Bio

My name is Vladimir Luchansky, I was born in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 1990. Some people asked me about my way to music and to free improvisation so I decided to put an extended bio here. In three words: I love improv. In details: lots of text ahead.

It all started with my father who listened a lot of different music ranging from free-minded and free jazz (Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Lokomotiv Konkret) to pop music (Suzanne Vega, Queen, various russian bands) when I was a toddler. Eventually it had a very deep effect – at age of 4 I played some improvised concerts for my grand parents who had a piano in their apartments.

However, parents did not consider to send me to the music school because they did not want me to have the same negative experience my mother had in her childhood with her music school. My point of view on this decision varied through the years and I don’t know at the moment if that was good or bad. It is how it is.

Click to read about first steps in music and first instrument in 2000-2005

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At the age of 11 I picked up an old guitar that was hanging around our home and started to write and record some gibberish child songs to my small tape player with built-in mic. That was obviously bad but that also was a starting point where I became interested in guitar. I started learning chords and progressions by myself and eventually went to a classical guitar teacher at 12 who gave me the basics of the musical theory and guitar techniques.

After a year with a teacher I quit the classical guitar and started to play by ear. I picked up my favorite songs and jazz standards for the whole time, several hours a day. That was a great experience and it gave me the ability to pick the melodies really quickly and instantly put myself into an existing musical context which is a huge bonus for improvisational music. I strongly advise that approach since then. Does not mean you should not do the theory at all though – it is still vital to learn and practice.

At 14 I was introduced to jazz when I found some tapes with local musicians playing at my dad’s car and I immediately fell in love with it. I started to play electric guitar which I borrowed from my uncle, it was old Chinese Squier Telecaster with EMG pickups, pretty good. A whole new world of electric sound opened for me. I continued practicing with songs and sounds, plugging in the guitar into a PC with sound effects programs, experimenting with distortions, delays, pitch-shifters and reverbs. Also at that point I attended my first local gigs as a listener and started to discover the local scene.

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My listening experience was getting bigger and bigger. At the age of 15 I got the broadband internet access and discovered lots of different music including art/progressive classics (Yes, King Crimson, Genesis et cetera), various free jazz and improv acts (Art Ensemble of Chicago, Derek Bailey, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders), extreme metal styles (grindcore, technical death metal, mathcore, black metal and so on) and lots of contemporary classical music. I got into my first punk band via local forums but quickly parted because it actually was unexpectedly boring – I was and still am into punk music and ideas but at that time I was hungrily absorbing lots of completely new and mind-blowing stuff that was way more interesting. Bought my first own guitar which was a decent Squier Stratocaster at that time too and continued playing and practicing.

Click to read about Qz band I played with in 2006-2008

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At the age of 16 I went to university and my classmate Sergey Zorin invited me to play bass in the new band they were arranging with his friend. I never did but always wanted to play bass so I happily agreed for that new experience.

Band was about progressive metal and the leader was an experienced jazz bassist Denis Ustinov who switched to guitar so he gave me all the basics of the bass and he also wrote some decent material with groovy riffs, interesting melodies, time changes and all these things progressive metal is about. I was borrowing his bass at first but then bought my own Ibanez SRX-305 bass which was OK. I went to music school which accepted elder people and started to study jazz with a teacher – mostly we were talking about music and showing various cool stuff to each other but there I finally learned to read the sheet music and got some fundamental theory knowledge.

Music was purely instrumental at the beginning and I was enjoying that fact a lot. We’ve had enough space for every person and it was pretty fun. However, the leader had a picture of a singer too so he invited the girl who a) did not sing very well; b) wrote quiet dumb lyrics; and that kinda ruined the picture of the band for me – music and vox/lyrics were not on the same level obviously. I struggled for a couple of months and eventually band fell apart by itself which was for good.

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I was around 18 at that time, listening a lots of weird stuff including harsh noise, lots of ambient artists, lots of avantgarde music including John Zorn’s projects who became a very important and influential figure for me. I went trough some electronic acts like Aphex Twin, Orbital, Autechre and Boards of Canada; still love the Au though. I played around with my bass and guitar, making drone and noise music, picking up the tunes by ear and looking for people to play with. However, experimental scene in Novosibirsk was not active at all. It was impossible to find new people who would be interested in improvisational or experimental music and treat it seriously, with a necessary approach. Sadly, same situation remains there until now.

