Frontman of Armenian-Scottish band: “An Gordonach!” is name charged with energy and passion

20:23, March 16

“An Gordonach!” is Armenian-Scottish band featuring guitarist Stuart Moir, bass guitarist Tirayr Mkhitaryan (former member of PUSH band) and drummer Karen Quake who used to play in “Vordan Karmir.”

In an interview with STYLE Stuart told about the name of his band, impressions about Armenia and the idea of creating a rock group. 

Stuart, could you please tell the history of your band “An Gordonach!”. When and where did you meet with other band members?

I moved to Armenia in February 2010 to work in Vanadzor in the human rights sector. To start with I was working pretty much seven days a week on projects, so it was very difficult to meet people, especially as on winter evenings there was very little to do in Vanadzor! During one human rights event I was talking about playing music with one of the organizers, who happened to be a friend of the great Armenian singer/songwriter Gor Mkhitaryan.  She put me in touch with his younger brother Tirayr, former guitarist of the Armenian punk band “PUSH”, and the friendship blossomed from there. We would get together several times a week to discuss music, literature and politics, and, with the help of the fantastic Vanadzor-based metal band “Vordan Karmir”, we began to start making some music together. Shortly afterwards we were joined by drummer Karen Poghosyan, known as “Quake” amongst his friends for his love of computer games, and “An Gordonach!” was born.

Within a month of rehearsing together we had played our first concert and started plans to record our first EP (“Animo non Astutia”), which we then released in early 2011. I moved to Yerevan for work in February 2011 (and left Armenia in August 2011) but Tirayr, Quake and I were inseparable – I went back every fortnight for the weekend so we could make more music together and we ended up recording an album (Bydand) which we released in April 2012. An important aspect of “An Gordonach!” is that we are not bothered about fame or fortune – we play for enjoyment. Then again, with our newer material we are aiming to provoke discussion on societal problems in Armenia. We also hope that we might perhaps bring some new influence into Armenian rock music and inspire younger Armenian rockers to break away from current norms and explore new territory.

How did you choose the name of your band? What does it mean?

The name of the band comes from the original Scottish Celtic language (known as Gaelic). I do not speak Gaelic (as my family is originally from the east, not the west, of Scotland), but as a keen linguist I deeply respect the ancient language ad want it to thrive. The band’s name is linked to my family’s clan, Clan Gordon. Clans were comprised of historical groups of families in Scotland. “An Gordonach!” is a war cry meaning something like “Gordons together” [Гордонцы in Russian] – it would be shouted when charging into battle. It is a name charged with energy, passion, blood and brotherhood. I realize that it is a name with which many people might find it difficult to engage, but it is important for to us as a band to retain some individuality – too many bands take names of some random English word which means nothing. Once you hear “An Gordonach!” it is, on the one hand, more difficult to pronounce; however, on the other hand, it is more difficult to forget!

While we have a very Scottish name, we actually are very proud of our being a “Vanadzor” band. Within Armenia Vanadzor has been the hotbed of the best Armenian rock music, spawning “Lav Eli”, “JEM” and “Vordan Karmir”, to name but a few (although Gyumri did produce “The Bambir”). I found that Vanadzortsi had a far wider knowledge of rock music, particularly 1990s Britpop, than Yerevantsi, a reason I believe is behind the better music coming out of the town!

You used to live in Armenia. How did it happen that you came to our country?

I have always held an interest in the countries of the former Soviet Union. This interest led me to study Russian at university in London. Following my degree I wanted to get involved in international development, yet due to the recession I took a job in financial journalism. I started searching for opportunities with human rights NGOs in many different countries of the former Soviet Union, and an opportunity came up in Armenia, which I took. I did have a number of Diasporan Armenian friends in London, but coming to Armenia was mainly a result of chance! While I had some difficult times there, it was a rewarding experience and it has led to some lasting friendships, lasting care for where Armenia is heading, and concern about the country’s human rights situation.

What impressions do you have of our country as a foreigner?

I have been asked this question many times by Armenians. My first (and polite) answer would be that Armenia is a beautiful country. I remember the first time I traveled from Vanadzor to Yerevan in the winter and the scenery was breathtaking. However, I then go on to say what many Armenians do not expect…before you read on, please understand that I did enjoy my time in Armenia very much; however, as I care where the country is headed, certain realities have to be described and acknowledged if change is to occur.

I was outside the “safe haven”, i.e. my time was not only spent within central Yerevan in summer enjoying the view of Masis, sipping brandy and enjoying the hot weather. I spent much time and energy in the provinces trying to improve the human rights situation; in Lori, for example, I was exposed to communities on the outskirts of Vanadzor plagued by forced prostitution and the trafficking of women. Corruption pervades the country from top to bottom. Reading many articles in the Armenian media give the reader more information about what is happening in Turkey and Azerbaijan than Armenia itself, there is little introspection or self-criticism.

Homophobia is rife and patriarchy prevails. Investment principally takes place in central Yerevan and the provinces are ignored (for example Vanadzor still has derelict buildings which have not been rebuilt since the 1988 earthquake), meaning that many young people are forced to leave for Yerevan or even abroad, leading to a declining demographic.

That said, many countries worldwide are riddled with problems. I did see much in Armenia which makes me believe that the country will improve. There is a growing number of Diasporans who want to repatriate and try and improve the country. There is a growing youth culture which is breaking free of patriarchal norms. There are more and more young people who are shaking off political apathy and starting to fight for free and fair elections, as well as recognition of human rights. The music scene is developing (although the “Rock Association” linked to the Prime Minister must be abolished, it is obscene) and more and more young, independent bands are emerging. Recent political developments (i.e. the recent falsified elections) mean the country has taken a political step backwards, indeed there is a long way to go on so many levels, but the people I have met and with whom I have interacted по проектам leads me to believe that Armenia could have a brighter future.

Did you find anything similar between Scottish and Armenian mentality?

This is another question which I have been asked many times. I would say that the biggest similarity between Scots and Armenians would be the sense of national pride. Identity is very important to both peoples, although I would say that there needs to be a differentiation between patriotism and nationalism in both countries – they are very different concepts. For example, I am very proud of my Scottish heritage, I feel very comfortable wearing a kilt, but I am fiercely against the idea of Scottish independence from Great Britain.

You are going to visit Armenia again this summer. Do you plan to give a concert here?

I am very much looking forward to my trip back to Armenia this summer – it’ll be the first time I’ve been back in almost 2 years and I have missed my band mates and other friends! We will definitely be playing a concert in Yerevan during my stay – we’ll publicize it on our Facebook page as soon as a date has been decided upon. It’d be great to play in Vanadzor as well, but it will depend on what time we have – we are also going to be recording a new EP. In previous recordings we’ve concentrated purely on the music, but in the wake of recent events the EP is going to take a more political angle. Also, on a slightly different musical tangent, we are going to be releasing an electronic single in May to try and raise awareness about domestic violence in Armenia.

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