This month wanna cover a real big event in the UK this year, with a Russian flavour. At this year’s Rockabilly Rave in June, at Camber Sands, one of Russia’s finest all-time bands, the Hi Tones, came over from Moscow to perform.
All the feedback received indicates they went down a storm. It certainly didn’t surprise me, since I’ve been seeing them perform since the inception of the band in 2010. Regular readers of this column will know I did an article about them last year, in addition to doing a review of their CD “I’m gonna leave you” on Sam Records, for this magazine. They’re simply excellent, real raw rockabilly played and performed in the authentic 1950’s style.
They comprise a lead guitar, acoustic guitar, upright bass and drums. They’ve become hugely popular on the rock’n’roll scene in Russia, particularly amongst the followers of rockabilly. Their leader is vocalist and acoustic guitarist Alexey Schukin. He founded the group in 2010 with the aim of playing authentic 50’s music. Alexey says their musical inspiration comes from the likes of Johnny Burnett, the Delta Bombers, Eddy and the Backfires and the Rhythm Shakers.
They were not the first Russian group to appear at the Rave. A few years back, the Neva River Rockets from St Petersburg performed there. And in more recent times, the Moscow band Diamond Hand also performed at the event. But the Hi Tones rank much higher in terms of quality and status in Russian rock’n’roll. The Rockets, to use a football metaphor, were strictly second division. Diamond Hand do qualify as a premier league group, albeit a bit conservative in their style.
The photos of the Hi Tones you can see comprise one taken at the Rockabilly Rave and some at their concert in Moscow at the Esse Café on 15th November.
I arranged to interview band leader Alexey Schukin, to ask him his impressions of the Rave and about the UK. I should add here Alexey is a man of few words who is not given to interviews. He is also blunt and to the point with some of his answers to questions. He kindly agreed to my interview and here’s the result:
I asked him why they went down a storm at the Rave and his response was classic Alexey: “The main reason for this is that we are a really cool band. That’s why.” He saves his best performances for the stage, not for interviews ! I asked him what things he liked best about the Rave, expecting a long list of great performances, but his answer was unusual; “Huge feathered birds, that were walking all over the festival grounds.” How many of you attending the Rave can remember these birds ? I hope someone at the festival performed “Bird is the Word” just for these extra customers. But Alex did tell me which performer impressed him the most; “John Luis. He is our friend and he’s the Best.”
He was complimentary about the UK rock’n’roll scene, based on the band’s brief visit: “I was really impressed that r’n’r life in the UK is very rich and varied. There are lots of people who like this music, plenty of olds cars and motorcycles; and young women – good looking, nice and stylishly dressed.” I’ve lived and worked in the UK, the USA as well as Russia and in my opinion there is no question Russian women are the best looking in the World. So as a Russian Alex’s observation of the young female British women at the Rave is praise indeed ! As for me, my vote still goes to the Russian women !
He found the Brits to be very friendly during the visit, but said there was no curiosity amongst them about Russia. I asked him if anyone asked them about the current happenings in the Ukraine and he replied that he doubted that many of them knew anything about it at all. Now that’s encouraging, it means all the anti-Russian propaganda presently being gurged out in the mainstream Western media is clearly not having a great effect on a large number of people.
Alex singled out Jerry Chatabox, the festival organizer, to say a big Thankyou to him for the way they were treated and looked after during their stay: “We were really impressed by his hospitality and warm welcome.”
He said the most surprising thing about the whole adventure happened at the end: “All the festival was exciting, but the most surprising was that our drummer had to go to the hospital when he got back to Moscow, because of the amount of alcohol he had drunk at the Rave.”
The Hi Tones continue to go from strength to strength. They have a new album shortly to be released on Wild Records in Los Angeles. In April next year they will take part in the Viva Las Vegas festival; “somewhere in the Nevada desert” as described by Alexey.
My final question was to ask him what he thought of our rock’n’roll scene here in Russia right now. He gave me an answer which I cannot repeat in a family magazine like this one ! Aleksey’s opinion of the r’n’r scene differs markedly from my own and from the great majority of Russian rock’n’rollers. Like I said, he is generally a man of few words, which are usually blunt and to the point !
If you weren’t at the Rave, you can have a look for yourself on youtube to see how great the Hi Tones were at the Festival. In the search engine box, type in “Hi Tones rockabilly rave 2014”. For those who were at the Rave, it was an excellent opportunity to see an example of just how good the rockin’ bands are over here in Moscow. And the Rave organisers made a great choice in selecting the Hi Tones to represent Russia !