Born to Jam

I don’t claim it’s a meaning of life, but the pleasure of doing it has meaning.

Country Evgeny Margulis

 

In the history of Soviet Rock, there is no bigger name than Evgeniy Margulis. Here he gives an insight into what it was like to be watched and listened to by the authorities for any ‘wrong’ free thinking. Before hitting the national stage, Mashina Vremeni — Time Machine — came out of private sessions, the kvartinik and he has reinvented these as a rock tradition for national TV.

Being born in the Soviet artistic elite’s colony around Aeroport metro was lucky for me. The apartments were large and big groups gathered to play and show what we’d created. By that time songs had to be either themed Motherland, party, workers and what they did, or love. Anything else, we kept it to ourselves in our big apartments and that’s where the word kvartiniks came from.

Not everyone had phones and plans for a session spread word of mouth. For example, they said that Galich will be at Aksenov’s tonight and everyone came. Sometimes Party members came but through friends and kept it to themselves and even though some were informers, they didn’t squeal. Although in the end, Aksenov had to leave the country when Metropol Samizdat came out but I guess writers were seen as a bigger threat.

When the chance came for a new TV format on Che it felt right to keep kvartiniks alive in our culture. I knew the head of STS Yulianna Slasheva from Aeroport days and she bought the concept of making something people missed. No one forgets their pilot programme because not until it’s over can you imagine how it’ll be. Our first contributor was Sanya Sklyar who left his dacha at the height of the summer and played in my kvartiniki. In all we made 48 programmes on Che before it was closed.

Illustration Nata Dedova

The programme had low audience ratings but the odd thing was that just about everyone I came in contact with knew it and liked it. A good example of niche marketing. One follower as a matter of principle had turned his back on TV and mobiles but not my programme. Luggage left from Che was too good to leave on the shelves and when by chance I met Timur Weinstein he agreed to take us on. A first for me, never before had I pushed myself forward.

NTV is changing for the better. Before it was a mud storage channel but now it has acquired a human face. We are on NTV starting from last April. The program is unique, it is perceived and feels like coming back to the times of our youth and childhood when things that deviated from the Party’s understanding were forbidden.

I don’t have a defined format; first rule of choice is do I like it. Only things that I like can be brought to the programme. It is a free of charge action, we even share Scotch from our tea samovar.

We managed to have no occasional people in our program. I’d call it «corruption of taste». To join us one should corrupt me, artistes I shoot, shooting team, channel and therefore I got no unnecessary audience here, just ours with good human faces. When we were shooting Zhvanetsky he mentioned «You have a fantastic public. They even understand commas».

We were shooting Piknik, I like them, they are groovy and shaman. There was a program with vocalist Valeria, she is a very talented and nice artiste able to do a full split and sing jazz sitting like this. And then we had a rapper party and I invited Legalize, «Smoky Mo», some other devils. They differ for the Black Rap, all educated, things they made are not coming from the slum surrounding. We also had blues parties with Sergei Voronov and his guys.

I had to persuade Lolita to join us approximately for a year and half. We know each other since our childhood and I watched her becoming an artiste and singer. Despite of the mix of fire and fear that makes her shock public and media all of the time she is a touching, delicate and vulnerable person. She came for shooting with her dresser and eagle dresses but we left them unpacked. Broadcast was perfect and all previous scepticism, not understanding and dissatisfaction of the team changed to general amazement. She was a perfect and exquisite girl and one of the best talents.

To feel joy doing what you do is great and thanks God I have this rare ability. Puzzle got together long ago and I’m extremely happy to do what I want and always wonder how comes that things I like amuse someone else. It makes me feel glad to do something first for myself and then pour it to other people and when people like it and it is not just some mass audience but special, it feels great.

I don’t claim it’s a meaning of life, but the pleasure of doing it has meaning.