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Old Oct-01-2004, 5:00 PM
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Icon49 Off The Record - dateline Moscow


By day a deputy mayor of Moscow, Mikhail Men revisits his rock-star past at night with the help of two veterans from Deep Purple.

Rock stars usually shun pinstripes, and not many deputy mayors post song lyrics on their web sites. But Mikhail Men has no problem reconciling his past as a hard rock musician with a job in the establishment. And now he is going one step further, commissioning two of his Western musical heroes to remake his songs.

Back in 1986, Men was the rebellious bass guitarist and singer for a heavy metal outfit called Most, or "bridge." Today, after 11 years in politics, he is Moscow's deputy mayor for sport and interregional cooperation, with a personal driver and regular tennis games with Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

While the rocker once counted himself lucky to have an album released on the Soviet Melodiya label, at the age of 43 he is now aiming higher, teaming up with producer and longtime friend Alexander Berezhnoi to hire two former members of the British band Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes and Joe Lynn Turner, to record English-language remakes of his Most-era songs.

"The result is a unique project: Russian melodies sung with their mannerisms, their English," Men said last Monday over coffee in Inna Studios, owned by his wife Inna, herself a former rock singer. "I like the music very much. In principle, I expected something of the kind, because these are superstars."

Leaning into the studio's squishy leather sofas six days after arriving from their homes in the United States, Hughes and Turner were still suffering from jet-lag, but had already completed their part of the bargain: honing the translated lyrics and recording vocals to nine Most songs.

Keeping his sunglasses on, Hughes spoke with a northern English accent softened by years of living in Los Angeles. He first came to fame in the 1970s as a member of Trapeze and Deep Purple, and subsequently played with Gary Moore and Black Sabbath. Now he spends much of his time performing with Turner, the New Jersey-born former vocalist of Rainbow and, at one time, Deep Purple.

"We wanted to come here. We wouldn't do this if it wasn't going to be integrally right for us creatively," Hughes said, praising Men's singing on the original record as "really good" and "passionate."

Turner and Hughes' job was simply to add their vocals to the musical tracks from the 1986 album, titled Most, which will then be remixed by producer Berezhnoi and released in Russia and Israel this December. Men arrived from the mayor's office each evening to listen to the recordings and discuss changes to be made.

"It's Mikhail's baby. We're feeding it," Turner commented. "You've arrived, you're successful, and you can actually -- shall I say the word -- afford, in every way, to bring your dreams to life."

While Hughes and Turner started an impromptu jam session, the deputy mayor led the way into the recording room and sat back to listen to a rough version of "Forgive Her," a guitar ballad with vocals from both Hughes and Turner, tapping his foot in time with the riffs.

"I think this particular song could be a very big hit," Hughes had commented earlier. Nevertheless, he described the recording quality as "very 1980s," and admitted that "there are things on this project that I probably wouldn't have done if I was the producer myself."

Turner agreed. "It's not what I'd do normally, it's not what he [Hughes] would do normally, but it's not so far from what we would do. It's still rock 'n' roll."

While for Men, the project -- the first to be produced in his wife's studio -- is a dream come true, for the international rockers, the album is just one part of their busy schedules. "Joe and I both probably do around 50 recordings a year, whether it's commercials, TV soundtracks," Hughes said. "That's what we do for a living."

Nevertheless, the pair were enthusiastic about visiting Russia, swapping fond memories of earlier perestroika-era tours and spartan conditions at the Rossiya Hotel -- "like you were in prison," Turner recalled.

A side benefit of the project, for Turner and Hughes, is their increased profile on the international market. "It's also a great way to get a second career going in Russia," Hughes said. The pair embarked on a six-city tour in February, and were impressed by the number of people who remembered their music.

"I see kids of 10 and 11 singing all the lyrics I wrote 30 years ago," Hughes said.

For producer Berezhnoi, the project began as a "delirious idea." After the recording studio he heads, Petrostudio Vintage Records, re-released a small number of copies of Most's 1986 album, he and Men began discussing the possibility of attracting a foreign rocker to sing the existing lyrics in English.

"Mikhail Sanych said, 'Let's try. In the end we'll manage to contact some musicians and show them [the album],'" Berezhnoi recalled, using a familiar form of Men's name.

A meeting was organized during Turner and Hughes' February tour, and the musicians agreed to listen to the album. "They were shocked. They hadn't expected that someone in Russia could not only play, but also write hard rock correctly," the producer said.

Describing the joint project as "a creative alliance of Western and Russian musicians," Berezhnoi said that the organizers also plan to make a film about the recording process, and that initial plans to release the album only in Israel and Russia are currently up for review.

"When we finish the record, we will return to this discussion, and I think that all the same we will present it on the Western market, too," he said.

Whatever the fate of the record, it is sure of at least one loyal listener: the Moscow mayor. "Luzhkov knows my music. He likes it a lot," Men said. "He's seen my videos, I've sung all my songs to him and given him the records."

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Old Oct-02-2004, 5:18 AM
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This is such a great story. I hope everything turns out well for Mikhail Men and the cd is a huge success for him.
Plus, we get one more release with Glenn on it to file on the shelf!!

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Old Oct-02-2004, 6:41 PM
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Yes - if we can get our hands on it, comrade!

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Old Oct-04-2004, 2:37 PM
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Some resourceful soul WILL find a way to get a copy...there is no way that all these GHCP's will be left empty handed!!

Yours In The Funk
Bill "Capt. Midnite" Redford
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Old Oct-07-2004, 8:42 AM
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Joe Lynn Turner and GLENN with record company crew

GLENN and JOE relaxing


Pictures Courtesy: Gabrielle Hughes / Inna Records (Moscow)
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