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“Every Band Has a Peak and a Fall” – Interview With Leonid Dzyunik about t.A.T.u.

You met Ivan Shapovalov in 1999. You had just started to put the band together and Ivan invited you to be its director. How long did you think over the invite and how did you meet Ivan to begin with?
I met Ivan in 1999 when I was working in a movie company. We were shooting a series called Maroseika 12. We were preparing a series dedicated to “left” (bootleg) vodka – this was the expression back then…well, bootleg vodka still exists…and back then Ivan was working at a company called Ostalka and he was doing advertising at that company. There wasn’t just alcohol like vodka, there were also drinks like, if you remember, “Drink nonstop the drinks from Chernogolovka” – different lemonades…Ivan Shapovalov came up with that specifically for the Ostalka company. When I met him we had to shoot at a distillery. We needed to shoot cistern for transporting liquor. So we met, we went to meet up with him in Moscow, we also went to Chernogolovka factory. We got the opportunity to shoot at the company thanks to Ivan. They had these fantastic alcohol trucks, these huge cistern made if nickel that were fancy with all these sensors. For the series we shot these great scenes where they had car chases.

Everything worked out and Ivan and I kept communicating. And he showed me, this was in the beginning of 2000, several songs. I remember the song “Doschitay Do Sta”, “Pokazhi Mne Lyubov”, “Zachem Ya”. I had connections with people on the radio and we went with him to Silver Rain Radio, to Radio Maximum – they were popular radio stations back then. We showed the songs and they said, “Yeah, they’re good songs, there are girls are singing, yeah”. We went to Silver Raid Radio then to Radio Maximum, and when we left Radio Maximum, Ivan said, “It’s true. I don’t have that one song that I really need.” And that was it.

We continued to shoot things and in the beginning of September we went to Caucasus to shoot an episode called “Indian Summer” with Larisa Guzeeva and Vera Glagolina. And we lived there at the hotel during all the shooting. At the end of September or beginning or October, I can’t remember exactly, I see girls in a video for the song “Ya Soshla S Uma”, kissing. Back then MTV was very popular. We went to the shooting in the morning and everyone was asking, “Did you see it? And I said, “I know this guy.” We continued to shoot, I called Ivan on his cell from Caucasus and said, “Ivan I saw the video.”
“Oh, great. Thanks so much.”

And that’s it, I was doing my job, there was a lot to do. Then we returned to Moscow in the beginning of November and I ended up in the hospital because of my heart. I was supposed to be checked out on the 16th, and Ivan called me on the 15th. He said, “We need to meet and talk.” and I said, “Ivan, I am leaving the hospital tomorrow, let’s do it the day after.” He gave me the address where to meet him at Nikitsky Boulevard and I met him on the 17th. We sat, talked, he showed me stuff. He told me his offer regarding how much I would be paid and I said, “Let me get another opinion.” I came home and talked to my wife, called my movie producer, who said, “Well, the series is over.” and gave me his blessing. So on November 17th I began working as the deputy director of OOO Neformat, the director of t.A.T.u. So when many write that I was t.A.T.u.’s concert director that is a lie. I was the director. The director of Neformat, because I had a lot of responsibilities at the office, and I was involved with the concerts, although that was my main job. But it included getting them ready for recording sessions, getting them ready to shoot “Nas Ne Dagoniat”. I took them to a person who trained them for the weather so they would not get sick during the shooting…I had to do stuff for the office…Ivan was only responsible for the creative parts and I was responsible for everything else.

There were two people at Neformat – Shapovalov and Renski. Resnki sat in his office on his phone, “Hello?…Yes…” I remember when I took the girls to get haircuts he said, “Well, are they going to be long?” I haven’t even spoken to him before then, I didn’t know him – I had just started working there. I said, “Who is this?”
“‘Who is this? Well then we better not meet.”
“This is the first time I am speaking to you. Tell me who this is.”
I knew there was a Renski, but who the fuck knows who is calling me on my cellphone?

When the girls started they were only 14 and 15 years old and the heavy touring started.
October 4th, Lena turned 16 and Julia was still 15. February 20th, 2001 Julia turned 16. When Julia turned 16 we shot “Nas Ne Dagoniat” at Dmitrovsky Polygon.

