INTERVIEW: Metaquorum | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Making music as an act of protest and rebellion is etched into the very fabric of our culture; from folk and punk to jazz and blues, we’re lucky that kicking against established conventions and making our voices heard is an acceptable form of expression. For some though, like Russian-born Dmitry Ermakov from North East-based music project MetaQuorum, simply listening to certain musical styles when he was growing up could get him into deep water. “The Soviet Union was a very repressive society. I was almost suspended for playing rock ’n’ roll on the school piano, hauled off by the police for having Def Leopard etched on my satchel, and later, our gigs were often busted. Our music was a form of protest, a way of expressing ourselves, and because it was forbidden or went against the Soviet ideology, it had a kind of urgency, like being in a pressure cooker.”

Having begun playing piano at the age of five, Dmitry attended a prestigious music school at the St Petersburg State Capella, where he had a vigorous training in classical music. This ultimately led to his interest in structural fusion and, after a multitude of other projects in the Soviet Union’s underground scene alongside renowned jazz and blues musicians, to the North East and the formation of MetaQuorum.

Our music was a form of protest, a way of expressing ourselves, and because it was forbidden or went against the Soviet ideology, it had a kind of urgency

The multi-cultural group is also home to fellow Russian Viktor Mikheyev, who Dmitry first met in 1988 while looking for a bassist for his punk jazz band; Dutch drummer Koos van der Velde, who comes from a metal and punk background; plus New Yorker Markus ‘Bluesharp’ Bossert; trumpeter Andrew Guerin, sourced from Newcastle’s own Jazz Café; and vocalist Carol Ermakova. The multitude of musicians lend their unique and varied backgrounds to the sound, as evidenced in the release of their second studio album, Witchcraft Jazz, released on double vinyl this month.

It’s not simply this melting pot of cultures that gives MetaQuorum their inventive sound though; their music is a riot of styles – from prog, funk, jazz, rock and electronica – and diverse influences – from Mozart to Zappa, quantum physics and the wild open landscapes of the North Pennines – all coming together in a form Dmitry likes to call Meld. “Nowadays there are so many different styles all developing off in different directions, technology is developing fast too, both in terms of instruments and production techniques, and fusion should be using all this. We found our music couldn’t be pigeon-holed into any one genre and that’s why we figured we’d have to call it something else: Meld.”

Meld’s main approaches concern structural fusion and the development of the sound itself: “You take a set form and then fuse it with something quite different. Parallax, for instance, was inspired by a Mozart piano concerto, Oregon and Weather Report, would you believe. So then the classical form is adapted, infused with totally different material.” Elsewhere on the record, the playful Jonathan Livingstone’s warm bass tones and groove-laden vibe makes way for melodic synths. “In Witchcraft Jazz you can hear everything from jazz and swing to heavy metal and hip-hop. It’s like using different colours to express a particular emotion or feeling.”

While some of Dmitry’s earlier projects may have had political or protest agendas, with MetaQuorum he’s content to let the music speak for itself. “The album is about music, about creativity, sound. There’s no other message here. Everything is over-politicised nowadays, but with an instrumental album we have the luxury of concentrating on the music itself. Art for art’s sake, if you like.”

MetaQuorum release Witchcraft Jazz on 22nd February.


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