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8th Edition Feb 28 – Mar 03, 2024 Innsbruck, Austria


News, 04.05.2022

Interview with Nikita Kabardin (PAPA SRAPA)

Why did you and Konstantin Ivanov do this documentary film about Papa Srapa and the Noise Music community?

In the teenage years, I got really interested in avant-garde sound, noise music and all that. There was a form of protest around, against the basic nature of pop music. One day my good friend just came and showed me this crazy synthesizer from this crazy dude and said: „Let‘s play with it!“ So I did and was like WOW! It was made out of some child‘s toy basically. It was such a spiritual experience playing with it and since then I thought: I should do something with this guy. The idea came to invite him to Saint Petersburg and just organize a concert but as the local creative community is very vibrant so, suddenly it became not just a concert but a very prepared scene by the artists, which was very beautiful. Naturally we then got four operators filming it. Then we got another session in a local gallery of experimental sound. They also recorded this, cause why not. And then after those couple of crazy days. We were like OK we have half terabyte of stuff, so seems to be this is becoming a movie, even though I never had a background of making movies and never wanted. It was just like the real interest in this music basically forced us to do that, it was very random.

So, it was not planned to make a film?

It became an idea to make a movie during those concerts. But then after the concerts, we realized that it is not going to happen out of this material, as is was not enough to make a movie. So the material was just on my hard drive for four years without doing anything. I had been busy with other stuff, going to Sweden, organizing new life there. But there was no day I didn’t think about this unfinished thing. And time was passing and after four years we finally found the energy and some personal money to go back to Saint Petersburg, take the team, take the equipment, rent stuff, get the drone, whatever and fly to Rostov, the hometown of the hero and to film the rest, to get into his home and to try to finish it, to finish the story. So that’s how it happened.

So the scenes where Papa Srapa is performing are this material you are talking about?

It‘s more than that. We used the scenes that we filmed, then also filmed more in Rostov in his hometown. In the movie, there is a phrase that Papa Srapa is saying in the beginning: „You are going to get lost, you are going to disappear because all the previous filmmakers who came to me all disappeared.“ It sounds scary but that’s true. We didn’t know that there were 5 different teams who were filming him before and never finished anything. And suddenly after people started talking about our project we got a couple of these teams reaching out to us and telling us, you know, offering to use their unfinished material also. So we did, but also went on youtube and other social media and tried to find everything we could. All of the fanrecorded stuff of Papa Srapa.

Do you see yourself as a member of the noise music subculture?

I would say that making this movie and eventually the promotion and then screenings in different countries actually made us even more „a member“ of that subculture. Noise music is very international it’s everywhere and our goal of the project is to get connected with all the different communities and maybe show the world that this genre of music exists and why it exists and what values it brings and why people even come together and listen to the crazy sounds. Like what happens to them, this is an interesting phenomenon and our ambition is eventually to cover up on a wider spectrum. And that movie, I guess gives us sort of a base to connect to any artist we could. Thankfully that movie made us part of the community.

Does your film convey any political message?

We can’t avoid it. That movie has some connections with politics, even though we didn’t want that. It’s a Russian art and nowadays there are so many discussions around like, should we not show Russian movies, should we like just eeeh… This discussion is going right now around the festival of Cannes, where one of the movies is Russian and they didn’t cancel it but there was like a lot of pressure to do that. In our case I would say we are part of the community in Russia, who was always against the regime and like me, personally, I was protesting since like 12 years ago and spent nights in jail and stuff like that and so that was part of our life even though we made a movie about the most unpolitical thing ever. But the biggest thing is Papa Srapa himself as a real Shaman. In the movie he speaks about, when one person dies it’s connected to a certain other person. And then he died, Papa Srapa himself, he died few hours before the war with Ukraine started. So he didn’t want to see it. So thats another connection. And then also the censorship, people in the minister of Culture they were talking about our movie getting success in Russia but they explicitly, and that was heard by other people in this minister of culture, wanted to stop our buffed festivals. Because we are not going to be friends with them. So that‘s how this world works in totalitarian or out written regimes: you have to be friends with the regime and if you‘re not, your art will be just blocked. Even if it‘s the most apolitical thing ever like noise music.

How did you get in contact with the people we can see in the film?

To be honest it is very different with each of them. We started by just filming Papa Srapa himself and at his home. Some of the people we got in the movie were just hanging out at his home and so we convinced them to do an interview. They were very interesting people and they were just randomly there. And also, his mother. It took us 3 days to convince her to give an interview she really didn’t want that. Some people even reached out to us, some got recommended by Papa Srapa himself like in his words: „Oh you are talking to the idiots, talk to those people instead“ and so we got to those people. To be honest there were like 20 times we felt the movie was done and each of those times we got another person coming up who became a crucial part. So we did another interview, went to Moscow again, went to the studio again, and so it‘s a process that took more than a year and people just kept coming. We tried to find some people for a very long time but couldn’t. It’s a long process and I would say that you can’t really know in advance if you film a documentary, with people you want to talk with but during the process, you should be open to being able to adapt and add more people and that will modify the story and the overall direction of the film. It is important to be open for that.

