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Interview with Ukrainian band Slow Earth
Interview with Ukrainian band Slow Earth
Fri, 04/04/2014 - 10:38
Published:04 April, 2014
ROISIN GAD ELRAB
IT'S midday in Ukraine, Grigiory Prutko has just woken up and he isn’t really in the mood to talk about music.
Last night, like so often now, the musician and the rest of his band, Slow Earth, were at a protest meeting strategising on how next to protect their city, Zaporozhye, precariously positioned between Crimea and the Russian border. So excuse him if music isn’t the first thing on his mind.
Slow Earth had to cancel a recent planned Dublin Castle gig as they found themselves in the heart of the revolution in Kiev. The iconic picture of a man playing a piano in front of a wall of riot shields may not have featured Greg, but he also took to the instrument, playing Rachmaninoff in the faces of the police.
The band will make the four-day drive to play a rescheduled date at the Dublin Castle alongside Sienna and Karmakoma on May 7 – providing the struggle does not get any worse.
Speaking via Skype on Sunday morning, Greg says: “It’s hard to play music when these things are happening. You pick up a guitar but two hours ago you heard someone was killed. You can’t play music about love, something good, funny, it’s impossible.
"Now, when you come home, you write dramatic songs about something you just heard. I hope you will never feel it. The last songs I wrote were because of these horrible feelings with this war, with the people who disappeared.”
As the country’s currency has begun to devalue, the cost of visas to the UK has increased and the band are hoping they will be able to afford the trip.
Their EP, Latitude and 023, is due out on May 5. Strange to think that the EP’s first press is now worth 600 euros per copy due to the collectible album cover designed by iconic designer Storm Thorgerson (who did work for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and many more), his last work before he died.
But for now, Greg has more important things on his mind. “It’s a very depressive mood,” he says. “You don’t know when war will start.
"There are nearly 100,000 Russian military 400km from my home and it’s a little scary. Every hour you hear that Russia has come closer.
When you cross the street you can hear Russian accents. You see the enemy in his face but it may be a normal man. It makes us paranoid.”
Greg recently found himself in danger during a protest in his city.
“They started throwing grenades, beating people with sticks, kicking very old people,” he says.
“There was a lot of blood. Criminals and police are almost the same thing in Ukraine. That was the first time in my life I saw a grenade.
"On my way home, I saw a police car and they asked me to stop. I knew I mustn’t stop because if you do, it will be a big problem.
"If the police find out you’re against the government, they will make big trouble. I ran and they ran after me – I saw my childhood. It was pretty scary because a lot of people have just disappeared, people who came to the protest, no one will see them again.
“It’s a time when you can’t call the police if there are problems, you have to do everything by yourself, no one will help you, no one knows the truth, who you are, no one will find the criminal, the government is concentrating on other things.
"It’s strange times, I never thought that I’d see the war. It’s a very thin line. If even one person shoots a Russian, I think it could become a third world war.”
This fear, and the lack of assistance from the police and military, has prompted Ukranians to create their own citizen army, many wearing British army uniforms.
“I don’t know where they got them from,” says Greg. “Now people want to start to be a military. We have a national army, from ordinary people who want to protect Ukraine from Russia, they are prepared to fight but no one wants to fight. After the revolution we had a patriotic mood, everyone was proud to be Ukrainian.”
He is hoping assistance will come from some more powerful allies.
“We were thinking that the UK and US will help us in a military way but they help us only economically, they give us money and take steps against Russia in economic ways,” says Greg.
“Maybe it sounds radical, but from my point of view, we have to be a northern alliance. We have a huge neighbour, we are too little to resist alone.
"Every minute on our breaking news, we see how the Ukrainian army do nothing against Russia, just walk away. It’s depressing to start a war they think we will lose, but I don’t think so.”
But it appears having a common enemy has had positive side-effects. “The one good thing is our country has come together,” Greg says.
• Further information at http://musicmuso.com/news/slow-earth-on-the-move-for-uk-ep-release-and-tour