Emerging from the dark knotted forests of Russia is an enigmatic force known as Ikotka. A mysterious atmospheric black metal band that began releasing material in 2020 and to date has achieved a solid output including three full-length albums and four EPs. The latest album ‘Porcha’, which came out last month, is a powerful piece that motivated me to want to discover more about this fascinating project.
Little is known about the band, so I was thrilled to be lucky enough to track down the elusive founder and mastermind behind Ikotka, Alexander. So, without further delay let’s see what Ikotka has to reveal to the world!
Thank you for talking to Blessed Altar Zine today. Firstly, congratulations on the release of ‘Порча (Porcha)’, the third full-length release for the band. How are you feeling about this achievement? Has the album been well-received?
Alexander: This is the first interview of the project, so thanks Blessed Altar Zine for the invitation! It was exciting and a bit nerve-racking to publish this record. But as far as I know, our listeners liked the album. This is certainly encouraging!
Can you explain your sound for those who are unfamiliar?
Alexander: Ikotka’s sound can be characterized as (plus / minus) “atmospheric black metal” with conceptual elements of Russian melancholy and traditions. Now this aesthetics is often called “Russian Chthonic”. I usually don’t use a tag like this, but if someone likes this definition, they can use it. For me, the sound of Ikotka combines dual elements. It sounds unprofessional but stylish. Raw but enveloping. Oppressive but with small elements of humor sometimes. For example, “Naaa-naaa-na-na-na-na-naaa-na” to the accompaniment of a dark riff, etc. I find this duality interesting.
How did the band come to be formed?
Alexander: Formally, there is no band. It is a personalistic solo project that was born out of a sudden nightly creative impulse. Once at half past twelve in the night, instead of going to bed, I had a desire to take a guitar and write something very simple without any restrictions. The “Zagovor” album was born in a short time in one breath.
Ikotka’s “lore” also appeared by itself, as intuitively as possible. I didn’t want to point out that I did everything myself. I’ve always liked the trio format. A band with one guitarist and a singing bassist like Motorhead. So these unfortunate ikotnics were born. They are just characters. Some random representatives of the material world, subordinate to the will of small demons. These three are like an “Ensemble of Shadows” without “Sopor Aeternus”. Of course, I think this aspect is comical.
I’ve read that the band name Икотка (Ikotka) refers to a demon from northern Russian lore who is said to possess men. For those of us who are unfamiliar with this story could you please elaborate? I’d also be interested to know why the band chose to share its name with this demon.
Alexander: Ikotka is a name of a demonic essence from the North of Russia. It lives in men (more often in women) for years. It torments the owner, subordinates him to its will, changes his voice. It also causes hiccups, hence its name – Ikotka (diminutive form of the word “икотка (hiccup)” in Russian).
Now the popularity of Russian deep folklore is growing. On this wave in 2020 Ikotkas (there were several of them) were shown in the ethno-horror TV series “Территория (Territory)”. They were imaged as large slugs raised by a witch. She called them her children. They entered their host through his throat… so there is not something majestic and colossal, a kind of mystical parasite. Therefore, the name of our project often causes laughter or irritation among Russian-speaking people. It sounds defiant, provocative, creepy, funny and cute to them at the same time. Such a multifaceted and ambiguous word is the perfect band name.
Your debut album ‘Заговор (Zagovor)’ came out in July of last year and since then you have gone on to release four EPs and two more albums. How does the band keep up this fast pace? What inspires you to get creative and write music?
Alexander: In fact there are just two albums: debut “Zagovor” and “Porcha”. Also three EPs united by the funeral concept were released in between these albums. These EPs was released by SoundAge Productions as a 70 minute compilation album “Причитания (Prichitaniya)”. Despite the fact that technically this is a compilation, it sounds like a self-contained work, a monumental funeral triptych. “Prichitaniya” is only available as a CD edition, not digital. I think it is wrong to sell the same thing multiple times.
