Hailing from the frosted and faraway lands of Russian Far East, right on the border with China, with all its undoubted huge difficulties of lack of opportunities, isolationa and narrow-minded provincialism, on the one hand, it preserves an enthusiasm, passion and sheer authenticity far from trends and fashions.
Khabarovsk-based female-fronted 4-piece Rape Tape unleashes a seductive and ritualistic mix of abrasive visceral hardcore punk noise, combined with gloomy post-punk introspection and industrial and dub leanings, enriched by magnetic, distressing, sometimes screaming, vocals; a challenging listen not for the faint-hearted, but highly rewarding.
I had an interesting chat with guitarist, photographer, and filmmaker Alexander Yanchuk to learn more…
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s trace back to your personal roots, where did you grow up and how did you get into music? Who were your musical inspirations growing up?
So we are all born in the Far East, the farthest region in Russia. Our hometown, Khabarovsk, is the place that always was in some kind of cultural isolation. No one really knows where this place is. No bands or artist ever wants to come there, exсept in times when some big pop artists go on tour to our famous neighbor Vladivostok. Instead China, Japan, Korea were not the options. It was another galaxy.
There are a few major universities in Khabarovsk, so they became the main engine of progress. People come here from nearby towns and villages to study and they share small pieces of information from small local music stores, where they buy every tape and CD they could find.
And then the internet has come. People start to download everything, visit every resource and blog, listen to every band and check every cover art, share everything on a multiple CD-RW’s. The community started to grow up, bands were born every day, shows played every week. People were interested in creating something new.
But then something broke. People became disappointed. There were no opportunities, no chances to become something bigger. It was the Khabarovsk mentality. Isolated people always thought that no one really cares about them and then they stop caring about anything. No records, no shows, no energy.
Bands broke up, people start their new life, have jobs and families. The only highlight was the capitals – Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The last of the musicians thought they can make something there. But here comes the government politics: reduce population outflow of the regional airlines makes the highest prices on their tickets. Ticket prices were equal to the monthly salary. Flight from Khabarovsk to Moscow is about 8 hours. It took a week if you go on a train. People collect all the money they have, move to capitals and just start to survive there because there wasn’t time to make anything at all. Only work and a few million people with the same trouble of self-fulfillment.
The rest who stay was locked in a cage and become crazy. Civil war starts. People were angry, they try to save what was left. They fought for the audience which also decreased. Start to blemish shows and every initiative. The Internet gave another level of madness. There were a few forums where people humiliate every act, every band, every musician and person. It was fun for them, but no one understands it was the last nail in the coffin of the Khabarovsk scene.
But fortunately, there were some people who didn’t want to have anything in common. They tired of that stagnation and mentality. Of every same band that tries to be appropriate. Of the local promoters and wicked audience, who wants to rape everything they saw.
So the small new wave of musicians starts to do the only thing they want – to make music and don’t pay attention to Khabarovsk‘s opinion at all.
That was the time when Rape Tape was born.
Let’s talk about the genesis of Red Tape. How did you meet? What attracted you? Your name…And above all what are the elements that give you this musical complementarity so unique?
After break up of local chaotic hardcore act “Pvt. Dancer”, Sasha (guitar) wanted to try a different approach in music. There are many different genres and moods, so the realization has come that we do not want to do one thing. There were so many influences so we wanted to fit them all in one band. There was a desire to combine incongruous. You want to make aggressive music, but way more intimate, a dialogue with your inner self. You want to be expressive, but you won’t have another vibe. You want to dance like as if there were never certain dances. You want to throw out all hashtags and make something different – music that you want to listen to and music you will passionate about it.
So in Khabarovsk, it was a challenge. There was an opinion that all you need to do is to play ‘128th notes in 330 bpm’ – and you became a great musician. Everyone cares about technique, but no one about the vibe and mood of the music. So every local band was the same.
It can’t be done with guys from the conservatory. Only personality and her thoughts were important. Eventually, a few people meet in a garage somehow. Some of us already had experience in playing music, some of us weren’t even musicians. We just know each other from shows, bands, and every weekend party. All of us have different music tastes. But we all were interested in that difference. It was awesome to know and feel something new in conversation and then in music.
