It would be very easy to tell if someone had really listened to the music of Stalin. What could easily be dismissed as shock-rock actually exists on a plain that’s more in a style that’s aggressive – but fair. Intelligent – but pointed and certain. One thing that is for absolute certain – Stalin is no stranger to controversy and certainly not afraid of it ever coming their way.
Over the time I got to learn about Stalin’s music I thought a lot about public misperception and a ton about HOW people listen to music. I enjoy seeing musicians who display that freedom to steer the crowd, to be polarizing…to matter. Stalin has this ability in overflowing abundance and has no problem sharing the inside jokes with the people that ‘get it.’ All in all, this is a band that will at the very least make you think and question all kinds of quandaries with listening to their music, or watching their latest video, “California.”
Stalin will say it best later on in this interview – but they’re right when they comment on “no reaction” being about the worst thing that can happen for a band and it’s completely true. We all make music to share it with the world and to have our voices fall upon an entire world of deaf ears would be a tragedy to say the very least. No one wants to be that tree falling in a forest somewhere making no sound – especially a rock band.
Stalin doesn’t have to worry about that. You’ll hear them coming.
SBS: Alright Stalin – first things first! I want to know about this genre you identify the music with. Somehow the style of Transgressive Rock has eluded my journalistic ways over the years, and researching it now seems to be nearly no help at all. Unless the definition is simply Marilyn Manson…which seems to be nearly every page that pops up when I search for it. But while I MIGHT be able to get the slight tie-in when seeing you visually through the video for “California,” listening to that song or even a track like “Modern Love” that you have up on the page – if the definition of was simply as easy as Marilyn Manson, I wouldn’t get that as much out of your music. So tell me about this genre. What does it mean to be a part of Transgressive Rock? What are the key factors and what makes you identify with this one the most out of the millions of genres and sub-genres out there?
Stalin: Transgressive rock is not a genre, as much as it is a label or a general term to describe an artistic output. It’s also maybe 1/4th serious and 3/4th’s taking the piss depending on what mood strikes. What it means is that it’s meant to stand as an establishment of boundary pushing, specifically regressive and oppressive boundaries set by entities that any free minded person would find reprehensible. Marilyn Manson showed up in your searches because he was a major important boundary pusher in his prime and his influence is being felt today with so many attempts at cheap shock value. Although his shock value in the time he was operating was fairly profound.
We don’t consider ourselves shock artists, but we do think that we’re carrying a real punk rock-esque banner in that we choose to not fit into anything else and wish to challenge what we find disagreeable…. while not taking it too seriously.
Music is entertainment at the end of the day. Life changing or throw away, it’s entertainment.
SBS: I have to admit – you’ve made this plenty interesting for me during my research. You span over a few different pages as well as your own homepage. What is most surprising is the true LACK of information about you all throughout them! In many ways, I can’t recall ever learning so little about the people themselves yet so much about the band overall at the exact same time. It HAS to be a conscious choice; I have a hard time believing it could be any other way! Most artists want to have that credit and their names associated with their work – what is it that made you decide to keep your names off the pages?
Stalin: We like to use this project as an overall projection as a unified entity, rather than individual masturbation. This project is basically a musical duo that has a live band as a separate thing. There’s a studio/creative Stalin and then there is a live Stalin that is still being put together and they are not one in the same.
Besides, the mystique factor of acts in the past was a lot cooler than today’s emotional diva’s posting every tidbit of information about themselves on twitter. At least we think so.
SBS: Reading through your social media – one thing becomes instantly clear; Stalin is no stranger to controversy – you’ve basically been dealing with that ever since the band’s inception! You regularly post up “hate-mail” to your band and seem to revel in the stir you can cause through your videos and music. Essentially – what these people don’t seem to get is that their confusion and ignorance to what you’re all about & your overall message, and their responding to it, seems to be a part of what drives you forward. Tell me about how controversy can be a positive thing for your music.
Stalin: Any reaction is a good reaction and successful people understand that. The worst thing that you can have is no reaction at all. If you put out something and it inspires negativity in those who hold points of view that you personally view in a negative light, then you’re obviously being effective. The love letters from angry people are enjoyable to read anyway, especially when they send a nice long piece that a lot of effort went into. As an artist it has to make one proud to know that you inspired that much turmoil in someone to where they went through the effort of sending you a detailed essay of why they are experiencing the emotional unbalance.
Of course, it’s great to receive positive feedback, especially from those that fully ‘get it’. But the worst thing is something that inspires nothing, that means it’s useless.
SBS: Some of the comments directed towards your explicit video for “California” were particularly brutal. First off all – I’ve seen the video. Now, it’s by no means tame, BUT – really as far as censorship goes it’s insane not to allow this on YouTube. The thing is – if this had been approached in a comedic sense, it would beat the censors all day long. There could be mountains of cocaine with little toy trucks delivering coke up massive straws to massive nasal cavities and because it’s so far-fetched it somehow becomes OK. Yet here in this video for “California,” because much of this looks so real and so possible it becomes banned, even though the message might be the same as the one in the first example.
Ha! That is a SHITLOAD of rambling. Sorry Stalin.
