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Leonid Kotelnikov

in conversation with Esteban Farrero Campos

We sit in one of the many dusty god-forgotten “bodegas” of Barcelona, drinking the cheapest vermut there is and eavesdropping on the mumbling of old men and shouts of drunk tourists. 

Leonid turned out to be a sharp and unexpectedly polite person. Our talk started rather quietly but one could still get a sense of some catch in Leonid: in the way his eyes sometimes sparkled for split seconds, in the way he hesitated before answering as he was silently repeating the question to something inner, something larger than him. 

Leonid Kotelnikov is an elusive underground artist of the Moscow scene. He was first known for the arrangement of the “Structure” festival which gathered together different sonic acts and curiosities in abandoned factories, slaughterhouses, and forests. Meanwhile, Leonid ran several projects of his own, most of them being on the edge between theater, actionism, and music. In his latest act called fake_trailers we can observe deeply schizophrenic destruction of music canons, pop culture paradigms, and human emotions and behaviours. Obvious things seem to shatter into pieces under Leonid’s cut-up method and the unknown becomes so close and so tangible that it can be almost touched.

Fake_trailers takes the power of a royal jester to say things straight and harshly but changes the act of speech into a deafening howl. 

I tried to prevent Leonid from avoiding direct answers and contradicting himself while trying to make it through all the parables and cryptic hints.

E.F.C: Who are you? What are your names? 

L.K: This is the hardest question. What inspires you and why are you creative

Everyone will make their own impression…

My sub-personalities, my sweet midgets on the web, let’s tickle them a little bit.

Fake_trailers is an anti, neo and post-music project between a dramatic piece and an advertisement. Now they are a travelling homeless and speechless poet, kind of a holy fool juggling with meanings, wandering in an endless game. Sometimes you can see his friend Pavel Korkin who wears glasses, always trying to write something and being a hidden organizer of all sorts of things. 

After all these concerts and exhibitions, somewhere in the shadow sit gobzik (shmazi) – a thing that always is present behind, you can see it by yourself only in the mirror or catch it on the camera.

All these creatures are just mere residents of the fake psychiatric hospital in which life poisons them with chemical torture and chlorpromazine.

«What scares you – inspires me.»‎

For ten years I was doing some shizo-noise with marginal acts on stage, but on the next day after the war started I made my last performance which consisted of standing in silence, and then stopped the project. In 2014 I was fully immersed in the stupidest tour, where the next town was far away to another direction. I played in garages, quarries, and abandoned places then rapidly shifting to glamorous art venues. 

E.F.C: Your artistic activities span from running festivals in abandoned slaughterhouses to radical noir noise performances and acoustic ballads about lost love. Is there something you’re attempting to capture with all these different approaches?

L.K: Maybe it’s kind of a live-camera tracking something that moves in not usual paths? When they grab me for stealing in a supermarket and tell me not to come here again, I like to say not out loud but to myself that I do not exist. It just so happened that the product could disappear from the store, but now it won’t disappear, it will pass through a red light and a beeping sound. 

Capturing for me is just capturing. It’s not about something concrete. As a creator, you might always try to put something in, but only you see this, and moreover not for a long time. Someday everything disappears from your memory and you find yourself laying in bed with people who you try to remember and looking at sheep jumping through your old rotten body. I forget the question, my darling, what is the time?

E.F.C: What is your goal then? How do you imagine the absoluteness of the art you will ever make?

L.K: No goals. No masters. No withering. Only precursors and regressions.

E.F.C: Every plant grows from the root, gathers energy through it, and holds the grasp with the ground. Mushrooms are known to have common roots and a common network of knowledge and power. Do you have your roots, where do they grow from? Or maybe if you are closer to mushrooms then where are your mycelium connections? 

L.K: Mushrooms stay between vegetables and animals, so as a narcissus, I can think about myself between humans and gods. Acid trip in childhood, micro-dosing Ibogaine with insights and sixth sense, internet with its roots and easter eggs, hard levels of lucid dreams and breathing. Breathing is my own Berghain. 

But if we would talk about Russia, about my parents, about this damaged swan wing that fed me with milk, then it’s probably worth telling that I grew up in a family with one breadwinner, In a closed jar like a zok, the hero of the stunning Russian book by Leonid Tyukhtyaev and Irina Tyukhtyaeva, where oblong creatures lived in a jar with the inscription – honey, which in their mirror vision was seen as an inscription – house. A mosquito bites to say that my mother does not say who my father is. My grandfather worked in aircraft manufacturing and built a country house from scraps taken in a garbage dump and he made a fence from old skis. I was born in a heavy thunderstorm at 2 a.m.

