What’s in a name? Where do characters come from? Sometimes, the questions authors are asked are difficult to answer: ‘where did you get the idea from?’ is the perennial lump hammer of a question; virtually unanswerable.
But occasionally a question can be answered, and today I’ll tell you how I created Belarussian rock band There Will Be Blood.
There Will Be Blood, known in some circles simply as Blood, make their first appearance in the third Toten Herzen novel titled . . . er, There Will Be Blood. Beginning as a rival band to Toten Herzen, the first incarnation of Blood are murdered backstage at the Gwando Awards after winning Best Album with Ratcatcher.
But Blood are part of an organised crime system, created as a front by Mikhael Pushkin to launder money from illegal arms sales. When the first band are murdered, he needs another one quick and influenced by Toten Herzen’s story reincarnates There Will Be Blood, albeit with a different personnel.
The first point of influence for all this came from the rows and controversy surrounding Russian duo t.A.T.u. in the early 2000s. Two alleged lesbians, they muddled through the public consciousness until they came into the sights of two UK television presenters: Richard and Judy. For those outside the UK, Richard and Judy were a sort of middle-aged double-headed version of Oprah Winfrey. Their television history was long and they had influence.
When Richard and Judy called for t.A.T.u. to be banned that was it. The furore catapulted the first single to the top of the UK music charts and gave them the UK publicity they needed. Already a success in Europe, t.A.T.u. didn’t encounter the kind of puritanical condemnation in places like Germany, and when I raised the subject on an international forum, music fans abroad simply couldn’t understand what all the outrage was about.
The outrage did bring the band to the attention of Q magazine who sent a reporter and photographer out to Russia to interview them. And this is where the story turned a bit sinister. The two of them were met by the band’s security staff and driven for hours around Moscow in a blacked out SUV. The reporters had no idea where they were going or whether they would end up in the foundations of a Moscow motorway; the band’s manager Ivan Shapovalov had previously pinned a female Daily Telegraph reporter to a wall following a ‘disagreement.’ Eventually at some god-forsaken hour in the morning, they were introduced to the band and literally locked in a room with them alone.
Two hours later they emerged and the Q photographer, having given up smoking several years before, was desperate for a cigarette. The reporter described Julia Volkova as ‘positively feral.’ t.A.T.u. split up as a duo after splitting from Shapovalov who went on to form a new act called n.A.T.o.: a solo singer dressed in ‘traditional Arab style, but resembling a Chechen widow!
There’s no suggestion t.A.T.u. were a front for anything. They had a lot of front, it just wasn’t that of a money laundering scam. But rock bands and crime occasionally go hand in hand and I remember the story of one manager (I won’t name the band) who was stopped by police at the US border with six tons of cocaine. ‘Just personal use, officer,’ mocked Phil Easton, rock DJ on The Phil Easton Express.
There Will Be Blood are an amalgam of several real life rock musicians who will also remain nameless, but the twin drummers are based on the backing drummers used by Laibach from around 2004 to 2006. I’m assuming Eva Breznikar and Nataša Regovec were used by Laibach more for appearance than for their drumming, but they added a certain audio-visual wallop which I thought would make a good gimmick for Blood: a band built on gimmicks, publicity baiting and attention grabbing.
Problem is, when you read stories like those surrounding t.A.T.u. you begin to realise the author sometimes has work to do keeping up and competing with real life. You can try to make it up, but they’ll never believe you.