Our final Meet The Band for 2017 features the Russian prog artist Starsoup, who recently released the album Castles Of Sand. Founding vocalist/guitarist Alexey Markov introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Starsoup.
Alexey Markov: It’s not very long. I was in a band called Crime of Passion, then we split. But we had like four good songs that I wanted to release anyway. When I started to record them in the studio, I got so excited that I wrote a few more! This way our first album (Bazaar of Wonders, 2013) appeared. We released a music video for the song “Rumors of Better Life” and it had about 200k views right now. Now we’re releasing our second LP and I guess that’s it.
Describe the songwriting process for Castles Of Sand.
I wrote the lyrics first and it’s very unusual for me. Then, when the music appeared, I would select which lyrics went well with the music, then I reworked them to fit the melody. Some of the songs were composed while I was tinkering with my acoustic guitar, some melodies came to my mind on the street so I would hum them into my phone to listen and refine them later. For one song (Brother’s Plea”) I recorded a full video-blog about how I was composing it from scratch.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
I guess it’s recording the vocals in my home studio when everybody was home. I mean, I have a nice isolated room, but they still were able to hear me screaming. (laughs) Also, I had the strange (and great) experience of producing the songs I didn’t write (or even recorded the guitars for). For example, the song “Escapist” was written by my friend Lex Damien from the band Mechanical Poet, and since I didn’t have time to learn it, I asked different musicians to record it for me and only did the vocal parts myself. It turned out great.
How has your sound evolved/progressed from your debut?
The mix is better, more solid and complex. The musicianship is better. The vocals are more versatile and interesting, since I’m a much better vocalist now (had more lessons). The whole recording process evolved and it’s kind of streamlined now. I know what I want to hear before I record it, which wasn’t the case with the first album.
What inspired your lyrics on this one?
All kinds of stuff: the political situation (“The Catcher in the Lie” is partly about Putin), emotions (love, sadness, nostalgia), books (Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower”) and Tolkien’s undying “The Hobbit.” I enjoy new experiences, but I enjoy the old ones as well.
What has the response to the album been like?
Mixed. Some people love it, some people don’t quite get it. It’s so eclectic, and still it’s meant to be listened as a whole. You gotta like a lot of different music to grasp all the ideas, so it’s probably harder to get into than most other bands. But even a bad response is still promotion. I want all kinds of reviews, especially if they don’t try to give advice (some journalists think they know better). (laughs)
Are there any plans to put together a band for live shows/touring?
Yes, but I really want to be sure that we’ll gather a nice audience. So promo is top priority right now. There’s an option with me doing an acoustic tour (maybe with backing tracks), and then some day of course I want to put a band together for a tour.
How did you get started in music?
School choir, then music school (studied percussion for two years), than guitar lessons for about four years, then vocals for about two years. Then I had a 10-year break from music, earning money in the office.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Metallica, AC/DC, Dream Theater, Blind Guardian, Rage, Angra. I was a power metal fan in the ’90s and still can’t get away from it. I could play almost all Metallica riffs, and it paid off. Last year I became part of the largest European Metallica S&M tribute show (Garage Dayz with the symphonic orchestra) as a frontman.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
I can’t remember right now, it was probably Blind Guardian or Metallica. But I guess the most intense show I’ve been to was AC/DCs Black Ice tour – two shows in Bulgaria and Romania. Man, this was amazing. You can’t see THAT AC/DC anymore and I’m happy I witnessed it.
Tell us about your other band Distant Sun.
It was unexpected, but for some reason Distant Sun is more popular (I’d say, twice more popular) than Starsoup. We’ve released two full-length albums, Dark Matter and Into the Nebula, and the reception was good. My fellow Distant Sun bass player Artyom wrote and recorded a whole song for Starsoup (the instrumental piece titled “Castle”), so we’re helping each other this way. But our most popular song on YouTube is a Megadeth cover (more than 250k views).
What’s the metal scene like in Moscow these days?
A lot of bands come here every year, from the biggest to small exotic bands from unknown countries. Moscow is so big you can have Sepultura, Pain of Salvation and 3-4 local gigs on the same day. So the audience is kind of fed up with everything and it’s really hard for a local band to get a crowd of, say, 100 people.
Has the way the average Russian looks at the U.S. changed since Trump became president?
I guess now it’s a bit more friendly because of his republican-authoritarian-anti-immigrant rhetoric, which is somewhat closer to Russian democratic “standards” than Obama’s.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, Rage – Seasons of the Black, Iron Savior – Titancraft, Tantal – Ruin (my fellow colleagues). Some old stuff too, like Blind Guardian’s Imaginations.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Concerning Starsoup – please, first listen to the whole album (iTunes, Google Play). It was meant to be listened to this way, in this very order! And thanks for the questions, I enjoyed answering them!
(interview published December 30, 2017)