Last year went really well for you: you became the first Russian skater to have a part on Thrasher, then an even bigger part in new Absurd video, solid coverage in European skate media, Arto Saari invited you to his Helsinki airport session and the list goes on… How did it all work out in this positive way?
Last winter I graduated from university and I had a lot of free time after that. The only thing I really wanted to do was skate. That passion tied me with skateboarding even closer. I said yes to all the ideas and offers I got and skated as much as I could.
It’s wintertime now. Are Russian winters really as tough as they seem to be? How does your winter schedule look when you are at home?
The climate is changing. When I was in school we had way more snow than now. I remember the temperature used to go down all the way to -30º. When it was -30 or colder they cancelled our lessons and let us stay home. Sometimes those breaks lasted for a week or longer. We were kids and nobody was scared of frost. Instead of staying home we were playing with snow in the streets. The last few years we’ve been getting rain instead of snow for the New Year and the temperature has been around zero degrees. But Siberia still has serious winters. Once we flew to Krasnoyarsk (around 5000 kilometres east of Moscow) for the indoor skatepark event. I had forgotten to check the forecast before. It was +3 in Moscow and over there it was -27. Everything around was frozen but the city life looked totally normal. I remember myself thinking how was that possible? Every winter we try to migrate with the Absurd guys somewhere south for skateboarding. Spain is one of the easiest and favourite options for us. Sometimes we do indoor park trips around Russia. You can also do winter sports here. Besides skating you can go to concerts, exhibitions or just party. In Moscow you can find a good party any day you want.
How come there is no proper indoor skatepark in such a big and rich city as Moscow?
Yes this is a big problem for the skate scene in Moscow. We have two indoor mini ramps and one skatepark in a sports hall. Mini ramps are all right but the skatepark is miserable. The vibe over there is sad and disrespectful to skateboarding. First of all the course is by the swimming pool and you need to go through the swimming pool to skate. The second thing, you need to have a paper from your doctor that says you are allowed to skate no matter how old you are. Also you need to have an extra pair of shoes (dry pair) to wear inside. The list of rules is just ridiculous. You have to skate with certain groups and half of the obstacles are for BMXers. Older skaters don’t want to deal with this because you can’t win against this old Soviet system. Aged people from the past set the rules and that’s it. There is no comfortable place for indoor skateboarding in Moscow and it has been like this for the last three years. Before that we used to have the real skatepark that worked for 10 years.
Do you like to live in Moscow?
Yes I really like the city. I was born and raised here. Since an early age I was going to the skate spots all around the city with my older brother and I know my way around Moscow really well. Moscow is developing and changing. I don’t know the goal of the government… Maybe just to build more offices and places for work. Still Moscow is a beautiful city with a long history. It’s becoming more modern and it has the spirit of new generations too. All my favourite spots are in Moscow. I feel at home and free here. No one can dictate or force me to do anything when I am here. I like that there are four strongly marked seasons of the year. We have real winters, springs, summers and autumns.
What are main advantages of Moscow for you?
Most of the places are open 24/7. This is where the expression “Moscow never sleeps” comes from. You can feel that when you are in the capital. All the people are here; all the best things happen here. Moscow is a huge city and we have a good system of public transport. You can get to any part of the city you want without a car. Many of my friends here are making an effort to develop themselves and by doing that they develop the city too. You have a lot of possibilities in Moscow… You can start something new here.
And what are the problems of the city that you can see?
For example the rent is too expensive here. It’s almost impossible to have a small business in the city (skatepark, workshop, bar, shop, club, etc). A lot of people are trying to look up to Europe but it is different here. A lot of European things will not work here. The size of the city sometimes is a problem too. Sometimes Moscow is too big. Another problem we have is the lack of tourists. People don’t want to come because of visas and other things but we would like to have new friends. I think one of the biggest problems of Moscow are the traffic jams. Sometimes you can spend three hours in a traffic jam if you get stuck in rush hour.
Your car is different from what people drive nowadays. Tell us about your ride…
Yeah I got a Soviet GAZ-24 car better known here as a Volga. It was made in 1979. I don’t like modern car designs too much. When I decided to learn how to drive I chose a Volga. Some of my friends laughed at me, others said that it would be impossible to drive such a big old style car in intense traffic of Moscow. I went to look at a few Volgas for sale that we had found on the Internet with my dad. Most of the cars were salvaged but after a while we found one in quite good condition. It cost five times cheaper than the average secondhand Golf class car.
What type of people used to have Volgas during the Soviet times?
Even though everyone was meant to be equal in the USSR, the Volga was a real business class car of that time. It is a really massive car with a high level of comfort for the standards of the seventies. The seats are big and soft. Everything about the car was supposed to be convenient and stylish. At first only heavyweight members of the Communist party could have those cars, but later they started to use Volgas as taxis. You can often see Volgas in Soviet movies. It was one of the symbols of Moscow and the USSR.
Ok I think it’s enough about cars. Another thing about Soviet heritage that not too many people know about is the music. I know you are fan and expert of Russian rock of the 80-90’s. What’s special about it and why is it in your playlist 20-25 years later?
I remember the time when I was sure that I would never listen to Russian music. My older brother and his friends listened to The Ramones, The Doors and Iggy Pop. At the same time the Russian music that was on the radio and TV was only really bad pop tunes. A long time after that I accidentally downloaded a soundtrack to the movie by Kino band. My friend and I listened to it and were shocked! It was a breath of fresh air – we discovered a whole new sense and meaning we hadn’t known before. I started going through Russian rock and realised that most influential Russian bands appeared in the eighties right before the collapse of the USSR. People got tired of the system. They were looking for the new future and had a lot to say. The whole Russian rock scene was really underground at that time. Rock music was outlawed back then; concert records and tapes were illegal and bands shared the same instruments because there was nowhere to buy. But the musicians were so high on their music that they managed to overcome all the difficulties. They wanted to express themselves and do their own thing.
