Antony Kalugin. Little talks
The sky is the limit for the talents. While we survive endless Ukrainian Steppes, fighting artifacts and rains, every one of us tries to develop as fast as we can. Our team is listening to the most interesting songs every single moment. Recently our camp was visited by Antony Kalugin — one of the key figures in Ukrainian progressive rock and the frontman of well-known bands – Karfagen and Sunchild. Antony has spent a few days in our camp, sailed over the Dniper river and saw prehistorical artifacts. He also shared some information concerning his future plans, progressive rock and new album of Sunchild.
— Tell us about your work in Karfagen / Sunchild. Are you the only composer in both projects? Do other band members participate in songwriting?
— I guess our audience know more or less, that Karfagen and Sunchild are the projects made by one person — Antony Kalugin. So I’m the main composer in these projects.
— So you are the only composer?
— I am, mostly. Some tracks were written by other guys, who joined our work. They were in our team for a while, had some inspiration; their inspiration became a part of an album. I am very thankful to all of them. When somebody works, for instance, on guitar solo, as Max Velychko did it, he brings a part of himself to a song. This song becomes partly his composition. However, I’m the main composer in both projects.
— Who made the new Sunchild album? Name these people.
— Kostya Shepelenko on drums. He is also the drummer of Karfagen and Sergey Babkin, for example; Max Velychko from Inside the Sound and Modern Rock Ensemble; Oleg Prokhorov, my all-time bassist for many years; Viktoria Osmachko, who participated in the recording of our first album — Gnomon; her son Nikita was great in vocal parts in indie-rock style; in the last track, Father, you can hear the violin of Maria Baranovska.
— We would like to know more about the album “Messages from Afar”. How the second part is connected with the first? What is the idea of new album?
— Idea… I could tell a lot of difficult words, though everything is easy in fact. Messages from Afar are messages from faraway, messages of good and bright music, positive. The moment has come, when I felt, that today’s prog sound and music is not kind and… not vintage enough, I guess. It is the same with pop music — it’s too aggressive and full of sexuality (and sometimes it is the same thing). I decided to make a kind and good album, and my modus operandi was to reach people’s minds is the “Messages from Afar”.
— Do you imagine how this “Afar” looks like? A planet like Kobaia or something like that?
— Of course. I thought about two planets on the cover. One of them is Earth. On the second planet little men are building a huge antenna to send a signal to us. This is what Igor Sokolskiy (album designer) have painted, though there were birds instead of men.
— How do you feel the differences and commons in Karfagen and Sunchild? It is more or less clear about the projects, but what about the new albums?
— Karfagen is more instrumental, jazz-oriented, improvisational project; Sunchild is more vocal oriented, melodic, simpler to understand. It is the same about new albums. I would not make these borderlines, but it is easier for people to choose what to listen to find what they want.
— Which project will be in your focus in the nearest future?
— I’m planning to finish the new, tenth, Karfagen in the end of the year. But there is no priority for me. This is just an endless drive, a moveable feast, as Ernest Hemingway wrote. If you have a glass of beer, you can write.
— Will you play some material from the new albums on concerts?
— Of course. We are thinking about the tour. Progressive music environment is very competitive but has low listener demand. That is why it is very hard to benefit financially from the music. I’m sure that we will join a few festivals. However, it will be really hard and expensive to organize the tour from Ukraine. Progressive rock is unprofitable in Ukraine and outside. My friend, who are playing keyboard finished the tour and recently returned to Ukraine saying: “What are you talking about, Antony? Nobody in USA knows even Pink Floyd, just a few songs”.
— What about some Deluxe Edition of the “Messages from Afar” dylogy? Or making the LP, at last?
— Vynil? You know, I’m thinking about that too much. Sometimes you are thinking about something for a long time, but you can’t do this. And you are trying to forget about your thoughts. But it is still there, in your mind. I’m always planning such record — vynil, etc. But then the older I am, the more realistic I become. That’s why I was so touched yesterday, when we sat near campfire and sang altogether, in was so warm-hearted. The world is open to you. I remember myself in the age of 15—16. We have sat near the fire too, I was prettier and thinner. I recorded my first cassette, played guitar, every summer was everlasting. Then, year by year, world was changing. When you are 37 years old, not 17, you become used to some standards and your feelings are not so deep. I became calmer and more balanced. It is easier to live this way. Maybe, I don’t have billions of fans, but I have my audience. So I’m happy to do my favorite job. You are not breaking in two, not moving from one shore to another as the boat. I’m moving calm, as the cruiser. When I was young, I tried to catch everything, meet everyone, discuss everything, have a party etc. And then it fades and fades away. And the time comes, when it is not interesting just to talk or drink, without a reason. What stays the same — is my work, something, for what I was born. Let’s say, I am a musician. And this road leads me, so I sail like a ship and slow down more and more because I do not have much time for my favorite pursuit. The same is with my expectations from the past and future albums. I know that it will be some kind of euphoria, but it shouldn’t turn me away from my road.
— Can you estimate the size of your audience in Ukraine and abroad?
— I can only answer about people, who buy albums directly, which is not the objective data. I know that we have big audience in England. In 2011, on concert in England, many people knew my music. But I cannnot estimate the size of my audience, this is too hard. This audience is not big enough. The same with other bands. Many of musicians from progressive rock make money in some different way. It is sad to say that, but this is the true.
— But you are doing only this and nothing more. It might be very financially and creatively exhausting, to make one or two albums per year?
— I can’t live without it. I must earn myself an evening glass of beer:)
— Can you explain what progressive rock is?
