There’s something incredibly intriguing about the history of Ukraine.
It’s a country filled with stories of the past – so much so that even a town like Ivano-Frankivsk, with a population of around 220,000, has a tale capable of captivating foreign audiences.
As we would learn speaking with Nazar, guitarist and vocalist for local punk outfit Complete!, Ivano-Frankivsk is on the cusp of new and old; east and west, and as a result is somewhat of a global wonder.
“This is a post-soviet country and this fact determines the cultural and subcultural environment my generation boils in,” Nazar explained to Blunt Magazine.
“In short, not the best place to be a punk rocker.”
For the next instalment of A Punk Guide, Nazar was kind enough to take us through his hometown.
Growing up as a young punk in Ivano-Frankivsk, what are some of the places you would hang out?
In the early 00’s, punk had just started to leak through the ruins of the broken wall. It was really hard to get records or videos. The first skate videos we saw were from Tony Hawk – with soundtracks by AFI, Millencolin and Motörhead. There were a few places where kids got together: rappers near the old city hall, rockers around fountains in the area called Veche Square. A few years later this mob of misfits moved to destroy The City Dramatic Theatre, the Square and the park around it. There was one side for skaters and another for always drunk punks, rockers and goths with acoustic guitars (what a time). Also, kids got a DIY skate park called Crime Park. I filmed a short documentary about it two years ago. Most of them don’t listen to punk music but rather to the shitty modern rap. Nevertheless places like this are very important – they keep underground alive.
How would you describe your typical Ivano-Frankivsk punk?
In the 00’s and early teens, punks in Ukraine were divided into a few varieties. Among them neo punks and old school punks we called “pukers” (in my free translation). The last ones were listening to both Russian rock like Egor Letov, Purgen and old school punk like Exploited or Sex Pistols. My friends and I preferred to ride skateboards and listen to Pennywise, NOFX, Bigwig, Bad Religion, Tarakany etc. Hence, we obviously hated each. By the mid-2010’s the situation had changed. Punk is out of trend now and a [for a] few years there ]have been] no shows, only fuckin’ techno parties and shit like that. Because it has become way easier to get psychedelic and stimulating drugs which are related to that culture. Back in the day we mostly were drinking cheap booze.
How does the general Ivano-Frankivsk community take to punks, and punk music?
Western Ukraine is very conservative and most people are very religious and patriotic. Altogether, it makes the life of social nihilists like punk rockers pretty hard. Much harder than in Europe in my opinion. In university, I was called a weirdo. I’m not discovering a new star with that information – punkers are outcasts all over the world.
What do you think is the biggest threat to the punk community in your city?
Poverty. The average monthly wage is around $400USD in Ivano-Frankivsk. Lots have only 200 or less. How can you think about something not edible being starving? We play in the garage on a cheap backline and hardly can afford to record songs in the studio. It is much harder to earn money if you’re a punk. As a result, many guys had to give up and started to live a “normal life”.
What’s the best way to find punk music in Ivano-Frankivsk? For example, are there radio stations dedicated to punk?
Everything’s on the net now. We don’t have punk or even rock radio stations in Ivano-Frankivsk. My acquaintances from Uzhgorod and Lviv had radio shows about underground culture, and they’ve streamed our songs. Our songs have been played on the radio station in Kyiv and some other cities but in general you have to pay to be listened to. There are some punk/hardcore festivals like Back To Youth, Kharkiv Hardcore Fest and also the legendary Burn The Scene For Fun. Major festivals don’t invite local punk bands.
Other than record shops, are there any other locations in the city that are important to its punk rock music community?
In that period when skate shop culture was alive I think they were important. But might I say that ‘cos I was the owner of one of them? There were 5 or 6 skate shops here and only one left. We sold merch, made skate contests and punk shows as afterparties, musicians always could leave their stuff or even sleep there. The only skate shop that still exists is called Dazzle and it still supports alternative music.
I’d love to know about some of the live music venues in Ivano-Frankivsk! Where are some of the best venues for punk rock music?
My first punk show was Tarakany in Ukraine in 2002. It took place in our city and of course it was mind blowing. I moved to university in Odessa and when I came back for the winter vacation I had found out that people hang out in a new place called Chimera. This venue became the first ‘second home’ for punks and alternative youngsters for the next few years and kept hosting wandering dissidents when it turned to Marmuliada. When it was closed (nearly 2012) my colleague opened a place called Barduck (translates as a “mess” in Ukrainian). We booked and played a lot of shows in all of these amazing places and we miss them so much.
Other than Complete!, who are some other great punk bands making moves from Ivano-Frankivsk?
Ukrainian punk/hardcore scene is tiny and most of the bands are breaking up. Many guys moved abroad. Most musicians get tired of playing shows for very few people for free. From the other side, you’ll never get admirers having no good records, which are also expensive. Seems like a vicious circle but through it all we have bands like Homesick and Redemption (and a bunch of other skate music bands from Odessa Coast).
What are your tips for any punks traveling through your hometown?
Ukrainians are very hospitable and friendly (mostly). Young people more or less can speak English and are always ready to introduce the city. You don’t need to use urban transport, ‘cos any spot is less then an hour of walking. Also, we drink a lot and most of us have homemade wine or moonshine we are ready to share. Ivano-Frankivsk stands on the banks of two rivers at the entrance to the Carpathian mountains and tourists come here on the way and don’t stay for a while generally. But I recommend to stay here to feel the clean, pure and quiet spirit of this town. It is famous for its cheap, tasty food and for low prices overall. You always can find cheerful company simply walking around the city or hanging in a bar (Gost is one of the popular). Come here especially in the summer – but maybe another one…