(In this post we present an interview of The Morningside from Moscow, Russia, conducted by A. Strunitzkij and introduced by our contributor Comrade Aleks. All photos are by Olga Goleva.)
We could discuss for a damned long time how much of Katatonia and Agalloch has left the works of The Morningside since they released their first album The Wind, The Trees And The Shadows of the Past in 2007. But the new album by this band from far Moscow, Letters From The Empty Towns, only pours oil onto the flames of this controversy. Highly energetic, fierce, and ghostly cold, this album returns us to the dark and melancholic world of The Morningside.
The whole band is here today. Let me introduce you to The Morningside with its most constant (and I hope – eternal) line-up. They are Igor Nikitin (vocals, guitars), Ilya Egorychev (bass), Sergey Chelyadinov (guitars), and Boris Sergeev (drums). I would like to thank my comrade-at-metal A.Strunitzkij for this interview.
Hello. It’s been some time since the release of The Morningside’s new album Letters From The Empty Towns, and reviews have already appeared (although the Russian ones I have not yet seen for some reason), as have posts with discussions about the album on many highly specific resources… In other words, you have seen some of the reactions to the album. Is it exactly that you’d been expecting? The reaction has been quite ambiguous, don’t you think?
All: Hi !!!
Igor: Yes, there is a reaction, and of course, in many ways it was quite predictable.
Sergey: It would be strange if it was simple. I hope we are not so bad that everybody would have begun to blast our album. Those who have always gravitated to the music from our debut album, or, for example, TreeLogia, were disappointed in a way, but not surprised.
Igor: Actually, to start recording Letters… we had more than enough material in the spirit of “good old and familiar The Morningside”, but it was less than we wanted to implement. The mood was different this time.
Boris: There was life in the old dog yet, and same it was in us.
Ilya: So fans of “good old” will still have to wait a bit or try to find something interesting for themselves in our current incarnation. I would say, we were ready for a massively negative reaction. So everything is ok, actually.
And what exactly was going on with the mood?
Igor: Well, there’s no definite answer. Each one of us had something different happening. In general, perhaps, we could not use our internal resources to paint the world in pleasant colors.
Sergey: I had to pass through a lot of crap every day happening around me and used it as fuel for inspiration. Now the mood improved commonly. Heart-shaped glasses quite snugly fit our ears. While the ears of fans of the “atmospheric” swell from “Immersion”. 🙂
Most often the absence of “atmospherics” is mentioned, which had always been characteristic of the earlier group.
Sergey: Well, what can I say, yes, it is true. The material has transformed and its atmosphere is “the air that we have breathed too many times”. Here we were interested in different features. Although, the phrase “too many times” could be understood in a way like, “all this had already been played a hundred times by other people.” Who knows.
Igor: Who cares…
You say that you have enough material in the “good old” spirit. Do you plan to record it or has it stopped being interesting to you? Is the change of style a temporary phenomenon?
Boris: You see, the concept of “genre, style,” and stuff like that is more for the audience. I do not know if anyone thinks in those terms while writing music. I strongly doubt it. After the release of our debut album we were “nailed” to the doomic get-together, but it was not as if we had come somewhere to the doom monsters and said, “Guys, we’re playing doom! We want to join you.” No, it was not so. But perhaps all this really was closer to doom than, for example, the well-loved reggae. In this case, discussions in various communities immediately began by asking, is it doom or not, and if not doom, then what? It was ridiculous.
Igor: We even were blamed for saying that we play doom, and then in truth playing something else. Though we did not say anything at all.
Boris: If we have to take a certain point of view (for example, for a laugh), then we play post-rock. Just make it different. We don’t set any frames except our own taste or its lack. What difference does it make what you call the style which someone plays? What exactly does that affect?
Ilya: Returning to the heart of the matter: yes, all the material that we have that was not rejected from the very beginning is dear to us. Besides the “good old-usual”, there’s something not too similar to any of our albums. And we are going to make it, and hopefully — to produce. We love doing what we do and try as much as possible not to focus on peoples’ reaction from the outside, with all respect to our dear listeners. Thank you for staying with us. We are not Stas Mikhailov (Russian pop-star), thanks to sanity, who would immediately lose some of his wealth and the love of girls and boys if he started playing heavy metal one day. The emptiness or fullness of our pockets does not depend on the reaction on our music.
