Pummeling ears since 2008, Ukraine’s hardcore punk act CLEARSIGHT has already earned respect from various international hardcore scenes. Having released their debut demo via Reason Records (then re-released via React! Records and I Drink Milk Records), Not Ashamed EP via React! Records and their latest Four Songs EP via Hypodermic Records and Dead Men Records, CLEARSIGHT have shared stages with YOUTH OF TODAY, Moscow’s REEARRANGED, Kiev’s BLUESBREAKER and many more. Members of CLEARSIGHT, BLUESBREAKER and Poltava’s HONESTY have been developing another project called SIKE, have announced their partnership with German label Powertrip Records and released a new EP earlier this year. The passion and positive energy found on these records and the bands’ strong stand against ignorance and unjustified hatred prompted me to offer them a proper introduction in the form of the following interview. Answering my questions below is Roman Kravets, who shared a number of interesting thoughts on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Ukrainian hardcore scene.
Top photo by RabbitRiot.net.
Hey Roman! It’s really cool to have you here on IDIOTEQ. I’ve spreading the word about CLEARSIGHT and SIKE for some time now and I’m really glad we finally have a change to chit chat a bit. How are you? What’s up?
Hey, it’s a pleasure to be doing this! I’ve been visiting IDIOTEQ once in a while since the day, to my big surprise, I discovered your interest in our normally overlooked scene.
What really attracts me about IDIOTEQ is that there are always tons of bands I never heard of. Seems that with nowadays higher technologies it’s not only easier to discover more bands, but it’s also as easy to miss out on a lot too. There are so many smaller bands in any part of this world both goofy and worth checking, but usually just those bigger names float everywhere.
I’ve interviewed a couple of Ukrainian bands, including EEDEN and THE SUNSET SURVIVAL from Lviv (interview currently in the works) to find out your views on the current Russian/Ukrainian crisis. It’s always incredible to learn as much as possible from an insider’s view, especially when you can reach out to citizens of both countries (see my recent interview with Russian post metal / hardcore band REKA). In the past we’ve seen a bunch of epic examples of punk bands’ involvement in domestic and international politics. How’s this look like from your perspective?
Never heard of EEDEN, but I personally know some guys from both THE SUNSENT SURVIVAL and REKA. Never had a reason to discuss the current political situation with any of them, but I’m pretty sure their points of view would be similar to mine, from knowing them as an open-minded thinking kind of people. You know, there is only one truth, and if people are aware of what’s happening – the views would be quite the same.
Unfortunately, there are people who prefer someone else to think for them, who just swallow what they are being served. Regardless of the situation, I’ve always considered that kind of attitude as a big problem. In my early years as a hardcore kid it really bothered me that MOST of the guys I knew who were into hardcore, only listened to those bands that are on the plate in front of them, never trying to dig any deeper. For example, people who are into Ignite usually have no idea that there were tons of similar bands, like THE KILLING FLAME, TRIGGERMAN, SPEAK 714 etc… And that’s what I face to this day, traveling around Europe and meeting lots of new kids. I’m not only talking about music tastes, but any views or ideas that people have, or were rather stuffed with.
A lot of people, good or bad, won’t do any research themselves, won’t do the thinking. And that’s one of the main problems of the hardcore punk community, in my opinion, probably over sexism and a few other usual topics. People just hop on this train and never care about making a single step off the tracks. “Be yourself”, “Think for yourself” – we heard these banal phrases so many times, but they are still vital. That’s why we have some Russian bands or kids supporting Russian forces in the Ukrainian conflict which absolutely makes no sense. Even this classic Italian antifa band, called BANDA BASOTTI, supported Donetsk terrorists, just because they were calling themselves antifascists. What the fuck?
“Be yourself”, “Think for yourself” – we heard these banal phrases so many times, but they are still vital.
What are your views on the current status of the crisis and what lessons have you learned throughout its development over the years? Also, looking back and being smarter thanks to all the recent happenings, what do you think was the main reason of Russian actions and the annexation of Crimea?
