VILNIUS - Fifteen years ago, he sang before an audience of thousands, face painted and costumed in a way that rivaled Elton John. Leader of the legendary rock group Antis (which carries a double meaning of "duck" and "false mass-media sensation"), Algirdas Kauspedas was king of Lithuanian rock and roll.
But life has changed since the Soviet days. Today, Kauspedas is more often seen in meetings and among businessmen than on stage - his days are those of an entrepreneur with his own architecture company.
In 1984, the Kaunas Architects' Union decided to have a New Year's party. It was the union's chairman, none other than Kauspedas, who decided that it might be fun to get together some of his fellow architects and play some rock music at the party as a bit of a joke. He was the hit of the evening. Soon, Kauspedas' New Year's gag became a band that went on to record one of the best-selling records in the history of Lithuanian show business. They toured Europe and the U.S.A 's something almost unheard of during the Soviet period - and garnered fame and a fan-base that many Lithuanian artists would envy even today.
While Kauspedas tends to look at the past reservedly, he remembers the beginning of Antis well.
"It was a grateful time because many changes were happening in the lives of people and society in 1986. People were looking for meaning. It happened that we became a center of attention and we had enough time and will to dedicate ourselves to music," he says.
After six years of success, Antis became a sensation in Lithuania and one of the best rock bands in all of the former Soviet Union. Thus, it was perhaps a surprise to many when in 1990, Kauspedas decided to call it quits.
Antis split up and the leader of the band returned to his profession of architecture. Today, he directs his own architecture company.
However, Kauspedas continues to find connection between music and business. "Some poetry and prose exists in the business world as well as on stage. Business is a game according to certain rules - there are leaders and heights to achieve. Business is art, sports, adventure, and character development," he says.
Like in music, Kaupedas has ambitions to reach international heights in the business sphere as well. While musical ambitions have been replaced with architectural dreams, enthusiasm, energy, and sincerity have stayed the same.
Luckily for his steadfast fans, when the musician inside Kauspedas becomes restless, there are always opportunities to come back on stage. Antis has been raised from the ashes three times: for the Lithuanian Rock March in 1996, for a concert to present the CD anthology "Visa Antis" in 2003, and for a small concert celebrating the DVD release in 2005. Kauspedas gets invited to participate in projects all the time, but the architect does not have enough time for all of them.
"Preparation for concerts and projects takes out about two weeks from the ordinary life routine. When preparing you need to work spiritually more than physically in order for the audience to feel the atmosphere," says Kauspedas. Working as an architect and the director of his company means that he has an intense schedule. Unfortunately for his fans, this means that he does not have the luxury to participate in all the projects he would like to.
"I have decided to do one project in six months in order to find new perspectives, get to know new people, but I do not force myself on stage." Ironically, the Lithuanian legend does not think of himself as a performer, but rather as an amateur musician who knows only his own songs but cannot sing the songs of others.
His latest project will be a concert performance of Pink Floyd's legendary "The Wall" which takes the stage in Vilnius on Sept. 1. Kauspedas will portray the inner voice of the main character, Pink.
"I saw the film 'The Wall' during Soviet times," explains Kauspedas, "but first I heard about it from the Soviet media. It was advertised as a musical work revealing the evils of capitalism, such as drug addiction." Even though the importance of music for Kauspedas has changed through time, gradually being replaced by professional business ambitions, "The Wall" left an enormous impression on Kauspedas when he first heard it. His participation in the performance comes with a bit of irony.
Kauspedas tries to never look back and lives for future plans: "I still believe that many interesting events lay before me."
And he continues to get swept away with new music. After performing in the musical "The Phantom of the Opera" last year, he was so overwhelmed with Andrew Lloyd Webber that he went to London to see the show. Due to his spontaneity and openness to new things, it is difficult to know what Kauspedas will do next.
A professional, a star and a modern-day philosopher, Kauspedas shares his motto.
"I try to live in a way that my days would be meaningful, my perspective would grow, intellectually valuable information would be at hand, and interesting projects would surround me. I hope that both my company and I can accomplish something important."
These are the days of a modern-day rock hero living in the business suit of an architect.