Mumiy Troll – pronounced moo-me troll – are not your average Russian rockers, and after they left a taste to remember in Manchester’s mouth, MM caught up with them in the middle of their UK tour.
Voted ‘Best Band of the Millennium’ by Russian music fans, Mumiy Troll are the country’s most successful band and are an almagamation of prog, classic and enigmatic rock… the simple kind then.
The four-piece consist of frontman and guitarist Ilya Lagutenko, bassist Eugene Zvidionny, drummer Oleg Pungin and saxophonist-cum-guitarist-cum-keyboardist Yuri Tsaler.
And Manchester’s The Roadhouse was left shaking in their leather-hashed boots as Mumiy Troll brought swagger, flair and unforgettable energy to their gig.
Here’s what the foursome had to say when MM caught up with them:
So, welcome guys, let’s start at the beginning… Why did you call yourselves Mumiy Troll?
Russian 80s prog bands were always obsessed with idea of taking names from fairytales.
I guess I was under their influence. But I always wanted a name that would stick in everyone’s mind and have some sort of legacy, so if you think of Mummies – a mummy is wrapped-up and signifies eternal life.
Troll is a creature in a magical forest that walks around and plays tricks on people to the sounds of the surroundings.
In the very beginning one of my friends said that people would make at least three spelling mistakes trying to write the band’s name. I thought it would definitely guarantee us a long history with lots of controversies on who we really are.
You arrived in Manchester this September, what has your experience of the city been like before?
We have actually never been to Manchester or even to the north of England. This is a new land that Mumiy Troll will be exploring.
We are very much looking forward to it and after all Manchester is full of rock ‘n’ roll legacy.
Myself [Ilya] and our guitarist Yuri literally grew up soaking up Mancunian guitar influences.
For people who aren’t familiar with your work, what can they expect from a Mumiy Troll gig?
Full of energy, love and rock ‘n’ roll you heard it before, right? How about few dozen – maybe hundreds – of Russian beauties in the crowd?
I'm pretty sure it's as exciting an experience to be in the crowd as on stage at our gigs.
Is there a big difference from touring in Russia to the UK?
In the UK it always rains and in Russia it always snows, we have played gigs in London several times over the last ten years.
Of course it is different but we don’t mind the difference, we love playing everywhere.
We have toured in some very exotic rock n roll destinations before, like Greenland, Kyrgystan or China.
You’re very successful in Russia, but is it difficult trying to break the rest of Europe and America?
Yes of course, it is difficult. Our real chances are close to none. You see how the British bands try hard in US and the Canadians in Britain and it doesn’t always work really.
You need to have a lot of courage and patience.
Your music has been banned and labeled ‘socially dangerous’ – did that hinder your musical career?
No not at all, it actually felt rather amazing as Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols were also quoted on the same list.
I guess Communist officials simply like the band titles. Now it’s all history. I feel that no one really cared about the actual music. It’s not so different these days too.
Your new album Vladivostok has been well received in the UK, how do you think your sound has evolved over the years?
This album is about to show the current state of the band. It’s a mixture of our live experience with a rather universal rock sound.
Usually I just follow my internal voice and whatever it says. In my opinion our sound never really changed from day one. It is the obstacles around us that dictate any changes.
What has the feedback from fans been like since the release?
Fan reaction, as well as reviews, have made me really happy, but obviously we are a long way from the million sales mark.
I'm also happy that our new fans have stopped complaining about the language issues, now they want me to go further and play to an English audience more and in the same way that I do it to Russian.
Do you worry that releasing an all-English album might alienate your fans at home?
Nowadays many bands in Russia have actually started to sing in English. So it’s not considered gimmicky to rejuvenate songs in this way.
To do a different language version of the song is a really challenging task. I once did California Dreaming by Mamas and Papas in Russian. This is when I realized how fun it could be.
You’ve been together a long time, how do you manage to keep things fresh after 25 years?
We have not succeeded with our first marriages – ‘rock camaraderie’ worked better. We got our success well after we were 17. I guess it is simply a level of responsibility to each other.
What other Russian bands would you recommend to an English audience?
Current ones like NRKTK or Moremoney are my favorites. However I'd still advise to dig in the mid-80s first releases of Aquarium and Alisa.
It was so experimental and pop in a very special way. They were bedroom style recordings that influenced me a lot and as a writer too.