I have found information that the girls were not of age at the time and that in Russia they have to have parental permission to travel from town to town and especially out of the country. By Googling I found out that when you were going to a concert with the girls you had to forge Julia’s parents’ signature.
No, that is not true. This was the very first tour. It was in Odessa. I am from Ukraine and when we used to go there with my family there were never any issues. I did not know that to have underage kids travel outside of the country that permission was needed from the parents

We are flying to Odessa. Our team was made of the guy dancers and the bodyguards who went by train. We were supposed to fly out in the morning to Odessa and the concert was that evening. We get to the airport, go through customs, no one says anything. We get to the checkin counter, no one says anything. We checked in and got our tickets. A border guard, a woman, comes up and asks, “Do you have permission?”
“What permission? We have passports.”

We are going to Odessa, it’s in Ukraine after all, everything is familiar.
“Can you fly alone without the girls?”

Of course I can fly by myself, by why the fuck do I need to go there. They say, “The girls will not be flying.”
“What do you mean they won’t be flying. Are you joking? We have a performance this evening.”
“The girls won’t fly.”

She gathers the documents, the girls’ passports, and leaves. I said, “Girls, stay here, we are going to fix this.” and I ran after her. The main border is at Sheremetyevo Airport, but we were in Vnukovo Airport. We go to an officer, a border guard, she gives him the passports and says, “They want to fly over the border, but do not have permission.” I am standing there going, “Let’s figure this out somehow.”, but he doesn’t say anything to me, as if he doesn’t hear me. I went in my pocket for [money]…He calls Sheremetyevo Airport and says, “There are two girls going to Odessa without permission…Okay, got it, I won’t let them through.” I said, “Let’s figure this out.” and he goes, “Too late.” They call over the airline representative and he says, “I can hold the plane for a half hour. Can you figure it out in a half hour?” This is at 10 in the morning on a Saturday. I call Ivan at home and tell him.
“What do you mean?!”
“How was I supposed to know?”

He calls one family, but they had left to the market place and were not home. He calls the other family…Whether it was through honest ways or not, they rushed over to some notary, I gave them my passport number and they used my name for the permission slip. And the girls working there at the airport were worrying. Lena’s parents gave her permission, they were home. They faxed it over. Okay, great, we have one, but what about the other? We need it for Julia, too. At the office they took the copy and edited it somehow and it basically said that Lena Katina’s parents give me permission to take Julia Volkova. And the girls working there who were receiving the fax pulled the paper as the fax was coming through and it got smudged…They held the plane for 2 hours and 20 minutes and I spent $50 on all this by buying the girls who worked there a bottle of champagne. When the plane took off Odessa reported that it was bad flying conditions due to the weather. As soon as we got out of the fog we saw the runway right away.

You have an interesting story about Alla Pugacheva’s show in Crimea.
We had a tour in Crimea. We would go from Caucasus to Crimea, Crimea to Caucasus. At that point there wasn’t even an album, a few songs had appeared. There was no production. Our very very first tours cost pennies. Our organizer said, “Alla Pugacheva is having a concert today. Go there and let the girls gift her a bouquet of flowers on stage.” so that the audience would see the t.A.T.u. girls are giving her flowers. We bought a big bouquet of flowers, walked into the venue, walked up and stopped – the bodyguards would not let us go further. This was at the 7th row. I told the bodyguards, “The girls want to give Alla flowers.”
“No, no, no. You cannot go through here. There is a guard by the stage, you have to go to him and he will give permission.”

We are standing there, looking, and I am thinking of what I can do. And then some guy who is sitting down in the aisle seat pushes me, “Can you please move, I cannot see anything”.
I said, “Sit down and shut the fuck up.” and he sat down.

I told one of our own bodyguards, “Stay here, I am going to go find out.” I leave the venue and go in through another entrance and walk towards the other bodyguard to talk to him about Alla. And at this moment she begins to sing “Young man dance with me“. I walk up the bodyguard and say, “I am t.A.T.u.’s director.” He doesn’t hear me, he is looking at Alla Pugacheva. And she begins to dance with someone, he leaves, and the bodyguard pushes me on stage. I had these beautiful glasses and she said, “Look at your glasses” and we begin to dance. I hug her and say, “Alla, I am t.A.T.u.’s director and the girls want to walk out and give you a bouquet.” and she says, “When”
“Well, not now. Whenever you say.”

