Looking back on 2019, TIRAN was one of the bands you have never heard of and that impressed me live (at the Helsinki Thrash Attack festival). As they definitely deserve some more fan attention, TIRAN from Velikie Luki, Russia, will be the ones to close the STALKER interview cycle of 2019. Band mastermind Alex Tiran talks quite frankly the band, the Russian Metal underground and a deal with the devil that didn’t quite work out …. Enjoy.
As I could not find much information about the band, could you please introduce Tiran and the band members to us?
Hellz! Seriously? Hahah, I never thought that TIRAN can be attributed to groups about which it’s difficult to find information … We keep our publics on all the most relevant resources on the network, perhaps we are not doing it as actively and aggressively as the modern “show business” requires. But the information there is constantly updated and we do not make any cult secret about us. In addition, we try to monitor the relevance of updating information on Metal Archives, which, personally, I consider to be a very important resource and I turn to it almost daily.
TIRAN brought together four completely different people, both in character and in terms of life beliefs, and given that we all have already lived a long stretch of life and managed to do a lot of different things during this time, then each of us one could write a separate book, hahah!
But all this is not so important when we are talking about a group, and not about individuals, especially since we are not big stars like Metallica … It’s their fans who are interested in what James Hetfield was eating for breakfast and what color was diarrhea that Lars had today. Therefore, I believe that all that fans should know about underground groups in the first place is what they do as one combat unit. This is much more important, right?
Please tell a bit about the band history, how did you meet each other, did you have other bands before, why did you decide making Heavy Metal music and not e.g. Jazz, Polka etc.?
Hmm, it seems to me that in answering this question, you can easily use the previous one, hahah! Ok, I’ll still try to answer a little differently and be brief at the same time so as not to clutter up the already tainted life with unnecessary information about kind of a weird personalities.
In fact, the story is very funny and it happened when I was in high school, a fan of punk rock, praying for his dirty torn jeans and trying to realize the injustice of this world (and other blalabla the causes of youthful problems) through the prism of antisocial music. Once, I devilishly got drunk by port wine and fell asleep right in the snow on the street. In a dream, something terrible came to me, it was like the devil himself, but he had jeans on his legs, and on his head, in addition to horns, there was long and thick hair fluttered, almost like Dave Mustaine’s hair! He called himself the Metal Messiah and said that from now on I should accept his religion and carry the banner of Heavy Metal, wherever I am and whatever happens to me … For this, he promised me eternal life and Pamela Anderson, who will clean my white sneakers before every concert. Eh, in those days she still looked pretty good and met with Tommy Lee, so I quickly agreed, although his idle talk about eternal life caused me little suspicion. But, before I could express them, the dude handed me his half-smoked cigarette, a pack of CDs, turned into smoke and disappeared into a bottle from Jack Daniels, like a fucking genie in a lamp! Can you imagine that? Like a fucking genie! I instantly woke up and smoked the cigarette that that dude gave me, as I have finished the cigarette, I was able to crawl home. Already there, warming my hands, I finally managed to open my ossified fingers to examine the CDs that this guy gave me … Iron Maiden, Rage, Megadeth, Metallica, Helloween …
By the way, do you know what port wine is ??? No, no, no, not the port wine that the Portuguese came up with and deliver around the world for crazy money! I’m talking about real Russian classics like “777” or “72” from which one smell makes you vomit! Those times we were buying it in plastic bottles and in appearance it looked like machine oil mixed with a compote of rotten apples. So that evening in me there was a liter and a half of this shit, and after that it’s not that the Devil himself you could imagine! In general, anything can happen! But what I heard then on these CDs was cooler than the devil! It was the fucking best thing that could be and in the following years, as a faithful monk, I devoted all my time to studying the new religion. I listened to Metal, read about Metal, I ate Metal and, sometimes it seemed to me that I shitted Metal!
Of course, just listening to this music was not enough and I started playing it. There were other groups before TIRAN and now I participate in several projects at once, but this is a completely different story. Father has been sharing the TIRAN road with me for ten years, Moshna is a little less, periodically running away from somewhere to the side in order to show his sophisticated creative nature in something else, and the last of the current line-up Kate joined us. She was only 15 years old when she began to beat the drums, imagining instead of them cheap roadside whores. So, as you see, we did not choose Metal, we simply had no choice.
But in fairness, I want to note that TIRAN will be fifteen next year, and Pamela Anderson, for some reason, still doesn’t clean my sneakers, so I’m starting to feel a little cheated … Although, who already needs this old woman, hahah !
How did your musical style develop and what were the major influences?
I would not use the word “development”. In TIRAN music, borders and settings like “we have to play just that” were initially canceled. This is complete nonsense. I don’t know how to analyze this. Throughout our history, we have played differently: quickly or slowly, difficult or primitively, tried to sound cleaner or intentionally made the sound dirty, despite the fact that all these changes could occur within a radius of one week and two songs written in a row can be completely different from each other, while remaining TIRAN songs.