At the age of 19 I was completely absorbed by improvisational music, practicing some chord changes and scales while playing by ear along with my favorite acts. Picking up the whole Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog 2007 live bootleg and almost nailing the solos was (and probably still is) my main guitar achievement. I started to discover synthesizers and guitar effects, eventually bought two huge analog Soviet “Polivoks” synths and my first stompboxes. Around the same time I discovered post-rock and shoegaze, slowly coming up to recent dates from the beginning of 90’s, and was excited about ideas of melodical walls of sounds. Glenn Branca and My Bloody Valentine were playing on repeat through the days.

I sold my Stratocaster guitar and bought an amazing Japanese Gibson ES-175 replica, truly a piece of art. Four years later I traded it for Fender Jaguar. Really miss that Japanese guitar now.

Click to read about Fire to Fields band I played with in 2009-2013

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At the local forums I was contacted by a bass player who was looking for a guitar player to join their sludgecore band. I did not know much about this except usual acts like Crowbar, Grief, EyeHateGod and some others, can’t say I was excited by their music or sound but I decided to agree to rehearse. What I found was a band of three people – bassist Dmitry Akulov and drummer Oleg Tkachenko lead by composer and vocalist Stas Hudzik – whose ideas were awesome, dark, ill and absolutely fresh. No southern grooves, no power riffs – music was about sludge indeed, the dirtiest dirt.

We went together for the next four years, playing the craziest mix of extremely slow, atonal and noisy sludge music. Nobody around was playing anything remotely close so it was quiet lonely to share the scene along with screamo punks and hardcore/grindcore local bands. It was great to share the stage with guys who were open-minded, knew a lot of different music and were able to improvise without any hassle. Moreover, song structures were free enough to let me improvise in certain places and I was doing my best there. Since vocalist who composed the music did not know how to play guitar, he often wrote something impossible to play so I was rewriting guitar parts, usually on the fly. We experimented a lot with effects and forms and it was one of the best bands I played with. Sadly it came to an end around 2013 when vocalist and later I left to Saint-Petersburg.

First album was released at R.A.I.G. label in 2012, second album was recorded but never released.

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In the end of spring of 2009 I bought my first saxophone – it was very cheap Chinese alto branded “J.Michael”. Decision was absolutely spontaneous – I was just listening for John Zorn’s works and got hit with an idea of a saxophone. I got some spare money, my dad helped too and I bought that alto from some guy who got it couple of months ago but could not handle the horn. However it was carefully adjusted and was able to play in tune. I started with two or three private lessons with our local saxophone player who introduced me to horn, showed some basic techniques and gave some advises on taking care for the instrument. Coming home after the lessons, I was watching for Eric Marienthal’s video school, looking through Real Books and of course trying to improvise.

Click to read about saxophone days in Novosibirsk circa 2009-2013

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Couple of months later I was about to go to a large event dedicated to various arts and I found that local pianist Roman Stolyar will do an improvised solo set there so I wrote to him and asked if I could join. He agreed and together we played a short 10-minutes improvisation after his set – it was my first experience of playing saxophone in public and improvising with somebody else live. Of course it was horrible. But Roman enjoyed it and we became friends, working together since then, played together around Russia, in Europe and States too.

A bit later, after several months of heavy saxophone practicing, I decided to contact one of the oldest jazz drummers in Novosibirsk who was playing everything from straight-ahead jazz to free and avantgarde music – Sergey Belichenko. He was truly an inspiration for me since he played on those jazz records I heard first. My father knew him and they worked together in the middle of 90’s, organizing a series of Soros jazz events in Novosibirsk. So I got his phone and called him and asked if he was up to play. He agreed and told me that they were coming up with the new lineup of very young musicians and that I could do a part there. We met and rehearsed and he was pleased, mentioning that he couldn’t find a decent saxophone player who could handle the free improvisation and even though my techniques were so-so, I could play with a band and listen for others which was rare for local people, according to him.

I had luck to play in various combos with amazing local musicians such as Vladimir Tretyakov and Vladimir Dranitsa – both astonishing bass players, one is a prominent jazz bassist that can handle anything from duos to orchestras and another is the head of Novosibirsk Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra’s bass group and also very versatile player; Sergey Mikhailenko – amazing mallet instruments professional who was only 16 back then, nailing anything from academical to improv music, he lives and studies in Austria now; Dmitry Smirnov – clarinet player that played lots of classical music as well as improvised fluently and regularly worked with Alexander Markvart’s Studio of Unconscious Music; Gleb Feschenko – also a very young bassoon player with great potential; Igor Dmitriev – amazing jazz piano player, whose records were the first ones I heard in my life; my friend Roman Stolyar and Sergey Belichenko himself were there too.

