Formed in the Winter of 2010 in the Siberian town of Tomsk, Neverending Winter (Бесконечная зима) is an amp-melting trio blending hulking crust punk with black metal, death metal, noise rock, and even captivating ethno/folk motives. For the past decade—with the exception of 2020 for obvious reasons—the band has been extensively touring over the vast areas of Russia, Scandinavia, and even China.
Hello comrades! Thanks for accepting the invitation for doing this interview. In 2020 we were planning to book a mini tour in Turkey for Neverending Winter. Then the pandemic crashed upon us and changed our lives forever. How are you dealing with Covid-19? Hope you are well and staying safe during these troubling days.
Ivan: Hi punks & rockers!
We are a band de trois but, traditionally, our bass player Sasha declined the interview proposal for unknown reasons. So here we are, Alexey—drums, and Ivan—guitar & vocals.
First of all, many thanks goes to A. for this interview and the rest of the DIY Conspiracy crew for what they do!
All of us were looking forward to do this trip to Turkey and back, and I even actually started booking shows throughout the whole route through Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and Georgia/Armenia but out of the sudden this medieval plague came upon us as stones falling from the sky. I hope for better times to come so we can make this dream tour become reality one day.
As it is almost impossible not to hear anything Covid-related, Turkey is having problems, India is drowning in thousands of corpses and our country became the leader in terms of death cases in the world within the past year. And we are not an exception here: the first one in the band who got corona was the drummer Alexey. Then my turn came in quite a funny way. I hadn’t seen any of my punk mates for a while when he invited me to a gig once some of the public restrictions started to be removed. So, we went to a local punk gig in Saint-Petersburg, we were having a bottle of wine together and the next day he texted me that he and his neighbour both got positive test results. I didn’t go anywhere, just called a family doctor and spent several weeks home, mostly working and watching old Soviet movies. The only person who remains clear is the eldest in the band, our bass player Sasha.
Alexey: Despite the masks, gloves wearing and keeping the distance, Covid did not pass me by. I got sick in mid-December, almost on New Year’s eve, which did not add any optimism but everything went in a mild form and without any lung complications. What was really shitty for me is the loss of smell and taste. Luckily to me, I have no consequences afterwards.
Neverending Winter is in existence for more than a decade. It seems to be a productive journey since you have released two EP’s, one split and two full length so far. Let’s start at the beginning for those that might not be familiar with the band. Could you tell us about yourselves? What are the origins and what was the original intention with the band?
Ivan: Sure thing. All of us came to Tomsk to study as this city is well-known for its universities and is usually called the Siberian Athens. That said, none of us were born there. I myself was born and grew up in the southern part of Siberia, between Khakásiya and Tuva republics, Alexey is hailing from the eastern parts of the country, from the steppes of Chita region and Sasha is the one from Orenburg region, which lies between Ural mountains and the begging of the central part of Russia.
As we’ve been really very-very long-term, lazy arses of students and separately discovered DIY ethics for ourselves in different periods of time and at a different age, we came to the local punk movement with different backgrounds in the metal and alternative music scenes. Initially, we started going to gigs, got involved in a more political topics, and paid more attention to self-education in frames of the Left ideas, veganism, anti-capitalism and so on. It is quite a usual story for the majority of bands, I believe.
The firestarters in the city were two classmates and close friends, Konstantin and Sergey. These guys were playing in a local punk hardcore act called Louder Than Words, which later on all of us joined and played with until the band became inactive. Besides that, they are also ruling a distro/label, which at the beginning used to be more about punk and its subgenres but nowadays they switched to many other great genres. I strongly advise you to check them out: They Live! Records.
After that band stopped playing, some of us decided to give an another try and form a new act focused more on the darkest sides of punk, taking the best from metal and crust but still keeping the anarcho/left ideas as the basis of the band. It began eleven years ago and is still surprisingly active despite all the gifts of destiny we all received. Long time ago this band became something more than just music, so it is hard to just exclude it from your life. Currently, we’re having some kind of hiatus but I hope it is just a matter of time.
Alexey: For the past 25 years my life has always been somehow connected to music, of course, not on a professional level but as a very long hobby. In the mid-2000s I was a guitar player and a song-writer in a local death metal act called Abortarium, where we were trying to combine death, grind and math in our riffs, and in our music in general. Around the same time, I met Ivan and Sanya, who would start Neverending Winter in the future, after Louder Than Words disbanded.
Before we started to play as a band there were a number of projects where we played together, organized gigs, recorded various stuff, etc. Bands appeared and disappeared as the time passed by, and our cooperation under the name of Neverending Winter was only a matter of time.
Neverending Winter is a pretty fitting name for a band that hails from Siberia, haha! If I remember correctly, you borrowed it from a song title of crust punk legends Axegrinder. An influence of ripping punk can be seen throughout your discography. What would the top five punk albums be if you pick up the most influential ones?