There was another guy lined up to dance with her and I leave and she says, “He came up not to dance with me but to negotiate.” And on stage I turn around and say to her, “Alla, that’s the job!” I come off stage and talk to the bodyguard and see her nodding at him and went on to dance with the next guy. I go get the girls, but they did not let them go on stage, so they walked up to the front of the stage, gave her the flowers and we left. And after we left the guy who I told to shut the fuck up goes up on stage. And she says, “Meet the President of Crimea!” And when our bodyguard saw that it was the President of Crimea who I told off he said, “Let’s get out of here!” And so he, t.A.T.u.’s bodyguard, was ahead of us running and we were walking after him.

And you did not get into Alla Pugacheva’s green room?
After they became famous all over the world they began to meet. This was in Sochi and without me. There was an event in Sochi and Ivan was with them.

The girls had a lot of pressure on them with the flights and the concerts. As far as I know Lena Katina fainted frequently due to her figure being fuller and Ivan Shapovalov wanting her to be similar to Julia Volkova. So sometimes Lena would be starving and would faint.
I cannot say that she was starving, but her ration was definitely smaller. When we went to eat, before we ordered food Julia could eat a piece of bread freely…if Lena, however, ate a little extra she would gain weight. Ivan demanded that parameters were complied with, so we had to limit her a little. I cannot say it was often and that she would faint.

As a director you stood up for the girls.
Entirely. Let anyone try to upset my girls. Are you kidding me?

Did you have conflicts with Ivan regarding, for instance, Lena’s fainting and that maybe she needed more [to eat[? For instance, Ivan would say that she needs to stick to this diet and you would say that because of that diet she could faint.
I did not have conflicts about the diet with Ivan, but I had conflicts regarding what they got paid for their work. With the first concerts and tours they made $50 per concert. When we started traveling, I said, “Ivan, the girls get tired and what is $50 even? That isn’t right.” Then by negotiating with Renski they raised it to $100. Then, after some time, when my fee pretty much doubled since we began working, I then demanded $300. Until 2003, after America and after getting their award at the Video Music Awards in New York, towards the winter…when we went to Germany in 2001 during Christmas, we had a tour. On December 2004 we performed at a nightclub in Berlin in the Sony Center. Before going to Germany I demanded that the girls’ fee be raised to $300 for their concert. For the dancers we raised it to $70 – before they would get $40. For this I fought.

Who was the leader in t.A.T.u.?
Julia. If you take 100% of their fans then Julia had 70% and Lena had 30%.

Why was Julia the leader of the band and not Lena? As far as I know Lena was more popular with the European fans because she could speak English.
We are not talking about Europe, we are speaking of Russia. Julia is more active, more cheeky. Lena is more restrained. After a concert Julia and I would go out to a club and Lena would go back to the hotel and read Crime And Punishment. In St. Petersburg Julia and I went to a club after our concert and Lena went to the hotel. Then, in the morning Julia was sleeping and Lena and I went to look at St. Petersburg. She decided to show me places of the events from Crime and Punishment, “In this building is where Sonya Marmeladova lived”, and all that. Lena was better friends with the dancers – there were a few girls who were more home bodies. Two would go to a club and two would go to the hotel. Julia was always like that, she’s a little devil. That is why she had more fans.

And in 2003 when they really exploded in Europe, when we would be at the airport journalists would ask questions. And by the time it took Julia’s interpreter to translate, by the time she answered and by the time the interpreter would translate back to the journalists, Lena had already answered everything in English. So the microphone would be transferred from Julia to Lena. And from that you can say that a lot of specific problems started – in the group and internally. That they needed to split, that each one had to establish a solo career.

