After the gentle „Kaiho“, consisting of tracks independent of each other, KAUAN have released another holistic concept album entitled „Ice Fleet“, in which doom metal, post-rock, ambient and neo-classical music flow into each other. We asked bandleader Anton Belov a few questions about the record, which revolves around a mysterious event in the 1930s USSR – a conversation about the fascination of the unknown, going against the flow of the music industry, and board games.
Until recently you have always released new records in a very short time. However, it has been four years since the release of „Kaiho“ with you now having released your latest album „Ice Fleet“. What have you been up to during that time?
Oh, life changed a few times during these years. I changed my job, moved to another country, started the label kauanmusic, formed my solo project Anton Belov. Indeed, KAUAN delivered albums with short pauses in between. However, since I’m not making music for a living, I’m always free to keep things as slow as they need to be. In this case, I dedicated extra time to composition, production and searching for an appropriate record label.
Right now the corona pandemic is still keeping the world and especially the music industry in suspense. How do you cope under the current circumstances as a band as well as personally?
Nothing really changed in my day-to-day activities. The same music-wise, KAUAN has always been a studio project with a very picky approach to gigs, and now it’s the same. I’m happy enough to have a life companion with whom I never get bored (and hopefully Alina thinks the same (laughs)). Staying together 24/7 and working from home is not challenging for me. It’s funny to call it a “test-drive before retirement” – many young people finally had a chance to properly test their feelings/relationships/marriage.
„Ice Fleet“ is your first album with an English title. How come?
I just loved the sound of the collocation of English words. It was really nothing behind it, just a very nice sounding name representing the story, and I thought: „hell, why not?“
On the new album you deal with a mysterious ship discovery in the USSR at the beginning of the 1930s – an incident about which apparently not much is known. How did you become aware of it?
After „Sorni Nai“ and thousands of touching compliments regarding my musical skills to tell long and tragic stories with music, I knew that sooner or later I’ll do it again. I was looking for a proper story to tell. Nothing caught my attention until my close friend Max Dankevich (who is a scriptwriter) came up with a suggestion to review his “library of tragedies and wonders”. Basically, it is a collection of scenario hooks from real stories. I scrolled through texts and found it. I loved all the unknown circumstances and lack of information about the events. We can’t even be sure if it really happened, there is no proof or evidence. It contributes to the listener’s imagination which has no borders coming from photos, facts and documents. I wanted to tell the story where we’ll have a few beacons, and everyone will be able to make their own interconnections between them.
Such incidents are interesting for sure. However, surely it can also be frustrating to try to distinguish between conspiracy theories and the truth behind these events. How do you approach this difficult undertaking?
Neither „Sorni Nai“ nor „Ice Fleet“ are telling the reasons and causes of events. And that’s why I don’t have to care about it. I’m not telling the story of death, I’m telling the story of how they lived.
The individual songs on „Ice Fleet“ flow smoothly into each other, so that they basically form one long piece of music. For what reason was it important to you not to simply create individual pieces that are independent from each other?
This is the way I’m composing music – as one long piece. It’s even harder for me to compose separate songs (as on „Kaiho“, for instance). I think this concept fits very well with the conceptual approach and ability to tell long stories. It’s kind of an opera or “audio movie”, if you will.
Why did you divide the album into individual tracks anyway?
We did it because of technical boundaries only. Most of the digital platforms do not prefer long tracks, some of them are not even allowing them at all. CD factories don’t like long tracks as well, they say, there is a good chance of burn failure if you are trying to put one long file there. I’m okay with that since every long composition has its own parts and sections, I just need to find the right spots for them.
With a continuously flowing album like „Ice Fleet“ it is probably difficult to release individual tracks as singles for playlists and things like that. Do you think this is holding you back in terms of reaching a broader audience?
Honestly, I don’t think much about it, KAUAN is not that type of band that cares about a broader audience, we have never been in the “pop” range, so why should we care about tendencies? As a listener, I can state a big problem with the once exciting feel of “searching for new music” – it is a crazy amount of new carbon-copy artists, and a mess with digital platforms’ new “playlist” approach which makes it very difficult. I’m in this old guard who still approaches an “album” as one whole work, not a compilation of tracks that have previously been released as singles and have nothing in common to bind them all together.
Albums in general seem to be slowly but surely going out of fashion as a format. What do you think about that?
I’m pretty sure 99% of the musicians I’m listening to will never change their approach (some of them never released albums, btw). So, if an artist feels natural with releasing separated tracks, it’s fine.
You have released a specially designed tabletop RPG to accompany the album. How did you come up with the idea to tell the story behind „Ice Fleet“ in this way?
As I mentioned earlier, „Ice Fleet“ is a very open-ended story with a lot of unknown stuff. And tabletop roleplaying games share this quality – players are building the story as the game session progresses. Since I’m fascinated with TTRPGs, I thought it might be a good idea to combine these two arts and try to give another level of immersion to the listener.
Are board games one of your hobbies? If so, what games do you like to pass the time with?
Yes, my passion for board games has been a kind of premise to my tabletop roleplaying hobby. Here are few top titles I been playing recently: 7th Continent, KDM, Gloomhaven, Fall Of Magic, Arkham Horror LCG and all the Warhammer Quests.
What are your next plans for KAUAN or your other projects?
A few reworked back-catalogue items will be released this year, and a big show in Helsinki this October. Besides that nothing specific in the current master plan, I have a few basic ideas for the new album, but it’s too abstract to discuss.
Finally, let’s do a quick brainstorming session. What do you think about the following terms?
Glaciers melting: Probably we are the last generation which has seen the real winter with snow. It’s unfortunate because I grew up in places where the average temperature in January is -35 C°. This year it’s been -4 C°. Feel the difference.
The unknown: Fascination and danger.
Black metal: The most integral part of my life and godfather of my development as a musician.
Isolation: The way to review and reimagine your life. A rare moment of life, when you can stop time, turn off the lights, go to bed and ask yourself – am I a good person or so-so?
Streaming concerts: Would love to try with professionals arranging it.
Tenhi’s record „Kauan“: Love every single part of it. Helped me to make a few tough decisions in my student life. Ilkka Salminen has the best voice on the planet. Such a pity he left Tenhi.
Thank you very much for your time. Would you like to share some final words with the readers?
Thanks for your thoughtful questions, and stay safe!