ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
Modern Rock Ensemble
With: Vladimir Gorashcheko
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Sébastien Buret- April 2020
Profilprog: First, can you introduce yourself? What led you to music, what is your personal background?
V. Gorashchenko: Born in Odessa, Ukraine, USSR in 1956. Music in my family was an often guest: my mother Zoya loved to sing and played a bit piano, Father Vladimir sang and played 7 string guitars. As of age of 3, my mother took me to our Odessa Opera House and to Philharmonic Society, so I was fond of classical music by 7. Then, in addition to ordinary school and track/field athletics, I attended musical school and played piano. They said that I was a promising pupil, but when I fell in love with the Beatles at the age of 10, I almost gave up studying music and missed most of the lessons, looking for new LPs, exchanging, selling, buying etc. Then, as of 1970, I became a fan of Deep Purple, Led Zep, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk, Steppenwolf, CCR etc. In '72 I have heard Yes, ELP, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, ELO. But since 1973, when I have heard Genesis, Gentle Giant, MMEB, progressive Italian rock, I became a devoted fan of Progressive rock.
PP: You released your first album in 2016 and founded the band. What is the DNA of MRE, what is the vision, the ideas behind this project?
V.G.: It all happened much earlier. After graduating from Odessa Marine Academy in 1978 I worked in Black Sea Shipping Co as a marine engineer and in 8 years made a career from 4-th to Chief Engineer. It was quite dull and boring at sea and in 1979 I started to compose music, singing, playing 6,12-string guitars and recorder. At first it was melodic and hard rock, then string quartets with New Age elements, and by '83-84 I started to compose more complicated progressive rock pieces. I realised that I want to establish a prog band with 12-string and acoustic guitars, keyboard, cello, electric guitar and tabla drums. In 1986, in a voyage to Japan, I have purchased my first synth. That summer I have also found musicians for my band – cellist/second keyboards, electric guitar player and backing vocals, Indian tabla drummer and violin player/female voice. This band was called Modern-Rock Ensemble Putnik (Wayfarer). It was Putnik Mark 1. We rehearsed during my quite long vacations, played concerts, participated in festivals. Then I quit Black sea Shipping Co. We were invited to Italy, recorded an LP that was never released. Later in 1988 for many reasons I disbanded the Mk1 and established MRE Putnik Mk2 with young talented musicians: second keyboard player, guitar/violin player and fretless bass, using rhythm computer, since there were no proper drummers in this style locally. I had to turn them into my style of music, and it worked. This band played much better in concerts, festivals; we played more jazz-rock orientated music and prog as well. But in 1990 my mother fell seriously ill, I have got married, thus I had to earn money. I established several companies in Odessa and Russia. I continued to compose, play, and study music theory, but just for a hobby.
In both bands I clearly understood what style of music we have to play and always had a desired sound in my head. I love classical music, prog rock, jazz-rock, ethnic music and rock, and wanted to play a fusion of that. However, I wanted an Ensemble sound, not exactly rock with upfront guitar or synths, but kind of Stravinsky Firebird, where instruments form kind of ornament, passing the themes to one another with polyphony and counterpoints. We've reached my target quite early: you can listen to Meditations (Putnik Mk1 1987) and Swamp (Putnik Mk2 1988), they were released on my «Touch The Mystery» album.
So, when I decided to restart my music activities in 2010 on my albums «Touch the Mystery» and «Night Dreams & Wishes» I continued with the same style and musical ideas.
PP: How did you meet all the musicians that made the music possible? The number is huge.
V.G.: Working upon «Touch the Mystery», it was complicated to find proper musicians. For everyone I was just an «ambitious newcomer» with some crazy ideas, non-commercial style, complicated music, with no albums behind my belt. There were very few musicians in Ukraine playing progressive rock, so I had to choose musicians from classic music, Jazz, rock, heavy metal and when I found cool professionals, I started working with each of them separately. For each one, including string quartet, I was recording their parts on synths first, rehearsing afterwards. It was hell of a work, but guys got my idea step-by-step. With guitarist Max Velychko it was easier – we knew each other since 2009, many times he and his band «Inside the Sound» visited my office studio and listened to a lot of cool prog rock music that was often new to them. Max is very cool and talented player with deep understanding of music, he is very flexible. We've reached the proper guitar sound for my music, worked on Max solos with full understanding. On my albums he played differently compared to his band.
With «Night Dreams & Wishes» album it was much easier. Previous album had certain recognition, I was no more a newcomer, I had 4 musicians to continue with (Max on guitar, Igor Zakus on fretless bass, Bogdan Gumenyuk on saxes and flute, Igor Andriyevskiy on violin) and quite some contacts with good musicians. I am glad that since 2006 I knew our Ukrainian «guitar legend» Enver Izmailov, who is a fantastic tapping guitar player, and he proposed to take part in my new album. He made a brilliant job in six pieces. Fretted bass guitar was played by Max's friend and colleague in «Inside the Sound» band Dmitriy Trifonov. Vitaliy Dilistianov proposed an absolutely cool drummer Evgeny Selezniov, with whom in 2 days (without any rehearsals) we've recorded in studio 80% of drums!!! The remaining drum parts were recorded by Brody Green – drummer of Southern Empire - a kind advice from Sean Timms. Anton Kalugin proposed that my daughter Anastasia could sing the female parts!!! Funny! More details about musicians can be found on the sleeve of the album.
PP: In Ukraine, you have a lot of good bands, I would mention Karfagen and Sunchild. Do you know each other, do you share collaboration?
