weekly updated blog for Oi! – punk – ska – reggae
Last year i finally received a copy of Bystreet’s debute album, All Those Drunken Songs. Not much later i was pleasently surprised to see these Russians guys released a split EP with Control. On this new release the band shows a more mature sound, so i decided to contact them for an interview.
April 2015 – band website
A usual question: can you please introduce the band to us?
Sergey (Rudik)– lead vocals, Dima (Aval)– bass guitar, Mitiay – guitar, Jenya (Evgen)– guitar, Andrey – drums and Jam – ex-drummer.
Rudik: Currently, our band is going through a challenging time. Unfortunately, our drummer, Jam, with whom we’ve played for seven years, quit. However, on a positive note, we’ve got a new drummer – Andrey, who used to play with two other bands: Restless and Zapoy. Mitiay (our backing vocal) decided to rearrange his life, so he decided to quit as well. We hope it’s temporary though, and he will be back with us whenever he is ready. For now, we are wishing him good luck and can’t wait he is back. Anyway, we keep working on some new songs.
You just released a split EP with Control. This was your first release on vinyl, but – correct me if i’m wrong – the first split release between a russian and an UK punk band. Do you think the russian scene is overlooked in western europe or the USA?
Evgen: Yep, it’s our first release on vinyl. I’d say, recently, vinyl has been gaining a lot of popularity both in Russia and CIS (Russian Commonwealth). So, we’ve learned how to order, make, and sell it. To give you some idea, about from eight to ten years ago we considered it a great luck, if we were able to release anything … even on tape … not to mention the ‘luxury’ of a CD release. Moreover, there was lack of demand for vinyl. The first time we came across the demand for vinyl was when we played in 2010 in Prague. Now we will try to stick with the vinyl releases only, which are very cool and collectible!
Rudik: As to the question whether it is the first joint release of the Russian and English bands, it would better to check it out with Dima, as he is the chief archaeologist and chronicler of the post-Soviet skinhead stage. Honestly, I personally do not recall if this ever happened before.
As for the world stage, I believe that the United States, being a huge country with a great amount of local punx & skins communities, are completely self-sufficient in that regard and they are able to respond to the needs and requirements of their audience. I ssuppose there are very few people in the USA that could be interested in the Russian stage. To begin with, the Americans and the Russians exist in two completely different socio-cultural paradigms. I can hardly imagine that our pressing problems will be relevant to a guy from Nashville, for example, or vice versa. Secondly, what our folks sing in their Ru-English, probably, will sound very funny to a native speaker. Nevertheless, I one hundred percent agree with the statement that the language of rock ‘n’ roll is English.
By the way, during the last years we succeeded in bringing in a bunch of touring bands to Russia, including American, but I can’t recall even one real Oi-group that came from the USA. Talking about Europe and the UK, say ten years ago, we could not even imagine how many concerts with participation of the European bands we would attend, that’s true. Back in 2003, when I just started taking the first chords in a garage, using a shitty and partially stolen equipment, I would have died of happiness if I was told that I would play on the same stage with Last Resort or Sham 69. It seemed to me like it was something supernatural and unrealistic. Nowadays, these memories became blurry.
You can make an effort to picture how it used to be back then though: boneheads and provincial brainless football fans were all over the place, the darkness and dullness was surrounding you; there was no Internet, so any related information and records would pass from hand to hand, being re-recorded on tape. Then, over sudden, you would realize that the whole world was against you, and you had no friends – just a circle of enemies and people who did not care. Yeah, it was a very dark time. We had many changes since then. Now we have a Stage, there are a lot of groups, labels, concerts and festivals. It’s priceless to be able to do what you like to do. However, some of our friends have paid an extremely high price to make this happen – they’ve given away their freedom and some of them, even their lives.
Aval: It looks like you are right: our split with Control is the first ever split of the Russian and UK punk-bands. At least, I can’t remember any other similar releases. There were some splits of the Russian and German groups in early 2000s. There also were splits with the US groups, as well as with some ‘exotic’ groups… Under ‘exotic’ I meant punk bands from the Southeast Asia. But you know what, probably for westerners, our songs in Russian may sound somewhat exotic too. I don’t know, maybe I forgot to mention someone, but it would certainly be a very true statement if we say that this is the first Russian-English split in streetpunk and oi! music styles.
