Korol i Shut

Korol i Shut (Король и Шут; King and Jester) is an iconic Russian punk band that existed from 1987 until the death of the band’s leader in 2014.  Their sound combined elements of horror-punk, hardcore, folk rock, and also showed a strong influence of rock n roll groups like The Beatles.

In 1987, Leningrad classmates Mikhail “Gorshka” Gorshenov, Aleksandr “Poruchka” Shigolev, and Aleksandr “Balu” Balunov formed a punk rock band called Kontora (Контора). Over the next three years Kontora developed a unique and humorous lyrical style that drew on Russian folklore, fantasy, and myth. This type of song—which they playfully referred to as “scary fairy tales” (“страяные сказки”)—became typical of the group by 1990, when they changed their name to Korol i Shut.

In the early nineties, as the Soviet Union fell, Korol i Shut went into the studio and recorded their first slew of songs. Two of them, “The Hunter” (“Охотник”) and “In the Valley of the Swamps” (“В долине болот”), saw some radio play. In 1992 Korol i Shut played their first live show under that name, at the Leningrad Rock Club. This performance would become the first of many in the Moscow and St. Petersburg club scenes over the next several years.

In 1994 the group put out a DIY cassette-only release called Be at Home, Traveler… (Будь как дома, Путник…), which would be re-released three years later as a studio album, re-titled Korol i Shut. Two years later, they released their first studio album, A Stone to the Head (Камнем по голове), and were invited to play in concert alongside foreign punk bands like The Toy Dolls, The Exploited, and The Stranglers. They would continue to have an active concert and festival presence throughout the nineties.

Korol i Shut’s first music video came out in 1998, for the song “The Guys Were Eating Meat” (“Ели мясо мужики”). Over the next several years the group continued to play live, including shows in Tel-Aviv, Los Angeles, and at the 2006 MTV Russia music awards. In 2013 Mikhail Gorshenov died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and Korol I Shut disbanded after a short farewell tour.

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Here is Korol i Shut’s first music video, “The Guys Were Eating Meat” (“Ели мясо мужики”) which demonstrates well their tounge-in-cheek, horror-punk style:

Lyrics for “Ели мясо мужики”:

За столом сидели мужики и ели.
Мясом конюх угощал своих гостей.
Все расхватывали ужин и хозяин весел был
О жене своей все время говорил.
Ели мясо мужики, пивом запивали,
О чем конюх говорил, они не понимали.
Я узнал недавно: все вы, как ни странно, –
Конюх хриплым голосом проговорил,-
С моей бабою встречались втайне от меня
И поэтому всех вас собрал сегодня я.
Ели мясо мужики, пивом запивали,
О чем конюх говорил, они не понимали.
Я за ней не уследил – в том моя вина,
Но скажите, правда вкусная она?
Ели мясо мужики, пивом запивали,
О чем конюх говорил, они не понимали.
Ели мясо мужики, пивом запивали,
О чем конюх говорил, они не понимали.

 

Here is the much more mellow track “Magician” “Фокусник” from 2010:

Lyrics for “ Фокусник”:

Пролетели дни
фокусы мои
страх вели на всех
Обрели успех
И не мало лет
свой храня секрет
романтичный я
предложил сюжет

Что ж, фокусы – ложь,
Взрослые знают умы.
Все же для них
Тайны мои необъяснимы.
Просят они: “Нас обмани,
Чудо хотим видеть мы”,
Выхожу из тьмы!

Но в один момент

Ужаснулся свет
Мир узнал потом,
Что подвоха нет.

Что ж, фокусы – ложь,
Взрослые знают умы.
Все же для них
Тайны мои необъяснимы.
Просят они: “Нас обмани,
Чудо хотим видеть мы”,
Выхожу из тьмы!

Разгадки фокусов, увы,
весьма банальны.
Мушкеты с порохом и смерти
все реальны!

 

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Zach Hicks is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. He is currently participating in SRAS's Home and Abroad scholarship program. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature, socialist modernism, and critical theory. Outside of academics his major interests are martial arts, the outdoors, and music. In Russia, he plans to continue to increase his language proficiency, to learn as much as possible about the Russian underground music scene, its tattoo culture, and to become a student of Russia’s native martial art, SAMBO.