Q&A with singer/songwriter, Ripoff Raskolnikov - one of the most idiosyncratic figures on the European scene

"Blues is a feeling, it is all about the expression of human emotions..."

Ripoff Raskolnikov: Lost & Found

Both an accomplished blues guitar player and a prolific singer/songwriter, Austrian born Ripoff Raskolnikov must be considered one of the most idiosyncratic figures on the European blues scene. Like thousands of his colleagues, he admires and reveres such blues greats as Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Robert Johnson or John Lee Hooker. On the other hand, and quite unlike most of his colleagues, he has no desire to imitate or copy them. Nor, for that matter, is he willing to remain within the boundaries of what is generally accepted as the blues.

What does connect him to the aforementioned giants is his fully committed, unwavering integrity in exploring, and coming to terms with such human emotions as love, passion, desire, loss, pain, the quest of beauty, hunger for life, or fear of death. Driven by such forces, Raskolnikov unleashes songs of powerful poetic and musical expression which, more often that not, defy stylistic categorization. Whatever the line-up, Raskolnikov never fails to create an ambiance of poignant intensity. He is the sort of artist you like to watch as well as listen to. His stage charisma, his dry sense of humour and his highly personal approach to the blues make him one of a kind. Based-Hungarian XLNT Record, released his album “Lost And Found” (2010 - remixed, remastered 2018).

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

Blues is a feeling, it is all about the expression of human emotions...whether or not I learn anything about myself I’m not so sure… let's say the one thing that listening to the greats of this genre can teach you is strength in the face of adversity.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

The reason I became a musician is very simple: I had no desire whatsoever to learn a "proper" job. I wanted to be a songwriter from my early teens on, and the interplay of words & music has always fascinated me. All the great early blues performers of the 1930s were songwriters, interested in expressing their personal thoughts and feelings in a unique way, rather than showing off their virtuosity, in this way I see Bob Dylan as a direct descendant from the likes of Robert Johnson. so much for my songbook. As for my sound, since I never had much interest in using effect pedals of any kind, my electric guitar sound is probably somewhere in the vicinity of early Mark Knopfler, without the reverb and the genius, I might add, I suppose I have always been a songwriter by calling and a guitar player by necessity...

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My most important acquaintances are all private and outside the music world, so you wouldn't know them... Best advice? I really couldn't say...chances are I didn't take it, whatever it was....

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Well every time I jam with Keith Richards and Tom Waits they ask me to keep quiet about it, so I’m really not at liberty to tell you anything...but seriously, of course I have been on quite a few stages and in quite a few recording studios over the years and decades, playing with all sorts of people, both known and unknown....there are thousands of excellent musicians in this world. I consider myself extremely lucky to have 3 of them in my band.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, as Van Morrison says on the liner notes to astral weeks, what got him into the blues was listening to Leadbelly...same thing here, mate, along with Skip James and Blind Willie McTell and some more I could name...if there is anything I miss it would be the raw passionate approach of those early greats.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would make my recent re-release of "Lost and Found" number one of the international album charts.

What touched (emotionally) you and what are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in Austrian scene?

The scene in Austria is not so different from any other country, there are some good places and some bad, some good musicians and some bad, some good audiences and some bad, much like everywhere else...like I say in one of my new songs, it's a small backwoods country, they don't like drugs and they don ‘like porn, but every hollow-brained Nazi is welcome to air his opinions...I am afraid, I am slightly deficient in austrian patriotism, it is a beautiful country, unfortunately inhabited by a majority of not-so-beautiful people, and happens to be currently governed by the equivalent of 'golden dawn' in Greece…

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It certainly has helped me understand that people are people, whatever their nationality or color of skin and that any form of nationalism is idiotic.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Like football, I suppose playing the blues can promote cosmopolitism and the breaking down of racial barriers...but then again, much like in football, you wouldn't believe the amount of racists you can come across among so-called blues fans.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

You certainly do have a knack for asking some strange questions, it is 11p.m. on a Monday night, and I’m sitting on the terrace of my house in western Hungary, it is a lovely mellow summer night, and I can't see any reason in the world to want to be elsewhere in space or time.


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