What can you say about the town where the film is set? What kind of place is it?

It’s two cities, Rostov and Saint Petersburg, I would say the main is Rostov that’s where Papa Srapa is from. It’s a city in the south of Russia which has a very vibrant art community and a mixture of different nationalities, very diverse city. Yet it’s not one of the safest and most developed cities and that adds to the vibrancy of that place. Overall south of Russia is very like the south of Europe, people are talking loud and energetically, very emotional everybody has a very direct way of speaking, so it‘s actually a pretty hard place for people from capitals to come. They don’t like people from Moscow or Saint Petersburg all that much because for them we are pretentious and hipsters. People looked at us and laughed. Some would like the attention while others in Rostov they wouldn’t care for it, instead, they only care about the truth, so that’s the town where people say what they think. And even if what they think is the most brutal thing you could hear, they have no filter. That added complexity to our work as well because we are not authorities for them they don’t like us and they don’t like talking to us all that much but if they finally would, it was the truth, so at least that worked. Overall it has been a really great experience there. So one of the interesting places we filmed in the movie was underground to some unknown place Papa Srapa thinks this is a rocket factory but no one really knows, and with the lights, we found some very old Soviet electronic components. Could actually be an underground rocket factory because according to Papa Srapa if you want to hide something, hide it in the middle of the city, maybe that’s the point. And yeah the place is worth the research. It‘s a vibrant scene and a very interesting community. Yet it is very hard to research because they don’t like people from outside.

The people you interviewed, did you tell them how to act or how to dress or was it their own decision? Was it all real? Did you change something in their appearance?

No, we didn‘t do any adjustments to how they looked like. We had some weird naked people in the movie, I guess that‘s why you’re asking but that was exactly how they were. For example, that guy who was only dressed in shorts, this guy is actually famous in this area of Rostov because he is dressed like that all year. Even during the winter. The winter in the South of Russia is still cold and his only transport is a bicycle. So he is well known as naked cyclist in the city and he randomly was at Papa Srapas home when we came and we didn’t adjust anything it wouldn’t be possible. So yeah it’s just those people who are exactly like that. It could be a mistake to try to change them I would say. We noticed those ASMR-like scenes where you can hear the noises very clearly, did you think about sound mixing, in general, a lot and did you maybe have to learn some new things about that, because it was a film about sound in the end and noise? Exactly. We put a very big focus into the sound because that is a movie about sound. Also to be honest the experimental music and sound community is so big, everybody knows Papa Srapa so it was like 12 or 13 sound people who got involved. Alexander Gregoeiw is the main part o fit but the effort he put into of the movie was very comparable to the overall effort put into the editing of the movie in terms of video. So we understood that we are beginner filmmakers and didn’t have the budget to make visual effects all that much. Therefor decided for more effort towards sound effects. As it is cheaper but also people in that community were so happy to join us, to work on that and spend hours and tens of hours on that. We really got more than ten composers producing a lot of tracks and a few more composers just allowing their entire catalog to be used in the movie. We used as much as we could. We understood that the movie is in Russian so for a foreign audience it would be hard to understand, first they would focus on reading the subtitles but further in said: ok so let‘s focus less on the voice being clear but more on the voice being this ASMR or whatever. So you could hear and experience something while you are reading the subtitles. I wouldn’t say that we were able to achieve everything exactly as we intended, but it taught us a lesson of how hard it is to actually make sounds for a movie, how long it takes and how much effort it needs. But we did our best and I am pretty happy with the results even though It’s like we didn’t finish the production even after our first festival screening. We continued for more than half a year after that, polishing, because we couldn’t stop. But I think what we got now, it sounds good, yes.

The one scene where Papa Srapa is in the shop and you follow him and he is explaining to the guy “oh those guys are getting on my nerves” and so on was this real? And how did you feel about it?

It was terrible but Konstantin Ivanov who acted as a cameraman and who is co-director as well, he is not scared, he doesn’t care what other people think and just has to document whatever happens. We were really arguing if we should add that to the movie or not because it is a little bit cringy. Those local guys in the store were really unhappy, and they didn’t want to be filmed but I guess that also shows the city and shows how people are actually like. It’s probably the first time they saw a camera like that, they were not prepared at all, didn’t want to be filmed, it was annoying for them. So yes, it was real, it was really hard and I am really proud of Konstantin for doing that. I would’ve never been able to keep filming after people are basically screaming at you. And Papa Srapa was not comfortable at all, but I mean that was the best we could get. It was important for us to show the process of acquiring those components. Because that’s a part of his story and of each synthesizer. Each synthesizer consists of some electronic components that are either found underground in the so-called Soviet rocket factory or just in a regular store or from somewhere else. We tried to convince Papa Srapa to go with us to this market and he was like ‘Ah no let‘s go to the lake instead and take a swim’ He was trying to change our attention but we stayed persistent. He hated that but he went with us.

What was it like to work with Papa Srapa in general?