Do you need to know Russian language to understand those bands?
It depends on what you are looking for in music. For example most of the songs on popular Russian radio stations are in English but at the same time most of people here can’t understand English at all. As for me I stopped listening to foreign music because the words and the meanings of the songs are more important for me than music itself. But I guess some people can feel the mood of the song just from the music.
What modern Russian bands can you recommend?
I don’t listen to modern music too much. When I was editing the new Absurd video I went through a lot of bands but I still think that we had the best ones on the edge of the eighties and nineties. Out of the modern ones I can recommend Midnite Cobras. If you want to check out Soviet rock look up Kino, Grajdanskaya Oborona and Zvuki Mu.
You like to bring musical instruments as souvenirs from the trips. Do you learn how to play those after?
Almost every country has its own instrument with its own speech. I like national music that is based on local culture. I found the most surprising music in Madagascar recently. The rhythm is really fast and you can feel that the roots of the rhythm coming from the tribe life. I have a couple guitars and a saxophone. It’s not too hard to learn how to play musical instruments but you need time.
Last summer Absurd skateboards released Effect of growing fury. The video is a mix of psychedelic graphics, crazy animation, skateboarding and delirium, which you edited all together. Why did the video turn out to be this way?
We were filming the video for two years. When we did the final footage check we realised the new video was pretty much the same as our previous one or any other video that comes out every day. We decided to leave all art direction of the video to Pasha Kuznetsov who is our rider, friend, and natural born artist. He did the artwork. Also our friends did animation and all those graphic effects. The same with the music, the whole soundtrack was made by our friends and they gave us permission and all the rights. So the video isn’t just a result of our team but it’s a product of wider group of people who are down for experiments. We wanted to do a skate video that would look a bit different.
And how was the reaction to the video?
Most people just laughed at it in a good way. Sure some people took the effects a bit too serious and felt like we were on acid all the time. There are too many tricks these days. It’s not only about tricks for us. Anyway we are happy that we did it this way and it was a great experience for us to work with all those people.
You go on Patrik Wallner’s trips quite often. How did you become a permanent member of the Visual Traveling crew?
Every time I go on those trips it’s like magic. You are our team manager and a big fan of travelling. I just started following you. I’ve always tried to travel as much as possible. Once you offered me to join Patrik’s trip to Central Asia and this is how it all started. Patrik always chooses the craziest destinations. His trips are always interesting, educational, but at the same time it’s a big responsibility to go with him. He is always super prepared. He knows the route, all the locations and shots in advance. We just need to skate and be productive. I really respect Patrik and all the crew. Those guys showed me the real skateboarding.
You’ve already seen a lot of this world. You’ve been all around Europe, went to Asia, ex-Soviet countries and even Africa. How do people in these foreign places feel about skateboarding?
Sometimes you just cross the border and the attitude towards skateboarding becomes totally different. I feel like in the countries where the newest iPhone is the biggest treasure and a fancy car is the main lifetime achievement skateboarding will not be understood. And opposite to that societies that follow their culture and traditions and people who are not in a rush to be ahead of the world can accept and enjoy skateboarding better.
So why haven’t you been to the USA so far?
It will be sick to go there one day but I don’t think that it will be something completely new to me. American things and American culture is all around me. Most of the movies come from the States, the same with music, video games, music videos, etc. People want to go and stay there no matter what and they are not interested in other countries and cultures. But yeah, I still would like to go there one day. The New York type of skateboarding seems attractive to me.
What is your favourite all time destination?
We really love the Balkans. We’ve been going there three years in a row. We got a goal to visit all the ex-Yugoslavian countries. We always go there at the end of the autumn when the weather is the best. Spots over there are less skated, the prices are low, the food portions are big and the party scene is super fun. Check out Kingpin issues 113 and 125 for the articles about what we did there andI hope our latest trip comes will be in a forthcoming issue. We’ve just got back from our third visit to that region. We added Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania to the list. Also I really like to travel around Russia. I think it helps to develop skateboarding inside the country. No one besides us will go deep inside Russia to show kids how to skate a mini ramp.
Because of Crimea and the situation in the Ukraine the relations between Russia and Europe have changed for the worse recently. Do you think this will affect skateboarding or skateboarding will stay away from the politics?
Just don’t watch TV and don’t listen to politicians. Politicians do their dirty game but it doesn’t mean that it should affect neighbours’ relations. We have friends from Europe, from the States and we’ll always be Russian friends for people from those countries. We don’t need clashes, aggression and wars. We want to be friends, travel and skate together. Russia is a hospitable country and we’ll do our best to make guests happy no matter what goes on in politics. We need peace for the world!
What are the next big things for you?
I don’t plan too much because usually everything happens at the last moment. But still a few things are coming. I am looking forward to Patrik’s video from out skate trip to Madagascar. Last year we did an Absurd team trip to the Caucasus region (Kingpin issue 121) and we still need to release the tour video about that story. I’ve started riding for Destructo trucks and my welcome clip is about to go online. Also there are talks about some kind of special cooperation between DC Shoes and myself for the Russian market, but this is still is up in the air.
Gosha rides for Absurd Skateboards, DC Shoes, Quiksilver, Destructo trucks, RockStar Bearings and Stance socks.