That time the internet situation goes far and deeper. People were crazy not only in the music field but also everywhere. There were multiple reports of sexual violence. Someone with mental illness can kill you or rape you and then the whole country starts to discuss this on national television and the internet. Call you names and say that you were guilty. People don’t want to solve that problem or to help. People just write stupid comments on social media and laugh at you. People rape those victims again and again and then just forget about them. It becomes one big rape tape and no one can do anything with that. Everyone loses their minds, people will laugh at someone’s grief. No one is safe here. Even now half the country is seriously opposed to the law on punishment for domestic and sexual violence. So Rape Tape became our band name. For the hundredth time, we are surprised that no one else calls their bands like that to show everyone that nightmare.
How is born your attraction for the cold, dark, noisy, uneasy and gloomy sound?
As was said before, in Khabarovsk everyone considers it their duty to tell you how to do things, how to sing, how to play your instruments. Nobody wanted to know that there were a lot of different music and they started to blame you for ignorance and strangeness. Therefore, the search for sound has become even more interesting. We are looking for beauty and passion in the most unexpected things. It’s raw, angry, improper and painful sound. But at the same time it full of feelings and energy. The vibrations do not match the vibrations of your body and this makes them so attractive or repulsing. Everyone will make their own opinion, but no one will remain indifferent. Even we perceive each song differently, each time, after a certain achievement or a new record, a wide scope opens up for new searches and creative desires. Many influences do their job. Life in the city on the swamp does even more. What you will not find in the depths.
Your sound has been described as a”Mad swing from melancholy to wild chaos”. How would you describe it?
You will be turned inside out and you will dance with us.
Tell us about the music scene of your hometown Khabarovsk, the Far East in general and the differences with most known Moscow and Saint-Petersburg… Could you recommend any bands?
There is great musical competition in the capitals.
Bands strive to occupy a certain niche and correspond to certain areas while some influences in principle don’t reach Khabarovsk, or only after a long period of time. It follows that nothing prevents groups from looking for their own sound, without too much noise from outside. Another thing is that in such a situation, neither groups nor the public care much for such a search, due to the lack of any benefit. Therefore, the whole local scene rests solely on a small group of ideological people.
This is the trouble of all regional music. The main movement takes place in the capitals, but despite the number of people and opportunities, the development of creativity takes place on a small scale. While regional music is not even known in the neighboring regions due to the media stream.
As part of our Nation-wide tour, we’ve directly faced with this issue, all over Russia, there are small but progressive communities that are unknown to anyone and that do not receive any support.
The scene of Khabarovsk is one of the smallest and has a small number of artists. Most of the remarkable collectives broke up or left for the capital.
Some of them: Tarkovsky, Molten River, Moonlectric, |сИстра|, Оркестровая Яма, Вне Клетки, 13 мгновений весны, Pro et Contra, Simple is Good.
Some continue to be active in the capitals: Supernova 1006 and Parks, Squares and Alleys, Otto Dix.
The most active and developing local bands at the moment are xSOBERx, Рафлезия, Nurnberg, Mareo, INGEBORGA and Hook by Step.
Tell us about your process of composing the songs and writing the lyrics?
The whole process of writing consists of teamwork and improvisation. Only the first pair of tracks were originally written entirely by the guitarist before the first line up was formed, but they also changed when we start working together. Eventually, it all starts with an idea, certain creative desires, and reflection on the experience and results already obtained.
The music of Rape Tape has not a revolutionary approach, but an evolutionary. Current compositions would be completely impossible without the work done in the past. Periodic forced change of line-up also contributes to the development.
The music of Rape Tape is a constant search and rethinking of their desires.
Even old songs change over time along with a change in collective thinking and a desire for sound evolution. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Lyrics are a more complicated thing. The thing is absolutely spontaneous, unexpected, there is no scheme at all. Lyrics are the work of the subconscious, you never know what you will write a song about until you write it.
But no matter what meaning you lay, it will not be unambiguous, because other people will find their own in it. For each person it’s personal. Each person sees the meaning from his prism of perception, sees some references, while others are hidden to him. And the pulse of the text completely complements the music, emphasizes its emotional component, itself becomes music. The lyrics are the whole theme of each of the releases and each of them represents one big story.
