This month my column will focus on a real Russian rock’n’roll legend. Back in February 2014, I wrote in this column about a group I described as one of the greatest in Russian rock’n’roll history. The band in question was Stressor, hailing from Tula, a city about two hundred kilometres from Moscow. The group underwent a major change in personnel in 2010 and my article in 2014 covered the band’s history up to that year. In 2010 I brought over Furious, the Teddy Boy band from Liverpool, to perform in Moscow and booked Stressor to appear on the same bill. Which means the concert I organised back then was probably the last one ever in which the original Stressor performed.

The original Stressor were something to behold. They were quite simply awesome and some of their live concerts were breathtaking. I was fortunate to see many of them. After the some of the key members of the band left in 2010, Stressor re-constituted itself with their original name. I booked them to play for us at the prestigious Esse Café in Moscow on 14th October this year. It was their premier appearance at the Café and they went down a storm. Those in the audience who had never seen them before were particularly blown away by their performance. Some of the photos you can see were taken at the concert.

So who is the rock’n’roll legend in question ? His name is Andrey Rubliov. He’s been the vocalist for Stressor since its inception and a key driving force in the success of the band. Here is his own rock’n’roll story, told in his own words. Over to you, Andrey:

Stressor emerged in 1993. There were different musicians playing for us at different times; I played the contrabass and sang. In those years there weren’t many recordings of rock n’ roll bands overall, let alone in Tula. We had none of the things you could find in the European music stores. At that time, we were greatly influenced by an LP from the series “Neo-Rockabilly Story”. We performed several songs from it. We were blown away by the sounds of theTranquilizers, the Blue Cats, Honey Hush and Dave Phillips.

Of course we were naturally influenced by Mister Twister, the Kings of Russian rockabilly then, who were shown on TV quite often. In the late 1990s we were invited to give our first concerts in Moscow, which was a big thing for us. We even performed at a giant venue – the famous Olympic Stadium in Moscow. Our song “Burning Down” was very popular in those days among the rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Some time later, I passed over the contrabass that I played in the band to Terry (Terry Drybones), whom I had met at that time, so that I could feel freer as a vocalist. This changed Stressor from a trio to a quartet.

In the mid-2000s when everyone everywhere had internet access, we decided to record all of the old Russian language songs and so this is how our first LP “Russian‘n’Roll” came to be [A name which I nicked, to use as the title for this column ! – Richard’s note].

In 2010, Terry (who was playing the guitar by then) decided to launch his own band and left Stressor along with the contrabass player. Maxim Kiryushkin (the drummer) and I were left by ourselves. Finding musicians who played and thought in the same style wasn’t that easy. We were rescued by our old friend Andrey Klepikov (guitar) and his neighbor Ruslan Yusupov who mastered my legendary white contrabass in less than a month ! This is how the story of the new Stressor band began. We recorded the albums “Trip to Mad City” and “No More Panic”. And it was with this line-up that we achieved the highest number of concerts in Europe and even performed 3 times at the prestigious European Summer Festival Psychobilly Meeting.

Regarding our playlist of the compositions the group performs most often, it all depends on the venue and the audience. If it’s a psychobilly festival, we play practically everything from our albums. If it’s a wider rock ‘n’ roll crowd, we include many songs from the 1950s. Here are just a small number of examples of the kinds of songs we perform:

Baby I Don’t Care, Lotta Lovin’, Bye Bye Love, Crazy Stomp, No More Panic, Straight Man, Woodpecker Rock, Jungle Rock, Let’s Go, Earthquake Coming, Bop-A-Lena and Burning Love.

At the age of 16 I was already taking my guitar and playing around my neighborhood. I played absolutely everything by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis, and the Beatles. Among the Russian groups that influenced me, apart from Mister Twister that I mentioned above, that would be Bravo; along with Mister Twister they were shown on TV a lot and their LPs were available to buy.  

I was 18 when I first got into performing rock’n’roll at music venues, this was in 1991. We played at our school dances. The band’s name was Zviozdnyi Sheyk. We performed our version of several popular rock ‘n’ roll numbers and wrote our own lyrics. We were hipsters (in the Soviet meaning of the word) and we were having a lot of fun! 