«‎The navel is something that does not help to feel myself while living this life. My land of birth is Lord in Honeycomb.»‎

E.F.C: You are considered a legendary figure in the Russian deep underground scene. Is it important for you to remain hidden in this moss of culture? 

L.K: I’m not hiding under a shell and I don’t bend like a mimosa pudica, but I’m not pretty sure that things that I made in this ocean of sand weigh anything. I’m waiting for the sun and the moon and the stars…

E.F.C: But earlier you said to me that you have no goals. Isn’t waiting for the divine whisper a goal?

L.K: Its presence is expected humbly. Getting the result is unpleasant.

The way you imagine something to be never corresponds to the way it is in reality. Being a child, I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time on New Year’s Eve in anticipation of gifts. Then on the morning of January 1, I woke up and ran for treasures which resulted in me breaking my head on Christmas tree toys. A candy cane was hanging on one of the branches and useless toys were lying under the tree. My mother later reminded me that for my birthday I had received a big double gift – a robot, both for the birthday and for the New Year.

«‎I want a lot of fake press persons with cameras to take pictures of my shoulder straps and awards – this will be my goal.»‎

E.F.C: You have hosted a lot of festivals and concerts, they combined different genres and different people who all were deeply rooted in the underground Russian culture. What was common between all the artists, what was your taste saying to you at that time? 

L.K: Structure fest was a big experiment for me to combine the incongruous. I organized 10 episodes of it, between the years 2012 and 2014, with my friend Egor Gusev who was the main organizer of the most interesting concerts during these years such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Felix Cubin, William Basinsky, Clipping, and many more. I have always been inspired by strange, abandoned locations and tried to give my preferences to them. The folklore collector Alexander Matochkin could perform and sing on one stage and on another stage, at the same time, there could be fierce grindcore. 

We made a concert on a train, in a mental hospital for kids, in a botanical garden… I was always trying to find something that was really interesting and combine it with something else to make it shine more. I try to put artists in strange situations to live on a stage, not to work. Sometimes without having a stage… 

E.F.C: Now you are doing a huge pilgrimage through Europe. Is that because you need to be known?

L.K: I need to know myself more – that’s the first point. Recently I was stuck in a truck dump trying to hitchhike from Amsterdam to Berlin, where no one was stopping. All the cars were full of children, nobody spoke English. Around me was only an endless highway for dozens of kilometers.

«I think I need to chew the rubber I have gathered, this routine of days and collect new stamps for the postage to my warm future, not to be heard and recognized but to hear and learn something that makes me walk through the parched lands.»‎

E.F.C: But have you ever thought of becoming famous, like a world pop star? 

L.K: Drinking champagne from a curvy ass in a thermal pool embedded in the marble of your property like Omar Galanti, after playing in a sphere in Las Vegas can be a fun accident. I have no desire to immerse myself in this headlong and systematically move in this direction, but when it overtakes itself, I need to accept it, so far all this successfully passed me by. 

E.F.C: Moving back to your voyages, I feel that often the lust for newness of different lands and cultures imperceptibly transforms into apathy, into disappointment. At some point everything new may start to seem the same, as all the people in the world experience the same sadness, the same joy, all the cities and landscapes are equally dirty and beautiful. Do you still find new and worthy experiences while constantly changing places? 

L.K: All the cities are similar in terms of disgusting souvenir shops and cultural places. There it flies to me from all sides: “Nice tatts bro”! A Venetian surströmming.

While everyone is drawn to see the center, something leads me to the outskirts. Something genuinely divine hides from the view inside Italian holy relics or it is buried somewhere in Manshiyat Nasser.\ But sometimes in touristic places some magic can be found too. One day after the Museum of Purgatory in Rome, I jumped on a bus to Pompei, where next to the archaeological district there is a train station where a toothless person looking like Arca who was working as a prostitute was fearfully running alone along the platform clicking her heels. And an oblique Italian started following me, staying not far behind, offering to have sex in Italian language using only 2 english words – Love and Hotel. 

On this day I snuck under the bridge to sleep inside one of the arches. I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time and in the morning when I opened my eyes I saw that there is a two souls made of rain and mud and a figurine of the Virgin Mary next to me…

All the most interesting things will always evaporate and disappear before the necessary focus of attention. You need to pump your inner eye with an expander to start noticing.

As a fan once wrote to me: “You are everywhere where there is life because you yourself are alive”.

