Animal Jazz, Romantics from St. Petersburg

“Heavy on drive, plus lyricism and romanticism,” – that is how the members of the Russian rock band, Animal Jazz, describe their sound. They started playing together in the autumn of 2000, adding a new branch to the famous St Petersburg rock family tree.

Trying to ascribe their music to one particular genre is not easy. As they themselves put it, “even our name reflects a complete mix of numerous styles. One of the meanings of the word ‘jazz’ in English is ‘hustle’, or ‘confusion’, and the word ‘animal’ suggests ‘nature’. Out of this chaos and mix of styles emerges a distinctive sound offering the non-trivial harmony on one hand and animal energy on the other”. Youth Time correspondent Dmitry meets the band’s founding member and vocalist Alexander Krasovitskiy.

Let’s start with the moment you first got into music. Do you have formal musical training?

No, I don’t have formal musical training. I’m glad I don’t. Actually, I never thought I’d be a musician; I was never interested in becoming one. But an irresistible urge to get on stage just took hold of me all of a sudden, later in life. Some time around the age of 27, I went to see a band called Agatha Christie. I know it sounds weird but it was the first rock concert I’d ever been to. It was at that moment, sitting there in the hall, that I knew my place was there on the stage, not in the crowd watching. I can’t say it was really out of the blue. I don’t think anything in life ever is. I believe it was growing somewhere deep inside me until it came up as a sharp realisation at that Agatha Christie concert. It was then that I made up my mind to do music.

In the beginning you played in a couple of rock bands that didn’t quite make it, and then you formed the somewhat successful Animal Jazz outfit. How far do you base your success on the listeners? You have said a few times before that you don’t care how the fans perceive your music.

No, it’s not that I don’t care. You have to understand that when you’re on stage you enter this kind of intimate exchange with the audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big crowd, I still perceive it as a dialogue. On one side there is all of them together forming a single entity, like one person. On the other side there is just me, just one guy. Of course, when you talk to someone, what you want is a response, otherwise the conversation is just pointless. Another thing I’ve realised over the years is that the goal which you need to strive towards on stage, is to make sure you enjoy it. If you do, then the audience can’t help but be drawn to you, they really start getting into it. Basically, you are in complete control of everything that goes on. That’s why I won’t ever sing what they want me to sing if it isn’t what I feel like singing at the time. To be honest, there have been a couple of times where I’ve felt on the stage like I don’t want to sing anymore or I couldn’t sing that day.

So you walked off?

Jimi Hendrix used to walk off in those situations. I turned to my bandmates once and said, “I can’t sing anymore, I want to go”. Then I looked at them and realised they are actually like a part of me, but they in no way wanted to leave with me. If I, the singer, had left, that would have been an insult to that other part of me – not to those in the audience, but to the band. That was the only thing that persuaded me to remain on stage. Generally, what guides me is what is created on stage, that emotion, which rules me, rules the five of us. It’s the most important thing. And the audience responds to that emotion.

Does your degree in sociology help you to understand your audience?

Let’s just say that after my education in sociology, absolutely nothing in society made any sense to me. I observe people not through the lens of my sociological knowledge but through the lens of my personal life experience. Sociology is hardly very helpful there.

Were there ever occasions in your life where you thought everything was lost and you had to start over?

This has happened a lot in my personal life. But generally speaking, I thankfully haven’t really faced this situation yet. Whenever something goes wrong in one place, it goes right somewhere else. That’s how I operate. I have never experienced total failure and I never want to. There was once a time in my life where I felt all my support had gone. I did of course have close friends and family but suddenly I realised that they are just people with the same weaknesses as me. Yes they love me, and I love them. But that’s just brotherly love, not paternal love. I needed a father, I needed back up from someone who would love me regardless of who I am and what I do. More than that, deep down I felt a sense of truth about there being a higher force above me, inside me, which doesn’t punish you or give you orders. That’s how I came to believe in God and received baptism.

I recently heard on the radio the statistic that people on average lose four hours a day communicating with friends on the internet. That means that the youth of today lose four hours chatting to their friends online, instead of just meeting up and having a real conversation. Is this the new trend or the total substitution of the concept?

You know, when you chat on the net you can do a whole load of other things at the same time but when you meet up, you both have to give up all your time. You can’t do anything else.

So it’s not bad?

It’s modern life. The problem of youth’s search for some sort of moral compass, some guiding principles, and its modification from generation to generation, has been a universal process throughout the history of humankind. I don’t need to explain that everything that is happening now to young people is influenced by the times. It seems to me that in the 1950s and -60s, young people also introduced new guidelines and values to society then. During the revolution, young people universally suffered the loss of their values, the complete collapse of their way of life. But the Internet’s apparent corrupting influence is slightly exaggerated. It is demonised even.

I would think that because of your line of work, you are quite well acquainted with representatives of today’s youth. How would you characterise them compared to the older generation?

I’ll admit that among my friends there are those who are younger than me by about 15 years, people half my age even. I haven’t noticed any overall differences. I wouldn’t say that they’ve become desensitised or they don’t focus and have gotten lost somewhere inside the web. They do spend four hours on the Internet, but that’s their way of life. What generally does distinguish today’s youth though – and could be considered dangerous, in my opinion – is their pace of life. It increases at an unbelievable rate. The ever-increasing number of devices to connect people, the chaos, leads to an increase in the pointless things that people now do. Consequently, there’s even less time for you to stop, think, and reflect on your inner thoughts.

What do you consider to be the main aim of life? What must humankind achieve on this Earth?

We must never stand still. In any sense of the concept. You must always find the strength to act: to come out of the stagnation which occurs from time to time, get rid of a routine that doesn’t suit you, change the mundane things in your life, don’t allow yourself to break with your beliefs. I am not calling for total anarchy. You’ve got to know how to find a balance. If anything is generally conflictive in your life – family life, work etc. – you need to change it. I can’t stand to watch people who one day just give up on themselves and then it’s the same every day: work, evening, beer, sauna, work, evening, beer, sauna, over and over for the rest of their lives. I’m of the opinion that people need to be searching till the very last days of their lives.

And what should we be searching for?

Ourselves. Our soul. We should search for more and more new abilities. Everyone has them, they just need to find them. Let me tell you all something, Youth Time readers, this is your time now, the time of youth. Find yourselves. Don’t ever stop. And never be afraid. It does sound cliché but everything is in your hands.

Photo: From the Archive of Animal Jazz

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