Artwork by Neheroth
Early this year, I reached out to Alex of Russian black metal act Икотка (Ikotka). A brooding and atmospheric metal act that I’ve reviewed before. The band’s sound really stuck out to me and quickly became one of my favorites out of Russia, and the mysterious yet personal take in the music highly intrigued me to inquire further.
These were originally written back in July of 2022.
D: To start with, how did the band become obsessed with ‘Икотка’ (Ikotka) and started playing? And maybe help explain a little more on who or what Икотка is to those who are outside of Russia?
Alex O.: There is no band. Ikotka is my solo project. About 10-15 years ago my brother came up with this name as a joke. In 2020, I recorded the “Заговор” album and decided to release it as Ikotka.
Икотка (Ikotka) – evil spirit. It lives in a person for years, torments him, but gives some supernatural abilities. Even within Russia, many do not know what Ikotka is. But indifferent to the name is usually not.
The point is that this word in Russian is a diminutive form of the word “hiccups”. It can cause various completely different feelings in a Russian-speaking person: laughter, irritation, tenderness, fear, disgust, etc. That is why this word was chosen for the name, because to be honest I am not at all superstitious and not religious. Human emotions and feelings are more important to me than any mythological fairy tale.
D: Many of the bands releases tell different tragic and rather gloomy tales. Where do these stories come from? Are they inspired by personal events or are they taken from a more historical context?
Alex O.: Many of my releases contain traditional Russian lyrics. Of course, I choose dark ones that fit the black metal atmosphere. “Смертные Колыбельные” EP – contains lullabies with death wishes for a child. And the funeral trilogy 2020 is based on real lamentations for the dead people recorded in the outback many, many years ago. Some releases have original lyrics. Such as “Порча” LP and “Нестерпимая Беспомощность” EP. The bases for the lyrics are different. For example, the songs “Домострой”, “Псалом” are based on real dramatic and terrible events in religious families. Some of the songs are reflections on certain topics: “Травля” – public condemnation of dissidents, “Опора” – hyperprotection of children, “Игоша” – alcoholism, “Сеять Новую Злость” – a split in society. And there are songs based on my personal stories: “Нестерпимая Беспомощность” – my family’s struggle with COVID-19, and “Досада” – the relationship between generations.
D: The different releases also have such striking imagery, in particular, two releases, the first being ‘Смертные Колыбельные’ and ‘Нестерпимая Беспомощность’ which I both feel reflect the music at hand very well. What are the stories behind these photos if you know? How did you come across these?
Alex O.: My wife’s cousin gave me an archive of photographs by her late father. Black and white photographs from the 60s and 80s. Many images for covers and booklets are from this archive. There is usually no direct connection with the music here. I choose something that suits the atmosphere of the album or a particular song.
D: Are there any particular bands or releases that helped inspire the sound behind the band?
Alex O.: It’s hard to say specifically. From black metal or near black metal in recent years I’ve been inspired by Moonsorrow, Trelldom, Negura Bunget, Khold, Wolves in the Throne Room
D: Thoughts on current underground metal scene? Any bands that you like and find interesting that have come around as of late?
Alex O.: Unfortunately, I hardly listen to new music. Not enough time. I know many modern bands only by their names and covers from news feeds in social networks.
But I can mention from recent Russian atmospheric black project Яблоня, Swedish dungeon synth Aindulmedir and the score for computer game “The Longing”.
D: Have the recent events affected the music scene in Russia? Has it affected the writing process for the band at all?
Alex O.: The current horrifying events have affected society as a whole. The split, which has already grown in recent years, now seems to have reached its peak. The music scene in Russia is as divided as the rest of society. Personally, I am extremely painfully experiencing what happened and I hope that the bloodshed will stop as soon as possible. The album that I’m currently working on is completely imbued with this state.
D: Outside of music, what are some things that help inspire the writing process behind the band?
Alex O.: First, nature of course: trees, snow, winds, rains etc. Almost all my life I lived in a pine forest near the big Kama-river.
Movies: Modern directors such as Robert Eggers and Ari Astaire. Also Russian and Soviet dark chthonic and war films had a strong influence on me.
Such as Хмель, Прощание с Матерой, Иди и Смотрю, Восхождение etc.
D: Willing to share any news about upcoming releases?
Alex O.: As I said, now I’m working on the Ikotka album. “Nemirye” will be the third full-length album of the project and it is almost ready. For me, this is the longest, epic and most important Ikotka album. It is completely a product of its tragic and grandiose time. I recently released a song of the same name as a single. It has an old text, written about 15 years ago, but it fits perfectly now. Well, of course, social, world or private events. The ones that I think are really important. Whether it is a war, a pandemic, or the suffering of an individual unknown child. I try to express my reflections in songs.
D: Final message for fans/readers:
Alex O.: Thank you for your interest and attention! Stay safe and open-minded!