Did the girls get capricious when they got popular? Did something change before or after?
No. Nothing was affected between them and me. I had always supported their status in everything. Starting with flying in business class to what car would pick them up at the airport. Which hotel and which hotel room they would have. I did everything in this regard so that their status would rise. But that is for the status, the image. With me they were always simple girls. They know well how I regard them, that I love them and that I would never deceive them no matter what happens. You will never hear anything bad coming from me because for me it was truly…this November it would be 20 years since I started working with them. I worked with Philipp Kirkorov, with Smash!!, with Alexei Vorobiev. But for me t.A.T.u. had always been with me throughout all this time. For me it’s, well, my life I guess. Our internal relationship, the fights that we may have had…I would never deceive them.

Julia Volkova was asked on NTV’s show Lie Detector, “If your child was gay, how would you react to it?” and Julia answered, “If I had a lesbian daughter I would accept her. If I had a gay son I would reject him.” How do you rate this from the point of view that she was in a band that was part of the gay community.
It is not a secret that Julia had relations with one of the girls that was our dancer. They practically lived together. What is the point in hiding it? It happened. Julia’s answer about gays was said about the current relations with the LGBT community and gays in our country now. It was a [fake] answer. Julia has many gay friends who are devoted. I think after the tragedy that occurred with her she turned more to gays. Well, not to gays but to her friends who are not of the traditional orientation. I know Julia and her kids. No matter how Samir would have turned out, a charming boy, Julia would never turn away from him. Never. She is such a mom and loves her kids so much. So to answer this during the show just to match the requirements which are put forward in our country. For me this is more applicable to Alla Pugacheva and Lolita Milyavskaya – she is premiering her new songs in Moscow’s gay club – Central Station. She carries the community like a flag. Julia is basically the same. I know that Lena recently had a concert in St. Petersburg at Central Station.

Lena is more open. After that interview many gay people did not like Julia.
Please try to convince everyone with your show that it was said in the moment. But that is not how she feels at all. She has been a friend to many gays and is still.

But could she have not answered differently on the show? Or was it made so that for that particular question it had to be that particular answer and nothing else?
No. For instance, when I answer, it depends my soul and consciousness and my mind. I would not have answered it like this. But Julia, in the moment, it seems, was told, “Maybe you will say it this way?” and only because of that all of this happened. Believe me, I know Julia very well.

Of course I want to believe it. Watching the solo careers of the two ex-t.A.T.u. girls, the LGBT community is more with Lena Katina now than with Julia Volkova after what Julia said.
Understand that Lena Katina is more active in her solo career. Julia, unfortunately, does not have any new songs, she has problems with her voice, she has two kids and is alone now.

After the video for “Ya Soshla S Uma” came out, people either accepted it and enjoyed it and there were those who did not like the video. As far as I know, the girls were threatened because of it for creating propaganda for non-traditional relationships even during those times when there was no law against it. Did this happen?
Yes, it happened. Crazy people would gather around our hotels or at the venue. There were crazy people practically everywhere, in every city, that is no secret. But 90% of people still loved the girls very much. If you ask people who are now in their mid-thirties they would say, “Wow! That is our childhood.” I meet a lot of t.A.T.u. fans, and when I appear on TV and talk about t.A.T.u. they write very nice things.

On the other hand, thanks to t.A.T.u., thanks to them exclusively, the Baltics, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldavia, Ukraine…they returned to learning the Russian language only because t.A.T.u. sang in this language. Believe me, I am saying what I know. One of our last tours which was in Riga, actually outside of Riga in a little town…we were having coffee in the morning at the hotel. People who came from other towns to go to the concert, Latvians, came up to us. Grown men who were in their forties kneeled to them and said, “Thank you for coming to us. Thank you for existing. We miss the Soviet Union, we cry because we are not united.” These words were said to me personally. And the amount of times we performed in Poland and how many nice things they said at a club or restaurant. And in Germany, when our concerts were already promoted through Universal, in Bonn or in Munich. t.A.T.u. were the first to raise the topic between 14-17 year olds, when people begin to develop sexuality and are trying to figure it out. They did not propagate homosexuality anywhere. In the whole 90 minute concert there was only one time they showed their famous kiss during “Ya Soshla S Uma” and it was in the middle of the concert. They talked about freedom and love. And how can love define who you love?