Recently you played a few local gigs with the English bands Control and Last Resort. Can you tell a bit about the gigs and the atmosphere? Do you have plans to play in England as well?
Evgen: We played our most recent gig with Last Resort and Control by the way. We already shared the stage with Last Resort before; it was when they came to Russia for the first time. We also played with Evil Conduct in Minsk, and we performed with Analogs twice… and with someone else, I just can’t remember exactly with whom, sorry . Our gigs’ environment is always stunning! I really enjoy it! Ten years ago, we couldn’t even dream of those eminent groups to come to Russia. Talking about a possibility of our show in England – wow, that would be awesome! Even more than awesome.
We’ve had a small concert-tour around Europe once: Prague (007) – Bratislava (Obluda) – Hamburg (Jolly Roger), and it was an extraordinary experience, we would love to experience it again!
Rudik: You know, whether we just got older, or really, the world around us has somewhat changed. Say, five years ago, our stage environment was that of a fellowship. Each and every one of us was full of enthusiasm, despite horrible murders of our friends and a very tense, complicated situation with the police. Although, perhaps there was a point when some breakdown took place, which obviously pushed us into some inner fights and inter-personal conflicts, and as a result some folks just quit. It even seemed at times that everything which was created at the high price of our enormous efforts and losses, was jeopardized and was about to fall apart. However, we were able to overcome those difficulties and by now, everything has settled down and our life is back to normal. Frankly, some redundant guys fell finally off, and young folks keep joining us, a lot of new faces are appearing, but something has gone forever (maybe it was the spirit of our youth?)
Aval: I would love to play in England, because I believe that it is the place, where punkrock took off. So, whenever we have a chance to share our stage with the bands like Last Resort, Sham 69 – it digs me like crazy, because I’m standing next to the legends of the late 70ies punk-music. As an example, at the latter Last Resort’s concert in Moscow, the guys from the Belarusian Oi! band Mister X and I played a piece called “Violence In Our Minds” with Roi Pearce. The audience was thrilled. And for me personally, it became one of the most delightful memories of my entire life.
Why the name Bysreet?
Evgen: Back in 2005, when we were searching for the name of our group, I couldn’t come up with anything smarter than just to open up an English-Russian dictionary. I didn’t spend much time on that research; I just went through a couple of pages, got to the letter B, and I came across this word Bystreet. “You know what, this word is kinda cool!”, I was thinking to myself. And then I went on: it includes the word “…street”, which is matching our “philosophy”, per say, so it should be fine. For the lack of other options, we stuck with Bystreet.
Rudik: Yep, that’s a true story. Not completely sober at that moment Jenya with his pointing finger made that difficult choice for us.
Aval: Since I joined the guys later (in 2007), I had to deal with the name, which they had already chosenfor the group. As to my taste, the name is excellent, it sounds good to a Russian ear, but I am not sure if it sounds fine to an English one.
What’s the story behind your song ‘The Invaders’ from your 2010 album?
Evgen: I think it would be better if Rudik answers this question. As far as I know, his first garage band was called The Invaders. They composed a song under the same name too. Later on, The Invaders turned into Bystreet. I believe that song doesn’t carry any negative connotation, we are really nice and kind people. In order not to lose that song, we decided to record it for the album All Those Drunken Songs: it was done for fun, nothing serious, you know.
Rudik: I honestly don’t remember when and why that song was written. However, there isn’t any geopolitical implications behind it, that’s for sure. The band Invaders did really exist in 2003. Then, I quit. Most likely, the main meaning, which the song transmits, is the romance of the ‘high road’, the tramping sound of 20 pairs of heavy boots at night, the inevitability of the upcoming punishment for every scoundrel encountered on our way… Thank you for your question, it is very nice to know that there are some people over there who know which disk has this or that song on it and what the song is about.
