Hi brothers! How are you guys? Hope that you packed a few fresh pair of pants for your small journey
Alex: Absolutely! The washing machine is on, the set is sounding tight – really looking forward to it.
Riley: Besides a short stint across the UK with my old band some twelve years ago, I’ve never actually been on tour, so it’s a bit of a strange mix between excitement and nerves at the moment.
Matt: To be honest, there's been a few details of the tour that have caused a bit more stress than usual. But now everything’s sorted and it’s just around the corner, I can't wait to start... fresh pants have been the least of our worries!
Ed: None of my pants are fresh.
Matt: I spoke too soon.
So let`s start our talk with your future tour. In just a few days you will leave your home and will be making good noise in old nasty Europe. Could you tell us a little bit about this tour? Which countries and towns you will visit?
Matt: Well we're playing a load of really nice DIY spaces mainly, the odd ‘normal’ music venue but that’s still cool. We’re heading across Netherlands, Germany, Czech rep and Slovakia. I've been to Berlin, Liberec, Brno and Prague before, all offering some beauty, harsh realities and great examples of DIY culture in equal measure. The others are new experiences for me, but that’s always fun.
Alex: 2008 was the last time we visited any of these countries, so it’s going to be great to catch up with people who came to those early gigs and seeing how they react to where the music is now.
Matt: There’s lots of old friends and bands who Alex and I have been in touch with for almost fifteen years. It’s always great to catch up with people you’ve been involved and shared interests with for so long, even more so when you’re bought together by music you’ve created.
Ed: That 2008 tour also comprised the last few gigs I did before departing the band in 2009. Obviously, since restarting we’ve played across Russia, Ukraine, Iceland and I don’t read much into this stuff, but as this is the first tour with the new line up and new sound, it feels almost like things have come circle.
Alex: Yeah, I think it’s going to be an interesting mix of nostalgia while unleashing something new, at the same time.
Now you have a new guitar guy! What can you tell us about him? Did he bring something new to the crazy style of Krupskaya?
Alex: Yeah, Riley's fitting in just fine. He adds a new dimension to the sound. There's more movement around the neck of the guitar now which makes it easier to deliver a little more vocal chaos into proceedings.
Matt: Riley’s a good un! When he was mentioned as a potential guitarist, I remembered seeing his first band way back in 2005 and thinking then that this was someone with a lot of potential. He’s lived up to that promise for the twelve months he’s now been in the band, although he did bring two more guitar strings I’m used to! I was initially quite reticent and apprehensive about how well that would work within Krupskaya’s sound, but it’s really opened a lot of doors for us creatively and I think the new music really delivers on the vision we’ve always had for the music.
Riley: It was a bit of a challenge, initially. When I first came into the studio I thought we’d jam a little, maybe experiment with a few ideas, but the guys chucked me in at the deep end. They had a few song structures that were either completed or well into development on drums and threw me straight into writing guitar parts around the utter chaos of Ed’s playing.
Alex: No-one in this band gets an easy ride.
Riley: No, I noticed that, quite quickly. I’d also never played to a click track before, so it was a lot to take in and get my head around while still bringing something new.
Ed: In fairness, I don’t honestly think any other approach would have worked. Krupskaya’s always been at its best when it’s being pushed to achieve more than is likely possible, or sensible. We want to write, record, release and tour genuinely pulverising music and that’s not something you can do, kicking back on the couch.
Riley: Yeah, I feel the same. The learning curve has been steep but the results have been worth it, I’m so excited to unleash this new material on people.
Edgar as I know you did all the designs for Krupskaya. Is it your hobby or is this graphic stuff a part of your daily job?
Ed: It’s a little bit of both. I used to be a full-time self-employed designer, mainly branding, websites, illustration etc. I was a little naive though and didn’t really approach things as concisely as I perhaps should have from a business perspective. Eventually, I found myself creating work that didn’t exploit my strengths, failed to challenge me creatively and barely paid the bills – even when clients did choose to pay – all things that I was ill-prepared for. These were all totally within my control in hindsight and I definitely miss being my own boss, but for now, I’m happy working part-time at a University and investing the rest of my time into projects that will help me have more control over the direction I take, when I’m ready to work for myself again.
Alex: I think it’s helped with the consistency of the band that Ed has always overseen the artwork. Lineups change, the music evolves, but Ed and I’s collaboration on the visual execution has always remained, even if he wasn’t in the same country.
