“I am a world citizen and I’m proud of it” – Interview with Eugene Abdukhanov, the bass guitarist of Jinjer

A magyar verzióért kattints ide!

The Ukrainian progressive groove metal band Jinjer played a fantastic show on the 22nd of December in Budapest, Hungary. Metal.hu had the opportunity to interview the band’s bass player, Eugene Abdukhanov. Below you can read our conversation about touring, family life, band difficulties, Ukraine, religion and the world. Enjoy!

Eastern Europe doesn’t seem like the best place for a band to be famous – we have weak economy and a small market. In Hungary it is even a cliché that it is impossible to become huge, coming from Hungary. How is the situation in Ukraine, how could Jinjer make a breakthrough?

I don’t think it is true that no bands made it. If I am not mistaken, Ektomorf is from Hungary, they made it 10-15 years ago. Generally, Eastern Europe has always been like a factory of world-famous bands. Behemoth, Hate, Decapitated all come from Poland, Poland has a really big metal scene with their own style, Polish death metal. Talking about Ukraine – yes, it is definitely difficult, and it was difficult to break through, and break out of Ukraine. How we did it? I think the key is persistence and hard work. Getting big wasn’t actually our wish, we just wanted to play music. When someone showed up and asked if we were ready to go on tour for the first time, in 2013, just in Romania (and we added some shows in Ukraine and Moldova), of course we said yes without any hesitation or doubts. We always went for it – if we had the chance to go somewhere and play, we went and played. It paid off, eventually.

During those early tours you were recording a tour vlog. Are there any plans to continue with those videos? They give a really nice insight to touring life.

The problem about vlogs is that you need a lot of enthusiasm. Back in the days, we were very enthusiastic about doing it. We perceived all things that were going on around us in a different way. After years of touring it has become… if not a routine, but by all means a difficult job. Right now will be our 152nd show this year. I am quite exhausted mentally and physically, too. Doing vlogs myself or by one of the band members is not viable anymore, we are overloaded with music. The only thing between going on stage to play is resting, and sometimes doing interviews. We have our tour manager who is also a videographer, he manages the tour and does some videos. A person who does the vlog needs to be around all the time and film all the time. It is about priorities. Now we cannot extend our crew that much. Vlogs are not that important at the moment to have a separate person in the crew who’ll be involved in filming backstage life. Maybe next year, if we can afford this financially and space-wise. Bands need to think reasonably – if at some point it is OK, just go and do it, film everything. But you definitely need to set priorities and pay attention to other things, such as production, driver, people who help you on the stage. I actually heard many people say they loved our vlogs, so maybe next year.

Those videos still bear the innocence of an underground band.

Yes, it was all very underground.

I was a bit scared that if the band gets even bigger, they may be removed. Hopefully the label won’t push that!

No, they will stay there. It is actually funny and nice, people get to look at how we started, what a small band we were. It is interesting, I am sure. We’ll never delete them, even though there are things which I’m not proud of sometimes, there were some crazy parties and things we did. It is definitely a sort of nostalgia though, it is nice.

 

Speaking of the crew, how many crew members do you have now? How many work on the sound so it can be top notch every gig?

Thank you very much for the compliment! The key to our sound is that we have Sasha (Aleksandr Antoshin), our sound engineer, who is actually a part of the band. He is a band member, with equal rights with the musicians. He has been with us since 2013, for six years. He is still in charge of everything, production-wise and sound-wise. He is our front of house engineer; then there are two techs – a drum tech and one is… Kostya is just like a navy seal, he can do everything! He helps us with the backline, he is in charge of the LED screens, which we have now on tour and we will definitely have them on all the headline shows – it is a part of our show now. We have a light designer, who is actually Hungarian. Lóránt is from Budapest. We have a the tour manager, Oleg, he does videos, he actually made the video for four of our songs: Pisces, Teacher, Teacher!, Ape, Pit of Consciousness. He’s the guy who made all the live-recaps before. Now he is in charge of making one more video after this tour, based on footage, things, backstage life, so you’ll be able to peek into that. We have the merch guy, CJ. His name is actually Sergey, but CJ is easier for Western Europeans and Sergey is easier for us. This is it so far, but we will definitely need one more person to extend the crew, because Kostya cannot cope with the screens and backline at the same time, so we need one more person. But I heard you, you need vlogs!

So some of you have a kind of Westernized version of your names, CJ, Eugene.  I assume your friends at home don’t necessarily call you Eugene?

I always introduce myself as Eugene, because it is international. In the passport I’m Evgeniy, which can be quite difficult. I don’t want to be called Evgeniy, I don’t really like that version, I like the shorter version, which is Zhenya. But for an English-speaker saying Zhenya can be a disaster, they cannot say “ZH”, they say Jenya, or so. This is why I gave up a long time ago and I just started to call myself Eugene. I am okay with that, I like to be called Eugene, or Gene. Gene is almost like Zhenya.

You selflessly prefer to put the others first and make it easier for them, than trying to be called your original name, or you’re not like “learn my name, got to know some of Slavic culture.”

I’m not even Slavic! I’m half Russian, half Tatar, actually!

Yeah, your family name doesn’t sound too Slavic.

Yes, my family name is absolutely Tatar. I am a part of the Slavic culture because of my mom, but I just consider myself international in all aspects. I speak a few languages, I travel around the world, so let’s not keep to one culture! I am a world citizen and I’m proud of it.

Your dad is from Tatarstan?

His grandparents are from there. He was born in the east of Ukraine – actually, the east of Ukraine has a huge Tatar community.

Speaking of being a world citizen, how does it all work with your passports and visas now as a touring band? Do you only hold Ukrainian passports?

Yes.

Does it make touring more complicated?

