Jinjer enjoyed a stellar 2019 racking up legions of fans across the world and cementing themselves firmly as one of the years’ stand out bands and ones to watch in 2020.
We caught up with Jinjer drummer Vladislav Ulasevich ahead of the band taking to the stage at The Asylum in Birmingham (read the review of the show here) to talk about all things Micro and Macro, YouTube reaction videos, metal bands we should check out from Ukraine, his drumming idols and…and how he kept his feet dry at Drownload 2019!
Tonight, is the second show of the Jinjer UK tour and a lot of the dates have been selling out. How was the show last night?
It feels nice. There were good crowds and good sound. We had a few little problems with the transportation of our gear to the venue at the show yesterday (London) because it was in the city centre but everything was okay.
This tour is actually our second time headlining shows here. The first time we played here maybe two years ago with a band called From Sorrow To Serenity who are from Scotland. It was really nice to do our first headline tour and first concerts in the United Kingdom. After those we went on to play at other festivals here including Amplified Festival and Download Festival this year.
How was it playing your first Download Festival or should we say Drownload?
Oh it was really, really cool! We played in the tent! I enjoyed it although there was a lot of dirt!! I have a photo where I put plastic bags on my shoes and taped it with duct tape so I had huge boots on.
And tonight, you’re here in the birthplace of heavy metal. Does it feel special to be playing in the same city that Black Sabbath are from?
I don’t know actually. I was never really a fan of Black Sabbath that much but it’s pretty cool to be here. It’s the same as with somewhere like Seattle and Nirvana and bands like that. It is great to understand the history behind it.
2019 has been a busy year for Jinjer…
Yes, and 2018 too! We’ve played around 140 shows per year since then.
In January you released the Micro EP all the way back in January which probably seems like a long time ago now. You then followed up Micro with Macro in October 2019, which were the first releases from Jinjer since King of Everything in 2016. Can you talk us more about the writing process for both records? Did you change anything about your approach for this record in terms of writing the songs this time around compared to 2016?
The Micro EP is actually the first one that I played drums on, other than the Pieces live version we released, so this was actually the first time I recorded with the band. (Vlad joined Jinjer in 2016). I just do what I do. All of us, we just write some songs and then release it. It was also the same process for Macro.
First, we wrote Micro and then all of the songs for Macro came after the EP release. When we recorded Micro, I think we had only one song ready for Macro – I can’t remember exactly which one it was but there was just the one song. We ended up recording both releases very quickly and created the songs very quickly. We didn’t have another way to work as there was just two months to prepare and record all of the songs.
For the writing side of things, we recorded some demos at Roman’s (Ibramkhalilov) our guitarists home with electronic drums (laughs) and then gave it to Tati (Tatiana Shmailyuk – vocalist) who then wrote the vocals over it.
When we write, we start with the guitar riffs. I also start to write songs from the guitar as although I’m a drummer I can also play guitar too. Each member of the band is a writer which is great.
When we played at Download Festival, Sasha (sound engineer), Roman and Eugene (Abdukhanov – bass) drove to Copenhagen in our van and Tati and I were recording vocals in the studio and had to take a flight to London because we didn’t have much time so we had to work in this way.
If we had more time, I might have changed some of my drum parts but these aren’t huge changes and when I play live at the concerts, I play some of the songs different to how they were recorded. But these are changes to very small parts of my drumming and Roman also does the same with his parts.
Were there any tracks in particular that challenged you as a player to write?
As a player, yes! I think the song Noah is a little bit hard for me but not so much. It’s just about practicing and it’s all good.
Although the band formed in 2009, you consider 2010 to be the official start which means next year will be the bands 10th anniversary. Do you think you might do anything special next year to celebrate the 10th anniversary milestone?
I don’t know. Maybe but we’re not thinking about that right now. But that’s a great idea. I will tell my guys about it!
In 2020 you will be playing at Bloodstock Festival here in the UK on the mainstage as well as appearing at various festivals across Europe in the summer. What can fans expect from your set there? Will you be bringing bigger production and pyro for example?