Ed: Sure and Krupskaya’s artwork has always afforded me the opportunity to explore visual narrative with a huge amount of freedom despite there being very clear goals and themes to work with.
Alex: Since we started the band we have always tried to capture a certain aesthetic with everything we do. I always work closely with Ed so that we can attempt to capture the atmosphere of the music and the intent of the songs visually. This in turn inspires the subject matter of future songs, so it turns the whole creative process into an organic pool of ideas.
Ed: Exactly. I mean, on a totally personal level, I never wanted our visuals to look or feel like what you’d immediately associate with grindcore. The goal has always been more about elaborating upon the stories, encapsulating the mood, themes and subject matter of the music, more so than pushing a particular, predetermined identity for the band. Over the years, a surprising number (yes, more than one) of people have come to ask questions about the artwork and how it relates to the songs, so in this respect, I think it’s done its job.
And what about new songs guys? I know that you are all busy, but I'm sure that you have something new in your minds, am I right?
Matt: There's lots of new songs and a few reworks of older songs. Even though we’ve all progressed as musicians since Krupskaya first began, that same fundamental driving force has remained throughout, so I think fans of the music will feel at home with the new stuff while still having something new and challenging to get into.
Alex: We’re constantly in pursuit of challenge. Ed gets insufferably irritable if he thinks we’re relying too much on tried and tested methods before experimenting with new possibilities, I’ll spend weeks locked in the studio reworking song structures to ensure each feels as dynamic, complete and fully-realised as possible, while Matt is always pushing to be as well organised and effective with our time as we can be. Riley’s creativity, standards and conviction have integrated with this fairly seamlessly, to the point that you would think that the twenty or so songs we’re currently working on would’ve been written by a band that’d been together twelve years, not twelve months.
Riley: I’ve always loved Krupskaya’s stuff, even when the band I was in during my late teens played gigs with them, the sound was just utter chaos. But coming into the band at the start of 2017, I did recognise there was scope within that sound to introduce more variety and nuance.
Riley: Yeah, but addressing that is all well and good in theory, it’s a bit more difficult in practice. I like to play heavy, I like to play fast, I like to play technical and I like to play creatively. My comfort zone used to max out at combining maybe two of those things – Krupskaya demands all four and you can’t get away with not executing it to a high standard.
Alex: But then there’s also balancing that with what serves the best interests of the music. Sometimes, the song asks something of an instrument or a musician that goes against what we’re used to, what we’d personally expect, so you have to know when to put your preconceptions or expectations to one side and just do whatever best works within the context of the music.
Ed: There’s actually a disconcerting amount of consideration that goes into creating the most punishing noise you possibly can. We’ve been doing this for a long time now and I feel like with the exception of Clouds over Pripyat (which really introduced ‘what we are’ to people), most of our records since then have focussed more-so on different elements of our sound and approach to song writing. What we’re working on now, really sounds like a consolidation, like we’re finally realising all those different elements and approaches in a single piece of work.
Matt: It’s bloody fast, too. Suffice it to say, we’re all pretty excited to get the new stuff released. If all goes to plan, you can expect a new album and two more splits from Krupskaya in 2018.
You have a lot of touring experience, I met you at least twice haha! Could you tell us about your best gigs and most the exotic places where you have played?
Alex: Ugh, there’s been so many, where to begin?
Ed: I quite enjoyed the gig which followed being held at gunpoint by Ukrainian military, but that might just be because of the pure sense of relief that I wasn’t dead, had elevated my enjoyment of that particular show higher than it would usually be. Slovakia is always a lot of fun, too – Eastern Europe is the shit.
Alex : Well there have been so many great experiences over the last 13 years. I always feel so lucky and grateful that we have been able to drink from the cup of human kindness for all these years. Thanks to everyone who has helped us out along the way. Some of the most memorable gigs, well I remember them all but here goes. The first tour we did in Germany with Keitzer and Antigama was a total blast, we met so many cool people on that tour and it opened our eyes to so many new horizons. Then there was Zilina, that was totally wild, I remember they had cardboard swords and shields, the show was incendiary, there was so much energy and chaos, it was awesome to be part of that. Lucenerc was great with Idiots Parade and Human Error, the Morgue in Berlin was crazy and weird, Ostrava in the coal mine was really great, Skopja in the car park was really cool, Monte Paradiso in Pula was so great and such cool people, 120 rats in Leeds was amazing to be in. Dumbarton in Scotland with Human Error was a particularly strange one, where they and myself walked into the wrong flat, sat down put the TV on, for the resident to come out of the shower only to be confronted by 5 strangers sat watching his TV - 'WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU' I think were his words, so that was difficult to talk our way out of. Bangkok was great both times we played, Borneo was so amazing, playing in a cowboy bar in Kota Kinabalu, the kids there looked after us so well, Indonesia was so hot, Solo and Kediri were absolutely wild, Malang, Bandung and Jakarta ruled so hard. The haunted house we stayed at in Jakarta was very frightening, our guide Arif saw some very strange things. The Philippines was crazy, especially Manila. Singapore was awesome. Malaysia, touring with Pisschrist was totally great, Kuala Lumpur was one of the wildest shows ever. Moscow was so unbelievably cool, St Petersburg was amazing, Bryansk was very cool, although that is where I got shit on my hand!