Alexey: A difficult question to answer. At the time when we just started to play, make some material and come up with new songs, no one ever said: “Oh, this piece looks like this or that” or “Let’s make it in the vein like these guys in this song.” Rather, it happened by intuition, on an inner level, but its sources can be completely different, and not only from the world of music. However, here are my top 4 albums that I listened to during that period:
- Tragedy – Nerve Damage
- From Ashes Rise – Nightmares
- Axidance – The road breathes cold
- Cattle Decapitation – Karma.Bloody.Karma
Ivan: You are right. When we started, a different drummer played with us, Sergey, who suggested to name the band after Axegrinder’s song but translated into Russian. In Cyrillic, it is “Бесконечная зима” which is a great name for a band coming all the way from Siberia and still keeps the tradition of many punk bands to name after the songs/titles and etc.
Of course, punk ideas are at the core and will always be despite our heavy sound. Therefore, both influenced us the most but each in a very different way. During different periods of our lives we listened to a ton of different bands ranging from metal, folk, acoustic to punk, crust, hardcore, you name it. So, I’d like to highlight a few bands, not all of them are straight-forward punk acts but in some or another way they are tied to the DIY ideas:
- To What End? – The Purpose Beyond
- Ictus – Discography
- Lake of Blood – Heed The Primal Calling
- Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising
- Leftöver Crack – Fuck World Trade
I was joking about Siberia but it is barely impossible to think that your homeland did not have any impact on your music as your discography is a perfect example of cold and furious black metal. What was the underground music scene in Tomsk like when the pandemic broke out? How has the pandemic affected the scene?
Alexey: I moved to Moscow from Tomsk more than two years ago, so I no longer keep my fingers on the pulse of the Tomsk scene but from time to time I still follow up what is happening there, a huge number of friends and fellows, talented musicians still live and do something interesting there. During the pandemic there was a small number of visiting/touring bands or their complete absence during the acute epidemic phase (compared to the years we spent in Tomsk, it used to the most active Siberian city when talking about the DIY punk scene) but it seems to me that local groups did not stop making gigs quite regularly.
Ivan: The underground scene of the city, does not matter if we’re talking about present or past, has always been an interesting and outstanding example amongst not only neighbouring Siberian cities but amongst the whole country in general. But as we both said earlier, since we have left Tomsk a few years ago, each of us is following up the local scene in a different way. As for me, from time to time I’d check what’s happening on social media and what I see is like 50/50. Maybe this is a matter of getting old, maybe I’m just a snob, hah. But as I can say from what I see, the scene is still alive and new bands appear, new people come and go, but it is definitely not dead but rather flourishing.
I would love to learn more about the DIY scene! What are the best bands, zines, labels around Tomsk that you would recommend?
Ivan: There were some zines in the past, at least in a wider way but currently I know one which is from Krasnoyarsk, called Storyteller. Not sure if anyone here ever tried to go globally and translate any zine in English. As for the labels, if you want to dig into the Russian DIY scene of different periods, you shall definitely check the following: trvs records, They Live! Records, Drunk With Power, Goat Goat Grooves, No Feelings, and Slowsnow Records. These ones cover not only Tomsk but the country in general and are worth checking them out as in my opinion.
Alexey: Talking of zines, I’m not sure if even one exists now, I think not. In general, since we stopped actively taking part in the scene of the city and all of us moved to the capital, as it usually happens, new folks appeared and became more active, whose activities I don’t really follow.
I must admit that with Neverending Winter we were the first and, apparently, the last who tried to mix dark punk with death metal, black metal and some other genres, trying not to have any strict borders. There is a rather active metal scene, with which we have never crossed our paths for many reasons but as for the punk, Tomsk is still quite a developed one.
Your artworks are always neat and carefully done. How important is the artwork for you?
Ivan: Pretty important I’d say. Especially if taking into consideration the huge legacy of the different art movements we’ve had in Russia. That said, I’m a huge fan of Ivan Bilibin, Ivan Shishkin, Mikhail Vrubel and many other great artists. There were the pioneers, who tried to take the best of old Russian narratives and folklore stories, and turned that into art pieces, book illustrations etc.
It is a pity that not that many bands here pay much attention to the roots and try to follow different trends or ideas, which for me are overused by the majority of the bands worldwide. We live in a really multicultural world, inhabited by hundreds of different ethnic tribes, cultures and so on. For us an album cover becomes something more than just a picture so we try to add something more for the listeners and attract their attention and imagination not only through the sounds but through the image and the ideas behind it.
Alexey: Indeed, they are very important. It’s always great when an artist catches the same mood and is able to convey to the listener the very world that we turned into sounds, as it happened with the cover with Series of Decades album.