Sergey: We certainly do not say that we couldn’t care less if someone likes what we play or not. It would be a big lie. I think anyone who writes, draws, sculpts, etc., etc., consciously and subconsciously hopes that the fruits of his mental anguish and physical effort will get some public acknowledgment. Of course, we are pleased to read praise and displeased to meet criticism. Who would doubt that. Though not reading any reviews and just doing what you like is also quite nice. I think, if we were trying to reach goals such as money or some kind of massive success, we would not have chosen any doom or alternative genres, whether it would be the first album, Letters… or anything else.
Ilya: You asked: “temporary — not temporary.” On the one hand, it is possible, to make a joke that there is nothing more permanent than temporary, but in general — no, we do not plan to continue in the spirit of Letters… in the near future. We like what we have done, although we always think we could have done even better. We “blew off steam”, and somehow realized ourselves in this material. Now there are definite plans, but we won’t disclose them now. I think that those who were strongly discouraged by Letters… will be able to breathe a little smoother. Something else will come. And …
Igor: … and this “else” will be closer to the material of Moving Crosscurrent of Time, for example. At least, our inner signs point to this
Sergey: But it will not be Moving … №2.
Boris: Maybe №3.
Ilya: With a half.
Do I understand correctly, that initially you didn’t have the idea escaping the style of your previous work forever? Or did you want to see the reaction and then make some decisions?
Igor: Haha! As I said at the beginning, the response was 80% predictable …
Sergey: … and also deliberately provoked by us.
Igor: And, of course, we were not going to make any decisions on that basis. The only thought that occurred at the initial stage was not to release the record under the banner of The Morningside, but change the name to The Warningside. We have this name for special occasions. Almost immediately this idea was abandoned, as all this initially is The Morningside at this particular stage, but not some side project with the same participants.
Sergey: By the way, at first we saw this album a little bit differently, and its concept was going to be the absence of any concept. It was going to be a variety of songs in completely different arrangements, etc., a complete eclecticism. If it had become that, it would not be called Letters …, and Postcards …. It was funny to think of how people would react to it, even at that time. But then, as I said, the mood and approach have changed greatly. Well, the material was written and picked differently. And eclecticism somehow crawled back into its hole.
Boris: We are all not too young and, considering the roots of our music-fanism, the love and creation of music in the format of the album could be called predictable. All the things on the album, wittingly or unwittingly, bring together a general idea and concept.
Sergey: So, for example, the order of the songs is important to us. Not only from the point of view of how things “fall on the ear”, one after the other, but also how the idea develops in the music and lyrics, despite the fact that this logic and intent are clear only to us. Since we are doing all this for ourselves firstly, we are quite satisfied with the way it goes.
Ilya: I’m afraid this further alienates part of the audience …
All: Ilya, no!!!
Ilya: … putting them in front of the unknown with our words. However, our global plan at all times is to do what you want to do at this particular moment. In the end, we all love very different kinds of music, we can also play not only heavy metal, Igor is a multifaceted author. So there is no clear idea of what we are going to make beyond the near future. In the nearest future, there is.
Igor and Sergey: But we won’t tell you!
Boris: Yeah, you already told everything a few minutes ago.
Ilya: Yes, our post-rock in the new incarnation will be again probably more doom than death metal. We even tried to persuade a pretty harpist to cooperate with us …
Boris: … but reached creative differences with her.
Sergey: They were your own creative differences — she spoke louder than you’d drummed. Ilya tried to persuade her not to follow that creativity, and she was dissented. Plus, this harp constantly confused underfoot…
Igor: Let’s skip it.
The Morningside “Ghost Lights”
Okay, thank you, the answer is counted. Now let’s talk a little bit about the album material. It seemed to me that it is based simultaneously on the violent and the depressing. You have confirmed it, to a certain extent, speaking about the “mood” “passing through yourself” and the negativity that was around you.
Sergey: It is roughly true. A part of the truth is in your words. However, I must say that between the lines, and sometimes not between, there is a lot of humor. It’s black a bit, but still… I can’t imagine what “not black a bit” really is, maybe Petrosyan is (a dull Russian comic)… We are not the darkest people in this world and if everything were serious … we just would not have recorded an album and instead would have hung ourselves long before.
Igor: Well, the only truly not funny song on this album is “The Letter”. As for the rest of the album, in one way or another, some “ha ha” is present.
