Part 4 of the chapter 2 of our translation of Alexandr Kushnir’s book 100 Tapes of Soviet Rock (100 Магнитоальбомов Советского Рока). Archives can be found here.
Thanks to everyone supportive of this venture.
In the 70s Kutikov was diligently studying not only the foreign magazines such as Mix, but also the famous book “Sound Studio: Audio Techniques for Radio, Television, Film and Recording” by BBC sound engineer Alec Nisbett. “Those manuals mainly talked about physical and acoustic processes, but there was nothing about the psychology of art – recalls Aleksander. Whatever was happening in, say, Beatles studio, we were discovering through indirect sources – interviews, memoirs and even reviews”.
…Theatre institute studio provided Kutikov with a unique opportunity to utilize the gained knowledge and skills. He had nighttime at his disposal along with soundproofed room – with MEZ and STM magnetophones, Czech Tesla console and the director’s booth. Apparently it was assumed that the students will work on improving diction or “working with intonation”. Instead of eternally drunk students the task of working on intonation went to eternally drunk rockers.
The fact that the government agency situated right next to Japanese consulate could record “unruly” rockers demands an explanation of its own. At the end of the 70s theatre institute looked almost like an epicenter of the creative cyclone that had a lot of freethinkers suckers into it. In particular, housed there was Commission for complex investigation of human potential by USSR Academy of Sciences where all kinds of studies were carried out – including UFO issues, specifics of birth in the water, development of national yoga system or programs for accelerated learning of foreign languages.
In time the situation at GITIS turned it into “Athens School” – not surprising that one of the members of the commission and the head of the voice studio Oleg Konstantinovich Nikolaev looked the other way when it came to anarchy happening during the off hours. Still, it was there that the first studio rock recordings were created – the ones that preceded the magnetophon culture and defined some of its tendencies over the next decade.
Kutikov’s baptism by fire at GITIS was an attempt to record musicians of Visokosnoe Leto. “The recording turned out to be barely breathing and not the way the band were – recalls Aleksandr. Their sound energy was different”. Two other attempts to create full-on studio sound materialized in the double album by Mashina Vremeni (1978) and the debut album by Voskresenie (1979). In those works Kutikov was able to retain the mood and the energy of two of the most relevant Moscow rock bands. Besides, the old fan dream finally came to fruition: those albums not only had the instrumentation and the lyrics separated, but there was also a touch of drive to them.
After Kutikov left GITIS, Moscow didn’t really had a decent rock studio for nearly 10 years. In the 80s the albums were recorded in apartments, rehearsal spaces, art galleries and cultural centers. For example, DK recorded their first “immortal works” in the basement of the Institute of Steel and Alloys dormitory. Concert sound engineer Aleksand Arutyunov managed to record the album in a bomb shelter of MGIMO completely unsuited for such purposes. Studio cooperation between Andrei Pasternak and the band Tsentr was taking place at the radio relay station of All-Union theatre society. Every metropolitan band did the best it could.