Back in August Ukrainian stoner band STONED JESUS surprised many of the Reverence Valada festival – goers with their appealing rock sound. We took that chance for a pleasant chat with their communicative frontman Igor, that now we bring to you in a Christmas box mode.
TBP: I’m seeing your band mates having a tough time to survive this night. Is Portugal kicking ass or what?
SJ: Well yes. We’re flying from Kiev in a seven hour flight so when arriving we decided “fuck that. We’re not gonna sleep”. So we just had half an hour of sleep in two days, and that’s why my guys are completely blown out.
Actually, as we speak you’re already resting after your show here at reverence. How did you feel on stage?
Very comfortable. Since we went on stage for the line-check all the guys were just cheering up, and that warm reception remind us of other southern countries, like Greece or Spain. Or even Ukraine at same point, where the crowd relates to you. They want to connect to you somehow, and so this first show here in Portugal was very cool and relaxed.
I see, that comes along with the festival mood: a very easygoing festival, with good vibes and no distresses. Do these feelings somehow make you guys more distant from the emotional environment that goes on in your home country these days? With the Russian issue and all?
Well the issue is more present in one part of the country. Off course it messes up with the whole population, but somehow everybody got so tired of all this mess that people try to avoid speaking about it. We’re not thinking to give up on our country, but we are forced to learn how to live with the current situation. We’re trying not to get too emotional in a negative way about it. Because man, what can you actually do about it? Life goes on and you can only help with what you’re doing. What we do is playing music.
Have you played in Russia since then?
No we haven’t played in Russia since almost two years. And it was our strong decision, because we have many friends there, and many fans asking us to play in a peaceful and very friendly way. But the problem is that Russian authorities don’t know much about Ukrainians bands, and they could link us to some anti -Christian Ideology. I mean, they banned Behemoth, Cradle of Filth and they almost banned Slayer. But now, in the current scenario imagine a band called STONED JESUS, coming from Ukraine to play there. I respect all our fans there but I don’t want to put my band, my guys at risk, neither everyone that we depend on. It’s not gonna happen anytime soon.
But does the musical scene still resists in Ukraine? I mean, do you keep having underground clubs with underground rock shows?
Of course of course! The scene is livelier than ever! Probably because of what is happening. Because of all these nasty events, many people decided they should step up and do something. Many bands that were not that active got back to play live. Also the new bands have continued to play, so the local scene is quite vivid actually. You know, when someone has a setback, sometimes the other has to do something to bring you along. And that’s a little bit of what’s happening.
But still, there aren’t that many Ukrainian bands coming to Western Europe to play, and from the few that do, I can’t remember any other playing Stoner Rock. How were STONED JESUS created? What’s the idea behind the band? Is there any Stoned Jesus concept?
Basically first it was the idea of bringing the seventies rock back to life. I always wanted to do this Black Sabbath / Led Zepplinish kind of thing, with long solos and those lyrics. But meanwhile things evolved, and I don’t think that Stoned Jesus now sounds exactly like any other band. And the direction that we’re moving to may piss some of the more conservative fans, because we’re somehow more distant of the traditional Doom metal sound, into some other experimental areas. And sometimes that’s not exactly what they want to hear.
Nevertheless you’ve reach a considerable level of recognition with “Seven Thunders Roar” . Did this good reception pressed you somehow when working on the new “The Harvest”?
I’ve been answering that question a lot…But the funniest thing is that there wasn’t any acclaimed critics back then. When Seven Thunder Roar came out no one give a shit. It wasn’t on any best -of of the year. We were booking shows ourselves, sleeping on the floor, eating with our own money and playing for 30 people. And no one really gave a shit. It all began like a year ago when I checked some reviews stating that “wow, this is really a cool album”. “Now it’s cool”, I’ve asked. So, as you see, there was no pressure regarding this new album. And we’re glad because in that way we were able to work things in our own way.
Ok, but with the album out for a while, how were the reactions so far?
Well, they were kind of mixed. In fact we heard people claiming that it wasn’t doom enough. It wasn’t heavy enough. But maybe those people do not risk stepping out of their Doom comfort zone you know? They like some sounds and they prefer us to keep producing the exact same sounds over and over. But we’re not gonna do it. We’re not Motorhead. We’re not doing the same album over and over again. With all due respect. So, prepare yourselves for the new things people!
You’re getting exactly to our next point: with always clean vocals on your songs where do you think (or do you wish) Stoned Jesus is closer to: bands as SLEEP, or as FAITH NO MORE? Is it possible to be closer to both of them at the same time?
Well, yes. There’s always some revolution in your evolution, and if you’re moving forward and you’re really feeling cool and excited you will gonna make new music instead of repeating yourself. And that’s the best, because when you do repetitions you’re probably not being sincere; not being yourself. And I believe the fans feel that emotion and they stop believing in you and eventually they will abandon you. It’s quite a paradox, because you create music for the fans but they won’t like it because it’s not true. So, there’s no sense in repeating yourself. Not for you, not for your fans. Maybe just for the label. For instance, if we had a big label behind us maybe we would be asked to create a Seven Thunders Roar number II.
Thank you for you time Igor. Just some final words for our followers?
I just want to say “huge thank you”. It was so hard working to be in Portugal for the first time ever, and people singing your songs; aligned in the moments that they like. It was really great. On my way to the toilet so many people stop me on the way, to say hello, that I almost wet my pants. Everything was great.
Just before the finish: what’s the thing about The Prodigy cover?
(laughing). It’s just a small joke, and I’m really surprised because so many people recognized it and January. Before we had the Imperial March from Star Wars and we needed a new joke song to piss people off. And the initial riffs from this Prodigy cover were so damn close that we just said: Let’s do this! And boy, it works all the time.
Live pics courtesy of Valentina Erno with Reverence Valada festival