Mariusz, congratulations for a new masterpiece. You nailed it once again!
Really? Thank you...
"S.O.N.G.S." is awesome and that’s the only thing that I am sure. But musicwise it seems to be different, yet the same. I mean there are several new elements, but it is still a Riverside album. What can you say about the difference this album makes to your sound?
"Anno Domini High Definition" was in 2009, now we have 2013, so we had to take a break for a few years. But I didn’t lose shift, I did two albums of Lunatic Soul, we did "Memories In My Head" EP. And, to be honest, a year ago I was really tired of some things, I was really tired of some approaching and the way I was composing stuff. I wanted to try something else, and I really wanted to finally record a Riverside album that I would be very proud of. And of course, I don’t wanna say that everything that I did in the past was wrong, but there were some kind of elements in the previous albums that I wasn’t so happy about, they were good compositions but bad sound ...a lot of elements. So, now, first of all, I wanted to rearrange the drums, rearrange the guitar, and change a little bit the approach in the compositions. Like, add a little bit more groove and throw away all those progressive stuff with which we were connected to the bands like Dream Theater or some other ones. And I really wanted to do our highlight, so I have put a level somewhere very very high and wanted to reach that. So I think that the biggest difference is now that the production is quite nice, of course you can find very interesting songs, but the instruments now are finally displaying something interesting. We of course achieved some interesting points, but right now I really wanted to focus on the production. I didn't want to play again things like "Second Life Syndrome" or "The Curtain Falls", long beautiful solos, music that you can find on early progressive albums. Now it should be something more, something different, we should just try to develop ourselves. That's why all those things changed a bit, we sound a bit uplifted. Now, to be honest, I’m finally happy with the result. I think this is one of our best albums yet.
You know, when someone asks me I say that the best album I’ve heard in 2012 comes out in 2013.
Unfortunately this could change very soon, because in 2013 there’s a lot of interesting artists that are going to release their albums.
One way or another all your albums are concept albums, as the lyrics have a common idea behind them. What’s the story this time around?
Well, first of all I didn’t want to do a concept album, I thought it would be interesting if each track was about something different. But they have the same subject, I agree. And let’s say that this main subject is about being or feeling like a slave today. The first track is about feeling less important, like someone gets addicted to feeling important. Thank God, you have facebook these days and you can just put your pictures and count your likes and find yourself perfect if you want. "We Got Used To Us" is about being in a relationship, which is like being in prison (laughs). "Deprived" is a track about Irretrievably Lost Imagination, as you can find in the title also. It’s like, today you get a lot of things served on the plate, you know. You don’t have to think too much, you can’t confuse them. You can see now for example how children play with their toys. In the past they should really use their imagination to combine some elements to one piece. Now you buy it ‘pieceless’, and that’s exactly how it will look like. "Escalation Shrine" is about identity or more about abandoning identity, which is so simple these days. You’re going to the new modern temple, which is maybe a supermarket with all these escalators, so you don’t even have to walk, you’re just spending and losing. How perfect! And, you know, today you think that you are a Catholic and in some situations you can be a Buddhist, right? I just wanted to say that there are problems with the route now, everything has just become as the things that are popular and are changing so fast that sometimes people don’t know who they are. But it’s not about running. What was about running and speed was my previous album, but this one is about how easy sometimes you can abandon your identity and change yourself. So, basically all tracks are about different kinds of being or feeling like a slave, and that’s the main stuff on the album.
Would you say that it’s a pessimistic or a realistic point of view the one you choose to present through your lyrics?
Well, as I already described, I really want to write a lot of melancholic stuff. So, ‘pessimistic’ and ‘not happy’ lyrics fit really well to melancholy, I think. And that’s why I wanted to deliver that. But, you know, at the end of this album you have the light at the end of the tunnel, with "Coda", words are quite positive. If I had finished this album with "Escalator Shrine", I would leave all those people in the darkness, crawling them into the deep edge of whatever was gonna be, it would be kind of depressing. So that’s why I wanted to leave this hope in the end.
Let’s get to the music of the songs. "New Generation Slave" is a pretty strange track with some 70s elements and a really strong performance by you. How did this song come out this way?
