Lilith be gone

By John Clay

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Any interview that undertakes the hefty but worthy task of presenting tAngerinecAt can only ever hope to offer a glimpse into their multifaceted story. Add the complex and unique story of Runa De Luna into the mix and you have yourself a compelling cast of characters whose backstories seed questions upon questions in the reader’s brain. And yet, these are people, real life musicians who have collaborated to create “Anti-Lullaby”, a song featuring Paul Chilton’s voice as a bass element whilst the vocals of Eugene Purpurovsky and Runa De Luna sonically couple. This interview attempts to inform new fans of the creation of the track, the biblical story of Lilith which inspired it and most importantly, the tales of the artists who have faced extreme hardship in their native countries and cultures (not to mention industry) in order to conceive their work.  

‘There was a stage where I needed to express my anger through satire, now due to growth I am more drawn to deep reflection and dare to be authentic and vulnerable.’ – Eugene Purpurovsky

‘The reason why I called it Anti-Lullaby, is because of a folk-etymology that relates the word Lullaby to the Hebrew phrase “Lilith-Abi”, which means “Lilith be gone”.’ – Runa De Luna 

‘Generally, “Glass” is based around Eugene’s personal experiences as a neurodivergent person, severe trauma, acute poverty and Chernobyl disaster survivor, and a queer multiethnic refugee activist from the Ukraine.’ – Paul Chilton 

Runa, how do you associate yourself with Lilith? 

Runa: In some myths Lilith was the first woman and Adam’s first wife. But she was cast away because she refused to submit to Adam. After this she was literally demonised. This resonates with me because I have often felt demonised. 

As a child I was bullied at school and the teachers didn’t seem to care. The principal insisted that there was no bullying at the school. I was sent to a psychologist and the principal pushed for me to be diagnosed with a different diagnosis that was supposed to explain how this was all in my head.  

In my teens and early twenties, I was a Christian. But from the start I would question the traditional interpretations of scripture. Later I started questioning the truth of the scriptures altogether. I remember feeling increasingly demonised within the congregation the more I questioned the established truths. At the time I had long hair, which also wasn’t popular. No one at church treated me badly, most of them were super nice people, but I got a clear sense that they expected me to change. 

Runa, how would you clarify your spiritual faith today and does it have any bearing on the music you produce?

Runa: I no longer believe in God, an afterlife or any spiritual dimension at all. Yes, this atheistic perspective can be heard in some of my lyrics. Most clearly in the song “Theology”. In this song a parent who has lost a child is speaking to the other parent, saying: “Don’t say that the Lord took her home. Don’t say it was her time. Oh honey, don’t give me that fucking bullshit. Her death and her suffering was not part of some insane divine plan. There is no god. There is no fate. The only hell there is, is the one we create.” This is a fictional character speaking, but it is how I would react if I lost a loved one, and then someone tells me it happened for a reason. I don’t believe there’s any force controlling or guiding us. This is my most popular song, but it also seems to anger some people. There is a wonderful music video for the song, made by Alen Predanic and Robi Predanic. When I posted clips from the video on Instagram they were reported several times, probably by people who were offended by the lyrics, which I understand, because ten years ago I would also have been offended by these lyrics.

What was the specific motivation behind the request for Eugene to sing on the track, Runa? 

Runa: I wanted to work with Eugene because we have a deep connection, and because I admire him as a musician and love his voice. The reason why I chose this song is partly because I couldn’t finish it on my own, but also because I knew Eugene has also experienced feeling demonised. As it turns out, the theme of this song resonated even more with him than I knew beforehand. The second verse that Eugene wrote completes my original idea perfectly. 

Runa, If a lullaby is created to sooth and send people into a restful place then an anti-lullaby is a method of waking them up somewhat, yes? Happy to be corrected or for you to expand on this understanding.

Runa: I like this interpretation and it fits well with the message and intent of the song. But the reason why I called it Anti-Lullaby, is because of a folk-etymology that relates the word Lullaby to the Hebrew phrase “Lilith-Abi”, which means “Lilith be gone”. Lilith was considered to be a demon who would harm or kidnap babies at night, so parents would write this phrase on cradles and amulets where the children slept. Our song, on the other hand, welcomes Lilith and the rebellion she stands for. In this sense it’s the opposite of a Lullaby.   

