First of all congratulations for the superb music you make. As almost every information about the band is in Russian and many of our readers are not capable of your language: Could you tell me a little about the beginnings and the history of Vicious Crusade. VICIOUS CRUASDE was formed in March, 1996. We (Dmitry Basik- vocals, guitar; Alex Vertel – guitar; Alex Gladysh – drums and keys; Pavel Reunov - bass) were students of Minsk Linguistic University, studying together, playing some music instruments and listening to metal music. So, one day we thought it would be nice to get together and jam. Alex Vertel and me had some music ideas that we brought to the practice room. We started playing and it was so exiting! I mean we were ordinary guys who wanted to become outstanding, loved by girls and respected by males. It’s quite normal feeling if your are 18, isn’t it? As we had summer exams ahead of us, we decided we should go straight to the biggest Minsk studio to record our first five songs. We thought we would never become a real band and we just wanted to have something to remember. Some months later we found out that we were still playing, so we went to the studio once again to record another five tracks. By December 1996 we released a self-financed debut album “Life That Kills”. Soon after I met Andrey Man, the chief-editor of the “LEGION” magazine, who really loved our music and who offered us a record deal. That’s how we got signed by Legion Productions. We re-released “Life That Kills” and recruited Alena Gornyh (we had already had Elena Gorschuk, our first female singer, who sang on “Life That Kills”. But due to some personal reasons we decided not to continue with her and replaced her with Alena). By September 1997 we released our first mini-album “Faces of Vice”… Well, not going into much details, in 1999 we released our second full-length album “The Unbroken” (MC & CD versions), in 2001 we released our second mini-album “Messiah…Isn’t It Me?” and a CD-split “Messiah…Faces…” and in early 2002 we released out third full-length CD “Forbidden Tunes”. We also got signed by Metal Records (the biggest Belarussian metal-label) and recruited Markus Odinets (replacing Pavel Reunov) and Bagrat Vartanyan – violin. That is the brief history of VC.
Talking about our first tunes, I should admit that we played what we could play at that time. And, of course, the music and the bands we listed to back then influenced us as well. We liked METALLICA, AC/DC, SEPULTURA, SLAYER, etc. We drew inspiration from those bands, we wanted to be like them, to sound like them. So, the influence of those bands together with our personal music experience, music perception and personal ideas turned to our first riffs and melodies. The folk vibe has a bit different origin. I think it is something we have in our blood. We grew up with traditional Belarussian folklore, we sang traditional songs and danced traditional dances. And it was natural for us (or me personally) to involve folklore tunes into our music. It received wonderful response and that is why we still play some folk-metal songs.
The production quality of "The Unbroken" and "Forbidden Tunes" is impressing. Do you have that good technical equipment in Belarus or just excellent producers ? I think we’ve got both. But we do not record our albums in extra-expensive studios. “X-Noise Factory” is a good studio with relatively low prices and an extremely talented sound engineer who knows how to get the best result out of low budget.
How did you finance your albums? I guess it's not that cheap... Well, our label normally sponsors the recording and production of our music ideas. The whole process is not that cheap for Belarus, but believe me, one can record and release 10 albums in Belarus having an average “European studio budget”.
Where do you gather the inspiration for the songs and lyrics? What can you tell me about the lyrics? Is there any influence of personal experience? You know, our songs are really about a lot of things. There are “social” songs, there are songs about our inner world, songs about love and hate, and there are songs dedicated to the Belarussian people and Belarus, our Motherland. I personally do not subdivide the whole metal genre into different styles in accordance with lyrics, way of singing or playing. Metal for me is heavy guitars with pounding drums and powerful vocals, be it screaming or growling. As soon as I have an idea, I try to find the best way to express it. And if classic music, together with metal riffs and growling suit the most, I don’t really care if it is called “power metal”, “black metal” or anything else.
The bands lyrics are completely in English. I was quite surprised the level of your English is very high. Most bands from Eastern Europe have severe problems with that language. And furthermore: people like me are really fond of Russian lyrics. So why did you choose English and not Russian ? You see, the whole musical culture we grew up with was in English. We generally listened to the Western music that’s why our choice of English language was quite obvious for us. It came naturally. I did not listen to Russian rock at all. Moreover, the linguistic background made it possible to write lyrics in English better and in a more professional way. But now we start thinking about writing some songs in Russian or in Belarussian. Or translate some of our lyrics into Russian. Though I don’t know whether it is a good idea or not.
