With a collaboration with American rapper T-Pain on his track Cure the Thunder this year, that international breakthrough could be tantalisingly close for Sergey Lazarev. Despite an 18-year career, Lazarev maintains that singular focus as he talks about childhood fame in a saccharine kids group, surviving a boy band and going it alone.
You’ve taken a path similar to acts such as Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. From children’s group Neposedy, through to Smash!!, then solo. Can you describe what it is like being in the public eye for so long?
Neposedy was my first professional experience and where I started when I was 12. When I and my friend Vlad Topalov grew out of Neposedy we created Smash!!, a duet that brought us fame. When you grow up on stage it’s a huge responsibility and kind of tough. However it made me disciplined.
You went down the boy band route becoming a teen idol in the process, what was it like?
When we were in Neposedy we really wanted it to grow into something big. We dreamed of becoming popular, wanted to see our videos on TV, and people to come to our concerts. When the first band, t.A.T.u. came out of Neposedy and became popular it motived us. And when we sang Belle from Notre Dame De Paris, even before we had the name Smash!!, we’d signed a contract with Universal Music in Russia. In 2002, we took first place at Jurmala’s New Wave song contest and it blew up from there.
Smash!! bandmate Vlad Topalov admitted to being a regular user of cocaine and ecstasy and says this was the reason Smash!! broke up. Was the pressure too great?
There are many reasons why Smash!! broke up. We didn’t part on good terms, but now everything’s okay between us. We were really tired after three years of working, we wanted to be stars but we were still kids and the transition from Neposedy to Smash!! happened too quickly. We were turning into robots. All decisions were made for us but we wanted to be heard.
So to your solo career, your debut album Don’t Be Fake, was predominantly in English, yet only marketed in Eastern Europe. Can you explain why you chose English?
When we signed the contract with Universal, we were aiming at the international market. We were following t.A.T.u. who’d already become popular worldwide and we recorded the album in English to sell it abroad. We had the same strategy. After releasing our first album we had a big promo tour in Asia, and were number one in Korea. That’s why in my solo career I’ve decided to persist with English.
English featured on your follow-up album TV Show as well as Electric Touch and Lazarev, can you talk about success in the English-speaking market.
A couple of singles were released in England and played in nightclubs. Because of the crisis it all stopped for a short while. Thanks to the Sony contract everything is back on track. Recently we released Cure the Thunder in cooperation with American rapper T-Pain. Finally we have the fourth album selling on iTunes. Thanks to the Internet it’s easy to go international nowadays.
Do you have any plans for a Russian-language album?
It’s hard to find lyricists who write what I need in Russian. All my lyrics are written by foreigners and the level of foreign music is higher. Besides, people are used to me singing in English.
You juggle music with theatre to some acclaim, can you talk a little about acting and any plans to move from stage to screen?
I graduated from Chekhov’s Moscow Art Theatre and in 10 years of acting I’ve played four lead roles at Pushkin Theatre in Moscow. Now I’m getting ready for The Marriage of Figaro where I’m playing Figaro. Theatre is my second profession. I don’t have a great desire to play in films; I don’t like the shooting process. Theatre is enough.
And what about your future in music? Is there a new album in the works?
I don’t have a new album planned. Lazarev is still fresh and we’re focusing on promotion. It went gold in Russia three months after release. I think any new album would be completely different as I’ll be 33 or even 34 by the time I release it. The music will change as much as I will.
Sergey Lazarev (RU, pop)
20 October at 19.00
Tickets: 150 –1,200hrv
October Palace (Instytutska 1)
by Jared Morgan