The music we are going to talk about today is offbeat in a good sense of this word. And in this interview with the leader of Nikolay Moiseenko Project we will try to answer why it is so.
– Are there any major differences between this album and your previous projects?
– This one is programme music, music of the large forms. It focuses mainly on the composition, on the transformation of one musical idea into another.
– It reminds me of many writers’ experience like when a man is writing short stories and then decides to compose a book out of it.
– The process is quite similar, actually. I had plenty of my own music the moment we were about to start recording but not all of it suited the concept of the album. The concept itself is largely based on a song called ‘Far Away Story’, it gave us the headline and became a certain kind of power-up for the team. We wanted to translate the title into Russian but could not find the analogue, it just lacked some mystery.
– Would you please explain the meaning of the title?
– ‘A story that could have or could have not happened a long time ago’. See, we have been choosing some instrumental compositions for the album. Along with that we have been arguing about the order of the tracks and whether we should include our Beatles’ covers. Luckily a father to our keyboard player, musical critic Yuri Trofimov, attended our concert. He said the instrumental pieces sounded like a suite, like a whole, and one should not be dividing them. So we have got two parts: one is instrumental, and another is our Beatles’ thing.
– You’re talking about structure. Any tips on sound?
– As for the sound, we have discovered some new instruments during the process; we’ve never been using them before. Violin, flute, clarinet, cello and so on. It was a little scary to start the arrangement at first, thanks to Lev Trofimov who made our fears disappear. It is only now I understand how much we owe this record for so many things taught.
– Where did the recording take place?
– It took place at VS-Studio. We are quite familiar with the place, our previous album ‘Soundtrack’ was recorded there. This studio is like a very big room where lots of different instruments all around the world find their place. Vintage keys, drums and many other small but important things, you see, everything that creates an atmosphere that you crave for all the time. The owners of VS-Studio, Georgy Yufa and Vladimir Rozdin, took an important role in constructing and creating the album. Georgy is one of these men that people usually call a devotee; it was only due to his help we were given a chance to record music as a real piece of art, without any haste or turmoil. Thank you again, Georgiy! Vladimir helped us with commutation and being very light in touch somehow brought a pleasant mood inside the studio. He is a good man to work with.
Robert Boim was our sound engineer. It is not the first time we collaborate: Robert previously appeared on ‘Soundtrack’. This time he was working with Andrey Laskin; together they set hundreds of mics that Andrey brought with him in a big briefcase. It was a long time together, sometimes we had to re-record the songs because over time we did not like how it sounded. The whole thing took us four or five months to be done.
All cello parts were recorded with the gracious help of Georgy Yufa. The work he did is absolutely incredible! The violins, the violas owe their remarkable performance to Konstantin Merezhkov. The violin players often find it hard to stick to one rhythm, but when all the violin parts are played by one man with his own unique sense of rhythmical pattern it is just not the same. Konstantin has recognizable light-touching style which was very important for us.
I would also like to mention grand piano August Forster – it is a member of our team as well (laughing). This instrument was found in old Soviet Palace of Culture and it was in an extraordinary bad condition. Despite being fully repaired and tuned the piano still played foul so we decided to call for a high-class professional, Alexey Shubin. He literally reconstructed August. Alexey was all the time in the studio, his presence for the instrument was a matter of life and death.
– Did you record the songs in the order they appear on the tracklist?
– No. But while recording each of those the sound and the main direction of this sound was absolutely clear to us. We knew how it should evolve and change, where the cello should be and where the drums. Luckily, soon we were off with the studio sessions and started the editing part at the beginning of the winter. Thanks to Lev Trofimov again, who is a true genius in this kind of work. Lev took laborious task to sort out all good and bad stuff recorded – and he did it with his whole mastership.
I am also very happy that our new album was mastered by Canadian sound producer Daniel
Boivin. He is a real professional and he is very patient. Not a common combination nowadays,
really. Daniel has incredible talents at organizing stuff, it’s not a coincidence he is a permanent
tour-manager and sound engineer in Richard Bona Group.
During the process of mastering we were facing the question of time and distance. How to make
it possible to people in different time zones to communicate fast and efficient? Speaking of
different time zones: the guitar parts were recorded by Yakov Kremensky (NYC) and later sent
to Daniel Boivin (Toulouse, France).
Daniel created a private facebook group so that all of us could participate in the project together.
Why not? What could be easier? Every new song started a new thread, the changes made into
the song were uploading in a matter of seconds and everyone could express his opinion and
add something to the discussion. Actually there were about 10–12 variations of every song.
Sometimes we had to communicate using rich visual imagery.
– Rich visual imagery?
– I often had to explain Daniel some contradictory things, like, a trombone sounding as if it
was near and far at the same time and so on. I was running around my apartment netbook in my
hands showing via skype how the vocals start in a small room, then progress to the big concert
hall; and in the end they sound out of the windows with a group of trombones underneath. I
wanted the space of music to change, to progress constantly and tried to carry this thought
to Daniel. He was (laughing)… He was listening to my gibberish and, I have to admit, got
everything miraculously right. By the way, an image of old concert hall became a basic visual
idea for the artwork.
– Is this image somehow related to your songs?
– It has a relation to ‘Overture’, the opening song. The instruments are: twenty four violins,
vibraphone and a wind ensemble. The song ‘Mr. Gray’ was written for our trombone player
Sergey Serov, and ‘Vibe in Three’ is a special gift to our keys, Lev Trofimov. Then there
is ‘Blade Runner’, where ‘blade’ stands for Brian Blade, an American drummer, whose music I
hold in high respect – especially on the part of its folk and country roots. A bass solo by Sergey
Geyer is a link to the main piece of the album – ‘Far Away Story’. This last one is my personal
‘Unspoken’ follows next; the authors are me and Sergey Geyer. A real zest here is a solo by
Yasha Kremensky. He is a perfect musician but he is very modest and should be beaten up to
death until he plays solo (laughing). He doesn’t like showing off, he likes to consider himself
a part of the band. But we put him before the fact it is either he does solo or the whole thing
is ruined. Finally he did do a solo, and it is absolutely impeccable. The feeling you get while
listening to his performance makes you want to drive a car, windows lowered, and enjoy the
nature going by at slow speed.
And thus we approach The Beatles, a band…
– …you were never a big fan of? As far as I know, you’ve only…
– …started listening to them not so long ago. Thanks to my mom who is a biggest specialist on
their music in the world. Previous year Roman Hristyuk – he is working at ‘Igor Butman’s Club’
– offered us a stage on ‘Beatlemania’ fest. I accepted an offer and then… went straight to my
mom. She showed me so many Beatles’ songs I barely remembered or was never even aware of!
I fought my way through original songs and covers, say, 8-10 on each song. I tried to answer the
question: what is going on here? And what is the meaning of the arrangement in this particular
case? Only after these studies I considered myself ready enough to find my own way of making
covers on the original tracks. All Beatles’ program is made especially for Xenia Kolabatskaya
vocals. She sang it in a very original and creative way. I suppose our collaboration was fruitful.
– The last question, and you would not probably like it. What is the genre of the album?
– Right, I don’t like that one (laughing). I’ve no idea how to answer the question. One can
not call it jazz, because there is no 100% pure jazz in it. It is not positively wrong to call it an
improvisation with jazz as a basic language, but it is not really accurate. The record speaks for
itself better than words.
Interviewer: Dmitry Filatov