VISIONS PROJECT: A Project with Vision

Visions Project

Among numerous acts of modern progressive rock scene Ukraine’s Visions Project is definitely a band not to be missed.

Formed in 2012 by keyboardist Oleg Polyanskiy and guitarist Dmitry Zhinkin, Visions Project offers some of the best Ukrainian instrumental skills and entirely reflects its leaders’ variety of music interests and tastes – from classical and jazz to cutting-edge fusion and progressive metal.

The band release their debut self-titled album in 2013, an effort that reflects the variety of music styles and combine them in a quite original way.

Prog Sphere talked to Oleg Polanskiy.

Your self-titled debut album is a 65-minute prog fusion journey. How did the creative process of the record go?

Actually the idea to make an extremely challenging and poly-stylistic project was mine and I started working on it a while ago just to show my fellow musicians some tracks made on keyboard. There was no other way to make them understand what I really wanted it to be, as the music is complex and you cannot just play your part and say “well guys, you just play the chords and solo when I ask you to”. It’s simply not that kind of music and even with the written sheets for all band it doesn’t work much easier. So I prepared keyboard tracks and showed them first to Dmitry Zhinkin, my close friend and brilliant guitar player. He said some of that stuff is almost impossible to play but I believed we’ll manage to do it so the result is here.

How long did it take you to complete the work on the album?

The songs for Visions Project were written 50/50 by me and Dmitry Zhinkin who brought more melodic and soothing side into the album (which I like very much). But the process of completion of recording and mastering was really long. The point is that we all live in different places at the moment. I’m in Doha (Qatar), Dmitry in Moscow (Russia), Shirhan Agabeyli, exceptionally talented young bass player in Kiev (Ukraine), great drummers Vadim Samosyuk, Sergey Balalaev and our extraordinary vocalist Vlad Volovikov in Kharkov (Ukraine). They are in-demand musicians who are busy with many other projects at all times and to find for them a gap to get down to studio and set up working is a challenge itself. I assume, I began doing tracks in 2010 and we completed everything in 2013 only.

What is your vision with Visions Project?

Vision of the past, present and future – musically and personally. Transformation of the experience we’ve had in the past as musicians and humans into ‘here and now’ creative process. Then gradually it will become our collective musical future as a band. At least I strongly hope so…

The blend of progressive metal, jazz fusion and classical music is what lies in your root. How do you go about channeling any of these three distinctive musical elements?

Well, when I showed the stuff to my colleagues, they were hesitant if it works well. “Are you gonna show off?’ and “Don’t you think it’s a bit tasteless?” were frequent questions :-) In my opinion, nowadays it doesn’t make sense anymore to be a purist of jazz, rock etc. For example, I happen to play classical recital, then jazz gig, then rock gig… And if I can do that why should I limit myself in my composer’s activity to a small amount of musical things I am so fond of. Let the “three distinctive musical elements” be my concept, I thought to myself. XXth century is over and we live in a time when classical is longer opposing jazz and jazz does not oppose rock. Now we have a different situation when any good and quality music desperately opposes bad and dead music. That’s how I see it.

Did you map out any of the elements before starting to write the album?

I was realizing that latin montuno in “A Maze Leading to the Truth” and metal riffs in “Flame Inside of Me” and “One Burning Night in Sharm” will make some people frown :-) Several labels refused to work with us because they, for instance, liked lighter parts of album but couldn’t digest more aggressive songs, ferociously drummed by Vadim Samosyuk and Sergey Balalayev. I am happy we eventually got in touch and released CD with MUSEA (France) who are very open-minded and have always been one of those very few labels keeping progressive music alive.

Breaking down the album’s structure, it’s easy to notice that each one of you have parts where your instrumental work is absolutely stunning. What is your way of putting these improvised instrumentations in an entity called song?

We were working hard on those solos to polish them the way you hear it in album. When you play jazz you can do a few choruses spontaneously and it will sound nice, if you have really tight musicianship within your band. Listen to Keith Jarrett trio – they do never rehearse :-) With much more structured music it goes different way. I usually start with improvisational ideas but then develop them into something more compositional. In “One Burning Night” you can hear keyboard lead solo (close to the end) written as variations on a theme in the vein of classical music. So does Dmitry – he always puts strong compositional elements into his solos. I am glad our musical approaches match each other so well. Another thing is a fantastic drum solo recorded by Vadim Samosyuk in “Just a Bundle of Nerves”. In this song, where meters change in almost every bar, Vadim managed to play awesome solo on 9/8 from 1st or 2nd take. It’s really worth to hear!

