Hello XXOt and welcome to Brutal Resonance. Your debut album is something that I have been adoring. But, let’s start off with the basics. Who is in XXOt, what roles do they play in the band, and name three of your favorite albums of all time.
Artem: Hi! Thanks for the invitation. I am very glad that you’ve been adoring our album. At the moment XXOt is Alyona (vocal and lyrics), Svetlana (keys and organization) and myself (music production and guitar). It's very difficult to list three favorite albums. I listen to a lot of different music from punk till classical music but let it be The Birthday Massacre's "Walking with Strangers", Joe Satriani's "Strange Beautiful Music", and Nitro/Noise's "Total Nihilism".
Alyona: My trinity of albums looks very diverse. Firstly, there is Bjork's "Post", then In This Moment's "Blood". I also want to mention the album “9” of the Krasnodar rap group Triada.
Sveta: Hi, hi! I also find it difficult to choose three leading albums, because at different stages of my life I listened to various music groups both Russian and foreign. But in common I single out the Russian rock group Agatha Christie's "Opium", I have been listening to this group since I was 9, and, by the way, my acquaintance with them began with this album. RHCP's "Californication", Goldfrapp's "Supernature".
XXOt is a combination of members from Sleetgrout and Fetish’ist. How did you all meet? And what prompted you to start XXOt?
Alyona: It was a long time ago. I sang in a local metal band and came to record at the Atrem's studio. There I knew about dark electro. Artem already had a group called Sleetgrout. I began to learn how to create music and soon Fetish'ist was formed. At that time I met Sveta. Then a lot of time passed, the groups broke up and someday Artem suggested working together.
Sveta: I know Artem since school time. Then we agreed with him in our views on informal parties.
Artem: Yes, we all know each other for many years but only recently it took the form of a musical group. What prompted this? It's hard to say. Perhaps this music is what the world needs now.
The project seemed to have formed during the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Was it challenging to make the album during this time period, or did access of the internet make it easy for you?
Artem: In fact the project was formed rather earlier than Covid-19 pandemic, it periodically froze for different reasons, and the pandemic served as a good catalyst to set more goals for yourself and finish all unfinished things. The internet, of course, helps us. We only meet at the studio when we need to record anything, and we start working on songs by exchanging materials via the Internet.
Alyona: However, I want to mention that just the communication and work via the Internet would not be enough. We still found the opportunity to get together live. There were things we composed right off the bat improvising. Initially, an album was planned consisting of seven songs, but the production went easily towards the end and we decided to include an additional song 'Don't Forget (Не забывай)'.
The album art is very simple; it shows the band’s name as well as the name of the album interlaced with a cracked glass with a black glass. Who made the cover art, and how does it tie into the themes of the album?
Alyona: The cover of the album reflects the name of the album. I wanted to show an alternative version of the Azhur; it's sharp and not smooth as usual. Once I saw teens throw balls filled with water from the roof onto cars near my house. The glass was broken in one car. And it dawned on me - here is the Azhur in urban realities. It was a pity for the owner of the car, of course. So we came up with what should be on the cover and it was made by Artem's sister; she is a graphic designer.
For the release of the album, you went with Insane Records. Sleetgrout, at the very least has a history with Insane Records. Why did you choose to return to the label for this release?
Artem: We like to work with Insane Records. We easily find a common language. Besides, Zhenya is a hunter and also loves weapons, I trust such people, ahaha!
I read on the Insane Records Bandcamp page that the album was inspired by, among other things, a dead pigeon. How did a dead pigeon lead to the creation of the album?
Artem: A dead pigeon sometimes looks very ominous and my cat catches them all the time and eats them right in the yard. This very much sets me up for writing such songs.
Sveta: Oh, yes. Once he went out into the yard. He stood looking at me, and he had a dove in his mouth and who also looked at me and flapped its wings. Such a sight.
Alyona: And dead birds make me very sad and depressed because I really love birds. I have some parrots constantly living, now it's a cockatiel.
On "Ажур" you manage to combine so many different styles of music. Industrial, hip hop, electro, punk, metal, synthpop, etc. It’s all there. How did you go about creating such a diverse range of music? Did you look to other bands while creating this album?
Artem: As a sound engineer I work with very different styles and, probably, this leaves an imprint. For example, today I recorded and helmed the concert of a worship group, and tomorrow I'm mixing a pop group, then maybe even grindcore. That's why we get such a bouquet from musical styles. I even rather use some elements of arrangements from different styles, but still try to keep some common line in the album.
Sveta: In principle I like to listen to different music. I like many of Hans Zimmer's compositions from films, but I like to go to the movies and drag Artem along with me. This, perhaps, also played a role in writing our songs. Oh, and from the last I really like the musical accompaniment of the movie Tenet.
Alyona: I was inspired by the work of Yegor Letov and Russian symbolism.
Tell us what your favorite song on the album is and why.
Artem: My favorite song is probably 'Burn (Гори)'. It is both daring and atmospheric. There is something from doom and dark hip-hop and something apocalyptic in it.
Alyona: It's the 'Spacesuit (Скафандр)'. It turned out to be different and immediately stands out from the rest. It is philosophical; it makes you think about the right things.
Sveta: Right now I am most impressed by 'Uncle Misha (Дядя Миша)'. It is driving, dancing. Perhaps this is what I am missing now.
XXOt has just started, but I see a bright future ahead for the project. What else do you have planned for 2021? Do you think you’ll be seeing the stage or releasing any new music?
Artem: We also hope for a bright and productive future. We have planned to release another album and video, and after that we will be engaged in performances.
Alyona: Yes, I am also impatient to start concert activities. Perhaps we will cooperate with other projects.
Sveta: Of course, I want live performances, but I also do not exclude the possibility of online concerts.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time! I leave the space below blank for you to mention anything that I may have missed. Cheers!
Artem: And thank you for this interview. Despite the fact that we write rather depressing music, we would like to wish our listeners good spirits and fun!
Sveta: Never be discouraged. Always go to the intended goal and everything will be in the Azhur!
Alyona: Work must go on.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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