— Initially, we called all of this “art-rock”. Progressive or neo-prog is only inventions of modernity. I tend to believe that there is art-rock: art and rock. So progressive rock is a derivative of art-rock. People wanted to classify everything, as usual. The same happened with art-rock: progressive, symphonic, neo-prog, crossover-prog. I’m lost in these genres. Fair.
— Where is this art-rock on the map of modern music? Where is his place?
— In the fans hearts. That is the answer. Unfortunately, most of my audience consists of really mature people. They are dying. My audience is dying. If there are young people, who love my music, it will survive. The next question is “why adults love this music?” Because they can allow themselves to listen to it. They have money, time and prosperity. By the way, do you know why prog is not popular in Ukraine? Again, you need a lot of time to listen to this music; you need to be calm and harmonious to listen carefully to each album, three times or more. In Ukraine you need to do it quickly — to swallow the song and continue to hustle.
— I guess, you answer the question about the influences of classical progressive rock bands on you pretty often. What about the modern progressive? What do you like of that?
— Again, earlier I listened to everything, listened greedily; I liked to absorb, study and listen again. Later I became more exacting. I want to feel home. The music I love, the music I comfortable with is what bringing me this feeling. I understand that modern prog is uncomfortable. I’m trying to persuade myself that this or that album is interesting, but this is self-deception. I’m listening to very small quantity of new music; ten years ago I listened more. I didn’t listen to everything, but I knew it well: Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, other bands on which many were guided. Me too, to some extent. Today I listen to a very small number of contemporary bands — there are lots of amateur performances. I don’t like the amateurship in prog-rock. The last I enjoyed was, I guess, the Isproject, album The Archinauts from 2017.
— Tell me about Antony Kalugin at work. Is it the creative flow, when you are writing the songs or you are thinking over every note? Are you more like Robert Fripp, who transmits every sound through his philosophy or more like somebody else, who create a huge improvisation at once?
— Neither way. I like, when people assume or invent, what I wanted to say or how the album built. I love to observe this though I’m doing nothing specific while working on the album. Everything grows up naturally. This is the work for critics — to search and assume. People ask, “How can you create this huge track canvas?” and talk about their composition. I don’t know. I get to work and the flow opens. I think that I’m the conductor, a mediator between someone above and those who listen. I do not realize how I do it. I have quite a lot of albums and quite often I do not remember what, where and how I played. If I remembered everything, I would probably have gone mad. When I prepare for a concert, I sometimes need to reinvent my own songs. Sometimes it takes a while. I’m sitting, searching for the code and thinking “What a damn interesting idea. Is that really me?” That’s scaring, because I can’t explain the process of creation. You are planning to spend a few minutes writing music and then it turns into a three or four hours. I think it is miracle.
— What about text? Last Sunchild albums are full of ideas, connected with postpostmodern literature trends, “new sincerity” and others. Do you know these tendencies or you are working spontaneously?
— When you are the part of society, you anyway feel these ideas and percept them even without the understanding of it. When I write, I transmit them further. I believe that everything was invented and well known before and it is impossible to be a discoverer. Texts… I like the textual sketches, etudes, text-glimpses and ideas, constructed in ways that are hidden even from me. These texts enrich the music and make it beautiful.
— Do you think that text is important for your music?
— Earlier I thought that it is. However, the music is in focus for me. Text was the main part of a song in Russian rock. There was almost none of music, so the main attention was brought to the words. For me music is the central thing. Sometimes I listen my previous works and think, “God, what crap have I wrote”. It means I grew, didn’t I?
— When you have listened to your album for the last time? Are you often listening to them?
— Again, earlier I listened to my music more often. I drank and listened music. Now I’m drinking less, that’s why I’m listening less (Antony smiles). Recently I listened to one or two songs. Usually I listen to the albums that are in the process of recording. I like to dream about how it will be, play on the keyboard, even if it turned off, imagine, what it will sound like. I heard my last album a few times, when my friends visited me and we listened to it together. So to speak, went into the harbor and rest.
— What is better for the progressive rock — to stay a bourgeois genre or try to reach a wider audience?
— Very interesting question. We have discussed it recently. Can you imagine, that we are sitting somewhere in fast-food and progressive is playing? Especially if it is contemporary progressive. It will drive you insane! Modern pop music can drive you insane too, but there are a lot of borderlines there, so the specter of sound is quite narrow, everything is close to each other. Progressive is endless fluctuations from side to side, the impossible dynamics. So progressive rock will never find the wide audience. What is also very important, that modern prog kills itself because of huge quantity of home studios and cheap technics. There are a lot of boring and bad prog as of today, it pollutes the flow. It is too much of bad prog, so it is really hard to find a good and interesting one. It is impossible to dinner, listening to progressive, so I think that it can’t be the music for wide audience at all. Maybe, just a few bands, who are the best. That’s first. Secondly, progressive rock crushes and kills itself. And thirdly, those, who listen to progressive like to feel that they are unique, like to feel the identity and be responsible as the fans of this perfect music. By the way, pop music also should exist, if it helps digestion.
— Well, finally, what do you think of our archaeological life? Do you like it?
— I do like it indeed. I like it all, you know — how you walk barefoot, sit by the fire, dig something in the excavations. How you are truly glad to tell something about your finds — ancient four-thousand-years-old pieces of something. I like your joy and sincerity. Few places left, where young people can gather, talk, be themselves, help each other. There is unity, I saw it yesterday in the eyes of your Head; how glad he is that he gathered you. Feeling of family is what I like here. I don’t know how it should be, I just know, that it is your life, where you are ready for the challenges. That’s cool. Maybe, I would like to dig once too…