Music from Avtograd

Text and music: Pavel Madurov.
Photos: Pavel MadurovAnton Akimov. Editors: Ekaterina Tolkacheva, Anton Akimov.

MUSIC.

…It was as in a fog, and I remember almost nothing under my 30. All I had been doing before was just working. But then, when the music appeared, it all cleared away.

It fortuned that I got harmonica when I was 33. I worked in two shifts for AVTOVAZ and sometimes had free time in the morning. I felt like I was wasting life for nothing. Then was the Internet, we were breaking in the means of learning. I took lessons by Skype and I’ve learned to play well, well up to local standards. My childhood friend Vitaly is a blues music fan, we started to play together.

Later I came to playing with other musicians, started to use guitar, synthesizers, pedals and other stuff, to dig in chords, music structure, harmonies.

I think that rock’n’roll is dead without a good drummer. But we used drum machine. I’ve hated it right away. That could not be worse than using these rhythmic unnatural sounds … Since then I’ve been thinking of using some natural industrial noises instead drum machine sounds.

In my job I permanently went through workshops and I was excited of buzzes and rumbles I heard there. This was sounds of conveyor, welding machines, punches, machine tools and so on…

So I started to make records of these noises on my mobile phone, dictaphone. Then at home I sought for some rhythmical pieces and arranged it on my computer. Against this noise background I played musical instruments and laid on other field records. These collages became my first album “Rags”. I put it in the Internet for free downloading and received some feedbacks from some people. And I kept on.

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Later I contacted the American underground music label Zenapolae, they released my next records. I’m glad to keep in touch with them. Also I associate with other musicians like me over the world. I don’t know why but all of them are pure-electronic musicians. Perhaps they don’t believe I use natural sounds, not synthesized. I use Bandcamp and Soundcloud for my tracks sharing.

I’m lucky with my Plugiator’s synthesizer. I bought it when I played with the rock band. I know how to make it misbehave to sound unusual and produce something absolutely unreal and unpredictable. It’s very interesting process.

And you know what? At home I usually play banal musical scales and simple folk music. Just for the good of my soul, for fun, for practice, for fingers. I’ve never learnt music in a professional way, I need to get to know something.

THE CITY.

I find my city quite a peculiar one, and it has an impact on my music.

Tolyatti was built in the Soviet Union. It inherited something from Stavropol-on-Volga, old-named city placed here in its remote past. The modern Tolyatti’s story begins in the 1950s with buildings of Volga Hydroelectric station, AVTOVAZ plant, chemical industry …

Avtozavodsky District (Avtograd, The New City) is the most important district of Tolyatti. It is one of most populated districts in Russia. This district was built in 1970 as the city of tomorrow, with prospection, wide roads and huge spaces. Tolyatti was planned for a big amount of cars and lots of people. It tended to have a monorail railway and two-level interchanges instead crossroads. If it had, we would live without any traffic jams.

Nevertheless Avtograd represents a big dormitory area, monotonous houses far and wide. Once I got lost near the place I’d been living in for seven years. There is nowhere to go. It’s very funny to observe thousands of people crowding in tight parks on holidays. Also it looks bizarre when people barbecue a meat in front of apartment house.

Some people go to the forest or to the Volga river. I don’t remember myself swimming there because the water is already full of green algae in June. Some people rest in dachas (summer cottages). Vegetables and fruits from these dachas helped some citizens in crisis times when there was no work and job. Some of them don’t have cars and carry the harvest by bus or one’s own.

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Tolyatti often is associated with AVTOVAZ company, the largest car manufacturer in Russia.

A the best of times AVTOVAZ employed over 100 thousands of people with 700 thousands of population in Tolyatti. Now AVTOVAZ has 50 thousands of employees and there are rumors about further downsize to 30 thousands. But nowadays the city still depends strongly on AVTOVAZ because there are a lot of companies of automotive industry here. When AVTOVAZ meets with difficulties, these companies undergo the same.

I suppose many of AVTOVAZ employees are living in the Soviet Union’s past that is so far away from “capitalist” reality we see now. Some people aren’t interested in their work result and they believe Russian government must take care of AVTOVAZ company at all.

But Russian government isn’t the owner of the plant, and lately there was a phantasmagoric petition to Russian President where people wanted the government to nationalize the company. The facts show the following: Renault-Nissan alliance owns the controlling interest of AVTOVAZ and the plant produces cars under foreign brands.

I’ve started to work for AVTOVAZ at the age of 26. I tried a lot to apply for this company. I had degree as an automotive engineer, I underwent a training in specified department but I didn’t apply for a job. I went to the Army for two years of service, having retired I tried to apply for a job again but I didn’t succeed. Finally I got this job but it happened by chance. The story goes that all young office workers had relatives who worked there and helped them to become an AVTOVAZ employee.

It was impossible to get a job for people like me who had no relatives in AVTOVAZ offices. It’s an illustrative example of company based on patriarchal society in the past.

But times – they are a-changing’, however, a lot of employees aren’t ready mentally for these changes. Though I think the company would go bankrupt without these changes, I know too many examples in Russia.

Our city has no cultural traditions yet. The most part of first Tolyatti settlers were people from countryside and small towns. My parents and parents of my wife come from villages. They are typical soviet people, they believe TV programs for example, they are not used to visit cinema and exhibitions.

We live when our modern culture is being born, but we have no solid roots and this process is out of control. I don’t know what we will get finally.

It has some local impact to modern cultural system. You may discover something original from Tolyatti’s music and it is something sad and dark. The “Hoogo-Oogo” band sounded like Joy Division, “Nebro” is very depressive hip-hop project.

By the way, too many young people have left Tolyatti for last ten years. Some got out in the beginning of 2000s, some got out during 2008’s crisis, some left within last two years. There is ex-Tolyatti dramatic circle, they are living in St. Petersburg now. I know some people who moved house to the Moscow area and Izhevsk recently.

I was invited to work for other cities, but now the situation is not so bad and fortunately I’ve stayed here.

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