First of all, about those 70s elements, we really didn’t want to play metal on this album, we wanted to restrain the metal riffs. We’re not playing with two guitars, we don’t want to add another string to the guitar, we don’t want to play metal or thrash metal riffs. Maybe in the future, but not now. So, the question was ‘what should we do with this? Ok, let’s play rock, but what kind of rock?’ And I always was inspired by bands from the 70s, Michał would play some of Deep Purple. I wasn’t by myself. So, I just thought it would be nice to start this album with that kind of song, with the lucid line plus some rock elements. That was kind of interesting, you know, and also an interesting opening track for this album.
Then "The Depth Of Self-Delusion" is in my opinion the track with the greater potential to become the point of reference of the album. You see the vocal line is so god damn perfect that I don’t really know what to say. There is this new prog feeling, similar to bands like Opeth or Porcupine Tree, on the acoustic side, but through the dark glass of Riverside. Would you agree?
To be honest, probably I will have to bear this thing until the end of my life, that everyone will say ‘something like Porcupine Tree and Opeth’, but it’s closer to Opeth that Porcupine Tree to define. I could even say that it’s closest to Swedish sounds, even the working title of the track was in Swedish. Probably not because of Opeth, but because of bands like Paatos or Anekdoten, bands that we are friends with. And first of all it basically was just a normal song on the guitar and it sounded like some kind of wedding song really, that you could dance together with someone, you know... Later, I changed the base line for a little different one, more sharp and more rock-y, I think it’s much better now. There was just some kind of challenge for me to change the track, but the melody was fine, I liked it and I really wanted to keep this song. That was the challenge, to protect that, while adding some elements and rearrange a lot of things. At the end I also believe it’s one of the highlights of the album.
The very first time I listened to the album I said that "Celebrity Touch" was going to be a single out of it and it’s the first one. Another different track, again with a 70s feeling and a brilliant ‘groovy’ riff. I guess it will be a monster performed live.
I hope so, hehe. I remember once we were in Arrow Rock Festival, in Holland, and we were at the show of Europe. And they didn’t play "The Final Countdown", instead they played some other track, I can’t even remember, but it had a huge riff and one amazingly hard bridge and the group was powerful, and I said ‘my God, there’s only one guitar but it sounds amazing! Are they playing another ten guitars from samples, or what?’. And then again, it comes that the keyboard player has arranged the sounds of the keys to sound as the guitar. And together with the guitar it mixed amazing and it was very powerful. And I imagined ‘Ok, so maybe if for instance both me and the keyboard player will do something similar with the octaves, plus, we have some interesting keyboard sounds, that could be very powerful, right?’ So, then we started with the "Celebrity Touch" riff, cause I had the riff, and in those moments where you usually have the second guitar or something more, we have the ‘octave moment’ and it has a very nice mood and it’s so powerful. And I think it’s kind of fresh, and as a track it’s a lot of fun, and because it sounds a little different than the others, I thought it would fit perfectly as a first single.
Good choice, I’d say! Then there’s "We Got Used To Us", which seems to be the new "Conceiving You". You know, the piano, the catchy melody. Another beautiful track.
Yeah, but I didn’t want to do "Conceiving You", you know? I really wanted it to be more like "Loose Heart" or "In Two Minds", than "Conceiving You". Because I really wanted to return to this kind of melodic line that I did on the debut album or on "Voices In My Head". When we started doing this song it sounded like "Acronym Love - Part 2". We had to change and arrange that and now I’m very happy for this. That will be, by the way, the second single that we’re going to release soon.
Now, I’m already addicted to the groove and the vocal line of "Feel Like Falling" and its acoustic rendition on the closing "Coda" is so good it just makes me wish it wasn’t only 1,5 minute long. How are these songs connected?