«‎I chose the path of the homeless because now falling asleep on the streets of Paris with a screwdriver in my hand, I feel more free than in my museum near Moscow under a blanket…»‎

E.F.C: Besides the fabric of the land there is a fabric of languages that has its own geography, I’d say psychogeography. Your musical work often shows an intriguing rupture of the speech, of the singing, and of the language itself as well. Are you also exploring it further, for example merging new languages, cultures, psychoses?

L.K: Most of my texts are excerpts from literary works. By clumping and tearing them and by then gluing them together I find new rhythms, new voices. There are also several made-up words and words that are found in popular culture. Flavors and colors, different meanings, feelings… Multicolor – new camouflage. I’m flowing inside of what I’m thinking right now. I can try to bury it inside and mask it, but another me likes to play hide and seek being a Janus. 

E.F.C: Do you want to completely dissolve then? Through using more and more entities as the source of your cut-ups, through a constant changing of faces.

L.K: Who knows? Maybe it will be a starting point or a final fantasy. 

“I can kind of see,” as Thom Yorke once said while being interviewed.

E.F.C: Where does the margin between your body and your art lay?

L.K: I try to introduce deep rituality to the canvas of jests. It is some macropsic atmospheric reflection when I try to see something through my blurry scleral goat lenses. I’m trying to find miraculous signs but to say truly it always is just a juggling of sensations. 

E.F.C: The world constantly changes and pulsates leaving everything behind. We do not own anything and we are not sure of anything. At the time of noises and storms is there something to rely on?

L: I don’t remember the answer to this question but the simpler the card, the tastier the picture. I really miss my Sega Digio SJ-1 with its 5V smart media card. Its low quality of seeing the world keeps you warm in noises and storms. 

E.F.C: Blur the vision to secure the warmth… Is there really nothing valuable in clarity?

L.K: When you lose one of the sensations of the world, others intensify. My vision is so clear that I can see the pores on one’s skin. Stephen Dwoskin or Ryan Trecartin. Both. But what is more foggy is more fascinating.

E.F.C: You work with collages, shards of the culture and life. What does a collage method mean to you, the same way of scattering the integrity of perception?

L.K: Collage is a way I collect experience, patches for my memory. Often, if you are trivial at the time of gluing, you end up with a youthful animation from simply stitched pictures to suit your taste. But if you try to glue the curtain and the feeling together, you may end up with something incomprehensible, which is what attracts me. 

E.F.C: But you are not only preserving experiences in this way, you also share them just the same way as you’ve collected them. So that is also your way of talking, your language.

L.K: This is the language of communication between me and myself first and foremost.

E.F.C: While performing, how do you imagine perfect interaction with your listener? Do you care about the listener?

L: As Jean-Louis Costes said – “What stops an artist is to be taken for a dumb or a shabby. For me it’s the starting point.” If it’s not a strange place or a place with strange people, I’m not interested in contact with listeners. My lenses help me be inside of the story I’m making on the stage. 

E.F.C: A strange place or strange people?

L.K: If I understand in advance that it won’t be just a crowd at my theatrical revelation, but there might be fireflies of spontaneous collaborations, something can explode, but in fact, I can roam around without this additional illumination. 

E.F.C: What kind of work would you do for a deaf person? How would you explain your music to someone who cannot hear it?

L.K: Trees can hear too, you know. It is interesting to think about playing for locations that will someday become liminal, think about how it all always turns to dust. Each person perceives in their own way what they see in my theater. I would be happy to work for animals or inanimate creatures, but now we are breaking through the skulls of upright walkers with abstract charades. 

When you try to give explanations you inevitably discard hundreds of dimensions every second. So, as you can see from my attempts to answer, I’m blind and deaf myself.

E.F.C: What is more important, one’s perception of reality or the reality itself? 

L.K: As if you’d ask to choose between a black oil pit and a grave.

E.F.C: Do you like being deranged, being caught by your dreams and visions?

L.K: In my youth, I experimented with ethnobotany, growing heimia in my mother’s room like a school experiment, in which decoction or the juice makes something with your hearing like DiPT but with yellow lights hallucinations. Trying to fall asleep inside a lucid dream and endless flights, drinking a pure absinth in the dark, and trying to think about yourself inside water. I was always impressed by ghosts, sacred things, and mythology but reality always hurt me like the guys in the courtyard, so it was a safe space inside my cocoon. 

E.F.C: Well, as you have experimented with a lot of botanical, physical, and synthetic ways of bending your perception, do you think it was the kind of fight you were having with your own body, an attempt to overcome yourself?

L.K: The dog biting the tail, the man who made his hand numb and now puts it into his pants. All these ways of bending perception are just a scourge for your mood.

E.F.C: Walter Benjamin wrote that the copy of the artwork lacks the magical “aura” that the original possesses. What is the difference between fake and genuine?