When the girls had all this world fame, a lot of media talks about this: Ivan Shapovalov began to have failed concerts…taking drugs…
No, that is not true. t.A.T.u. did not have failed concerts. There were only a few cancellations because Julia started having problems with her voice. This is the only reason we may have not gone somewhere. And Lena Katina would go alone while Julia was sick. We only had one failure when we were supposed to go to Great Britain before Eurovision for a tour. We were supposed to have three concerts: two at the Wembley Stadium and one in Manchester. We did not go only because we did not have [a plan for the show]. The tour organizers in Great Britain canceled it 12 hours before our flight and nullified our work visas. But Ivan having problems with all those things…to juxtapose his smoking of marijuana and the concert cancellation, it has nothing to do with each other. Ivan had nothing to do with concerts at all, I was responsible for all the concerts. That was in the first three years that I worked there. After that, perhaps there was something, but at that point I was just overhearing things.

The concerts in China and Asia happened when tA.T.u. signed the contract with Universal.
I was not there anymore.

Because in one interview Lena Katina announced that she is not upset with Ivan. She just said in her interview that her screwed up the concert in China and the concert in Asia because there were some issues with Universal. Universal said there were conditions and Ivan said that they would not do it, and the Chinese fans got upset over this.
Maybe so. I left the girls before the tour in Japan. I left in September and in November they had their tour in Japan.

The Eurovision contest in which the girls participated resulted in a negative reaction from the public. Why is that so and who decided that t.A.T.u. would represent Russia at Eurovision? And is it true that they basically won the contest because England and Ireland gave them 12 points which were not counted? That a woman was fired because of this inaccuracy in results?
Well you have said a lot of correct things about what happened. Konstantin Lvovich Ernst came to our office and said to Ivan, “We need to.” If you watch Vitaly Mansky’s “Anatomy of t.A.T.u.” closely, during the time of the gathering that was filmed, Ivan says exactly that, “If the country is asking us, then we must perform”. We agreed and began to get ready. We found the song – I do not think the song is very good. However, if there was production around the song, a show, then it would have been very cool.

Beata Ardeeva, who Ivan hired as the PR director, knew English well and she was all that, Renski was practically falling around her. Exclusively towards her I can use the following phrase: A shitty Englishwoman. The crap that came from her. Because of her our tour in Great Britain fell through. Thanks to her we failed at Eurovision. And because of her we had issues in our promo tour in Tokyo, Japan in June. These are the traces of the activity of one person. Ivan can be influenced, especially if the girl is pretty and can…blow well…in every sense of the word. What they showed in “Anatomy of t.A.T.u.” after Eurovision that is not even a scandal, that is a final burst of emotions. The type of uproar I would cause about the things that would happen when we were getting ready for Eurovision in Riga…If I did not do that then nothing would have occurred at all.

Ivan put those three guys, for who knows what reason, to look like rock musicians. They had no place there. We had everything planned: two girls who were singing and two girls who were dancing. Six people on stage. The performance could have been incredible! An incredible performance! But it was not done. We wasted our rehearsals because of Beata. One, two, three rehearsals when we did not go, saying, “We’re not gonna do this and that!”

There were 20+ cameras there. That is why they filmed everything with wide shots. They did not know where and in what moment [to shoot]. We had no plan. The director did not know where to position the camera to get a close up shot of Julia or Lena. Julia did not want to wear her in-ear piece. You can see when they walk out on stage, Lena walked forward, but Julia is walking, walking, walking…the sound was going past her. She took one step forward and she had no sound. She could not hear the music. She took a step back so that she could hear the music. That is also a problem. What could I have done? I brought the girls, got them dressed, all that was done. Everything else got fucked up, completely.

Even after they performed, Andrey Malakhov is in Moscow on Channel 1 and Valdis Pelšs is in Riga, the whole country is waiting for t.A.T.u. to appear…I said, “Ivan, girls, let’s go. Everyone is waiting for you. Valdis is here, he is nervous.” because there is a live broadcast happening
“There’s no point in doing it.”
“Beata”, I said, “Shut the fuck up, bitch!”

