Made in Minsk is a multinational, multigenerational alternative rock five-piece group which is based in London.

First formed in 2014, and originally called Battersea Power Station, Made in Minsk has been a regular fixture on the London pub and club circuit during the last five years, and has now released its debut single, ‘Where the Truth Lies’, through Bandcamp.

It is an enthralling six-minute track which opens with bubbles of distortion and, recalling the sublime intensity of The Cure on their classic 1990 album ‘Disintegration’, builds into a sweeping soundscape of volleying guitars.

One of Made in Minsk’s guitarists, Rick Senley, has also released four albums of brooding instrumental music under the moniker of musicforvoyeurs, which was the subject of a previous Pennyblackmusic interview in 2014. Made in Minsk’s other guitarist Haris Shah is the lyricist and main songwriter. The remaining three members of the group are bassist Nicolai Caraghioz, drummer Neil Pearce and acrobatic and crystal-voiced singer Harmke (Harry) Wijbenga.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Rick Senley and Haris Shah about Made in Minsk and ‘Where the Truth Lies’.


PB: Made in Minsk have been together since 2014, yet you have just released your first single now. Why has it taken you so long?

RICK SENLEY: Line-up changes, improving our sound and dynamics, learning what works and doesn’t work from live performances – amongst last year’s gigs were playing on a boat on the Thames full of bemused tourists, a born-again Christian garden party and trying to out blast four heavy metal bands in East London. We just deafened ourselves in the process.

HARIS SHAH: Gigs at the George and Dragon in Acton. They pay us and let us do every single song in our repertoire, twice!!? Craaazyyy!! And pay us. Did I mention that? Our last gig was in Hoxton; I’d just ordered my dinner when I found out Neil, our drummer, had got stuck in traffic. He had our guitars so Rick and I ran across London to find him. When we got back to the venue, he was already there, we’d missed half the gig and the rest of the band had eaten my chicken. Bastards!

PB: You were called originally Battersea Power Station but changed your name to Made in Minsk a couple of years ago. Rick, when Pennyblackmusic last spoke to you about musicforvoyeurs you made clear then your mistrust of the Internet and of social media in particular. Why did you decide to change your name? Surely, it is not just Made in Minsk is an easier title to find on a Google search or Facebook or Twitter?

RS: It’s not that I don’t trust the internet or social media. I would be lost without it. I’m just extremely stubborn and dogmatic in many areas of my life – making a stand against smartphones, hipsters and social media (as much as I can) is my way of telling society to shove ‘modern things I don’t like’ up its arse. Not everyone wants to embrace progress, gentrification, nice pubs and fucking cupcakes, vegan beards and coffee bollocks, especially when it’s rammed down your throat. I want individual choice.

We dropped Battersea Power Station, mainly because I hated the name and our then drummer, Peer – who had chosen it – left. I can say that now, because he’s since moved to Canada.

Minsk is where my father was from. People at gigs always ask why. And the name looks symmetrical on our wonderfully designed and meticulously handwoven t-shirts, very competitively priced and probably not using much child labour (You can buy one here: https://shop.spreadshirt.co.uk/made-in-minsk).

PB: Haris is the main songwriter in the band, yet you can really hear your influence, Rick, in Made in Minsk. Your music has a similar brooding, sweeping quality to musicforvoyeurs. How does the songwriting in Made in Minsk work? Have you ever started out with material intended for musicforvoyeurs and given it over to Made in Minsk?

RS: That’s what got me in the band in the first place – Haris heard musicforvoyeurs and asked me to join; he was clearly desperate for some miserably gloomy self-indulgent soundscapes.

As for songwriting, Haris brings many of them to the studio fully structured, with lyrics and melody lines for the vocals. I try to sneak in guitar parts that sound like The Cure, then Nic (our Moldovan bassist and sound technician) and Neil (also anti Battersea Power Station) lay the foundations to keep the song flowing and grounded. Harmke aka Harry tells us all to turn things down then lets the lyrics dreamily float from her Dutch mouth.

Myself and Nic also bring our own songs, while others are born from the band – a riff, an idea, an effect, a mistake: any number of ways of writing a song.

I intentionally keep musicforvoyeurs separate from Made in Minsk – that is a purely solo and, in many ways, lonely project. Although I will inevitably bring in some influence, the ideas I come up with on my own in the dark are completely different from what happens with the band. I play all the instruments in musicforvoyeurs, so I’m happy just focusing on guitar in Made in Minsk.

