Before the concert in Cremona we had the pleasure to talk to Eugene Abdukhanov about the new album Wallflowers and about the future of Jinjer.
Hi Eugene, how are you? How was the concert in Spain yesterday?
Hi Universo Rock & Metal, I’m fine! The concert was really good, but we’ve travelled a lot in the last days and Vlad’s luggage with his equipment went missing.
I’m really sorry to hear that! Despite this, I’m happy that you are here tonight and that Wallflowers is finally out. Do you consider yourself a wallflower person?
Well, I used to be, when I was at school. It was a bit hard for me to communicate with the other children. What helped me is that when I was 9 or 10 years old, my father took me to the gym and I started doing martial arts. And all of the other kids were older than me and little by little because of them I just learned how to be more open to the world because they were constantly supporting me and the whole community we had was very friendly, it helped me a lot. I still do martial arts. Not as much as I did, as when I was a kid, but now it’s still a big part of my life. But before that, when it was like 9, 8, I remember that I was quite reserved and, even being a teenager, 13, 14 years old, I think it’s quite common for people over these age to be a wallflower because when you’re a teenager, you’re insecure and unconfident, especially talking about people’s relationship. If you’re a kid of 14 years old it’s always hard to communicate with girls. You just don’t know how to do that. But with time it definitely changed. Especially when I went to university, because I studied at the faculty of foreign languages. I’m a linguist. And most of the other students were women. Things changed, they changed completely. So now I cannot say I’m a wallflower, but sometimes I have a mood like that, especially now, for example, after three really crazy days of flying, playing and not sleeping. The only thing I want after playing the show, and I really want to play the show, is to just fly back home, sleep and stay with my family for a couple of days, maybe go somewhere outside the city, with no people around me, only my family, nobody else. That’s what I really want.
Do you have more concerts planned?
Yes, but not this week. There are so many places where you cannot play. So everything now is separated into mini tours. This mini tour was three shows, then we fly back to Kiev and then we have a show in Romania. After that we’ll go to Moscow. After Moscow, Vienna, Austria and then it’s still under a big question this whole tour that we had scheduled in Europe, but nobody knows how this goes. So I think we’ll have the answer next week, if it is on or not. We are not playing in the UK, just Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, these countries.
The main themes of Wallflowers are mental issues. Tatiana wrote the lyrics and they are very personal, but can you relate to her words? If so, which song reflects you best and why?
Yes, I can relate to her words a lot. I would say all of them! Tatiana is definitely more of a wallflower. She is actually a wallflower. People who know her on stage cannot believe this because she is fire on stage, but once she goes off stage, it’s absolutely different. Absolutely different. And I have quite a lot of common traits with her. I do not believe in astrology, but we are both Pisces, she believes a lot. I was present when she recorded vocals for most of the songs and every time I helped her with lyrics, I wrote some lyrics for her. Every time she records, she gives me the lyrics for the songs and I look through them, maybe look for some mistakes, help with some rhythms and rhymes. Every time it was like “Wow, this is even better than the previous one!”. A few times I was about to cry.
Well, as for me, my favorite song on the album is Wallflower, music wise, but lyrics wise I still love it, but my most favorite one is probably Call Me a Symbol because it reflects the whole situation in modern society. This is definitely what I’m not happy about. I don’t really like where this is all going. The world is really full of false idols and the people blindly follow them. It is really interesting that Tatiana has actually written lyrics for this album, it’s her inner world. It’s all about her, her concerns, her issues and her feelings, I don’t know how it happened, maybe this is because this is real poetry because it also reflects the whole situation in the world, humanity and society. It’s really interesting. So, apart from Call Me a Symbol, I really love Dead Hands Feel No Pain. It’s just pure art, both musically and lyrically. I also wrote lyrics for Colossus, it’s literally my song (Vlad wrote the music) and musically it’s also very dynamic. Vortex is really great… I love them all! Maybe Wallflower stands out for me a little bit, musically, but they’re all really, really great.
The original title album was As I Boil Ice and then you changed it into Wallflowers because it fits better with the artwork. Do you usually choose the album title or the artwork first?
