This month we continue the intriguing story, which we began last month, of Natalya Terekhova and her rock’n’roll life journey. Natalya is currently the lead guitarist of the excellent Russian band Magic. As I advised in last month’s column, they perform lots and lots of rock’n’roll, as well as other musical genres. Having seen them in action more than once, I can testify to their great reputation and ability. The last time I saw them perform was at the Schwein Club in Moscow on 17th October. It’s a venue which is a particularly fond one for me, as it’s one of the three places in Moscow where I run and organise free rock’n’roll dance classes and events. So let me hand over to the gorgeous Natalya, for her to continue her rock’n’roll story.
I was born in Kazakhstan in the middle of the last century. In my youth, we didn’t know anything about rock’n’roll, and the words “rock musician” and “rock music” were forbidden, same as the rock image and any informal Movements – in the USSR, they were all underground. There was no information. Tape recordings and the LPs from which those recordings were made were passed from hand to hand in a terrible condition – but these audio recordings let us hear the soul of rock’n’roll. And we liked it and wanted to play it, too.
A little later on, in the 1980s-90s, some black-and-white rock music newspapers appeared, featuring pictures of rock bands and rock musicians, so we saw what they looked like. The first videotapes came out at that time as well. This all amped up our desire to play rock’n’roll. Our desire to be just like them kept growing, even though it didn’t fit in with the Soviet system.
This gave rise to the informal Movements for the freedom of rock music in our country. I started learning to play the mandolin in the 3rd grade; later, in the 5th grade, I switched to guitar playing (I’m self-taught as there were no guitar music teachers at that time). Ever since then, I keep observing that women with guitars aren’t well liked or well accepted by our people. People always ask me, “When are you finally going to smarten up and start a real job?”
Playing the guitar was always unacceptable for a woman, even now. That’s because back then, there was nothing of this kind – I was the very first female rock musician in Kazakhstan. I was never taken on as a guitar player. They kept saying, “Because you’re a woman, so you’ll get married and drop the music, but we need a man who’ll always be playing with us.”
Time went on and here I am, still playing the guitar and not giving it up. While those same guys got married and dropped the music a long time ago. Finding like-minded people nowadays is also hard but for a different reason. My colleagues’ first priority now is “What’s the salary?”, “How much are you going to pay me to play?” In the 1980s-1990s, we played rock music for its spirit, mood, emotions, and energy and it brought joy to the people. The world has changed; now people play music only for the money.
About the female rockers who have influenced me the most, well, we used to think that the Scorpions had a female vocalist and that Cinderella was an all-female band, because they all had long hair in the posters ! Among the female bands of the 1980s, Girlschool, Vixen and the Japanese band Show-ya were very good. And I admired the female guitar players Jennifer Batten and Lita Ford.
But the biggest influence for me came from the male bands; Kiss, W.A.S.P, Alice Cooper. I love show, glamour, costumes and stage design. And I love James Brown and Michael Jackson very much.
I’m a trailblazer in Russian-Soviet and Kazakh music and there were no Russian female musicians before me whom I could admire (I’m not talking about female singers: I myself can’t sing). They’re all younger than I am and came well after me. But I’ve dedicated my personal website Gitaristka.ru – to all women musicians!
The first major band I was involved with was Lamia. The name comes from “Lamia”, a female demon imbued with all the predilections of a vampire. The mysterious “lady vampires” of the Alma-Ata band Lamia came onto the scene in 1989 in Kazakhstan. At that time, the rock’n’roll spirit reigned (it was gradually transformed into different genres with varying heaviness) and the young people’s feeble attempts to create different music groups, rock clubs and associations of like-minded peers in staircases and backyard gazebos led to the emergence of many groups who weren’t very good vocally or instrumentally, but were groups nevertheless. Our own band Lamia went through this period as well. The project’s single big challenge was the fact that the whole idea came from a woman. Which meant that the band was automatically formed only of women. It should be noted that at that moment, the band had already started working with a very nice man who later became a lifelong producer, songwriter, musical arranger, image maker, and overall the creator of the band’s name Lamia. His name is Aleksey Ostrovnoy. The image he aimed to create was based on melding the mythological image of a woman-vampire and the guitar player Natalya Terekhova’s personality.
During that period of the band’s evolution, its line-up naturally kept changing. Lamia saw more than 57 young ladies come and go after they realised that playing the guitar makes their fingers hurt, that they need to shorten their beautiful long nails, that rehearsals take a lot of time, that drums are to play on and not just to sit on with their legs spread, and that the world tour will happen only after the band members learn to play “together” instead of following only their own beat. There were some who started sewing their costumes for going on tours after the first rehearsal; others thought the band was a group of school children who go on vacation in the summer.
Lamia performed at the Alma-Ata TV show RIK. Russian journalists were very intrigued regarding the band’s name and the songs’ themes (“Road to Hell”, “Time to Become Vampires”, “I’ll Keep On Rock’n’Rolling”, etc.). And they still kept on focusing on the female aspect e.g. “Rock isn’t meant for women to play”, and much more.
Thankyou Natalya, for sharing your great story. Natalya will be our last contributor on the subject of “Women in Rock’n’Roll”. But she hasn’t finished ! There’ll be one more article from her in this column, as she carries on telling us about her rockin’ history. Hold tight till then !