Together in various combos we played with Susan Allen (Oct 5, 2009 – it was a masterclass she lead for jazz college students), Oliver Lake (Oct 22, 2010), Tim Hodgkinson and Ken Hyder (Sept 20, 2011), William Parker (Feb 11, 2012), Assif Tsahar and Glen Hall (Mar 13-16, 2012), Ilia Belorukov (Apr 22, 2012) and other local and visiting musicians. I also participated in “Theses” festival lead by Alexander Markvart in Kemerovo with Stefano Ferrian, Pierre Borel and Joel Grip (May 26, 2013) which was very fun and amazing event with lost of good people.

 

2012 - with William Parker

 

We did a lot of amazing concerts in Novosibirsk and its surroundings, also one in Krasnoyarsk and it felt really great to move the improvisational music in Novosibirsk. Sadly, not many people needed it there and musicians were spreading away. All young musicians left the city and when I got an invitation to work in Saint-Petersburg, I agreed and left too. I still come home to visit my family and we always play a gig or two with Sergey Belichenko, Vladimir Dranitsa and Roman Stolyar (if he’s in Novosibirsk at that time, we regularly see each other and play in Moscow and St-P).

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Obviously at some point I had to change the instrument as you could not get all the things you need from a cheap horn so I bought King Zephyr alto from 1950s which is still with me. In addition to this I have straight Belgian/French soprano “L. Moeremans – Breveté” made in 1899, curved “Lyon & Healy” soprano (which is Buescher True Tone stensil) from 1920s, also “Lyon & Healy” (Buescher True Tone stensil too) C-Melody from 1920s and a decent Weltklang bari. I tried to like and adopt tenor saxophones but couldn’t – don’t like the sound and the feeling at all. Maybe I should have got a good horn of my own but it just didn’t feel right with others horns and I had a pretty good B&S tenor paired with Otto Link which gave really good sound but still no magic happened.

Click to read about Cosmonautics Day and Kometjakten bands 2009-2013

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I played with Fire To Fields already but I also did some music on my own and had a lot of ideas – at some point I started to think about presenting it. Somewhere around the end of 2009 I met a guy who knew everything about modern and experimental music as well as about old stuff – Egor Klochikhin. We first started to talk at local forums, then met and quickly found that we were looking in the same direction, becoming friends. Egor was playing on bass in some local indie rock band and creating beautiful post-rock music at his home with guitar, bass and computer all by himself under alias “Poslednie Kanikuly (Last Holidays)”. He was open-minded and knew a lot of music which made him extremely versatile so we were discussing albums and sounds from all over the world.

Later some people I knew were organizing a post-rock-related gig and they had a free slot in a list so I asked to include me – I already had some written material with synthesizer and guitars and I was going to improvise over these tracks with saxophone and guitar. I contacted Egor and asked him if he could add some electronic drums and samples to the tracks and when he passed me the tracks back, I was shocked – he did more than adding drums, building complex structures out of pretty simple stuff and made the whole picture way better. I invited him to join me and we played there as a duo + computer, on April 12, 2010.

The date was Cosmonautics day so we named our duo like this and it was a start of a long collaboration. Egor’s friend and also drummer/electronic producer Vitaly Smirnov joined us a bit later after Egor told him about the project and he became very interested in it. We had a lot of plans for our little band but eventually we all were very busy with other acts and even though we started to record some of our ideas, we could see that we would never finish them if we’d work in a regular manner. So we thought and made this project completely studio-based (except one gig in Barnaul city) that would release some music only on Cosmonautics day, April 12 each year and each release is different. On our list there’s IDM, psychedelic metal/improv, noise, trip-hop/downtempo, free punk improv, you name it. That’s how it still goes.

Later in 2010 I gathered a fine pedalboard full of great stompboxes that I used in various projects and was dying to play some shoegazey/post-rock stuff but there wasn’t much of interesting bands around to join. Finally a drummer Artem Kitikov who recently left his band agreed to play with me and we rehearsed as a duo and both found this good – we were completely improvising at first, building tunes from these improvisations. Artem was quiet skillful, already played in some notable local bands and held a rhythm very steady but he wasn’t much into shoegaze and other genres so when I started to play Slowdive’s “Avalyn”, he paired it up with a fast almost-drum-n-bass line that later became our signature cover of that song.

