Meet 10,000 Russos (the band that were so good live we signed them at the side of the stage)
Our first experience of 10,000 Russos was under the dark night sky at Reverence Festival in the band's local Portugal. We heard from a distance their deep droning bass, ritualistic drumming and woozy vocals that seemed to drip like melting wax under the light of the full moon. We flocked to the stage like moths to a flame and discovered one of our favourite new bands of the year.
With their self-titled debut album out in August 2015, it's time to introduce the Fuzz Club audience to João Pimenta (drums/vocals) and Pedro Pestana (guitar) and André Couto (bass) from 10,000 Russos.
First up can you tell us a bit about the origins of 10,000 Russos? How did you get started and all those fun questions.
PP: João and I started the band in 2012. I knew his bands and he knew my solo project. We had been wanting to play together for a while and a two piece band made sense at the time. It was quite noisy with just about the right amount of rock ‘n’ roll. Eventually we wanted to go to other sonicscapes and that’s where André comes in with the bass.
JP: I was fed up playing in bands with riffs, guitar solos and choruses. Pedro seemed the right partner to do the job of deconstructing guitar waves. Then André seemed the right man to make the mantras of deconstruction. I know we will never fit on a musical scene and that’s marvelous.
AC: We met after our bands played together at Milhões de Festa. I loved their chaotic simplicity, I’m into repetition. I always thought they would need someone that would allow them to float, while keeping them on the ground. That is my role here.
Your debut album is coming out here in the next month or so on Fuzz Club. How did the band and Fuzz Club come together?
AC: I know Fuzz Club almost from day one. Underground Youth, Singapore Sling, Sonic Jesus, Dead Rabbits, Lola Colt…I love it’s bands, the releases, the compilations, the splits. People from all over Europe gathered in one label! I met Casper at The Reverb Conspiracy (vol.1) Release Party a couple of years ago. After our show in Reverence Valada last year, Casper was waiting for us and signed us on the spot.
JP: We were never part of anything here in Portugal, always working in a 'minutemen ethos',doing everything ourselves, from booking to merch to releasing music. It’s a nice change and Fuzz Club shares our passion so both sides are excited about this record.
Do you have any other releases besides the early 4 track cassette you did after you started? Are the songs from that cassette on this debut album?
PP: The cassette was released in 2013 and we played those songs extensively. None of them are on the forthcoming album. Sometimes we play them live, though.
JP: We also have a song in an Álvaro Cunhal tribute compilation for the Portuguese Communist Youth.
What about bands that have influenced you over the years?
JP: Since an early age I have been an avid consumer of music. I am not gonna tell you the story of “my dad had tons of records and I listened to Pink Floyd when I was 6″, ‘cause that is not true. It was all very natural. I used to listen to the radio show of António Sérgio, (sort of a Portuguese John Peel) and since I was young I was exposed to Nick Cave, The Fall and Morphine. I always loved bands who were not aligned with any particular genre or musical wave.
As for bands who have influenced me to search your own soul and your own sounds, I will have to say that bands as Suicide, 13th Floor Elevators, NEU!, Wire, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth or Velvet Underground have influenced me, musically speaking. But literature influenced me as well, with writers like Eca de Queiros, Zola or Bukowski. And cinema. And painting. And History. And people. The list can be endless.
AC: At a young age I’ve been highly influenced by early Pink Floyd, Hendrix, The Doors, Velvet Undergroud, Jefferson Airplane and 13th Floor Elevators. Then followed Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, early Sonic Youth, Loop and Spacemen 3. I’ve been also into the experimental, electro-acoustic and industrial scene. The german Krautrock thing, came to me at my early twenties, Ash Ra Temple, Can, Neu!, Faust, Harmonia, Tangerine Dream… It goes on…
PP: Yes, the list can be endless. As one is getting older, the answer for this question gets bigger and bigger and I could go on forever. I love or loved a lot of different stuff. As a teen, my cousin introduced me to The Doors, who played a very big role in my understanding music, especially in song structure. I rarely played in a band with closed songs since then. I love the way they made a song, play it for 2-3 minutes and then they just jam and jam and jam…
I like most of the bands João and André mentioned above. As for other bands, I can remember a few examples like DJ Shadow, Mano Negra, Manu Chao, Tinariwen, Dead Skeletons, Django Reinhardt, Joy Division, Butthole Surfers, or Wooden Shjips. Dub music really opened my ears a lot! Drinking from all these different fountains kind of reflects a bit the stuff we do with 10000 Russos, it sounds like everything at the same time and it sounds like nothing at all.