Sergey: And the “ha ha” is quite clear to us. In this context, it’s funny that most of our esteemed reviewers since the time of our first album have lost their way between 3 pines (Russian proverb that means they’ve lost their way at broad daylight), please forgive me for those words. The names of the pines are Katatonia, Agalloch, and Opeth. These trees, definitely, are worth taking for the building of your ship
Boris: But, good people, there’s a forest around these pines!!!
Sergey: Yeah-Yeah. And, consciously or unconsciously, we are wandering in this forest significantly more actively than between the pines. In our opinion, this forest is much more noticeable in our music than Opeth is. There are things that we are doing quite deliberately, including direct links and quotes. For us it is a natural and necessary part of the “ha ha”, as part of the creative process.
Igor: I do not know where Opeth appeared in our music!
Ilya: Personally, I would be very happy if there were some basis for such a comparison, because Opeth is a great band, and, IMHO, much more interesting than Katatonia, for example.
Boris: It is possible that something similar can be heard because rock ‘n’roll in the broadest sense of the term is not the genre which is full of varieties. Perhaps, except the individual sub-genres. Although, I am more than sure that even Genesis in the days of Peter Gabriel were compared to someone. Or that someone thought that Yes had stolen something.
Ilya: At some point, Igor said: “I’m sick of this topic with Katatonia. Let us, for the sake of laughter, make something that could bring brand new words into the reviews.” And we made it. And “Carcass” appeared in the comments.
Sergey: Well, I was disappointed a bit, as Igor wanted to see Carcass and I was waiting and hoping that at least someone out there would hear Megadeth in some places. But, apparently, my plan has failed. If someone desires to read the texts, they’ll find a lot citations and references to specific brand things and people. It was just nice to put them there, thus making a tribute to those whose work is near and dear to me. Even without taking into account any texts, we had a feeling for a long time that most reviewers are stuck to doom, death, and closely related styles. And, either they do not listen to other music (maybe they would be happy to hear something new, but don’t have time for non-core sounds) or.. I do not know that “or”. Either I’m wrong and that’s just an illusion and in fact we are really very similar to Katatonia, Agalloch, and Carcass. 🙂
You say that “eclecticism crawled into its hole”, but I’d allow myself to quite disagree with that. Still, there are such a things as “The Outside Waltz” and “The Letter”. I would not say that they stand aloof — as I see it, they are completely in the context of the album, but …
Igor: No “but.” Ha ha. They are exactly where they should be, and eclectic has nothing to do with it. “Waltz” was originally conceived as an introduction to “Ghost Lights” and in fact it is. There… in fact, all the way it is played on harmony and riff of “Ghost Lights”. In the process we just decided that it is rather an independent thing, not just an intro. In the end, this is one of its kind, two in one.
Sergey: By the way, in recording “Waltz” specifically, a Fender Stratocaster © guitar was used. Three or four of them, actually. Who knows, maybe the guys from Fender will give us some money since I mentioned this fact here. 🙂
Boris: As for “The Letter”, well, you know that earlier we had ended albums with a quiet song with “clean” vocal. So here we are, just the same, again repeating ourselves.
After the release of Treelogia, almost three years passed until Letters. Were you working on the album all that time?
Ilya: Of course, no. Although, I must admit that it demanded more time than any of its predecessors. This applies to all stages, from the idea of how it should sound, to the cover design. No doubt, we did not spend all our time working on it. We also had some problems of different nature which distracted us. There were times when a break appeared by itself and we were thinking about other stuff. So finally the time came when we realized that we ought to somehow finish all this.
Sergey: And we finally finished, thanks to Buddha.
Ilya, you mentioned “some problems “. Where they connected to the relationship inside the band?
Ilya: No. I did not mean anything like that. We actually… we do not have such relationship as…
Boris: … we kiss in the gums and look in each other’s eyes with tenderness. We do have a normal, friendly, and quite creative working relationship.
Igor: We argue, fight, make up, etc. It is somehow always about the same. And since we have 7 or 8 years together, so it must be the way it is.
Ilya: No, the problems have been different. As a rule, not the collective ones and connected with the rest of our lives. It unfortunately has a greater effect on life inside the band than life within the band affects the lives on the outside. 🙂 I’m sorry that I confused you.
I’d like to ask about the cover and booklet separately. As far as I understand, you used to cope with them by yourselves. But this time you turned to outside help, according to the information in the booklet. Why? Did you become tired of inventing something on your own?
