Ария (ARIA) – Sergey Popov / Michail Zitnjakov / Vladimir Holstinin ENG

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Ария – The Ulitza Ros Russians



Ария (Aria) is one of the most famous Russian heavy metal bands, and they are called the Russian Iron Maiden. You may have already had a chance to read about them in the pages of HMW. We’ve always tried to follow them and to give space to a band underestimated for many reasons, starting from the lyrics in their mother tongue, to the times still not mature enough for a market other than the Russian-speaking countries. We wanted to meet three of them for this chat, which will give us a better understanding of what lies behind such a big band, and how humble their way of interfacing with the international market is after so many years. For the occasion, we also decided to translate the interview into Russian, Italian and English. Happy reading to all! ! !

This re-release finally gives us the opportunity to have all your discography on online platforms. How was re-played these old songs and what does the period of these two records represent for you?

Sergey Popov:
It was a very interesting experience – a lot of the tracks we played a long time ago, sometimes even the last time during the recording.
A lot of the parts, especially the solos, we wanted to literally take from the old recordings, because sometimes I couldn’t even remember how I played these songs. I had to come back to myself, but the me of 15-20 years ago.
The period of these two albums I would call the most romantic of this new history of the band, and it characterises a renewal. New members, new emotions, new songs…

It’s hard to play these days. Are you thinking of a convenient streaming to gather international audiences?

Michail Zitnjakov :
The Pandemic is pushing us to think a lot about this topic. One of the ways to survive in such circumstances is to work online and make content for streaming platforms. In 2020 we played a couple of concerts online. Today Aria have released almost all their records on different streaming services, which can reach audiences in different countries more easily.

Let’s talk about your last impressive live show. How was the idea born and what can you tell me about that night?

M.W.: Everything was created by Yuri Sokolov, director of all our big shows, after listening to our album Curse of the Seas. He suggested a conceptual show with a pirate and sea theme. A large 3-storeyed stage-transformer in the form of a ship was built. A lot of lights, sound, decorations, screen surfaces, costumes, pyrotechnics, mechanisms making the musicians move over the hall made this show unforgettable. And although we rehearsed more than once, it was still important not to forget anything in order to put everything into practice. A lot of people, sound, lighting equipment and machinery were involved and a lot depended on the interaction between the staff. Everyone was nervous, but overall we were happy with the result.

You have a record released in 2018, Проклятье морей from which you have faced many songs on stage. How were the sales and how was the album received in Russia or abroad?

M.G. Like any new release, Curse of the Seas was actively discussed on social media. Critic has been different, but on the whole it was well received. Particularly pleasing was the large number of positive foreign reviews

Talking about foreign countries, you have never been able to enter a foreign market. Have you ever thought about facing the English language issue or are you afraid of losing your solid fan base in Russia?

JV: The main reason, in my opinion, is the lack of a promotional company or label working for the international market, which would promote the band professionally in the world. For example the way it happened with Gorky Park. Plus, the English language has to be of a higher quality than ours.

Let’s go back in time, to 1985. How was the metal scene in Russia and what do you remember from those days?

Vladimir Kholstinin (VC): In the USSR it was almost impossible to play music on the professional stage. Especially in the Heavy style. We were lucky that our first steps coincided with the period of “perestroika”, with the beginning of changes in the political life of the country. Our albums were distributed only on cassettes, first vinyl was out only three years after that first album.
Rock Panorama ’86 was the first big festival in the life of Aria. We were probably the youngest and unknown to most audiences. After our performance we got quite different reviews of our music. Some people said that it was brand new music and that it had never been played in the USSR before, while others said that “they should be kicked off the stage with a fucking broom”.

SP:The Soviet metal scene in 1985 had an extraordinary growth, with perestroika the rock bands were allowed to play on big stages, and it was very interesting and unusual for the audience, who had never seen such shows before. People went to the concerts several times, and not only rock fans.
At that time several consecutive days of concerts in the Sports Palace were commonplace.
I was playing in the band Master at the time, our record was 18 consecutive concerts in one city, 2 concerts a day.

And after the Soviet Union? How much has changed, still in the musical field and especially in the metal scene?

VH: We finally stopped being dependent on the ministry of culture. Nobody forbade us to play our own music and release records and go on tour.

What other bands are very well established in Russia, but don’t you think they have the right recognition abroad?

SP: No band except Gorky Park has had real recognition in the West. Many bands had trips abroad and local success, but no global recognition.
There were enough successful bands for the USSR at that time – Aria, Master, Cruise, Black Coffee and others.

What are your ratings in the past and today?

VH: The popularity changed, we had stadiums full, then we played clubs. The Country went through hard times after the collapse of the USSR, the economy was rebuilding, fashions were changing and so in those 35 years we have come a long way together with Russia and hopefully become part of history.

SP: Of course, the total popularity of the 80’s is gone, the new generation is listening to different music. But the band still has a huge number of loyal fans, which is replenished with new ones. It’s nice when they are young listeners.

There are groups of which you have done covers completely in Russian like Manowar or White Lion. Have you ever met and confronted each other about your excellent work?

Sergey Popov: Unfortunately, we did not have such an opportunity…

What is your relationship with Udo after the collaboration on Штиль?

VH::In the early 2000s we did a tour together and became great friends! Unfortunately, we see each other much less often now, but we occasionally cross paths at festivals in Russia.

Have you ever thought about a tour with the Scorpions? They are very close to Russia, it would be a good idea to join them to finally make you known to everyone in Europe!

SP: You can think of anything, but when there are no concrete proposals, it will all be dreams. ))
Of course, touring with any world-class band has never stopped anyone.

In Russia you are a real institution. Everyone knows you. What is it like to be a rock star in a country like yours?

M.J. Although Aria is quite a popular band in Russia, the musicians themselves don’t consider themselves stars. We are not often seen on TV, so we can easily walk down the street unrecognized.

SP: I don’t feel like a star, sometimes people recognise me in the street and ask me to take a photo.
By the way, the downside of being famous is a lot of negativity, mostly on social media.
No matter what you do, there are always a lot of people who don’t like it. This applies to the band, to each member, and even to the sound and lighting director.

I understand that in the past you have done some dates in Europe (Bulgaria, France, Lithuania, Poland, Germany) and even the United States and Canada. How have you been welcomed?

SP: Everywhere is very well received, both Russian-speaking emigrants and “locals”. After each trip we have new acquaintances and admirers.
M.W.: We were very well received. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that not only Russian-speaking fans came to our concerts, but also people, who don’t speak Russian. We were also pleased with the large number of records we received at the autograph session, and there people told us in English that people here love Aria and follow her music. One of our fans from Mexico even learned Russian on purpose to understand what our songs were about.


What is your relationship with the original line-up members still highly regarded by fans like Kipelov or Mavrin?

SP: There aren’t any general relationships, everyone has their own, it’s different for everyone. Mostly good, friendly relationships.

16. What are your next steps for the future?

SP: All the musicians in the world now have one wish – that the restrictions on Covid are over, so that everyone can go back to normal life – touring, festivals, recordings.
That is the main plan.

M.W.: We had planned to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Aria with a big anniversary tour in 2020. But the situation with coronavirus forced most of the concerts to be postponed until 2021. Live concerts are what is missing now, both for the musicians and the fans. And that’s the most important thing right now





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