Connection Stories: Trad.Attack! and Oligarkh

07 February 2022 Connection StoriesInterview

Making connections happen is one of the main goals of Tallinn Music Week. This is something we can’t write into the programme, but it happens every time – people meet, minds collide, and it all leads to wonderful collabs.

Our today’s “Connection Stories” episode takes a look at how the beloved Estonian folk-benders Trad.Attack! met with the Russian ethno-futurists Oligarkh.

The tracks from Trad.Attack’s! last album “make Your Move” have been remixed by numerous foreign artists, including Oligarkh. Their remix of “Kuukene” has now been visualized in a music video filmed on the border of Estonia and Russia. Answering our burning questions are Trad.Attack!s Jalmar Vabarna, Oligarkh’s Anton Chizhenok and Maria Reinup, the director of the freshly released video.

How did Trad.Attack! find Oligarkh and how did you come to an idea to ask them to remix your song?

Jalmar Vabarna (JV): When we kicked off the remix album process, our agent Juliana Volož did some research and got many recommendations on who could remix our tracks. Oligarkh was one of them. And it’s awesome that they were up for it!

What made you come up with the international remix series? Why is such international creative collaboration important to you?

JV: We took part in the AMP programme by Music Estonia and a part of the project was working together with a mentor. Our mentor was Linkin Park’s long-time manager Rob McDermott. During a discussion with him we reached the understanding that as musicians we have two main objectives – to reach new listeners and retain old ones. From there the idea of surfing on the so-called recycle wave grew and we thought of asking others to create new songs from our old ones. Remixing was the most logical way to do that. But reaching a total of 20 remixes for our album is partly the fault of our agent.

Photo: Feliks Volož

How does an event like TMW help in creating such collaborations? Is it important?

JV: In our collaboration with Oligarkh there is an interesting angle – while they did play at the TMW last year, then we actually weren’t there. Yet it’s still TMW that made it all happen.  How is that possible? Maria Reinup saw Oligarkh there, and reached out to them right after  the show, saying that she would like to create a music video for them. By that time the Ologarkh guys had already finished the remix for our “Kuukene”, and came up with the idea  to let Maria create a video for that. It turned out that Maria liked us as well, so she killed two birds with one stone.

Sure, TMW does help. Not to even mention that our agent spotted us for the first time at TMW.

Anton, you often rework traditional Russian music, cracking the Russian “cultural code”. How different was it to remix a track that has already cracked some Estonian heritage codes? 

Anton Chizhenok (AC): I don’t remember what and how I did, but I was fascinated by almost all the elements of this song; all the voices and guitars and flute and drums sounded fantastic. I just fell in love with the lyrics, I love magical metaphors.

Photo: Feliks Volož

How familiar are you with the Estonian cultural life and its music scene? 

AC: I know a few groups: Trad.Attack!, OOPUS, TOMMY CASH and Elephants From Neptune. And TMW is one of the most interesting festivals, a great place where you can hear musicians from both Estonia and from all over the world. I always leave the event with loads of impressions and a replenished personal playlist.

Maria, what about Oligarkh caught your attention?

Maria Reinup (MR): To me Oligarkh is a bit like a gem yet to be discovered. A conceptual unit, with incredibly cool and powerful music, stage presence and visual design. Distinguishable, different, bold. Their TMW performance was my most anticipated festival event and it blew my mind. All that sweating, moshing, raving and jumping felt like a religious experience. I drove home and could not sleep, my heart still pounding. I turned to them to express my feelings and offered if I can possibly visualize this experience. They asked me to show some of my earlier music videos, liked what they saw and came back with an offer to make a video for their remix of one of Trad.Attack!´s most beloved songs. Until today I kind of do not believe it! 

AC: We had no idea what to offer her at that time, but a couple months after the remix for “Kuukene” was done and Trad.Attack! asked if we knew someone who could make a video for it, then we called Maria, asking her to take part in the project. It was a big surprise for her. On the other hand, we were surprised how nice and easy it was to work with her team.

Photo: Feliks Volož

Why did you film the video in Ida-Virumaa?

MR: Because the concept of the video addresses artists meeting across borders, creating something new together. In this way the video also pays homage to the whole set of remixes created by international artists for our Trad.Attack!

We agreed early on with the bands that we’d like to film on an actual border. Narva was perfect – with its stones that have been here for nearly 600 years that represent the times of peace and feud. A connecting bridge, making it slightly political. Once that was set, we designed the whole video to take place in Ida-Virumaa which as a region offers a wide range of locations.

Equally from the financing perspective the City of Narva, Viru Film Fund and Narva Museum welcomed us with open arms, which needless to say is more than crucial in the context of producing a music video.

I am also personally happy not only to highlight such an incredibly rich area like Ida-Viru County, but especially the city of Narva – it is the next cool place to be. A place where its deficits make you think innovatively and dream bigger.

Photo: Feliks Volož

What were the highlights of filming in Ida-Virumaa?

AC: The main goal was not to catch a cold during the shoot.
It’s an amazing place — two real castles on the opposite side of the border, right across the river, standing right next to each other. Looking from the top of the wall towards the Russian bank of Narva river and asking yourself why we are so similar yet live so differently. We hope to go back soon to do a gig there.

Photo: Feliks Volož

What’s next for all of you? 

AC: We’re going to finish the next album this year. It’s almost ready.

M: I am working on a documentary about the young woman who jumps over skyscrapers with a motorbike and will finish the script of my first feature film.

Trad.Attack!: In April we will continue working on our upcoming album. In summer we’ll tour as much as the situation will let us. We’ll have only one big live in Estonia this year – at Tartu Song Festival Grounds on 19 August.

Photo: Feliks Volož

Watch the video here.

Trad.Attack! is on a mission to play in every country in the world and since coming together in 2013, they have reached every continent, performing in 37 countries, including significant festivals in Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Chile, the UK and more. Their latest, fourth album “Make Your Move” is a brave and bold musical statement from the stories they are reworking to claim for their own. Its 12 tracks make you smile, dance, mosh, yearn – evoking a full palette of emotions and then some. Trad.Attack! transmit their traditional sounds, which they seamlessly intertwine psychedelically, plugging in, amplifying, distorting, reimagining, and building anticipation. Trad.Attack! has been revolutionising the Estonian scene, having won a whopping 28 music awards, including those for Band and Album of the Year. They break the rules and genre boundaries, instead creating their own path.

Trad.Attack! on Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Webpage

Oligarkh’s crashing collages of sound, images and words draw from disparate musical and visual sources to create surreal juxtapositions of contemporary urban culture, deep folk memory and decades of popular expressions of the national character. Oligarkh’s live gigs are augmented with a drummer and arresting video collages taken from historical films, documentaries, fairytales and old TV clips. It’s a journey through the Russian collective conciousness, from grand cathedrals to remote villages, from suburban ghettos to the enclaves of the rich. Oligarkh’s music erases the borders between high and popular culture, ancient and modern.

Oligarkh on Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Website