Playing together, we asked few friends about their opinions and everybody told us that we need a bass. So we started looking for a player but it was rather complicated – since I improvised a lot and both I and drummer were carefully listening for each other while building structures on the fly, we could not say how exactly one should play and how many bars for each chord and when to stop et cetera. So we tried to play with a couple of people without any luck and even were thinking about sequencing the bass but then I thought about Egor. He left his indie band and was free at the moment and agreed to rehearse with us. Since the first meeting it was an instant connection – he knew a lot of post-rock and shoegaze music and really listened and reacted to everything happening in the music. All people listened for each other and we instantly got the music so we happily became a trio named “Kometjakten” after a book about Moomin characters by Finnish/Swedish writer Tove Jansson.

We rehearsed and recorded and played some gigs around the city, experimenting with forms and sounds. All of us were creating something, I can’t say somebody was a leader. We played completely improvised concerts and had some tunes that spread across the social networks and even got some fans. When I left the Novosibirsk in 2013, we still had some concerts until 2016 when Artem left drums and stopped any musical activities because of back injury. It was really sad as I believe “Kometjakten” to be the best act I ever participated in as I never experienced the same telepathic mind-reading connection yet.

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In 2013 I moved from Novosibirsk to Saint-Petersburg due to job offer. Even though I had some activity with various projects, it wasn’t enough and was slowly going down while I wanted more. So I didn’t hesitate and accepted the offer, moved to Saint-P in the very end of October 2013. Since I already knew some people from there and kept contact with others via social network, I started to play with and in different projects. It was really interesting to see a controversial and live scene compared to Novosibirsk without any scene at all. People were playing improv in Petersburg with different approach, coming from different backgrounds – it felt great!

I played with Ilia Belorukov, Sergey Kostyrko and Konstantin Samolovov as “MARS-96” trio – it was a beautiful noise-rock set with some screaming saxophone from yours truly, later released digitally and partly on a CD; with Maxim Pozin, Leonid Perevalov, Tatyana Bogomolova, Marina Pozin (Ovchinnikova) and Pavel Kuzin in “Pustozwet” band; with Saint-Petersburg Improvisational Orchestra – playing in a 15-20 people band was absolutely new experience for me. I also happily played in duos and various line-ups, backing for local gigs and for visiting artists and still do it and won’t stop.

Click to read about first trip to New York in 2014

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In 2014 Roman Stolyar told me about ISIM (which stands for International Society of Improvising Musicians) festival/conference where people from all over the world present, collaborate, discuss and play together. I wanted to go there so desperately and decided that I must do this. Roman connected me with Ed Sarath and Billy Satherwhite, both from University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance and I was approved for attending the conference. We agreed with Roman to play a duo, continuing our Siberian works and I immediately bought tickets to New York.

I never was anywhere outside the Russia though I had some inside experience – since age of 10 and until 21 my father took me out to the wild mountains for hikes. Altai, Baikal, Sayan – we’ve been there, exploring the wild nature, climbing the passes and pikes. But eventually it all went smooth and I got a visa for three years. So we went to New York and participated in ISIM 2014 event, June 5 – 8, 2014, right in the middle of NYC at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, played a great and spiritual duo, listened for amazing musicians and hanged out with them afterwards. I am really grateful for that opportunity that introduced me to astonishing amount of great musicians and people including Alex Koi, Ben Willis, Kirsten Carey, Brad Linde, Morten Poulsen, Kate Olson, Cody Putman and many many others.

Roman also managed to book a gig with Glenn Cornet at Spectrum venue and invited there his friend from California Institute of Arts Gordon Kurowski who is a media artist, saxophonist and theremin player. Initially it should’ve been Susan Allen but she did not feel well and could not come to New York. So we played as trio at Spectrum NYC on June 10 where I met Chris Pitsiokos, Michael Foster, Dave Grollman and Pascal Niggenkemper who were playing later – I knew them all already via online videos and it was awesome to met these amazing musicians in person. Since then I kept my eye on what is going on in New York and really enjoyed the city’s diverse and multi-textural musical scene.