Ed: We really don’t need to get into that.
Alex: No, perhaps not! Kharkiv was such a relief being back in the safety of the DIY underground after being held at gunpoint by the Ukraine military police during the Antiwar tour just after we crossed the border from Russia. Travelling in the Gazelle of Death is always very cool. There are so many other experiences, I could write a book! Again, thanks to everyone who has ever helped in any way, hopefully our paths will cross again sometime soon.
Matt : My first real tour with Krupskaya was in Russia and that started with a real bang. I’ve done tours with bands before where it feels a bit like you need a few dates to really warm up and get into the swing of things. But with this tour, the people of Moscow were so accommodating and the first gig was so packed, that it felt like we were on fire from day one.
Riley: The Nottingham show was cool – that’s about as exotic as I’ve gotten with the band yet! Maybe ask me again in a couple of weeks!
Ed: And we should probably point out, obviously, that Kiev has always been an awesome place to play, too. Great people, great bands, great Vodka – hopefully we’ll make it back there soon.
The best grind bands from UK in your opinion are?
Matt: Shit, there's a lot that I really love and there's some that are mixing in other styles and sounds. A lot of it like grind from anywhere I guess is best live. In terms of total grind you've got Attrocity Exhibit, Human Cull and Horse Bastard, a lot of the Leeds bands seem to have a fair power violence influence like Famine, Gents, Lugubrious children. I like the way Groak decided to splice grind with dystopia and corrupted, or something, ha! Then there’s Chinsniffer, using killer electronics like column of heaven/endless blockade type influence. Evisorax bring back fond memories of Narcosis, mainly because of the drumming, Atomck bringing the squawk/grunt/riff/blast justice, FilthXCollins sounded total mince at their first gig but I think they're more a fastcore band. In terms of Power violence, Nothing Clean and Gets Worse are great. Fast hardcore wise, I really like Nazi Killer, Bloodyhead and Casual Sect are great damaged punk... sorry, just noticed I’m going off topic and still forgot about 50 other bands I should recommend! In terms of UK grindcore, the ones we miss the most have to be Narcosis, Scalplock and The Day Man Lost, in terms of less obvious grind names.
Alex: I could honestly go on for years about the hundreds of great grindcore bands, so I’m just going to agree with Matt’s list!
Riley: I know they’re not going any more, but I still think Narcosis are far and wide the best grindcore band to come out of the UK. The live shows alone were just incredible.
You like history right? Why did you take this name guys? What is so special about it?
Matt: Over to Alex. I kept asking him loads of questions about the name and references when they started and Clouds over Pripyat was being planned. For the longest time, I couldn’t spell, or even say it!
Alex: Yeah I like history a lot, I am a history teacher –
Ed: Ha! I had no idea about that!
Alex: You should probably listen a bit more, then.
Alex: Anyway, I read a lot of stuff about all sorts of things. When the band started I was reading a lot about recent European and Russian history. The last 120 year have been very turbulent with several predominantly different political ideologies shaping events on a global scale. I think that to have some chance of understanding the massively complex world that we live in then you need to understand where we have come from. However, I have come to realise that the world is so complex and we are not party to all the information, that I end up in a situation where the more I know - the less I understand. The band name comes from this general philosophy. Krupskaya was a powerful woman who was driven by one ideology, the reality of this ideology in practice, once it was corrupted by the human mind ended up being very different from the original idea. Because of this, the events played out in a quite unforeseen direction for Krupskaya and she ended up being a victim of the system the she helped to create. I think that there is a lot to learn from this situation, a lot of people talk about ideologies and campaign for things to be different but we have to be very careful, we cannot see what those differences will look like in reality until that reality is upon us.
