When Ukraine’s Soulrest offered to send out actual physical cds for review, I thought an interview would be a much fairer deal for their time and money, so here’s my chat with Yasya – guitars and Non – vocals.
It’s 20 years since you released your debut album, Pathological Processes. What made you decide to re-issue it? And on cd (the digipak packaging is excellent, by the way). And also, what are your views on the album. To me, it is very much a part of that amazing time when Extreme Metal was just starting to grow and you created a perfect piece of musical history.
Non: It was exactly the 20th anniversary of the debut album, which was only released on cassette in small numbers back in the day. So we have decided to give it a proper look and tell fans a little bit more about its history. At the same time, we haven’t changed anything in terms of songs production, no re-mastering or increased volumes. It relates to the second part of your question, our view of the album. It is history, it is one of the best Soulrest works, it is youth and nostalgia, it is pure metal and underground, it is honesty and raw energy. Thus, this disk is the gateway to those times in the 90-ies.
You made me think back to life 20 years ago and how much my life has changed in that time. What’s been the biggest change for the members of Soulrest in the past 20 years?
Yasya: No big changes, at least musically. Same as 20 and more years back, we are still creating music we like, in a free from work and family time. Naturally, we became more skilled in music as well as more self-critical, though in our hearts we are still those same young metalheads who once ignited the flame of Soulrest.
Non: Age, perhaps is the biggest change. I mean, interests and habits, priorities and ways of going about it always change. But general worldview, character and will remain the same. For me personally, as the newest member, Soulrest is the biggest change and it feels just right. It has come full circle, since discovering “Pathological Processes” back in my youth and joining the band at the proper time of re-awakening.
And in terms of the music side of things. Everything has changed with the digital world taking over. Yet you decided to send out promo cds with a hand written letter. Was that in keeping with 1997 or just a big “fuck off” to the modern music industry?
Non: World evolves, technology evolves, our conscious evolves. Change is fine. Wouldn’t it rather get old and dull if we were still trading tapes in 2017 anyways? Digital or physical… it’s up to everyone to decide for himself how to consume or produce music. Personally, I try to get a cd/tape/vinyl of albums that resonate with me. Regarding modern music industry, or music industry in general, I am indifferent, no fuck offs and no praise. It just became much harder to handpick good artists from tons of aggressively promoted content. In my view, music should not be an “industry”, it’s an intimate experience. But let’s move on.
What were the ambitions of the band when you formed in the 90s and how has the journey been? Have you achieved everything you set out to achieve all those years ago?
Yasya: There were no huge ambitions. We realized from the very start that it had been impossible to make a living off our music. So we focused on Soulrest and perceived it as our hobby and the utterly serious trade to explore our musical potential, to experiment, to express ourselves and to mix various musical genres, occasionally. Those who sought commercial gains in Soulrest had left our ranks long ago, or left music all along.
Back to 2017. You have just released a new album, In Spite, which is your first with new vocalist, Non. How do you compare the recording process from 1997 to 2017?
Yasya: Both times have been interesting and hard to compare. Recording process in 1997 was of course totally different from now. And especially in our case and location. We were young musicians who had never before recorded anything. Besides, studio time was extremely costly so we had to do almost everything in one take. Well, I can go on telling many stories about that, but let’s better focus on 2017. For our 5th album we’ve invited Non to write lyrics and sing after all the instrumental songs were composed and arranged. We had fun times, recording vocals that way – hearing Non’s visions, amending and adding new things on the go. The only setback for the band today is no permanent live drummer, and we’ve had to bring in a session drummer for the “In Spite” album.
You describe your music on the new album as an “unconventional approach to death metal”, which I complete agree with. What makes your music different and how important are the keyboards in your sound?
Yasya: We’ve just never tried to copy or chase any musical trends, never limited ourselves to stylistic borders, never feared to try new things and experiment with any material or ideas. Probably, this attitude helps us to be different. Keyboards are important too, for special atmosphere and, what’s more important, arrangements. Many of our songs were composed on keyboards originally and then translated onto guitars and drums.
Non: I see it as unconventional in a sense that Soulrest does not try be as heavy and brutal as possible, does not follow trends or emulate certain bands (even favorite ones), does not sing about blood/gore/Satan, and just channels what comes from the heart. Also, each member of the band has different tastes and musical background, and none of us consider sticking to death metal to be a rule, which all can be viewed as unconventional too.
Ukraine has had a lot of troubles in recent times. How has that shaped your lives, or have you not suffered as much as other parts of the country, due to your location in Uzhhorod, which is very close to the Slovakia border?
Non: We haven’t suffered directly as our eastern regions, but the conflict impacted the whole country and everyone without exceptions. We have to pay additional taxes to support the troops, have to stay alert at all times for possible provocations and mobilized for a full-scale war. And our country can’t even fight to retake our territory because of international agreements. We are suffering because of our civility in front of Russian barbarians. I despise such modern-era politics, I despise aggression, stupidity, religion and superstitions, I despise extremists and terrorists, corruption and Soviet-era thinkers… And that’s about 90% of our environment, so you can imagine why our hearts are dark and voices irritated.
And because of your location, have you played much outside of the Ukraine?
Yasya: Not much. We played once in Slovakia at some big festival for 4 or 5 thousands of people, but line-up changes, troubles with passports and visas restricted our possibilities. We had invitations from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.
You’ve managed to keep the band together for over 20 years. What advice can you give to bands about keeping your band together for such a long time. And what lies ahead for Soulrest in the future?
Yasya: Our love for music and creative process, perhaps is what kept the band throughout all years. Spiritual closeness of each of us, as well. We hope to continue in the same manner.
Non: As I can speak for the future part only, I anticipate more productive times for the band, more ideas to implement, more spicy and daring things to try out. We have few things in mind already.
Has “The West” discovered Soulrest at all? Or are you the best kept secret in Eastern Europe?
Non: Well, it doesn’t feel like it. The West, as you say, is saturated with plenty of talented and multi-faceted artists of any imaginable kind, and we’ve never been signed to any label, we can acknowledge that. Pure underground music.
Many thanks for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yasya: Thanks for your time and questions. Check out “In Spite” and stay tuned for more.
Non: For those interested in lyrics on the new album, I recommend checking out our YouTube page where one can find lyric videos to all songs. To listen to Soulrest’s back catalog of albums, visit Bandcamp page. To be informed about band’s news, follow our Facebook page. Contact us if you have any questions/suggestions/offers. Or don’t. “Nihil rebus in termino”.