Musical Discoveries: Ariaphonics is quite an unusual project. How did you come up with the idea?
Dmitri Silnitsky: I did this album for myself. This album is what I myself wanted to hear.
I heard a lot of classical crossover type music, and I then started playing with the idea of taking opera vocals beyond the traditional classical music.
But there are things I didn't like about crossover as a genre. First, it is how alike all the disks are. With rare exceptions, these projects are carbon copies of each other. The same arrangements, always with the same orchestra and pop drums, all so soft and unfocussed. It gets boring as hell in no time. It's as if there's just one producer sitting somewhere, and everybody goes to him to have all the arrangements made from popular arias. There are, of course, some subtle and stylish works like Aria by Paul Schwartz or Art of Noise, but those are happy exceptions.
I've been searching for a record based on a clear concept, with opera vocals. Something with new music and original arrangements. I didn't find it, but while looking I formed such a vivid picture of what I was looking for that I could almost hear the sound of it. So, I thought, if there is no such recording, I've got to make it myself.
Was the market ready? If I wanted such music, I thought, there must be others who'd appreciate it too. So yes, I figured there'd be a market.
But you didn't record this CD alone. You did it with a group of musicians. Were you with session musicians?
Yes and no. I can't say these were session musicians because they lived in this project. They were intensely interested. They liked the whole concept. They didn't just come to the studio to play their parts. We made this album together. These guys were from the world of jazz music themselves, and they put a lot of their character into the album.
On the other hand I never intended for Ariaphonics to become a permanent group. I want every album to be different. New people are essential.
Many think you are under a major influence of Pink Floyd. Does that concern you?
To the contrary, that pleases me. Really, what's wrong with following in the Pink Floyd tradition? I would be disappointed if our music was compared to some, let's say, DJ/MC 2344532./01. That would be a disaster. We just work in more-or-less the same style. Same mood. True, we've thrown in something new. We've mixed the genres. Many like this mood and style. Most importantly, we like it ourselves. Everyone feeds on some type of previous achievement. We, and our music, are not exceptions.
If the similarity to British Pop groups bothers you, just what are you going to do with all the British Pop groups? They've been copying The Beatles for years. People want new music but in the same style. I guess people are looking for the mood, and for reflection of their own self in music.
Russian groups remain something exotic for the Western audience. Have there been any special difficulties in promoting Ariaphonics?
Nothing in particular. No one cares where the group is from. People either like or dont like the music. That's what matters.
It's funny to run into one of those music business biggies. The so-called gurus insist that a Russian group must first become a star in Russia, and only afterwards try it in the West. At first I argued. I wanted to explain that Russian is not, let's say, Sweden. Music tastes and the whole mentality here are different. The tastes here, as far as pop goes, are pretty basic. Popularity here would turn into an embarrassment before a Western audience.
A popular Russian group has a zero chance of making it in the West. If, however, it starts out oriented towards the West, there is a possibility. But then there is no way for it to gain recognition in Russia. I tried explaining that but soon understood that I'm wasting my energy and my time. You can't explain anything to a man who has a set a formula inside his head instead of common sense.
What do you think about the state of the music industry in general?
I try not to think about it. I am more interested in music than in industry. There are too many managers who make all sorts of important decisions as to who needs or doesn't need what music. Too often you see people who think in stereotypes. Even in, especially in, the music business. But the rules of the game are quickly changing, and this kind of thinking will not get you far.
Do you believe in digital music?
I think it can shorten the distance between the artist and the audience. Many will lose their jobs but people will get easy access to truly new and interesting music.
Will your label iGram Music be the home of just one artist, or do you plan on expanding?
Not for one artist, not likely. I dont plan on offering a long list of them either. Ive always liked small but successful record labels with something like five artists, if they're the right five. The more artists, the harder it is to work individually with each one of them. I think that 5-7 good projects is the top iGram can handle. Besides, a truly good project is such a rare find.
Has Ariaphonics done any live concerts?
