-Tell us more about your early demos, which are virtually unknown in the western world... How were they recorded and how did they do in the underground scene? Were they only distributed in ex-Soviet countries or did you have some distributed elsewhere?

We’ve had 3 demos recorded at home and the forth one recorded at studio. It was called PRISONER OF DEATH and appeared the most sucsessful. Some of those songs such as DIE and BLACK REVENGE you can hear on DEATHKOTEQUE album. We didn’t sell those demos, we simply presented them to fans and sent to some ‘zines around Russia.

-Speaking of ex-Soviet, I know that you guys are old enough to have lived a substential part of your lives under the old regime and now the new regime. How has been the transition for all types of bands on all fronts? I've noticed that the quality of music, styles and recording has improved VERY well and rapidely in Russia!

In 80’s there were only a few underground bands supported by the communist party in the Soviet Union. They played shows on stadiums, released their albums via MELODIA label (the only label at the time) and even went touring abroad. The other bands played free in cellars only for a handful of fans and recorded their music at home. So it was very hard to be a musician that time.

Then the communist fail and a “gold era” of metal started. It was a great prosperity of the underground culture A lot of rather mediocre bands was a success because people loved to hear whatever they were suggested. Nowadays people have surfeited with all this, they want to hear professional sounding music opposite they won't come even free.

-You guys are about to celebrate your 10th anniversary in one year... What has been the best, and the worst moments for you guys as a band?

As for me the best moment was hearing just recorded DEATHKOTEQUE. We found out that could create and play a real good death metal. And the worst? We’ve had a lot of troubles but I think it’s normal, most of musicians get through it.

- How many years of experience do you guys have as musicians?

A lot of, from the very childhood. All of us played for school bands. Then restaurants- the only way to live from music in the Soviet Union. As for me I sang hard rock and thrash before MERLIN. Besides I got some classical and jazz education.

-I hear that you have a great tradition of musician in your familly... Classical composers and such... Tell us more about that... And has classical music play any role in your sound as a band, eventhough you are obviously playing a very brutal type of Metal...?

I love classical music very much, especially Russian, especially modern such as Shostachovitch and Snitcke. And I like very much German composers such as Betchoven and Bruckner. You’re right, music is our family tradition. My mother is a professional pianist and I used to play the piano very long ago. And actually such a great composer as Stravinsky was my grand grandfather. I think all this had a great influence on me and I can say that a considerable part of our music is based on classical traditions.

-I've heard that you are a specialist collector of ancient Russian icons... Is that true? What kind of research do you do withy this?

Shit, I wish I were a collector… No, it’s too expensive for me. I simply restore ancient Russian icons. It’s a very interesting job, I love it almost like playing music. Proud to tell ya that one of my works was presented to the President Eltsin. Fantastic, isn’t it?

-What kind of an impact has the signing of a contract with GWN brought to the band? Are you happy of the way things came together?

First of all it’s a very good promotion. I think the only way for Russian band to get known is signing to some Western label. I get tones of correspondence, they write something like: “I didn’t know there was any death metal in Russia… I couldn’t imagine Russians could play such good… I thought you’re Canadians, etc.” Pity to say but many people still think there is nothing in Russia except for matryoshka, balalyka and vodka. Most of labels even don’t listen to promos from Russia, they simply throw them away to garbage can. So you guys are different and I thing it’s a great deal.

--How important was it for you guys to see your first album "Deathkoteque" re-released on CD? Are you happy with the result of the re-mastering and new CD lay-outs, etc.?

We released DEATHKOTEQUE in Russia in 1997 and it became a bomb around here. We got been called the leaders of Russian death metal and became known in Belarus, Ukraine and other post Soviet countries but nobody heard about us abroad. I hope the Western fans will enjoy the album now, especially after re-mastering… it sounds great.

- How much of that album did you sell in its original cassette version?

About 12 thousand copies.

- What's the deal with Hobgoblin Records for the Russian release of that album on cassette?

Hobgoblin is pretty big label, they sell their production around all Russia and in Belarus, Ukrain and Kazahstan. It’s a good deal.

- Now let's talk about "They Must Die"... Are you happy and satisfied of the results of this album, both musically and impact wise?

I think the album has turned out very sucsessful. We wanted to create a conceptual album very aggressive and brutal and I think THEY MUST DIE contents these requests. Are we satisfied? In general... I think it's impossible to be fully satisfied.

- How and where did you record it? To me, the end result is very clean, yet powerful and heavy!

Thanks, just what I wanted. We recorded the album at Vnukovo studio and I produced it myself. It was engineered by our friend Sergey Blinov and mastered by Paul Faster. Yet Michael “Maiden” Smirnov for MENTAL HOME helped us a lot.

- Was that album also released in Russia and other Eastern European countries?

Only in Russia by HOBGOBLIN Records.

- Tell us more about your new material now... Do you have a lot of songs ready for the next album? Will it still be in the same vein? What can the fans expect from the up-coming MERLIN album?

There will be 10 songs on the album and maybe some cover version, don’t know yet exactly. 8 songs are ready at the time and they sound still more brutal than the previous. Sure, the album will be in the same vein, a real bomb!!!

-- Do you have any titles that you can give us yet?


- How do you go about composing now material? Who are the main writers? Is it a team work with ideas pitched by everyone? And is there a lot of space in your new material for experimentation?

The main composers are Alex and me but arranging is a team work. Sometimes we can’t recognize the original version of a song after we’ve worked on it together. And yes, there’s a lot of space for experimentation, especially with sound.

- What about your lyrics? They seem very concerned with the hardships of life in general and the anger brought by this hard life... Is this an accurate way for you to view your own lyrics? And is there place for some other style of topics in your lyrics?

First of all wanna say that I'm not a kinda maniac and not so ruthless and bloodthirsty myself as you could think seeing my lyrics but these themes are rather interesting for me. Most of people like detective novels and thrillers, so do I, so do my fans. The more blood and corpses- the more interesting. All I need for writing lyrics is watching TV or reading a paper, especially criminal news. I think the lyrics are an important part of a song but the music is the main part. You can write real cool lyrics and a boring music and nobody will listen to you. So I always write lyrics when the song is ready. I wand the text to correspond to the music, sometimes it takes a few months to find the suitable theme. But I can’t even imagine some positive lyrics for death metal, No, the topics will be the same! Evil, evil and evil, nothing else!!!

- Tell me about you as a singer... What brought you to be the growler in the band? And have you ever encountered comments like "female can't sing Death Metal" or such ridiculous comments like that?

Yes, I heard such comments of course. It’s cool to step on stage before an audience that does not know me. They think: "Oh, a chick… there's nothing to listen to." But then I start growling and see them getting impressed. And another ridiculous thing: many can't trust their eyes seeing me… They thought I was of 2 m growth and weighed 120 kg, ha-ha… What brought me a growler? Really dunno. The guys from my previous band playing thrash said my growling were too hard for them and I’d better have sung death metal. Now I see they were right.

About me as a singer? Well, I got a unique voice of large compass from contralto to soprano. Then I got a good education- I studied singing in jazz school. It helped me to find my own way of singing death metal applying some jazz tricks, by the way it helps me also in creating music. When I began singing death metal I was crazy about John Tardy as a vocalist, I mean that hysterical manner. Then I added to my voice same black metal high tones and found inside my throat those low sounds.

-Have done any touring yet?

We often go touring around Russia, were to Belarus and Ukraine. GWN records, Europe are planning a European tour. I think we’ll make there a real slaughter, he-he.

- What has been your best shows yet?

First I’ll tell ya about the coolest one. In spring Alex broke his leg and walked on scene on crutches. He specially cut off trousers that plaster was seen. All the thousand people howled of delight. And the best show? A lot of them were good. As for me I loved Misk, Belarus. The audience were great and the sound was very good.