Steppenwolf’s new home
This year’s Steppenwolf music awards will be held in St. Petersburg for the first time.
Published: July 6, 2011 (Issue # 1664)
Barto is nominated for Best Album.
The Steppenwolf Awards, co-founded by the beleaguered Moscow-based music critic and producer Artyom Troitsky with the aim of promoting talented, innovative and independent music, move to St. Petersburg this week.
The ceremony, featuring nominees that include some of the finest Russian indie rock and electronic music artists, will be held Thursday at the local venue Kosmonavt.
About 15 bands and artists, such as Yury Shevchuk of the local rock band DDT, Moscow-based rapper Noize MC and Sergei Mikhalok of the Minsk, Belarus-based band Lyapis Trubetskoy — and American guitarist, vocalist and composer of Latin music Omar Torrez as a special guest — will perform between one and four songs each throughout the show, which will be presented by Troitsky himself.
The Steppenwolf Awards were established in Moscow in 2008, originally as part of the Moscow Book Fair, and for the past three years have been held at Moscow’s Central House of Artists.
“There are a number of music awards in the country, but all of them are corporate ones; on the one hand, they are organized by music television channels or radio stations,” Troitsky says.
“On the other hand, everybody knows only too well how much these awards are manipulated or, to put it simply, are corrupt.
“My friends and I wanted there to be one award that is not corporate or biased, and not given for popularity or exposure — not for the number of copies sold or radio plays, but for real achievements in music or spheres connected to music.”
Kira Lao is up for two awards.
For the Steppenwolf Awards, nominees are put forward by a team of about 20 journalists and music industry professionals, while the winners are voted for by a jury. Awards are given for 16 categories, ranging from Best Song to Something Remarkable.
Troitsky claims that the awards do not reflect his personal music taste, but are simply the choice of music experts.
“There will be alternative rock, electronic music and some rap at the event,” he said.
“This year, I would say the awards are even less mainstream than usual. The main figures will be people like Mujuice, Zhenya Lyubich, Zorge, YestYestYest and Kira Lao.
“Out of mainstream artists, there will be Lyapis Trubetskoy, Vasya Oblomov and Noize MC, if he can be considered mainstream. I even heard that they were planning to ban Noize MC in St. Petersburg, because some commission has found references to drugs in his songs.”
According to Troitsky, Russian music has made dramatic progress since the awards were established.
“I think the music scene has improved greatly during the past two or three years,” he says.
Noize MC’s video is in the running.
“On my part, it would be too brash and immodest to say that the Steppenwolf Awards have had any considerable influence on it, although I can’t rule out that to a certain extent they have. At least, I know that these awards are respected by worthwhile musicians.
“But the main thing is that everything has become more interesting here than it was at least a couple of years ago. If you recall, in 2007, for example, there was no Noize MC, no Barto, no extreme rap, there was no huge number of English-language groups like Momoney, Scofferlane, and so on.
“Nor were there any interesting provincial groups like Kira Lao, 4 Positions of Bruno, Ptitsu Yem, bands from Novgorod, Kaluga, and so on. All this has emerged in the last few years. Or take St. Petersburg’s hippest girls like Nina Karlsson, Zhenya Lyubich, Galya Chikiss and others — they’ve all emerged in the last few years.”
“I would say that there has been a total revolution in quality Russian music as a whole during the few past years.”
Troitsky is wary of estimating the extent to which the Russian audience for indie music has expanded during the same period.
“I’m afraid there are no statistics, but the quantity of music and the number of artists performing it have become much higher,” he says.
“Secondly, the quality and diversity of this music have also increased very noticeably.
Lyapis could win three awards.
“I don’t even want to compare this music to what is shown on all sorts of television channels. It’s simply a different universe. There is [pop singer] Nikolai Baskov there, and there is 4 Positions of Bruno here. The abyss between these two poles is wider than that between Putin and Limonov.”
Ignored for the most part by the Russian media, the music with which the Steppenwolf Awards deal exists mostly in underground clubs, small festivals and on the Internet.
“This music mostly lives in three dimensions,” Troitsky says.
“The main dimension and core is the Internet, the second is live concerts, and the third is discs, because this music comes out on discs; plus there’s a small number of niche television stations such as A-One.”
According to Troitsky, these outlets are more up-to-date than the traditional Russian mass media.
“All that Russian pop crap exists in the media, which is slowly — like federal television channels — or quickly — like FM radio — sinking to the bottom.”
Troitsky promotes Russian music he finds interesting on his Voskhod label, a subsidiary of Soyuz recording company.
PTVP’s Alexei Nikonov (2nd l) is nominated for his punk opera ‘Medea.’
Although some of the bands released on his label are also nominated for Steppenwolf Awards, that is not intentional, according to Troitsky.
“To a certain extent, some things overlap, but I swear it’s only by accident,” he says.
“It happens that I have released albums by Mujuice and Kira Lao, and both Mujuice and Kira Lao are nominated in many categories, but it has nothing to do with the activities of my label. I simply liked Kira Lao when I heard her in concert and offered to release her album, while Roma Litvinov, a.k.a. Mujuice, is the son of my friend.
“Mujuice is now artist #1 in Russia, and Kira Lao is also quite a successful girl, and I don’t think that my work as a producer played any substantial role in their success.”
Many of the nominees and participants of the upcoming awards show are known for their dissident stance, but the recent controversy is that rock group Mumiy Troll — nominated for Best Concert but not due to participate in the awards ceremony — has just been scheduled to perform at the Seliger summer camp for the Kremlin-backed youth movement Nashi.
“I always feel hurt when talented people walk smack into talentless, demagogical projects like the concerts on Red Square, or at Seliger, etc. But it’s their business, after all,” said Troitsky.
Earlier this year, several criminal and civil cases, seemingly orchestrated by the Kremlin, were launched against Troitsky for his role in political and civic campaigns.
Zorge is also a triple nominee.
Troitsky is being sued by former traffic policeman Nikolai Khovansky, whom Troitsky called a “policeman of the foulest kind” for his role in putting the blame for a traffic accident involving a high-positioned oil industry official on two women who were killed in the accident. He is also being sued by pro-Kremlin musician Vadim Samoilov, described by Troitsky as “Surkov’s performing poodle” (in a reference to the Kremlin’s ‘gray cardinal’ Vladislav Surkov).
The latest plaintiff is the Federation charity’s chair Vladimir Kiselyov, who was offended by Troitsky’s comment on the ill-famed, Putin-headlined charity show after which funds for the stated causes initially failed to materialize.
“I’ve been to quite a lot of hearings lately, and the day after Steppenwolf there will be another regarding the ‘poodle’ with Samoilov,” Troitsky said.
“Things aren’t going too badly so far. The court didn’t agree to change the charge of ‘insult’ into ‘extremism’ and did not forbid me from leaving the city.
“It looks like both the Khovansky and Samoilov cases will go to expert analysis and my great hope is that the analysis will be objective. Even if, in my view, everything is crystal clear even without any expert analysis.
“But if the judges want to refer to some academic authorities, I hope that the academics will live up to their proud titles of philologist.”
The Steppenwolf Awards Show, featuring Omar Torrez, Mujuice, Noize MC, Sergei Mikhalok of Lyapis Trubetskoy, Kira Lao, Zorge, Barto, Vasily Shumov, Yury Shevchuk, Zhenya Lyubich and PTVP, takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 7 at Kosmonavt, 24 Bronnitskaya Ulitsa. M: Tekhnologichesky Institut. Tel. 922 1300.