Depending upon how history class goes, Siberia usually evokes images of the Tunguska Explosion or gulags. It’s a land invariably thought of as frozen and inhospitable, a place no one wants to be. Fortunately, since the stoic grandstanding of the Cold War has pretty much ceased, better things are coming from Eastern Russia. One is actually two: Yuri Matveyev (electric guitar) and Artyom Yakushenko (electric violin), a.k.a. Two Siberians. The pair sports a direct humor, titling their Heads Up International debut CD Out Of Nowhere. Russian folk, rock and jazz share time, and special guests Michael Brecker, Richard Bona, Don Byron, Nina Hennessey, Steve Barrios, Matt Garrison, George Whitty, and Mino Cinelu help heat up the headphones. By getting out of Siberia to realize their recording dream, Matveyev and Yakushenko have demonstrated determination and ingenuity (with more than a little cross-cultural cooperation) and are on their way to somewhere.
In their thirties now, during the Soviet ’70s the two nonetheless had what they deem a “normal and happy childhood: kindergarten, musical school, etc.” And, adds Matveyev, “Tongues frozen to metal objects.”
Yakushenko’s dad Yevgeny is known as the “Father of Siberian Rock” and took music quite seriously. According to Yakushenko, “My father bought a new car in the ’80s. That was unbelievable, to buy a private car in the Soviet Union. I was incredibly happy, and he even gave me the chance to drive by myself. He also brought home new famous EV loudspeakers.”
With that sort of example, Yakushenko would take his music quite seriously as well. Matveyev explains, “When Artyom was a child he saw the performance of the Philharmonic Orchestra on TV. He was very impressed that some musicians played music using small instruments—the violins.”
Yakushenko concurs. “First my parents bought me an instrument case for the violin and I was very proud to carry the empty case walking along the streets. And then I received the first violin. I was six and I came to the musical school and asked them to take me on. And I spent a lot of time on the balcony showing everybody that I was able to play.”
Matveyev also started small but serious and music was a family affair. Yakushenko notes, “Yuri was dreaming about having his own guitar. He tried to play on every instrument, but when he was eight, his uncle presented him a true guitar.”
The lads studied at the Irkutsk Art Academy and tried to behave, but one event would change everything. Yakushenko recalls, “I have the classical musical education, and my teacher was from the classical department because I played violin. But once we performed at one of the jazz festivals. My teacher told us that it’s lofty style to play classical music. And if you—she was speaking to me—want to culminate in music you should perform classical, not any jazz, so we found ourselves ‘out of nowhere.’”
Ultimately, that meant Yakushenko got punted from school for performing non-classical repertoire. Not surprisingly, one of his favorite books is Who Killed Classical Music by Norman Lebrecht. Yakushenko promised to mend his ways, but only publicly. He and Matveyev were stealing away to concoct their own music. “My ma forced me to concern myself with the violin until the first time I heard the performance of Jean-Luc Ponty.” Then it was definite that Yakushenko would not be a classical violinist.
Matveyev was also fixated, “Nothing and nobody forced me to practice. Maybe some kind of irrational force: just the periods of the extreme practice were changing from the periods of heavy laziness.”
Those long, boring Siberian winters were good for something. Yakushenko and Matveyev developed their style, and their pedigrees