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In the same year Glen Hall’s disk ‘Live in Siberia’ was released in Canada with me as a participant, along with other Siberian Improvisers. In 2015 I attended ISIM conference in Switzerland where performed solo and collective composition in combo with Billy Satterwhite, Lynn Baker, Anthony Di Sanza and Roman Stolyar and also collaborated with all kind of musicians with different backgrounds from different countries.

I try to do my best and be prolific, I like challenging task like creating a live ambient soundscape for Ivan Aivazovsky’s large exhibition at Tretyakov gallery in Summer 2016 – ~5 hours of constant sound that should’ve been related to Aivazovsky’s art works.

In March 2017 I visited US and Canada, played some shows in NYC and met a ton of amazing musicians and beautiful human beings including Michael Foster, Sam Weinberg, Chris Welcome, Kevin Shea (THE MESSY HAIR DUO), Dominika Michalowska, Tim Dahl, Weasel Walter, Glen Hall, Rick Sacks, Branko Džinović, Mia Theodorathus, Michael Evans, Matt Mottel, Matteo Liberatore, Max Alper, Sean Ali and many others. Love you all.

Click to read about my participation in Moscow-based ГШ/Glintshake band 2016-now

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Somewhere in the middle of 2016 we met with singer/musician Kate Shilonosova on Facebook – it was pure luck, we just had lots of common friends so simply adding each other was a natural step of expanding the contacts list. I knew what she was doing as Kate NV and within ГШ (former Glintshake) band and I liked it so I wrote a simple note in a key of “Hey! I like what you do, if you’ll ever need a saxophone player then let me know”. Then not so much of time later I saw Kate’s post about her upcoming New York trip and what happened next is weird.

Since 2010 I am a big fan of BJ Rubin show (google it!) – crazy stuff with mix of everything that’s going on in NYC at the moment including wide range of music from free jazz to TV adv jingles sang a capella by a family of musicians, people talking about whatever and doing strange stuff on camera that brings you a stereoscopic stutter and tickles your brain. I’ve contacted BJ before just to express my admiration of his work and since I was following the show, I knew what BJ was about. And Kate’s music of her NV project was something that BJ could like. So I sent him a mail saying that my friend (whom I never actually seen live) goes to NYC and she has a plenty of time and that BJ will like what she does. He indeed liked and sent me his contacts and I passed them to Kate and they got connected and BJ arranged an US tour and a CD release for Kate and they eventually became good friends.

Obviously when Kate came back to Moscow, one of the questions she had in mind was “Who the hell are you, man?” addressed to me. So she consulted with ГШ bandmates and they agreed on trying to play with me. Guys just had an album released and there was a presentation due on Oct, 8th so I went to Moscow and we rehearsed a lot and it was instantly good. We just got the things right from the beginning and it was easy to play with them. We did an awesome album presentation with a large ensemble of different musicians such as notable Moscow-based trumpet Konstantin Sukhan, active composer, flutist and music curator Sasha Elina and amazing percussionist/drummer Anna Gelyuk added to the band’s base of Kate, Evgeny Gorbunov, Yegor Sargsyan and Alexey Evlanov.

 

So I started to play together with the band and all of them are beautiful people and skillful musicians. Together we did some great gigs in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow including the largest Russian festivals such as “SKIF”, “Stereoleto” and “Afisha Picnic”. We also recorded some notes for Kate’s solo project and performed as “NV band” extended line-up where we played Kate’s eclectic pop music with live bass, drums and sax.

Later when I got to NYC, I came to Manhattan Neighborhood Network studio to meet BJ Rubin in person and play some songs for his show and we were talking about how people can do things with Internet and without ever seeing other people and laughed a lot.

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In August 2017 I visited Poland for Intuitiva art/music conference and met and collaborated with musicians and artists such as Carl Bergstrøm-Nielsen, Anna Jędrzejewska, Haruhiko Okabe, Marie Wärme, Susanne Escher, Thomas Zimmermann and whole beautiful family of Pawel and Bożena Dudzinski. We did some fine music and discussions, had some quality time and finally performed for local people in a beautiful gothic/baroque cathedral of 13th century.

Currently (end of 2017) I work with soprano sax and electronics mostly, using a self-built setup of DIY devices and KOMA Field Kit and extensively working with feedbacks and sound physics. Got a great inspiration from my friend and fellow soprano saxophone player Dmitry Krotevich with whom we form two different duos – one is a completely acoustical soprano saxophones duo based around two similar instruments and combination tones, another one is noise/feedback duo that concentrates on big sounds coming from small speakers.

Now you know a bit more about me.