At the end of December 2020, the EP “Забавы (Zabavy)” was released. It contained ambient sketches based on some themes from the funeral triptych. If we speak in the language of cinema: Ikotka has released two full-length films and one TV series with bonus materials 🙂
I am constantly composing something, this is a natural process for me. An ongoing, self-disciplined process. Many things inspire me: morning jogging, especially through the forest and on the banks of the Kama River, listening to music, watching movies, being a husband, being a father…
Порча (Porcha) is a truly incredible album, and I was particularly interested that some of the lyrical themes touch on dark, troubling and often invisible areas of society. For example I was fascinated by the lyrics for “Support” and also “Domostroy”, which references a 16th century book about domestic, social and religious rules. Where does your inspiration for such themes come from and what is the motivation for bringing these topics to light?
Alexander: I was going to make an album on topics that I think are really important. As a father, I am interested in raising children and attitudes towards children in society. Child-parent relationship. So I put some traditional and stereotypical behaviors such as domestic violence justified by religious traditions or in religious delusion, and opposite – overprotection, etc into Ikotka’s context. And their results too. Some songs have real prototypes. Some are based on collective imagery. The results are often painful, dire and tragic, suitable for oppressive black metal sound.
In general, there are a lot of children in my music. Both in the lyrics and in the sound. There are many samples of children’s voices, especially on the “Porcha” record. Including the voices of my daughter and son.
How do you think Порча (Porcha) compares to your previous releases? Did you do anything differently this time around (either creatively or technically)?
Alexander: I think the new album is an important milestone. Unlike previous releases, it is based on original lyrics not on folk ones. This makes “Porcha” the most personal and the most reality-related album to date. This release inherited the characteristic features of the previous works sound, summarizes them, but at the same time adds new musical elements to them, adds new emotional and semantic colors. For example, the acoustic “Igosha”, which is musically inspired by the so-called “Russian author’s song”, and lyrically is a stylization of Russian folk funeral lamentation. Technically, all albums are created in the same way.
Are there any particular musical artists that have influenced you over the years and perhaps helped to shape your sound? And are there any new or emerging artists that have impressed you recently?
Alexander: It is difficult to say about help in shaping the sound… but for many years I have been impressed and inspired by Opeth, Satyricon, Pink Floyd, Burzum, Nick Cave, The 3rd and Mortal, Motorhead, Moonsorrow, Tenhi, Ulver, Dornenreich. As for the Russian underground, the first three albums of the pagan metal band Butterfly Temple are the most important and influenced for me. Of course, I have many other favorite artists. But speaking of inspiration, I named them. Unfortunately, I hardly discover new artists. The bands that have impressed me the most in the last 10 years or so are the Wolves in the Throne Room and Trelldom. But it’s hard to call them new bands, of course 🙂
Based on my research into the band, am I correct in the observation that the members would like to remain anonymous (a choice that I fully respect)? How does this choice affect the band? For example has Ikotka ever played live? If not, do you plan to?
Alexander: I prefer to stay behind the scenes. But I communicate with the audience and answer those who ask me. Sometimes Ikotka is invited to participate in concerts. But so far this is not a priority for me, and I have to refuse. Maybe this situation will change in the future, who knows…
The band has been releasing material throughout the global pandemic so have the lock downs had an impact on the band in any way (good or bad)?
Alexander: During the pandemic, each of us faced the anxiety of an unknown disease. Society will psychologically cope with the shock for a long time. Many people have looked at their lives in a new way. Their attention was directed to what truly matters: family, children and creativity.
I’ve noticed that Ikotka has a presence on social media, is this an important tool for you as an artist? Also, is it important for you to be active in the online metal community?
Alexander: Social media is a great and, nowadays, the most important and necessary tool for musicians to get their music to listen to. Thanks to them, the times are now very favorable for independent musicians. At the same time, I would not describe myself as active in the online metal community.
What’s next for the band? Do you have any plans for the rest of the year?
Alexander: New stuff is constantly in progress. I’m not going to release more than one full album a year. So expect a number of short releases.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today and congratulations once again on your latest release. All the best with your upcoming projects and we at Blessed Altar Zine are looking forward to your future releases!
Alexander: Thanks again to Blessed Altar Zine for calling! Stay safe!
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