Meet UK/Ukrainian duo tAngerinecAt. Multi-instrumentalists Paul Chilton and Eugene Purpurovsky have just released their new single Something Broke Inside, and it is quite impossible to pigeonhole. Their music is a super eclectic and hard to pinpoint mixture of electro synth pop, noise, psych, ritualistic folk and much more. Don’t you dare call it “random”though, because they’d tell you exactly how meticulous and precise their methods are. Just when you think you have them figured out, they’ll tell you otherwise, which I think adds to their cameleontic strangeness and appeal. Check out the new song in the Bandcamp link below!
How are you two doing, and how has this Corona year treated you personally and artistically?
Thank you! We are ok. We already had Covid-19 last year and still have some consequences. Eugene already got the first Astra Zeneca jab as someone with an underlying health condition. Last Spring we were supposed to have had a big UK tour including a set at Cardiff Psych and Noise Fest, which we were really looking forward to but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the pandemic. The up side is that we have had more time to work on new music.
- I’m very interested in your backgrounds; can you tell me where and how you grew up, and what turned you on your path as a genre-bending musician?
Paul was born and grew up in Cheshire and then from the age of 20 lived in Ukraine for 18 years until they returned to UK in 2015. Eugene was born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union and also moved to UK in 2015.
We never planned to be genre-bending musicians. We often hear it said that our music fits in in various genre categories, and everyone find elements or atmosphere of music they love. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of different influences. But actually we aren’t trying to sound like anyone in particular. Maybe this is the answer.
- How did you end up in the UK? And what is your relation to the Ukraine now?
We didn’t plan it although we had been touring for several years in UK but the more popular we became in Ukraine, the more problems we had. Also Eugene received death threats in text messages and phone calls at unsociable hours every day and was followed and persecuted for being an activist. But when it stops being just toward you and they start to target your friends, it becomes much more complicated so our life in Ukraine became impossible.
- Can you tell me about your tour through the Ukraine and Russia? To my knowledge there has been a major backlash in intolerance to anything remotely resembling LHBTQ, so I think it is really brave you still went! What was it like?
We had a lot of different tours in Ukraine and Russia with our previous project called Dark Patrick. We really love our audience there, and some people continue to support us despite our music as tAngerinecAt being very different to our previous projects. We don’t think it was bravery or at least we didn’t think of it that way. There are a lot of different people in Ukraine and Russia. Also people can like your music despite not liking your identity, and not everybody is violent although we had some issues but actually in UK we have received more violence and open abuse to us due to xenophobia during tours. But despite being much more difficult for queer people in post-Soviet countries than in UK, our shows were always the opposite for some reason, like some kind of different world although very different people attended them.
What was it like? We travelled on night trains from one town to the next. In the morning we arrived and waited in the venue or where we were accommodated for our show, and after the show we got on another train to arrive the next morning somewhere else. Often some of our audience saw us off on the train. We were always met with a warm welcome, people stood in line for our autographs and even gave us hand made gifts. We were always well fed, paid, offered accommodation when needed, and people often showed us round their town. We really miss our audience in Ukraine. It’s almost the only relation we have to Ukraine now along with the very dear people and places in the Carpathian Mountains that we miss.
- The live performance is really important for tAngerinecAt, right? Can you tell me what it means to you, what it looks like, what the general responses are?
Live performance is how we built our following. It looks like two people on stage playing music. Paul stands behind the laptop, plays whistles and keys and sometimes chants, and Eugene plays hurdy-gurdy, sings, dances, and also operates the laptop sometimes. People comment that it sounds more powerful and heavier live, that we have a big presence on stage and hold the attention of the room very well. They call it an experience of it’s own. Sometimes we play a set without pauses when one piece of music harmoniously transforms into the next. We prepare for every show or tour meticulously. Every show is like a ritual for us. We always have an amazing reception and people dance. We sell a lot of merch at our shows and some people buy a whole set at once which makes us think that people must like our music.
- Do you see yourself as an artist and an activist? Would you say your art is more personal or more universal?