Aval: I never liked this song because of some ambiguity in its name and lyrics. I thought it was even a more silly idea to have it included in our repertoire for our unique Eurotour. What I mean here, is that it just didn’t look right, the situation itself was not for that song: can you picture a Russian group, which arrived in Prague, 40 years later after the events of 1968, and what you heard from them was: “We’re the Invaders”?… From my perspective, it was very unthoughtful of us to include that song; I would say it was stupid, ridiculous, and maybe even insulting in a way. I think we shouldn’t play this song anymore.
I know during the past it was difficult to organise Oi! gigs in Russia but recently i saw flyers for gigs by international bands such as Last Resort, Lion’s Law, Evil Conduct etc etc. Does that mean the situation is getting better?
Evgen: Well, it would be probably better if Dima takes this question.
Rudik: Everything has really changed for the better. Boneheads don’t dare to attack our gigs openly anymore. Well, first of, there is a good chance for them to be punched, and secondly, the police and security services flock almost around each concert.
Nowadays, people have funds to pay to welcome foreign guests on their tours. Say, if back in 2007, the concerts were held for a handful of 50-70 people between the age of 18 and 23, and those people had nothing but fire in their eyes, fists in their pockets and a couple of rubles for a few bottles of beer; these guys are grownups now, so is the Stage, it matured too.
Aval: The situation did change, and Sergei is right, when he says that there is no danger of physical violence from the part the right-wingers any more. However, a real threat to our concerts lies in the pressure put by the police on us. It happens because of the state’s paranoia about extremism in youth subcultures. They consider that any big punk/skinhead concert should be classified as a sabbath of criminals and extremists, but not as a chance for people who share similar interests to spend time together.
I heard something about a split EP by Bystreet and The Zapoy. Can you tell more about it? Do you also have plans for a new full lentgh as it has been a few year since you released All Those Drunken Songs.
Evgen: We already recorded the split with Zapoy. It has four songs: two from each band. I would like to point out, that Zapoy are like brothers to us. Mitiay (Zapoy’s vocalist and Bystreet’s guitarist at the same time) and I are actually playing in both bands. This split was conceived as a collection of covers on the classic british oi!-songs. So Zapoy decided to remake Infa Riot – Emergency (originally it’s a Girlschool’s song) and Blank Generation – Out Of My Head.
We honestly tried to translate those songs into Russian so that we could sing them, but all our attempts failed, unfortunately. Then we just wrote our own lyrics, that’s how Emergency was transformed into Zvoni Mentam. We are telling a true-life story in that song. It’s about Bystreet’s vocalist, Rudik, who told one guy that he would smash his face some day, and then, one year later, out of blue, he just kept his promise.
Everything is even worse with Out Of My Head – it appeared to be impossible for us to decrypt its original lyrics. As a result, I came up with my own text about a man who heard voices in his head. Zapoy shot a simple but very funny video based on that song.
Bystreet’s part consists of Slaughter And The Dogs I’m Mad and Red London’s Wish The Lads Were Here covers, but they kept the original lyrics in both songs. In a nutshell, for this EP we decided to distance from our typical sound style, so the record resembles the original punk-77 and classic oi!-music.
Rudik: We would like to focus on the creation of our second full album, which we plan and expect to be completely different in both the music style and lyrics. Unfortunately, I have to admit that we already overcame the Drunken Songs’ stage, and the current situation demands different responses and reaction from us. Just look at the mess around us!
Aval: Our split with Zapoy is about to be released very soon. Even the vinyl records are already ready, and we are just putting some final touches to the album’s design. It took us a year and a half to release it. It’s our tribute to the original English punk and oi-music. We made an effort to pick the most non-crocked songs for the covers. Firstly, we did a cover of the famous (but underrated in Russia) Slaughter and The Dogs band’s song. Secondly, we did a cover of Wish The Lads Were Here by Red London. This way we emphasized that song was theirs, and not Skullhead’s.
We have new material in the Russian and English languages. So I agree with Rudik that it’s absolutely pointless to sing funny songs about beer and friendship in this atmosphere of hate, which surrounds us in Russia.
