This month we continue the fascinating stories of a legendary Russian group. They are the Beat Devils and regular readers of my column will know how iconic they are here in Russia. Some of the photos you can see were taken at the group’s concert at the Esse Café on 13th August. As I reported last month, this concert was once again another huge Beat Devils’ success, with the band playing an excellent rock’n’roll set.
Last month you read the rockin’ story of the group’s leader, Andy Loug. This month it’s the turn of Fedor Nikolaev the drummer and bass player Mike Bogdanov. They are both fascinating stories, which give a real insight into Russian rock’n’roll over the past twenty years. First, here’s Fedor:
About our playlist of songs that we perform, we have no constant playlist which we always use. There are a few hundred songs in our baggage, so our list has its natural rotation. Songs we choose for any exact gig depends on many factors, such as audience mood, sound comfort, etc. My first experience as a musician was at middle school when I was around 13 years old, I think. It was as a bass guitarist and it was a rock band with a wide range of genres from blues to punk. Our first live gig happened after a few months of rehearsals, at one of the school parties. I started drumming a bit later at the age of 15 at one of the summer children camps, where I usually spent my summer holidays. The reason for changing my instrument was that there were many guitar and bass players around and not many who could play drums.
To be honest, I never thought to play mainly only rock’n’roll or something like that and my main landmark at that time was alternative music. Over time, I was moving from one band to another for several years, till I finally became a part of the Beat Devils at the end of 2000. It was my friend’s idea to focus on rock’n’roll so we started to try. That’s how the story really began.
A couple of compilations of rockabilly and psychobilly music from Russia and the former Soviet Union were my first ever sources of information and musical inspiration and there were a few bands which I liked most of all at that time – The Skyrockets (undoubtedly number one for me), Mad Heads, The Rattlesnakes and Mister Twister. Basically, thanks to them I have such a strong friendship with rockabilly music nowadays.
The main significant event in my musical life was the birth of the Beat Devils of course. Another important event was my visit to Graceland and Sun Studios two years ago. As for the Beat Devils, I believe our best gig and best record are waiting for us in the nearest future. Concerning the Beat Devils longevity, the secret is that all three of us are not colleagues – we are friends. And music is not our job – it is our love and our hobby. We are free to do music in the way we like it, not depending on money or whatever else.
There have been a few changes to the group during the history of the band. We had 5 members at the start. Our squad was not stable for almost 2 years, when finally three guys left the band and one joined it at the beginning of 2004. So the same three constant persons play in the group from that time till now. I do not remember any significant personal differences between us three. But of course sometimes we have disputes, different views and opinions and it is normal. I mean it is normal life for a team consisting of more than one person to have differences. But the thing is, we’ve been friends a long time, we all really like each other, so we always work things out together.
If I had to choose two bands in history who contributed the most to Russian rock’n’roll, in my point of view it is “Mister Twister” and “Bravo”.
My biggest musical influence has been Elvis; but also a lot of different psychobilly and rockabilly bands from all over the world, such as Batmobile, the Stray Cats, Living End, the Hormonauts, Smell of Kat, Tiger Army, Stressor, etc. But there is not only rock’n’roll music in my playlist. Today in my Ipod you can find Sade, Maroon 5, Bullet For My Valentine, Amy McDonald, Metallica and many, many more.
My all-time rock’n’roll hero is Elvis, because all his life was an example of how a real king of rock’n’roll should live. Similarly, my favourite rock’n’roll songs are almost all Elvis songs: I can listen always to them without interruption. I am optimistic about the future of Russian rock’n’roll. I can say this confidently, because the Russian rockabilly scene survived in the ‘90s of the last century during a 100% domination by an awful bad quality pop music in the country. That’s why I believe it will live and evolve in the future. I would describe the Beat Devils’ musical style as a mix of rockabilly, psychobilly, punk and alternative rock music.
My main interests outside of rock’n’roll are to do with sports; from chess to rugby, no matter whether I’m a player or watching others play. I also very much like to travel and am very glad to have had the opportunity to go on tour with the Band.
And now here’s Mike, with his rock’n’roll story for you:
Regarding the Beat Devils’ playlist at concerts, we don`t have a constant playlist, we always make and agree one before a show. It depends on the situation.
How did I first get into rock’n’roll ? Here’s my story. I heard rockabilly music for the first time when I was 13 years old. At that time the compact discs had become part of everyday life and I with my father were going at weekends to the famous Gorbushka market in Moscow, where we were buying the music. My father preferred jazz and classical music but I asked him to buy me a collection of rock’n’roll music. I didn’t know the word “rockabilly” then, so I called all that music just rock’n’roll. I completed a double bass course at a public music school when I was 16 years old and of course my first intention was to play not classical music, but rock’n’roll. Nevertheless I didn’t want to play it on the double bass but on the bass guitar. My first music group was called “Old Ladies Band” – we played with Valery Setkin, who is now playing in the Raw Cats band. We rehearsed in an apartment, we had our first concerts; in general we just had a good time.
In 2003 I saw accidentally an advertisement which said that the Beat Devils band needed a double bass player. When I met the guys from this group, I told them honestly I hadn’t played the double bass for a long time and that I had never played the slap, but I really wanted to try. Soon I stopped playing bass guitar and started playing the contrabass for the Beat Devils, where I’ve been doing it for almost 13 years now.
When I first started playing, the Russian groups that influenced me the most were Mister Twister, the Sky Rockets, the Rattlesnakes, the Swindlers and many more. The 2 most significant events in my own rock’n’roll history have to be the following: 1) My first gig with the Old Ladies Band and 2) The moment when I joined the Beat Devils.
I think two of the main reasons for the Beat Devils’ success and longevity on the rock’n’roll scene has been the personal friendships between us and the fact that music is not our full-time work. Each of us has our own job and profession and our music is just our hobby, our passion and our culture.
If I had to name individuals in the history of Russian rock’n’roll that I particularly admire, for their contribution to the rockin’ scene here in Russia, I’d say Mister Twister and Bravo. My biggest musical influences? Well, many bands and styles. Every day I try to listen to new music and it helps me to find new ideas and inspiration. My all-time rock’n’roll heroes are Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, ‘cause they are the best. My all-time favourite rock’n’roll song is “Women & Cadillacs”. My main interests outside of rock’n’roll are fishing, mushroom hunting, history and cooking.
Thankyou, Fedor and Mike. And as I advised last month, you can catch some of the Beat Devils’ magic yourself – go to youtube and type in “Beat Devils – Night Falls Down” in the search engine box. You’ll then see what I mean about “Hot, smokin’ stuff !”