PB: Haris, a lot of your lyrics seem to reflect on the way the world should be and the reality of the way it is. ‘Never Take Your Soul’ and ‘California’ both do that in different forms and ‘Where the Truth Lies’ does that again in another way. Where the Truth Lies’ seems to be about primarily the need for honesty in a personal relationship but it is open enough that it might also be interpreted as being about the need for honesty politically, which there has not been much of in recent times. Was that your intention with that song?

HS: Oh wow, it’s cool you get that from ‘Where the Truth Lies’. I came at it from a more cultish angle, though your take on it is equally apt. I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘True Detective’, Season 3? It’s about this whole need for humans to uncover huge nationwide conspiracies, when perhaps there isn’t really anything more than people losing control of their relationships. We love to make mountains out of molehills, it’s the drama queen in all of us. I went full drama queen and saw WTTL as being about sinister people in power controlling their brainwashed followers, and though a couple of strays might wake up from the nightmare, the leader ‘or progeny’ will always hold the reins of the rest.

PB: You’re a very cosmopolitan group, with members originating from Moldovia, the Netherlands and London. Rick, you’re also I believe partially of Russian heritage. How do you think that has affected the dynamics and sound of the group, if at all?

RS: And Haris – his origins are Indian. My heritage is actually part Belarusian (Minsk is the capital as I’m sure everyone knows) and Transylvanian. Inevitably there will be an underlying, subconscious impact on the group – growing up in different cultures and environments, listening to different music, having an opposing relationship to creativity, different interpretations of ambition and desire - all these factors will influence the way in which we interact and what happens when we get together as a band. While our music gives us a unifying direction, it can also, in my own experience, frustrate us – again, due to the same formative experiences and beliefs that brought us together in the first place: 'My way is right’, ‘Your chord is shit’,’ I’m leaving the band’, ‘That change doesn’t work’, ‘That sounds great’, 'I’m back now’. Learning that opinions are opinions and the friction that comes from each of us wanting to do things our own way, generates the necessary momentum to keep us growing.

I have a visceral hatred of London (I am deeply ashamed to still be living in my home town), so seeing Nic and Harry living out a dream of experiencing life in a new country represents an uncomfortable paradox. I have lived abroad before and this is what I need to do again, but the draw of being in a band is what’s keeping me in London.

Equally important as our cultural make-up is our mix of ages and the life experience that brings and what we get and want to get out of our music – the youngest is 29, the oldest is 60 and the rest of us are somewhere in between.

PB: Your singer Harry is really unique. How much experience did she have of singing in other bands before joining Made in Minsk? She is used concisely on ‘Where the Truth Lies’, not appearing until well after the first minute and then finishing the song without her. There are also conscious spaces of large instrumental passages in other songs too. Is this a case of using her less to create more of an impact?

HS: She certainly is unique. She used to sing in a blues-rock band in Holland (she’s the Dutch one in the band) and also has a classical background. She’s great, she’s got such an original and powerful range. We feel that with almost half the song being instrumental you don’t need to write any more filler lyrics, which always seem weak after you‘ve got the main body of the text written. Space is always good, especially in a song like ‘Where the Truth Lies’ where I wanted the words to breathe. The listener can feel the tension in the space.

PB: You have also recorded other songs –‘Never Take Your Soul’, ‘California’. ‘Carrot on a Stick’ and ‘In The Centre’ – which are available with a bit of searching online. What else if anything do you plan to do with them?

HS: I’d love to work with more producers and engineers who have an intuitive feel for our sound and presence, because that’s where we get to really think about the song outside the five of us playing it live. In the recording studio is where you get to experiment and really get to the theme of the song. I love ‘Airbag’ by Radiohead. It has loads of cool things going on which add fantastic texture to the song. They wanted it to sound like a car crash, and every little sound within the song is directed towards that.

PB: What other plans do you have for the future? Will there be other singles or an album?

HS: Videos, more recordings, touring, radio, bigger venues, the world. I really want to play at a festival, even if it’s grandma’s bring along your loser grandkids festival, just the whole getting there at 9am, playing at 6pm, sunset to sunrise day is what we musicians live for. Or even sunrise to sunset. Sorry.

PB: Thank you.












Related Links:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/madeinminskuk/
https://madeinminsk.bandcamp.com/releases
https://shop.spreadshirt.co.uk/made-in-minsk


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