Диана Арбенина: «Что-то плохое никогда не провоцировало меня на творчество»

The leader of The Night Snipers talked with InterMedia reporter about her recent solo album, autobiographical features of her songs, her collection of vinyl records, and also the need to maintain dignity in any situation.

Q: The album "Malchik na share" ("A boy on a globe") has been released as a solo work. Why didn't it become one of The Night Snipers albums?

D: There was really nobody to record a new album with. At that moment the band virtually didn't exist; we only played concerts during the tours, but there was barely any "inner life" of the band. We did not even rehearse, so the mutual understanding seemed to had somehow disappeared. That's why I decided to try working with other musicians. And actually the musicians that now play in the band understood me well and did not take offense.

Q: In what ways did the lack of understanding within the band become apparent? Did the musicians only want to do the usual things that were comfortable for them?

D: Yes, exactly, concerts, concerts, concerts... When there are enough songs to play for the rest of the life, you can just tour. No one wanted to try and work on something new; at least no one took the initiative.

Q: And how did you choose those other musicians?

D: There is a sound producer from Kiev, Evgen Stupka, and he is truly an incredible person. We met in 2000 when we were recording the album "Tsunami" together with him. So I called him asking if he can recommend someone for me. Stupka has recorded a lot of bands, including Undervud( a Russian rock band), so he suggested Korney (a guitarist Volodia Kornienko) and Piotr Cherniavskij (a former musician of Okean Elzy band). These guys also brought Stas Opojchenkov, a drum player from Samara. So that is how it all happened.

Q: Did you want to make them the new lineup of The Night Snipers? 

D: No, that was not my goal. I just wanted to work together, and at first, we originally intended to record only three songs. Like many other musicians, I need to make records regularly; I just want to do it. We recorded these three songs and it really went quite well, so we decided to record a full album. Stupka offered to record it in Thailand, where he has found a nice studio. A person from Britain built it and his wife was managing it. Stupka recorded some Kazakhs there and was impressed by the studio. So he persuaded me to also try it. He said, "Come, it’s a solo album after all!"

Q: And besides, nothing is disturbing one in such setting.

D: Yes, it was really nice out there. I really hate recording in Moscow or Saint Pete because by the time you arrive at the studio, you don’t want to work anymore. There are no such problems in Thailand for sure.

Q: And how did a song in French appear in "Mal'chik na share"?

D: It was written in Thailand, because of Stupka, in a way. But you need to know Stupka. As a producer, he is a genius. And how does it all happen? Actually, it seems that he’s doing nothing, or just playing on his iPad, while we are recording a new song. And then he says, "Good. But maybe you could change the first beat to the second here?". The drummer makes the change, and the song comes to life. I mean Evgen interferes rarely, but always at the right time. Moreover, there is a strict daily routine in his studio. You come around nine, certainly after a full breakfast. By the way, I had put on 7 kilos after recording “Tsunami” because Zhenia simply kept stuffing us with food. At 12 o’clock you have to go for lunch, even if you are really deeply in a creative process at that moment. After lunch, you should have a nap for an hour and a half. And then you have an "evening shift". So, once, when the guys went out for lunch, I sat at the piano, played literally two chords and just kind of "grasped" this melody, and wrote a song in French. Later, we made some changes to the text because I don’t speak French, I can only read in French.

Q: Is the song "New York" really autobiographical?

D: Yes. However, I still haven’t found this person. I really flew with him, was charmed, but we didn’t get to know each other. I have written the song, but the person still have not appeared.

Q: And the other songs, to what extent are they autobiographical?

D: In each case, there is some motive from a real life, but nothing more.

Q: But your fans often try to find out real names and facts behind the songs.

D: Yes, that’s funny.

Q: Do they guess it, at least sometimes?

D: No, of course not (laughing), though I’m amazed by some of their interpretations. For example, there is a line about Maxim in the song "Fiesta". And somehow, they decided that it’s about a gun-machine, and that the phrase "how nice it is to show me Maxim" means death by shooting. Fans do come up with such silly things sometimes. However, people are searching for their own meaning, well, so be it. Let them sing my songs in their own interpretation. When you release a song it stops being yours; you are then related to it in a kind of indirect way.

Q: Do you think people still buy records?