Do you draw on, or are you influenced by, any non-musical cultural resources (eg films, books, visual art) in your creative process? ?
Yes, sure! It’s impossible to make a multifaceted work based only on certain music, while also a certain style. Everything is used: books, films, cultural trends, history, religion, spiritual practices and much more. Given the completely different tastes of the members, the volume of information is not calculable. Even dialogues with random people can lead you to creative thoughts. And a conversation with the drummer, when the rest of the band is late as hell for rehearsal, is the most powerful engine in the universe ahahahahah.
With an increasing number of releases, which are your favorites and the ones that properly engulfed the essence of Rape Tape’s sound so far?
All releases are very different. Each of them tells our story in a certain period of time. They show the nature of performance in a certain period of time, how our mood changed every day and month because nothing is ever the same. All that is the same is unnatural. But the main indicator is that the same band plays completely different material live so that you don’t see anything out of the overall holistic picture. When the record is finished we release it, but we never finish working on ourselves and over time the songs change with us. Therefore, all of them are our favorites and we are sincerely proud of them, and we play these songs live as we want right now.
Which songs would you pick out as your favorites from it if you had to and why?
For each member they are different. There is even a debate about which songs to play at the current show and which not. But the whole band will confirm that the whole new album is the best material at the moment. We will try very hard for people to hear it in the second half of 2020.
You’re known for wild and visceral live performance as your last ‘live in Vilnius’ tape testify, could talk about them? What are your highlights so far?
Live performances are what the band was going to. All songs are written as we would like to play them live so that we ourselves would like to move for them. The living group shows itself real. And we are not talking about the quality of performance, clear notes and technique. In Khabarovsk, all bands thought that was enough, so it was sad to look at them. People stand rooted to the spot with their guitars and try to be someone but not themselves. You can’t even understand if he enjoys what they’re doing. The band’s concert needs to be believed. The artist’s sincerity is what makes the performance unforgettable, both for him and the public. There is an exchange of energy, and this is exactly what distinguishes performances from rehearsals or studio work. You go to the stage and release yourself. And it doesn’t matter what the number of viewers or the quality of the sound. We played for 300 people and for 5. We played on a huge square in front of the theater in Khabarovsk and in the basement in Gorzów Wielkopolski. Only your mood and desire to play make a concert and nothing else will prevent it. It was our first Russian tour that showed what we were standing for. It’s one thing when you are listened to on the Internet or by friends of the scene, and another when you speak to complete strangers and they simply cannot restrain their emotions.
- Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?
Well, this is a sore point. Let’s get back to the complex history of Khabarovsk music. In difficult times, when music became unnecessary for anyone due to the quality of local bands, people who knew nothing but playing instruments found a solution to their life and financial problems. They began to organize cover bands. And there were a lot of these. And the whole scene in the city became associated with them. People went to bars to listen to songs from the radio and drink beer without straining their brains. This did not contribute to the development of tastes, some people simply earned money from other people’s music, while others blindly absorbed it. There were other examples when one very ambitious post-hardcore band played several covers at each of their shows. And so, it turned out that in the end no one knew their own songs and asked to play only these covers. The last straw was the questions asked by people who see you with a guitar. “Oh, do you have a guitar? Do you play in a band? And whose songs are you covering?”
Why waste your time for covers when you can write your wonderful songs and everyone wants to make a cover on you? ahahahaha
Were there any pivotal records or live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?
Yes, sure. The constant revisions of concerts and listening to the recordings bring in the necessary share of doubts – have we forgotten to bring in our music those things that we wanted?
- Make a list of your 5 desert island albums …
For each participant they are different, so there will be not 5, but 20. ahahahah
- What´s the plan for the future…
The main plan is to finish work on the LP. This is very lengthy and hard work, but we are delighted with the music that comes out. We do not wait for it to be released. Then you need to urgently go on a tour, and preferably a few. The more shows and cities – the better. Dependence on constant performance progresses every day. We hope to visit your country as soon as possible.
So what is next? No one can say for sure. Writing music and lyrics is total chaos and you can never predict when it will happen and where it will lead.
- Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the last question: Is there anything I forgot to ask you and would you like to say?
Listen to more music, discover something new, support artists, go to concerts and don’t judge books by covers.
Keep up with Rape Tape: