From Russia With Drums...
Zhenya Prokopenko, drummer from rock band Sick Mystic, and his lovely interpreter/wife Elena sat down for coffee with me at a Starbucks in North Hollywood. Here's what happened..(Check out the podcast of this interview here)
Where are you from?
Originally, I am from Russia. I was born in Belgorod, a small town near the border with Ukraine. At the age of 20 I moved to Moscow as my rock band ‘Libido’ was signed by a major national label. So, I followed my dream and went to the capital where I had lived and played for different music projects for over a decade.
When did you move to LA?
I always wanted to be in a place where the music industry is. Even when I was young, I realized that back in Russia we don’t have this hard music I wanted to play and any decent industry behind it. So, I was dreaming about living in the city where it would be possible and where the market for this genre exists. And Los Angeles is undoubtedly the right place. I moved here in 2016 to continue building up my career specifically in rock music which I love the most and to seek out the very best musicians to work with. Even though I am an established professional and a renowned drummer back in Russia, it took some time to network and market myself in order to develop working relationship with producers, managers, musicians in the field and join an interesting project I would like to play for. In late 2017 I found my new band within rock group ‘Sick Mystic’, which consisted of Ethan Jeffrey Whitaker on the mic, Sam Eggenschwiler on guitar, Robert Paul Ochoa on bass, that is, until they met me and immediately locked me down as their drummer.
Years as a drummer?
I have been playing drums for 25 years now and it’s been a non-stop adventure – over 30 music projects, tons of studio work, dozens music videos shot, countless shows at every possible venue played, always on the road... Looking back at all this I keep asking myself how did I manage to do it? I mean, being a musician is a hard work – it takes years of training, endless hours of recording, thousands of concerts, so it’s not just about being famous and glamorous. But I guess that’s my passion, I love it. No matter how tired I can be, I feel absolutely happy and satisfied when I perform, rehearse and practice.
What age did you know you wanted to play the drums?
When I joined my first band at the age of 11 years old, I’ve stepped on my path. As a child I remember myself been always attracted by the magic drummers create. It was absolutely incredible to me how they play. I was much more interested in the drummer than the front man. I sincerely desired to discover the mystery of this instrument and learn how to play it. I knew that was something I was willing to do in this lifetime. It was some kind of insight to me. Since then I’ve never had any doubts and never looked back. So, I only saw myself as the famous drummer performing, touring, recording, that’s the career I wanted to have and dreamt of.
Are you a self-taught drummer? If no, where did you learn?
So I was just 11 when my friend offered me to join the band as they didn’t have a drummer yet. No one in the band was a decent musician, and requirements to me were minimal - just to agree and devote. I was so inspired by the idea of my own band that I began training in an elementary music school specializing in the percussion. From 1998 till 2002 I continued the education as a student of Belgorod State College of Culture and Arts at jazz/pop section majored in drums. While studying I had been playing in different metal and rock bands and composing original music. Later, of course, I’ve kept learning and training by myself, there were a lot of experience exchange with my colleges, producers, sound engineers and other bands on the European music scene. These days I take private lessons with several renowned US drummers, attend different drum workshops, because it is something that you just have to do in this profession – constantly practice and learn from the best to overcome your own limits and to reach new levels of mastery.
Who is your all-time favorite drummer?
I can’t name just one person, because there are so many great drummers and each of them has something special he is really good at. Personally, I appreciate drummers with charisma, their own face that have musicianship rather than filigree technique. So I’d definitely mention Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Dave Grohl, Mike Terrana, Vinnie Paul, Tommy Lee, Lars Ulrich, Ilan Rubin, John Freese, Thomas Lang, Nicke Andersson, Kenny Aronoff, Will Hunt, John Tempesta who were my biggest influences and inspiration to me.
What was your first concert?
It was at my hometown club venue with the grunge band ‘Chucky Edd’. I was just 17, I guess. Surprisingly they let us play there although we were underage even to be at the club. But somehow after this show our band became well-known and over time, I’d say even popular in the region. We were creating music, performing a lot and making the recordings. This band was a foretype of our future successful band ‘Libido’ we founded with the same musicians.
What other bands did you play in?
Back in Russia the first real success for me was pop rock band ‘Libido’. We were award winners of rock Festival ‘Hero of Our Time’, our tracks were put on hard rotation by all radio stations in Russia and became OST for federal TV show ‘Students’. Band was a participant of several major rock festivals and worked with the leading sound producers. I was in my early 20s and truly felt like a rock star. Then I joined legendary alternative rock band ‘Magnetic Anomaly’. It was already famous and established project at that time. Songs of the band were renowned as an anthem of the whole generation, and critics considered us as one of the most remarkable and authentic groups on the Russian rock stage. Another remarkable project was pop rock band ‘Velvet’ I started playing for in 2007 that got all major awards in the industry for their debut album and still remains really successful. The new stage in my career started in 2011 when I joined pop rock band ‘4POST’. The band became very popular as we were really focused on creating quality music for youth, establishing connections with fans, participating in all major show business events and concerts.