Performing live is a serious business. No. Not yet. Were we a British Pop group we could just take our guitars and go play. But the Ariaphonics concept assumes a lot of visual effects. A lot of time and money will be required. But that is our ultimate goal. Maybe we'll start preparing for live concerts after our second album. I want to do a show at the London planetarium, and make a film about it. Operatic vocals, electronics, lasers, stars and all that. Beautiful!
Where and how do you compose your music?
Most of it in my home studio. I don't use a computer as a matter of principle. Only keys or guitar. I start thinking of arrangements when the music has been already composed. For me music is only melody and harmony. All the rest is framing: important but essentially secondary.
So the song is ready. Then I do my own arrangement. After that I go to the studio and continue, this time with other musicians. They can think of a change that would never occur to me. To replace a chord or something like that. Collective mind works and creates at the studio. Everyone makes a contribution. I like working with different people because each one of them has his own vision.
Why did you turn down the computer during songwriting? Many say that computers' capabilities help them generate new ideas.
It may work for some. Not me. If you are doing electronic music just based on sounds, then the computer will of course help. But I just don't understand what I can do with the computer before I have melody, harmony, and form. Computers are far from perfect. They make you think of too many technical details, thus distracting your mind from music itself. Software, drivers, and such clutter up your mind. You need to figure out your way through all these annoying interfaces. Just gets me mad when a melody comes into my head, I run to the computer, and it makes me wait till it starts, then it loads the software. Then it pesters you about its own problem, then something else happens. By the time it's ready, the idea is gone. Just a tape recorder and instrument. That's all I need for songwriting.
Why do you use Italian rather than English or Russian lyrics?
Two reasons. First, it is a beautiful language. It fits much better than English with opera vocals. When I hear a soprano in English I think show tunes. Not at all what I want. Second, I wanted the album to appeal to the international audience. More than anything else, that requires a flawless performance. There are no opera singers in Russia with really good English. They all sing very well in Italian however.
Your attachment to the 70s music is quite obvious. Are there any modern groups that impress you?
I try not to separate music into periods. Still, I think that music made in the 70s has a much higher level of quality. There are many groups now. Good, bad, terrible, and plain brilliant. But before we had phenomena beyond brilliant. There were what I'll call Acts of God. When you hear this music you feel it could not have been written by man. I am speaking of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, ABBA, Queen.
I've been listening to The Beatles for 20 years, and I enjoy them even more with time.
One music critic wrote that he did not understand people stick with the music of their youth and don't even want to look at the modern scene. All these Beatles, Queens etc. But all these is not at all the music of my youth. I heard it once, and there's been nothing better ever since. Listening brings me great joy, and I don't understand why I should stop. To be praised for my sense of fashion? I don't give a damn. What is important is the joy I personally derive from listening to music.
I know modern music. I listen to all the new releases. And there are groups I admire, such as Air, Zero7, Travis and a number of others. But there are so few of these.
I know that, in addition to music, you are active in hi-tech business. How do you combine these things?
The creative process turns me on. No matter in what area. Any business where I can be creative holds appeal. The type of businessman I could not be is your typical white collar worker, a manager in the corporate system. They are so serious, respectable, and boring that I can't keep from laughing at them.
I like guys like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, who spit on the rules and conventions and all that business nonsense. They do what they want, not what is expected of them. Business and music combine well as long as you don't take your business too seriously.
Do you plan to issue your second album or will you wait till the first one is a success?
The question is; what is success? Some think it's sales. Of course I'm concerned about sales but in the end success is when I can do what I like. I am not waiting, and I've already started with my second album. I think it will greatly differ from the first.
The second album will have a different sound. There will be much more electronic experimentation. The first album was in the 70s style. The next one will be more current sounding. From the beginning I wrote music for five sound channels.
What's more, I don't want to use the classic repertoire even if it's in a different form. I don't want to do cover versions. The only exception is vocalization of Camille Saint-Sans, which will be the intro to the album. The rest will be all new and original material.
How many Ariaphonics albums are planned?
I don't know. When you have the luck to work without a major record deal you are free to decide these things. Ariaphonics will have as many albums as will make sense artistically. I'll continue for as long as I have something to say in this style. Just don't expect me to make albums only because others expect me to or there is money to be made.