Denis Lyubich – Life and music in Moscow

Tell us about yourself and your music

I am a musician from Moscow, Russia. I sing and play the trumpet, piano, and guitar. I’m a journalist by education so my music always has a reflexive, self-analytical, intellectual feel. I have a long story of making music and I traveled a long way from a grunge rock-band to the soul, jazz-influenced songs I play now. I recorded 5 LPs and 2 EPs, doing this since 2013, and during the last years, producing myself, I discovered that music is a language that can express so much in so little and it reaches the parts of our souls no other art can. Last year I’m trying to master this language using all available ways – from electronic arrangements to acoustic instruments – from simple chord progressions to neo-jazz, neo-classical chord cascades. I think that music can do much more people are accustomed to think nowadays. I experiment constantly and I always find a place for something new. I love rock, jazz, pop, reggae, dubstep and breakbeat, trip-hop and downtempo, classics and avant-garde – I love the music in all its facets and I try to share my love to the world.

Talk to us more about your latest release

My new song “Moscow (The City I Love)” is, as its title suggests, about Moscow – the city I was born in, my parents, my grandparents were born in. It’s the city of my whole life so, in some ways, I have to love it because it’s a part of me already. This song was, at first, intended to be an instrumental, and even when I was writing a trumpet theme, I was determined to dedicate this song to this city. It was the hardest moment – when I tried to put my whole feeling of this city into a few notes. In some way, almost all of my songs are about Moscow but only a few of them address it in an indirect way. Usually, I speak through my music about the issues of this world. You know, injustice, poverty, loneliness, harsh life. I thought this song would be different but when I started to sing and write lyrics for it – I couldn’t help myself adding some darker shades into an intended eulogy. So it’s not a eulogy at all now, – it’s a confession of a Christian kind, direct appeal to my lovely city and, honestly, I don’t even know to whom I address it – to the city or to the God himself. When I sang chorus I felt ecstatic in a religious way, a connection with something bigger. I think that’s why all the jazz, soul, gospel influences are in this song – they’re in harmony, they’re in the arrangement, they’re in my performance. The roots of Afro-American music are very religious, even ritualistic, and, though I was baptized as an orthodox, though I am white and Russian, I feel that my soul can speak only through such kind of music. I hope I don’t offend anyone by appealing to a culture I can’t be a real part of.

What inspired you to write this release?

My city itself inspired me. It’s always different – every season has its own mood. My personal favorites are the summer and the Indian summer. I love Moscow from June to September. My birthday is in September, as well, and, as it often happens, The Day Of The City is celebrated on my birthday. What a coincidence, is it? So on my birthday all the streets are full of joy and people and live shows. Moscow shows its brightest colors. But my song is not about this side of Moscow. My song was inspired by its suburbs, by the railway and the highway that is surrounding my home district, by the constant noise, graffiti on the walls, dim staircases, and repetitive boxes of apartment houses. That’s the background for my whole life – for my childhood, for my adolescence. I’ve learned to love my city this way and my heart feels with happiness and comfort when summer, purple sun adores these gray apartment boxes with its summer tone. I think that here, in Moscow, people would be alienated by my song – they are accustomed that songs about their city are singing differently, in other music styles, in other languages. I think they would even accuse me of insincerity. We have such a definition for this – “Imitation of The West Music”. It doesn’t sound as bad on English as it is on Russian, believe me. But for me, Moscow sounds this way. Its rhythm is the beat, its harmony is jazz, its singing is soul – that’s what a strange kind of Russian I am.

Describe the writing and recording process

This release was some kind of unexpected to me. Usually, I take some time to write and record a song – it’s a long process, you know, especially when you do everything by yourself. But this single is another story. I wrote a trumpet intro theme one morning and, at the first moment, I thought it would be instrumental. But when I added organ chords to it, some ideas started moving in my head, I tried to sing over that, a bit changed the chord progression and that was it – a new song. I tried hard to finish it before The Day Of The City – an official holiday Moscow celebrates every year on the first week of September. So I had to work hard to do everything in a few weeks. I don’t know how the critics and listeners will meet my new single but I’m kind of proud of it. I wrote a good, non-diatonic chord progression, sang at the top of my range, and played the real jazz theme on the trumpet-like, you know, in all classical standards. So you can tell me what you want, but I did a good job – that’s what I think!

Any plans to release a video?

As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?

I’m not very good at branding, I must confess. I don’t think that Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or Chet Baker were branding anything. They were just making music and they were doing it really well. Too many musicians nowadays are thinking too much about marketing and not about the music. So we’ve got lots of brilliant marketing ideas out there but how much good music do we have? I guess, my thing is that I don’t have a thing. However, you can call my mixture of styles, jazz influences, and trumpet playing over the modern background as parts of my brand.

Who have you been listening to lately?

I’m a real jazz aficionado so I listen to a lot of jazz classics for the last few years. Lately, I listened to Donald Byrd and his “A New Perspective” so I think it must’ve left a mark on my new single. From the new guys, I love Christian Scott, Takuya Kuroda, Jose James, and Theo Croker – that’s perfect music for the summer city pastime.

Who are your biggest influences?

My biggest influences in jazz are Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Because of these musicians, I started to listen to this music and took a horn in my hands, in the first place. They discovered the trumpet to me, its incredible opportunities, its unbelievable flexibility. I can only dream to play like them, to know my instrument as well as they did. I love composing ideas of Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Woody Shaw, and Thelonious Monk – their harmony mesmerizes me. My favorite pianists are Bill Evans and Bud Powell – their romantic tone always comforts and inspires me. However, my overall image as a musician must be the one of Tom Waits or Nick Cave, or Leonard Cohen, perhaps. I’m not a pure jazz musician, my music is strongly based on lyrics and, like them, I combine different cultures, different influences, and experiments even when I lack some necessary skills. Don’t get me wrong, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen are incredible musicians – they’re just not virtuosos and sometimes their inventive mind goes beyond their hands and voices. And that’s great! I love the adventurous, risky tone of their music and I think that my way of making music is pretty similar to the one they have.

Tell us about your passions

I love video games, tasty food, and heavy drinks. I know how it sounds but it is true. I’m an ordinary fatso who likes to get drunk, eat grilled pork, and go playing Dark Souls until the sun rises. I’m kidding, of course, but that’s how my life would look if I don’t have the music. Honestly, I spend most of my day playing the horn and the piano, and only at night, a few hours before my sleep, I can allow myself to be a little fatso. Though I always have to remember that too much food or booze will make my trumpet practice much harder.

What else is happening next in your world?

Nothing. I even had a song “Nothing Happens in This World”. Maybe someday I’ll release it.



Thanks for an awesome interview, Denis Lyubich



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