From time to time, of course, you can feel how the music we listen to influences us, but we never tried to copy someone. For example, from the very first releases, many compared us to Kreator, but when we did our recordings, I didn’t like them and listened to just a few albums, which I didn’t feel very excited about. Later the situation changed, now I listen to Kreator quite a lot, but I still can’t say whether Mille directly influences our music. I like their energy, their presentation, but this does not mean at all that I should use the same techniques in my music. So let’s stop at the fact that we try to be original guys who do not reject the legacy of great groups, but believe that being ugly ourselves is much cooler than copying in a hundredth time what has already been done before us.
How do you write your music and lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?
With music, everything is much simpler. I very rarely so deliberately take up the guitar with the thoughts “I have to write a new song.” Usually, first the ideas appear in my head, I try to formulate them completely and only after that, when the opportunity comes, I try to bring it to the real music with my instrument.
Everything is much more complicated with the lyrics … I don’t attach so much importance to it, especially in TIRAN. Each song has an inherent meaning that appears in the process of creating music, some separate phrases or lines appear that carry a semantic meaning. I also operate on them at rehearsals, and sometimes even at the shows. I completely undertake the writing of texts only, directly, before recording songs in the studio. Then I take more alcohol and try to meticulously adjust the syllables to the music. Sometimes it is really very difficult for me, especially considering the indicated futility of this process.
What does a typical day for the band, e.g. at a rehearsal, look like?
Typical days for a group pass away from the group, hahah! No matter how funny it may sound, but it really is. Despite the fact that we try to be active with TIRAN, basically, we do a lot of things remotely. Everyone has their own work, their own families, which also have to take time, in addition, Kate is living in Moscow for several years, so now we all meet together (but not always) only at joint rehearsals, about once a month and at off-site concerts. Previously, when we just started, we rehearsed 6 days a week, all thoughts and ideas were discussed directly at rehearsals, and it was very cool! Now we have to do everything at a distance, but these are modern realities and we must either accept them or forget about the existence of the band.
So far we have succeeded and this is also great. Many of my friends have long moved away from music for this very reason … people grow up and do not want to seek compromises in order to continue to engage in creativity. It’s easier for them to come home after a working day, cram their fucking dinner into themselves, fall onto the sofa, drinking cheap powdered beer and leafing through the newspaper “Soviet Sport”, hiding behind the guise of an exemplary family man. Well, that is their choice. But we want to do something so that something constantly happens, even if not for someone, if only for ourselves, but we are not ready to go down to the level of ordinary people. And when we are going to joint rehearsals, we, of course, try to pay attention to music, sort out new songs or play old ones, but we only have enough for this for a few hours, and then we indulge in a soulful alcoholic evening, communicate and enjoy it. It is at such moments that you feel like a real group. Just like in our youth, hahah!
Do you have your own rehearsal studio? How often do you rehearse?
Probably, we can say that there is, and even not one. Basically, we rehearse in our Hellblock 13 club, because all our equipment, drums, amplifiers are there … But the club has the peculiarity of moving from place to place periodically, since it is based in rented premises, and is it worth saying that the owners of these premises do not really like it when a lot of noise emanates from their premises and a fairly large number of people gather in them? Over the five years of the club’s existence, we have already changed three rooms. In case of these relocations, we have one more room at my workplace, where we can rehearse, if necessary, in addition, in this room our recording equipment is located on an ongoing basis and we use it as a studio.
I have already said above about the frequency of our rehearsals, but the fact that we meet so rarely all together does not mean at all that we do not use the premises that we have at our disposal for its intended purpose. In the studio, in addition to TIRAN, we hold sessions on recording our other projects. For example, School Of Rock (this is a Heavy Metal project of our guitarist Moshna), Sibireal (a group in which I participate remotely as a vocalist) or other groups from our city who ask for help on the record. In the club, we can rehearse one at a time, using all the available equipment. There Moshna is engaged in vocals, and I sometimes practice playing the drums, which I was always interested in, as an instrument.
What is it like in Russia and especially in your area to be a Metal band – is it difficult to get to play live, how big are the audiences you play for, how often do you play live? What does a Russian audience look like – which age group, more males than females?
Being a Metal Group is a very difficult task, be it Russia or any other country. There are a lot of issues that have to be addressed and many compromises that you have to make to stay together and do one thing. Of course, in the regions it is always more complicated and, although our city is located very conveniently geographically at the same distance from Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as just 150 kilometers from the border with Latvia, from where you can move completely freely throughout Europe, we have the opportunity to feel all the delights of provincial life.
Our region is considered one of the worst in terms of living in the country. This is primarily due to the fact that cities are emptying, the whole young generation is leaving for nearby megacities, condemning their region to a miserable existence.
Our average salary is 300 euros, despite the fact that prices are not much different from European ones, with the exception of gasoline and cigarettes, these things cost us half as much. Now imagine how you can roam around with that kind of money? Many just try to survive, not to mention being creative or some other interesting business.
