Crash your head on gigs and be true to yourselves and to God Of Great Metal! Stay Fucking Metal!