L.K: Truth is in the eye of the beholder. Is it possible to make NFTs from the blessed water? Does an unsuccessful parodist give birth to a new personality? 

E.F.C: What is the earliest memory you remember?

L.K: Sometimes the most important stuff goes away. Goes away so badly, it’s like it was never there to begin with. It’s funny the stuff that sticks in your head. I could tell you forward and backward about one day when I was five, and my mom bought me a stupid ice cream cone. I could tell you the flavor of the ice cream. It was pink bubblegum. I even remember stuff about the girl who scooped it out. Her hair was fire red. All that stuff is there like it is happening right now, but I don’t remember that day. 

E.F.C: How do you interact with visions and dreams? Are you scared of them?

L.K: Three things scare me at the moment. Loneliness-Height-Infinity. Dreams cling to it like tik-tok and provoke, play, teach while I’m inside a dream. 

E.F.C: When I was younger I was always skeptical about the idea of taking control over dreams because I wanted my subconscious and something that is outside of any type of consciousness to lead me. But now I understand that I want to control dreams in that sense that would allow me to ask questions to them. As an experienced vision-dweller, what was your way in this journey of creating, ruling, and obeying? 

L.K: Much that is silent during the day, sends out webs of thoughts through dreams.A Floating tank, there you can transfer music from lucid dreams into reality. Growing Silene Undulata with your soul-eyes in the mirror while mewing. A recurring dream of cursed evangelion catacombs of Capuchins lullabies. Oneiromancy…A dream is a dilution of the hyperbole of a fictitious reality. Are you dreaming now? Everything we are experiencing now is just a dream of a giant, floating in space inside a multi-level mandala. Our cremation is only the end of his cryopreservation.

E.F.C: Delving into the depth of insanity or jumping outwards from the observable reality can open new paths for the perception but can also lead to complete darkness. You interact with the insanity a lot, are you scared of getting lost in it? What is the thing that fascinates you in it?

L.K: I have never been a patient of a psychiatric ward, moreover, I could not even get to abandoned Granzette hospital in Italy, but the methods of thinking and perception of people with mental illnesses, people who do not go into a mousetrap for cheese, are always very interesting and close to me. Autistic allows you to see small details hidden from the ordinary eye and pay less attention to the monumental signs that the world imposes on you. This is purity, this is real unusualness. 

E.F.C: Can sincerity be found through denying canons and through escape from the well-known?

L.K: Everything has to happen on its own. The Real is usually somewhere in between, but at the same time, you need to look for the strongest and the weakest, the thinnest and the thickest, without trying to catch the middle so as not to fall off the rope. The core of the apple contains seeds and you will feel them crunch in an instant.

E.F.C: But this search inevitably leads to farmost margins, the fascination by decay and horrific abnormality. Do you consider yourself as decayed as well? Do you still keep the clearness in your head or are you trying to get over it?

L.K: It’s hard to talk about myself because an insane or retarded person is never capable of admitting and understanding. I’m in love with people who are stuck inside other dimensions. Like one woman I met in Budapest – for many years she has been walking along the same street every day and she doesn’t speak with anyone, she always wears the same coat and she buys lottery tickets. As if she is living through some moment from her childhood where it seemed that you could win the lottery and go to the seaside. 

E.F.C: How do you imagine your death? Will you ever become old?

L.K: Birthmarks on my heart. Death can come any day, life is a speculative fiction – a game for the hemispheres. The Casa Bonita tour will end one day. It’s just that somewhere at some point the filming will stop and the tape will run out. At first, there will be interesting leaks due to the production of dimethyltryptamine, then only you will be able to watch me from the outside. As in any story that occurs, someone will be sad, someone will laugh. Maybe it makes sense now. Maybe somewhere there is a reason. Maybe somewhere there is a why. Maybe somewhere there is that thing that lets you tie it all up with a neat bow and bury it in the backyard. But nothing, not anger, not prayers, and not tears, nothing can make something that has happened unhappen.

E.F.C: What is your favorite color?

L.K: Let’s start speaking in post-language – like emojis or sounds. I’m waiting for the time when sending information telepathically will be real and I have already figured out which answering machine to put for myself to hear some black noise. My favorite color is black. Isn’t it poetic? But with a silver metallic border. Only because of the dark wild nature we all live in. Some tropical stingless bees have adapted to eating flesh… 

E.F.C: 🌬️ 🔏 🔃 ?

L.K: 𒀭 𒇸

Чტო, ოчენь хოрოшო იгрაეტ?


Esteban Farrero Campos


Pavel Korkin

Photos by

Vitalii Akimov

Video by