How would you describe the development from the first to the newest album? It was musical and personal development. Well, the creative process is an interesting and at the same time complicated thing. It evolves with you. You become older, more professional and more experienced. Your music understanding and perception change with the years. And just like we change our habits, way of talking, dressing and thinking through the years, the same way we change the process of music creation. To my mind, all our three CD’s musically wise quite differ from each other. And I cannot say this or that album is better because when writing each of the albums we were 100 per cent honest and open-minded. We totally dedicated ourselves to what we did. I cannot say that my present-day honesty is “more honest and true” than the honesty of 1996! Sounds ridiculous! Each time we try to play our best, so I have to admit that we just could not play better at certain period of time. We were what we were. Another point is that musical creativity for me is all about experimenting and finding new limits of my imagination, new tools of expression. Having found something, I immediately tend to switch to something new, unknown for me, untouched, unseen, unheard. May be we are not the best band to be followed by fans through many years. People tend to expect from you something they are ready for, something you have already given them. But in many ways you just can’t give it to them because it means you have to do and re-do the same thing over and over again. We cannot create clones, we cannot become our own copycats. We are not the right band to please people in this respect. Stagnation means death. So, we’d rather be unpopular but creative, rather than popular and musically dead.
Which recording is your best album? So far the majority of our fans consider “The Unbroken” to be our best album. May be they are right. But I think we still have to wait some time before people can really get into “Forbidden Tunes”. Because I think this album will lead us to a quite new level of bands activity.
Did any Western labels contact you yet? I mean, such an outstanding music can hardly be ignored? It’s a very interesting question. We also thought the way you do and we thought that we should “go West”. But the fortune had different plans for our future. We received very positive response from metal press, but we knew that the quality of the first album was too poor to be released on a CD. That is why we did not send any promos of the debut album to the Western labels. When we released our second CD – “The Unbroken” – it was good enough, so we sent its promos to Nuclear Blast, Century Media and some other labels. Unfortunately, the first two labels were not interested in signing a deal with us. The other labels just did not respond at all. However, we were pretty lucky. We got deals from Legion Productions and Metal Records. These are our hometown labels and we know people working there personally. In such a way we could directly contact with the right people and discuss any issue within the shortest time period. We became friends and the labels did and still doing great job for us. We have got everything we want: we are paid for studios, our CD’s are being released, we got good advertising. I really doubt that Western labels could do a better job for us. The major issue of not signing us by the Western labels is, by my personal thinking, that we cannot tour the Western countries. Living in Belarus you never know whether you get the visas or not. Imagine the situation when a Western label organizes a tour for us, makes plans, and we cannot get visas! The whole tour is canceled. No touring – no promotion – no albums selling. Who wants to deal with that? It’s quite understandable. That is why these days we focus on the CIS countries and Russia. We have got a huge market over there, we don’t need visas and we have our record label being just a few steps from us. Not bad, isn’t it? And what do we get being signed by a Western label without touring?
The information that we are “distributed in many countries of the world”. A perfect thing to boost our pride and self-esteem. Please don’t misunderstand me. We are not against it, but this is not the Promised Land for us as well.
Did you receive any reviews or comments about your CDs from abroad ? Sure we did. A lot of metal magazines from all over Europe, including “Ablaze” and “Thrash ‘Em All”, Internet Webzines, managers (for example, the manager of VADER), musicians (Victor Smolsky from RAGE) – all of them rated our albums very high. We were also offered to have our albums released in Europe. Unfortunately, they did not offer us any fee, any compensation for our work. OK, we could agree to that, but our label, that invested a lot of money into our albums, could not. So, we still wait for a good proposal.
How many concerts did you perform so far? We are not really into touring that much. We prefer to play a concert once in two or three months. Sometimes we had to play two concerts in a row, but normally we don’t do that. Sometimes we don’t play 8 or 10 months and it doesn’t bother us too much. We all have our regular jobs, social and private life. So, all in all, we played some 20-25 gigs within 6 years of our existence. On the other hand, we do need some live shows. They charge us with energy and very positive emotions. Contacting with the public you have a better idea of how your songs are accepted and appreciated. The atmosphere is totally crazy and friendly. People sing along the lyrics of our songs and do all the regular things that people do during metal shows.
Is your music influenced by other bands?
What about the inspiration of Russian Metal legends like Arija or Kruiz? I think we are influenced by everything, be it metal music, pop music, punk, country, folk or classic music. May be, it is not a direct influence but a subconscious one. We are influenced by the whole music environment, by every tune coming from our stereos. The funny thing is that we are often compared to the bands, we have never listened to. None of us listened to ARTROSIS when we released “Messiah…Isn’t It Me?”. But one journalist compared us to the band…because VICIOUS CRUSADE and ARTROSIS had female vocalists!!! Why not compare us to THE BEATLES then? We also have electric guitars, bass and drums!
I don’t think ARIA or KRUIZ influenced us at all. We have never been fans of these bands, never listened to them that much. I don’t like their music, but I like the music played by their Western colleagues: IRON MAIDEN, BLIND GUARDIAN, HAMMERFALL, HELLOWEEN.