I’ve always been interested in the stories people have about their first major music memory, and what set them on the journey for the love of music and the discovery of it. What started the journey for you?
JP: Seeing BB King live at 12. It clicked something.
PP: I remember always being fond of sounds in general. I believe one of my earliest childhood memories of music is Laurie Anderson’s Big Science. My Mom used to listen to it all the time when she was painting. I still recall the chill down my spine with that wolflike sound on the title track. Another of those early memories include Zeca Afonso as well. My sister’s tapes and CD’s also played a big part on the way I listened to music as a youngster. Much, much later, when I started working on sound for films, I learned a lot about music and in turn music taught me a lot about cinema.
AC: The episode I recall the most is when my best friend came to me after a trip with his family to the Zoo in Lisbon. They stopped at a record store and his aunt gave him a record of his choosing. He chosen Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma because he fell in love with its cover. We were between eight and ten years old at the time. I remember it was strange to comprehend, but we loved it and kept daydreaming to it.
Later, at the age of twelve, we got our first band, it was called Psychedelic Mind, and it was influenced by the 60’s psychedelia I quoted above. It was quite fun, and although we never got anywhere it lasted until I went to university, at the age of 17. I still have some tapes I use to listen to. I am 36 years old now, and when I was a teenager, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones. I grew up in a small village near Porto. We gathered at a local pub and exchanged records, tapes and books among friends. At weekends our bands would play there. Everything besides school was about music. Everything still is about music.
You guys hail from Portugal. How’s the music scene there at the moment? Any up and coming bands we should keep our eyes out for?
JP: Portugal is very rich, musically speaking, regarding the fact this country is very small and has around 9 million people. The problem is that the bands over here have very little opportunities to show their music. There is almost no record labels and you can count the record shops over here with the fingers of one hand. Same problems with clubs and live venues. Its almost impossible to play in the interior of the country, even in bigger cities because there are no spaces to play, people are not interested, and what is paid is almost nothing.
With this situation you would think: “well, as there is almost nothing to support a musical scene, maybe there isn’t one”. That's incorrect, there are many bands here that would kick ass in England if they had the chance. As a friend of mine would say “when you are playing and there are just 5 people attending, you can’t suck”. But the opportunities are very little and bands could be a little more united because we are all in the same boat.
But this still is a very concentrated county in one city and one capital, so if you are not from there, as we are, you must work the triple. But thats not the problem for us, we like to work the triple and we know what we are facing. We know we are a peripheral band from a peripheral city of a peripheral country of what is now a peripheral continent. But now we have the opportunity to do something outside of here and that is just a breath of fresh air for us.
You should keep your eyes on Black Bombaim (fuzzy mushroomy instrumental rock n roll trio), Cave Story (Velvet Underground-ish/Modern Lover-ish rock), Legendary Tigerman (one man band Suicide kind of thing with a major influence of cinema), The Act-Ups (garage rock the way garage rock should be) or Allen Halloween (real hip hop from real streets of a real suburb).
PP: For the past 15 years I’ve had the feeling that we were witnessing one of the most interesting and promising generations in Portuguese music. In a country with a very small industry, it’s amazing to find such good quality in recent bands. João already mentioned two personal favorites of mine, Black Bombaim and The Legendary Tigerman, for instance. I’d like to add Dead Combo, O Manipulador, Killimanjaro, Tó Trips, Dreamweapon, Norberto Lobo, Sensible Soccers, Imidiwan or Rafael Toral. As far as the music scene goes, it feels there are more bands than ever. On the other hand, venues aren’t always packed every time there is a concert. This crisis shit obviously didn’t help. Record sales are also very low, as far as I know. However, we managed to sell out our last release on tape. Not on stores or anything, just in concerts and by mail order.