Kids Of The Streets unfortunately quit but other bands like Mister X, What We Feel, Shaved Dogs and The Zapoy got some good reactions from outside Russia. Are there any other Russian bands worth mentioning?
Evgen: Shaved Heads, probably? What else, let’s see… I would say The Restless – they’ve been playing for almost 10 years, and unlike us they have already released several albums and they are still not resting on their laurels. They deserve some attention. Nothing else comes to my mind.
Rudik: I believe that the Russian stage in general as well as every single group by itself are very valuable. Every band from every city has its own and unique history. Together they have shaped an independent Russian punk-rock stage. Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Perm, Ekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Petrozavodsk… lots of names above you’ve probably never heard of, but that’s where the music front line was. Many groups have disbanded or made hideous records, lots of them didn’t have any folding lyrics, but because of their very existence and willingness to fight they wrote themselves into the harsh Russian punk rock alley of fame.
Aval: I’m not going to enumerate all Russian bands, which deserve attention, instead I would call a few skinhead-bands, which I really want to mention. Those are Restless, O.S.V, The Lappers (Мoscow); M-16, Nevsky Stompers, Robin Hood, Brigadir (St. Petersburg); Klowns, Sudny Den, Dvadtsatye (Kirov); Hod Koniom, Cadence Of Pride (Ekaterinburg); Facecontrol, The Last Train (Saratov); Keine Еngel, Linoleum (Perm); Voennoye Polozhenie (Nizhny Novgorod); Nitchego Khoroshego (Petrozavodsk)…
In western media the comments on Russia are getting more and more negative, especially since recent – gas and oil motivated – developments in Ukraine. Do the people in Russia bother about these these negative stories from western media and politicans?
Evgen: The Russian TV doesn’t show any stuff which can hurt common Russian people’s immature minds. What they choose to mainstream is either that everything is good in our country – we have spirituality and democracy – or that in other countries, everything is bad and/or about to crash on them. As an example, one of the main topics of our broadcasting is that only gay people, and drug addicts live in Europe, and that the Americans are all stupid, fat and sick, and they are dreaming of how to destroy Russia. I assume that the European TV shows something similar about us over there too. Nevertheless, well educated people who disagree with the government’s official position still exist in Russia, don’t worry, LOL. They come out to protest, which inevitably brings them to jail, unfortunately.
The situation with Ukraine is very complicated, no kidding: 80% of the Russian population is clearly against the official Kiev, the remaining 20% are looking for any evidence and facts to put them together in their heads, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. My position is No War. You can’t bring the situation to the boiling point and start a war, it is vital to negotiate and achieve some understanding between the states. Who is right or wrong, only time will tell.
Rudik: What is happening now is just disgusting and scary. Different politicians are skillfully manipulating public opinion; they have successfully created an image of an external enemy to distract people from their domestic problems. The Russian economy as well as healthcare and education are falling apart with the help of the officials, that’s for sure. The state rips off people’s retirement funds, but nobody actually cares – because “Crimea is ours now”. The bomb of ethnic tension was ticking slowly, however, the problem remained unresolved since the time of the Chechnya war. Politicians have skillfully used the current situation to their advantage, and as result, one can see pro-government supporters marching along the streets. Some of them carry banners to support Akhmat Kadyrov, and others, who are well marked members of ‘Combat Brotherhood’, a movement of military oriented retired veterans who participated in combats in Chechnya and Afghanistan, are marching next to their so-called ideological enemies from the past. They are all united now and express their protest against Ukro-fasсism, Obama, and the like. Unfortunately, they don’t want to acknowledge that there are more important things than that, which can’t remain being unaddressed and unresolved. Those people are too much into how to defeat their current external enemy instead.
Aval: And I am just laughing and disgusted by what is happening around us.
Do you have any closing comments?
Evgen: Thank you for your attention, cheers!
Rudik: Thanks for the interview. See you all at the gigs. Do not forget who you are and why did you come into this world.
Aval: I would like to share my favorite Joe Strummer’s quote with you: “And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.”