Victor Smolski – man of many talents, but mainly known in music community for his superb guitar skills. Born in Minsk, Belarus, son of famous symphonic music composer, turned his interest into heavy metal music. From over 20 years he’s been on music scene and played in bands and albums of many other artists. Starting in a Russian rock band INSPECTOR, Mind Odyssey, RAGE, participating in acts like Nuclear Blast All-Stars band, Voodoo Gods or Lingua Mortis Orchestra. He released two solo albums, and from 2015 he created a new band that is ALMANAC – a symphonic heavy/power metal beast. I had a pleasure to ask him a few questions.

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1. Greetings Victor. I would like to start with something less usual. Victor, You had 50th birthday this year, but it seems that You’re not slowing down. You’re very busy guy. Not only You manage ALMANAC, still doing guitar workshops and co-operate with many musical instruments companies, but also help developing new gear and teaching in Your music university. Where You get the power for all those things? Is Your day having more than 24 hours?

I think I´m really a happy man, because I´m living timeless. I have the freedom to do what I like and what I want. I never take care about what time and which day of the week it is. Sometimes I need to think which month we have. I think it´s not difficult to do the things you like. It´s kind of positive stress which reloads your battery. I think I can organize my time schedule very well and I have a great team around me and the best support from my family.

2. I haven’t said about Your other hobbies in first question on purpose. It’s hard to believe, but You as well love motor sports, racing cars specifically. You regularly taking part in car races, and with great success. How this fascination started? And, are You a nice good driver in ordinary life?

I’ve always been crazy about speed. As a child I’ve started already driving Kart in my hometown Minsk and later when I moved to Germany I visited the Rally School and had luck with fantastic teachers. I’ve started as a hobby driver and become a racing driver in a professional team with international racing license. Eleven times I participate at 24 hours races on Nürburgring and many winner coups in different racings help me to find some sponsoring. Two years ago I moved to German Rallycross Championship and I´m very close to win Championship this year. Racing is my passion and helps me to reset my head from music. In ordinary life I really drive fast, but not aggressive.

3. All those thing are not enough. You are as well a dad. You have a boy. How old is he now? How You and Your family spend a typical Smolski family day when You’re home? How Your wife manage when Your on tour or working?

The best thing in my life was five years ago when my son was born. I think we´re not a typical family, we travel a lot and decide things spontaneously. I try to support my son in all his interests, music and sports. And it´s really fun for me spend time with my family. I have a wonderful wife who understands lifestyle of an artist and supports me a lot.

4. If it’s not to personal, I would like to ask You about Your childhood and Your father. You’ve been born in Belarus, Your dad, Dmitry Smolsky was very famous composer. You was raised in musical house. Do You remember how life looked in Belarus when You was a child?

I had a fantastic childhood. At home I was listening to music every day, when my father was composing. He open my eyes for the world of music. He took me to philharmonic hall and opera when he was rehearsing with orchestra, explained me a lot of things how it´s working. This was so interesting for me that I started composing very early. He was always my idol and example to do everything without compromises. My music school education in Belarus was the best I’ve ever seen in my life.

5. Your father was composing classical music. He creates many great symphonic and orchestral pieces and won several national awards in Belarus. At same time he was a kind of rebel, avant-garde composer, who liked to experiment with musical forms. Just like You Victor, within heavy metal genre. As far I know, You was tough to play piano and cello, right? How Your fascination with guitar started and Your interest towards heavy metal music?

My father was a very open minded musician. He wasn’t conservative. He was open for all good handmade music. So, I listened at home also to Jazz and later to Rock music because of my older brother. I started with cello and piano at the age of 6 and guitar at the age of 11. I´m still playing all these instruments, but guitar fits the best to me. When I got Led Zeppelin LP from my brother, I was totally fascinated and wanted to try something like this. Basic technics which I learned with cello helped me a lot to make quick progress in learning guitar. I like all kind of professional handmade music, but the energy of metal is the best.

6. I am a fan of Your guitar playing style, from RAGE’s “Unity” album, which was my first RAGE album. I even attended a gig in 2004 in Krakow , Poland in Hala Wisly . It has to be rescheduled , because somebody was sick on first date . It was a tour with Helloween . Do You remember ?

Yes , I remember . I think it was Andi Deris who was ill . Unity is also one of my favorite albums. In this time it was really a great energy in the band which we´ve lost unfortunately after 15 years working together.

 

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7. I still think that You, Mike Terrana and Peavy was the best RAGE line-up ever. Unfortunately RAGE has lowered their expectations over last few years, and You have quit the band and formed ALMANAC. But You are still friends. In 2021 “Welcome to the other side” will have it’s 21st anniversary, first RAGE release with You on a guitar, and in 2022 it’s 20th birthday will have “UNITY”, what will You say if RAGE would want to celebrate that by playing both of them live with You for that occasion?