Philipp Kirkorov, Misha Topalov and Natasha Vetlitskaya came there for support. They saw me, how outraged I was on the street. Only then when I opened my mouth, so to say, then Julia understood that they have to do something. Then they turned around and went after Valdis, who was already walking away and said, “Go fuck yourselves”. He said it just like that, “Go fuck yourselves.” and went into the studio where the live broadcast was happening. And I was screaming, “Valdis, wait! We are coming.” and we caught up to him

Regarding the actual performance of t.A.T.u. at Eurovision. You said it correctly, Ireland and England did not give a single point, although everyone felt that it was a lie.The difference between the winners and t.A.T.u. was five or six points. It was a minimal gap. Everyone said that it couldn’t be. Believe me…believe me, it is only thanks to Konstantin Lvovich Ernst, who did not accept and did not agree with the results. He sent the director of Eurovision in Russia, Lena Arkhipova, and Igor Borinkov, who dealt with community communication, to Great Britain. They made a request to the phone company there, which collected the votes from the viewers, and it showed that Great Britain gave six points and Ireland gave seven, so there were 12 or 13 points in total. And when they revealed those results, that in fact that amount of people voted for t.A.T.u. in those countries, Konstantin Lvovich then took that data and went to the European Broadcasting Union, who organized it…We now can say all this, now that 17 years have passed…They went there and said, “What is this? What is this?” They then fired that stupid lady who committed all of that.

Another thing is that when we had scandals at Eurovision in Riga, the representatives of the organizing committee attended every one of our rehearsals. They were waiting for the girls to either kiss or something else not right. They are all moralists. I know for sure that they were preparing a disqualification. I told Ivan that we need to either get eliminated or win. Third place doesn’t work. Third place is not t.A.T.u. It’s only because Konstantin Lvovich Ernst did not remain indifferent and did not accept this betrayal from the European Broadcasting Union that he was promised that Eurovision would happen in Russia. Dima Bilan only won Eurovision because of Ernst. So all this stuff about Yana Rudkovskaya (Dima Bilan’s producer) saying, “I will take anyone to Eurovision and anyone will win.” Fuck her.

t.A.T.u.’s famous performance with “Hui Voyne”, where they were told not to say a word about the war and they walked out in these shirts – what was this? Was this the organizers’ idea, the director, or the wish of the band?
Many of our organizers would say that Julia Volkova is a mini-Dzyunik. When I came to t.A.T.u. I was already 41, I had stopped smoking, I did not curse, I walked around in a suit and tie. Then I understood that the girls and I were detrimentally opposite. At one point I began talking to them in their language. Julia absorbed it quickly and began cursing.

No one guessed anything. When Iraq began to get bombed you know that everyone in Russia was against it. Putin was not as strong…if it was now, like in Syria, for instance, he would have made his move. Everyone in America protested against the bombings. The girls were not political, never. They were in Los Angeles, on a show, on a live broadcast. They were supposed to perform in white t-shirts, their regular outfits, and no one was preparing to say anything at all. It was time for them to go on stage, and in that moment someone from the show comes up to them and says, “If you say one word against the bombings in Iraq we will cut your performance and go to commercial.” Say this to anyone except Julia Volkova…”What?! What rules?! Say nothing? Fuck him. We won’t say anything.” She turns around, goes to the green room, takes off her shirt, and says, “Ivan, let’s write something”. Ivan says, “Yeah, we need to write something…”
“Fuck war”, Julia says. She takes a markers and writes it on her shirt. Lena take off hers and says, “Write it on mine”. They did not say anything, but they walked out in those shirts.

The next morning all of America was selling those shirts. They wrote the words themselves and sold them for $50. Because there was a live broadcast of that show and America saw.

Did America understand what it meant?
They got it completely…

Every one of the girls’ performances was different. When I worked with them, between me Julia and Lena, we were the producers of the performances. They were producers, they could just not solely make decisions because I was still responsible if something happened. The three of us would agree on what we would do. What we would do in the show, what we would add. They were the co-producers of their lives, of their work, of their concerts.

Why do you think t.A.T.u. fell apart?
When two little, cute girls are talking about same-sex love in white underwear under their skirts, it is beautiful. People like it. When grown women talk about lesbian love…what is that? Is there something unusual in that? When the girls denounced the image in 2004, 2005…they had become regular girls. The only thing is that they sing beautiful songs. And when Julia began having problems with her voice, when the cancellations started, there was a defining moment.

