eye (2006-27)

Eulogy for Vadim

Where Black Metal found perfection

Eulogy for Vadim

In 1991, a young, weird violin prodigy arrived in Maryville. This kid had been inundated with classical music since he was 4 years old. He studied the masters, but he breathed rock’n’roll, all the American hell-raising tunes that had once seemed so distant from Russia. He came here, and made it his own, unleashing his own brand of hell.

“He used an alternative tuning, from a violin structure,” says B. Riot , the drummer for the Dirty Works and one of Vadim’s closest friends. “He really used that violin style when he played, which was perfect for black metal.”

Knoxville may not have been ready for what Vadim wanted to jam into our eardrums. The old Electric Wizard on the strip—where anyone could buy beer as long as they were tall enough to see over the counter—became infamous for freaks in need of freaky music.

“I was starting to get kind of conservative,” B. Riot explains. “I had just come from Mississippi, where I was going to college. I was kind of tight-lipped and closed-minded because I was so focused on the classical music that I was training for. Vadim really brought me into the— arrraagh! —the world. Just mayhem and destruction, man.”

When you hear one of his recordings, it’s almost like you’re becoming something. It’s scary, especially if you’re hearing it at night. His voice screeches, scratches itself on top of the music, like a poltergeist or a banshee.

Local sludge-wizard and primo drummer for Sadville , Andy Kohler , remembers when his band shared a gig with the mad Russian on the Longbranch balcony. The bouncers at O’Charley’s made numerous threats, but the noise continued, turned up to brainsick decibels, roaring through the strip without apology.

B. Riot was there, too, playing primal drums. “We were trash talking them pretty bad,” he remembers. “There were these kids across the street, and they all had little Rage-108 amps. We had our 2,000-watt PAs. It was our duty to drown those kids out.”

That was exactly where Vadim thrived, amid the noise. He enjoyed brief underworld fame while playing guitar for the Alabama black metal powerhouse, Blood Stained Dust , until the lead singer died and Vadim, once again, found himself in limbo in Knoxville.

“We used to eat a lot of acid,” B. Riot goes on, “and we’d wander around town, because there was really nothing at all downtown at that time.”

Perhaps it was the desire to live in a run-down, seedy city that eventually caused Vadim to leave Knoxville as people started to populate downtown once again. He packed up for Detroit, where he was hammering out a few new projects when he died.

“He didn’t waste any of his time,” B. Riot says. “I’m not going to say that he ever got to complete what he was here for, although we believe that you’re not supposed to go until you are done with what you were put here to do. He had a lot more to offer, but he did more right than wrong. There’s nothing that I can think of that he would regret. Everything he did, he did for a reason.”

And, somewhere between debauchery and periods of steadfast sobriety, he created volumes of music, like nothing else to pass through the dirty, morbid Knoxville haunts, the places that felt like home to Vadim.

“Remember it all,” B. Riot continues. “Whether he scared the shit out of you or he comforted you in a time of need, he made a mark on your life. And, if he scared the shit out of you, then you were doing something wrong. He just laid the heavy on you every time. Remember him for who he was: the good, the bad, the music. Just don’t forget him.”

Vadim will never be forgotten as a part of East Tennessee. His ashes will be spread in Detroit, Maryville and Moscow, at the cemetery reserved for artists. Even those who never heard of him may be privy to his genius in the coming months. B. Riot and Vadim’s girlfriend, Mari Ingram , will release Vadim’s lifework on Funeral Decadence , a record label that Vadim had started several years before his death.