Born on January 12, 1956, in Gzhatsk, now renamed Gagarin, Nikolai Noskov comes from a "simple working" family, to invoke an old Soviet cliché. His father Ivan worked at a meat-processing factory, and his mother Yekaterina tried herself in the capacities of milkmaid and construction site worker. Kolya’s boyhood gave him his first musical impressions that were mostly folk music, played on traditional Russian instruments or sung by his mother at times. At the age of eight Kolya and his family moved to a bigger city – Cherepovets. There Nikolai finished school and afterwards served his term for the army.
Curious to explore, Kolya tried to play bayan, but as he was growing up, his attention shifted more and more firmly to singing; first in the school choir, then as a solo performer, winning one of his first awards at a local singing contest at the age of fourteen. The lead singer of the school band, he performed the hits of the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other western rock bands, bending to the wave of rock’n’roll music, then surgent amid the Soviet youth. Posters depicting the members of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd came to relieve Shalyapin’s portrait hung over Nikolai’s bed. His English was then undeveloped, and Nikolai simply transcribed what he heard on the original recording, transcribed it in Cyrillic letters. But later on the circumstances of his life invited him to pay more attention to the language of rock’n’roll.
A self-learned instrumentalist, Noskov plays the guitar, the piano, and the drums at a general versatility level. He even played the trumpet while in the army. Noskov never got an official vocal education for a curious twist of fate, although he applied at the Gnesinykh state musical college. His knowledge of musical notation is also self-learned.
At one of the turning points in his life invited to Moscow by an entrepreneur for audition, Noskov participated in several Moscow-based musical bands, then routinely dubbed “VIA” (Vocal-Instrumental Ensemble), but none of those early engagements held him for long. Rovesniki (Peers) and Nadezhda (Hope) were soon left behind.
Collaboration with Tukhmanov and work in Gorky Park
In 1980 Noskov met a composer then considered by many to be one of the most progressive in Soviet Union. David Tukhmanov decided to create a real hard-rock band with Noskov as lead singer. Unfortunately, Moskva (Moscow) did not last long. After a few live performances and a recorded album called NLO (UFO) the band was subdued and crushed by the authorities and the press. The sound of the band proved too hard for the Soviet listeners of the time. Importantly though, Noskov had acquired his first experience of the real studio work, with meticulous Tukhmanov at the reins.
After some eight years of searching and trying and singing at Moscow restaurants and clubs, one of the most significant breakthroughs occurred in Nikolai Noskov’s life: Park Gorkogo, or, loosely rendered, “Gorky Park” was formed by Stas Namin. The warming of relations with the West, and the era of mutual fraternizing allowed to create a Russian rock band that would sell in the USA. After a festival played together with Scorpions as headliners, Gorky Park signed a contract with Polygram records. With Bruce Fairbairn as producer, Gorky Park started recording their eponymized debut album. The concept of the album was to win the hearts of the American audience with reverential bows to the Russian cultural roots while still playing hard rock/heavy metal. And it worked. Bang! written by Noskov and the album as a whole went on to win some high-ranking places on the radio and MTV, and in Denmark it even acquired gold status. Gorky Park – Noskov included – toured in the USA, were interviewed and otherwise enjoyed the limelight …
But financial difficulties, tensions inside the band, overstrained vocal cords, incessant sleepless nights, and pregnant wife at home soon added up to the aggregate outcome of Noskov leaving the band for Moscow home in 1990. Alexander Minkov would assume the lead vocalist role, while still playing bass.
1994 saw Nikolai Noskov at a crossroads. Starting a solo career from level ground again was a deliberated decision. Noskov gradually underwent some major changes of inner vision. Throughout his solo career his hard rock likings slowly but steadily transformed into deeper music closer to ethnic ballad art rock; and though in his most recent albums we hear hard rhythms, they may be more precisely characterized as funk. English was dropped after the first solo album Mother Russia, and Noskov started singing in Russian for Russian audience with no "foreign bloke" pretences.
|“||… on my anniversary it was I who gathered Gorky Park for a reunion – Marshal excluded though … And when I started singing “Bang!” I suddenly felt so far aloof from this song … I felt that it did not stir my heart at all. I finished singing and asked myself: what was that for? Something from my past life, unbidden, some foreign language words …||”|
Deep lyrics, elaborately carved melodies, and sincere singing soon earned Nikolai Noskov a small devoted audience that kept aloof from mainstream pop-rock scene. One of his best-known hits is “Это здорово” (And That’s Kind of Cool):
And It's amazing
In this world I’m unwelcome, out of touch
- НЛО (UFO, 1982)
- Gorky Park (1989)
- Mother Russia (1994)
- Я тебя люблю (I Love You, 1998)
- Стёкла и бетон (Glass and Concrete, 2000)
- Дышу тишиной (Breathing the Silence, 2000)
- По пояс в небе (Waist-deep in the Sky, 2006)
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