D: I believe yes. And even more thrilling is that people are going back to vinyl records. I’m also keen on it right now. I’ve found all the records I brought with me from Magadan, from my parents’ collection. And my friends started giving me vinyl records as presents. The most recent present I got from a friend was a set of two the Rolling Stones records, an original London edition. This record is alive; you can hear how it breathes.

Q: How the needle moves, the tracks rustle.

D: Exactly. Sure, people still buy CDs nowadays. Well, of course not to an extent as it was before. Though our country is big and income levels differ in many cities from Moscow or Saint Pete, so not everyone can afford buying records.

Q: Some musicians refuse to make their albums available for free on the Internet, and as a result, they appear on the pirate websites.

D: I make my records available. Why being greedy? Pirating cannot be overcome. On the other hand, if you respect an artist and want to listen to a high-quality sound, you will buy a licensed product. Is it a problem to pay 15 rubles? Just recently,  I needed a record of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah", and I bought it for 15 rubles.

Q: It’s not an easy time for you right now as your concerts are being canceled for some obscure reasons; NTV named you to be a friend of "junta". Is it of any use for an artist to observe what’s going on in the world nowadays? Can it be inspirational? Like during the Silver Age when masterpieces of poetry were born while revolution was happening in the country.

D: It all depends on a person. For instance, Tsvetaeva ( Russian poet) hanged herself in the end. And to my mind, it happened because she couldn’t stay sane seeing how her country was degrading; and also the arrests, the prison. I doubt it could be beneficial for an artist. I have never tried to write out of protest, and something bad has never inspired me to create. As a matter of fact, all my songs are about love. It happened so that I was constantly falling in love, and I still do. Only one of my songs may be called an exception, "Russia, 37th", but even in that song, there still are a lot of literary images and characters not related directly to Russia of the 1937 period.  For example, Émile Zola has never been to Russia. Events of today differ from the past scary times only by the fact that now it seems like nothing terrible is happening. In reality things are happening and, in my opinion, an artist has to appeal to the people to stay calm, and not to agitate or provoke by any means. We can never see a full picture of what is going on, so only irresponsible people can provoke aggression. One should only call for peace and friendship, especially women. I look at my children and I think to myself that it is so nice they can go to kindergarten, and we are not in danger. We all need peace.

Q: Do you think those who are attacking you now will feel ashamed after some time?

D: I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I do know that I’m not going to stop, I will be sincere in my feelings and behavior. You should not lose your dignity. You should not feel ashamed for your actions and words. And I wish that a war would not continue to be a trend. These militaristic moods really make me sick, they are leading the country towards civil war.

Q: Does it all happen because people with different opinions are not even trying to hear each other and find a compromise?

D: Yes, quite possibly. Maybe, in some situations it is even not worth talking. I have a friend, he’s 65, and he told me that he had made a deal with his friend, who is a historian, not to talk about politics at all. He explained that they have been friends for 30 years and do not want to lose each other now. They understand how stupid it is to fall out because of Obama, for instance. I remember Sting said in an interview with Vladimir Pozdner that the most important thing is family. If you live in such value system, you can feel some sense of relief. When I see those people who call to lynch someone, I ask myself what is going on in their homes. Do they cook porridge every morning? Do they have lunch?

Q: These are the "couch troops", who are brave only on internet pages.

D: Yes, brave enough to conceal their names. When it all started happening to me, this persecution, my children really saved me. I needed to cook for them every day. I stood at the stove, cooked breakfasts, lunches, dinners, went for a walk with them, taught them to read (and I succeeded), and I knew this was the most important thing for me.

Q: Did you get a lot of support?

D: My Facebook account does not allow for comments, and I rarely use it. However, when we were flying from New York to Moscow after vacation, I received a phone call and found out that the "Bookmarket" had cancelled my performance. And during the time between the flights, I wrote a post about it. I flew for 9 hours and then checked my Facebook again only in Sheremetyevo. There were already 5800 messages with the words of support. Now, there are about 14000 of them. Of course, it is great to know that a lot of people crave for the same things as me, for the peace and adequate living conditions in the country.

Q: Can you write songs under these circumstances?

D: Yes, but still only about love (laughing).


Aleksey Mazhaev, InterMedia.

Перевод:  inga bashkirova

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