Behind the Scenes with… The Tourorists

Your name/stage name:
My name is Ilya, aka Communistopher Gomez. Close friend Eddie, aka Fodas O’Neil, is, musically speaking, the yin to my yang (or the Beavis to my Butthead, for you older kids). Together we make up the core of The Tourorists. Our other close friend Joaquim, aka Shaka, has recently become a full-time member (of the band). We are evolving.

Where are you from and where are you based?
I am from the Bronx [New York, USA] with Soviet roots — Russia, Belarus, and semi-former Ukraine. Eddie is from Cork, Ireland, with mostly Irish roots, as far as I know. We met here in Lisbon a few years back. Shaka is Portuguese, I think. The Tourorists were born and are based in Lisbon.

What style of music do you play and what drew you to it?
Shaka — who has the most musical and life experience, plays an impressive array of instruments (including the berimbau, the stylophone, and spoons), and is big on Tom Waits — insists on classifying what we play as punk. But that raises the question of whether punk is dead or not. Eddie and I, in turn, have rather eclectic musical backgrounds and tastes. Personally, I’m big on lyrical content; I grew up on Russian rock and punk, stuff like Operation Ivy and Guns and Roses, and hip-hop of the previous millenium. Eddie plays a mean guitar and often cites John Frusciante as a major influence.

As far as labels go, I would say we are somewhere between hip-hop, folk, punk, and pop. Most of our songs are basically weird rhymes with substance over acoustic guitar, also with substance, bass (with minimal substance), and whatever Shaka pulls out from his bag of tricks that day. The stories we tell are based on the simple concept that most tourists are terrorists, and most terrorists are tourists.

What’s your most memorable gig to date and why?q
Honestly, the most memorable gig I performed to date was long before The Tourorists. It was in 2002 in NYC, when I was known as MC Kot Begemot in the since-defunct Bronx-based Russian hip-hop trio Rastatrancemission. We joined forces with Lab718 (another since-defunct Russian hip-hop trio from Brooklyn) and found a warehouse/magazine-co-working space in a shadier part of Brooklyn to rent for one night for what we thought would be a great success. Said rent was 500 dollars, which we made by selling a few tickets to friends, and a few other things… We were to provide our own gear and our own security; the latter consisted of five larger Bronx friends who were kind enough to help. We were all very excited and full of hope and wonder… Our first mistake was that we had printed hundreds of hand-drawn flyers with the words “Russian Hip-hop Party!” and randomly scattered these all over Russian-speaking neighborhoods in NYC for weeks before the show. As a result, on the night of the show, along with a few dozen friends, a few hundred eager drunken Russian teenagers showed up, having zero clue what the f.ck Rastracemission and Lab 718 were. Our second mistake was that we had a fully stocked “vodka room” where the kids could hang loose while they waited for the headliners. Our gear arrived two hours late. By the time we went on stage, the whole place was a drug/booze/testorone-induced madhouse. One of our headlining MCs was passed out under a speaker, the place was a complete sh.tshow, with each song in our set being cut short by countless fights breaking out left and right, many of these started, regretfully, by our very own security detail. The hosts were visibly concerned and somewhat awe-stricken, and, eventually, the cops were called. It was the beginning of the end for both bands, all the members of which spent the next morning scrubbing and painting the warehouse bathroom walls, every square inch of which had been covered in graffiti. I learned a lot that weekend, and, in retrospect, it was fun, although it didn’t seem that way at the time. You can see a tiny bit of footage from said gig here.

In terms of gigs I’ve seen, there are many memorable ones. But one that sticks out in recent memory was here in Lisbon with fellow Tourorist Eddie. I’m a big fan of Guns and Roses — I learned English and took up music in part thanks to them, and have always wanted to see them live — and I think Eddie likes some of their stuff too. They came to perform here in June of 2017, in Alges, by the river. Seeing that we were both broke but still wanted to check out the show, we got a few bottles of wine and situated ourselves under a tree by the highway a few hundred meters away from the venue, alongside a dozen or two like-minded fans. It was a hot summer evening, we had a good enough vantage point so as to see Axl and the others projected on to the giant screens, and the open air carried the music well enough for us to enjoy the show and even make out the lyrics. It was, as Eddie might say, great craic, and I hope I’ll never forget it. Axl Rose probably wouldn’t have approved, but whatever.

Do you have any other projects outside of your music? What are they?
I illustrate and write events and articles for the local website Atlas Liboa (as Bogdan Kamuta). I’ve also been drawing for 35 years (on and off) and even have a Fine Arts degree from NYC, which was a complete waste of time, money, and talent. You can see some of my art from previous years here, or come buy some of my old and new stuff in person, on any given Sunday, at the Arroz Éstudios Sunday Street market right here in Lisbon. I sell fish and politically incorrect postcards there. I’m also working on a screenplay, several books of poetry, and a grammar book about prepositions.

Is there a song/album that you’ve made that you’re particularly proud of or stands out for you? Which one and why? (and can we hear it?)
I am quite fond of ‘Fat Vegan.’ It’s a protest song for future generations, and it’s about herd mentality, the darker, more base elements of the human psyche and ego, and, ultimately, it’s a tragic love story. It’s also one of the first songs Eddie and I wrote together as The Tourorists. You can hear a rough version of it here.

Have you got any upcoming shows that Garden Collective members should check out or anyone Quarantine/Lockdown music plans?
We don’t have any shows lined up at the moment because, you know, the ‘rona and all… We did do our first international virtual show during lockdown though, via the interwebs and thanks to the Garden Collective. You can check that out here (we come on at 1:39:20, but the other stuff is worth a listen too). And we have been busy with new material, writing songs, working on a few videos. We will be sharing these with the world in the coming months, given we don’t die. Like Joe Strummer (one of my heroes who, unfortunately, died) once said: “The future is unwritten.”

Anything else you want to tell us about?
The Tourorists now have a Youtube channel! There’s not much on it yet, but we’re working on it. And we couldn’t have done it without our fans. We’re eager to do shows here in Lisbon when the pandemic permits, but are not very well-connected in this respect, so feel free to shoot us an email at tourorists@gmail.com if you like our stuff and want us live. We’re cheap.
Be safe, be kind, stay sane.
Obrigadinhos.

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