You list a range of influences which cover electronica, Eastern Orthodox chants, Soviet post-punk, doom-metal, drone, baroque-goth, neo-psychedelia, industrial and avant-garde. What is the throughline or thematic clause which makes your “Anti-Lullaby” cohesive, despite its many influences? Keen to hear what all parties have to say on this topic. 

Paul: I’m glad you think it’s cohesive and will take it as a compliment. Actually, I think that with any genre of music the “magic” that makes a recorded song sound cohesive is the arrangement, production and musicianship. There is no “thematic clause” because we don’t need one. 

Eugene: Thank you! Maybe it’s because it’s especially important to us to make it cohesive. I think that this is the biggest skill and I strive to become the best I can at this. In the video interview you asked about our hardest decision in making this track. I don’t know about the hardest decision, but it’s definitely the hardest thing to make a whole piece cohesive and all the decisions revolve around this.

What can people expect from your upcoming album ‘Glass’? Is ‘House of Shards’ a good indication as to what it will sound like? 

Eugene: You already heard three singles from “Glass” so you have an idea. They are “Something Broke Inside”, “House of Shards”, and “Anti-Lullaby”. “House of Shards” is not the best indication of the whole sound but more likely one shard of it. We decided to include “Anti-Lullaby” in “Glass” despite it being a collaborative work because it really fits in with the whole concept of the album and the theme of Lilith echoes my personal experience along with the other songs on “Glass”. Also, me and Runa have a very deep connection and solidarity, I adore their voice and love their music and vibe which is a bit similar to tAngerinecAt’s vibe in some way, so I really wanted to have their song on our album. 

Paul: Generally, “Glass” is based around Eugene’s personal experiences as a neurodivergent person, severe trauma, acute poverty and Chernobyl disaster survivor, and a queer multiethnic refugee activist from the Ukraine. 

We liked the song, Runa’s voice and the idea of “Anti-Lullaby” so much and we knew that we could make something from it that we really wanted to express in “Glass”. So it really just came at the right time and some of the other songs fit together perfectly with the image, and the whole idea of Lilith from “Anti-Lullaby”. For example, there is a conversation with an owl in one song. Lilith is often pictured with owls and it’s said that she fled the Garden of Eden taking the form of an Owl. Also they say that in the Hebrew language text the term Lilith can be translated as “night creatures” or “screech owl”. The owl is one of our favourite birds so this is another reason that we were drawn to Lilith.

Can you give us more information on the length of the forthcoming album and it’s arrival date? I’m sure fans would like to know in anticipation/future reference.

Paul: We will announce the release date and all the details in March.

Care to throw some info our way regarding the choice of title for the album? Were there runners up that almost made the grade?

Paul: The idea came after we created “Something Broke Inside” where we used a sample of breaking glass that I recorded while smashing a bottle on a stone floor. The concept of shattered glass fragments represents Eugene’s story of struggling to survive, heal and thrive. Every song on the album is a different story and like another razor-sharp shard of glass.

There were no runners up because we already had the name and concept before we recorded the rest of the songs.

Considering the imagery associated with Lilith I’m surprised that there was no video created to take advantage of that wellspring of potential creativity. Can we expect to see any video of such type for a future single from Glass?

Eugene: We don’t think there will be another single taken from Glass. We would like to create music videos for all the songs on this album including “Anti-Lullaby” and this is just a matter of time. We have a serious approach to the visual representation of our art and would like to work with artists, animators, and film-makers who understand our music and are able to show our ideas in the best way. 

Now we are working on the artwork for the album and some animations with a wonderful digital artist Caroline Julia Moore who we met after our performance at Alice’s Wicked Tea Party Festival. Caroline animated the artwork for “Anti-Lullaby” and “Something Broke Inside”. We also have some other things in common including being neurodivergent. 

Eugene, in our recent video interview we briefly touched upon your thoughts regarding Lilith. Feel free to express in further detail what you gain from Lilith’s story. 