Yes, we will be there. We’ll also be playing at Hellfest too. Every time we perform, we try to be better than in the past. So, on this tour for example we have three big screens with us on stage, but I don’t know what we will do next time just yet. You will have to come along to see.
Whenever we log into YouTube there are always so many videos of musicians reacting to Jinjer songs from the Micro EP in particular – from opera vocal coaches to hip-hop lovers to fellow drummers. And there are even some reacting to the live drum cam videos you have posted. Have you seen any of these? Do you think it’s cool that people that may not typically listen to Metal are taking the time out to listen to Jinjer?
I didn’t see the drummer reacts one. But for the vocal coaches there are so many videos on it. It’s different and also funny! I like it.
And of course, on social media, there are so many Jinjer fan pages ran by fans across the world who do a fantastic job – how does it feel to have fans helping spread the word of the band and going above and beyond in their own time to share your news?
I really appreciate that people write about us or make posts on social media about us. It’s crazy. Two years ago, I never imagined that magazines like Revolver would be writing about us or that Tati’s photo would be on the cover page.
We stumbled across you playing a guitar cover of Gojira on YouTube – which was amazing by the way. A lot of fans seemed surprised that you play guitar right-handed, while most of your drum playing is left-handed! Is there any particular reason you play with the different hands?
Oh really, you saw that!? That’s really old! (laughs). I’m right-handed and everything I do is right-handed, I just started to play drums with an open-handed style – that’s all. I don’t know why, but it’s just comfortable for me.
Are there any other instruments you can play?
Yes, actually I’m also a piano player. I started out on piano and learnt everything I know at music school and even went on to study at the music university in Kiev. But I always loved Metal music and then started learning how to play guitar.
I actually started playing drums when my previous band before Jinjer needed a new drummer and I said to our guys, I will play the drums! It’s easier for me to learn how to play drums than I can tell someone my ideas, so now I’m a drummer.
That’s amazing! Did you have any lessons for drums?
No, I didn’t have any lessons. I listen to a lot of music and played with a lot of drummers so I understand and I just need to practice – that’s all.
Who are your favourite drummers?
My favourite is Eloy Casagrande (Sepultura) and I also like Matt Garstka (Animals As Leaders), Navene Koperweis (ex-Animals As Leaders) and Tomas Haake (Meshuggah). These four guys are my inspirations.
All the technical players then!
It’s not necessarily about their technique it’s about their drum parts. I really like their approach to drumming but yes all of them are very technically proficient. They can play very fast and very groovy. (Laughs)
Jinjer seems to be flying the flag for heavy metal in the Ukraine and helping to put Ukraine on the map. Are there any other Ukrainian bands we should check out?
I think I know all of the musicians in Ukraine. There are maybe 50 people (laughs). You should check out our friends in Space of Variations – also from Ukraine – who are the opening band on this tour and they are pretty cool. I love their grooving and their feeling of the music.
I also have another band called Zlam in Kiev and maybe in the future we will record some more songs. We have two albums and an EP already which I really like. It’s a more aggressive style to Jinjer and maybe in the future we will record something new. I really like to play music with the guys. I don’t get to see them very often at the moment because of how busy my schedule with Jinjer is.
Can you recall your first encounter with the heavy metal genre? What were the first bands you heard that were heavy metal?
The first heavy metal band I heard was a Russian heavy metal band called Aria and after that Metallica, Slayer and all the rest. I think first extremely heavy band that I heard was probably Pantera and the album The Great Southern Trendkill and the Slayer album Diabolus in Musica which I really love. It’s a little bit nu-metal but it’s still Slayer. I love the record. We played with them at Wacken Open Air this summer which was really cool.
Last question from us, do you have anything else you’d like you to fans of Jinjer in the UK?
Just keep doing what you do. I love all of our British fans and it’s really cool to be here playing in these venues with all the crowds. Thank you for it.
Jinjer’s newest album, Macro, is out now on Napalm Records.