Last month in this column we began a real important issue within our Great Rock’n’Roll Culture – Women in Rock’n’Roll. Masha Nosova, a member of the fabulous rock’n’roll group from Moscow, the Marshmallows, gave us a fascinating insight into the world of women in our great rockin’ Culture. This month Yulia Chugueva, a fellow member of the group and like Masha hugely talented, beautiful and charismatic, continues the story. Over to you, Yulia.
Well, about encountering any difficulties precisely because I am a woman, I sometimes get the feeling like we’re entering male territory and the men all have their different views on the matter, from being thrilled about it, to utter rejection, where we can’t get shows in clubs because we’re “not popular enough”. Yea, there’s that too.
Regarding which historical female rock’n’roll figure has had the most influence on me, each of the performers is important in her own way, but you could say that Janis Martin had the most, as it was precisely her song that I’d sing in my dreams but never be able to perform in reality. Which is what pushed me to go to a vocal coach who would then turn my dream into reality, all of which in turn led me to what we’re doing now.
There have been few historical female figures in Russian rock’n’roll, for us to elicit our admiration. Yea, we’ve always had problems in that regard. Not very many famous bands, what with the ideological battle that’s always been waged against them. “Bravo” is the only band we know and it’s hard to even name one other historical figure besides Aguzarova (the famous lead singer of Bravo, a legendary Russian band in the 1980s and 90s). Fortunately, there’s the Girls of today. I really like Nadezhda Martemyanova. She sometimes performs in Moscow, but mainly in Saint Petersburg and her vocals and performances are really cool and authentic. It’s actually her life.
Here’s how I first got into rock’n’roll. Originally, I wanted to sing solo, but when in the choir they had us do assignments in groups of three: I realised that it was way cooler. It used to be popular back in the fifties, but nobody does it that way anymore, seeing as how all the girls want to be the only voice on stage, to garner all the attention. Which is why there’s so many soloists and so few trios. The problems with female friendships and collaborations would be a long discussion.
As Nadya Kunareva once said: “With three girls it’s always tough, because each one constantly feels like the other two are allied against her!” I think that says it all, and of course each one wants to be the prima ballerina – that’s just how we women are wired. But here you all need to be “as one” while at the same time being individuals. It’s a balancing act that takes a lot of effort when inter-acting. I mean, when we go on stage we offer a lot of positive emotions to the people there and to each other. The smiles and the happiness need to be genuine, or the audience will see that they’re a sham. And it’s impossible to do that if there’s been a conflict just before.
There have been so many notable events in my rock’n’roll career as a woman. When I attended the vocal training sessions at Olga Oleynikova’s school and took part in my first evaluation concert with the song “My Boy Elvis”, my hands were shaking so horribly that I had to press the microphone to my chin. When I finished singing and put the microphone away, there was a mark left from the microphone netting – that’s how tight I had to press it ! And the first concert with the Marshmallows too, it goes without saying. Now it’s already been 6 years and it’s rare that I get such stage fright these days !
There have been many funny stories in the life of the Marshmallows. There was a time once when we were to play at an exhibition – a really big one – and were supposed to be the main surprise show on one of the biggest stands, but after a sound check with the song “10 Cats”, the administration told us that we were too loud and that they were going to turn off the power to the stand. And so we didn’t end up performing, receiving our pay for a one-song sound check !
There are other issues involved in being a woman in rock’n’roll. No one says anything openly, of course. Everyone’s polite and well-behaved and to girls especially. But then you have for example the issue of performers’ changing rooms in clubs, where there’s often not enough room for all three of us, or sometimes no room at all. Never mind not having separate rooms for men and women, to let us tidy ourselves up and change without forcing the men out into the corridor to wait. But no one complains. There’s something racy to it, even !
Having the support of the other female members of the Marshmallows is crucial, as well as us having friendly relations. It’s very important, which is why changing group members is a really painful time for me. I get attached to people and it’s important to me who it is up there with me, standing shoulder to shoulder on stage and during rehearsals and who it is sharing the ride home and writing messages back and forth and their energy, their desire to move the collaboration forward. It’s a lot of work that no one sees – it’s not just singing and looking pretty.
Regarding my biggest rock’n’roll heroes of all time, my answer is similar to Masha’s in last month’s column. Wanda Jackson. Let’s add Imelda May too, as I really like her vocals, as well as her path to success. Same for Janis Martin too, no doubt ! (who I’ve already mentioned). Plus Bunny Paul, Brenda Lee and Jackie DeShannon.
My all-time favourite rock’n’roll song performed by a woman is Wanda Jackson’s “Shakin’ All Over”. That woman – I don’t even want to know how old she must be now! But still she’s performing and the energy she exudes is just so positive and powerful. The fact that she did a cover with Jack White also made me really happy.
I know that for many years, both in Russia and abroad, a very small number of rockers believe rock’n’roll is man’s music and that the people who perform true rock’n’roll should be men. I’ve touched on that in my earlier replies and would even say that some male musicians are embarrassed to play shows with us. I feel like it’s something along the lines of “the bros are going to laugh me out the door for this”. I say that all that is nonsense, since not all rock’n’roll performed by male musicians can be called “true” and not every woman who’s not singing pure rock’n’roll does not have at least some rock’n’roll in her! Rock’n’Roll is a state that can be conveyed or not conveyed, can be felt or not felt. You can buy yourself the most expensive effects units and vinyls and play on a vintage Gretsch and yet fail to be convincing, while others can just listen and enjoy and dance, even being deaf and yet commit themselves to it heart and soul. Something like that ! I just dislike in general that desire to exclude people based on certain markers.
Outside of rock’n’roll I’m interested in a lot of things. Mostly, I’m an interior designer by training and still continue to work in that profession. I’m also interested in the history of fashion design, collect vintage items and like to do vintage photo shoots, which don’t always need to be pin-ups, as was the case for our recent calendar. It brings together my knowledge of the history of interior design, outfits and styles. I love to immerse myself in a time period, the forties and fifties especially.
I am optimistic about the future of women in Russian rock’n’roll. We’ll do everything in our power !
Thankyou Yulia, for a great insight into “Women in Rock’n’Roll”. Next month the story continues, with another really big female star in the world of Russian rock’n’roll.