Interview: Guitarist Yuri Tsaler of Russia's Mumiy Troll Discusses Their First English-Language Album, 'Vladivostok'

Mumiy Troll might not be a household-name band in the US, but they have certainly made their mark on the world -- especially their home country of Russia, where they were voted “Best Band of the Millennium” by music fans.

In the 1980s, the Communist Party considered them as socially dangerous as Black Sabbath. In 1998, a music video by Mumiy Troll (pronounced Moo-me Troll) was the first video to appear on the new MTV Russia.

They are arguably that country's most popular band -- and most significant musical entity it has produced since Perestroika.

Mumiy Troll, which consists of singer/guitarist Ilya Lagutenko, bassist Eugene "Sdwig" Zvidionny, drummer Oleg Pungin and Yuri Tsaler on guitar, keyboards and sax, are releasing their first English album, Vladivostok, today, April 24, via The Village.

The album was recorded in L.A. and produced by Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses, Megadeth), Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The Shins) and Greg Brimson (Bush, Eminem).

Guitar World recently spoke to Yuri Tsaler, who answered questions but his musical past and future.

GUITAR WORLD: Mumiy Troll have been around for decades. How have you guys stayed so strong and inventive for all these years?

A severe climate and the life realities of Russia have bestowed on us an infinite physical and spiritual splendor of creativity.

Vladivostok is Mumiy Troll's first full-length album in English. Besides the language, did you do anything else differently when recording or writing the album?

I've always tried to stay the same person and guitarist. Only decorations around the band and I are changing: countries, cities, people, etc. Perhaps I became a little bit more reserved with my playing when crossing over, but our style is the same. We don't want to change too much because our Russian fans are still watching us in America. They love to be on the same page with their American comrades.

What's it like crossing over from Russian audiences to American audiences?

Americans are more reserved with their emotions at the concerts, or so it seems to me. I guess they are culturally different. Perhaps their cultural roots in Britain and Ireland influence that. When we play for an audience outside of Russia, it's always a great, exciting challenge to make sure your music is understood in the right way.

You began playing music at a young age with your father. Did you always have a passion for music?

I have a big musical family. All my brothers are musicians. It was passed down from our grandfather to our father and then to us. I have Siberian Jewish and Ural Mountain roots. When I was 4, I felt the power of music inside me and would run away from kindergarten when they would put us little kids to nap during the day and go to music school instead. Music would not let me relax.

You studied piano at Tchaikovsky Music Academy. Did study guitar there too? If not, what got you into the guitar?

I was accepted to Tchaikovsky Music Academy for the jazz piano major, but my passion for rock and roll, which I already had, didn’t let me stay there for long. I left after one year. I just taught myself how to play the guitar by listening to rock and jazz records.

What are your favorite guitar-and-amp combinations?

I would answer like John Lennon. When he was asked, “What amplifier do you prefer?," he answered, “The one that works." I like all models of guitars and amps; it's really a great adventure to explore the sound and capabilities of every different kind. However, generally I love to play a '68 Fender Telecaster with a maple neck. I bought it at Chicago Music Exchange two years ago. For amps, the Fender Twin 65.

Vladivostok is available April 24 (The Village).

Visit Mumiy Troll at their official website, on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos: Michael Muller

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