OTTO DIX - pure Gothic style from Russia, St. Petersburg. The band (Michael Draw: lyrics, vocals / Marie Slip: keyboards, composition / Peter Voronov: violin) started 2004 in Khabarovsk (far East), moved to Saint Petersburg; and after the release of five CDs and hundreds of concerts they are considered famous and hot in the scene. The music is elegiac, rich in ideas and electronic orchestration. But its special characteristic sound is obtained by the unusual and unique voice and significant character of the countertenor Draw, who sings in Russian and with whom we talk in this interview.
What was the reason that you have called your band Otto Dix (after the expressionist German artist, 1891-1969)?
That happened after I was impressed by Otto Dix’s pictures. When I studied at University, we had lectures about modern German art, and I got knew about this artist.
Your names are stage names. What does Draw mean? And how did you get “Marie Slip”? But Peter Voronov is an “ordinary” name?
I was called by my mates in Role Plot Games (laughing). “Draw” is a misprint of “Drow” (Dark Elf), and is pronounced like [‘drau]. Slip is an old nickname, I don’t know, what does it mean. And even Slip himself doesn’t know it as well. He also took a name of one character from his early novel “The Old House”. There was a very strange young boy called Marie. Pronounced like [mar’i]. As for Peter, he changed only his second name. He thought, that “Voronov” fits our style better :-) (“voron” means “crow”).
Draw, did you ever study to sing the countertenor? There are not many people on earth, who are able to sing this specific tune (except after long training). What, Draw, do you think about the uniqueness of your voice?
I was studying singing only for two years, I took personal lessons. But frankly speaking, I understand that my voice is far from perfect. And I would be happy to have a low voice. My “uniqueness” causes a lot of trouble – people are not ready for such voice (especially in Russia), and they can’t except me in the right way.
Do you still have connections to Khabarovsk, for example to your family, you might visit sometimes?
I only call sometimes to my mother and granny. Slip seldom visits his family, but it is very expensive – you know, Russia is a huge country, and the way is very long and not cheap (more than 6 hours by plane).
Last year, you had a show at the Wave Gothic Treffen WGT in Leipzig, in this year 2010 you were present at the Castle Party in Bolkow. How are the impressions? Is the scene in the West other than in Russia?
Yes, of course. In Europe the Dark Scene is a kind of mainstream, but in Russia – not. Everywhere there is only metal and rock. Public is also different: usually there are very young girls and tender boys. Unfortunately. Adults in general listen to a special kind of “Russian chanson” and pop-music. Youth listen to metal, punk-rock and alternative rock. And they behave also not so aristocratic as goths. But on our concerts there are not so many of “head bangers”, usually our public fits our style.
“The West” knows very little generally about the music scene in Russia. Is the Pop/Rock/Wave/Metal-scene of your home comparable with the one from the West?
Unfortunately the music is rather secondary. I mean, that people like to take the styles “from the West” and do “the same”. Sometimes even without any changes. Some years ago Russian Gothic Scene, for example, consisted of almost “clones” of Western bands, and Russian groups had lyrics in English. Nonsense! Now the situation is a bit different. “Otto Dix” made the native language fashionable (laughing).
As for the pop music – it is not so professional, as in the West: we have not our local Lady Gaga, Madonna or Michael Jackson. But some of our bands were popular in the West – “Gorky Park” for example. Or “TATU”. They also had to sing in English. I can’t understand it. I suppose, if a singer can show what he means, then his native language is not a problem.
Otto Dix represents indeed a part of "Russian music". When we - “from the West” - think of music from Russia, drop names like Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky or the Don Cossack Choir. How do you feel about music from Russia?
I’m not a musical patriot :-) I like German music – no matter of what period. But Slip likes some Russian rock bands.
What do you like most in Russia? Or what do you find awful?
Hm… Russia is a country of great contrasts. In general I love my motherland, but what I really hate – is homophobia. Of course, this trouble exists in all countries, but in Russia it is especially hard.
If money would not matter, would you stay in St. Petersburg or prefer a different location on the earth for living?
I would like to have apartments in Berlin and in Ulm (very beautiful city), and a small wooden house somewhere close to Alps. But I also love the city where I live now – St. Petersburg. May be I never will leave it.
At which place on earth would you like to play a concert? And with which other musicians or band would you like to share the stage together (apart from Seelenzorn)?
Germany (lacht)! And as for the bands – “Deine Lakaien”!
How it works – Slip composes and Draw creates the lyrics and the vocal parts? How should we imagine that?
Usually the work is like that. But some our hits first were verse and after that Slip composed the music. For example, “Beloved German” is a verse of 2002 (written long before the band), and in 2004 it became a song.
In the live shows Draw represents different roles - there is the "cyber robot" or the SM-master in latex with whip. What kind of ideas stuck behind the wheels? Do they reflect perhaps something happened in your life?
When I was a little boy, my Granny called me “Little heir Tutti”; it is a character from the tale by Jury Olesha “Three Fatsos” (1924). Tutti was a prince who had no alive friends, only a doll which was a copy of a real girl. So, my wise granny saw from the very beginning, who lives in the family – a prince who loves only “dolls”, machines. When I have enough money, I’ll buy one of that androids, you know, which are made by Japanese. Machines are better than human beings. And as for the BDSM-theme. Well… I guess, it is also truth (laughing).
On YouTube you can find not only various videos of Otto Dix shows, but also live recordings, in which the songs are presented purely acoustically. What about those "unplugged" sessions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvRZ7Vk2dV0&feature=related)?
We have a small acoustic program for big and “serious” concert halls. And sometimes we present it before the electronic part. The acoustic songs were arranged by Peter Voronov.
Besides music, you´re creative also inside of other fields. Slip programmes games, Draw writes books. What is it all about?
Slip used to be (and still remains) a very famous programmer among fans of old computers (Amiga, Spectrum etc.) His games now are very much alike old arcades, not commercial. But Slip also made a game after my novels. Now he is making a new game “Animal War”; it is much humorous, about war between otters, foxes etc. Not a gothic plot at all (laughing).
As for my novels, I write stories in cyber-punk genre. But not pure cyber-punk. I describe the world in a far away future after the great Dust War. Typical for such books. But my novels still have very un-typical features, “thanks” to which they remain in “underground”. Now I’m looking for professional literature translators to publish my books abroad.
Currently you are working on a new album. Are there any news about it, for example as when it will appear, the title, about the songs etc.?
Our new album, “Wonderful Days” will appear in December 2010. It consists of 13 compositions, and its main theme is so called Techno-Buddhism. The essence of it is – “To become perfect and reach the nirvana, a human should become a machine”. The album is full of contrasts but harmonious, as the unite of the contraries – Heart and Mind, Human and Machine.
If you would be God (or Satan)... what would be the first three main things you would like to change in this world on this planet?
First of all I would destroy the sex. I mean not “making love” but “gender”. The main number of troubles are caused by sex, relations between people of different (or the same) sex, stereotypes about both sexes, discrimination, sexism, feminism, homophobia etc. If people were perfect androgynes, they would be like gods. The second and the third things are destruction of sleeping and eating – we loose too much time and energy for eating and sleeping. But if everything would be like I’m saying, so it would be completely different world.
Thank you very much for the interview! Is there something else with which you would like to conclude?
I’d like to wish everyone to stay humans. In a good sense of this word.
Author: Andreas Torneberg, photos: Otto Dix Date: 2010-11-14