Egor Klochikhin, who is best known by the name Foresteppe, has the mystical power to combine elements from past to the sound of future. The Berdsk based artist first started from a one man post-rock band and then moved on to be ambient’s one of the most prominent figures. Upon the release of his latest output Karaul, we talked to Egor about his life during the pandemic, his influences, No Time To Hurry, ambient music and being in the Russian Army.
Anuranon Magazine:Hi there Egor, how are you doing during this pandemic?
Thanks, I’m fine, it could have been much worse.
What first got you into music? When did you start writing/producing? Had movie score ever inspired you to start writing?
This is a rather broad question. I was really hooked by the Rammstein in the second grade, in the fourth I heard Led Zeppelin for the first time. I started learning to play the guitar at the age of 13. In high school, I learned about Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, fell in love with post-rock. In graduation class I created my own one man band Последние каникулы (Last Vacations). Four years later, I felt cramped within its framework, and then Foresteppe appeared. As for the cinema – I think the music itself has always been primary for me.
What artists and/or works do you cite as your most influential?
In addition to those already mentioned, I think the following should be mentioned – Plinth, Directorsound, Wouter Van Veldhoven, Kath Bloom & Loren Mazzacane Connors, Wixel, and my favorite band.. Pavement.
How has your musical journey progressed over time?
From bedroom post-rock I gradually came to bedroom ambient 🙂 Nowadays I use a lot of tape processing, especially tape delay. Foresteppe was originally very lighthearted music, but then I had a lighthearted life. Things are a little different now, the music is more disturbing.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece? do you always work on a new track with an album in mind? Or do you just work on an individual track?
Another favorite band of mine is Pink Floyd, so yeah, I always make everything very conceptual, even if it doesn’t appear outwardly. initially, a certain non-musical idea always arises, which is then embodied in a specific album, with one or another sound.
In terms of ambient/experimental music, are they what you listen to as well? What do you listen to?
Yes, I listen to a lot of ambient and experimental music. But to be honest, I think “experimental music” is a rather strange name. any good music is experimental, any good music is a quest. This year I’ve been listening to a lot of Jaipong – very cool music from Indonesia, it’s really a completely different way of looking at what music can be.
How would you describe your music? What do you label them as?
To be honest, most of all, I like to call my music Easter music 🙂 because it is all about joy, and because it contains a lot of Easter eggs (hidden conceptions).
Do you always have a visual in mind while working on music?
Usually, yes! The visual design always fits into the originally conceived concept.
How do you balance the creative side of making a record with the technical side of engineering it?
Very good question! To be honest, I have no education in sound engineering, I still do a lot by touch. I always want not to spoil the original idea with a crude implementation.
How is the ambient/experimental music scene in Russia right now?
It is more or less okay with this kind of music in Russia. if anyone is interested in experimental music from Russia – I recommend the Klammklang label.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you?
It’s hard to tell. It seems to me that in order to be creative, you need to be free from any everyday problems. If the head is not loaded with this, you can think about your art.
What’s more important to you as an artist: a visceral creation/reaction or evoking some sense of imagery or imagination?
I think it’s the second. I have a fairly analytical approach to my music.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music?
Good question ! It seems to me that the most important thing is for the music to catch on, no matter how cleverly it is made and what it is about. if someone is interested in a deeper look – I will be glad, but this is not something obligatory for me.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences?
On the one hand, they are very strongly conditioned (if we talk about the choice of themes, instruments), on the other hand, all people, regardless of race, gender and age, are capable of creativity. another point is that some people notice and use it, while others do not.
The relationship between music and other forms of art, like painting, photography, video art and cinema has become increasingly important over the decades. Your album arts are as alluring as your albums sound. Do you feel that music’s relation to other senses is as important as hearing alone?
Probably, after all, music should be able to work alone. a good cover is great, but if the music does not properly work out, any cover will not save it.
How do you see the relationship between the ‘sound’ aspects of music and the ‘composition’ aspects of music?
I think they are interdependent. some aspects of the sound depend on some aspects of the composition, while other aspects of the composition depend on other aspects of the sound. something like a Möbius strip 🙂 Therefore, it is so interesting for me to make just music.
Do you think it’s important that artists don’t feel constrained by a genre or expectation of a genre?
Yes, I think this is very important. Genres were invented for advertising, they simplify the attitude towards music. On the other hand, with a careful attitude, they help to navigate what kind of music might facilitate the search.
Do you ever feel that music of these sorts should not reach to a wider audience so the original value that makes these genres so authentic never loses its norms?
Very good question! Yes, it seems to me that quality inevitably changes with quantity. Perhaps this law does not apply to someone, but I have seen many examples in Russia of how an influx of audience inevitably changed the music, and the people themselves; who played it.
Your music has evolved a great deal from No Time To Hurry, yet you have been able to maintain a strong aesthetic which is very much your own, where do you see it going next?
I have a lot of plans. In my future works I want to find out the limits of the sound that I am interested in as Foresteppe, to rethink the path already covered.
Peace and purity are the words and feelings come to mind when I listen to No Time To Hurry. Also it was your first ever album to be released on Bandcamp as Foresteppe. How important and special was the album to you?
Of course, it is very important to me, this is the first work. 🙂 In general, this is the only album that did not have any global concept, it was a tryout after Последние Каникулы. Perhaps due to the fact that I did not feel any obligations, and did not have any special ambitions, everything worked out.
Tell us about creating one of your most celebrated tracks off of No Time To Hurry: Radonitsa. How did you manage to perfectly put together the samples from old Russian audio fairy tales, soundtracks for old Ukrainian cartoons and American slow core and French chanson and the music? Were the S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky’s pre 1917’s photos a big influence?
All of the above has been used on various pieces in No Time To Hurry. I don’t know, I’m used to noticing what could potentially be useful to me :). So they just came by. I like to think that these are sound collages. I decided to use the photo of Prokudin-Gorsky after the music was invented.
Landscape and environments seem to creep into your work, and then you end up creating mirroring environments with your sounds. How do you do that? Has solitude always been a part of it?
Yes, I like to use field recordings in my work, I want to avoid some kind of sterile environment, let me hear more of the surroundings. I have never specifically sought solitude, but I feel comfortable enough alone.
Have you ever abandoned a project, or do you generally try to make it work?
No, if I started to make a piece, I will definitely come back to it, even if it doesn’t work the first time.
Do you feel it is important to reflect on learning from each album – musically and/or emotionally – or to keep moving?
If this is a question for me as a listener, then it seems to me that it is inevitably necessary to combine both. I’m bored of listening to the same thing, but I’m also listening to something to find out what else it can be.
How did the name Foresteppe come about?
Everything is simple, I lived in the forest-steppe zone in Siberia. now I live in Moscow.
Is History in general a big part of your art making process..?
I think yes. not literally, but my music is very related to the sense of the passage of time.
Your latest output, Karaul is a bit more noise/experimental driven. Can you tell us about creating Karaul?
this is a separate big conversation. Long story short: I did this album after returning from the military service. this is the reverse side of the forest-steppe, Russia, the culture of my country. in this work I wanted to talk about the trauma that occurs every day in our country. military service must be terminated.
Is there anything you are working on right now? What can we expect from you in 2020 and 2021? Do you have any more projects coming up?
Yes, I have several projects in the works now, some of them are in the final stage. in the army there was a lot of time to think, so now I have creative plans for several years ahead 🙂