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Russian rock legend dies

Former Akvarium member Yevgeny Guberman, once described as Russian rock music’s ‘greatest drummer,’ was equally at home playing garage rock and mainstream jazz.

Published: January 16, 2013 (Issue # 1742)



  • A member of Akvarium and other seminal bands, Guberman later emigrated to the Netherlands.
    Photo: A. VARLAMOV

The Russian rock and jazz scenes are in mourning for Yevgeny Guberman, the local drummer extraordinaire who died in St. Petersburg on December 30 at the age of 57.

Guberman played in styles ranging from garage rock to mainstream jazz and was reputed as the city’s —or even Russia’s — No. 1 rock drummer.

The St. Petersburg Times sat down with Guberman at the now-defunct Dostoevsky Bar in August 2000, when the musician came back to the city to play a few concerts as a member of the Dutch rock trio Kek ‘66.

Guberman had moved to Amsterdam in 1987, when Russia was starting to open up under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The drummer performed with a number of outfits there before returning to St. Petersburg in 2004.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Guberman played with a number of bands and styles — from the mainstream jazz group David Goloshchyokin Band to Akvarium, which was in its “punk” stage at the time.

Once described as the greatest drummer in Russian rock, Guberman said: “It was what people said — it was not my thing. In Holland everything is different — there’s no concept of who’s the best, who isn’t the best. You’re a drummer, O.K. Nobody looks at what kind of drums you have, what kind of cymbals, because everything is in the stores. But after a concert people approach you and say: ‘Oh, it was great,’ and you say: ‘O.K., thanks a lot.’”

Although Kek ‘66 was reminiscent of British beat of the 1960s and used Kinks-style riffs, Guberman insisted that the music the band played was American.

“We play real American garage punk. It was people who were orientated not to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but to The Kinks, Remains, Searchers, The Hollies,” he said.

“American kids who were 15 or 16 would buy instruments, get into their fathers’ garages and blast it out at full force — this music stems from that.”

Apart from Kek ‘66, Guberman played with four jazz outfits in Amsterdam at that time.

“If I had to play five days a week with one and the same band, I wouldn’t be able to stand it, it would become a routine,” he said.

“I need to play different music, with different people — just to stay in balance. And I need to play jazz — because I love this music, I feel it and can play it — not as the greatest players did, but still in my own way.”

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