Photo Credit: Andrea Hausmann Photography

Pennsylvania native Erik Himel moved out to California to pursue a musical career at the age of 21.

Since then, he toured with artists on Ultra Records, he has worked in a number of local L.A. bands, was a session musician, promoted international shows at legendary L.A. rock clubs, hosted and organized such events as all-star jams, and even contributed as an editor to 

All that changed in December 2013, when guys from legendary Russian rock band Mumiy Troll showed up at one of the events Erik was hosting.

Several weeks later, he found himself performing in front of tens of thousands of spectators at The Olympics in Sochi!

With the upcoming V-ROX showcase in Troubadour organized by Ilya Lagutenko and his band mates, we took the time to ask Erik a few questions about being in Mumiy Troll.

Natalia: Erik, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions today.  You were born and raised in Pennsylvania, so many of our readers are curious about how you ended up playing a guitar in a Russian rock band. I know that just like the rest of the musicians here in L.A. you were doing lots of things.  Can you talk about what 2013 was like for you… right before meeting the guys from Mumiy Troll?

Erik: So right before I met the guys in Mumiy Troll, I had a pretty steady summer working with many local independent producers doing session work all over town.   I also had a brief stint in an original rock band towards the end of the year.   Basically, any work I could get my hands on I would do.   I learned to say “yes” as often as possible very quickly after moving to L.A.  Towards the end of the year, I got inspired to set up a local jam night, which basically served as a networking event for all local musicians to get involved and meet each other…  It even landed some people some gigs!

NB: Things obviously happened very quickly. You joined the band in December, and at the beginning of February, you were performing with them at The Sochi Olympics    Was this your first show in front of so many people?  How did it make you feel?  Were you nervous?

Erik: No, I was not nervous, actually, because I had previously played a few large festivals in Miami and San Francisco that were very similar in layout and capacity.   However, this event was quite special because of the significance of the band in their home country.   It was definitely an honor and highlight to participate in an event that meant so much to the people and fans of Russia.

NB: Mumiy Troll just came back from touring in Asia.  Perhaps you got to visit countries you had never been to before.   Can you talk a little bit about your first impression and how the tour helped you change some of your earlier perceptions of those countries and their traditions?

Erik: We did a bunch of Asian shows during the fall of this year, and it was quite an experience. I had never been to Asia, and was pleasantly surprised about the excitement surrounding a Russian/Western band performing in their countries.  It is quite amazing; our singer Ilya Lagutenko performed the majority of our Chinese shows in Mandarin.   Outside of the Asian tour, and after many trips to Russia this year, I quickly became immersed with the culture, language; and people; and I am looking forward to my next trip back there.

On Stage with Mumiy Troll

On Stage with Mumiy Troll

NB: You also got to perform at V-ROX this year. Was the festival somewhat an unexpected event to you in terms of discovering so much new music, especially from the countries that no one ever hears anything about here in the United States?

Erik: I believe this was the biggest highlight of the festival. It differs quite a lot from any American festival I’ve ever attended.  There is a general excitement throughout the town, and an interest in watching the festival as a whole rather than singling out 1 or 2 bands to watch. I got to be presented with amazing performers and talent from China, Mongolia and Korea.

NB: How do you think showcasing V-ROX  in Los Angeles is going to help to bring the two continents together?

Erik: The V-ROX showcase is all about diversity and appreciating other musical influences and joining together musicians regardless of languages or nationalities.  It further supports the universal language of music, and why we all do this in the first place, regardless if you can understand what is being said.  I think it’s a brilliant idea to scout out and appreciate music from all over the world.

NB: Let’s talk about your instrument of choice. I know that you are endorsed by Gibson.

Erik: Yeah the guys at Gibson have been great to us!  We even did a contest in August with Gibson Russia where the winner came on stage and performed with us.  I am lucky to have a lot of great companies behind me including Ernie Ball Strings, Gator Cases, In Tune Guitar Picks and TC Electronic. These guys are awesome, and I’m very proud and confident going on stage night after night with their gear.

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Check out Mumiy Troll’s official website for upcoming shows