As for my personal engagement – I’m trying to keep myself as distanced from this whole misery as possible, of course it still affects life of any Ukrainian to some degree. It makes me cringe that rich and mighty people who are interested in what’s happening are alive and well while normal people, from both sides, brainwashed and manipulated are dying for nothing or getting their lives ruined. I’m strictly against the war and I’m not supporting any of the sides – but it’s clear which one is the aggressor and it’s clear that everything is super sketchy in general. I guess that if Putin really needed to conquer another part of Ukraine’s territory – they would do it real quick, like in a day or two. Since the shit is going on for more than a year now, it seems that someone somewhere is interested in this going on. What I’m trying to say and what bums me the most, that it’s not for us know the real intentions of this shady sluggish hybrid war game, while people are keep on dying. Again, it may sound naive but I believe that the real enemy is still the government.
Do you have a lot of friends in Russia? How does the crisis affect your relationship with fellow musicians, supporters and followers from Putin’s Promised Land?
Ukrainian and Russian hardcore scenes were always super close, we used to see each other a lot, bands from both countries would travel back and forth with concerts, even shared some band members. I played some 5 shows with Moscow’s REARRANGED and Vic from REARRANGED played second guitar on SIKE’s first tour.
Although some bands from both Ukraine and Russia still try to travel, it’s not like it was back in the days, it’s much more difficult now. We’re still friends as we represent the thinking, open-mided community. But then again, some kids from the scene are fighting for the Ukrainian army. And there are some brainwashed people among hardcore kids of Russia too, and I’m not even sure if it’s still safe for us to play there, since we have played a few benefit shows in support of refugees and wounded people from Eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian army. The whole situation is so fucked up that it comes to a point when antifascists would beat other antifascists in Russia, just because they would support different sides of the conflict. It all looks like a terrible misunderstanding. But among my friends from Russia everything looks cool, which I’m not too surprised about. P.s.: Alex from Moscow’s GUTS OUT filled in on bass for CLEARSIGHT’s most recent show.
Ok Roman, so how did this whole adventure with hardcore start for you? Tell me a bit about your musical background and how you discovered punk music and mindset?
My older brother is a graffiti writer, and one day he brought home a MILLENCOLIN cd from his punker crew-mate. That’s how it’s started to me, then I discovered THE OFFSPRING, AFI, RANCID, TARAKANY!, BER-LINN, 7 SECONDS and never stopped looking for new bands ever since. In my 15 I was still a “good” kid raised by beautiful parents, so I was quickly got hooked on hardcore, attracted by the positive attitude it had to offer.
How has your national hardcore scene evolved since your rookie days?
I haven’t been around in the earliest years of 2002 – 2004, but within the recent 10 years I literally witnessed the emerging of Ukrainian hardcore scene. It’s hard to believe but it’s that young.
Before 2007 there were no proper records, there were just a few bands, though they had their style. Style and taste is what makes our scene stand out.
The quality of bands and musician only grows better with time. Maybe now with the younger generation of high speed Internet there are more carefree kids who are not that involved and engaged with the scene, but hell it’s still doing fine!
You recently complained that Ukrainian bands are being heavily overlooked. What’s the reason for that?
There are quite a few distinctive reasons for that: Geographic, Social and Political. All together they form into a very strong mixture.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine had some hard time evolving as a country. The 90’s are known as a pretty rough times for our third-world country. Of course life has gotten a bit better since then, but the impact of that is still felt. I guess it’s just not the best environment for a hardcore scene to appear from. I can’t recall of any western hardcore band coming around here before 2004. That’s probably the reason why the scene is so young, and so we only have like 5 bigger cities with more than 50 hardcore kids in it.
And here is where Politics meets Geography: Ukraine is the second largest country of Europe (after the European part of Russia). The distance between those few active cities is around 650 km. Those numbers might be rough, but I think you got the situation. While we’re booking our 5th European tour with SIKE, we have only did 1 Ukrainian tour, cause we had to drive 13 hours between the cities and gotten paid not even enough for gas, because this country is quite poor, as I told before. So it’s no surprise that 99% of touring bands still turn around in Poland or Hungary. It’s started getting a bit better around year 2009, when more bands would come around. Again, due to our fucked up government structures there were situations when bands would get turned around at the border (like with HAVE HEART, SHIPWRECK A.D. and RISE & FALL in 2008) or only pass the border after a bribe. Lately it’s gotten worse again for evident reasons. Still it’s expensive and so not popular to travel here, though the response from the hungry crowd is usually better than in fed up Europe. With this kind of isolation, we’ve only burst out as a scene around mid 00’s and started doing proper releases and tours only in 2010’s. It’s no surprise that people would still overlook our scene, but it’s proving more and more that it’s worth attention with every day.