We were on tour through our motherland, arrived to Chelyabinsk city and when we saw the art of a very talented local female artist, who made for the poster of our gig, we were kinda shocked and amazed in the same time. We immediately asked her whether we can use this art as the cover and for merch, and she agreed (Hi, Ira!). The second important point is that a good art can visually compliment some of the gaps in terms of recording. We are not cats, and there is enough unfilled space in our recordings too, ahaha. When the balance is in place, you want to come back to the album.
I am always curious about tour stories and I’m sure you love touring and playing shows in different places! What are some of your tour adventures highlights?
Alexey: Yes, there have been enough stories for many years ahead. At the same time we are quite calm people who do not create or live in chaos during gigs or while on tour. The main thing in all of this is the very feeling of the road itself. Even if nothing happens during the whole tour which is cooler than a leaking fuel filter on the van and its repairs somewhere in the middle of nowhere—ok, no problem, so be it. I’m still ready to spend my free time doing this.
A few short stories without details I’d love to share, ahah:
- Our bass player Sasha getting wasted on Redbull and vodka in Beijing during our 2015 summer tour in China. We did not play the gig on the next day and had to look for him in this anthouse-like city.
- Being taken off the train Gomel—St. Petersburg by Belarusian cops, because we did not print the boarding pass in Russia in advance (21st century, fuck!).
- Swimming in a hot summer day in Volga’s bank river accompanied by two beautiful nymphs.
- Fresh flowers and a bunch of luxury snacks from a garbage dump we got in the Norwegian wilderness.
Ivan: Over the years we have collected a bunch of such stories. For some tours I did tour reports: some in Russian only, some available in English on our Facebook. I dare to quote: touring, touring is never boring! Here are some which I remember and will remember for years in advance:
- Playing in Trondheim, Norway and a few Polish guys came to the gig. One of them, I believe, was on many drugs, had a pretty bad English but still tried his best to speak despite his condition. The stories he told were more like some avant-garde nonsense but what I remember the most is his expression about the set we played: “MUSIC! DRUMSTICK! FUCK! I LIKE!” I think it was a random visitor, not a local punk guy but we called him a Polish lizard as during that night he was always pulling his tongue in and out for hours.
- When we were touring China back in 2015, a friend who booked the whole tour advised us to buy tickets in advance. Of course, we were younger and didn’t do it. So, one day in the middle of the tour we couldn’t buy tickets for the speed trains or the sleeping wagons so we had to get common seats instead. It was a totally new experience. People can take your seat, can lay on the floor whatever the free space is, they would smoke inside the cabins despite the prohibitions. And the most surreal thing was the lady worker of the Chinese railways was promoting different types of goods during the route, of course in Chinese. At some moment she started showing pictures of lungs of smokers, and other body parts of smokers. This lasted for half an hour or even more and in the end she started selling cigarettes. This is just a small bit of this great trip around China!
- During our last tour we played Blitz in Oslo, a great anarchist place. There was a girl among the visitors, looking pretty meta and she seemed to enjoy our music. She was headbanging, dancing and so on. So, after the show we stayed for a night or two in Blitz and one of the guys from the punk collective told me that this girl is deaf and it looks like she actually likes the vibrations we did rather than the actual music. It was a great moment and a totally new experience. I wish I could see more people like her coming to gigs in Russia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).
- Lastly, here’s something more from this same trip. It was in Paris, in a bar where we played and slept as well. There was a local visitor, who stayed as well. We were having some beers before going to sleep, that guy was telling stories about his motherland, some South American country, Colombia, if I’m not mistaken. He was explaining how bad is the image of the country worldwide, how many people would only think about cocaine when he mentions where he’s from and so on. He was mostly complaining. So, we fell asleep but our drummer stayed with him for some more time and when we woke up, he said that after all those complaints and some more bottles of beer that person offered him some powder. A funny story about duality and, again, another tour nonsense.
It’s been over three years since your last EP. What’s coming up next for Neverending Winter, have you started writing or thinking about a new record?
Alexey: A three-song recording (hardly but most likely our second full-length) is in the now in the works. About 90% of the material has already been recorded and it’s being prepared to be sent for mixing. I listen to the recordings, select the best parts, glue’em and stuff like that. Usually, I’m the one responsible for this but in light of the pandemic and other life cases and surprises, the whole process was a little delayed and it takes me a bit more time than usual. So, I hope in the coming fall we will release a new record.
Ivan: The new songs are already recorded. We started the process back in 2020 and it’s still up to Alexey, to prepare the material for mixing and mastering. Besides that, we’re expecting a throat singing guest vocalist from one well-known Siberian band. There are some other final touches, which we have to put before releasing this record online.
For me personally, this record became the hardest one as the whole recording process took place not in the best times of my life. However, afterwards I realised that despite everything bad that happened in the past, this record is the most mature and solid one we’ve ever done as a band. The cover art is almost finished and we even made a video for one of the songs. So, let’s hope that before the end of the year we’ll be able to release this full-length. In my opinion, it is worth the time we spent on it. It is like wine, the longer you store it, the better it tastes.