It was called "The Conservatory". This was an Academy Of Music... Correction! It's THE Academy Of Music. The location is Odessa, Ukraine. Super-talented people come from the world over to study there, because it's the best. Russian composers need no introduction... Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokoviev, Glinka, Schnittke, Rimsky-Korsakov. Of course, The Conservatory admits only the very best. It's music's version of Top Gun; it makes the best even better. In 1998, they admitted a student of conducting & singing by the name of Irena Tyshyna. It nearly didn't happen for her; she was a rebel. Everything she did flew in the face of the stuffy traditionalism the institution was built on. She was disrepectful, challenged everything, asked too many awkward questions. It was a rocky ride but she nailed the 4 year course in 3 years and, in June 2001, she was awarded a distinction. And she was "forgiven" for her misdemeanors. To her, this was the highest accolade because, in the eyes of the unwavering professors at the uncompromising Academy, her skill as a musician had triumphed above all else.
So what does a destitute student of classical music in Ukraine do on the side to bring in some much needed cash? This one sang with and managed a jazz band that had a residence in a nightclub in Odessa and went on tour around Ukraine, Russia, Moldavia, Crimea and loads of other fun places. The powers that be at The Conservatory were seriously pissed off; for them, studying at The Academy demanded pure 100% dedication and concentration. Outside influences, even of a musical nature, were discouraged. Crawling back at dawn virtually every night after a gig was not the done thing. But whilst the Academy was giving knowledge, the gigs were giving experience. The singer's stage craft was being perfected. Her confidence as a performer was growing. People were starting to talk. People were starting to recognise her in the street.
England, United Kingdom: Countless bedroom tech-heads & DJ's with their decks, their computers, their samplers, their noisy synths and electric guitars, all making music, all nicking ideas off other people and moulding them into new shapes. And then there was the cream of the crop, those who were making some seriously superb music; Massive Attack, Basement Jaxx, Portishead, Leftfield, Goldfrapp, Prodigy, Radiohead, Orbital, Primal Scream, Stereolab, Photek, Red Snapper, Chemical Brothers, Roni Size, Groove Armada, Underworld... This was where Irena's heart was. London was where she needed to be. One year after graduating from The Academy, she was there, going to gigs, meeting like-minded people, getting a real taste for what it was all about. She made the move permanent. Armed with a 5 track CD recorded back in the Ukraine, she made her introductions. John Altman loved it, and made further introductions. Her talent was obvious to all who heard her. It was instant and undeniable.
The life she left behind in Russia was becoming a distant memory. Ask her about it and she won't tell you... suffocating... intense... extreme. Life on the edge. Beyond even the imagination of those she was now hanging out with in London. Maybe you've heard or read about some of the stories. We'll leave it there. Maybe one day...
A gig in Shepherds Bush; the first on these shores. It set her on a path. New songs. An album. Slowly at first. Then a tidal wave of ideas. Constantly writing, recording, improving... A torrid backdrop of different experiences... Turning the negatives into positives... Channelling all that energy into something worthwhile... Frozen memories of her past lives thrown into a boiling cauldron of majestic contradiction... Abrasive elegance, fucked-up chic, freezing fire, aching passion, desire... strange intimacy.
Don't you just hate biographies? What a load of old bollocks. If you haven't already done so, then stop reading this biog, listen to the music and make up your own mind.
The message above the stage read "Be true unto thy self". If I can't have a perfect life, maybe I can have an honest one?
Bjork, Massive Attack, Goldfrapp, Portishead, Tricky, Lamb