By Jon Milton
Russia's finest export Gnoomes have been producing wonderful music on Rocket Recordings since 2015, and will hopefully be bringing us their fourth album in 2021.
Given their musical diversity, which incorporates krautrock, shoegaze, electronica, indie rock and more, they seemed an ideal choice to approach to find out more about the artists that have influenced them to make the music that they do. I spoke with Sasha from the band, who spoke about growing up in the USSR, being blown away by the Aphex Twin and more...
Photo: Alisa Calypso
How did you first get into music/what were your early influences?
All 4 of us started our music way as kids. Since childhood we realized that there is something behind this world which doesn’t need an explanation, yet it could be explored non-verbally. Obviously, in the post-soviet space there were not so many things going on. Luckily some of our parents owned a few cool LP’s, for example the early Beatles stuff. 'Obla-di-obla-da' was a huge dance hit in the USSR. We have a VHS footage where 1 year old Masha is dancing to this song. Pasha’s dad was more into the Russian rock (weird mixture of poetry and poor music arrangements). Pasha recalls the moment when his dad was smoking a cig in their wooden house in the village and crying over the Scorpions ballad. All of it had a great impact on our minds for sure.
How did you get into playing / writing music yourself?
Again thanks to our families, music has been a big part of our lives. So we spent our early days reflecting and imitating the outer world. Then in the 2000’s comes the Internet and suddenly we get a massive source of digging into. And at some point when you’re starting to consume too much content, you need to release from it somehow. We found out that the main solution is to make music by your own. We were around 15-17 years old at that time.
What was the first gig you went to?
Can’t remember the first gigs we’d been to, but one of the highlights in our lives was the Aphex Twin show at the Field Day. We were absolutely destroyed by the visual and audial level of the live performance. That was our proper 'first' gig could be said.
What was the first record you bought?
My first LP that I got was the first 'The Police' album. It was my entry to the 'new wave scene' and I started to dig into history of music more specifically.
How have you discovered and explored different genres of music?
Through times the approaches of discovering new music change, but the core is the links/mentions that lead you to another piece of music or art in general. For example I read a book about 4AD’s history. Suddenly those names pop up right before my eyes and I’m really curious: why haven’t I listened to this earlier?
Another way of finding new music is through digital platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, etc. NTS’s been a really helpful tool for me and Masha to find new stuff during the lockdown.
Photo: Alisa Calypso
Do you go through phases of listening to different music genres, or just dip in and out?
It’s different all the time. When I was in university I preferred listening to music, like not 1 particular album, but the whole discography of an artist in the chronological order. Sometimes it got really boring but I kept on insisting, making myself dip in as you said. Now I’m not so harsh to myself. It doesn’t make a huge difference to me what to listen to at this moment. Spontaneity is my driving force. For example I could be happy to watch a crappy TV show or to listen to a really cheesy and disgusting Russian pop and it makes me inspired.
How have different artists/genres of music influenced the way that you play and write your own music?
I guess there are different stages of influencing. First of all, as I mentioned earlier you just copy without thinking. Secondly, you copy with thinking. Thirdly, if things go well you don’t copy at all, at least you’re now aware of it. I’m always fascinated with the production side of a record. I’m trying to listen not only the seen content, but to hear the circumstances behind making an album. Speaking of huge music influences, there is a couple of things which changed my life completely when I heard them: electronic reverbs from Selected Ambient Works, Klaus Dinger’s motorik, King Tubby’s echoes, Kevin Shield’s glide-swelling distorted guitar. These are the pillars and foundation of my music work.
Do you have any pin ups or artists you consider to be musical icons? Who are they?
As a kid I didn’t have a poster of any musician/band. So I never thought of music artists in terms of being icons. What I mostly appreciate in true art, that there should be emotions and personal history. For example you hear the Arthur Russel’s voice and you don’t have to analyze the lyrics, you’re just completely blown away. I don’t know how I came across with the Nick Drake’s records in high school, but hearing his weird guitar tunings with his saddened voice made me revalue my ways of perception.
Have you modelled yourself on any of your heroes, in the way you perform live, or play an instrument, or sing?
There was a moment in my life, which I consider to be a 'face-palm' moment and don’t like to remember it much... Around 10 years ago I had a band where I was trying to copy the Thom Yorke’s manner of moving on the stage like hysterical dancing. Now when I revisit the footage of one of the gigs, I feel: 'OMG, that’s awful'. I’ve never tried to model on anyone since that time.
Is there one song by another artist that you’d wished you’d written, and if so what is it and why?
This is one of the main reasons why we make remixes. Sometimes if we love a song we can contact an artist and ask for the stems. This is a great opportunity to pay some respect, but also to connect to the song’s world and luckily to expand it. Frankly speaking, I often bite my fingers when I accidentally hear something really good. Oh boy, you’d better don’t look at my hands!