But them falling apart was not because of this. It was a pile up of different things. The critical point, the critical mass which served as the reason for them splitting up, was Renski’s participation in the project and his wish to become a producer. Ivan understood what he was doing, he felt it, as opposed to a regular man who was wishing. Ivan thought of how to name a video, how to name a song, how to shoot something. [Renski] instead walks down the street, sees something stupid written on a garbage can and says, “We’re gonna use that name”. And he had a confrontation with Universal. Remember “All About Us” from the second album? “All About Us” was released in Europe, in the West. “All About Us” in Russia only played because it appeared on YouTube. Russia had a video and song called “Ludi Invalidi”. Ask Dima Konov of Universal the relation to “Ludi Invalidi”. There were so many problems because of this song, so many legal proceedings from people who were called “invalids”. It was a scary story. That is practically when the split happened between Resnki and Universal and Interscope, and the split between him and Julia Volkova, who said that she did not want to participate in these dirty stories anymore. He tried to finance Lena Katina, who said “No, thank you”.

The split between the girls was also due to them being tired of each other. It was hard after 10 years to be always be together. In addition, when I was with them, they’d sleep in the bed…for the image, that is how it was supposed to be.

Looking at the girls then, was it possible to tell what would happen to them in 10-15 years? That the band would fall apart, that they would have solo careers?
You can see in “Anatomy of t.A.T.u.” Ivan saying that there was only two to three years left, maximum. And Julia’s mom asks, “Why? Why are you giving that deadline?” Because you cannot have a band that conquered the whole world, for these two little girls who are growing up, remain on top. t.A.T.u. had a specific rise – it grew and then it would be either a fast fall or a slow decline, but it would happen regardless. No one talked about this, everyone just worked. They held up for 9 years even though they fell apart in 2003, 2004, or 2005.

The problems started in 2001 when once again Elena Kiper deceived Ivan. She had said so many bad things about Ivan, about me. They were investigating me for hosting illegal concerts. How can I host illegal concerts if all of our concerts were announced online? How could I do that if I have two bodyguards for the girls who Boris Renski hired himself? The problems started then. When they were forming Neformat they had 50% each in the company. Ivan had 50% and Boris had 50%. And no one had influence. If Boris Renski had even 1% more he would have dropped Ivan a long time ago. But this way he couldn’t. Ivan was creating new projects: n.A.T.o., 7B, which he wanted to do something with. He was always looking for something new. But he needed money, so he would take the money from Boris. And when the first royalties came from Universal for t.A.T.u.’s concerts, the girls got theirs and Ivan said, “And what about me?” and Renski said, “Ivan…what is there for you? Should I show you your debt that you accumulated with n.A.T.o., 7B, Helya, Ledekol which you were planning on doing?” All this cost money. “Here is how much you earned in royalties and here is your debt. I am ready to erase it if you agree to give me the rights to control Neformat and t.A.T.u.” And for Ivan to earn some money and get out of this somehow he left 15% for himself and gave Reski the rest.

Now we remember t.A.T.u. as it was, during that period, when everything was beginning. Everything that happened after 2003, 2004…someone asked me, “Leonid, which t.A.T.u. video do you like?”. I like “Ya Soshla S Uma”, “Nas Ne Dagoniat” as I had a part in this video…”Polchasa”, which I did myself. While Ivan was taping Julia masturbating in the Marriott hotel bathroom I was with Lena in Moscow, shooting her at the cafe and walking in the street. I was the one who was with her. At one point I had hoped that t.A.T.u. would be as it was – that was when “All About Us” came out. And when I understood that Russia instead had “Ludi Invalidi”…

I didn’t realize that “Ludi Invalidi” was our version of “All About Us”. It is a different song that has nothing to do with “All About Us”. What the girls are singing in “All About Us” is not at all a translation of what they are singing in “Ludi Invalidi”. It is a completely different story, where one is about morals and is disgusting…yes, maybe there is a point where we can say, “Yes, we are invalids”, but we understood the bands relationship to this song and that it was really about sex, drugs, and all that.
Yes, and we said that it has no relation to invalids. Drug addicts, pedophiles, killers – those are the “invalids”, not those with physical disabilities. But it was very hard to explain all this.

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