There have been quite a few significant events in my rock ‘n’ roll history; for example, needless to say that Russia-wide broadcast of our performance at the Olympic Stadium in 1999, that I mentioned above. People recognised us even in the subway ! I remember vividly our first trip to Paris (2 nights on the bus) and performing at a big festival in the Paris area; and definitely also the festival in Pineda de Mar. 

Our Stressor concerts and everyday life are always punctuated by jokes and humour. We are very practical in our everyday lives and plan everything to the tiniest detail. Just recently, I was amused that people often ask what kind of a microphone I’m using in our video “Trip On a Spaceship”. As a result, I “confess” to everyone that this isn’t a microphone, it’s Pascal’s Ball which our guitar player Andrey brought to the video recording session (he is a physics teacher) !

I guess we have achieved popularity. We are all underground in terms of our musical culture, there aren’t that many groups playing our kind of music. And these groups, we all know each other. People obviously need to see authenticity and honesty on stage, then they will applaud you and shout, “We want more!”

We constantly have disagreements within the band, but they are only on a creative level. Things have never gotten to insults or putdowns, we are all adults and we know our work’s value. However, creating and playing something is impossible without disagreements. Each band member has the right to his own viewpoint which we discuss together and come to a mutually agreeable solution.

I’ve already mentioned the importance of the bands Bravo and Mister Twister in the early 1990s regarding their contribution to Russian rock’n’roll. Plus, I liked the band Brigada S and their lead singer Igor Sukachev in the late 1980s a lot, he was a real psychopath on stage. Unfortunately, I can’t say much positive things about the modern times we are living in.

The greatest influence on my music? – Elvis, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Brian Setzer, Lux Interior and even Engelbert Humperdinck. For me, the real rock ‘n’ roll heroes in history were those who were the first to start playing this music in the 1950s. Those musicians and performers were the ones who influenced all following generations; this was the foundation ! It was from those years that all the main styles we know today were invented and adapted.

My favourite rock ‘n’ roll composition of all time is I think, “Rock Around the Clock”. In my life I often worked as a DJ and saw that people of all ages would start dancing to it, old ones and young ones alike. And I’m sure that they don’t know who was singing it and when it was recorded; it’s all about the rhythm, the tempo, and the recording quality. This song was recorded in such a high quality that the modern DJ equipment delivers an astonishing drive and people start going nuts ! Yes, I’m certain that this song is a monumental creation.

And about the future of Russian rock ‘n’ roll, if we’re talking about rock ‘n’ roll in a wider sense – it’s still called Russian Rock in Russia – then there’s only a little optimism. With the advent of computers the music world changed very quickly. Nowadays learning to play the guitar or drums is old school; the computer program will do everything for you. Many bands are already using guitar or organ backing tracks for their live performances. This isn’t fair. But rock ‘n’ roll will definitely stay. Everything happens in waves and the calm will definitely be followed by a storm !

Regarding my musical style, living now in the 21st century it’s impossible to come up with something new. We can only borrow the best from the best, mix it all and come up with a unique style of our own. In our songs we don’t stick to the simple rock ‘n’ roll squares, we try to introduce some craziness; a melody of course, a memorable melody so that people could hum our song. Well, in two words, Stressor’s style is Stressful Beat!

Concerning the most significant events in our rock ‘n’ roll history, one needs to keep in mind that for many years Russia was closed to the outside world, in a cultural and musical sense. A unique atmosphere was thus created here, based on song lyrics. The Russian language is pretty complex and it can be used to express many feelings about the events around. I think that the Perestroika times in the late 1980s were a unique period which enabled creative people like musicians to sing and perform freely and openly.

My main interests besides rock ‘n’ roll are similar. Strangely enough it’s my profession ! For the past 27 years, I have been a DJ for the local radio station. I love going on air every day and delighting the listeners with various contests and prizes.

Thankyou Andrey, for your great true life story in Rock’n’Roll. If you want to see just how great Stressor have been in Russian rockin’ history, go to youtube and type in the search engine, “Stressor – I’m mad at you (colour)”. And All Hail the rockin’ band from Tula, or as I described them in my February 2014 article, “The One and Only” !

Richard Hume