We separate those two things from each other. We aren’t building a career as activists although activism influenced our art a lot and helped us to be bolder. Our art is universal as far as it connects and resonates with other people. But it comes purposefully from personal experience to avoid appropriation first of all.
- Being an idealist, what would your perfect world look like?
It’s unlikely we could be called idealists but we are definitely anti-capitalists. 😉
Also here are some words from one of our songs that might answer this question:
“ I longed for a love without hierarchy, with no winners and no losers, no masters and no slaves…. no authority!”
- Can you tell me which instruments you use, and why. At your live shows the hurdy-gurdy stands out of course, but there is a lot more, right?
We don’t think that the hurdy-gurdy is the only thing that stands out at our live shows. We are multi-instrumentalists and always used various instruments. It just happens that more recently we have featured hurdy-gurdy but not actively in every song, and we don’t put the accent on the instruments over the music. At the moment in our live shows we use a laptop with a midi keyboard controller that we use to trigger samples, beats, play synth voices, and control effects. We also use hurdy-gurdy, whistles and harmonica through effects. And we have vocals, of course. On recent recordings we have also used duda – Ukrainian bagpipes and we make our own DIY samples from anything we can use: breaking glass, coffee grinder, sewing machine, street noises, boiling kettle etc which we turn into rhythms and textures. Before that we used two different types of Ukrainian bandura that we plan to use again in the future, Uillean bagpipes, bodhran, recorder and two synthesisers live and in recordings.
- I think the strength of your concept and music is that pretty much anything seems possible. Who have been your influences? Are there still artists you look up to?
No, that’s not our concept at all! We don’t create music randomly. As we already said, Eugene was born in the Soviet Union, and everywhere there they had the slogan “learn, learn and learn again” by Lenin. It’s partly a joke but actually there is something in it. They had the approach that you need to work hard to achieve better results, and you absorb this with mother’s milk as they say. It’s not always good for you because you can overload yourself with work and still feel like it’s not enough and you aren’t worthy. But it’s just a fact about us. We learnt a lot and continue to learn, correct mistakes, listen to a lot of music, work hard for months on every release and rehearse a lot. Every detail in every piece of music that we create is honed and checked a million times to make sure it sits in the right place, every detail has it’s function whether it’s to create a certain atmosphere through the whole track or just interrupt it with sudden emotion appearing as a result of a flashback. After our gigs some people say they were inspired to do something like this too but they don’t understand that it’s the result of a huge amount of hard work, certain skills and a lot of experience. Otherwise you will get a lot of elements but no coherence, and also these elements may not be very interesting and lose their meaning. But if it looks simple, then it’s a good sign. J Production is something we have worked on a lot but also music/vocal skills etc.
It’s very difficult to talk about a lot of specific influences. Each of us listened to a lot of different music. There are definitely some influences from doom metal bands, Soviet post-punk, post-rock, alternative dark electronica, drone, noise, techno, various psychedelic music, Ukrainian music from different ages and regions, and a bit of Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditional music, as well as Eastern orthodox monastery singing (despite us being atheists we really love ritual music in it’s various forms because it is able to put you into a trance, let you look deep inside, feel ecstasy and creates a connection between people). There isn’t any particular band. We listen to and learn from a lot of artists right now, irrespective of their PR status. Most recently Gesaffelstein, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble, SaffronKeira, Rokia Traore, The Haxan Cloak, Geoffrey Oryema, Victor Tsoi, Grazhdanskaya Oborona, Modulator ESP, Eva | 3 and more. Mostly quite dark, droney and harsh techno stuff. You can listen to our playlist “Dark Charm” on Spotify. This is more or less what we are listening to now.
What are your future plans? There is the single now, but will it be part of more? And what else can we expect?
We are currently working on an audio-visual project with Robyn Waterston – a digital artist and a university student based in Cardiff. There is a very intriguing story related to this project but it’s a secret for now. The song from this project as well as Something Broke Inside will be part of our next album or EP “Glass”.
Thanks a lot for your time! If you have anything to add, please do:
Thank you very much for interviewing us! We love your blog a lot and feel honoured to be featured in a stand out publication with such a great selection of “out of the box” music.