Our chief editor decided to meet up with t.A.T.u.’s producers Ivan Shapovalov and discuss how a Russian star is made. But the unexpected appearance of Julia Volkova interrupted the discussion between men.
So how did this pathological story with the girls start?
Ivan: It was boring to do commercials. I knew a composer. We decided to use our commercial union in a new way. So the idea of an underage sex project emerged.
This can end badly, our thrust towards something amazing. Especially in a conservative society such as ours. Do you remember the story about the Catholic priests?
Ivan: With the Catholic and the Orthodox, it happens to all the priests. Because it is forbidden. And where there is forbiddance there is…The same thing here.
Even if this happens to priests it’s easier for us to live with our vice.
Ivan: Is that how you justify yourself?
Ivan: I don’t even justify (laughs).
How did these two specific girls come to be – Julia and Lena?
Ivan: A casting call.
I am so jealous. I can see how it went, the casting, what you picked up, where you looked. What did you pay attention to? The height of their legs, the thinness of their arms…
Ivan: I looked for vocals.
So they sing themselves?
Ivan: Are you kidding me right now? Or are you kidding on behalf of the readers?
I am just aware of several famous bands where one set of girls sang, but another was on stage. This is normal in show-business. So don’t be upset. So that means you looked for a voice. You wanted the ones on stage to be the ones singing.
Ivan: I wanted to find it once and work on it for a long time. You can make money without a voice. But that’s not necessary (laughs). I wanted to do it for a long time. I am greedy, after all.
How did you look for a voice? Did all of them sing?
Ivan: They sang and brought their own recordings. I do a casting very fast. In 10 seconds. I ask, “What are you going to sing”. If she answers, “Whitney Houston” I say “Goodbye” right away.
What did Julia and Lena sing?
Ivan: Lena Katina sang Roxette. This is pure vocals, not humming to Whitney Houston in which anyone can hide.
How do you understand all this? You shot videos and wrote commercials.
Ivan: I have a music education and a perfect pitch, thank God.
Okay. So that means you found pure vocals?
Ivan: Amongst all this I have a good timbre. And we got hooked. We began making songs. Some things worked out, some things did not.
Could you tell the readers (although they have seen this disgrace themselves) what this aggressive sex is?
Ivan: Aggressive sex? This is your definition, not mine. What is aggressive sex?
That is when strong sexuality is preached on television which carries a same-sex nature. This is very aggressive.
Ivan: Understood. I think that 99% of “unaggressive” pop music does not correspond with the times. Time is very aggressive and valuable. The time of romanticism when one may sing the word “love” in a song has passed. Before t.A.T.u. this topic was touched upon, for example, by Guests From The Future. But it was so covert…but modern communication demands a shorter expression.
Doesn’t this aggressive sex create not very good trends in society?
Ivan: I don’t think about this. This has nothing to do with me.
When you are 65-70 years old will you think about it?
Ivan: Then I will, right now I shouldn’t have to.
Why? This will happen soon.
Ivan: Someone has to do it and not think about it. You need some sort of vaccine. If you think about it, then the vaccine won’t exist.
You’re a bold person.
Ivan: I am constantly threatened over the internet, honestly. They say that I made a deal with the devil for success. And then I remembered that my password number has three 6s, my American driver’s license has three 6s, in my registration certificate has three 6s, and…
And on the back of your head?
Ivan: (laughs) You can scare a person this way, right? All jokes aside, when I flew to Los Angeles there was an earthquake of 4.5. I had just laid down in the hotel room and everything began to shake. The city met me with an earthquake.
It’s better than with explosions. Same-sex propaganda, it is a big blow for a conservative country. Why this? Are you against heterosexuality?
Ivan: How can you be against it? You can be against gay relationships.
Why? Gay bashing is very popular in America now.
Ivan: I don’t know. Why same-sex love? This is a continuation of a relationship. I am just expanding them until the end. That’s all. So that an image is formed. There is a term in the English language – exe….(he cannot remember the word) exaggeration. The rule for creating an image is to go until the end. If there is some sort of relationship between them…
Then it needs to be provoked and expanded. And what happens in the end?
