cover_story_3 (2007-08)

2007 Music Issue (continued)

"He talked a lot of bad shit about playing guitar," Johnny Nimrod once said. Nimrod, a longtime friend of local thrashman B. Riot, remembered a crazy Russian kid during his brief stint in a nearby mental asylum. B. Riot, who currently plays drums in the Southern-fried punk outfit The Dirty Works, was intrigued. "I'll invite him over, man," Nimrod went on. "I'll call him up."

Eventually the three wayward musicians formed a group called Trinity, which was pure metal and corpse-paint, like something straight out of Norway. Their first practice took place more than a decade ago, when they met in the basement of a house that once stood behind Sam's Party Store, on land that's now occupied by the Knoxville Place apartment complex.

Later, after Vadim ran his car into the dumpster out back, they decided to continue drinking and pushing their brains toward something new, beyond political correctness, where racism, hate, anger--any sick thought that popped into their heads--was allowed to be, allowed to be taken apart piece by piece, in hopes of finding some kind of truth.

That's what Vadim's music does. Every word is an attempt to discover beauty by smashing it completely. To some it's sick. To others, it's tinged with spiritual exigency.

"His English was still half-and-half," B. Riot remembers. "Real thick accent. But from the moment he picked up his guitar, he knew what he was doing." They played for four hours straight on that first night, and that was only the beginning.

His name may not be famous outside his small circle of friends, but Vadim's music is virtuosic, like a tour through the darkest parts of the human psyche, where his seething madness could find its voice. The music is always highly melodic, so much less sludge than American extreme music, with each song fluidly moving, brooding, and always building. His works often feel as though an experimental maestro inflected each measure with the structural sensibilities of Nicolas Slonimsky, the man who inspired musicians from John Coltrane to Frank Zappa, all of which gave Vadim's music more technical weight than anything Venom ever conjured. Occasionally, however, heavy percussive blastbeats smash onto the recordings, reminding us that this is, in fact, black metal.

[M]usic and art could be considered an abomination, and anti-creation, especially if the music or art expresses distress/dissatisfaction with the creator and the current state of being. The first forms of art were most likely screams of agony, war-paint and visual interpretations of rituals necessary for survival such as hunting. Later the barbarians of Gaul figured out how to produce low-frequency sounds to drive the opponents mad and eventually kill them. This makes music the first weapon of Mass Destruction...

He came to Knoxville in 1991. In his native Russia, he was schooled in classical music, working to perfect his violin technique since he was four years old. He studied the masters, but dreamed of rock'n'roll. Eventually, that dream became something darker. For Vadim, perhaps, all music seemed mutually inclusive, each style just another building block to absorb into something greater.

True Art is limitless and wild , Vadim once wrote in his journal, unpredictable and eternal, forever breaking the boundaries and limitations imposed upon us.

It's been less than a year since Vadim was found dead of a heroin overdose. He had just moved to Detroit with his wife, Mari Ingram, in hopes of finding a following in Detroit's burgeoning electronic underground.

But one night after work, Ingram found his body lifeless, sprawled on the floor. "That night, he and someone that he had just met decided to get some heroin," Ingram says, adding: "A lot of it was really weird."

A month later, the man who left Vadim for dead committed suicide. "It seems strange," Ingram says, shaking her head. We may never know exactly what happened to him that night, but we do know that there are volumes of his music, forged between periods of debauchery and intense workaholism, all of it ready to be heard again.

"I definitely don't want to keep his music in a closet somewhere," Ingram says. "I've pretty much put [his death] behind me. There's not much you can do about it, really. I know he's still out there somewhere, so I don't really let it get to me much anymore.... I do miss him."

True art is borne of suffering and longing for the beauty not so often within our reach , Vadim wrote to help explain his personal philosophies. It is that one thing that never lets itself be placed in line, pigeon - holed into a stereotype or even given a name... it is far beyond all of that. It is the downfall of all that is mundane, the Epitaph of this order of things. Respect and cherish it for it is your only chance for the true Freedom.

His ashes have been spread in Maryville, Detroit and Moscow. Funeral Decadence ( ), a record label that Vadim had started several years before his death, will continue to release his work, with Ingram at the helm. They just recently cut Cybernetic Erosion , a brilliant album that catalogues the sheer scope of Vadim's lifework, as he went far out musically, beyond the rock of his youth and the metal he loved so much, into newfound sonic landscapes. For Vadim, it was always an adventure, like a voyage into chaos. It's never a smooth ride, but the stories are always better out there, far out where Vadim felt most comfortable.

"He freed me," B. Riot says. "During my younger years I was really crazed, really closed up.... 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.... He let me know that it's OK to live, OK to step on a few toes. The ability to let loose and just be free. And, if you don't like it, say something about it. If they push, push back.

"We used to eat a lot of acid," he continues, "and we'd wonder around town, because there was really nothing at all downtown at that time."

To me, music and art of others helped a lot when I could relate to it on my own personal level, kind of like reading a medical journal and realizing that there are others as sick and addicted if not more than I am , Vadim's notes continue. Also the realization of one's own mortality and impending Death are very comforting indeed when dealing with everyday dull and annoying surroundings. Intelligent art is hard to digest, it burns the soul while going down, creating the visions of the most disturbing thing of all--small pieces of grotesque, never coming together puzzle called The Truth .

"Remember it all," B. Riot continues. "Whether he scared the shit out of your 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 laid the heavy on you every time. Remember him for who he was: the good, the bad, the music. Just don't forget him.

"He didn't waste any of his time. 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're 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 I can think of that he would regret. Everything he did, he did for a reason."

When he played, he treated the guitar like a violin and only hit two strings at a time. It was as if he was trying to bow the instrument. Using an alternative tuning--again borrowed from his days as a violinist--he produced a sound that was more fluid and less crunchy than most.

During a scuffle with a couple of police officers near his apartment in Fort Sanders, Vadim took a fist to the throat, which made his voice drop an octave. Even then, he didn't stop, though his voice did sound significantly more like a hobgoblin. He continued to book shows anywhere, often playing odd couplings with folk like Jodie Manross and Casey Jones. There was always music. Some of it noise, some more ambient and melodic. It probably didn't matter to Vadim, so long as he was making the music he wanted to make at any given moment.

Once, on the balcony at the Longbranch, Vadim sent sheets of sound screaming up and down Cumberland Avenue, offending everyone who was listening to an acoustic set across the street on the O'Charley's patio.

"The hardest thing was packing his shit up," B. Riot says. "I had never seen that equipment silent."

To the serpent, not man! Vadim would sing in his creepy troll-voice. "He could create any timbre or nuance that he wanted," B. Riot says, "You knew what he was talking about. You could see it, taste it." Always rejected/ Abandoned! Alone!/ The crown of thorns/ Is still a crown ... Loyalty, Race/ To the serpent! Not man!

2007 Music Issue (continued)