Soviet just released their debut album, "We Are Eyes, We Are Builders," on Plastiq Musiq. Read on for an interview (conducted via e-mail) with Keith Ruggerio, singer and songwriter.
Andrea: It seems that Soviet goes through frequent line-up changes. What is the current line-up? Are you, Keith, the mastermind behind this band?
Keith: Current line-up:
Chris Otchy: Lead synth
Kenan Gunduz: Guitars, backing vocals
Greg Kochan: Rhythm Synth
Keith Ruggiero: Vocals
Mastermind! Hardly, just a guy who currently writes the music and does the instrumentation and production for the recordings.
Andrea: Soviet just released their full-length debut album, but the band has existed, in one form or another, since 1995. What happened between now and then? How many mutations did Soviet go through before reaching its present state?
Keith: 95 was basically experimenting with electronics, recording, and songwriting. It was hard for me to find a band with similar interests, so I became my own band through the recording process. I would usually meet others after demos were circulated through friends, etc. This led to several projects throughout my college career, which ultimately evolved into SOVIET in late 98. I felt the music and the people were right, so I went with it. There is only one original member, being Chris Otchy. The early Soviet was much more raw than the one today. We had three keyboards and a drummer. In a way I liked that better because of the energy of having all live electronic music which is sometimes hard to pull off.
Andrea: If forced to classify your music, what would you say? Can we call it techno? Synth-pop? New-wave?
Keith: You can call it Electro Clash, Synth Rock. You can call it Synth-pop or Eighties. You can call it GOOD or BAD. You may even want to consider it within a scene. For me, I just call it music.
Andrea: How do you go about creating this music?
Keith: With Emotion in Mind.
Andrea: Who is Dziga Vertov? How has he/she influenced the band?
Keith: Vertov is a Russian film maker/ film theorist who is most noted for his film entitled "Man With a Movie Camera," and his theory of "Kino-Eye." Influential through his ideas on creating film. He breaks it down into a mechanical process of the revealing of beauty through the everyday. The role of the cameras eye being an extension of the human eye.
Andrea: What does "We Are Eyes, We Are Builders" mean?
Keith: Quote from Vertov. You can have it mean whatever you want it to. To me, it's the act of observation, which leads to a new view on creating something, art, music, painting etc.
Andrea: In both the bio on your web site and the press write-up I received, there's a lot of reference to paradox in your music. Specifically, the contrast between "cold robotocism and real emotions and feelings" is addressed. There seems to be a sense of sadness, or even disgust, with the robotic, computerized, and, well, synthesized nature of our society. Is this how you feel? If so, why work with "robotic" instruments? Or is it just a way of saying that music can be both synthesized and heartfelt?
Keith: Yes, you can almost say that. I use electronics because they foster creativity for me. Cold Roboticism is a stereotype associated with these instruments and sounds that I'm attempting to reinvent. A sort of clash between steel and beauty.
Andrea: Your bio also says that Soviet is about equality. What does this mean, specifically? Is it possible to achieve equality between the musician and the listener?
Keith: Soviet wants people to realize that we are not going for rock star status. There is an emphasis on the music as first and foremost. For us there is no stage, there is no reason to separate us from someone else on the street, corner store, job. We are your everyday person, singing about the everyday. We live in a society of class systems and there will always be a ladder to step onto. It's in our nature to place certain people higher on a ladder than others. I find that annoying. It's my attempt at remaining humble and focused on the purpose. The Music.
Andrea: How do you feel about communism?
Keith: I shy away from politics because they are made for those who are immersed in them. For the most part I think Communism is an excuse to hate other countries that aren't democracies. Let's face it.....WAR drives economy!
Andrea: What bands have influenced Soviet the most?
Keith: OMD, Kraftwerk, Vince Clarke, John Foxx, Human League, Magnetic Fields, Talk Talk, Japan
Andrea: What other music do you like? And what are your favorite 80's bands?
Keith: I have a wide range of music tastes. My main points of interest are found in the late 70's to early 80's electronic and New wave as well as early 90's Manchester, Brit-pop, and shoe gazer scenes.
Andrea: At your set at Cornerstone, I believe the band was wearing red shirts and white ties. Does Soviet normally perform "in uniform," so to speak? Is this for fun, or is it symbolic?
Keith: The uniform is nothing more than a fashionable choice. We like to switch it up a bit. We try to put a little more thought into are live show to make it more worthwhile, or stand out. And yes we have a sense of humor about it as well.
Andrea: What does a girl with marble eyes look like?
Keith: Very beautiful with long, curly black hair, grey eyes, very intoxicating but emotionally scarred inside with a heart encased in stone that was slowly being chipped away.
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