From Back in the USSR to Rockin’ in the USA, Meet Igor Abuladze, Urban Achiever


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Sitting round singing songs ’til the night turns into day.
Used to sing on the mountains but the mountains washed away.
Now I’m singing all my songs to the girl who won my heart.
She is only three years old and it’s a real fine way to start.

- Lyrics to “The Ocean,” Led Zeppelin

by Scott Schaefer

You may have noticed a dapper, rockin’ man with an accent wearing a top hat, who at times resembles Jimmy Page, other times Robert Plant, but more often than not – BOTH – in the B-Town area recently, playing and singing Led Zeppelin songs incredibly accurately.

Meet Igor Abuladze, a recently-minted US citizen who hails from Georgia – not the state – the Soviet country:

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Igor is the lead singer/guitarist of the Urban Achievers, a Led Zep tribute band that also features Burien’s own Ryan Burns (Burien School of Music) along with drummer Drew Locke. This group gives him a chance to showcase his healthy (or is it unhealthy?) obsession with Zep, as well as show off his amazing guitar skills. He also teaches at the Seattle Drum School and plays in at least two other bands – the Black Vinyl All Stars and The Humans.

According to the band’s website:

Igor, Ryan and Drew met in 2006 and quickly began to forge a unique friendship based on their shared obsession with the Coen Brothers’ movie “The Big Lebowski.” One day, while rippin’ Lebowski quotes and listening to music, they hit upon a fantastic idea; combine their two favorite things, The Big Lebowski and Led Zeppelin. They call themselves “Urban Achievers.” Urban Achievers perform around the greater Seattle area.

“I thought I was kind of a Led Zeppelin nut until I met Igor,” said bandmate Ryan Burns. “He would wear his Led Zeppelin jean jacket to school every day, and I’d visit his house and he’d have his drums set up just like John Bonham’s, along with all kinds of memorabilia and gear he could trace to live performances of Zeppelin.”

The Achievers started rehearsing in Drew’s drum room, “getting the Led out” once or twice a week.

“Igor is a perfectionist,” Burns added. “He not only knows his own parts note for note, he also knows everyone else’s. He has a gentle way of getting the best of his sidemen, making them aware of the correct way to approach or play their parts without being confrontational. There are hundreds of Led Zeppelin cover bands, but Igor brings something to the table that others likely do not – he sings Plant AND plays Page (spotlessly) AT THE SAME TIME!”

Burns added:

“Igor is very uniquely talented, but it is backed up by meticulous, organized hours and hours of practice and experience. He treats everyone as equal, draws good energy around him, and is an asset to the community.”

If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan (some consider Zep the “Greatest Rock Band” ever), you should seek out this band because you will be amazed at their accuracy. Close your eyes and listen, and it’s as if Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham are playing live right there in the local bar you’re in. They’re really that good.

In addition to the band, he also teaches guitar and bass at the Seattle Drum School, but was most recently seen playing B-Town on the 4th of July:

Igor Abuladze leads the Urban Achievers, seen here playing live on the 4th of July at Burien’s Three Tree Point. Click image to see larger version. Photo by Scott Schaefer.

Igor is of course famous in his homeland – check out this magazine article on him (NOTE: we’re not sure what the story says either, but it sure makes him look cool…):

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We managed to catch up with Igor recently, in-between his playing and teaching gigs, and asked him some questions:

Where are you from originally?
I am from Country of Georgia, which was part of USSR at the time I was born.

How long have you been in the U.S.?
I arrived in August of 1991.

Where do you live now?
I live in Ballard area of Seattle.

What’s it like living here vs living in the USSR?
It’s a heavy question. Before I turned 30 I lived in Georgia, and after that I lived in US. Now, If I could travel back and forth in any of these two periods, probably I could answer this question properly. I will draw some parallels, and I hope it will make sense. But there is no straightforward answer. Like I said before, the reason I live in USA is the Freedom that I found here.

