Oksana Mysina: „I Don?t Do Anything for the Sake of Making Money”

Sunboxxx magazine
May 2006
(Author?s version)

 — Oksana, the public knows you in three roles; as the leader of your rock band Oxy Rocks, as a director and as a film and stage actress. What is most important for you today?

 — Tell me, which of your children do you love most? I give myself entirely to everything I do. I don?t do a little bit of this here and a little bit of that there. Music, directing and my work as an actress — these are all things that keep me awake until 5 a.m., keep me thinking, as I write texts or jot down images. It?s an incredibly interesting thing to create something out of nothing.

 — Is this purely creative work? Or do you make money with some things and do other things without worrying about money?

 — It is the path I walk. Profit has nothing to do with it. In order to earn the salary I now receive for working in a film, I had to work my tail off for twenty years. In the music world I?m a newcomer and I know that. So I?ve got that whole process to go through again. I don?t do anything for the sake of earning money. If I?m offered big money to do something that doesn?t fit with my plans and visions, I couldn?t care less about the big money.

 — Have there been situations like that?

 — I performed in Yury Moroz?s film “Kamenskaya“ and a lot happened for me after that. My small role was noticed by [the producer Valery] Todorovsky and I ended up playing in „Family Secrets.” I loved working with Moroz. But when he later offered me another role that duplicated what I had already done for him, I turned him down. Although I knew perfectly well that my refusal meant he would never offer me anything again. But I can?t do anything else but remain myself.

 — Are you able to avoid betraying yourself?

 — Creative work is a very fragile thing, as fragile as love. It?s like the dust on a butterfly?s wings. If you don?t treat that dust with the care it deserves, your butterfly may not fly. Twice in my life I have entered productions to replace another actress. Once was at the Moscow Art Theater in “Teibele and Her Demon.” After Yelena Maiorova died, I was talked into taking over her role. The theater approached me and explained the production would be dedicated to Lena?s memory, that this would not be a mere replacement. I would do my own work from scratch. I intuitively sensed that I should not step into this role, but the directors and the other actors assured me I should. As it happened, my main partner Sergei Shkalikov died of a drug overdose. So much for that show.
So I try to listen to my inner voice in order to do what is really mine. Because you can never pluck all the fruit that hangs from the trees. I believe that the professionalism and high quality I may have achieved in some way will always come to my aid when necessary. But you?ve got to be ready for that moment.

 — Are you ready?

 — My drummer Misha Zolotaryov says, “Yeah, I?m fifty. We?re old, but we?ve been hitting in the same place all our lives. We haven?t sold out, we don?t play pop crap. We?ve got to keep hitting in the same place and something?s bound to happen.” We?re playing clubs now, but I believe — we believe — that our time will come. Last year we played for an audience of 10,000 at a film festival on the Azov Sea and I heard how people responded to our songs! We could feel the waves of energy. It really hit us! We cut loose at a festival at the B-2 club recently. There were a bunch of American students there. Afterwards, after watching Sergei Shchetinin, my lead guitarist, they said we reminded them of the Rolling Stones, in terms of sound and image. We get carried away on big stages. As the Americans say, we put on a show.

 — When does your album come out?

 — I never realized what our show business world was like. My conversations with studios often ends with people asking me who our backers are, how much money they have, what bank they use. The presidents of these big studios don?t hide the fact that they don?t like music, aren?t interested in it at all. They have one question, “What do you want from us and how much will we make on it?”

 — Music producers don?t like music and film producers don?t like actors? That must be the general tone of things in our country today.

 — It?s the cynicism of the modern world is what it is. It is out of control, just as in the political world. It all comes from the same place. A human life doesn?t mean anything anymore.

 — Are you interested in politics?

 — I keep my distance from politics, although I know the basics of what is going on. I am horrified, tormented by what I see happening. I?m not the kind of person to hide my head in the sand, to live without seeing what?s going on around me.

 — What bothers you more than anything?

 — In America six high-ranking generals who recently resigned have spoken out about the pathetic way the war in Iraq is being handled. Even military men are talking about how disgusting it is!
Unfortunately, the wars in Iraq and Chechnya are similar. The war in Chechnya may not be on such a grand scale, but I am convinced we are simply not hearing the proper information. Our society is fed propaganda, we don?t really know the state of affairs there. But it only seems that the war is “out there” somewhere. In fact, the war is right here and has been for a long time. We wake up in the morning and are happy that the sun has come up, that it?s spring outside, and meanwhile? Maybe this is why I?ve taken up music now. Because without actually going into politics, I can speak out about this situation in the language of art.

 — Do your musicians share your point of view?

 — I consider it a miracle that my musicians are with me. It?s possible that we?ve been looking for each other all our lives. Although we all are very different in our human qualities, life experience and musical backgrounds. It is really something when you find people with whom you can write, compose, have a feeling for each other and understand each other when you communicate in some language only you know.

