Ripoff Raskolnikov and his band plays with root-rock star Dawn Brothers

Article: Zsolt Várkonyi

Translation: Nóra Fehér

On 18 September, a Dutch roots-rock band, the Dawn Brothers, will be performing at Müpa Budapest. The evening will also feature the band of Ripoff Raskolnikov, a blues musician who lives a split life between Graz and Vas County. Although the members of the Dawn Brothers and the Ripoff Raskolnikov Band have been long-time music acquaintances, this is the first time they have staged a concert together and are even preparing a collaboration of songs. We spoke to Ripoff Raskolnikov about the concert at the Müpa, the creative process during the epidemic, and the band’s plans for the future.

It seems you and the Dawn Brothers have known each other for a while. Where does the bond between the two bands come from?

RS, the drummer of the Dawn Brothers, played in Ian Siegal’s band for a long time and they recorded one of my compositions. Rafael S was born in Germany, so we have a German mother tongue in common.

Whose brainchild was it to do a concert together?

My manager, Podlovics, thought it would be a good idea to bring the two musicians together for a gig. After each band had performed their show, we would play four or five songs together. The line-up of the Dawn Brothers is the same as ours: piano, guitar, drums, and bass. We’ll try to put the show together in a way that all the band members can play a part.

The Dawn Brothers are a lesser-known band in this country, playing roots rock. Where do you intersect musically with the Ripoff Raskolnikov Band?

On the one hand, both the Dawn Brothers and I are English-speaking songwriters whose first language is not English, and yet we manage to come up with some pretty decent lyrics. Otherwise, we have a very similar musical landscape, we have similar idols, and we all move within a musical triangle formed by blues, folk, and rock. White music was inspired by black people.

When talking to you three years ago, you mentioned that the Ripoff Raskolnikov Band has been going strong since its beginnings in 2006. Just how difficult is it to keep the band together?

No easy task. You can have a singer-guitarist go out on tour alone, but not a bass player. There are relatively few really good backing musicians in the country who either play in a big-name band or play with several bands in parallel. We were forced to find replacements for several members. Fortunately, we managed to do it. If there were only four of us with Szabolcs Nagy, Laca Varga, and Lajos Gyenge, we would have had to cancel several concerts.

“My personal Ripoff-world has become very small, whereas, on the other hand, the big world has somehow become somewhat tiny in these times we are living in now”, you said in 2018 about your song Small World. How much smaller do you feel the world is after the pandemic?

Other than having far fewer gigs than before, the epidemic hasn’t fundamentally changed my life. I was living in seclusion in a country farmhouse even before the outbreak. I make my living by making music, so I didn’t have to commute to a job like many people.

Have you managed to create more in that time?

Oddly enough, no. You’d think at that time you’d have time to write several albums’ worth of music, but for some reason, I wasn’t inspired. During the very first wave of the epidemic, I was still doing live stream concerts from my living room. I enjoyed it for a while, but after the summer relief came the new closures in the fall, and I didn’t feel like doing a concert online anymore. For some reason, my creative energies were not released at that time. I’ve talked to several musicians about this, and they experienced the same thing.

You turned sixty-seven in August. Have you taken stock of whether you have achieved your musical goals and what else you would like to achieve in your career?

As long as I am in good health, I see no reason to stop playing music.

Ripoff Raskolnikov

Ripoff Raskolnikov. (c) Attila Nagy

How different is it to perform at Müpa Budapest compared to a small club?

I’ve only played at M twice so far, once three years ago and once at the end of August on the opening night of the Müpa Loyalty Programme, a mini-concert. I’m not too familiar with the venue, but the Festival Theatre has very good acoustics and usually hosts excellent sold-out concerts.

What is the Ripoff Raskolnikov Band up to for the rest of the year?

We are planning to get together with the band’s pianist, Szal Nagy, at the beginning of October to conceptualize the music for the next album. I hope we’ll have a good dream!

Article: Zsolt Várkonyi

Translation: Nóra Fehér