What was your best and your worst moment with VC? I do hope that the best moment is still ahead! Talking about good moments, I can’t but mention the release of all our albums, studio sessions, lives in Minsk, Moscow and Kiev. One of the best moments was meeting with Andrey Man, who later on signed us to LEGION Productions. Appearance on TV and radio shows. Our personal Internet Website. Any positive response from public and Mass Media. I think the whole life as a part of VICIOUS CRUSADE was and is one great moment!
The worst period in the history of the band is the time when we released our first album and had dramatic personal problems with our first female vocalist Elena.
A few words about the following bands:
I do respect all the bands. But I don’t listen to ARIA, MASTER, KRUIZ and KORROZIA METALLA. I like IRON MAIDEN. And GODS TOWER are my personal friends. We know each other for many years already. They influenced our music, they showed us the horizons and they always set a good example for us. It’s a shame the band does not exist any longer. But their music will sound forever!
The 5 most important Metal-albums of all times! I cannot say for the whole genre of Metal music. For me personally those were:
AC/DC “Highway to Hell” and “Razor’s Edge”
METALLICA “Master of Puppets” and “Black Album”
SLAYER “Reign In Blood”
MANOWAR “Kings of Metal”
DEEP PURPLE “Machine Head”
Can you tell us how the internet has helped you so far? How important is the web to bands especially in Belarus ? We used to have our fan-club a couple of years ago. But somehow we stopped its activity and in a few years we turned it into a new shape – Internet Web-site (www.vcrusade.com). Our Web-master and press-attaché Alexander Ustinoff has done a great job! He has managed to collect all the press articles and reviews, all the photos starting from the era of 1996 and ending with the latest photo sessions of the band. He publishes all the latest news to keep fans informed. He has also created the Forum and the Guest Book where our fans can talk to musicians. So, this is a new shape of our fan-club. The modern day reality is the reality where information comes and goes within few seconds. There’s no time to stand and stare. Everything is so fast that you can’t afford yourself writing paper letters or send parcels with tapes or CDs. You send e-mails, download MP3’s, photos, etc. And Internet is the only way for Belarussian bands to become known in the Western countries. It’s obvious.
What can you tell us about the Metal Scene in Belarus and how would you describe your status in that scene ? What other local bands could you recommend? The Metal Scene in Belarus is quite big I should say. There are a lot of very good bands playing different styles of metal music. We have concerts almost every month. Unfortunately, metal show business is poorly developed in our country that’s why bands cannot release CDs and get better distribution. Anyway, I can recommend to pay a close attention to DEADMARSH, RASTA, GOD MODE, SHIT FUN, ASGUARD, ARIZONA. And to GODS TOWER, of course! VICIOUS CRUSADE is rather popular too. We have good selling records and our shows are visited by large number of people. We were “The Band of the Year” in Belarus a couple of times as well. So, we enjoy a very strong support in our country, I assume.
Who are the persons BEHIND the music? What hobbies do you have. What kind of music do listen to and what music do you avoid to hear. I heard Alena doesn't listen to the band’s music? We are very different and controversial people. We are different in age, in hobbies, in our social and philosophical points of view. Alex Gladysh, Sergey “Markus” and Bagrat are really into music. They have side projects, play in different bands. They are real musicians who dedicate all their time to music. Alex Vertel and I spend less time for playing. First of all, we are totally concentrated on VICIOUS CRUSADE: we write lyrics and the biggest part of music, we deal with our Label, we plan promo campaigns and the whole band’s activity. Moreover, Alex has just graduated from another Institute and is looking forward to get his third (!) Higher Education. I am concentrated on my regular job, on the whole VICIOUS CRUSADE thing, on my personal life. I am the biggest cinema fan, so I spend my evenings watching new and classic movies. I also like to shoot documentary on my video camera. We also listen to different music. The range of styles is really huge! But we all avoid listening to cheesy Russian Pop Music! It’s awful! Well, talking about our own music…We all listen to it from time to time. But when you play the same songs for one year while practicing for studio session, and then you play the same songs one year more during your live shows, you start hating them! So, one can rarely hear VICIOUS CRUSADE rocking from our stereos!
What is the most important thing that your band offers you as a person? It’s a very good question! Sometimes I ask myself why I can’t stop playing in VICIOUS CRUSADE? And the answer is obvious. The band gives way to my creativity. I must do something creative, otherwise I get depressed and broken down. It helps me feel the breath of life, if I may say so. It’s pulse. Playing in the band is a constant development, movement. It’s like blood that pumps the veins.
What are your future plans ? This winter we are going to record and release a new mini-album. As usual, there will be surprises that I hope will not disappoint our fans.
That was not fair :-) I hope it won't last to long to get that CD in Germany.
Dmitry, thanks a lot for taking the time and your interessting answers.
I was a great pleasure.
The last words are of course for you...
Thank you very much for an interesting interview and attention to our band! It’s always a big pleasure to get in contact with people from abroad. Good luck to you personally, to your Webzine and all your readers. Hope to see you one day!