Rockin’ on Film, Rockin’ on Stage !

This month will focus on a Russian rock’n’roll hero. He’s achieved something no-one else has: He’s produced and directed the only film dedicated purely to Russian rock’n’roll. Those of you with a good memory will recall I wrote a previous column about this important event and its contribution to our Great Culture over here.

The film is called “Behind the Curtain” and tells the story of the history of Russian rock’n’roll. The director in question is Aleksey Fetisov and my column this month covers him for a different reason. Aleksey has spent his life in rock’n’roll and worked his way up from being a backing musician, studying our great music and then on to becoming a film director. But he has moved on another step: He now fronts his own rock’n’roll band, the Aleksey Fetisov Rock’n’Roll Trio. The band is a culmination of Aleksey’s growing and developing musically and the group is something special. They play authentic rock’n’roll, the result of the years Aleksey spent studying and working on the music.

On 13th May I booked the band to appear for their premiere performance at the Esse Jazz Café. Predictably it was a fantastic concert and those seeing the group perform for the first time were even more thrilled to see them. The photos you can see were taken at the concert on 13/05/17.

Aleksey is rightfully proud of his achievements in Rock’n’Roll. The details below will show that he “served his rock’n’roll apprenticeship” in the past over a long period and is now rightfully enjoying and emphasising the success he has achieved. So here is his story, in his own words.

Richard, here’s my story:

Twenty years ago, as a schoolboy, I saw a movie on TV, Great Balls Of Fire, about the pianist Jerry Lee Lewis. From then on, the question of what I should do with my life was answered. Of course, I studied a “proper” specialisation at college and later at the university, but rock’n’roll occupied my thoughts and so I spent my scholarship money on cassettes of Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, and many, many other cassettes of the “forefathers” of rock’n’roll – the legislators of our Great Culture.

And now playing in my own rock’n’roll trio, I like to perform those songs and versions that gripped me in my youth; even today, “Twenty Flight Rock” by Eddie Cochran is still a favourite. Over time a person processes a lot of music (Rock’n’Roll, of course !) and later on I discovered the Stray Cats, Robert Gordon, Creedence, Mike Sanchez, Georgie Fame; but the first impression is the most powerful.

I did not have any musical instruments, but listening to Rock’n’Roll LPs and cassettes inspired me to do something about this. But there was another problem – all of the songs were in English ! And so I ended up with two challenging and interesting occupations (which will never end for me – lessons on a musical instrument and English classes. I don’t think I would have attempted this (as it was difficult, time consuming and expensive and it took time to see the results), if the record put out by Pete Anderson and his group “Archive” hadn’t fallen into my hands. It was the first Rock’n’Roll record released in the USSR (the timing was near to the demise of this strange empire, famed as well for its “iron curtain”). It was a revelation ! For me, the message was “We can do it here, too!” I became interested in Rock’n’Roll artists on our Russian stage and I can say that they inspired me to take up an instrument and later to form a group. In this regard, I call further attention to my film “Rock’n’Roll Behind the Curtain,” featuring such artists as Valery Lysenko, Sergei Voronov, Denis Mazhukov, Robert Lentz and Dmitry Kazantsev. These are the very artists that I admire for their contribution to the appearance and the “maturation” of Rock’n’Roll (in the broadest sense of the word) in our country.

In the year 2001, I and my like-minded friends at my school – the Rostov College of Radio-Electronic Instrumentation – formed the Rock’n’Roll band Jack Knife. This was a quintet. Our first concert took place on 12th April of the same year at the Club Lila in Rostov, at a festival on the occasion of the International Day of Celebration of the Birth of Rock’n’Roll (which I am proud of to this day) [Richard’s note – every year in April, in Russia we celebrate the date of Bill Haley’s release of the record “Rock Around the Clock”, back in 1954, as being the Birthday of Rock’n’Roll. Continue, Aleksey]. The group Mister Twister, well-known rockers in our region, were the headliners that night. And then we sang a few songs – I’m Walkin’, Lucille, All Shook Up. Then our quintet became a trio (the bass-guitar became a contrabass), and we were called the Jack Knife Rockabilly Trio. As we progressed in our playing, the concerts became more frequent and in the end we were able to give up our day jobs altogether, and devote ourselves entirely to Rock’n’Roll. We traveled all over the south of Russia, performing at festivals and in clubs, introducing audiences to this wonderful form of Culture; Rostov, Krasnodar, Sochi, Novorossiysk, Gelendzhik, Stavropol, Astrakhan, Volgograd, and then on to St. Petersburg and Moscow, of course.

In early 2008, a local blues singer, Professor Blue, invited us to be his backup band. Together we performed the most famous songs of artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willy Dixon, Pinetop Perkins. And at the end of that year, the pianist Denis Mazhukov [Richard’ note – Mazhukhov, a Russian Rock’n’Roll Legend, the King of Russian Rock’n’Roll] invited our trio to work as his band. So we made it to Moscow. To back-up an artist is a very good learning experience for any musician, and we took advantage of this opportunity. Moscow is rich with talented musicians and artists and over the course of our time here we were able to meet with, play at concerts and jam with so many of them. These includes Olga Oleynikova, Aleksey Lex Blokhin, Vadim Ivashchenko and so many others.

In 2016, I decided to put together a trio again, as I knew then exactly what sound I wanted to achieve. I was aiming for Classic American Rock’n’Roll. I invited the guitarist George Yashagashvilli, as he is a true master with a fine sense of musical style and all the fine points of performance; and on drums – Vladimir Voevodin, because the drums in Rock’n’Roll should be loud, confident, and stylish with the right delivery and attack. This was no longer a student band. Since the group was created to realise my idea, we named it to reflect this: the Rock’n’Roll Trio of Aleksey Fetisov. As I wrote above, our programme is made up of songs that evoked in me the thrill of my school years. And the grateful audiences appreciate this ! Eternally green songs performed live by professional musicians who are fans of the style, send shivers and chills down the spines of audiences.

Richard Hume