This month let me tell you about who I think is the greatest rock’n’roll group in Russian history – in my opinion.
The group was Stressor, from the city of Tula, south of Moscow. I say was, even though the band still exists. But the one I’m talking about lasted up to 2010. Let me tell you about how great they were and then explain what happened in 2010.
The band formed in 1993 and I started going to see them after I came to live and work in Moscow in 2004. They used to come regularly to Moscow from Tula to perform. They were sensational. Their set usually comprised 2 different styles: The first half would be rock’n’roll and then after a break they’d perform a set closer to psychobilly. They’d wear different outfits for each set: The first would see them sporting sharp drape jackets, then the second they would be wearing things like prison uniforms and the like.
When I brought over Furious, the Teddy Boy group from Liverpool, to perform in Moscow in 2010, I booked Stressor to appear on the same bill. This was one of the very last ever concerts by Stressor, before the split which occurred very soon after. The photos you can see were taken at this event.
All 4 members of the band were special. The line up was Andrey Rubliov (vocals), Taras Savchenko (guitar), Dima Bikov (contra bass), Max Kiriushkin (drums). Their performances on stage could take your breath away. The music was generally 100 miles an hour, with all 4 displaying showmanship and charisma. I have never seen a better group in any country, including the UK, in that particular style of rock’n’roll.
As I mentioned above they’d come up to Moscow from Tula on a regular basis. Their Moscow gigs were usually at the Rock’n’Roll Pub – a venue which sadly is no more. I’d make a point of trying to keep those dates free on my calendar, so I could go and watch them.
They made 3 CDs. Of the 3, my favourite was and is “”Russia’n’Roll” and yes, the name was the inspiration for the name of this humble monthly column in this great magazine ! There are some tremendous tracks on this CD, most of which have Russian lyrics. It was released in 2007 on TCY Records.
The band’s own prolific compositons sometimes had English lyrics, sometimes Russian: The great majority of the tracks on their CDs were their own songs. The last CD (by the original Stressor that is) was “Burn Out” released in 2008 by Crazy Love Records – another smokin’ piece of work. Some of the tracks on these CDs are quite simply awesome. For example, “Surfin’ Bird” on Burn Out – best version of this number ever. And “Wolfman” on the same CD, is one that can be played over and over and still give you a buzz. “Sinty Shoes” on Russia’n’Roll is similar in its impact.
They toured extensively on the continent of Europe and had a big following wherever they went. Then in the summer of 2010 came the end of the original Stressor. The group split into 2. The rift was not an amicable one. Taras Savchenko (guitar) and Dima Bikov (contra bass) left the band and formed a new group, The Magnetix. Andrey Rubliov (vocals) and Max Kiriushkin (drums) got replacements for Taras and Dima and still perform under the band’s original name. Their differences leading up to the split came to a head during recording sessions in the studio, for what was meant to be their next CD. There were serious arguments between the band members during these sessions. It culminated in the break up of the group. Some of the material recorded in those sessions became the basis of the first CD released by the Magnetix, Taras’ and Dima’s new group.
Rock’n’Roll history teaches us that the reason for most groups breaking up is, unlike the propaganda they put out about, for example, “artistic differences”, “we went as far as we could go musically”, etc., etc., the real pretext was personal i.e. they couldn’t stand each other any longer ! However all the evidence in the Stressor split points to this one bucking this trend. The conflicts were artistic ones, to do with the way they wanted to go musically and the role of each member in the band. For example, Taras had felt frustrated at not being given more opportunities to use his vocal skills.
What is not in contention is that the 2 groups formed out of one, the new Stressor and the Magnetix, both turned out to be top quality bands. They both still perform both inside Russia and in Europe. They are in great demand and both command big followings. They even appear on the same bills at some music festivals throughout Europe.
But nothing could be quite as great as the original Stressor. I consider myself very fortunate to have seen them in their prime. In the same way that in the 1970s I was real glad to have been able to see groups like Crazy Cavan as well as the Flying Saucers in their heyday, so it is with Stressor. And I’m talking about the 1970s Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, not the very pale imitation of their former selves that they are today on stage. You cannot say that about Sandy Ford from the Flying Saucers today – that man still has star quality in buckets: I tried hard without success to bring him to Moscow to perform. But I am digressing from my story !
The differences between the 4 original members have healed over time. There is no animosity between them, although they don’t like to talk about the details surrounding the split. I got the chance to talk to them a bit at the Moscow gigs when they were the original Stressor and all 4 impressed me as nice blokes; good characters with a sense of humour.
Catch some of the old Stressor magic yourself. Go to youtube and type in “STRESSOR – I’m Mad at You” (the Stressor official version) or “STRESSOR – Planet Zero”. So I guess my column this month is a tribute and a Thankyou to a group who gave so many Russian rock’n’rollers so many great memories. In my humble opinion guys, you were “simply the best”.