Interview with Russian Rock Legend Eugene Margulis

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“He doesn’t like journalists, he fights off TV reporters, he puts up great concerts and generally he does a lot of other things” – this is how Eugene Margulis is described by one of his friends.

Eugene Margulis has a very versatile personality. He has a medical education; he made a career in music and his hobby is creative writing. Moreover, he is always successful. He held a guitar in his hands for the first time when he was already a teenager and just a few years later, he became the bass guitarist of one of the most famous Soviet-Russian rock bands, “Time Machine.” Since then, he put together many musical projects, including the blues band “Shanghai” He is also the proud bearer of the title “the brightest representative of the blues tendency of Russian rock.” Margulis is also an active fighter against journalists, particularly against those who undertake to write about music. “They are mostly all pretty stupid” – argues the musician. Eugene Shalimovich doesn’t fight the stupidity of the reporters with words, but instead by showing the example of how the greatest art of all should be covered. For the past several years, he has had his own music column in a famous Russian magazine.

Initially, you have graduated from medical school. Please tell us about your path from being a doctor to becoming a musician.

Yes, that’s true. These two professions are always linked just as architecture and music. A lot of people go into the music industry after graduating from the institute of architecture or from medical school and I was no exception. Of course, in my childhood, I wanted to become a doctor as it was believed to be a solid profession. Unfortunately, I was born in the 20th century and not in the 21st. One of my old acquaintances once said a very funny thing when her son graduated from high school. She said: “Go to medical school”; he answered, “Why? “; she said, “Doctors are very demanded in prison, in case you get arrested.” I studied until the moment I realized that I like music much more than working with human bodies.

Your son chose a different path. As far as I am aware, he works in a bank.

At the moment he works in a bank, but in general he has an excellent education. He graduated from the Faculty of Mechanics of the Moscow State University, but he is rather an erratic mathematician. He has worked in Ernst and Young and also has some experience with wireless networks. Now, he is leading an analytical department at a bank. He wants nothing to do with music; he was born with numbers already in his head.

If he would have chosen your path, would it have also been the right decision or is his current profession better?

You know, somehow, from the beginning, it didn’t look as if he would follow in my footsteps. When he was two years old, he began collecting tram and bus tickets. He would glue them together and create very long numbers. That’s when I realized that music wouldn’t be as important for him as it is for me, and thank God.

Rumors have it that you aren’t very fond of journalists. Why?

I don’t like them because most of them are very stupid. Once I had a very funny story. I have an old American friend and one time, while visiting him in New York, I watched him argue with his daughters because one of them wanted to become a rock journalist. He said a brilliant phrase, not even a phrase, but more of a statement about what a rock journalist is: it’s a person, who can’t write, who interviews people who can’t speak, and who writes for those who can’t read. During the time of the Soviet Union, anyone could become a journalist. Today, everybody is trying to write while being completely illiterate. Therefore, we see these stupid articles and these stupid newspapers which are all very ignorantly written. It’s terribly annoying. When we were young and insolent, we invented a great story about a meeting with a journalist. We would always prepare 2 leaflets, one with the questions and another with the answers. We would then distribute them and from there it would become really crazy.

But actually you write. You write about music.

I am not a journalist. I write about my feelings, that is, I used to. I got tired of it.

Would you be willing to write for the newer publications?

I don’t know. First of all, I’m not a music critic. Secondly, there is still a lot of good music. I am not only focused on the blues, I listen to everything. I simply choose a billboard and listen to what is popular at the moment. When something touches me, I immediately take a note of it and share my feelings. However these are my personal feelings and I don’t want to impose them on anybody.

You were part of the rock band “Time Machine” before leaving it and then rejoining it again. Did you join “Resurrection” in the meantime?

No, I left simply because at some point I started thinking that I should engage in medicine instead. I then realized that medicine didn’t interest me at all and we started the rock band “Resurrection” which I also left.

Why did you go back to Makarevich?

I returned to “Time Machine” in the 90s. It was the financial crisis in the early 90’s and also the 21st anniversary of the band. Sasha Zaitsev had disappeared at the time (he was the “Time Machine” keyboardist) and Makar asked me and Peter Podgorodetsky to appear during the jubilee concerts. We agreed and then he offered us to perform together. This cooperation has now lasted for the past 20 years.

What brings you more satisfaction – to perform with your band or being solo on the stage?

If we are talking about my music, then there is a bit of a difference in the musical formation. I love to play in clubs. “Time Machine” doesn’t perform in clubs because it’s a major band. I like to see the faces and the eyes of the fans. My music is totally different. Sometimes I like to perform with “Time Machine” and sometimes I don’t because I prefer to appear solo. It all depends on where I am at the moment. In any case, I like to perform.

There is European and American rock music but is there such a thing as Russian rock music? What do you think is the difference between Russian and foreign rock music?

Foreign music was written abroad and ours was written while listening to the foreign music. There is even such a joke: a question on the Armenian radio – what’s the difference between male and female legs? Female legs are female legs, male legs are male legs and the difference is in between them. Here is my answer to your question.

You are saying that the only difference is in its origin? What about the style?

When we started, we wanted to become the Beatles. We listened to the Beatles but there was too little information. The music we were making sounded very differently from what we heard on the radio or on television. I wanted something else, different themes. It’s impossible to sing all the time about love or work, or just about love, nameless and sexless, or songs about the Soviet regime. So we listened and tried to do the same.

With whom would you like to sing?

I have quite a long list; in short, with all the best. For example with Ray Charles, he was the best. I even managed to sit on the stage during one of his concerts because there were not enough seats. I was extremely pleased at the time. He is my favorite singer and I would really like to take a picture with him. I never wanted to get photographed with any other artist. I also like Eric Clapton, Keb Mo and a lot of other artists who are not particularly well know here. I am quiet knowledgeable in this area. I don’t like classic blues.

What is more important in life, an education, a talent or a predisposition to something?

Education has never hurt anyone and this is understandable, but I think that talent is still more important.

What is popularity and what do you need it for?

It’s very useful when trying to get something from the conventional “social” services. For example, if you come to the passport office and you skip the long line, it means that you are popular. At this social level everything else is irrelevant.

I would like to ask you about your plans for the future.

There are four types of stupid questions and this is one of them.

Have I already asked all of them?

Not yet. That was the first one. Usually when we go on tour, the first question is “how do you like our city?” The second question we get in every city is “how do you like our beer?”. The third one is “come to visit us during your summer vacation” and the fourth question is “what are your creative plans?”

Then, simply tell us about your plans.

In April, I would like to perform with Sweet Plantain, an American classic quartet, and with Borislav Strulev, in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. I would like to try and combine blues with classical music. I think that it would be cool. We are in the process of negotiating at the moment. It would be quiet a nice surprise.

As a conclusion, what can you wish the readers?

Don’t read nonsense and try as much as possible to read good books.

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