(These days when most of us think of Russia we have negative thoughts (to put it mildly) based on the vicious invasion of Ukraine. But the participants in this interview — our friend Comrade Aleks and Vlad Tatarsky from the Russian bands Sönma and Crust — have no love for what is being done by a dictator in the name of the Russian people. Their words and the music are still worth our time.)
Sönma is the drone/doom project of Roman Romanov (drums, vocals, effects) and Vlad Tatarsky (guitars, effects). You know them better as members of the death-doom/sludge band Crust, also from Veliky Novgorod.
We started this interview with Vlad in late January and things went slow, but everything changed after the 24th of February and we were in shock knowing nothing about what to do with this interview. Vlad asked me to find some right words for this forword, but I don’t have any right words now, just a feeling that Sönma’s albums Terra and Ether channel this sense of catastrophe precisely.
Hi Vlad! How are you? What’s new in Veliky Novgorod?
Everything is quiet in Novgorod, we work and compose music.
Okay, honestly, I didn’t expect it as Sönma looked like Crust’s side project, and it’s hard to predict the fate of such bands. But you and Roman recorded the second full-length Ether and it was out in November 2021. Did you see Sönma as something real from the start? Or does it live in its own spontaneous way and you both meet just when the time is right?
We just write music that we like, but this material is not suitable for Crust. As soon as the sketches are ready, I send them to Roman, and we also have a 2nd guitarist – Anatoly from the Far East of Russia. Now he has just started making new sketches for Sönma, and perhaps there will be more atmosphere in the future.
How did you find Anatoly? And why did you decide to invite him in the end?
This is my old friend. He too has always been interested in such music, effects, and pedals. He liked our first album, and I offered to work with him on the second album.
Sönma’s first album Terra differs a lot from the things you do in Crust, but you still hold onto your doom roots there. What are the main qualities of doom you searched for to use in Sönma?
We wanted to save the riff structure of the music, add a low tempo to it, play as slowly as possible, and create an atmosphere of sound.
Terra looks like a concept album. Can you tell us its central idea?
The main idea of this album is that the earth (Terra) is a living organism, and also suffers. Which was millions of years before us and will be after.
Why did you choose to pick up this theme for the album?
Roman got this idea after listening to the material, and these are his associations with this sound.
You released Terra on your own. Were you satisfied with people’s reactions? Did it inspire you to record a second album? It seems that the feedback in social medias is very low, and people have difficulties with expressing their feelings even in the form of pushing a “like” button.
We ourselves wanted to continue this project. The feedback was really low, but the ratings were high, from those people who still listened. The feedback was better on Facebook and Bandcamp.
So is it a problem for you when people’s reactions are that lazy?
I find it difficult to answer this question. We wanted to record stuff like this and put it online, we didn’t have high expectations.
Both Sönma and Crust appeared in the Doomed & Stoned in Russia compilation. Do you see that such promotion works?
Any releases and compilations are good, so people will learn something new. Well, at least fans of those who are also on this collection will learn about other bands of this genre.
The sophomore work named Ether was released on Ksenza Records. Did it make things easier for you? And do you have an experience of communication with foreign labels who could sign your band?
Ksenza have a good distro network. They did a lot for our release, sent discs to different countries, and this album was also released on Svanrenne Music, thanks to which our track got on the compilation Doomed & Stoned in Russia. The Bandcamp release was released on the American label Swamp Records and a lot of people listened to it there and added it to the collection.
How do you see the principal differences between Terra and Ether? They are two opposite elements, so I wonder if you worked on each of these themes in its own specific way?
Ether is a separate story, about the emptiness and loneliness of the mind. Terra is about the loneliness and sadness of the earth itself as a living entity. So there is a general idea. The mind is lonely. As for the difference in sound, we used a slightly different approach in recording and invited the second guitarist Anatoly. We made more arrangements, and brighter mastering, but the album became less heavy and depressing, and more atmospheric.
In this project, we are for any experiments with sound and for different approaches. For example, on Ether the drums were recorded on a voice recorder in our rehearsal room.
You’re very active with Crust, and I suspect you have plans for 2022 regarding new stuff. So can you share some news from Crust’s camp?
We have only one plan: Crust has a new album ready. We want to release it on vinyl and are looking for someone who could help us with this. We’re looking for labels and ready for cooperation.