|I played drums on this album. I liked the finished product so much that I volunteered to do a very short tour in order to help garner some attention.||
The Kropotkins create a completely unexpected synthesis of punk rock, the Delta blues, and contemporary dance music. Adopting their name from 19th century Russian anarchistic Peter Kropotkin, the band uses the 19th century pop music combination of banjo, fiddle, and drums (a combination that lasted well into the 20th century in the Delta). According to group founder Dave Soldier, "We get a sound with those instruments that can play a dance club or open a Stones tour. [Vocalist] Lorrette [Velvette] and I think that the path from that older music doesn't lead to a singer/songwriter approach but rather to what's now called urban dance music, or techno."|
A transplant from the midwest to downtown New York, Soldier is known as the violinist and composer for the Soldier String Quartet and for collaborations with quirky musicians such as Elliott Sharp and John Cale, who uses the Soldier Quartet as his backup band. Soldier's background includes a period as guitarist for Bo Diddley and as a classical violinist on numerous avant-garde recordings, and hybrids like the Ordinaires and Bill Laswell projects. As a composer, his previous CD's range from concertos for symphony orchestra to musical theater for Pentecostal gospel choirs. Recently, he produced an orchestra collaboration with Kurt Vonnegut and arranged the orchestra film scores for I Shot Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel's upcoming Build a Fort, Tear it Down.
For the Kropotkins, Soldier gathered together a striking array of talent. Jonathan Kane, drummer for the Swans, Sirens, Rhys Chatam and LaMonte Young's Forever Bad Blues Band, has also toured for over a decade playing Chicago blues. Percussionist and singer Samm Bennett, leader of the bands History of the Last Five Minutes and Chunk, performed with Soldier in Elliott Sharp's Carbon and on Soldier's CD Smut (Avant Records). The two drummers - one on snare drum and the other on a parade bass drum - stand to play as in a New Orleans brass band. Guitarist and bassist Dog (Mark Deffenbaugh) performed with Bennett's groups and on Ice-9 Ballads, a collaboration between Soldier and Kurt Vonnegut. Violinist Mark Feldman is a one of the foremost improvisers on the instrument, and has recorded for groups ranging from Parliment-Funkadelic to Loretta Lynn; he is the soloist in Soldier's orchestral concerto Ultraviolet Railroad (Newport Classic).
Lorette Velvette is the perfect singer to sail out over the raw sound produced by the band. She met Soldier in Memphis after John Cale and the Soldier Quartet performed a science fiction version of "Heartbreak Hotel" for a 25th anniversary Elvis Commemoration concert. Velvette has sung with her own groups, the Memphis bands the Grifters and Panther Burns, and as backup for Sonic Youth. Having spent years visiting and absorbing the music of Delta legends like Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Othar Turner, Velvette interpolates punk and Delta strands in her work with the Kropotkins.
The Kropotkins presents six pieces by Soldier, two by Bennett and one by Velvette, along with arrangments of songs by Delta guitarists Fred McDowell and Bukka White. Drawing from sources ranging from Thoreau and Stephen Foster to Bill Monroe and Jerry Lee Lewis and on to Iggy Pop, De La Soul, and Ornette Coleman, the Kropotkins have manufactured a prism that produces a strange new diffraction of popular music.