Recently, we caught up with veteran artist, Nash Albert. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, his origins in music, the formation of Salamandra and Blast, his newest music, and a whole lot more.
If you would like to learn more about Nash Albert, the link to his webpage is here. Once you’ve checked that out, dig into this interview with Nash. Cheers.
Nash, as a young musician, what first gravitated you toward the guitar?
From my childhood I was surrounded by Georgian folk music, it was always being sung and played in our house. Then, when I was five years old, living in the Soviet Union, my father — the world-renowned physicist Albert Tavkhelidze — brought me a tape from abroad of The Beatles and the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. I listened to them constantly, loved the sound of the guitars especially and I knew immediately I had to play guitar. Even if I wasn’t a professional musician, I would still have a deep need inside me to play the guitar every day.
What were some of your early gigs where you cut your teeth, so to speak? Tell us about the formation and life cycle of Salamandra and Blast.
I put together my first band when I was sixteen and after Gorbachev’s Perestroika began in 1986, my college band, Salamandra, became very popular in the Moscow college scene, and in 1991, an American promoter visiting Moscow heard us and invited us to the US to do a tour. I played all over the US in many different bands for six years and experienced the rock and roll life. Nothing to write home about, just an ordinary story of a young musician struggling to make it big, except that everyone took us for, and sometimes referred to us as, “commie-pinko punks.” That’s a great name for a band. [Laughs].
I have to tell you an interesting story! In 1994, when I was in the US, with Salamandra, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records supported us to record our first single and gave us an audition. It didn’t go as planned, however. Before the gig, we had a bottle of cognac and some other stuff to help us relax but we went too far. When we came on stage we were out of our heads. The report to Atlantic was, unfortunately for us, all too clear. The moral of the story is “never get loose before the battle” but it’s part of my life and I embrace it.
The band split up in 1994 in the US for individual personal reasons. I continued my musical journey playing all around the US in different musical styles for two years and in 1996, I returned to Moscow. Back then, Russia was a hotbed of crime, and Moscow was crazy, the nightlife was just like Chicago in the 1930s or Las Vegas in the 50s with gangsters and shootings on the streets. I didn’t even recognize the city I had left only a few years before but at least had a booming music scene that was both new and fresh. Using all my US musical experience, I formed the band Blast, which very quickly became extremely popular on the Moscow music scene. All kinds of people loved us — gangsters, students, rich guys. In 1997, we were signed by an English music promoter, Mark Gee, visiting Moscow to the Manchester label Apollo G Records, and released our first album, Pigs Can Fly. The album did really well in the UK and Russia We began to tour extensively in the UK and Russia.
Since we released our first album as Blast with Pigs Can Fly, as mentioned above, we toured constantly in the UK, Europe, and Russia and played many international festivals. We were on the same bill with bands like Blur, Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand, Supergrass, Suede, Beady Eye, etc. But the most delightful memories are of two huge concerts that we played; firstly the Oppikoppi Festival in South Africa supporting the main act, Badly Drawn Boy, in front of 100,000 people in 2001. Secondly, supporting Deep Purple in the packed Olympic Stadium in Moscow in 2010. The UK magazine NME wrote a huge article about Blast in 2013, and described us as, “The godfathers of the Russian alternative scene.” I recorded my last album with BLAST in 2013, produced by famous Martin ‘Youth’ Glover“ and it was greatly welcomed by the UK media.
Let’s talk about recent events. Tell us about your new single, “Lost In Jerusalem.”
The story of “Lost In Jerusalem” is that we are all mortal, here for only a short time, and the world does not revolve around us. We should surrender our individual egos to the idea that we all have the common human purpose on this earth of spreading love and peace because nothing else really matters. Interestingly, this song was written by me in 1994 in the US but never recorded. It lay on the shelf for twenty-five years until, when recording Yet in 2019, I had the song running around in my head and decided to — finally — record it properly. Now, twenty-eight years later, I believe the values expressed in it are just as true today as they were when I wrote it.
You also have a new studio album in the works, right? Releasing in a few weeks time. What more can you tell us about the album, Yet?
Yet was released on 28th January 2022, and is already receiving great reviews from the European press.
To briefly tell the story, my great friend and member of Salamandra, Ric Berie, had built a studio in the Georgian mountains in 2019. He called me and said, “Hey man, we’ve got a nice studio here, why don’t you come to Georgia and record the album with our great friends, the original members of Salamandra. Let’s jump into the past and create something ass-kicking!” That’s how we started.
I took my friend Ilya Mazaev, an amazing young producer living in Moscow, and flew to Georgia to create the record.
During the process, we suddenly realised we are creating something really interesting. The enthusiasm was pumping up and eventually, we came out with a great piece of art, in my opinion, the album, Yet, which was co-produced and mixed by the famous Tim Palmer, and mastered by the mighty Bob Ludwig. Working on Yet very much reminds me of Peter Jackson’s great movie about The Beatles, Get Back.
It was very experimental as we were free from any rules. I wasn’t specifically chasing a particular sound or style, I believe we approached each song thinking, “What does THIS song need to make it come alive?” I’m proud to say that, not having worked with these guys since the US in 1996, it was like we had worked together yesterday because they are amazing musicians and we are still great friends. The whole thing blended like a good Scotch whisky! That’s why we have different genres and styles in this album I’m very proud that this album combines different styles and sounds — exactly like my crazy and very controversial life!
The title came to me in a flash from nowhere when we were finishing the last track. We all immediately knew it was the perfect name for the album, and the final track.
From a songwriting perspective, how have you evolved to this point? What’s changed from your younger years?
My songwriting draws subconsciously from my life experiences. I was born and grew up in a Communist country where rock ‘n’ roll was prohibited, Then, I started my first band around the time that Perestroika began, an amazing time of “domino effect” events, culminating in the USSR imploding in1991. Then, I lived in the United States with my band for six years playing around, where I learned the capitalistic way of life. Then in 1996, I returned to a completely different Moscow, with a free, wild gangster economy. Now I’m living in, effectively, the third version of Moscow, a government-ruled capitalist society.
I can’t tell you in detail how my song writing has changed over the years as it is an organic, natural, process for me and I don’t self-analyse it. I would say it has grown and deepened over the years, as I have as a person, and the two are inextricably linked. Good examples of this on Yet are “Betting On My Fate,” and “Cocaine Hangover,” but every song on the album contains elements of my life experience, both lyrically and musically.
What are a few of your favorite albums, and why?
Rather than name specific albums, perhaps I could tell you my favourite musicians, who still inspire me today, and tell you why. Firstly, the fantastic African-American bluesman Floyd Lee then Jim Morrison, John Lennon, David Bowie, and Leonard Cohen.
For me, particularly, these musicians were not just writing songs for albums but revealing a whole new world of colour to the audience, regardless of where we lived or what our background was. They transcend international politics. This is why their music will always be timeless.
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?
To be honest, my only true passion is music. I have other interests, but they are all secondary to making, and playing, music.
What sort of gear are you using in the studio vs. the live setting?
SVAS studio in Georgia has the same sort of gear as any other professional studio, but the main difference between SVAS and other studios I have used is the creative atmospheric, relaxed, environment. When playing live, I just whatever gear the venue has available. Of course, for the big gigs and festivals I have my technical rider.
Last one. What’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?
I am planning to record my next album in April 2022, in SVAS — the same Georgian studio as Yet was recorded in.
For now, I am performing frequently in Russia but am really looking forward to performing songs from Yet, and my other songs, in front of European audiences later in 2022 and, hopefully, the United States too.
Interested in learning more about Nash Albert? Hit the link below:
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