You may know him as the unmistakably fierce drummer from the Californian rock band Sick Mystic, but Zhenya Prokopenko is also a world class producer and songwriter, with 25 years of experience recording, performing and touring. One of the biggest and most in-demand musicians in Russia and Ukraine, it’s hard to believe that he could have had a very different career path had the fates not stepped in.
He was born in Belgorod, Russia in 1983, and despite excelling in his percussion classes at school, Zhenya Prokopenko didn’t choose to be a drummer – drumming chose him. At the tender age of 11, he had a date with destiny and unwittingly joined a neighbourhood band on the premise that he would simply remain “devoted” to the band. The rest, as they say, is history…
“They didn’t have a drummer yet. No one in the band was a decent musician, so requirements for me were minimal, just agree and be devoted,” Prokopenko recalled. “But we were all so inspired by the idea of our own band that everyone started taking lessons in order to play their instruments. We started to practice and rehearse regularly playing cover songs of our favorite bands and composing our own music.”
Rocking out to cover songs in the dank and unglamorous surroundings of a garage are where all the greats start – and Prokopenko followed in the footsteps of some of the greatest musicians of all. Having gone on to play with some of the best known acts within the two countries, including Quest Pistols, 4POST, Libido, Velvet and Lera Lera, lovers of pop rock music throughout Russia and Ukraine will immediately recognize him as one of today’s great drummers.
Music was always prevalent in the Prokopenko household. While his parents were more into pop music, the moment he discovered the spine-tingling riffs of Metallica, his true passion for rock music came out giving him a direction in which to build his own skill.
He says, “As I got older I was introduced to hard rock and heavy metal music. I remember the moment when I listened to the CD ‘And Justice For All’ by Metallica and realized that was my kind of music as it had lots of power, energy and a strong vibes.”
With undeniable passion for rock music, Prokopenko worked hard to perfect his skill on the drums at an early age, which has endowed him with a powerful, punchy, and solid groove based playing style.
“Drums were my first and the only true love. Of course as I was training and growing as a musician I learned other instruments, but drums for me are forever and ever,” Prokopenko admits.
“The first thing you hear when you listen to any modern track is a drum beat. You just can’t miss it. It’s powerful, loud and beautiful to me. When I was young I was always attracted to the magic a drummer creates. It was absolutely incredible to me how they play. I was much more interested in the drummer than the frontman.”
Regardless of his intentions to blend into the background however, the spotlight seems to have followed him, and the recognition too. As the drummer of a number of celebrated bands over the past two decades, Prokopenko has accrued an illustrious reputation as a sought after drummer. In 2009 he was chosen to be the drummer for the band Lera Lera, the solo project from famous actress and singer Valeria Kozlova, who become an teen icon as a member of the massively popular Russian pop rock bands Ranetki and 5sta Family.
“When we were creating the project Lera Lera, we had been looking for musicians who would be able to be a star along with the frontman. Zhenya fully met the criteria,” said Lera Lera tour manager Yuri Fedorov. “Filigree precision and very spectacular technique of musicianship, the whole appearance and unique charisma made him a special part of the show. He’s like Tommy Lee or Kate Moon in that sense.”
With Prokopenko by her side, Kozlova was named Singer of the Year by RU.TV in 2010, and in 2011 Lera Lera was awarded the Gold Bravo Statue. At the same time Prokopenko was also serving as a key member of the band Velvet, a pop rock act that would go on to earn major celebrity status in Russia. Spending 27 weeks on the Russian Radio charts where it held onto the No.1 spot with a firm grip, the song ‘Forgive’ would earn them a Golden Gramophone Award, as well as a Best Song Award nomination at the MUZ TV Awards. The awards continued to roll in for Prokopenko.
Not one to stay idle, Prokopenko added another act to his name when he joined the band 4POST in 2011. Maintaining a recognizable position in the spotlight, while playing with 4POST Prokopenko and the band were nominated for Best New Band at the RU.TV Awards and Best Pop Rock Band at the Real Music Box Awards. Quickly becoming celebrities on a global scale, 4POST proved to be a tough contender in the national qualifying competition to represent Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest where they earned 6th place, and InStyle magazine would later award them a Royal People Award for the work organizing charity concerts for the youth in Russia.
One career highlight Prokopenko has under his belt, that few others in the world can claim, is having the honor of playing at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi with his drum show Drum Cast alongside Russian celebrity Mitya Fomin. Fast forward to 2018 and Propenko is now devoting all of his time and energy into his new project in the states, the alternative rock band Sick Mystic.
Based in Los Angeles, California, Sick Mystic sprung up in 2016 with the promise of delivering original music and excellent sound, and they have definitely not disappointed their growing fanbase. The band may be new to the music scene, but what they lack in history they make up for with their unrivalled potential and drive – and it hasn’t gone unnoticed either as their promo tracks have already received a lot of positive feedback. To top it off, their social media interest is growing by the second, ‘Music Connection’ magazine has raved about the band, and they will even get their chance to shine on the Frosty, Heidi and Frank show on 95.5 KLOS. But perhaps most excitingly of all, Sick Mystic is releasing a brand new album, and they’re currently planning their US tour for next year. Needless to say 2019 is going to be huge for Sick Mystic and Zhenya Prokopenko, so keep your ears tuned to the music.