Ivan: Same-sex love.
Why same-sex? Why can’t the girls sing about love for boys? For instance, they are in love with the same boy.
Ivan: It’s weaker.
Ivan: Because if there are two girls on screen and the story focuses on them with each other, then this is stronger…I don’t understand why, but we can discuss it. If there is a duet and their sexuality is directed at each other, that’s it, it isolates an audience. And the sexual message of a singer on sage focuses on the partner, leading to the understanding that the duet is going through something difficult. Success happens in tandem – he writes and she sings. Or the other way around. When the duet is equal and the relations are equal then no one needs them. They found each other and they do not have an audience.
Listen, with these girls it works out horribly. You refer to them like Adolf Hitler. What will happen to them? You put their romantic story on public view, so every journalists probably asks them, “Are you lesbians?”. This could traumatize them, if not now then later.
Ivan: All life is trauma.
You’re trying to speed up, saying that it has to be brought to a zenith. And what happens in the end? Chaos?
Ivan: Exaggeration. This is the word. I have read a lot of literature – how to write comedies and tragedies. There is one rule: for an image to be fully expressive, some of its features must be exaggerated. So if something between them was…
I understand this.
Ivan: Don’t base this on the fact that there was something between them. I would not have gotten to that audience – at this age there is something between practically all girls.
Yes, I know that many girls randomly end up in bed with their girlfriends.
Ivan: They mistake friendship for love.
But you have made a pop project out of this. You have put it on public display. The girls can have a tragedy.
Ivan: Why a tragedy? If friendship is sometimes turns into love for girls, why should this not be shown?
They always get asked if they are lesbians or not, if they touch each other there. Imagine being a little girl and this is constantly asked…
Ivan: The word “lesbian” has lost its meaning a long time ago. It has stopped being scary.
For the Russian public, for the Orthodox, it has remained.
Julia walks in. With a new haircut.
Ivan: You’ve gotten more mature with this haircut. Are you…
Julia: I wanted to shave my head, like a pumpkin.
Ivan: You’re being recorded.
Which question do you get asked the most?
Julia: “Is it true that you’re a lesbian?”, “Do you sleep in the same bed?”.
Ivan: I thought she would get a haircut and look younger.
Julia: I told you I was going to get a haircut. I would not have gone without permission.
How old are you?
Julia: 17, I’ll be 18 soon.
And what’s next?
Julia: I won’t be a little girl anymore.
What can you do. You will be 18, 19…what are you going to do about your age?
Julia: I cannot do anything. Put makeup on me or don’t.
Ivan: Please, you were in front of the camera yesterday, you looked five years younger.
Julia: Yea right. No one would think I’m 10 years old.
You’ll have to record new songs. In the direction of Pugacheva. A woman who sings…
Lena walks in. Seemingly a director.
Lena: When they sprayed her with water yesterday, this was the former Julia. And now it’s just…it’s like she got electrocuted.
Ivan: How long will it take to grow out?
Lena: A month and a half, two months. Let her be like this. It’s summer. It’s hot.
Julia: I like it a lot. It’s comfortable.
Lena: Ivan, the next day we have a bunch of TV appearances. And a photo session. And a live broadcast.
Ivan: How can you do a photo session with a haircut like this? I don’t understand.
Lena: In the morning we have a flight. So they could relax for a little while, and we catch our flight.
Ivan: We’re gonna lose Poland with this haircut.
Julia: First, “cut your hair, you’ll be younger”. Then, “you look older”. I’m gonna go and shave my head.
Ivan: And is Beata (t.A.T.u.’s co-producer) coming?
Lena: She’s resisting. I told her, “Beata! I am not taking you to Yamalo Nenets, we’re going to Poland, to Warsaw!”.
Julia: Some kind of photo sessions, an interview…I don’t understand why it’s necessary. Ugh, it’s the same exact thing again. Nothing new.
