Lets kick off our Russian trip coverage!
Disoriented, sleep deprived and confused. This describes how I felt when I woke up my 1st morning in Moscow.
The day before, Dima, lead singer and one of the original members of the long running punk band (17 years) “Tarakany!” (Cockroach!), had arranged for me to attend their band rehearsal at 11AM and I was to meet him at the Metro (subway for you New Yorkers) station at 10:45AM Moscow time (yup! that’s 2:45AM NYC time and to my poor unadjusted body).
What punk band, hell, what musician rehearses at 11AM? Well, as I was to find out Dima and his crew at “Tarakany!” are a hard working, disciplined bunch. Maybe that explains their staying power for so many years.
The guys were preparing for a big concert for their fan club and they don’t mess around. They rehearse hard.
The metro stations in Moscow are incredibly crowded and for the uninitiated and jet lagged, chaotic and slightly intimidating.
If you have ever been to New York City and experienced Grand Central or Penn Station at rush hour then you sort of, slightly get the picture.
Having never met Dima and only glanced his photo on MySpace and being without a local cell phone to make contact, I thought it would be a miracle if we actually were able to get together in the madness of this Moscow train station.
With Dima’s instructions to “meet in the middle” I wasn’t even sure where the middle was? The middle of what? Well, as I later discovered during my trip this is a very common (and reliable) meeting place for Muscovites as the trains are the most efficient means of travel in Moscow, so almost everyone takes them as car traffic above ground is a legendary mess.
Now in Latin America it’s pretty easy to meet up with people I’ve never met, because I’m obviously one of a handful of gringos, often the only gringo. But in Moscow, I could easily pass for Russian (until I spoke). So Dima and I each arranged to be wearing our respective CBGB’s shirts.
So I’m in the middle of the train station with my coat open to prominently display my CBGB’s thermal and Dima spots me right on time, 10:45AM. Another thing I was to learn that Muscovites seem to be very punctual, even musicians and yes, even punks!
Dima kisses his girlfriend goodbye and I try to keep up with the long legged (think Joey Ramone kind of tall and lanky), fast walking lead singer as we walk at an incredibly fast pace to rehearsal. Moscow is the only city I’ve seen to beat New York’s hustle and bustle… it is one intense city, even for and maybe especially for punk musicians.
Dima says he learned English like a lot of people I’ve gotten to know over the course of my travels for “Punktology”, from listening and playing American Rock music.
The rehearsal space is fairly typical and we pretty much have the place to ourselves (it is 11AM after all?!). It’s a very professional rehearsal space, complete with all the latest audio equipment and a “green” room to hang out in.
After some brief introductions to the guys in the band, they jump right into rehearsal and I’m thrilled when they rip into a kick ass version of Social Distortion’s “Cold Feelings” . It may be 3AM NYC time, I may be exhausted, jet lagged and confused but this gets me in the mood. Social D. is better than coffee!
Dima’s voice has a powerful, raspy and dare I even say slightly Mike Ness quality. He’s professionally trained and you can tell he’s dedicated to his craft. The whole band is.
They get right to it in rehearsal with very little horsing around and as Dima tells me, they will often rehearse 3 or 4 hours per day. Though they occasionally have to get other work to pay the rent (Moscow is an extremely expensive city), most of the time music is their full time gig and it shows.
I was really impressed with their work ethic. They barely took time for the interview in between rehearsal sessions.
I discovered these guys are not only hard working but damn good musicians. I guess years of rehearsals at 11AM pays off.
They rip through a couple more covers including a ditty from the Ramones “Poison Heart” and I think that is so appropriate because if I had to describe the style of these cockroaches, it would be Social Distortion meets Ramones meets Moscow. It’s a unique sound but with some familiar touches.
Next they tear into their originals of which they have a significant number including a new song “Dog’s Heart” which is due out this year.
As I said, we were able to knock out a very quick interview during a break in between rehearsal sets and Dima invited me out that night to a punk club with them where one of their friends was playing.
I really wanted to go but it was a case of bad scheduling because I had another commitment with Victor (AKA DJ Spaceman) who already had me scheduled for a pretty heavy agenda of interviews that evening, including a rockabilly band that made the trip in all the way from Ukraine, whom I couldn’t disappoint.
I needed two of me, cause I’m really bummed I didn’t get to see the punk show that night and even more bummed I didn’t get to see Tarakany! perform for their fans on Sunday night. If it was anything like their rehearsal I know it kicked ass.
The band’s heavy punk sound suits my personal taste but alas, I have for you dear viewer a couple of clips from rehearsal, including their version of “Cold Feelings” by Social Distortion and “Dog’s Heart” their new song. Both of these are coming up real soon as soon as I find a wi-fi connection that can handle the upload.
I also have several of their CDs and I plan on getting a nice feature segment on them together so you’ll be able to hear more from these Russian cockroaches right here real soon so just stay tuned.
In the meantime I’d like to thank Dima and the guys from Tarakany! for their gracious hospitality allowing me to sit on an important rehearsal. So sorry I couldn’t make the show guys.
I hope you will be sure to check out their MYSPACE Page where you can sample more music and get to know the Tarakany! from Moscow, Russia. Who knows, maybe they’ll be in a city near you soon so look out for them.
Up next: I narrowly escape arrest by police as I clandestinely film an interview in Red Square. STAY TUNED!