It depends, it never goes the same way for Jinjer. Last time we had Macro title long before we had the cover. This time we had the cover first and Tatiana was planning to call the album As I Boil Ice, but it just didn’t match with the cover and the cover was just fantastic! This is my favorite cover of all we had. It was Alex Lopez who suggested wallflower for the song and it was like, boom, instant decision. Why don’t we call the whole album Wallflowers? We have flowers on the cover and all songs are actually about Tatiana who is an introvert. So all songs are about introverts, more or less, and the issues they might have in this world to this or that extent. It just fits perfectly. And yeah, I am happy about both the cover and the title.
You had the possibility to record the album together during the pandemic, but it has been a hard time for musicians. Was there a difficult time when you were afraid of not being able to overcome this situation?
It’s still a hard time for musicians. Nobody knows how this will go. We were not afraid that we would not be able to record the album because we are friends, we were in the same city. I was slightly afraid when I was in Los Angeles last year that it would be hard to get back to Ukraine, but we managed to do so once we reunited in Kiev and there were no concerns about playing together, rehearsals, composing.
I honestly got quite depressed last year and I still do because all musicians are literally deprived of their passion, our passion. Our passion is to play live. I could do something else for money, but nothing else would be able to bring us this satisfaction and I would not be happy doing anything else. It has just ruined our lives and it’s very hard to deal with. You finally have a chance to do something you love and get paid for this and things are kind of sorted. None of us is a rich person. We don’t have expensive cars or huge houses. We don’t even have houses! We’re not rich at all, we’re just average people, but we made our living by playing music and when it’s all gone, it’s scary. And it’s still scary because once you start feeling that it’s all getting back to normal, there is another lockdown. And after these 18 months it’s all less logical for me because we have a vaccine, everyone is wearing masks in public places and nothing changes. What’s wrong? Something is going wrong and somebody’s responsible for this and this must be changed. The situation in Ukraine is the same. One week it seems that the situation is okay, but next week the government has a statement and it scares people. There is sort of a panic and some events are just canceled because of the panic. But, getting back to the point, it all had quite a lot of pressure on me, but what helped me a lot is actually the process of writing. We were together writing music and it distracted me from everything else. Everything else just didn’t come. We were completely into music. And these days it’s easier because we finally have a chance to play somewhere. It is very, very helpful.
Let’s talk about the video for Wallflower. Were you inspired by the legend of the two wolves and what’s inside the red box that Tatiana carries with her?
I think there are a lot of layers in this video. It is greatly inspired by native American legends and mythology. As for the whole plot, it has a lot of layers of meanings. One of the layers is that the box is actually the inner-self of Tatiana, which she’s not going to open to the world. And the world is demanding this from her because of social media and because of her position as a sort of celebrity. And this is why she is running away and we represent the society. This is one of the layers.
When it all comes to shooting scenes, this is a bit of a different level. What we are trying to say is that no matter how aggressive this world can be to you, how many haters you have, how bad they are to you, the best reaction to this is not fighting them their own way. If somebody says something bad to you, saying something bad in response isn’t the best. It only oils the fight and brings more civil conflict. It’s better just to ignore. That’s why she’s actually throwing sand at us and we disappear, it’s the only way to deal with those people.
Do you usually write the scripts for the videos?
This idea came from the director. He wrote the whole plot for the video and we were quite happy about it. The video turned out to be awesome and what we really love about it is that’s very different from everything else we did.
Also the sound on this album is different, but at the same time your style is immediately recognizable. What do you think makes Jinjer unique?
Well, we do not want to follow trends. This makes us different. Now 99% of bands just follow trends. They create the same sound. Actually I know what’s happening. Nobody wants to take risks. They just record and give it to famous studios who just recreate the other successful sound they had on a different record. Copycat is actually about that. The problem is that now you cannot really hear musicians on the records. Everybody uses digital amplifiers, impulse responses, campers in the studio and you cannot hear what they’re really playing. You cannot hear the way of picking sound, neither on guitars nor on drums. Music isn’t how many notes you play in a bar. It’s not how fast you play and it’s not even which notes you choose or what melody you create. It’s also how well you reproduce the sound. If you give a guitar to a person who cannot play and ask them to play a note, they will play this note very badly and the good musician may play two notes, but they sound juicy. This is what makes them great. Our approach to sound is natural, it’s just the way we play.
There are often debates on the internet about Dream Theater and Steven Wilson. Dream Theater plays many notes but someone says they don’t touch people’s hearts.
