2020 quickly turned into a battlefield for most of those involved in the music world but, despite everything, it also saw some pleasant surprises, triumphs even. It marked huge milestones for Russian symphonic metal powerhouse Imperial Age who managed to get the best out of it; from successful online lockdown show to DVD release to the sudden interest of big record labels. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about the last year’s huge success but also glance into the bright future of the band with none other than Imperial Age co-founder, co-composer and one of the three vocalists: Jane “Corn” Odintsova. Enjoy!
MG: Hello, Jane! Thank you so much for speaking to us! First of all, congratulations on such a successful year, given the circumstances. How are you doing?
Jane: Hi! Nice to meet you. That’s true that this year was the most successful for us, despite all of the chaos that was going on during this year. Of course, we are pleased and cheerful and feel ready to do even better the next year.
MG: The biggest achievement of 2020 for Imperial Age is surely your live-streamed show that took place in April. It takes some time to prepare such a huge show, especially during the lockdown period. How long did it take in total to prepare for the big event?
Jane: I might not remember it precisely… we started rehearsing at the beginning of March (there was still hope to make it to the UK and play the planned shows there). We usually start rehearsals about 1-2 months before the event and have 3 rehearsals a week.
MG: Before the stream, what were your biggest concerns? Was there a moment you wished you could cancel the whole thing?
Jane: Thinking of almost every aspect of the entire endeavor was quite stressful. Will we manage to get the QR passes for all engaged people and wouldn’t these passes be annulled at the day of the show. That situation happened after the show with my pass for no reason… probably because it’s Russia? Will the internet connection be fast enough? Will all rented equipment be delivered to the place at the right time? Were we right not to sell tickets but make the donations instead? Will we recoup the whole thing? Millions of thoughts and reasons to have some stress 🙂
MG: Was there any rehearsal at the venue, with cameras and crew prior to the show?
Jane: There was no venue at all! (laughs) It was a huge empty hall with cyclorama for photo and video shooting purposes. No speakers, no stage lights – literally NOTHING. Everything was rented and brought there on the day of the show. Organizing all this the day before the show was too expensive and complicated. It is very hard to coordinate 20+ people to a certain day and time, and do this twice – almost impossible.
MG: During the stream, you were interacting with your fans in a form of a Q&A in between the songs. Weren’t you afraid it would kill the mood and people who came mostly for the music or those who don’t speak English would leave the stream?
Jane: We were trying to make the answers short. I was worried mostly about Aor’s answers – he can speak for hours on a given topic, especially if the question is about alternative history. Also, the whole party was limited in time because everything was rented and people were hired for a certain amount of hours… So yes, we were a bit nervous because of that, but the idea of getting closer with the audience by having a live conversation was definitely good.
MG: You’ve raised a huge amount of money during the live stream. Did you expect such an enormous success? It costs a lot of money to do such a stream but you managed to pull it off like it was a piece of cake.
Jane: Before the stream, we were thinking that it would be great to recoup the expenses, but we were ready to lose some money because such a stream would give us good promotion anyway. After the show, Aor checked the donations and his facial expression told me that everything was way more than ok. It turned out to be 11,477$ of donations during the show. I always try to keep my expectations low because in case of a negative outcome I would not be upset, and in case of success, I would be very happy 🙂
MG: The show is now available as a DVD titled “Live On Earth”. Was there a plan to release it as soon as the preparations for the live stream had begun or you decided to do it later on?
Jane: First we were thinking of making a number of music videos out of this stream and publish them on YouTube, but later after the stream we decided to make a DVD because so many people were asking for it. Which seems to be a good idea – it sold for another 20,000$ as to this date 🙂
MG: Moving on to another topic, you are also working on a new album, from which some of the new tracks were even part of the live stream. I believe you have about 10 songs ready for the new album. When do you expect to drop it? The first half of 2021?
Jane: All our previous records were done in such a hurry that this time we want to give ourselves as much time as would be needed to make the new album great. For example, many people say that the “Legacy of Atlantis” sounds better live than on the record. This time, we want to play the new songs in the rehearsal room hundreds of times before starting the recording. The release date would be in 2021.
MG: There will be a crowdfunding campaign for the album again but this time, just for the master and mix, not the actual recording. I think the reason is that you have enough money left from the stream, correct? Are you gonna invest more in the production of the album now?
Jane: We spent a substantial amount of money on the new equipment (mixing console, microphones, in-ear monitors, etc.). This time mixing and mastering would be more expensive than the recording because we want to work with one pretty known sound engineer. Let’s keep his name a secret for now 😉
The main purpose of the crowdfunding, however, will be to raise money for several new music videos (we want to make 4-5 videos before releasing the new album) and to promote the album (we plan to hire the best PR companies in the world).
MG: If I’m correct, the album will be titled “New World”, which is a title that offers many ways of interpretation. I have thought about two things in particular; either a criticism of these troubles times, the new “now”, or a wish what you’d like to see and imagine the world like in the future but as I know you, there’s surely a much deeper meaning to it… So my question is what do you dislike about the present world the most and what you’d like to change for better?
Jane: The title was chosen exactly because of its multi-meaningness, you are right in it. Speaking of the present world, I actually don’t see how it differs from the past – same hypocrisy, insincerity, censorship but under a different sauce. I don’t like politics and I’m sure that whatever changes we want to see, they must, first of all, appear in the people’s minds.
MG: Another Imperial Age milestone for 2020 was the sudden interest of labels in your band after the stream. And you’ve turned them all down! You have a manager and a person who is in charge of your shop but besides that, it’s all DIY work for you. How do you manage all the tasks? Is there anything you really hate to do?
Jane: Everything beyond creativity 🙂 I really don’t like managing people. It seems that we are getting closer to the point where we need to hire more people, and thus getting closer to having our own “label” because now everyone in our team is overwhelmed by the amount of work.
MG: Most people don’t realize how the revenues for bands work and how big of a cut goes to people in business suits instead of bands. Young groups chase labels but you’re a shining example of how good it can work without signing contracts. What would be your advice to those aspiring artists who think they can make it only if they’re backed by big labels?
Jane: You should be ready to invest your own resources – time, effort and money – into the band for MANY YEARS before it starts bringing something back. Learn online marketing – that’s what brings fans and sales without labels. Quality, persistence, willingness to go the extra distance, positiveness about your goal… Do you really want to make music your career for the rest of your life? And a bit of talent (just a bit), because you wanna write music that others would listen to 🙂
MG: And the last question for today; what element or part of being in Imperial Age do you like the most?
Jane: I can’t break Imperial Age down into elements :)) It’s like a living organism and I can’t say that I like its hands but I don’t like its armpits. All elements are necessary for the whole project, even if it is something like dealing with idiotism. It brings experience.
Anyway, all possible unpleasant things fade out when you interact with your fans. Fans are the main source of positiveness for every musician. No fans – no band 🙂
MG: Thank you so much for your time! I wish you all the best for 2021!
Jane: Thank you for interesting questions! 🙂 Let’s hope that 2021 will be successful for everyone!