Verka Serduchka

Today PEV welcomes one of our most interesting, most original, and most fun features to ever grace our pages – drag star Andriy Danylko, better known for his stage persona, Verka Serduchka. Verka is an artist, producer, writer and comedian, and one of few artists from the Ukraine that we’ve had the pleasure of catching up with. Serduchka has been garnering some attention state side  with his music and stage performance, but it wasn’t music that first brought him to Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 5.26.42 AMprominence in his homeland. He was a comedian performing for sold-out arenas, not to mention a host of popular evening TV shows before the music stuck.

Since the music has taken over, Verka has sold over 600,000 records in Ukraine with a sound that’s completely his – music that he says he hopes “unite people, makes them feel moved and feel happy.” Serduchka is working hard now on a new album for American audiences – we asked him about the approach. He said, “Our audience is getting bigger and wider, so we need to find the more universal language for better communication. For example, people from my circle thought that I had lost my mind when I played my Eurovision song to them, as Slavic and/or post-Soviet mentality and tastes differ a lot. But that song almost won the Eurovision in 2007.”

Click to to prepare for new music from Verka, and get to a live show if ever a possibility! Serduchka explains it’s difficult to imagine the show unless you’ve seen it already – and remember, he tore the house down at the after party for the NYC premier of the Melissa McCarthy hit film, Spy. Did we mention he had a cameo in that film? Learn more about that, and so much more below in all the answers to the XXQs.

XXQs: Verka Serduchka (PEV): As an artist, producer, writer and comedian, how would you describe your approach to music, and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?

Verka Serduchka (VS): I cannot describe it purely as a music genre. My most important task is to unite people, make them feel moved and feel happy. Our live shows will tell you so much more than records – you cannot imagine (to stay modest).

PEV: Hailing from the Ukraine, what kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

VS: I was growing up listening to 80’s Disco, Bobby Orlando and the like. I didn’t like sad songs.

I want to recall not the first concert (25 years ago I was a comedian rather than singer), but better – the one of the last ones. It was in the US. One third of our band hadn’t arrived due to a VISA delay, and we didn’t have proper concert lights, stage, etc. but we still succeeded in moving people and making them happy. Not regular people – that audience was the most experienced I ever had – Hollywood stars and top industry people. I am talking about the SPY 2015 movie NYC premiere after-party. I liked that night.

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started? What was your first show like?

VS: I was not a regular music artist in the beginning. I was comedian with sold-out arenas and a host of big evening TV shows before I started to sing. And music professionals have lost their vigilance and haven’t seen competition from our side, and we easily got into the middle of everything. So my first concert was 25 years ago. It was comedy.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Verka Serduchka show?

VS: Live shows are the only way to feel what I do. Records are not even close. The show happens here and now, and it never repeats. Even people who don’t like my music or me personally – they get so involved at the show, they cannot resist the desire to clap and to dance.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?

VS: You know, before I go to perform, I am planning the show, thinking of the song list, etc. And while ON the stage it’s absolutely clear what to do – I am doing the best to direct the show in the best way according to the current mood and audience. But the short time frame between leaving backstage and stepping onto the stage itself – I feel myself like in some corridor, with no thoughts, nothing. Like the transition from one state of mind to another.
PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?

VS: The best part is to make people united and to get them to the same vibe. For example, when we take part in some big gala shows with multiple stars singing – while some others perform I see the audience as many different separated people; some of them like one artist and are bored while another one is performing…But I am happy when I succeed in making all those people unite as one in time of my performance. I feel they are one crowd driven by the energy we are giving to them – we’ve started to play the same game, all of us. It is a great feeling.

PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music?

VS: Inspiration is everywhere, all the time. But I am fortunate to know how to make my muse come to me. My muse loves champagne, so when the cork is out – she is in.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

VS: When I was a teenager, we were quite a poor family. I was looking at the World map, daring to dream of far lands, but I would never have believed anyone who would tell me that one day I will be in almost all the countries I dreamed of, or performing at arenas, or giving an interview to PensEyeView…:-)

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

VS: One thing? Hm…You would definitely be surprised if I undress now!

PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are your methods to get over it?

VS: I am not the factory worker – when I stop – all factory stops. The entire shift depends on me. No. I can take a break, make a party, abstract from the routine. And it all comes.

PEV: How do you think the industry has changed since you first started out?

VS: It changed dramatically. Those years the artist could sit in the studio, working for a long time on the album and its quality, and when the record is successfully out – it pays off. Now all artists have to spend most of the time touring to get their money for living. We need something new that again will let musicians focus on the creativity, art and their product’s quality.

PEV: What can fans expect from the upcoming EP? What was the writing process like for this album?

VS: We are now working hard on the new album. Our audience is getting bigger and wider, so we need to find the more universal language for better communication. For example, people from my circle thought that I had lost my mind when I played my Eurovision song to them, as Slavic and/or post-Soviet mentality and tastes differ a lot. But that song almost won the Eurovision in 2007. It would win, if no politics were involved.

PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

VS: The place doesn’t matter at all. People do. If people are waiting for us to come and play, and they have fun – we are happy to be there, happy to be invited to perform. We are doing our best not to disappoint people, to make them love us, and we succeed almost always.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?

VS: They have started to ask for more money!

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

VS: My spare time costs a lot for me. For example, when I had a few spare minutes a few years ago I participated in a UK auction and bought Freddie Mercury’s Rolls Royce. So I better fill that time with something more useful.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?

VS: LaToya Jackson. I think I could help her make some new hits.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

VS: I love a Munich-based band called Pollyester. Their last album is just brilliant.

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what would you do for a career?

VS: I don’t know; I am not in a subjunctive mood today.

PEV: So, what is next for Verka Serduchka?

VS: Oh, trust me I am the first who wonders!

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