Both an accomplished blues guitar player and a prolific singer/songwriter, Austrian-based Ripoff Raskolnikov must be considered one of the most idiosyncratic figures on the European blues scene. He is fully committed 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 than not, defy stylistic categorization.
You borrowed your stage name from one of the figures of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Why Dostoevsky? Why Ripoff?
Ripoff Raskolnikov: When I was a young man it seemed to be a good idea.
How old were you at that time?
RR: Around twenty. Maybe now I would choose something else...
Who would you choose today?
RR: I don’t know, it would be a bit late in the day to change now, wouldn't it?
Who were your role models when you got into classic blues?
RR: I was a teenager in the sixties and seventies, so my idols were the same as for many others: Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and the previous blues generation. Till today I am much more interested in this period than any current music. I'd rather put on a Bob Dylan album than any contemporary music. I am not sure if that's a good thing, but that’s how it is. What’s more, the older I get, the less music I listen to. When I was a teenager, I used to listen to music all day, now I seem to spend days on end without listening to any music at all...maybe it's to do with trying to concentrate upon myself.
You have never wandered off the path of blues?
RR: Blues is similar to language. One can express its feelings with it.
How would you define this language?
RR: I have old school musical roots, but I always try to create something new and fresh.
Can we say that blues is the music genre that is the most suitable to express emotions?
RR: Maybe. The less complex the rules are, the more space and energy you are left with to express your emotions. If you have to deal with a bunch of rules and techniques, you have no time to set your emotions free. In this respect, I consider myself a true blues guitarist.
If on 21st December the world had come to an end, which five records would you have taken to your fallout shelter?
RR: My first choice would be Exile On Main Street from The Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan is tricky. He's put out so much brilliant stuff I would really be hard pressed to name my one all-time favourite Dylan album. I guess Blood on the Tracks will have to do. I would certainly need a Tom Waits record as well, Rain Dogs is my favourite from him. Hendrix, in a sense, was the world's best musician, yet he is not that close to my heart, and I rarely put on any of his albums. Instead, I would take Joni Mitchell's live double album, Shadows & Light.
Are you passionate about new technologies? Be it electronics or studio engineering?
RR: I was never interested in these things, I know of them, but I don't know anything about them.
Then I bet you don’t have any iPod, e-book, or tablet...
RR: You bet right. I’m glad if I manage to reply to emails on my laptop.
You are not frustrated by the thought that in a more fortunate country you could be a star like Van Morrison in England?
RR: I've never been that ambitious. I'm pretty satisfied with doing what I love, and making a living out of it.
What do you expect when you are on stage?
RR: I’m looking forward to playing some fine music with great musicians. We play many slow ballads, but there are some funny songs as well, and we also improvise a lot. It is very important to me that each of my concerts should be different from the previous ones.
What are your goals? Whether it's a short-term or long-term goal...
RR: I am determined to make more records in the same style, of the same quality, and to perform wherever I get a chance to.