AC: Portugal has always had an important music scene to its locals. Personally, if I don’t like the sound of a band, doesn’t matter where it comes from, it means nothing to me. Doesn’t matter how good the musicians play, how charismatic are their frontmen – I’ve always hated frontmen – how very entertaining shows they put.. if the music sucks, it sucks! And it is all about music.
There are very few bands, Portuguese or not, at the present times, I can say they make a difference. Bands that produce good music, that are trying to achieve to something greater, bands with a solid artistic vision are hard to find anywhere. Portugal only has a couple of them but they exist.
What’s on your turntable now?
JP: Back From the Grave Vol.1 – Crypt Records
PO: Anouar Brahem – Le Voyage du Sahar
AC: Faust + Tony Conrad – Outside The Dream Sindicate
What setup do you currently use?
JP: I play in a Pearl drum kit from the 90s. All fucked-up. I earn 500 euros a month in my day job so I cannot buy another. But I am thinking of buying a Ludwig drum kit, so I am cutting out eating meat and I don’t drink beer anymore. I am more thin now and looking forward to putting the Pearl kit in a trashcan.
I use a SM58 mic connected to 2 guitar pedals. A Boss Overdrive and a Digital Delay DD-7. I normally use this combination linked to a amplified mixer and to a speaker, so my voice its not over all the other instruments. I used the mic not just for the voice but also to get some sounds of the drum kit, using loops and delays.
PP: I’ve been using mostly an Epiphone Firebird VII for ten years now. It was love at the first sight. Sounds great and it’s good looking! Before that I didn’t own a proper guitar, probably because I started out playing bass as a teenager. In the chapter of non-working guitars, I own an old Russian guitar, Elektrogitara Solo II, that never worked, it’s good for a museum. I’ll not sell it cheap, so buyers come out! It’s from 1989 and has onboard FX like phaser and overdrive but, as far as I learned from blogs and forums, none of those guitars actually worked even when they came out of the factory.
A brandless guitar with some bass strings was also part of my arsenal. Talking about working guitars, an Aria Diamond came into my possession 2 years ago. Its a copy of a Mosrite Venture’s model. P90 pick-ups. Sounds twangy! I love creating layers of sound, perhaps more focused in that than in playing note for note. Guitar feedbacks can be cleansing for both mind and body. To create those layers and timbres, guitar FX pedals come into the deal.
It depends on the projects or bands I’m working with but in 10000 Russos it basically involves a Big Muff, Memory Man, DD6 & DD3, Phaser, Crybaby, Daddy-O, TS9 (copy), Total Sonic Anihilation (copy) and a volume pedal. Amp wise, a Fender Deluxe Reverb is what I’m using. It belongs to João. For tremolos I use the one on the amp.
AC: – I just love Gibson basses, especially EB2 and EB3. I’m using an EB3 at the moment. As an amp I use an Ampeg SVT, and i recently discovered the 2×15 cabinet. In addition to Fuzz, Octavers, Reverbs and Delays (Electro-Harmonix, for sure) these are my weapons of choice.
What are your plans for the rest of the year. Any major tours, gigs, writing or recording?
PP: All of those are part of the plan. We make new songs on a regular basis. Our trashcan is full, so writing is always part of the process.
JP: We are planning to tour in England and Portugal in the near future and then, quite possibly, a euro-tour.
Fast forward five years from now, what would you like the band to have accomplished by then?
JP: More records and more tours with bands we love. I think every band desires the same. We are always a work in progress, always making music that we, as music lovers, would hear as any other record we love. Thats always the goal.
AC: My most sincere desire is that I can live from my work and through my work. My work is making music and art and I wish I can keep doing it, profoundly better.
PP: More records and tours, for sure. To stop being broke all the time would also be nice. Oh, health and happiness for everyone!!
Interview by Nathan J. Barrett.
10,000 Russos's self titled album is available now on vinyl, CD and digital.
Listen to the full album via YouTube: