|On a windy rooftop somewhere in London, cduk.com greets t.A.T.u with trepidation. Their reputation as diminutive divas certainly precedes them. If rumours are to be believed, Yulia and Lena are monosyllabic, media manipulators, who relish every opportunity not only to play on people's fantasies, but also to rub people up the wrong way.|
We'd just about forgotten about t.A.T.u. - written off their career as a titillating flash in the pan - but, actually, their new record, Dangerous And Moving, is as fierce a pop record as you're likely to hear this year. It leaves behind the shrill euro-disco and bristles with the sort of pop hooks and rebellious anger Rachel Stevens would give her famous gloves for.
Yulia Volkova (20) and Lena Katina (21) say hello warily, with a weak handshake. If you can get past the impenetrable layers of foundation and the cheekbones sculpted out of two inches of lurid rouge (Yulia, for instance, is a Jordan-esque shade of tango), you can see they are both extremely pretty girls. And sweet, once you crack their icy veneer. But even then, getting to the core of what the most infamous girl duo in the world are really like, is a contradictory and troublesome task...
How much of Dangerous And Moving did you write?
Yulia: We have people who write the lyrics and composers who write the music.
You said the last album was very autobiographical – is this one the same?
Y: It's about our life and other people's.
Lena: Our thoughts, our worries.
So what's "Sacrifice" about?
L: It's just about everybody. Everybody needs to sacrifice. When you're in love with somebody, you always have to sacrifice something.
Do you think in the future you will start writing your own lyrics and music?
Some pretty incredible musicians worked on the record. Did you meet Dave Stewart?
Did you meet Richard Carpenter [from The Carpenters]?
L: And we didn't meet Sting either. We were just working with Trevor Horn [the legendary Frankie Goes To Hollywood producer]. We know him. He was great, really easy to work with.
For this album, you've parted ways with your producer / manager / svengali / former child psychologist, Ivan Shapovalov. Yet, Yulia, in the past you described him as "a legendary person and so talented – we love him and he loves us." So what changed?
Y: You must understand: we wanted to go further and we wanted to do it ourselves.
Did you feel he was too controlling?
L: No, we just wanted to try ourselves, to see what we can do.
You both started performing at a bizarrely young age in the band Neposedi. I take it this was something you were always driven to do…
L: Yes. We started going to music schools when we were five years-old. Then we started to sing and we met actually in a children's band. It was the most professional children's band in Russia.
Y: Ten years ago.
L: And we were singing there and we always had a dream to do something all by ourselves. And then, on the casting Ivan, chose us!
That's pretty crazy to be away from your parents at such a young age. Didn't you miss them?
L: We did, but that was part of our lives - we wanted to be singers.
Did your parents encourage that?
L: Our parents always did what we wanted to do. They always supported us because it's our life. If they will tell us what to do, that wouldn't exactly be our life: I would be living my father's life, or my mom's life. Our parents were always asking us what we wanted to do in our lives. And they would just support us in our wishes, and I think that's the best way to communicate with your children. Otherwise you'll have lots of problems.
So, when you were hitting the headlines, they were happy for you?
L: Yeah, they were really happy for us and really proud.
Did you ever see that MTV footage when Britney, Madonna and Christina…
L: Were kissing? We heard about that. That was after us.
Were you like: hey, they're stealing our schtick!?
L: No, we were okay. Let it be.
You had a reality TV show over in Russia. What happened?
L: The reality show was [Censored, but let's just say it's a couple of very rude words - Ed]. It wasn't what we wanted it to be. So we split from Ivan during the reality show, but Yulia and I stayed together. That's it. But we are still friends. We still communicate with him.
So, you have a baby now. Congrats.
Y: I became a mom and my mind changed and I changed. I think about the future. In Moscow, my daughter waits for me; she loves me.
What about your daughter's father. Are you still with him?
Y: We broke up.
So you're single?
L: No, she has a very great boyfriend right now.
And what about you?
L: I have a boyfriend also.
So, do you enjoy causing controversy?
L: We enjoy that of course!
Y: It's our life!
Do you feel it's you vs the establishment?
L: We couldn't say that. It's always been artists and journalists, how he or she looks at us. Somebody speaks with us and then they write, "Oh they're stupid girls, they are too small, they are blah, blah, blah," and so on and so forth. Some of them write, "They're clever girls, they're so nice and they were smiling all the time, blah, blah, blah." So I think every journalist has their own opinion and he puts it in the media.
For example, you're looking at us, you have your own opinion, and then how you feel, you'll write in the article - so it's a very special and individual thing, how everyone sees us. We're mostly the same. Sometimes, of course, we are tired - because when you are just getting to some country and right from the airplane we're going to do interviews. We're tired. We're not robots, we're people and we want to sleep also. Some people understand that and some don't. And that's why we don't care about what everyone is writing. They are interested in us and that's the most important thing, because people want to know all about us, so we're just happy.
There were several notorious incidents in Japan in 2003 when you offended a lot of your Japanese fans. You cancelled concerts, stormed off a TV show…
Y: Don't speak about it. It's over and it's past. We don't even want to remember that. We have new feelings right now and we're going to Japan and we're not so bad like they think about us. We had a reason to do that but, right now, it's totally different. It's not to with fans, we love Japan very much and we want to be there. And we know we have lots of fans and they love us and they want to see us. So we'll do everything to come back to Japan.
You performed on CDUK a few weeks ago. It was reported that you wanted to re-enact the video for your new single, ‘All About Us', which includes the use of a gun. But you were refused this request. Did that irritate you?
L: Yeah! Because you know, we like reality.
Y: We wanted real guns, but they told us no.
L: We don't like lies. When somebody says yes of course and then you come and they fail. We say, ‘You promised to do it in another way,' and they say, ‘No, it's like that'. We always want to be natural and we always want to be ourselves and I think for everyone it's a very important thing because everybody's special and everybody's individual. So, if someone doesn't want us to be ourselves, how can we play another personality?
Do you regret taking part in the Eurovision song contest?
L: No, we never regret anything.
Y: We didn't want to go to Eurovision, but our country wanted us to go. I feel great because, if we won, it's not interesting. I think it will be more interesting if we were came last! That would be really great! All this competitions, it's not for us - it's for the artist who wants to start their career and we were already well known.
What would you say is your best character trait?
Y: I think that's a question for you. What do you think?
I have no idea. I don't know you at all.
L: We don't know!
Y: We're great! Come to Moscow with us and you will see.
L: Without any problem, we'll show you everything.
Don't you ever get sick of each other?
L: Sometimes we scream at each other but after five minutes we're like….
Y: Lena I love you! [Yulia goes to embrace Lena.]
L: It's very funny, one time with Yulia we went to some shop and I think it was in America and I'm always translating to her because she doesn't understand well. There was somehow a Russian shop assistant and he started speaking to her and I'm standing near. I started to translate from Russian to Russian. Yulia was looking at me and she was like, "Lena! He speaks Russian by the way!" I was translating her answer from English to English and Russian to Russian! That's just crazy!
How far would you go to protect each other?
Y: [Without a moments hesitation] I could kill. If somebody does bad things to her, I can kill. For all my family and my best friends, I can kill.
L: I don't know if I can kill, I don't want to lie. But I know that I will do everything to protect her because she's like a sister and a best friend for me. We've been together for ten years.
Is it hard to see each other in other close relationships?
L: No! That's the thing. We know that we are always together. Yulia has her other best friends, I have my other best friends, but we're still together. Sometimes we can even discuss some topics, which we can't with our other best friends. It's not about friendship, it's more about family – like sisters. We're not jealous; we don't envy each other. We've been together for so long, that we can speak about whatever. I know that she will understand me and I will understand her in all situations.
Yulia, you once said that you have no principles, that you live your life without them. Do you still believe this?
Y: Yeah, because, when I think about the future, sometimes I'm afraid; sometimes I feel not good inside.
Why are you scared?
Y: I don't know why. But, for a long time now, I don't think about the future. I live now. Tomorrow, maybe I'll die; maybe somebody will kill me. I don't know. For now, I'm alive.
What do you wish you had more of?
Y: I don't think about it. But I'm sure that it's not material things, I think it's more inside things. More good features of our characters!
Lena, can you imagine doing this when you're 30?
L: I don't know. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and I'll think that I just want to get married and have children and stay at home. Right now, I'm ready to work. I want to do shows; I want to sing.
So will you be having a baby anytime soon?
L: I don't know. You can't plan those things.
But Yulia, you wanted to have a baby.
Y: I want more; I want four or five! I want a big family.
L: I've wanted a baby since I was 14. I told my mom and she was like, "You're crazy!"