 — So do you think rock is alive in our country?

 — I can?t answer for all of rock music, I?m not a music critic. I don?t even have time to listen to most of the musicians around us. Although I?ve been to see [Boris] Grebenshchikov several times. When my husband and I are in the States, we go see Bob Dylan in concert, or concerts of great blues musicians and singers. That?s where all this music comes from.

 — Describe your musical experiment.

 — We want to find the right Russian words, the combination of words and sounds that can exist in harmony with the music that comes out of the blues. The music our band plays is probably closer to rhythm and blues, a mix of rock and blues and, maybe, European ballad traditions. In Russian rock I would say the only person who really did it right was Viktor Tsoi; he was able to find the right mix of words and music. Everybody who knew Tsoi says it came to him naturally, these combinations of texts and music.

 — How do you explain the constant failure of Russian English-language projects in the West?

 — Because the Russian accent still remains. English for a Russian poet is still a translated language. You have Pushkin in the original and you have Pushkin in English or Finnish. Those are two different Pushkins.

 — Where do you find more people faking it, here or abroad?

 — I don?t know. But I am blown away by the way musicians work in America. Every concert is a matter of life and death for them. You get the feeling that tonight?s show is their last concert in their life. That?s how much energy they kick out. They have some knowledge about that, they know how to work a crowd. They know you?ve got to pour it all out, lay down and die right here before the audience?s eyes and not count out your every step. We have a bunch of people whose “singing“ and „playing” consists of lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks.

 — Do you always play live?

 — Always and only live. That?s natural, that?s normal.

 — How is the Oksana Mysina Theatrical Brotherhood doing?

 — Wonderful. We?ve just done new versions of our productions “Ariston“ and „Quixote and Sancho” at the young ApARTe Theater in a beautiful snow-white basement on Tverskoi Boulevard.

 — Does that mean we can congratulate you with finally finding a home?

 — Yes, my home is the ApARTe Theater now. I like it there. There?s a very creative atmosphere, you don?t have to waste your time playing politics with anyone. They?ve been very friendly to us. So if you?re looking for my new work in theater, come to ApARTe. 
By the way, I celebrated my last birthday in this new space by joining the cast of my own show “Ariston” in the role of Oedipus?s wife Jocasta who ends by committing suicide. I took great pleasure in dying again on stage for the umpteenth time. I love dying on stage. It?s a wonderful thing to do. In Kama Ginkas?s production of Dostoevsky I?ve died a lot — 275 times.

 — You?re a real Phoenix!

 — My first role in [Vyacheslav] Spesivtsev?s theater was in the rock opera “The Phoenix.“ That?s the first time I sang with rock musicians, too. I played the Phoenix. Five people stood around me, making up my claws, my wings and my tail. I sat there in that „contraption” and sang into a microphone in a deep voice. Then I grew up - my tail fell off and my claws disappeared and I was left standing there on my long legs in a short skirt and high heels.

 — What projects might we see you in next season in the theater?

 — I?m going to play Ranevskaya in a production by Andrei Lyubimov of “The Cherry Orchard.“ And with the St. Petersburg director Alexei Yankovsky, I am going to do a one-woman show called „The Little Match Girl.” That?s a play by Klim, the tremendous avant-garde director and playwright who is a recipient of a UNESCO award. I?m really taken with Yankovsky. He knows something about this profession that I don?t.

 — What about film?

 — I?ve just finished up in Eldar Ryazanov?s “Anderson.” We?re doing the looping now. And just today I was officially offered one of the leads in a 12-part TV mini-series called “Bloody Mary.” The director Nonna Agadzhanova listened to our album and picked out three songs that, it would appear, will be included in the film.

 — Your husband John is an American. Who better to ask then: What are Americans like?

 — They?re all different, just like Russians are. You want some sort of generalization and I want to stick to individual characteristics. I don?t understand the word “masses.” All people are different. There are people who like fascism and there are people who read Joseph Brodsky.

 — Tonight there was an old man in medals at your concert. He sat and listened very attentively.

 — Yes, he comes to almost everything I do. He comes to my theater performances and waits for me afterwards. He was at my concert at the Central House of Artists. He likes rock music and he calls me all the time (I don?t know how he got my number) and asks me where my next concert is going to be. Today I said, “We?re playing a club. It?s late. Why come? It?s raining.“ He says, „What else can I do? My friend, a colonel, says there?s nothing higher than love. So, what if I love you? You?re got to accept it. There?s nothing higher than love, so I?ll be at your concert even if it?s late and it?s raining.”

, 05-2006

Oksana Mysina
Oxy Rocks

© 2003—2006, Oksana Mysina Theatrical Brotherhood
E-mail: mysina@theatre.ru
+7 (495) 998-63-43 (Oksana Ryadnina, Press attashe)