“Gurzuf” is an extraordinary band hailing from Minsk, Belarus and at the moment they have brought their sound to at least half of the countries in Europe. They are quite unconventional both because of their set of instruments (drums + accordion) and style (they call it “accordion madness” and play mash up of punk, hip-hop, folk and classical music). It was quite interesting to observe audience reaction in one of their concerts in Lithuania – most of the time people just calmly sat behind the tables, but at the very end people went quite mad and gave “Gurzuf” a standing applause. Etiquette, common in theatre, seemed quite appropriate there, because the performance, brought by Artem Zalessky and Jegor Zabelov was both artistic and sincere, just like in a small play.
Was Gurzuf the first project in which you are involved? What did you do before it – did you played somewhere else? What was the the very beginning of Gurzuf?
ARTEM. Actually, we met while playing with other bands. Minsk has quite an interesting platform for musicians – it is not just a company of friends. We play together, we work together. That’s how we met and that’s how everything started.
Is it the only band where you are playing now?
ARTEM. As musicians, we are interested in different viewpoints and various approaches. Music which we play is rich, and collaborations with others gives us experience, widens the horizons. Now it is the only project but we practice with various other musicians, too.
You tour quite a lot. Why did you choose this way – many gigs, not too much time in the studio?
JEGOR. We wanted our music to become a career — when you only play and do not have to do anything else. The band was created for concerts and touring, we wanted to play in many places – it was the idea, and now you see the result. Of course, now we look at it a bit different. Active touring is a hard work and in this way the creation process suffers itself. Now we plan to spend more time in the studio because we came up with some new ideas and material for recordings..
ARTEM. At the very beginning we started as a touring band and since we felt a need to prove ourselves in this status. That’s how we live for the last three years – we played in many places, festivals and venues in Belarus and other countries, at the same time we made connections with different organizers. That was priority to us. At the meantime recording process is more important, we dedicate our time to it and it is our current goal.
You released your album “Non-existent movie” in 2007. Maybe you plan to release something new soon?
ARTEM.Releasing album is a time consuming process. When we recorded our first album, we just put the same material as we perform in live concerts to it. There was no need to write something new, and we had different priorities at that time. First album defines our energy and style as much as it is possible to do that technically.
First album was recorded in 11 hours, because one great studio in Moscow said to us: “Hey guys, let’s record your concert material”. Nobody actually records an album in such a short period of time. We attached microphones to instruments and played our regular routine. Of course, sometimes there were several takes, something new was added and some pieces were changed, but the main idea was the same. We wanted to say everything through our energy vibes.
It seems that you have a very strong connection with your instruments.
JEGOR. I do not really like talking in interviews, it’s quite hard for me.:) Accordion is a part of me and I can talk a lot about it. I can say that there is no other instrument which does such a big influence to me. At the moment, I am just not able to stop playing, I do it every day – it is like an addiction to me.
ARTEM. Instrument is like an extension for me. I can transfer my emotional energy through sound. Every drum piece, even the tiniest part of the set, has it’s individual energy. I try to transfer my energy through them. Music allows me and Jegor to tell things we are not able to say when using words.
Your song titles gives the impression that you are interested in abstract ideas – freedom, love etc. What do you want to say through your music, do you have some main themes?
ARTEM. All of those compositions are included in album called “Non-existent movie”. The main idea was to create an instrumental music soundtrack for a movie which does not exist. Every composition creates associations – they are emotional thing, which is expressed without using words. Every person can create his own visualization for our music. The main aim is to make them feel something. This is an image for the heart.
JEGOR. Those titles could be totally different, it is quite hard to name the sound.
ARTEM. While playing, we want to talk about people in general – that is our theme. In music we try to give emotions for people. People listen to the music because they like listening to it. Through music we try to talk universally, but for us it is also important to transfer our own feelings and energy. We play for people, we try to open their energetic channels, make them to do something – to feel, to love, to wonder.
You have made a soundtrack for a puppet play. How did you started working with theatre, do you plan continue to do it? Maybe you have plans to compose music for a full length film?
ARTEM. Once we met a theatre director, he heard how Jegor plays and he liked it.
JEGOR. At that moment, I thought about that idea as a joke. I have never done anything like that before, I even didn’t plan to do so. For that play I had to write all score — not only for myself but for other instruments, too. That includes violin, cello, grand piano. That was the first time for me and I can say, it worked out well. Now that theatre director asks me to create music for plays all the time, for example, just recently he proposed opportunity to create score for “Cinderella”.
ARTEM. Let’s say, we are looking for interesting offers. Maybe we are not in an active search, but if he got an interesting offer, we are ready to join. For example, we recently got a proposal to work in some experimental cinema project.
JEGOR. One director suggested us to participate in a festival in Tallinn, Estonia. We are going to create music for one of their projects – it is very interesting for us to see Gurzuf as a part of a film.
The last question will be about alternative music scene in Belarus. You said that there are many interesting bands playing – maybe you could recommend something which our readers must hear?
ARTEM. First of all there are very many different people there. You can divide them into different parts of alternative scene — dance club culture, various kinds of subcultures and creative individuals. In Minsk there are lots of great blues and jazz bands, some people play American, British music, metal or hardcore, you can say that the spectrum is wide. Some bands are so unique and have so specific vocals, that you can hardly define their style.
I think that is wonderful – it is always interesting to hear new approach, and it doesn’t matter in what context or genre. Many great groups appeared from the periphery of the country during the last 5 years. Before that, there were some problems with trying to go anywhere outside the country. Now many musicians tour in Europe, Russia or Ukraine and I think it is great.
Thank you for your answers!
GURZUF myspace: http://www.myspace.com/gurzuff
Photographer: Aliona Bogdanova