Eugene: I think Lilith’s story shows us that our world is very patriarchal and authoritarian and if you don’t conform to the social contract you will become an outsider and you will be demonised. Some call Lilith the first feminist in folklore, and she is really a feminist icon now. Lilith went through terrible anguish, and was dehumanised and called evil because she refused to submit to a man. Lilith represents freedom for me which is the main theme of our previous single “House of Shards”. She is the embodiment of untamed passion, strength and wisdom. Her colours are black and red which are also associated with anarchism. There are actually a lot of things that I find in common with Lilith.

What other things do you have in common with Lilith, Eugene? 

Eugene: Lilith is a rebellious figure who resisted the authoritarian structure of the world. She couldn’t be in an unequal relationship. Lilith experienced being betrayed and demonised by men.

… And rooibos tea which is considered to be her drink.  I drink it every day because I can’t drink caffeinated drinks for health reasons.

Eugene, hopefully you will gain new interest in your music based on the recent release and exposure of late. What aspect of your history do you believe is important for new fans of “Anti-Lullaby” to be aware of? 

Eugene: We have already gained a lot of interest based on our recent releases and every day we get wonderful comments and messages that we are very grateful to our audience for. 

I don’t know what is important for new fans to know. Maybe it’s interesting that I wasn’t always a British citizen. I have lived in the UK for six years. I was born in the Ukraine during the Soviet Union and I left the Ukraine because of persecution for my activism. I am non-binary and my pronoun is “he/him”. I have C-PTSD as a result of abuse in childhood, poverty and gender and class discrimination, and recently I was referred by the NHS to be diagnosed with ADHD and/or ASD. I have been making music and performing since I was ten but I almost haven’t any support despite significant achievements and my hard work so I feel like I started a new life at an adult age and living in a different country with an absolutely different culture and history. 

Eugene, aspects of your personal story are worth outlining here. Feel free to share any tale which may offer solidarity to anyone who may have experienced or is still going through circumstances familiar to you.

Eugene: In the context of “Anti-Lullaby”, my idea in the second verse and what I said about Lilith, I can say that I was often rejected, bullied and even cancelled by music industry people due to my image not conforming within the social contract attributed to women. I also have experience that if you object to, and especially publicly, a man who has a higher position than you in the music industry, he will make bad press about you, so you won’t have shows and so no one will write about you. Here class, country of origin and social background are also important, no matter what anybody says. It’s much easier to put down and dehumanise someone who is lower in the social ladder and who can’t talk in the language of art elites. They also won’t take you, your music and your story seriously if you belong to a certain social group. 

I can share an example of a Soviet actress Yekaterina Savinova with whom I am in solidarity. She came to Moscow from a very poor Siberian village, overcoming many hurdles, to enroll in the Theatrical Institute and become an actress. After she publicly rebuked the harassment from the head of the Moscow film industry, and slapped him across the face, she was unofficially banned from any significant roles despite her phenomenal talent and hard work. That was his revenge for being put down by a “village girl”, and it’s said that he ruined the fate of a lot of actresses. She was named the best actress of the country after her husband created a film “Come Tomorrow” (1963) about her life story for a script they created together, despite movements to ban the film. Unfortunately, Savinova was already very ill and her mental health was very damaged because of such bullying, and she took her own life not long after the film came out. Not long ago I found out that her body was discovered relatively unperished thirty six years after they decided to rebury her. I find this story and this woman very powerful and inspiring, and her story is so relevant to me that I feel some kind of connection with her. 

Lilith aside, have you ever been motivated to write exclusively about someone you have a connection to Eugene? Would such an undertaking provide any cathartic experience for you?

Eugene: All my songs are a cathartic experience and a sort of therapy for me. You gave me an idea in our last interview about “House of Shards” to write about Theodosia who inspired us to create tAngerinecAt. To remind you, she is a musician from the Carpathian Mountains who spent a large part of her life in the Gulags, and with whom I had a conversation with for several hours in her hut. We created a video with her singing and the surrounding area that we will post on social media sometime.