In recent years, we again began to actively play live, keeping the bar at least 10 shows a year, some of which we play in European countries and have the opportunity to compare the standard of living. And I have to admit that the Russian province is in the deepest ass you can imagine. As for music and its fans, everything here is about the same level as everywhere else, in capitals, in Europe … 20-50 people come to ordinary underground concerts. And this does not, by and large, depend on the groups that perform. Sometimes it turns out to gather 100 people and then this is a real celebration. If you want to play in front of a larger audience, you can try to get support of some large groups, but it is always pay to play. Last year we played in Moscow with Vader and Hate, there were about 350 people in the hall, but it cost us 500 euros, it turns out that we paid 1.5 euros for each fan who listened to us, hahaha! Simple and sad arithmetic.
Basically, on our shows we see people of an older generation who have been fans of this music for many years. Sometimes young boys and girls come, but they are much smaller. You see, Heavy Metal is out of trend right now.
What is it like as a Metal musician in Russia – are you an outcast or is Metal somewhat socially accepted as musical style?
Now all the heavy music is back in the underground. Where it came from, and to some extent, it makes me happy. There are fewer of us, but those who still keep this religion are staying true. It’s easy to be cool when you’re inside a trendy fashion and doing everything the same way everyone else does. It is much more difficult to stay true to your principles when there are only a few people like you.
Now, society does not have such a hostile attitude towards metalheads as it once was. There is so much shit and jerks around that everyone just don’t care on some guys in holey jeans and with long hair. Just like the state. Personally, it does not interfere with us in our musical activity. I am convinced of this by the example of Hellblock 13. For five years, we have never had problems with the administration or the police, although this institution has always been unofficial, we have never issued any documents for concerts or licenses for the sale of alcohol. Once, they called me from the administration and said: “Keep in mind that we know about you.” And that’s all. It is very convenient for the state to know where we are and what we are doing. And it’s convenient for us that they don’t come to us. Yes, we are going to play our music, drink beer and chat. This is better than the marginalized youth who staggers through the streets and gates, using drugs and doing different shit. That’s where all the antisocial elements multiply, hahah!
Where have you been touring so far? Is my impression correct that you are far more known and popular in the Eastern EU scene than in the West?
Yes, this is absolutely true and absolutely logical. This is due to the fact that we live in this part of the mainland. Here, it’s easier for us to travel relatively short distances and play concerts, and it is convenient for groups from neighboring regions to come to us and play in our city. Although, if you take the “dry facts” (selling our releases, merchandising), then everything looks a little different. A lot of orders come from Western Europe, in addition, I have a lot of contacts in South America and Oceania, where TIRAN releases are going for trade. So everything is relative, as you see. As for the geography of our performances, for the time that we spent on the road, we traveled most of the western European part of Russia (to the Urals), were in the South, including the long-suffering Crimea, played in Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Belarus …
2020 we also have a very tight tour schedule, we plan to ride around the Baltic countries, several cities of Russia, which we have not had time to visit yet, return to Poland and visit France. Right now I’m busy planning these concerts.
What are you doing ”in real life”, when you are not making music?
Well, it depends on what you consider to be your real life. For me, this is precisely my creative and other activities related to music. If you are still interested in my other activities, then here I have nothing to surprise you with. Like all other members of the band, I work to have money for my hobby, food, alcohol and the existence of my family, I have two children, six cats … I do not know what else might be interesting in this matter …
What are your goals, dreams, what do you want to achieve with your music and this band?
I don’t want to achieve anything with music. I just need freedom to release creative energy, I want to do this and enjoy the process itself, to see the happy faces of people sharing this path with me. This is enough to realize my place in life and on the underground scene.
What is your connection with the Wings of Destruction label? How closely are you working with this label and what do they do for you?
Oh, hahahah! Yes, we are very closely associated with this label! First of all, because it belongs to me, hahah! And he does a lot for us, you can’t even imagine how much! I founded it in 2007 precisely for the reason that I was not very pleased with the work of Sibiria Prods label, which released our debut MCD. Since then, Wings Of Destruction has already released more than 50 releases and not all of them, of course, are associated with the TIRAN band, but so far I am of the opinion that no one can do more for my band than myself. The groups that I sign to Wings Of Destruction, I try to offer something more than just print the circulation of CDs. I try to organize interviews, send out promotional reviews for music publications, print flyers, help with the shows and try to give the greatest possible geography of distribution of their releases. I mean, I try to do everything that any publisher who calls himself a label should do, and not just stamp the CDs and sell them on Discogs and Bandcamp. Naturally, all this is very costly, but I am not doing it for commercial gain, therefore the result is in the first place here.
Do you have a weird /absurd story to tell, e.g. about mishaps at a gig/tour?
Oh hell, of course! There were a million of them! In almost every trip something extraordinary happens, sometimes it is connected with alcohol, sometimes with natural conditions and it is always fun to remember later, but never when you find yourself in such a situation! Anyway, we never regretted them.
What are your plans in the (near) future?
Metal! A lot of metal! Everywhere and always! I am still faithful to my religion and waiting for the promised old lady Anderson, hahah!
Thank you for the interview, and all the best for 2020!
Band photo: Tiran / live photos: K. Weber