Can you share some names of bands, labels, zines that would help us broaden our horizons?
BLUESBREAKER is the best band around, and one of the bands to look after in Europe. Musically they do a mix of SUPERTOUCH, QUICKSAND, HELMET, SLOWDIVE etc. Quite a unique sound that to me is a definition of modern hardcore. They’re also super tight live. They had an LP released by Amendment (US) / Powertrip records (Germany) (known for REMISSION, CONTRA TODOS MIS MIEDOS, SHIELD etc) and are going to drop a new one later this / early next year.
WOUNDEAD were a band with some riffs that Metallica would like to have invented first.
The are lots of great bands in Odessa, like ASPIRE, STILL, TOMORROW and SET ADRIFT that sound like 90’s hardcore (STRIFE, OUTSPOKEN, TEMPERANCE etc), some of them has made it to the XSTUCKINTHEPASTX blog :) HOMESICK from Odessa sound a lot like good old Orange County hardcore.
All those are worth checking. There are still tons of good bands I didn’t mention too.
What’s the story of SIKE? How did you decide to form this pack and how do you balance your involvement in this band and your work with CLEARSIGHT?
SIKE is a Straight Edge band. Both me and Mike (from BLUESBREAKER) had some cool bands going, but we’ve never had s Straight Edge one. That was the deal with us starting SIKE.
CLEARSIGHT were always spread between different cities, so we were never as active as we’d like to be, and lately, in addition to that, we’re all super busy with other bands and mature lives, so it was always easy to get something else going.
Have you played a lot of international shows with SIKE so far? Would you mind recalling some of the best appearances so far?
We did 75 shows so far and more than a half is abroad. That’s A LOT for a Ukrainian hardcore band, and we are not going to stop soon. Some of the best shows that come to my mind were opening for TRUE COLORS and JUSTICE in Moscow and a show with HARDA TIDER in Malmo. We’re gonna have three dates with INSIST and SURVIVAL in a month – which I think is gonna be fun. And I’m pretty sure – our best shows are yet to come.
Do you have your favorite venues abroad? What’s so special about them?
So far I enjoyed JZ Riot in Lichtenstein (Sachs.) the most. It’s just special all the way. The people, the venue, the chill-out house, the wc graffiti, everything rules there. Na Pul Cesty in Prague, located in the middle of a park is cool too. But almost all of the venues have something special to them. So far I enjoyed each of the shows we played, more or less.
What are your touring plans for the coming months?
SIKE are finishing booking a week and a half long tour with REMINDED. Unfortunately I’m not able to go this time and will be replaced, but I hope they don’t kick me out of this band.
Please look around for a show near you, August 20th – September 5th.
20.08 – Leisnig, DE
21.08 – Berlin, DE
22.08 – Krakow, PL
23.08 – Warsaw, PL
24.08 – Poznan, PL
25.08 – Bratislava, SO
26.08 – Budapest. HU
27.08 – Wien, AU
28.08 – Lucerne, SUI
29.08 – Coburg, DE
30.08 – Karlsruhe, DE
31.08 – BOOK US!!!
01.09 – Ham, BE
02.09 – Utrecht, NL
03.09 – BOOK US!!!
04.09 – Wunstorf, DE
05.09 – Leipzig, DE
How about recording some new joints? Any plans to hit the studio soon?
We just did our first proper recording after two practice demos. Then as soon as the guy are back from the tour – we’re gonna write new stuff to be recorded late 2015 / early 2016. Wish us good luck!
Ok Roman, I guess that’s enough interrogating for one interview huh? :) Thanks a lot for your time and feel free to add anything you like here. Cheers from Warsaw!
Thanks Karol! It’s was a great pleasure! My last words would be: Think for yourself!
To all the musicians out there: don’t play worthless shit! And fuck homophobia!