Ukrainian band Jinjer playing San Antonio as ambassadors of their war-torn country

Jinjer will be joined by P.O.D., Malevolence and Space of Variations at the Aztec Theatre.

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click to enlarge Jinjer returns to San Antonio on Friday, Dec. 16. - Jaime Monzon
Jaime Monzon
Jinjer returns to San Antonio on Friday, Dec. 16.

It's been a little more than a year since Ukrainian progressive metal band Jinjer last played San Antonio's Aztec Theatre. That tour took place months before Russia invaded the band's home country, unleashing chaos and throwing the band's future into question.

Jinjer will play the Aztec again on Friday, Dec. 16, this time with P.O.D., Malevolence and Space of Variations. It's now touring with the blessing of the Ukrainian government, which declared the members musical ambassadors for the war-torn nation.

The Current caught up with drummer Vladislav Ulasevich a couple months before Jinjer — which also includes vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk, guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov and bassist Eugene Abdukhanov — started its U.S. tour. During the talk, Ulasevich touched on the band's efforts to aid its homeland, his own personal influences and a new album that's in the works.

Do you have a favorite place to tour in the U.S.?

I don't know. Every place there is different. Some places I like mountains and lakes, others I like the huge buildings, like in New York, or food in New Orleans. I like some things everywhere.

You're taking '90s-era rapcore group P.O.D. on this tour. Were they an inspiration for you growing up?

To be honest, I listened to different music. I know that Tatiana and Eugene are huge fans. When I was younger, I listened to heavier stuff — brutal shit. All my guys were fans and still are. Especially Tati!

Space of Variations, another Ukraine-based metal band, is also on the tour.

They are our brothers. Actually, they're the only metal band now touring from Ukraine. We try to help Ukrainian musicians as best we can, and they are actually very good musicians. I think that Americans will love them. I hope.

Is there a certain formula Jinjer uses when creating albums?

When we go to the studio, we already have everything done except vocals. Me, Roman and Eugene do everything at our rehearsal room, use the raw guitar and then make the arrangements in Guitar Pro. I play a lot of guitar at home. At the end, we make a demo version. We're recording everything — drums, bass and guitar. With these demos, we send it to Tatiana, and she makes the vocals and lyrics on it. Then we send the demo to our studio sound engineer. We've been working with one guy on the last four records. After this, we start thinking about how we want it to sound. We only adjust vocals in the studio. Tati goes in with all the music ready.

Even though you use the same producer for each album, each release has been quite different.

Every previous album, we think, yeah, it's perfect, and everybody likes it. Now, I want a different sound. In the previous album there were a couple of things that now I don't like. The music that we're doing now is definitely different from Wallflowers. I hope over time we won't copy ourselves.

Is there a new album in the works?

Yes, we have a lot of new stuff, almost eight new songs already. In our plans, we have a lot of touring. In the middle of the tour in the States, we have a couple of festivals in Australia. Then we go back to Europe and have a tour with Bullet for My Valentine. After that, we have summer festivals. I think after that we will take a pause, and in autumn 2023, we will start to record the new album. How long it will be, nobody knows.

You were a pianist before playing the drums. Do you put any of that knowledge into the songs?

Yes, I have classical education. I was a pianist 10 years ago. I think that in heavy music, I don't like keyboards or piano. I think the bass, guitar and drums is enough for a metal band. Tati jokes that my riffs sound like Mozart or something. You can kind of hear classical stuff in Jinjer's music. Maybe one time if something happens, we will make something with the piano. Never say never.

Who inspires you as a drummer?

My biggest inspiration is Tomas Haake from Meshuggah. He's the greatest guy. If we speak about modern drummers, it's Matt Garstka from Animals as Leaders and Navene Koperweis, who also played in that band before Matt. Oh, and [Sepultura's] Eloy Casagrande, my boy! He's crazy. Those four guys are the best.

When it comes to drum kits, are you in the bigger-the-better camp, or does a smaller kit suffice?

Actually, I don't know. I have a pretty big set now. When I had just started playing drums, I only played a kick drum, snare, floor tom, two crashes and a high hat. In my first band Zlam, I started with a small drum kit. When it came to Jinjer, there were drum parts I needed to learn from the previous drummer, so I added a 12-inch tom. Now, I have a huge drum kit with like four crashes, two floor toms and two snares. I think it's enough, because sometimes you need to stop yourself. My sound engineer, Sasha, jokes that I need a huge gong.

When it comes to Jinjer, a lot of attention is placed on Tatiana for her vocals. Does that ever bother you?

I have no problem with it! Tati is one hundred times more talented than the guys and I. All that she does is just perfect. We just have no problem with it. Everybody understands it. Tatiana is the center, she's the leader. I like being in my place, doing my job, and I try to do my best.

You guys canceled tours to aid the war efforts in the Ukraine. That's admirable, and a big decision. Can you talk about that?

It's our mission to speak about the war, to speak about what is happening in the Ukraine. We helped a lot of Ukrainians who needed help. We sold merch for charity. It said, "We want our home back," and had our logo on it with the Ukrainian flag. We already helped a lot of people in the Ukraine, and we're still doing it every week. We're doing what we can, and we're speaking out about it. I hope it somehow helps. War is still going, day after day. It's not going in a good way, only a bad way. I hope it will end soon. Everybody hopes it will end soon. It's been nine months already [at the time of this interview]. I'm speaking with you right now, and like three hours before, a lot of drones bombed the capital Kyiv again. It's my city, just in the center. People die every day. It's a huge tragedy for our people and our country.

Is there anything more Americans can do to help out?

The United States helped Ukraine a lot. The United States and Europe have helped us as much as they can. All of the civilized world helped Ukrainians. We want to say a huge thanks to everyone who helped Ukrainians.

$37-$68, 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Aztec Theatre, 104 N. St. Mary's St., (210) 812-4355, theaztectheatre.com.

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