If Nikola Tesla had been a synth player in the eighties and started a new wave band, perhaps the result would have been something like Tesla Boy. The Russian outfit are a blast from the past, taking leads from Depeche Mode and Prince with a modern synth-pop twist. They’ll be playing Matte‘s Full Moon party this Thursday (co-hosted by yours truly and GrandLife), with dance-cult artists YACHT, Sneaky Sound System and Gigamesh at the Beekman Beer Garden. For now, Tesla Boy tells us what’s coming up next and what it’s like to be a musician in Mother Russia. And, if you want tickets to this event, go HERE.
Why “Tesla Boy?” Where does the name come from?
Originally it was the name of our first song, about a guy who can transmit electricity from a distance. In general, I was very impressed by the story of the great Nikola Tesla. The transmission of energy without cables, over the air. This is what we do with our music.
You all grew up studying music and have each been a part of different musical outfits over the years. How did you guys meet and start working together?
Yes, I grew up on funk and soul and studied jazz. Mike played drums in various rock bands in Moscow. And Leo played in several punk rock bands. Misha was introduced by my friend and was recommended as a very good drummer. I invited Misha to the studio and asked him to play with me. And Leo sent me a video where he played the pieces of my songs. I was surprised by his powerful sound and so we started to play together.
Your sound is pretty staunchly new wave, to the point that it sounds like it’s lifted straight out of the eighties. Did you grow up listening to new wave and synth pop? What particular artists inspired you? What current artists inspire you now?
As I mentioned, I grew up more on soul and funk music, which in the eighties was rather densely interwoven with the new wave and synth pop. The main characters in my childhood were Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones. Later, it was Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Bowie, Prince. Now, it’s The Police. I also love Todd Terje, Miike Snow, Martin Dubka, Tyson, Azari & III.
How does this type of music fit in in Russia? What is the Russian pop scene like, if there is such a thing?
We were the first band that started playing indie-pop in Russia and became popular. We did not expect this. Now, we have fans in every big city in Russia. Russian pop is almost horrible and disgusting. It’s a conveyor which makes popcorn. The funny thing is we have Russian rappers, which are trying to be as steep as Timbaland or Jay-Z. They make videos with sports cars and yachts. It is very funny.
As Russian artists, where do you stand on the Pussy Riot controversy?
Even the most terrible picture of hell will not give you all the horror that is the Russian prison. Of course our President Putin would have garnered points had he just released the girls home.
Your last album came out in 2010 and you just released a new single this spring. Are you working on your next full-length album?
Yes, 5 tracks are done. We’ve mixed it with Martin Dubka (Tyson, Ali Love, Cazals). Now, we are about to finish the rest of the album, which will probably be released in October or November.
What direction will you go with the new stuff? How will it be different from Modern Thrills?
It will be more harder and darker and more personal. It’s a mixture of different times and styles.
You’ll be playing a show this week with YACHT, Sneaky Sound System and Gigamesh. Have you ever worked with these artists before? Any collaborations coming up?
No, we haven’t. But it will be interesting. About collaborations, I can say it could be great to do something with Gigamesh. I usually play his tracks when I’m DJing.
Being that your music is so electronically based, what’s the set-up on stage? Do you use live drums and guitar?
Yes we do. We have mixed acoustic-electronic drums with a sampler and Simmons drum pads, and we have bass guitar. I play Prophet 8, which I really love, and a real 1977 Korg ms-10. Also, we use the Akai MPC for extra samples in a few songs.
Will this part of a bigger tour in the U.S.?
I hope we will touring be the States later this fall or early next year.