I guess what I want to know is – when it comes to freedom on the internet, is there really such a thing? You’ve now encountered some limitations a lot of people don’t even realize are there; limitations that restrict freedoms, creativity and artistic license…is the freedom we experience on the internet more of an illusion than a reality?
Stalin: It’s back up on YT through Vevo. 😉
There’s not real freedom on the internet, but the internet itself has done wonders in breaking down social barriers and social norms that were repressive. It’s always spoke of how people are becoming more desensitized in a negative fashion, but all that means is that people are less sheltered by variable smoke screens.
It’s all getting better. You can technically call anything an ‘illusion’ if you desire to be a nihilistic nerd, haha.
SBS: I want to hear it from Stalin directly…just a simple question really…but I want to hear it from your perspective and definition…define censorship.
Stalin: Suppression of expression that some cunt-rag or dated philosophy finds objectionable.
SBS: Now, quite obviously from the hate-mail posts on your page, your music is a little more than “out-there” for a lot of the public. Tell me why you think that is. Why does some of the public see you as a threat rather than just another group of people making music? And why do I feel like as soon as you had the idea for the music & concept of Stalin that you KNEW there would be reactions like this?
Stalin: Those who would see us as a threatening thing are deep in some kind of insecurity and something that we have a part of us tugs at that. And of course we knew that we’d be at odds with the general public and the general way – albeit those are changing slowly and surely – anybody that puts out anything that’s brash and even semi-challenges an accepted state of being is going to be at odds with such.
Those types of individuals are miserable, they have suppressed their own natural emotions and desires and go through their existences living in a manner to where they take off one theoretical mask to put on another and then point a moral or cultural finger at something that doesn’t line up with what they espouse as an outer front, while severely neglecting the real inner alchemy of who they are… or could have been.
They’re a comedy show for us and taunting them is great. Expect more.
SBS: Being “out-there” can register pretty quickly into some people’s threshold. And certainly bands and artists have influenced you along the way the same as any other musician. You know better than anyone else how much you’ve truly pushed the boundaries in comparison with the predecessors of your genre. I always think about how much the world truly doesn’t understand alternative viewpoints opposing the mainstream. It always LOOKS forced…contrived & manipulated to people that don’t understand this way of life and that many of these ideals, styles and commitments are simply NATURAL. Is it tough to battle the misconception that this is all a set-up, from the look to the sound of Stalin? I would think that with the majority of brains in the mainstream pool – you would nearly have to convince people that this is the real you!
Stalin: We agree with you and we really don’t care. They can watch and learn. Someone has to be doing it right.
SBS: A comment I read on your page stuck with me as I went into watching the video for “California” for the first time…it had something to do with your video being an advertisement for vodka… Watching the video, of course now I can see that it could just as easily be an ad for sex, cocaine, clubs and dark music; the vodka thing was kind of an easy thing to pick on… Kind of! There is a suspicious amount of label display & the vodka bottle…so what’s the real story?
Stalin: That brand of Vodka has been product placed so much by the Hip Hop world that it’s begging to be parodied, so we did. Though, we really do like that brand of Vodka, it really is great and even though we’re mocking the product placement aspect, we’re not mocking the actual product. That shit is the smoothest, tastiest Vodka around and if you haven’t tried it, go get a bottle.
We’d take a sponsorship from that particular brand any day of the week. We gave them a free advertisement to a rock music crowd inadvertently, hahaha.
SBS: You’ve got my beard firing on all cylinders over here friends! Have I mentioned I LOVE it when music makes me think? Cause I do. So thank you Stalin – you’ve given me plenty to think about as I learned about you and your music this week! Now that I’ve asked you about the advertising thing…my brain is telling me to ask you about the financial aspects of achieving fame through the music industry. How important is it for this project of Stalin to generate an income? Would it somehow continue to survive if it never made another dime?
Stalin: It’s important so that you can raise the level of what you’re doing to a new level. We haven’t made any significant money on this project yet and we’d keep it going regardless, but when you’re working full time to support yourself and your creative goals, then less time is spent cultivating and perfecting it.
It’s never been about money, it’s about expression and power. But we’ll take some fucking money if it comes our way, believe us. However, we would never do something that we found lame for any amount.
SBS: Flat out, as straight-up as it gets – what IS important to Stalin?
Stalin: Power and Enjoyment.
SBS: The video for “California” starts with a shot of a dude in a T-shirt that says “Fuck Indie.” OUCH. Now, I can see that you’re attached to a record label – so this COULD mean one of two things, or perhaps both. But as a lover of both the independent music scene AND authentic, real indie music, I have to seek clarification here! Did you mean the independent scene or the “style” of indie music? Don’t pull any punches Stalin! I’m a big boy with a big beard – I can take it! What’s up with that statement?
Stalin: We’re not on a label – 1144 records is just our own umbrella company and it’s hardly anything itself yet. What we did with that statement was stick a middle finger to all of the sterile, useless imitator mainstream AND hipster acts that fall under the current ‘indie’ umbrella. Nothing at all to do with independent music, we’re independent music ourselves. The term ‘indie’ for all of that should have been something else than ‘indie’, because it used to simply mean – independent. Now it means an actual audible and visual hipster driven aesthetic and all of that stuff is basically the worst music scene of all time.