Yes, it does. It is very complicated with American visas. We are not even a part of the European Union, there are a lot of obstacles you have to go through to get this “precious American visa”, but so far, we were successful. Generally, visas are a problem. In the future I might apply for another citizenship but I am not sure yet. I don’t think I will stay in Ukraine.

 There are some non-Hungarians who applied for a Hungarian citizenship after learning the language a bit.

Ukrainians also, especially from the Subcarpathia region, a lot of them hold Hungarian passports, they just learned the language and passed the exam. As long as Hungarians are okay about this, I’m okay, too!

Some of my friends were joking that soon Jinjer is getting Hungarian citizenship anyway because you spend so much time here!

We spend so much time everywhere!

Two of your songs have a heavy reggae influence. Are you actually fans of the rasta culture as well? A few of you also had dreadlocks.

Tatiana is! She is a big fan of rasta culture, she is actually a part of it. I used to have dreadlocks. I cannot say I am a rasta guy. I like reggae and I like mixing reggae with other genres, not only in my music but also the music I listen to. I just like the beat! I like mixing it with metal, so this is my contribution to it. I really like Skindred! This ragga metal thing is definitely a thing that moves me.

Have you been to a gig?

Yes, I know them personally, nice guys! Benji is the one I know personally.

The singer?

Yes.

Which brings me to the next question. You toured with quite a few big bands. Is there anyone you got to know and really liked or want to be like them?

I really respect some guys I toured with. For example the guys from Arch Enemy, Michael Amott is definitely a person to look up to. He has played in so many bands and composed so many good songs! I am actually friends with Dez Fafara from DevilDriver, he is our manager now. We toured with them and we spent a really good time together.

Manager?

Yes, he manages us. We have two managers: one in Europe, Oleg, and all around the world. Except North America, in North America it is Dez Fafara. I get on really well with him, I’ll see him in January, I’m flying to L.A., so we arranged a meeting.

If you could party with anybody from the whole world, who would it be, and what would the location be?

I’m not a party animal anymore. I would stay with my family, with people I love.

You have kids, right?

I have a son, yes. Tomorrow I am going home just to see him on his birthday. I’m not going with the band with the van, I’m taking a plane. By the van I would be in Kyiv tomorrow late at night. I want to be there during the day. It is the best party – just to be with my son.

It must be really difficult, you are far away for so long. You’ve been on the road since forever, basically you’re almost living like nomads for the past three years. How do you keep your sanity?

I’m nomadic by origin! Tatars have always been nomads, so it is kind of in my blood. The biggest problem is that I don’t see my son. Everything else is okay. Somehow I manage to deal with this. It is worse for those who stay at home. It ruined my family life, I am getting divorced now… It is a problem for those who are waiting for you. It is a good thing that I do what I love doing and I cannot imagine myself stopping playing music. I love playing music! It is a part of me and I am very lucky because I can even make money doing what I love. I also make other people happy with this. So it is a perfect match. That is why I will not stop doing this. It is just a side-effect that I am away. People who are with me need to understand and accept this. If somebody likes eating ice cream, just because I do not like it, I cannot show up and say “You can’t eat ice cream anymore!”. It is selfish.

Do you think you’re going to slow down this crazy touring extravaganza you’re on?

One day we’ll have to, but now we are still capable of doing this. We need to do this now, we cannot slow down now, like you said, the band is soaring upwards. We just need to give it a bit more push!

Just take care of yourselves!

We are fine, no worries! I mean, I AM tired, but not that much tired that people should be worried about me. It is okay.

You and Roman (Ibramkhalilov), the guitarist, don’t move around too much on the stage, you are a bit static, why is that?

I cannot really say that I am static. Roman is more static. We play quite complicated music to begin with, it is quite hard to play this stuff. But see the show today, I am sure you will change your mind! It depends on the show, too. If you play a festival and you don’t have a soundcheck, just a line check, it is very hard to be okay on the stage, because you do not feel it 100%. When we play a headline show and you have time to do the soundcheck, and you can actually walk around the stage before the show and know it, it changes everything.

Speaking of difficult stuff, how much musical education does each of you have?

Only Vlad (Vladislav Ulasevich, drums) has formal education and he is a pianist! He graduated from a music college, so it is really serious.

You learned all by self-teaching?

We are self educated completely. Altogether I took one bass guitar lesson ten years ago.

But you are super good at it!

I’m not super good. Let’s look at things clearly. People keep saying this now because the band is big and we have a lot of fans. But I have to say a statement – I am not super good. I’m not even just good. I am maybe okay.

*confused laughter*

Really. There are so many good musicians, so many good bass guitarists all around in metal music. I’m definitely not even in the top 20, it is not how people perceive it!

Did you choose Hungary as the last city of the tour because it is closest to home?

Yes, it is close to Kyiv! Just two hours by plane, and… Quite a lot, 16 hours by van. The problem is the border. Just the border will take you at least 2-3 hours. There are long queues. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad but generally you have to estimate three hours at the border.

Do they go through all of your stuff, do you have to pack out everything?

Yes…

Sounds very rough! After you got home, will you be able to rest for a while?

Yes, I’ll have a 2.5 months rest. I have quite a lot of plans, will fly to L.A.,  will spend time with my son. My son and I will probably go to Egypt or somewhere because he wanted to.

How old is he?

He is five years old.

Christmas in Ukraine is only in January, right?

The seventh of January.

First you will celebrate the New Year then.

New Year, yeah. The new year is more important for us. Especially me, I am not really religious, I am completely atheistic. But Christmas is a good tradition, I don’t mind it, but New Year is the big thing.

And you will be able to spend it at home!

Yes!

Thank you very much for the interview!

Thank you very much, I really enjoyed it!

By: Vica

Photos: Dani

Special thanks to Hammer Concerts!