V.G.: I became friends with Anton Kalugin in 2008. In 2009 I introduced Max Velichko to Anton. I am glad that Max has played on 6 albums of Karfagen/Sunchild. Anton helped me to record my synth part in «Touch the Mystery» album. Me and many other Ukrainian prog musicians know each other. However, I am in good or friendly relations with 20 prominent prog musicians from different countries, so there is something like Progressive Rock Brotherhood.
PP: You seem to be a full artist, what is your relation to poetry? What are your favourites poets?
V.G.: I was writing some poems since childhood, however not too often and only when something deeply impressed me. I love some poems by Pushkin, Burns, Kipling, Wordsworth, Lennon-McCartney and lyrics of some prog bands, especially Genesis (Gabriel era).
PP: « Night Dreams & Wishes » is your last album. How would you describe it in a few words?
V.G.: I believe that it's not the last album. I still have many new ideas and more than 50 nice pieces already composed – 20 are worth recording and releasing.
This album is a Suite, that has a general idea and 11 parts, connected by 10 musical themes, that are changing and developing throughout the Suite. Ukraine is going through some challenging and dramatic period and I've reflected it in 3 parts of «Dark Kingdom and the Evil King». In general, the idea of the album is the following: dream your dream, see it in your nightdreams and taste it, then wake up and work hard to make it happen. That is what I am doing all my life.
PP: How were the producing and recording sessions? I read you collaborated with Sean Timms.
V.G.: Progressive rock is not that popular in Ukraine and there are no producers and sound engineers skilled in this field. On «Touch the Mystery» I worked with assistance of sound engineer Anatoly Soroka, who wasn't bad, but he was coming from different music background. I've spent 3 years to reach the sound that I've had in my head. It was a bloody exhausting process.
«Night Dreams & Wishes» was much longer and more complicated. I've recorded different instruments and voices in 6 studios to reach desired sound, choosing the best options for vocals, drums, strings etc. I've made mixing myself before we recorded drums, and then the problem of reaching a proper drum sound and mixing it with other tracks has occurred. It might have taken me another 3 years. But…I am a big fan of Unitopia and Southern Empire, love their sound. So, I've applied to Sean Timms to participate in the mixing of drum tracks, further mixing according to my demos and reaching the proper sound. He listened to my previous album, demo of a new one, positively commented my music and musicians and agreed to participate. Modern technologies made our cooperation possible. We worked in «long distance collaboration» between Ukraine and Australia: Sean sent me his mixes and I was providing my inputs and corrections. It wasn't that easy – Sean had some medical care, then rehearsals, then tour, some family affairs, but in 8 months we've done the job. I am satisfied with the results of our cooperation. We met in Verviers only in the middle of our cooperation. Thanks to Sean once again.
PP: Lyrically, this is a rich album. What are the main themes?
V.G.: The main theme of the Suite is «Night Comes. Dreams.». In different variations it appears 9 times on the album. Themes of «Schooldays», «Dark Kingdom and the Evil King» and some others appear and transform through the whole album, sometimes replacing one another and sometimes fighting with each other.
«Wake Up» theme reflects Hope for a daylight and happiness, and it is particularly important in this Suite as well.
PP: Inspiration is a subtle process, what makes you more fertile artistically?
V.G.: Strangely enough, my business activities are sometimes helpful. I am in investment and development business and have to manage big and complicated real estate projects with many participants. It's a tough job and I have to be tough. But my inner «good human qualities» are aching trying to survive, and it helps to give birth to some sweet melodies. However, sometimes I am not satisfied or am irritated with something – then my synths start to fight, and music becomes more aggressive. It's as well important that I don't have to release an album per year and have enough time to develop the concept and work on arrangements.
«Night Dreams and Wishes» started from «Night Comes. Dreams.». We came with my family and friends to the ski resort, I took 12-string guitar and a small synth with me. My daughter and wife were joking: «We are lucky that papa is not a drummer, otherwise the car would be full of drums». At nights I was playing guitar and going in circles around the melody that later became «Night comes». Then I composed more acoustic pieces being in the right mood. For another 8 months I was composing the rest of the Suite. For me it's important to meditate a bit and dive in the atmosphere and idea of what I am creating and work hard to keep the direction. When the concept is clear it's easier to develop it.
PP: Musically, I mentioned in my review, this sounded like an encyclopaedia with an impressive number of references. Was it conscious or unconscious? What can you tell us about the construction?
V.G.: For sure many styles in this album correspond to different moods and nightdreams in the Suite. Our dreams are often a kaleidoscope of events and pictures, sometimes illogical or surrealistic. And I've just tried to depict these visions and memories in my music. I love classical music, jazz-rock, ethnic/new-age music and progressive rock and accordingly music of Modern-Rock Ensemble is my vision of the modern prog.
PP: I pointed out this could be a bit elitist for some listeners? What do you think?
V.G.: Progressive music is «elitist» by its origins and complexity. Yes, Genesis and especially Gentle Giant in 70's were never a music for wide masses. I am composing music that I have in my head and trying to further develop progressive rock and move some boundaries. I am showing that classical and chamber music can be very cool in progressive rock - sometimes in my piece’s strings are playing rather heavy rocky riffs instead of guitar. I will be glad if my music pushes anyone towards classical or chamber music.
PP: Covid 19 is now impacting our lives, our models, our societies, and so many things. How is the situation in your country and do you think it will help us realize and change things?
V.G.: Incredibly challenging and troubled time we now live through. We must be patient and strong. Good times will be back.
PP: One last question, choose one dream and share it with us (on my own, I would restore nature, virgin lands, tropical forest, bird, and waterfalls…)
V.G.: We need to take care about the nature in favour of «our children's children».