They want to sit around and hold hands and strum banjo’s and sing out of key in this current world? That’s what the globalist elite wants – a bunch of docile pricks with nothing to say that are fine with being raped.
So – ‘fuck em’, haha.
SBS: Dammit. You just went and did it, didn’t you? You turned me into ALL THE REST. I actually, for a brief moment, started to go down that rabbit-hole with you and got a charge out of something you did. I’M TOO EASY. And now embarrassed. Fuck it – I’m leaving ALL this in here…
Payback time. I’m gonna bring you into MY world! Tell me some POSITIVES Stalin! Where does the support and encouragement and LOVE come from for your music?
Stalin: Hahahaha, aside from the fans that we’ve been progressively gaining, nowhere. Our families and most of our friends haven’t been down with us. Not against us obviously, but not a supportive beacon by any means. All of that just serves as a greater motivation to get out and get what you want in the first place.
SBS: Going back to the outset and creation of Stalin – people even objected to the name based on its history and association with the dictator of Russia, correct? I’m not one to say we should ever forget history or where we come from, but there shouldn’t BE so much power put into these words sometimes. The idea that the horrible associations people have with the person could permeate the very sequence of an arrangement of letters for ALL TIME is almost a little ridiculous. Words should be allowed more freedom than that, more ambiguity, more flex…
So tell me an origin story guys. Is this where it all started? Was the idea to name the band something that would stir the pot and get it all going? Or is there a deeper meaning behind it all?
Stalin: The band name symbolizes everything about the project. We’re a heavily anti-authoritarian and pro freedom ‘thing’, so naming it after the most bastardly authoritarian ‘thing’ possibly in history is a nice sarcasm that some find provocative or disagreeable.
SBS: If you had one hope or wish for the future of music still yet to fill our earholes – what would that be? Does it need to change? Be better somehow? Does music need to want more for itself?
Stalin: We really need ‘mainstream’ stuff to become real and good again. The broader the reach, the more effect it has on people and the new generations of musicians.
SBS: Regarding the video for “California” one more time – there’s one thing that, well, if I’m noticing it…I can’t be the only one…
Your lead singer certainly resembles the classic image of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis – a band that nearly FEELS like they release a song referencing “California” in some way either through naming direct or subject content. And of course, there’s numerous examples from The Mamas And The Papas to current day Train using California as a destination for their songs.
Another conscious comment on music? Society? Love the rides at Disneyland? What is it about “California???”
I feel like I’m at least smart enough to ask you guys the right questions…just not even close to smart enough to know what the answers will be! Ha!
Stalin: You’ve got the right idea. The Anthony Keidis thing we don’t see the resemblance, but that’s a comment that’s been made a few times.
SBS: You have racked up an astounding amount of hits on the songs you have posted on your main page. But of course…there’s only FOUR! With ONE additional track up on Soundcloud, unless there’s somewhere I’m NOT looking – that’s it, that’s all! So what’s coming up in the future here Stalin? You’re on a record label – when are you planning to USE it for a full length album? What’s coming up next?
Stalin: More stuff is coming. Going back to what we said earlier about being an independent act, time is of the essence. We decided to do a remix of most of our debut album that we had up last year and the newly improved version will be out very soon. 11 tracks in total and right after that we’re hitting the studio to work on material for the follow up to it.
The material of the follow up is much greater than what we have out currently. You’re listening to stuff written literally in the first few months of the project and because of various set backs, it’s taken this long to get it our properly. But as of now, we’re an uncontrollable locomotive steaming down track, so expect a lot more if you like what’s there so far.
SBS: How much room for your music-style and genre of Transgressive Rock is there where you live in San Francisco? Is this something you’d typically find running through the musical veins of the city?
Stalin: We’re the only one amongst the techie’s and hipsters.
SBS: What does success look like for you as an entire band? Where do you go with it, what is achieved?
Stalin: Being a household name in the social conservative world would be a great achievement. 😉
SBS: Gentlemen of Stalin…your website information…if you could be so kind as to direct the people to your pages….
Stalin: Stalin.org has everything.
SBS: Stalin! We’ve MADE it. You’ve had every synapse in my brain sparking away for some time now – so I’m sending this off to you so it can be YOUR turn for a while! But on the real, THANK YOU for that. Believe me when I say it’s not every day that we get to interview a band that makes you THINK as much as you have made me think during the writing of this interview, and I appreciate that tremendously. But I ALSO know, that I’ve rambled a TON, and I’ve probably skipped over a bunch of things I should have probably asked you.
This is our open-floor for anything I’ve missed or that you wanted to talk about, or simply say anything you like. Thank you to you all for your time + effort in responding. The floor is yours Stalin.
Oh! And friends? We’re as un-censored as it gets. Help yourself.
Stalin: You’re an excellent interviewer and sent great questions, thank you for having us. We’ll just say in departing that anyone reading this will definitely want to follow our career and that we’re coming to town soon.