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From Russia with Rhythm: Internationally Renowned Drummer Zhenya Prokopenko and the Band Sick Mystic

(From Left to Right) Robert Ochoa, Ethan Whitaker, Zhenya Prokopenko and Sam Eggenschwiler of Sick Mystic shot by Matt Zane

When Zhenya Prokopenko, known to fans across Russia and Ukraine as the drummer from the uber famous pop rock bands 4POST, Velvet and Libido, relocated to the U.S. there was never any question over whether he would continue to play music. The only real question was: what band would he join?

“Since I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 I was looking for a band I could create something together with,” recalls Zhenya.

In late 2017 he found his new band within the California-based rock group Sick Mystic, which was founded in 2016 and consisted of Ethan Jeffrey Whitaker on the mic, Sam Eggenschwiler on guitar, Robert Paul Ochoa on bass, that is, until they met Zhenya and immediately locked him down as their drummer.

“It’s one of those kinds of stories where the magic happens. The guys were looking for a drummer, they were struggling to find a band member who would fit,” recalls Zhenya. “They invited me for an audition and from the first notes it was clear that it was a match for all of us.”

During the first year and a half they spent together before Zhenya came on board Sick Mystic had recorded a self-titled four-song demo, and those first tracks gave the sought after drummer a glimpse into what kind of music they could create together with their new formation.

“I loved some of the great ideas they already had, I saw some potential in them as there was something to work with. I knew how I could contribute and what to offer them from my side... we all felt that chemistry,” explains Zhenya. “After playing together for some time we’ve connected professionally and emotionally. It happened very organically and now we’re truly the band with our own original music and sound.”

With vocals that vacillate between a clean Ozzy Osbourne-esqu style wale and that of former CKY vocalist Chad I Ginsburg layered upon pumping rhythms, mean guitar solos and groovy breaks, Sick Mystic has created a heavy sound that is catchy and uniquely their own.

“I would describe Sick Mystic as a more modern ‘thrashier’ style of grunge and alternative rock with some heavy metal influences. It’s good old hard-hitting rock with some fresh sounds, tricky riffs and a new approach,” says Zhenya. “It’s extremely melodic and catchy with a driving rhythm section. We basically are a 90’s grunge band that has been repackaged with modern playing styles and sounds.”

Sick Mystic is currently finishing up their upcoming EP “Devil’s Been Paid” that is expected to drop in early 2019; and in January they will begin their first big US tour, which will keep them on the road for several months.

Zhenya Prokopenko shot by Eduard Anisimov

Once they found their drummer, which many argue is the backbone of any band, Sick Mystic has quickly progressed to new heights.

“[Zhenya] is a lot of fun to work with. He makes every song come alive with his groovy playing style… he will switch playing patterns and make there whole song have a different feel and dynamic,” says Ethan Whitaker, the frontman of Sick Mystic.

With a strong sense of timing and a spectacular technique that’s been honed from spending the past two decades as a professional drummer for major international bands, Zhenya’s finesse and style on drums is undeniable; and he is definitely bringing his a-game to Sick Mystic.

Though the band is preparing for their first major U.S. tour, they’ve already done a few short tours across California and Arizona, where their stage performances have made them unforgettable.

“We can fire up the crowd. We put ourselves in every single note and moment and we really like and enjoy our music, so the audience can feel it and are ready to follow our rhythm and vibes. We work a lot with the rhythm section and it gives our music an incredible groove,” says Zhenya. “We are singing to that 13 year old kid who is trying to make sense of the world, we are playing for the person who is struggling and trying to find some hope.”

First making his name as a professional drummer back home in Russia, Zhenya has countless claims to fame that reveal his musical expertise, and he has the kind of stage presence that puts most others to shame. Prior to moving stateside, Zhenya joined forces with renowned drummers Sergey Shtepa and Ilya Zelenov and co-founded the international drum show known as Drum Cast.

The year was 2013, and with Zhenya performing as the group’s frontman as well as the music producer who composed the drum tracks and handled recording, Drum Cast was off to a strong start. Zhenya and Drum Cast would go on to play at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. After recording numerous radio hits in Russia with Drum Cast, such as ‘Under the Ice’ with famous Ukrainian pop idol Svetlana Loboda, who represented Ukraine in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest and has since become a major star in Russia, the members of Drum Cast hung up their high-hats with Zhenya moving to the states soon after.

Though Zhenya says there aren’t any major differences between playing to crowds in Russia and to those in the states, he does admit that there is definitely a noticeable distinction in the range of genres that appeal to audiences.

“[In the U.S.] there are much more opportunities for rock bands compared to Russia where just pop music is on high demand,” explains Zhenya. “I would say due to that there’s much more creative freedom, so I can see our ideas are appreciated as we try to make really fresh and original heavy music.”

One of the areas of Zhenya’s talent that truly sets him apart is his knowledge of composition and his ability to write strong rhythmic melodies. Over the past two decades he’s been the co-author of the rhythm section for countless hit songs from bands including Golden Gramophone Award winners Velvet and Russian star Evgeniya Otradnaya, as well as those for bands such as Magnetic Anomaly, Lera Lera and more.

Anton Vartanov, the front man of Magnetic Anomaly, who also happens to be the sound producer for pop singer Evgeniya Otradnaya, says “It's always difficult to find a good live drummer especially in Russia. There are literally just a dozen of real pros here. So when Zhenya joined the band, the rhythm section became consummate…he gives a band a great foundation, makes all the musicians sound together as he has an exceptional sense of tempo.”

Since joining Sick Mystic last year, Zhenya has continued to use his widespread musical prowess and creativity to co-author numerous songs with the band, including the recently released single ‘Scream,’as well as the single ‘Saved’ that is expected to drop later this year.

“Zhenya added a new prospective and a better view on composing and how our music should be set up. He is a good, versatile, easy going and yet straightforward guy which is really great for a musician, especially the one composing music,” explains Robert Paul Ochoa, the bassist for Sick Mystic. “He is dedicated and extremely talented with lots of experience that carries him wherever he goes.”

Though relatively new in formation, Sick Mystic has done an excellent job of establishing themselves in the Los Angeles music scene. Two of their songs have gained rotation on 95.5 KLOS, one of Southern California’s top rock stations, and they play regularly at all of LA’s most recognizable rock venues, like the Whiskey A Go Go, The Viper Room and Rainbow Bar & Grill, among others.

“Each new song we write is better than the last, so I am so excited to see how much farther we can go. As now we have a professional management that hopefully will sign us with a major record label, we’re really focused on creating new material in order to get it ready for our full studio album.”

In addition to preparing to release their EP “Devil’s Been Paid” in 2019, Sick Mystic is currently working on new material for their upcoming full length album. Zhenya also recently shot the music video for the song ‘Magic’ with the rock band The Gitas, which is due out soon.

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