Does that irritate you?
Julia: Horribly. Either they cannot find any other questions to ask or people are just brainless. Every city is the same thing.
Ivan did all this.
Julia: In every city, “Is it true you are lesbians?”. What, is this the most important question? Does our music and our songs not interest you?
You have the kinds of words in your songs that makes the average person want to ask this question.
Julia: “Can you kiss?”. I can’t stand this.
Do you see what you’ve done, Ivan? This is only the beginning.
Julia: Do you see what you’ve done? (singing) You are pregnant this time.
What do you have to say about this?
Ivan: It’s no big deal.
Julia (laughing) I like how Ivan answers the questions.
Ivan: I don’t see anything dramatic in this. What, would it be better for you if you were not in the project? The questions are the cost for being in this project. What would you choose: to be in this project and listen to these questions or not to listen to the questions and spend time with guys somewhere in Voykovskaya?
Ivan is behaving like a real devil right now. Are you from Voykovskaya?
Julia: No, I have friends who live there.
Ivan: So what do you choose?
Julia: The project, of course. Because I just want to sing. And that’s all. Meaning, I don’t want to. I don’t want to sing anymore. I want to be a producer. I like show-business.
Are you looking at Ivan? This is very dirty work.
Julia: Dirty work. But I am tired of singing, I am tired of touring. I just want to be a producer. I want to create my own band.
And what kind of band is it? What will they sing about?
Julia: I will think. But not like Demo or Ruki Vverh. I would not do that.
Well, an example at least?
Julia: Maybe rock or something else, but not pop.
How do your friends react to you being part of this project? To the lesbian theme?
Julia. When I came home with a VHS of our first video “Ya Soshla S Uma” my mom and grandma were home. We watched it together. My mom said, “Oh, will the whole country see this?” and I said, “Yes” – “Are you not embarrassed?” My grandma said, “Julia! Oh my God! Who thought of this?” I said, “My producer”. No, there wasn’t a scandal. My dad buys all the magazines with t.A.T.u., he has a huge album already where he pastes all the covers and collects all the interviews.
They are so happy that you are not walking around the streets at night, but are singing songs. Although you are naked…
Julia: Those are my problems. Not theirs. I have a type of relationship with my parents that those are my problems, the things that I will do. Even if shoot a porno, that’s my problem, I want it.
And your dad will collect the porno tapes?
Julia: Of course he will. Because he’s a dad.
Listen, you have some sort of pathological parents. My mom would be outraged.
Julia: No, for my mom it was more funny. And even when I told her that I liked a girl she laughed. She said it is nonsense and it will pass soon.
Do you know what love is?
Julia: Ivan knows. He’s always saying obscure stuff.
When you saw Ivan for the first time when you were 14 what was your first thought?
Julia: That he’s gay.
And it turns out that he isn’t?
Julia: I just though so for some reason. When I saw him a second time I understood that he is just a normal, good person.
Ivan: (laughs) And someone who is gay isn’t normal?
Julia: A lot of people ask, “Is it true that your producer is gay?” and I say, “Of course…” (laughs)
Ivan: I don’t believe that true lesbians exist, ones that are not interested in men at all.
Julia: Yet you made a band like that yourself.
Cut it out. Have you ever been to a gay parade in Cologne or Los Angeles?
There are such lesbians there that you’d want to die. It is clear that they are not interested in men at all. They’re afraid to even walk up to them.
Ivan: I don’t believe in such lesbians.
And there are gays who cannot sleep with women.
Ivan: Gays, yes.
And women no? You are acting like a real gender chauvinist.
Julia: I think that every gay guy wants to sleep with a girl. Gays love women.
So you do not believe in the existence of pure homosexualism?
Julia: I know girls who have lived with each other for five years. They just don’t know what a man is and don’t want to know.
Ivan: So there is our story – it is, of course, a story of not real lesbians.
Julia: Lena and I are real lesbians.
Ivan: What kind of lesbians are you? This is a story far from real lesbians. This is a friendship driven to love.