He never really put any single effort into making our life comfortable. Rather the opposite. He tested us all the time and was making sure our work is the hardest possible. So it was a constant psychological confrontation at times he was just being open and at times he was just doing whatever he wanted to do and at other times he was trying to take the power in his hand and told us what to do, control us. At one particular moment, he was screaming at us „Go the fuck away“ and „You will not film this you complete idiots“. He thought because we were coming from St Petersburg and Stockholm he was the only with this rough side but because I am originally from far east of Russia and also from a very criminal part at one moment I had to use that part of me and really scream at him to sort of engage into the word fight with him in order to calm down. I looked at the team and they were all like showing me ok we are done here we have to leave - so it was very very hard. Though in some moments he was very friendly. Still gave us hard times in the post-production. He kept promoting his negative feedback about the movie. But then eventually something happened, he even joined a couple of screenings where he played after the movie. It took a very long time before he stopped fighting with us but I guess that also showed the real nature of the real-life punk warrior. He didn’t want to be famous he hates it and that’s what he says in the movie, it’s shameful for him to be the center of attention and I guess that’s how a real Rock’n’roll star would act like. I would imagine Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison, I mean according to the books and sources they were acting exactly like that and that was the biggest conflict in their life they hated the fact that they were this center of attention and so was Papa Srapa.

The word shamanism is used a few times. Do you have any kind of personal experience with shamanism or do you know any shamans?

Shamanism is a big word in Russian culture because we have a lot of different kinds of shamans in the far east, where I am from, in Siberia, and also in a few other regions. But as also mentioned in the movie, to get to the real shamans is rather impossible. It‘s really hard and if people come to the traditional tribes and ask to film a shaman, they would start doing weird dances to fool those people. So according to Papa Srapa he was taught by a real shaman for a while but to be honest I am not sure, I truly believe him. I truly believe that just like our world changes shamanism changes as well. And so if we read the old stories about Indian shamans and they are like snakes and cobras so why not the modern shaman be someone who is taming electronic components? So, in answer to your question, did I experience real shamanism, I truly believe that my biggest experience with real shamanism is the experience with Papa Srapa. People are not joking when they say that he is a real shaman. On his concerts you felt something that you can’t at other concerts, (ambulance sirens in the background) „Hello Papa Srapa” - you feel the connection to something that you don’t feel otherwise. It is impossible to explain but it’s not just sound because it’s the connection of his personality and his …. His focus is on internal and the way he is able to spread it to everybody who is around. So I would say he is truly a shaman, even though I can’t really explain how this works. Nobody can, I mean how a person could just understand the perfect moment to die. When he was dying he refused to be taken to the ambulance, he said “no need, don’t call it. It’s okay, that’s the time.”.

How were the reactions to the movie, did people like it?

Papa Srapa was not a fan at the beginning but then his reactions became neutral to positive. I would say it was pretty good. Some groups of people really hated it and told us that we were very fake and just Moskow Hipsters but that is what usually happens with any biography movie. True fans are always unhappy about it. It’s the same as true fans of Harry Potter are not fans of the movies. So there is that as well but I would say the majority of people gave positive feedback and seemed to enjoy it, both in Russia and other countries. We got a very good response from film critics who are involved in different festivals as well. So for a debut movie, given all the limitations of the productions and though the story is not very clear or perfect, those are things that people usually tell us. For the first movie, we definitely got a lot more positive feedback than we ever expected. We never imagined coming, we never even really hoped to get as many places with our screenings. Of course, that interest in Papa Srapa himself helped with that, that was the most reason why the first screenings were sold out of course. It is an interest for him but then people were not disappointed I would say. Most of them.

We really want the noise community and avant-garde community and the world to know about Papa Srapa. Historically we Russians, Soviets are not good at promoting ourselves. Very little people know Dziga Vertov, a very prominent documentary filmmaker of the beginning of the 20 century. He has researched every single movie faculty in the world and there are books about him published in the USA but no one else knows about him. As it seems we traditionally are really bad at promoting anything, we took it as a challenge. The noise music according to Papa Srapa and you could argue that that is the fact, like some of the researchers of the avant-garde say that this overall experimental sound first happened in the modern easts of Russia, even before the Sovjet Union. That was the first time we got experimental sound recording ever happening. But we never got to spread the word about it, instead, kept saying that it all started with either John Cage or something along that. Which just shows with art in order to achieve success it’s not enough to just do great art. You also have to be great at selling and business too. That’s what we traditionally are the worse at.

How long did the whole process take form beginning to end?

Oh. That was the longest project in my life for sure. From the idea to the first festival screening, it took around 6 years. Out of them, active work was of course not all the time, it was like 4 years of just doing nothing and waiting, but the production period definitely took more than a year. And many many hundreds of hours. Huge respect for Konstantin Ivanov who spent an impossible amount of time just sitting and canceling all the other priorities in his life in the name of that. So that’s incredible. I worked at very complicated technology projects for example the Battlefield game or Spotify and I never experienced anything there which was as hard as making a movie. My basic work even at the hardest times is nothing compared to that hobby that turned out to be the hardest work.