I would also like to dedicate a song to Yekaterina Savinova who I mentioned in this interview. Most of all I would like to express my admiration and gratitude to those women. I think it would be a cathartic experience for me.

Do any of you feel any unease or trepidation in sharing your story in a world ready to subsume it for corporate use or – perhaps worse – ignore it through fear and misunderstanding?  

Eugene: What I feel now is that I’m invisible and my story doesn’t fit into any trendy narrative. There is a lot of misunderstanding, erasure and rejection. I speak because my story is part of my music. I don’t have any other choice. I can’t go back and change my story. I can only worry about the best way to go forward.

The music industry is largely a caricatured mirror of mass media global culture. In this heavily gendered landscape you have undoubtedly met some resistance. What lessons have you all learned from your career thus far and how would you endeavour to change the status quo, if indeed you believe you have a role to play?

Paul: It may sound like a cliché but I think you just need to try and stay true to yourself. For me, as soon as art becomes insincere it loses the very thing that makes it most powerful and what made you want to make art in the first place.

Eugene: For me it’s not only a problem that it’s heavily gendered but also classist and Western centred. The latter also means the erasure of various cultural differences, including image or appearance, manners, your native language and music influences and other cultural peculiarities that aren’t well known in global mass culture. Also, they look at you through the prism of certain stereotypes like for instance that you should drink vodka and agree to sexual harassment, and people get angry when you don’t fit into their preconceptions.

I realised that I don’t need to seek approval from industry people and it was such a relief! Happily, we have social media now (despite all its shortcomings), and it’s good that independent musicians can promote their music through this medium. It’s incredibly hard work that also requires financial investment but it’s the only way for independent musicians to share their work at the moment. Of course, there are still dinosaurs who send me anonymous messages labelling me a “Ukrainian whore” and there are some people who attribute my work to Paul calling them “British producer working with Ukrainian singer-songwriter” or even to some guy with no involvement at all but generally I have a very positive experience, and especially recently when I communicate with our audience directly using social media. Maybe it’s just our audience that’s really amazing or the real world is different and more complicated to what we see in the media. Actually, people listen to your music and don’t really care what gender you are, so I stopped putting any kind of accent on my gender and feel good like this. But, of course, this is all outside of labels, magazines, radio, blogs, promoters etc because as I already said we communicate with our audience directly.

Would you ever seek to satirise or lampoon the stereotypes that are often presented to you in either your music or visual content? Feel free to discuss the ins and outs of that as much as you like.

Eugene: We had a lot of satirical songs in our previous albums like “H.R V.I.P” and the song “Mudak Salad” from “Many Kettles” – many people will remember Rupert the Bear who played “Mr Very Important” at our live shows – but we moved away from this format because for me music creation is also like trauma work, and if before there was a stage where I needed to express my anger through satire, now due to growth I am more drawn to deep reflection and dare to be authentic and vulnerable. It was easier to make people laugh but I felt unsatisfied and sad afterwards, as if I hadn’t said everything I wanted to say or was trying to please the public. The experience left me feeling inauthentic. Now I feel much more freedom in my musical expression, and I dare to be myself. I feel like I exist. I was silent for too long, just smiled and represented someone else. I pleased people so they won’t take me seriously, because of fear of being misunderstood and hurt. And sometimes I feel like I did it actually because people often don’t take me and my experience seriously so I began to devalue myself but perhaps that started a long time ago, in my childhood. Satirical expression sometimes can be a substitute for authentic feelings that devalue and downplay these feelings or the difficult experience behind them which isn’t a very healthy thing for me personally and doesn’t change much within me unlike my new work. Maybe I would consider satire again in the future but at the moment it’s not for me. Also, I think there is enough satire in the UK music scene.  

Paul: Was your last sentence satirical, Eugene?

Lyrics to “Anti-Lullaby”

Lillith was the first

And she was her own

She wasn’t made

From Adam’s rib bone

This is anti-lullaby

This is an anti-lullaby

Lillith is an outcast

Like all that is true

She’s all of your fears

That look back at you

This is anti-lullaby

This is an anti-lullaby

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