Schweinemaschinen are from St Petersburg; their name, which would logically be translated as "Pigmachines," might suggest a combination of antique, schoolboy adventures from WWII and some ill-conceived science fiction. And indeed, the band's PR work positions them somewhere similar, between an ironically engaged present and wholly imagined future. Their "Prehistory" has been sketched for Russian listeners as follows, even though it's set in the near future. The creaking sounds of logic under strain are already audible.
"In the year 2012, aliens have been unable to save the Planet Earth. People have turned into vegetables. Some of them, unable to get out of bed, have fallen asleep behind the wheel - and drive headlong into rivers; others are tied to a life of Big Macs and MacDonalds; young couples cling to each other in movie theaters. People are no longer leaving their workplace... But why?"
Heads are shaken in disbelief at what the future might bring.
"All this could, perhaps, be the subject of a debut video made by the creative team at Art Punk Pixels, to go with the Schweinemaschinen track, 'Apple.' But that's so far from the truth! Each member of the group is shown [in the actual video] in their own, specially invented role." At this point in the proceedings, it becomes clear that far from a standard press-blurb, we're instead being offered an introduction to several young musicians neither through fixed, factual data, nor through the formless workings of unbridled fantasy. A bizarre middle ground is being mapped out between straight-laced biographies and gibberish.
A video has indeed been shot (below), placing the artists somewhere between visual documentation and free-wheeling imagination. Devoid of interplanetary life-forms, Big Macs, and faulty steering wheels, it nonetheless concerns the importance of weird surprises - on a smaller, quotidian scale. The same clip, at least musically, also makes clear the love of Schweinemaschinen for the unusual structures of Deerhoof.
So what are these "specially invented roles," used in the video to take the place of inconceivably dramatic science fiction?
"The guy playing on the guitar is a 24-year old neurotic and graduate of the Siverskii Accountancy School. He exists in a state of constant paranoia... The bass guitarist is a sexual maniac, who lives a quiet life and tills his own plot of land on St Petersburg's city limits. As for the drummer, he's the son of a theater actress. He has a high IQ, but his emotional intellect (EQ) is low. These three young men met completely by chance. They'll stop at nothing in order to find out: What's going on? Oh, my sweet little apple, you're lying dead on the table... isn't it me?"
Reliable viewpoints of actuality take a discernible knock.
Nonsensical though the final words of that quote may sound, it's no secret that they're taken from the song in question, "Apple." They conclude a couple of attempts by Schweinemaschinen to fashion a meaningful worldview, either on the basis of science fiction or thespian ingenuity. Neither succeeds, since they both end with a pointed query; neither reverie nor rational behavior make the world look sensible.
One might think that lyrical verse would - as a tool of auto-therapy, perhaps - bring some clarity or closure in moments of turmoil, yet the quoted stanza ends abruptly with a conundrum: "Isn't it me?" The lyricist cannot even tell if he's the object of his own metaphors; a stubborn gap persists between songwriting and its subject, between grammar and life. According to this creative logic (or spiraling disconnect), the more Schweinemaschinen write and perform, the less they'll feel at home in their own surroundings.
The group's disorderly, spontaneous engagement with the world has deeper roots in their shared history, since they claim - much like their video - to have first met in 2008 "as the result of an unplanned, improvised performance." Their first (proper) concerts were attempted only four months later, very far from home, in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Even during those fledgling shows, a slapdash, empirical attitude prevailed in the search for a proper sound and fitting philosophy: "In between numbers, the musicians would just keep themselves busy; they'd either tune their instruments or have offhand conversations."
In between numbers, the musicians would just keep themselves busy; they'd either tune their instruments or have offhand conversations.
The young men involved in this messy evolution were - and remain - Vitalii Popov (guitar and vocals), Dmitrii Shuktomov (bass, vocals), and Ivan Glukhov/Andrei Zaika (alternating on drums).
When debut material was eventually finished in a local studio, the musicians' greatest expression of gratitude was for "some very patient magnetic tape" that had been able to withstand their off-the-cuff, endless experimentation. Multiple subjects and styles were tried, tested, and jettisoned before anything was finalized. Both studio staff and their equipment were pushed to the limit.
It seems possible to dismiss this kind of outlook as devil-may-care sloppiness, for one simple reason: nobody else cares! A counterargument might, however, claim that Schweinemaschinen's free-wheeling, goalless activity is justifiable in that it's almost divorced from profitable enterprise. Why adopt a professional attitude, when music itself is defunct as a profession?
