Alexander Patlis continues to believe
By Viktar Korbut
Alexander was previously known as part of New Jerusalem but launched his solo career a few years ago and has now become known as a talented singer, with fans in Belarus and abroad. His recent album, Read My Thoughts, sees him singing not only in Russian, but in English, German and Ukrainian. He arrives eager to discuss the past and the future.
Why is it that you rarely appear on TV these days?
I’ve been touring and recording my new album but recently performed some songs from the album for the 1st Belarusian TV Channel’s ‘Meeting Place’ light-entertainment programme. I sang ‘Megapolis’, ‘Linked by Thoughts’ and ‘Hello’. I’m now recording videos for my songs, for play on the MTV and А1 channels.
Do you remember when you ‘stormed’ the Palace of the Republic as New Jerusalem’s front man?
Of course. Its main hall can seat 3,000 and, as far as I know, only ‘New Jerusalem’ and ‘J:Мors’ have performed there as Belarusian rock bands. We attract as many fans as popular foreign groups.
Why did you leave New Jerusalem in 2006? There are so many rumours…
I didn’t leave. I was put aside. Do you believe me?
No. How could they exist without you?
Many don’t believe me but it happened in the USA, after we’d played in Seattle, Washington.
Who is your audience there?
They’re mostly former Soviet emigres and Americans. We’d been playing in the USA since 1993, with producer Karl Richardson organising our first tour. There were times when we gave almost a hundred concerts in just six months. My last solo concert was organised in 2008 but, in the spring of 2012, a tour is planned, to coincide with a new English language album. I’m currently preparing to tour Germany.
Let’s return to the five year old American story…
I lost my voice after our tough tour of Russia. We’d endured different time zones, and enjoyed sell-out events. We’d rented musical equipment and were unable to cancel any of our concerts, so the pressure was huge. I strained my voice and needed an operation. After recovering, I returned to America, where my band had been performing for a couple of weeks without me. A new leader had appeared and I felt that something was wrong. We chatted for a while and I realised that I had to take my own path.
Do you feel as popular as you were as the leader of New Jerusalem?
Five thousand Internet downloads of my ‘Read My Thoughts’ album is the best assessment of me. I’ve toured Vladivostok and Brest, often visiting Latvia, Germany, Ukraine and Moldova. Meanwhile, I’ve spent a total of four years touring the USA.
Did you work on a construction site in America?
After splitting from ‘New Jerusalem’, I went to Indiana to help friends build a house. It was a conscious decision towards physical labour, nailing with a pneumatic stapler and taking off old sidings. I then returned to Minsk to record some songs and start my solo career. The same year, my ‘For You’ song was acknowledged among the best in Belarus.
Why did you decide to allow free download of your album from alexpatlis.com?
I understand that the Internet is a huge tool. I have a social network of almost 10,000 fans, with 15-20 joining every day. If I’d failed to place these songs online myself, someone else would have done so. Within two hours of my ‘Second Breath’ album being launched in St. Petersburg, it was online. I receive many messages of gratitude, as people love being able to download songs free of charge. They promise to buy a CD on coming to my concert.
Are you involved in charity activities? Music is a profitable business.
Charity projects are close to my heart. I find sponsors and determined people, sending all profits from certain concerts to children’s charities — especially those which buy vitamins and medicines. My last concert of the kind was organised at Minsk’s St. Simon and St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church, in 2009; over 1,000 fans attended, raising over $3,000 for a Minsk Region orphanage.
Do you see yourself as a rock musician?
What is rock music these days? Many of songs by ‘Metallica’ are actually lyrical ballads. I do use guitar solos and strong rock vocals but, in contrast, when I needed to create a Ukrainian language ballad, I invited cellist Yulia Glushitskaya to accompany me. Let listeners decide what they love and stop trying to categorise music. You can describe yourself as you like, but you may just find that your music is pop — like that of Robbie Williams, with huge energy. If you believe in what you’re singing, your songs will touch people.
What do you believe in?
I believe in God, love and my family. I’ve been married for twenty years. I truly believe in people who appear to have a real mission in life, being born for a purpose.