Moscow-born singer and artist Vasily Shumov formed Center (in Russian, Tsentr) in the late '70s, breaching intellectualism as a possible component of rock music, and making a name for himself as a major conceptualist of Soviet pop culture. With an approach based on quick, shrewd lyrics and stylistic restlessness, Center lacked the solemnity that typified many of their contemporaries. The group started out playing new wave, but became one of the first to experiment in the electronic medium, earning plaudits as the Russian Kraftwerk of the Socialist era. Later, after Shumov's 1990 move to Los Angeles, they went interactive, creating several albums from listener Web contributions. Center have released more than 30 albums, as well as projects for film and TV.
The group was originally called 777 (brand of cheap Soviet porto for the masses), but quickly changed names, becoming a fixture of Moscow bohemian enclaves. Shumov and his bandmates were students of engineering who brought the clean lines and efficiency of their training to their musical endeavors. Early members included Aleksandr Sklyar (guitar), who went on to lead his own group, Ba-Bank; Andrei Shnitke (drums); Aleksei Loktyov (keyboard); Aleksei Borisov(guitar), also of Nochnoy Proekt (Night Project); and Karen Sarkisov (drums and vocals), of the band Zvuki Mu. In 1982 they recorded a first cassette album, entitled Zapis v Tramvaynom Depo (Recording at the Tram Depot). The same year they caught the eye of rock journalist Artyom Troitzky, who became their most powerful supporter and propagandist. Other unofficial album names of that early period from 1982-1984 -- Stuardessa Letnih Liniy (Stewardess on the Summer Routes), Odnakomnatnaya Kvartira (One-Room Apartment), Chtenie na Transporte (Reading for the Road), and Tyaga k Tekhnike (The Draw of Technology) -- hint at the subject matter of Shumov's texts: eccentric observations on daily life that uncouple the familiar from the mundane. These early recordings were accompanied more often than not with scooting, upbeat basslines, whimsical accents of recorder and maracas, and uninhibited rhythm.
Svetok i Motylyok (The Flower and the Butterfly), Center's first electronic release and also one of the Soviet Union's first capers in electronica, arrived in 1985. In addition to his group's regular studio presence -- Center were producing three to four albums annually -- Shumov had combined forces with state syndicates Mosfilm and Soyuzmultfilma (Cartoon Union) to compose scores for film and animated works. Deemed unthreatening by the artistically oppressive regime, Shumov accomplished a great deal in these years, becoming a known fixture of the Moscow scene, and also performing abroad in Western Europe.
Despite his overwhelming success in home pastures, Shumov crossed the ocean in 1990, settling in Los Angeles. (He was married to the younger sister of Joanna Stingray, an American musician and famous Soviet rock promoter.) Though he never ascended to stardom as he had in Moscow, he worked steadily, performing at L.A. venues, collaborating with local artists, and setting up his own recording studio to produce an album under the name the Nineteen Nineties with fellow émigré and Soviet megastar Zhanna Aguzarovoa. He reincarnated Center with American musicians including "Fast" Freddy Rapillo, and released a number of albums employing cutting-edge technology, most memorably 1997's Smutno Pyatno Niizvestno Chego (Troubled for Unknown Reasons) and 2003's Molodoy na Molodoy (Young on Young). In 2000 Plalsticoznamenitel (Plasticelebrity) became the first installment of Centrorobotor, an interactive project to produce Center albums with listener-generated content.
For Russians, Shumov represents a true multimedia luminary. Besides pioneering electronic music and fearlessly engaging with the Internet, he has had numerous photo and video art projects. Shumov curated the c-e-n-t-e-r project to create short films based on the experimental music and artwork of international artists. In 2006 he released Kelton's Dark Corner, an experimental film starring Paul Marco of Ed Wood fame. But, only in 2007 did Shumov return home for a nationwide tour with Center.
Since 2008 Vasily is residing in Moscow and band Center continiue recording and gigging. The last 2 albums by Center "I feel good. Part 1" and "I feel good. Part 2" released by Soyuz Music in November 2011 and Novemer 2012. Vasily Shumov & Center performed at various events in support of opposition movement in Russia. In June 2012 Vasily Shumov produced a "White album"
a compilation of more than 350 musicians and bands in support of new opposition movement in Russia.