Sergei: Not exactly. As always, we wanted to invent something by ourselves. Theoretically, the cover should look very different. As for colors and, in the first place, content. And until the last moment we kept our own idea. Somehow, at the final stage we decided to give it up, because we did not have unanimous approval of the final result. Personally, the first idea was much closer and I think that it better interacted with the material of the album. There was no time and desire to develop that idea anymore. Therefore, we chose the option that more or less had been accepted by everyone. And the cover was made soundly and quickly so…
Igor: It is what it is and it’s ok.
The album was released on June 30, but you didn’t make any presentations. Did you deliberately postpone it until autumn when people return to the city and are able to come to the clubs? Or were there some other reasons? Actually, you have not played concerts in quite a long time, if I’m not mistaken.
Igor: No, you are not mistaken. Well, maybe with the presentation you are. 🙂 We did not postpone it. We just were not going to make it.
Ilya: The album is already presented; it is available on the label website in digital format for sale and, of course, free of charge somewhere else. 🙂
Igor: We just basically do not play and do not plan to play concerts. Firstly, there was no internal need, and secondly, having a shortage of time, I want to concentrate on writing and in general on everything that is associated with the new material. It accumulates faster than we can bring it to life. We are starting to think about the format of internet releases, as it is a faster way to communicate with the audience. Again, in this case, we are not bound by the album format. For example, if you have finished 2-3 things that are good in one bouquet, but there’s still two-to-three that would be complementary to this bouquet, it is easier not to wait for their birth and to release an EP.
Boris: It’s highly possible to do without a physical medium, which would cost the buyer as much as if it contained a whole album of music, which would not be quite fair.
Igor: But for now that’s just thoughts. Everything will depend on the material we will have in one time or another.
Sergey: Shortly, everything is fine with concerts. There won’t be any in the nearest future. 🙂
It’s a shame. My guess is that many people would like to hear you live. Including, for the opportunity to listen to things from the new album played on stage.
Igor: Three or four songs we have already played live. Of course, now it would be more efficient, easier to perceive as live what has already been heard on the record. This is especially true for the music where it’s quite difficult to achieve an adequate sound picture from the stage. Even if played without much playing out of tune. 🙂 But it is what it is. We played them a little bit and that is that.
Ilya: In principle, we could play a couple of shows in the fall …
Sergey: … but unfortunately, I so inhumanely treated one of the fingers of my left hand, wielding an electric saw in the garden, that the question has disappeared by itself for a fairly long time.
Well, I hope everything will be okay and that we will see The Morningside on stage sooner or later.
Ilya: Yes, we think that it is still going to happen one day. 🙂
Thank you for the interview. I think that the new album is already loved not only by many of those who listened to you before, but also attracted new listeners to you. I hope that in time it will find its way into the hearts of those who expected you to do something more orthodox Morningside-styled. Do you think it’s possible?
All: Thank you.
Sergey: I don’t think anything about it. 🙂 In the end, it is a timeless story entirely complicit in our psychology: people have great difficulty accepting and taking something relatively new. There will always be someone who continues expecting that we, relatively speaking, will write another The Wind, The Trees and the like, because he once liked it. With that album they have associated us and believe that it is the “real The Morningside”. But it is not so. The real we are what we are now. The rest is a matter of habit and taste. For example, I do not particularly like The Wall, although it is generally accepted that this is a super-duper album. So it is. But I love a few things from it. I never dreamed that Pink Floyd would have infinitely recorded Wish You Were Here. I as a listener would not be interested in that.
Igor: And they would be even less interested :).
Ilya: And thank God, this will never happen.
Boris: In someone else’s work we always like something more and something less. And in evaluation, it’s to a greater extent subjective. It depends on the particular individual or from the view that he allowed himself to be imposed. 🙂
Sergey: As for me, there is one band that I like every album…
All: The Beatles!!!
Sergey: You knew it! I just prefer one or the other album at different times. And it’s great that almost all of them are very different. Maybe somewhere there are people who also love (or even like) all our albums.
Igor: It would be fucking nice.
Sergey: However, as Paul, who is Sir now, once said “…that made it all worthwhile for me, you know — just if one person’s situation was alleviated to the tiniest degree. I don’t care what all the critics say then; that’s really enough. ” As for me, his songs have helped and more than once. I am now pleased to know that he lived not in vain.
Ilya: And, we hope, will live a long, long time.
Sergey: That would be enough for us, too. The more different music we’ll make, the more likely that someone somehow will be helped. That would be wonderful.
Igor: Well, it would be great, yes.