DATE OF INTERVIEW:
8th August 2017
Describing their music as "Russian Turbo Polka", the multi-national lineup of Russkaja combine elements of ska, reggae, Russian folk, polka, classic rock, metal... and other random stylistic infusions. It's as deranged as it sounds. It's also upbeat, feel-good music; the latest platter of which was recently served up via Napalm Records for what was the band's fifth album of oddball shenanigans. Guitarist Engel Mayr answered a few questions for Metal Discovery on the aptly named 'Kosmopoliturbo' as well as the Eurovision Song Contest rumours...
METAL DISCOVERY: Congrats on the recently released new album… how have reviews and fan feedback been, thus far? Everyone’s loving it?
ENGEL: So far, it feels like we did a very solid album and everybody’s loving it!
(Engel Mayr on the significance of the new album's title)
"...in a way, we’re the prototype of cosmopolitans!"
Russkaja - promo shot, 2017
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2017 - Fritz Holoubek
Russkaja Official Website:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
Russkaja Official Facebook:
Russkaja Official Twitter:
MD: For me, it’s one of those albums that makes me smile from beginning to end - a perfect antidote to all the madness and gloom in the world - so I can’t really imagine anyone not enjoying ‘Kosmopoliturbo’ on some level. But, have there been any naysayers who’ve expressed a dislike for what you do?
ENGEL: I think there will always be people who dislike stuff; everybody has their own taste and expectations! That’s total cool with us; in the end you can’t please everybody and I believe that musical freedom is one of the coolest things in this art we do create!
MD: What’s the general concept behind calling the album ‘Kosmopoliturbo’? Obviously, it’s a cunning amalgam of “cosmopolitan” and “turbo”, but what does it mean within the context of your music and band, and beyond?
ENGEL: I always have the feeling that Russkaja’s music is very welcome in all parts of the world and giving great feelings to people wherever we perform. So, in a way, we’re the prototype of cosmopolitans! And turbo, of course, refers to everything we do, hahaaaa!
MD: To my ears, the album has a perfect production and mix… there’s just the right amount of sparkle and clarity in the overall sound, where every element of the instrumentations can be heard clearly, without ever sounding over-produced. So, how was the recording and production experience for ‘Kosmopoliturbo’? Was it all plain sailing?
ENGEL: I had a few plans for the album when I started writing and producing with my friend Georgij! I wanted it to be open sounding, to leave space in the mix. I was talking about it a few times with our mixing engineer, Dietz Tinhof, and I think it turned out great! I didn’t record too many tracks of the instruments and also not too many microphones. Georgij and me are writing the songs in Russkaja and, this time, we did it quicker than on the previous albums and I think that keeps it fresh.
MD: On your Facebook page and in other blurb, you describe your style as “Russian Turbo Polka” but, previously, Napalm were marketing Russkaja as “Russian Turbo Polka Metal”. ‘Kosmopoliturbo’ features minimal metal elements, so was this a deliberate dropping of the “Metal” tag?
ENGEL: No, there’s no intention behind that. We all love metal; I grew up on all that kind of stuff. From the classic Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Kiss etc., to more extreme stuff like Extreme Noise Terror, Pantera, Sepultura, Benediction, etc. Georgij and me we also share a special passion for the hardcore stuff of the 90s! All the mixing with hip-hop that was going at that time was great. Biohazard and Cypress Hill, for example! I heard that Billy from Biohazard just made a record with Sen Dog from Cypress Hill; I have to check that out!
MD: ‘Volle Kraft Voraus’ sounds like it was written as a big drinking song… was this the intention?
ENGEL: The fun thing is, I wrote it as a drinking song and had some lyrics and melodies in English language at first! But, somehow, we weren’t 100% happy with it and Georgij came with the idea of making it a German song! It’s not about drinking anymore but maybe you can still feel the original vibe, hahaaa!
MD: Are you big drinkers yourselves? What’s your favourite tipple?
ENGEL: Aaaaaahhh, good question! We love all kinds of drinks and also like to try new stuff, but the one we love most is a heavy mixed Jack Daniels with Coke. Mostly more Jack than Coke… A few weeks ago at Deichbrand Festival, we had to get drunk on Jägermeister, though, and that stuff really kicked in hard, hahaaa!
MD: ‘Mare Mare’ sounds like the perfect summer holiday anthem… it evoke images of sunny beaches, sombrero hats and mojito cocktails. Do you envisage people will be singing this little ditty on beaches around the world?
ENGEL: I hope they will!
MD: Amidst all the up-tempo joviality, the reggae-edged ‘Still in Love’ is a surprisingly chilled-out, poignant song… did you see it as important to break up all the “turbo” mania with a bit of contrast?
ENGEL: I remember I was in the bus on the ride home from a tour when I had the melody and parts of the lyrics in my head and I thought, why not do it if it feels like a cool song? One of the best things about Russkaja is the musical freedom to mix up stuff in every weird way! I played the song to Georgij and he really liked it, so we did it!
MD: Am I right in thinking you have a few classic rock influences that creep into the mix? The intro to ‘Hello Japan’, for example, reminded me of Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’.
ENGEL: Oh yeah, just like we love metal, we love classic rock! Led Zeppelin is a big influence on us ’cause we grew up with that kind of stuff.
MD: There’s some seriously emphatic “R” rolling in the vocals, throughout the entire album… does this come very naturally? It sounds like a fine talent in itself!
ENGEL: The rolling “R” is just naturally and fits perfectly into the different languages that Georgij is singing!
MD: There’s some serious crooning on ‘Send You An Angel’ (a song that was my earworm for quite a while after first hearing it… still is, actually… thanks!)… were there any classic crooners in particular who inspired this vocal? Engelbert Humperdinck? Julio Iglesias? Val Doonican? Des O’Connor?
ENGEL: I guesss we felt it like a mixture of Ivan Rebroff and Barry White!
MD: ‘Send You An Angel’ sounds like the kind of song that’d be a certainty to win the Eurovision Song Contest… it even has the standard Eurovision key change towards the end. There were rumours of Russkaja representing Austria in the contest this year… so, were you ever approached? Do you think Eurovision is ready for Russkaja? Do you think Russkaja is ready for Eurovision?
ENGEL: I don’t know if they are ready for the power of Russkaja but we’re talking about our participation again! Let’s see what comes our way!
MD: I’ve yet to experience the pleasures of a Russkaja show, so just what can be expected from one of your live performances? I’m guessing your music incites more dance pits than mosh pits? Does it always feel like one big party?
ENGEL: It always feels like a big party and there’s moshing and dancing alike! I see lots of smiling faces in the audience and that’s when I feel we’re doing the best thing in world; bringing joy to the people with our crazy music!
MD: Are we likely to see Russkaja over here in the UK before the year’s out?
ENGEL: I hope so, but currently there’s nothing planned for the UK. We’ll be on the road until the end of 2017, maybe there will be an opportunity! We would love to come to the UK again!
MD: My final question - ‘Limbo Spook Tour’; ‘Porous Kilt Boom’; ‘Polio Tusk Broom’; ‘Topsoil Rook Bum’; ‘Mistook Rub Pool’ and ‘Poolroom Ski Tub’ are just a few of the weird and wonderful anagrams of ‘Kosmopoliturbo’. Can you relate to any of this random gibberish?
ENGEL: Sounds like fun, hahaaaaa!