You see what this thing is? Both John Petrucci and Steve Wilson are fantastic musicians. They just have different approaches and I love them both. For example, one of my wife’s favorite bands is Porcupine Tree. I’m not a big fan of Dream Theater now, but when I was 13 years old, I listened to them and I respect them a lot, especially I respect John Petrucci. What is important is that when you listen to Steven Wilson and John Petrucci you can really listen to them, not at digital equal response of their guitars. You can really listen and hear how they reproduce the sound and this is the key element. This is what we really want to have in our music.
So when you listen to the record and listen to the drums, this is exactly what was played. Nothing is replaced with samples. If you listen to 99% of other bands, every single hit on the drums is replaced. It is triggered. This is not what they play and I’m not blaming them for this. I just think this is the wrong approach. This is my opinion and the whole band agrees with me. This was what we tried to make, to implement on the record. It sounds natural. It actually sounds the way we would play on stage. Ideally, this is how a band sounds live, in ideal circumstances and conditions.
Is there any genre that you would like to include in the next albums?
It’s very hard to say. Everytime we keep saying that we never plan to do anything. Everything comes naturally. If it is a flow, if it feels like we may add whatever we want because it fits, then we’ll do it. Think about Home Back!
“What is happiness and what is inner peace?” for you? Why did you decide to include these words in two songs? (As I Boil Ice and Mediator)
Well, I think that for Tatiana this is one of the old keys things: chasing for happiness, looking for it. She is a multi-talented person: she draws, she sings, she writes poetry. For such a person it’s very hard to be happy. It’s the same for clever and super intelligent people. They’re never happy because they understand and they are very critical about themselves. They overthink things. This is the reason why they are never happy.
And for me, being happy is being complete and understanding the concept of enough. If you want to be happy, you really need to know what enough is. Craving for more and more and more and more will always make you unhappy. Maybe the only sphere where enough is not enough is art. In art I will never be able to be happy and complete. This is what we keep saying.
By the time we released the album, we were extremely happy about it, but we were already tired of it too because we were constantly listening to it, working on the mix and rehearsing. So with this album, it’s a bit different. With Macro we were already tired, but it’s really like that. With art you will never be completely happy because you want to move and move and move. It’s not business, it’s not counted with money and sales. It’s about how satisfied you are with what you do.
What’s your goal as a band?
Just keep on going! We enjoy the whole process, not only the result. And as long as we move forward, bring something new and surprise people, we will be Jinjer.
What is the hardest part of being a metal musician in 2021?
Besides pandemic? Speaking directly about things, I believe that the hardest part of being a metal musician in 2021 is that the whole metal scene is very, very conservative. I do not mind bands playing old school music, but a huge part of the audience is very, very reserved and they really push away new trends and new ideas. This is why the whole scene is not developing. In the nineties there was a huge breakthrough in terms of metal music with Pantera and bands that followed them developed a new spectrum of genres of metal. Then we had Meshuggah and after that I do not really see any progress. Djent has been around for 20 years. It is not something new. And it’s all getting to the point of copying each other, playing the same riffs and the same structures, having the same sound.
Maybe Jinjer is the change that we’ve been waiting for!
Actually the guitarist of Tesseract wrote a review for the album and he called Wallflowers a game-changer. We played with them and we love the guys, but we are very doubtful and quite skeptical about collaborations in general. Tatiana has had a few collaborations this year and they will be out soon, but it’s very hard to bring someone to Jinjer because Tatiana is a very versatile vocalist, but maybe a male vocalist would be a good idea. As for instruments, Vlad can play everything and I am modest about my skills, but I can play whatever I want. The only element which might be brought by collaborations is maybe a solo on the guitar because Roman just rejects solos. He says that he doesn’t want to do that. He doesn’t enjoy them. So maybe we’ll have somebody in the future just to play a couple of solos. To me it looks like a possibility. We’ll see, so far we haven’t had the desire. We don’t have any vision of somebody joining us for a song or two and we are not one of those bands out there that do collaborations just for promotion. We all understand that collaborations are done for promotions and we will not do that.
Thank you Eugene for your time, see you later on stage!
Thank you Universo Rock & Metal for the questions, I really enjoyed them. See you later, bye!