Russkaja, the Austrian polka rockers bid farewell on February 3rd, putting an end to their eighteen-year journey. Interestingly, the same day marked the release of their latest album, Turbo Polka Party, via Napalm Records. In a bittersweet twist, Engel Mayr caught up with Metal Insider to discuss what turned out to be the band’s last record ever.
What was the writing process like for the album, Turbo Polka Party?
I started writing those songs in 2019 and made demos over the next few years. It took me a little longer to do this album because of Covid… The last 2 or 3 songs I wrote in spring 2022 when we returned from our US tour with Flogging Molly.
Can you share the inspiration behind the new record?
Well since the album before was kind of meant to be a little bit more accessible for mainstream and done with outside producers and a major label this time for Turbo Polka Party I had a strong vision from the very first riffs, melodies and lyrics I wrote. I wanted it to be the album that I want to hear from my own band the most so I also did all the production, recording and mixing myself. I was inspired a lot by Metal, Punk and Hardcore stuff that I grew up with and also a lot of Klezmer music. At some point in the recording process I remember thinking you could also call this Multicultural Klezmer Metal. But then putting us into a category was never easy hahaa.
How do you approach fusing metal, punk, ska, and polka together in your music?
It comes very naturally from a very diverse musical background that I also share with my bandmates. Of course everyone has his/her favs but at the end of the day we all enjoy stuff ranging from Metal to Dixieland Jazz.
Can you talk more about the song “No Borders?”
That one I wrote when we came back from the US and the war in Europe that Russia started against Ukraine was already going on. I just couldn’t believe that in the year 2022 you can still start a war just like that in Europe. Just invading another country you know. I really thought that mankind is evolving in some kind at least, but that shit proved me wrong. So I just wrote down my thoughts in that song. FUCK WAR!!!
What was the collaborative process like, especially working with Micha Rhein and Benji Webbe?
That was so cool because those people are extremely talented and the nicest guys around. We’ve been friends with Micha Rhein and his band In Extremo for years now and we also did a feature for their latest album so we thought it would be cool to have Micha on ours as well. And with Benji from Skindred, I’m a big fan of him since the 90s when I heard him on Soulfly’s first record and his old band Dub War. So it was a dream come true to have him on Turbo Polka Party. He was in his home studio in the UK and I was in my home studio in Austria and we worked out the parts over the phone.
What led you to create the cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas” and include it on this record?
We did this in a Christmas episode of an Austrian Late Night Show called Willkommen Österreich and it turned out really cool so I thought about putting it on the album. Napalm Records really liked the idea and so it landed on Turbo Polka Party.
Is there anything else you want to say or add about the album?
Since we decided to disband because of the fucked up war situation Turbo Polka Party is our Farewell album now. I think it turned out really great and I hope the fans will still blast it in the future cause that’s how I imagined those songs to be played!
the band RUSSKAJA has ultimately decided to quit with the band. This is after 18 years very sad news of course, but the ongoing war in Ukraine that was initiated by Russia on Feb 204th 2022 makes it impossible for us to continue with an image and style that is making satirical use of Soviet symbols and language. The band is called RUSSKAJA (transl. Russian) and based a lot on those attributes with a singer that was born in Russia and brought to Austria more than 30 years ago.
What once was fun in the band’s music is nothing but bitter now and the band members cannot go on stage anymore without feeling that bitterness in every note played and every word sung. All the lyrics written have a totally different meaning now and none of the bandmembers wants to represent this since in these times it is only associated with war, death, crime and blood spilled.
The time has finally come to stop this. We tried to do statements, position ourselves publicly for what we stand and that’s peace and unity. But we can feel that it’s not enough and also it will not change anymore. We realized that this war will not stop soon and even if it would, the Soviet imagery and style is forever damaged now.
RUSSKAJA has also become a target in the web, there’s shitstorms everyday and with every new single we release. People call us Russian terrorist and pro-Russian even if we are the exact opposite. Finally we also care about the safety of our crew and all people involved and we don’t want to risk anything violent happening when we’re on the road and playing shows.
To most of us RUSSKAJA was not only our band but it was also our existence. This decision is very very sad for all of us but after all that happened since Feb 24 2022 we don’t see any other chance here.
We hope that all fans, promoters & partners can understand the hell we’re going through taking our own baby to the grave after all these years. As a farewell gift we wanna give you our new album TURBO POLKA PARTY.