Arda is a Muscovite band from Power Metal founded in 2002 by Pavel Okunev, former vocalist of the group ‘Epidemia’, with great success during the 90s.
Since my first visit to Moscow, a place called my attention, the name of which, unlike all the businesses and the craft bazaar opposite, was in English. It was Rock House, a modest bar with a forum in the background, which has become one of the stages where you can enjoy the Metal scene in the Russian capital.
There was the first time I saw Karen Ter-Mesropyan on stage. He is guitarist and vocalist in four Thrash and Power Metal projects, including Pavel Okunev’s, who has been part of this scene since the 90s. His current band, Arda, has collaborated with some of the most transcendental rock and metal figures in Russia.
We met one night at his studio, located inside a complex that used to be a Soviet factory. Before the rehearsal, and with a glass of brandy, the conversation began to flow.
Arda started as a Power Metal band with Progressive influences and a bit of Speed Metal. “It was the end of the 90s, at that time I listened to popular projects in Europe such as Helloween, Gamma Ray and even Angra from Brazil. I took my guitar and I was inspired by those harmonies. I began to compose based on the forms of Power Metal and that is how our first album, О скитаниях вечных и о земле (About everlasting wanderings and earth), which is the favorite of our public”.
Although in almost two decades several subgenres have arisen, as well as an intermittent emergence of bands, Pavel considers that they are fleeting experiments and the bands that emerged during these periods do not usually last. The changes that Arda has gone through are rooted in its interpreters. “Musicians have changed practically in each album, although some have remained for years, and others only in one recording, this has contributed to the evolution of the band. When I look for musicians, they should be able to perform the material we have already written and also contribute with something else, something special. So, progressively, Arda has become more complicated in song performing, so I consider that the current band is the best and they are making it excellent”.
“We only play honest and pure metal”
One of the strengths of Arda until today is the regularity of his presentations: “we try to play as much as we can. Russia is big, a tour here takes much longer than in Europe, and there are many cities where you can show up day after day. Usually we manage it, when we go to small cities we contact local bands and they support us, everyone calls their fans and we collaborate. In Moscow we have individual shows, in addition to working with other metal bands and organizing festivals. ”
Arda has already performed at the most important Open Air in Russia, ‘Nashestvie’ in the Tver region, which attracts more than 100 thousand people a year. “Rock is popular, Metal maybe not at the same level but we do our best”.
Beyond their national success, the situation of Russian Metal bands related to other countries becomes different. “The most complicated thing regarding the promotion of our bands abroad is the language. Very few manage to get wide popular outside our borders, I could only mention Arkona. Although their compositions are in Russian, they go on tour frequently, perhaps because, in addition to the music, they offer a performance with pagan elements, horns, furs, etc. We only play honest and pure metal in our language, although I can say that we have fans in Latin America. It’s funny because YouTube comments are barely written in English, but you read a comment in Russian and then one in Spanish saying ‘Me Gusta’. We don’t know how it happened but Spanish-speaking audience likes us. ”
Regarding the diffusion in digital media, its main network is VKontakte, the so-called ‘Russian Facebook’. “In VK you can pay for promotion, it’s the current trend in music. If your songs are easy to listen to, you have more popularity, that’s why people listen to such bad music. We understand that simplicity works, that is why we try to be in balance, we compose songs that are easy to understand, but with a complex performance at the instrumental level “.
Arda’s music is available from vinyl and cd, to Yandex Music, Spotify, Google Play and iTunes. “Streaming platforms do not give us a lot of money, but it’s great that people on the other side of the world can hear us with good quality.”
“In Metal we sing about love, death, philosophy and dragons”
The relationship between art and politics could be said to be inherent, and more so in the Russian context. “Ten years ago, the government tried to influence young people through the sponsorship of big rock shows with famous bands, and even bands that had nothing to do with politics started supporting some parties, but that stopped eventually. Everyone wanted money at that time, so they agreed to those practices”.
Currently, Pavel notes a distinction in the discourse and the particular dynamics of certain genres. “The good thing about Metal is that it’s beyond politics. Most Metal bands sing about love, death, philosophy and dragons.
On the other hand, some Hard Rock bands have configured their speech against politics; Of course that position brings popularity, but it is something fleeting, it extinguishes before the minimum variation and in Russia everything changes quickly “.
The road has not been easy for Arda, and in general, for many musicians nowadays. “People leave music because of lack of money. If it does not go beyond a hobby, at some point you should take a regular job and then you forget how to play the guitar and sing. But, if you manage to take the music to a level closer to professional, you can make it grow, it depends on your will and luck. I do not think that talent exists or means too much. It involves work: to rehearse, write, produce, call radio stations, do everything for yourself, and hopefully, there will be results eventually. ”
“You will not be the same after an Arda show”
Regarding the future, Arda intends to convoke 10,000 people for a solo concert, “I know we can do it in Russia, within a maximum of 5 years”.
In addition, Pavel has held meetings with agencies and record labels to materialize one of the band’s main wishes: “We want to organize a European tour of Arda and promote our latest material there. We would also like to go to Mexico and Latin America. We want to see the cities, to play even in small bars, the important thing is that people see us, because I am sure that after a concert of ours, their perception will change. They will not be the same after living an Arda show. ”
In October 2017, the band released their first acoustic EP “Не угаснет надежда” (Hope will not die), which contains three songs recorded with violin, cello and percussion.
Arda is formed by:
Pavel Okunev – Lead Voice
Mikhail Shaev – Guitar, support voice
Anton Ginsbourg – Bass
Karen Ter-Mesropyan – Guitar
Den Zolotov – Percussions