Visions Project album cover

The album features part with growl vocals. Are you fans of the extreme metal genres? How did it shape the album’s structure?

Yes, we love some extreme metal bands like CYNIC or MESHUGGAH but still I was worried if growl vocals fit the album in general. The answer is in idea of the song “Flame Inside of Me” which was an act of “musical exorcism” for me. So I had a kind of demon to get rid of and this song worked perfectly :-) I will tell more about it, replying to your “non-musical entities” question.

What were the challenges you faced when making the album?

My main challenge was to make it work and bring all wonderful musicians together for the project’s realization. I was always remembering great Keith Emerson and how he was convincing Lake and Palmer to learn “Tarkus”. I don’t compare myself with the genius but it’s always hard to involve other people in something musically unconventional.

What prior musical experiences each one of you brought to the table?

I’d say I brought my classical background, Dmitry brought his wide range of acoustic and electric guitar techniques, Shirhan brought his bass virtuosity (even with his native oriental elements sometimes), Vlad and Zhanna brought their unique voices, Sergey and Vadim brought the raw and wild drumming energy.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

It can come either from events of your daily life or from the music you listen to – you can never predict it.

What do you find most gratifying about the writing process?

When we read many reviews saying how cool this album coming out of nowhere is, it’s already rewarding.

Considering the music itself, it’s obvious that your range of influences is pretty wide. Which bands and artists in particular influenced your work on the debut album?

I play classical music all my life and it’s always the biggest inspiration for me. Apart from that we all love ELP, YES, UK, DREAM THEATER, GENESIS, PETER GABRIEL, GENTLE GIANT, PINK FLOYD, KING CRIMSON, BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO, TRACE, TRIUMVIRAT, AFTER CRYING, CAIRO, KAYAK, KARMAKANIC, JOHN COLTRANE, MILES DAVIS, MICHAEL BRECKER, ASTOR PIAZZOLLA, AL DI MEOLA, KEITH JARRETT, CHICK COREA, MICHEL CAMILO, GONZALO RUBALCABA, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, WEATHER REPORT, THE ZAWINUL SYNDICATE, FRANK ZAPPA, RETURN TO FOREVER, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, FRANK GAMBALE, BILL BRUFORD, STEELY DAN, DIXIE DREGS, TRIBAL TECH, CAB, NIACIN, PLANET X, LED ZEPPELIN, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, METALLICA, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, STEVE VAI, TONY MACALPINE, GUTHRIE GOVAN, GREG HOWE, MUSE, SYMPHONY X, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), STRATOVARIUS, NIGHTWISH, KAMELOT, TIME REQUIEM, ADAGIO, ARTENSION, ROYAL HUNT, SONATA ARCTICA etc. There are lots of great music in this world!

What other non-musical entities have influenced the album’s coming into life?

There is in an interesting story behind “Flame Inside of Me”. I lived in Dubai in 2010-2011 and that was a bit difficult time for me because I went through divorce. At the same time, I had a friend, rich local UAE guy who was living life of doing nothing, like many of his countrymen. He used to have a beloved girlfriend from Russia who left him, having asked just one question: “do you choose me or beer?”. Of course, he replied “I choose beer”. I don’t know why but this story inspired me more than anything else – the story of life living pointlessly, with no meaning and goal. Then I sat down and wrote the lyrics in one day.

Do you have any plans to bring Visions Project on stage?

Certainly, this is our ultimate dream to perform VP music and be heard at numerous prog festivals. My personal biggest dream is to perform in Japan because I love this country and Japanese people have so much to do with all progressive and cutting-edge music created in the world. We want the 2nd album to be much more vocal and this summer we plan to produce our first official video with the new song called “The Asian Girl”. This will be powerful, bold and sexy (laugh), half of the video I just shot in Thailand and another half will be done in July in Eastern Europe (I hope in our country Ukraine despite the tense political situation). The song is about guy who lives his regular life somewhere in Europe but desperately longs for his another life in which he was with “asian girl”. We want it to be very dramatic and visually stunning; hope to surprise you when the video is finished!

Visions Project online:

http://visionaire.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Visions.Pro

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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