Another great chapter was cooperation with industrial rock band ‘Lex Nulla’ that began in 2012. The band was personally selected and chosen by Marilyn Manson as support in Russia on ‘Hey, Cruel World... Tour: Winter European Leg 2012’. That was a great start for the band that helped us to be recognized as one of the most modern alternative music bands in Russia. Here in LA besides ‘Sick Mystic’ I also worked with ‘The Gitas’ on some of their tracks and a music video which is grunge band that became known in US and now successfully tours the globe. Just recently I’ve also joined the prominent industrial metal band ‘Society 1’ for their national tour in support of the upcoming album ‘Black Level Six’ to be released anytime soon. It is expected to be huge and is believed to be a great coming back for the pioneers of the shock metal scene.
What interesting drummer story do you have to share?
Well I’ve definitely remembered the moment at Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 where I was performing with my drum show ‘Drum Cast’ and Russian celebrity Mitya Fomin. It was freezing (and how! Russia in February...), and heads on the drums were literally bursting, I hardly could feel my fingers and was wondering how am I going to make it? But when you’re at such a huge event broadcasting all over the world, you simply don’t have a choice I’m afraid. I had to pull myself together. They put some grease-paint on our faces, we wore our stage costumes and we performed at our best, realizing that’s the moment when all these bothering things are nothing comparing to what you do and where you are.
Have you played with anyone famous?
In 2007 I started working with famous pop folk singer Evgeniya Otradnaya. Our cooperation brought her Russian national top award ‘Golden Gramophone’ in 2008 and made her award winner of national televised music festival ‘Song of the Year’ twice in 2008 and in 2009. Then I joined a professional team of Ukrainian label “Kruzheva Music” where I played for famous teen star Lera Lera. With her pop rock band I truly became a touring artist spending almost 2 years on the road all over Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Baltic republics. In 2013 I made a unique music project for Russian show business - drum show ‘Drum Cast’. That was an absolute success for us from the very beginning as show became on high-demand by all major Russian nightclubs and famous pop artists. Ukrainian pop star Svetlana Loboda invited us to record a mix for her popular track “Under the Ice” which led to filming a new music video for the track and joining her show “NACHALO”. Then Russian celebrated singer Mitya Fomin invited us to rearrange his current tracks and join him on a tour including a performance at Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Super popular rock band ‘Mayakovsky’ and Russian tin-pop star Roma Zhyolud were other projects that we successfully worked with.
Do you have a family? Are they in the music business too?
Well, my mother and stepfather live in Russia and I am the first and the only musician in the family so far. Now I have a little family of my own – a wife and a baby daughter. My wife helps me a lot with my business affairs, she is also a musician, spiritual music singer. And my daughter
just loves music and rhythm, she is very interested in drums and always up to play with me.
Tell me a little about Zhenya as a regular everyday person?
I like to spend time at home when I’m done with work, cause that’s the place I can relax, enjoy home-made food, watch some TV series. I do some yoga and I’m very into a healthy lifestyle. I always listen to music, check out new live shows and music videos on YouTube, chose new gear and restore vintage drums I collect. But I do like to travel as well, discover new places and countries. I get really inspired by different cultures and spiritual paths, it helps me a lot in terms of creating music and sharing my energy and feelings with the audience.
Where can we find you on social media and in web?
https://www.instagram.com/zhenyaprodrums/ http://zhenyapro.com/ https://www.facebook.com/zhenyaprodrums https://twitter.com/ZhenyaProDrums
Tell us about ‘Sick Mystic’?
I would describe ‘Sick Mystic’ as a more modern “trashier" style of grunge and alternative rock music with some heavy metal influences. It’s an old good rock hard-hitting with some fresh sounds, tricky riffs and a new approach. The project stands out with completely original music which we make by ourselves, and we’re totally honest in what we do. ‘Sick Mystic’ is a band with depth, we are not some “cookie-cutter” band trying to be something. We’re really good at live performing, we can fire up the crowd. We put ourselves in every single note and moment and we really like and enjoy our music, so the audience can feel it and ready to follow our rhythm and vibes. Plus, we want to make every song a true hit, so our music is extremely melodic and catchy.
We were told Sick Mystic is spending their time on writing new music, when do you think you will be playing out again?
Yes, that’s true. Now we’re finalizing EP ‘Devil’s Been Paid’ that will have a few dope tracks. The release is expected by the end of 2019. I’m very proud of the tracks we recorded and I hope people will love it as I do. Then we’ll focus on our full-length album for which we currently create and prepare the material. This fall we’re also presenting a new music video for the track ‘Party Animal’. You’re gonna love it. It’s sick! And there will be a big show here in LA, so we’ll keep our audience updated on the date and venue. Next January we’re starting our first big US tour and we’ll be on a road for a few months. There will be plenty of shows including big festivals. We’re definitely looking forward to meet our fans across the country.
Please go and follow these guys at...
https://www.instagram.com/sickmystic/ https://www.facebook.com/sickmysticmusic/ https://sickmystic.com/
Indie Star Radio will be updating on future shows of ‘Sick Mystic’!!!!