Russian pop group T.A.T.U. has finally launched a long-awaited world tour to promote their latest album Dangerous and Moving. Their fans in St. Petersburg became the first Russian audiences to watch a show on stage. The stage was rife with light and sound equipment. Some of the new songs sounded pretty tight, others were truly lyric.
Members of t.A.T.u. i.e. Yulya Volkova and Lena Katina made a comeback to pop music scene following a two-year hiatus due to Yulya’s childbearing duties and the change of the duet’s management. A Trud correspondent spent a few minutes backstage speaking with Yulya and Lena right before the show kicked off. The correspondent could not but start the interview by asking the girls about the recent scandal relating to Alexei Mitrofanov’s proposal to award t.A.T.u. members the Order of Friendship. Alexei Mitrofanov is a deputy at the State Duma of the Russia Federation. However, many local celebrities including the famous Soviet-era crooner Josef Kobzon strongly objected to Mitrofanov’s idea.
Yulya: I don’t think the proposal was something extraordinary. Russia’s athletes win medals in the Olympics. Then the government award them Russian state decorations. I believe T.A.T.U. has also won quite a lot for Russia in terms of prizes for the best music videos and record sales. We won’t be greatly disappointed if they don’t hand out that order to us. Our faithful fans in several dozen countries mean much more to us.
Looks like t.A.T.u. is more popular abroad than in Russia today…
Yulya: No, I wouldn’t say so. The people all over the world always give us a warm welcome. That does not apply to the Russian elite, though. They haven’t yet got rid of such a nasty trait as envy. Their envy runs back in Soviet times when the authorities used to lump everyone together. They simply can’t come to terms that t.A.T.u. is the first Russian pop group that reached the top of the Western pop music world.
Lena : You just can’t see such manifest envy in the West. Out there you don’t hear malicious gossip whispered right behind your back as you climb the stage to pick up a music prize. Foreign celebrities behave quite friendly, they’re glad for success of their colleagues.
Rumor has it that Prince Charles sneaked backstage after your show at Wembley Arena because he was hugely impressed. Prince Charles reportedly made a promise to learn Russian…
Lena: We really met him that night. Yulya even volunteered to help him out with his Russian lessons… But we haven’t seen him since… To be honest, we weren’t surprised at all when the prince told us that he liked the show. People in Japan, Latin America, and Western Europe come up to us pretty often after the show and make confessions like: “Girls, we’re going to learn Russian because we really want to understand your lyrics.”
Do you feel more at home overseas these days or you’re still a couple of Russian girls?
Lena: I don’t see any contradiction in being abroad and Russian. For example, it took us six months to record our second album in Los Angeles. Sure thing, we felt homesick and stuff. On the other hand, L.A. has become a second home for us. We worked with the best musicians in the world. Sting himself played bass in the track called Friend or Foe.
It’s written by Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics. The pop idol of the 1970s John Carpenter, one of The Carpenters, made guitar arrangements for us. In August 2005, the U.S. director James Cox shot two videos for singles of our new album. One of the videos – All About Us – went to the top of the charts in many countries some time later.
Critics accused you of doing nothing but lip-sync on stage in the past. Can your music connect with the audience if that’s sill the case?
Yulya: These days we play live only, no lip-syncing any more. It’s a real change, we became the singers. In the past we danced a lot during the show. It’s impossible to sing while dancing. You’re out of breath and just hiss like a locomotive.
Lena: Today’s t.A.T.u. is a project run by me and Yulya only. A big international team is working with us but it’s us who does the most important decision-making. We even work as sound producers. We make our decisions independently. We decide what we’re going to sing and how we’re going to do it.
Yulya, have you been seeing anybody lately?
Yulya: Yes, I have. I’ve known him for 11 years since the time when we sang together in a children’s band (both Yulya and Lena started their careers in a children’s band) . Our friendship evolved into something special about six months ago… In short, he’s called Vladik Topalov
(a former vocalist in the Russian boys’ band Smash!) , and we’re really close…
So it’s love?
Yulya: No doubts about it.
Lena : (cuts in quickly) They’re going to tie the knot soon!
Yulya: Yeah, that’s correct.
Translated by Guerman Grachev