Ed: Saying this pains me, but it wasn’t really until Alex started explaining the background of many of our songs that I even took a remote interest in history.
Ed: Meh, partially. I struggled to engage with the subject at school, but I love stories and so naturally started to connect/care about these people and events, as they were presented in a more compelling format. It feels a little strange to say, given how abrasive the sound and artwork are, but sometimes the best way of engaging people’s interest in a subject, is to offer something a little more conceptual and abstract than simply reciting dates and facts. Plus, the name Krupskaya sounds really cool… at least in English – I’ve known few disappointments in life as grand as people in Russia asking me “Why this name? It is such a dumb name!”
Riley: I’m glad I missed that!
Ed: Yeah, I got the distinct impression it was like naming a band ‘Keith’ in the UK.
Your music is so strange (in a good way of course), you're acting so violent... what inspires you to create such mad and chaotic noises. Maybe there are some bands, cases from life or books?
Ed: I don’t know if it’s something I’m ‘inspired’ to do at all -
Ed: You’re welcome, but I don’t mean it like that. Sure, there are individual drum parts, song structures and pieces of artwork I’ve created where I can say “This was largely inspired by X” and in those cases, said inspiration largely comes from the feelings I get working with wildlife and the prospects I see for the natural world, in general. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a particular mood I felt in a movie, videogame or piece of music, or the challenge of expressing the concepts/themes associated with particular events in history. But when it comes to Krupskaya ‘as a band’, writing the music feels as obvious or even mundane as making breakfast, brushing my teeth or losing my car keys.
Alex: It’s just something you’re driven to do.
Ed: Precisely. It’s a natural compulsion (that we’re very fortunate to have the time and resources to pursue) as much as anything else and I dare say that while our own personal motivations may vary, we each share in that compulsion to ‘create’. I guess it’s just unfortunate for anyone with working ear drums, that the subject of this compulsion happens to be the most devastatingly bleak noise that four (allegedly) grown men can make.
Alex: Well the music has evolved a lot over the last 13 years. When we started there was a desperation to do something and create something new that we had all been unable to realise in previous bands. The first year was a very special time creatively and I remember it feeling like an explosion of ideas that came together very quickly. The books I was reading at the time, Ed's visuals, all seemed to fit perfectly into the discordance and chaos of our first recordings. This time produced the 1st Demo, Clouds over Pripyat and Symbiosis Trough Decay. After that there was a period of evaluation which created two different camps within the band. Ed and myself always wanted to push the creativity and the aesthetic of what we were doing to the limits of what we were capable of. The other camp wanted to tone down the craziness and become more like other bands. I have no interest in sounding like any other bands. I like music and I am influenced by a wide range of different things but just because I like something does not mean I want to be that band. During this period there was absolutely no contribution from the guitar. Not wanting to stagnate I started writing songs with Ed. it was quite difficult writing songs on the drums to start with.
Ed: Bloody right. I remember it being quite fun for the first few tracks, but then it was really easy for things to start sounding the same and a frustrating process to break free of that. Particularly with the blast beats, there’s only so many ways you can make those sound different before falling into areas or approaches that are at odds with the fundamental goals of the music.
Matt: I think the reasons vary but there’s a general agreement that we all get bored quite easily and also we are not interested in just doing the same thing over and over again. There are a lot of obvious reference points in the music to other bands and to grindcore as a genre but like the term "punk" it was never meant to be a restrictive term so there’s no real reason to churn out what’s already happened or what you've already done.
Riley: That’s the thing, there’s plenty of bands whose music I love, but if I had to play it every night I think I’d get bored. As far as my own playing is concerned, I have always wanted to write music that would capture my imagination if I was someone else, hearing it for the first time.
Matt: Me too. I love some incredibly generic bands from very strict sub genres, but I don’t think it would be all that fulfilling for me to play in that kind of band.
“Well that`s all folks” © Any last words before tour boys?
Matt: I would just like to point out, that when Alex has got shit on his hands, the mocking about me being over-prepared stops very quickly.
Alex: Thanks Matt.
Ed: That seems unnecessarily obscure and gross - is that really what you want to go out on?
Matt: Okay, Also MASSIVE THANKYOU to everyone helping make this tour happen!
Alex: Yep, same! See you all in Europe!
Riley: Thanks Matt for sorting it all out and all the promoters for putting us on, hope to see you all on the road!
Ed: Bring ear plugs.
(Most photos by Mark Salt)