Let's take, by way of illustration, a recent note on the band's "official" blog, listing their intentions in the near future; almost none of these plans would materialize. "As far as the upcoming activities of Schweinemaschinen are concerned, we can say the following. 1: The band is busy, busy, busy... rehearsing nonstop. 2: On top of that, we're writing material for our new record. 3: We've decided to spend more time developing our social networking profile. 4: We're making more video and, 5: Our schedule of forthcoming concerts is falling into place. Finally, there's #6: We need more people!!!"
Those people are required more on the dancefloor than on stage. And yet, if we look at a recent pre-show announcement, there is no guarantee that either people or profits will be forthcoming; once more, the "need" for extra bodies is determined by a financial logic. Any inability to pull in a decent wage, though, makes that logic utterly invalid.
As ever, the absence of cash would transfer into the absence of adult behavior. "We've no idea whether this'll be our best show of the year or not. Likewise, we've no idea what'll happen to the sound quality - or whether the crowd will be full of dead serious, really intent faces! One thing's for sure, all the same. If only a few people come to the gig, then we'll probably not get paid again... In that case, we'll do whatever we want, while - at the same time - not trying to miss a minute! We'll simply perform and go home - full of desire to do it all again!"
There's a potentially happy, albeit peculiar rationale at work here. Let's summarize a few things: the band feels constantly divorced from anything resembling objective, goal-driven actuality. Little makes sense in their world. The logic of profit and/or social stability is absent - and, as a result, various whims are foregrounded. This inverse relationship (less success = more silliness) continues to snowball, to the point where zero cash merely encourages a fully-fledged surrealism.
This thought process has been transferred, with marked irony, to future audience members: "To be honest, it'll be free to get in before 8:30, but it's not cool to come when you're not paying. After all, we're only doing this for the money[!], so bring all your friends. Bring them even if they don't want to come! We'll take all your money and spend it as pointlessly as possible. Come after 8:30... so you do have to pay."
To be honest, it'll be free to get in before 8:30, but it's not cool to come when you're not paying. After all, we're only doing this for the money[!], so bring all your friends. Bring them even if they don't want to come! We'll take all your money and spend it as pointlessly as possible. Come after 8:30... so you do have to pay.
The number of comments after this post? Zero. Nothing makes sense, nobody's paying any attention, and there's no money to be made. As a result of which, anything, i.e., total freedom, is possible (at least in optimistic theory).
Free-flowing hair points the way.
Matters reach the point where our musicians even refer to the overly structured nature of concerts per se as "a rather pompous option[!]... It's not, though, as if what we do constitutes some kind of 'false or non-concert'; it's simply something... different." It has no fixed form and cannot, therefore, be named.
This enduring sense of belonging to slight disorder, dissonance, or illogicality also extends to the band's generic limits. "It has been really hard to find something that suits us. We've never set ourselves a concrete goal; we've never sought the kind of situation where we'd establish our reference points - and then listen non-stop to all the relevant bands in that genre. We may, now and then, have been vaguely interested in some style or other, but we've never actively listened to anyone."
It has been really hard to find something that suits us. We've never set ourselves a concrete goal; we've never sought the kind of situation where we'd establish our reference points - and then listen non-stop to all the relevant bands in that genre. We may, now and then, have been vaguely interested in some style or other, but we've never actively listened to anyone.
March. Beat. Own drum.
Such is the formless nature of how Schweinemaschinen work, because anything improvised or impromptu is rated highly. Just as the band was born in a moment of ad-libbed, unstructured performance, so their ongoing efforts embody high levels of potentiality and - by implication, risk - which requires equally high levels of trust among Popov, Glukhov, Shuktomov, and Zaika. Tough times will require strong friendships - just in case.
There's a pleasant irony, therefore, in that these three young men, by rejecting local music's "porcine," "machine-like" workings, have actually found a better social and artistic option. Put differently, only through major failure did they find a minor success.
Whether or not it will allow them to live in something nicer than cardboard boxes, though, remains a moot point. A small-scale, trusting network that values itself above anything outdoors, may, sooner or later, be sidelined from the world at large altogether. The image below certainly speaks to worries of gradual demise.
Schweinemaschinen's new single, offered above, undoubtedly reflects these issues of future disarray - and possible regret. Entitled "I Call You Back," it is not only markedly quieter than earlier releases. It also relates the experience of an individual left alone at an airport, apparently regretting the absence of a(n old) girlfriend. He hopes to "call back" the reliability of the past.
It remains, therefore, to be seen how long the movements of Schweinemaschinen will travel the thin line between generic freedom and audience impatience, between hopes for inclusion and the risks of disappearance. Three cheers for irresponsibility in the meanwhile - from the deck of a listing ship.