It become very modern to do reunion like Helloween and many other bands do. Rage have changed line up for so many times that it would be difficult to put guys together.

8. Let’s focus on ALMANAC. I have both albums on my shelf, and I love them both. You left RAGE sometime in 2013, ALMANAC’s “Tsar” was released in 2016. Are there any songs that You wrote for Your former band, or is it all new material created for ALMANAC?

I left RAGE in beginning of 2015 after our 30th anniversary tour and started working on my new band ALMANAC. All material was new composed and arranged for new line up. Idea to make a band with more than one singer was born during I produced LMO CD.

9. I asked about it, because “Tsar” got some guitar riffs, that immediately are associated with You, Your style. Those chunky shredded riffs like in title track, that can feel reminiscent to best RAGE albums with You. “Kingslayer” seems even more heavy, songs like “Regicide”, “Guilty as charged” are real bangers. And all the vocals seems more relaxed, fitted to the songs structures, and I love when all three of them are singing at the same time. There is even a ballad ” Last Farewell”, and it’s great track with superb guitars and drumming, very atmospheric. Tell me, was that a natural progression to make a bit more aggressive sound? Was working with same vocalists for second time in studio was simpler, more relaxed? Have You got more time in studio than recording “Tsar”?

I definitely have my style of playing, but I´m not afraid to look for something new and do a lot of experiments. I’ve never planned to do CD more or less heavy, it just happened during process. I always play how I feel in this moment. It´s not a business for me to do the best selling products, these are true song ideas which come out of my head at this moment. To move to Heyday studio and work there was more relaxed. At this moment I start producing our third CD at the same studio and it´s nice to have a lot of time for recording without stress.

10. What I like about ALMANAC, what gives me as a listener great satisfaction, besides Your magnificent style of guitar playing, superb technicality ans great soloing, is that both albums feels like uniform, homogeneous, very solid as a whole, but at a same time each song can be played by itself, and still be great track. They both are solid, modern sounding, heavy but with strong emphasis on melody, all in great harmony and proportions. “Kingslayer” feels like natural evolution from “Tsar”. What is Your aim when composing music, not only for ALMANAC but as general as well?

Composing songs is the best moment in doing music. I like very much the process how small melody or riff will develop to a big concept.

11. You said many times that You like to experiment. Is it only in studio or You changing things live as well?

More during recording in studio. On tour Fans prefer original version from CD.

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12. ALMANAC could be described as modern sounding heavy metal with some symphonic/neoclassical influences. Would you like to expand borders of ALMANAC’s music more in future? Add more new elements, experiment more? On “Tsar” i think, there was a bit more neo-classical parts, guitar and keyboards, than on “Kingslayer”, and personally they were great. I wouldn’t mind if they will come back in good proportions in future. In Your music sometimes one can hear some oriental scales and even some folkish parts. Have You thought about expand on that ideas more? Is Your composing depends on day and Your feeling or more about general concept of album?

I think our third CD will open new chapter for ALMANAC with a lot of fresh ideas, heavy riffing and two parts, one orchestrated and the other one without. My composing depends more on concept and lyrics.

13. Both albums are build on lyrics rooted in historical events. And honestly, it’s great idea and it’s hard for me if in future You will not want to continue that, cause it like ALMANAC’s trademark now (ha ha). Have You start thinking about next album yet? Got any ideas for story? maybe this time a concept about Elisabeth Bathory? It will fits ALMANAC for shure.

I can calm you! We´ll continue that. We’ve finished the lyrics and it´s a really nice time machine. Be curious!

14. Another unorthodox thing with Your band, is three vocalists. It’s a thing that worked more than well in ALMANAC. Where this idea came from? Is it truth that currently You play live with only two vocalists? Is that how new album will be made as well?

As I told before, idea was born with LMO CD, where I used four singers for my songs. On both CDs you can hear three voices, but on tour sometimes we were playing with two singers, because Andy B. Franck has a regular job and couldn’t join our shows. I’ve not decided how many singers will be on our new CD. I keep this open till I start with mixing.

15. Both albums was released by Nuclear Blast Records. It seems that You are in good relationship with them. It’s been a while now since they both been on the market. Are You happy how Nuclear Blast promotes the band? Is it sold to Your expectations? Have You got feedback from listeners?

The next CD will also be released by Nuclear Blast and it´s a long history of working together. I think it´s a hard time for all record companies, because selling CDs go down and everybody is streaming music for free.

Victor, thank You for Your time and I hope we will talk again after next album. All the best. If You want to say anything to fans, now is the time. Bye.

Thanks very much to all fans for your support for so many years in my music career! Prepare yourself for new CD which will be released in the beginning of 2020!

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Interview 27.08.2019 / darkuss3

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