So, I’m a musician; from musician’s point of view, the ability to get the proper equipment is absolutely crucial. You name it: speakers, microphones, strings, amplifiers… No, wait, I should’ve begun with the instruments first – guitars and drums! The quality of the gear we had to deal with back in Georgia in the 70s and 80s was so bad! Even if you will forget about the quality for a second, the gear was not built to be road-ready, everything was breaking constantly. There were no repair services anywhere, so I began learning how to fix things myself. So, during touring, I had the soldering gun plugged in – hot and ready to go, while we would perform on stage. You probably can say that gear breaks all the time, and many musicians worldwide would agree, but the degree to which that was happening behind the Iron Curtain in those days, was just heartbreaking. And if we’re talking quality…if you could just hold those Russian-made guitars in your hands, Sweet Jesus! The shovels made in US were made with more care than those pieces of junk. If you were lucky, you could get yourself a guitar imported from one of the socialist counties at a time. Eastern Germany was producing guitars called “Musima,” Bulgaria was making “Orfei” guitars, Czechoslovakia was making “Jolana” guitars. The best drums you could find were also Czechoslovakian brand called “Amati.” But even those things were really hard to find, and they were far from say, Gibson or Fender, or Marshall, or Ludwig…

Tell us about your passion for Led Zeppelin.
I fell in love with them when I was 13, before I even knew how to play guitar. There was something in their music and in the way they looked, something inside of me just went “click!” So many years I’ve been listening to their music, and it continues to grow on me. There is so much for a musician to learn from their music! I know I am still learning, there’s nothing wrong to remain a student for as long as you like.

How many Zeppelin songs can you play?
In Urban Achievers song-list we have around 30 to choose from. We continue to expand our set, and it seems to be a never-ending journey! We love it.

How did you like playing at Three Tree Point’s 4th of July party?
Oh, it felt really good! Of course, the Three Tree Point Blues Band did a remarkable job of warming up the audience, so there was an immediate contact as soon as we began playing. It was a joy and an honor to be there.

I heard that you recently became a US Citizen. Please tell us what that was like.
That was beyond any expectations. I had tears in my eyes during the Oath Ceremony. I remember getting in my car afterwards, and just sitting there. It was so emotional, I felt it wasn’t safe for me to drive. After a while, I was driving home, and turned on the radio, and “Carry On My Wayward Son” began right that second. One of those moments you know you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. For me escaping to US was a conscious, logical step. I still love Georgia very much, especially my hometown Tbilisi. So many friends and memories about growing up, falling in love, writing your first song. I was 30 when I arrived, but even when I was a teenager, I knew that I belong here. It has nothing to do with amount of cheese in the supermarket. For me it’s only the feeling of being free. Freedom. I wish every human being on this planet will find it, sooner the better.

How does it feel to be an American? Especially on Independence Day?
Feels incredible. It feels like “OK, now I can stop worrying about unnecessary things, and do what I always wanted to do – play music, compose music together with other musicians and groups, and record it! Teach music to little kids and grownups!

Do you have a regular job? What is it?
I just mentioned teaching. That’s what I do, I teach guitar and bass at Seattle Drum School. And, actually, that’s where I met Ryan Burns and Drew Locke, the other two members of Urban Achievers.

What is your goal as an American? Have a dream?
My dream is that there will be Peace on this planet, and human beings around the world will not be led towards hatred by some screwed-up politicians or cult leaders, but instead all humans will be reminded about the love that lives in their heart, which is eternal. And I think this is a purpose of Music – to bring Harmony and Love into our lives.

Are you married? Any kids?
I was married when I was 19, but the marriage didn’t last long. My son is 30-years old and lives and works in Netherlands. I became a grandfather on Thanksgiving day of 2010! Can’t wait to meet my granddaughter! But hey, now with my American Passport I can just take a little vacation, buy myself an airline ticket, and fly there! Soon, I hope.

LINKS:
Find Igor and his music online at:

VIDEOS:
Here are some that showcase Igor’s (and band’s) amazing talents:

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