With their melody lines (laughs)... They, also, have almost the same lyrics. Well, "Coda" is more positive and "Feel Like Falling" is different. "Feel Like Falling" is about someone who’s just putting his whole career above living with his family and his kids, that kind of stuff. He’s addicted, let’s say to even being a musician and being on the road all the time, that’s why he feels like falling, you know? On the second part, It’s just what I said before. I really wanted to finish this album in a positive way. It’s a very nice closure when I do this melodic line, which by the way sounds, I think, like some kind of pop performance, that’s why I wanted to include this melody in a different arrangement to show how it could work with acoustic guitars and vocals only. I think it’s also a nice approach.
I think clever composers like you always put that kind of pop melodic lines, here and there.
Yeah... I adore songs, you know? It doesn’t matter in which decade you live. Probably, on your favorite album there are a lot of songs and a lot of melodies that you like to listen a lot. You know, I’m not against that very progressive and original music, but I also like to listen to music for pleasure. Especially now. And that’s why I wanted to do finally the album with a good, even pop, melody. And then connect it with the rock music and do something ambitious.
Then, on "Deprived" what’s impressive more than anything is the saxophone on the end of the song, giving a slight jazz laid back feeling. How did you come up with this?
We really wanted to use saxophone on this track, but first we wanted to use the alto saxophone and we recorded some tracks, but Marcin (Odyniec) the saxophonist also plays something called the soprano saxophone and I just decided to choose this type of saxophone, because it fit in so perfectly with the music. About those alto saxophones that we have, we didn’t want to throw them away, so we used them on a bonus track. So you can find more of them -if I remember correct- in "Night Session (Part Two)".
"Escalator Shrine" clocks about 13 minutes and is one of the most clearly progressive songs you’ve ever written. In the middle section it even reminded me of more classic progressive rock bands, the ones that use regression as a progressive element, like Transatlantic or some other Inside Out bands. Would you agree?
I’d say a couple other than Transatlantic, but it’s ok (laughs). I think it is one of our best long tracks, it has a flow. I think for me it’s lyrical-wise a bit like "The Same River" from the debut album. It flows and it has a lot of nice elements, some blues elements and some rock elements of course, especially from Michał’s hammond solo. We’ve already talked about lyrics, about this identity and all that stuff, so about the music I should say that I agree, on this album this track sounds most like the Riverside before. We tried to add some elements, which made it, I think, one of the most powerful endings of all our albums. So, I like this song, I think it will be kind of cool to play it live.
So, with this album you make a 5/5 of brilliant albums. Pretty amazing! How long will it take until everyone realizes that you belong to the leaders of your sound? Because, to those who know, you already are.
Oh my God! That’s a very-very tricky question. I don’t know what to say, I’m just a normal guy... I’m very happy that you like all our albums, but I’m sure that everyone’s not thinking the same way, you know. For many people we have recorded only two albums, and that’s it. So, I hope this one will be the third one. But, as I’ve said before, in the beginning, I really want to develop myself, but I don’t want to record completely different albums, like some bands like Ulver do. I admire Ulver, but on each album they sound totally different. And for me it’s a little strange. I think a band should have an identity; it should definitely have something which you can recognize. And I want to keep this let’s say heart, heart of heart with the most characteristic elements, and just change clothes, change color. And so far I still have ideas for making the next one, or even the next next one. I don’t know which level I will reach, but so far I’m just trying to find myself. I’m so happy that there are people like you that listen to all of our albums.
I would say that you played a very big part in the scene of prog becoming popular again. I guess 11 years ago, a young band from Poland playing progressive rock/metal surely wasn’t the catch of the century for some people. But, now it seems that the times have changed. Do you feel that change? Do you realize that you’re a part of this change?
I will admit that we changed something in Poland, for sure, as the younger generation just started to play this type of music that we started playing ten years ago. But I still don’t think that we’re on that kind of level like many different bands of our generation, but maybe this will change after this album. We’re just doing little steps further and further. And maybe someday there will be a chance to say ‘ok, I think Riverside finally deserve the place that they are now’. I know that today we all have to work hard and make huge steps, and all those popular bands like Porcupine Tree, Opeth or others, they have about twenty years of making their careers. So, maybe after ten years it has just started for us. We will see what the future may bring. For now, I’m very happy that the last album that we recorded is one of the best we ever did.
I have to mention that the show you gave to Athens was one of my biggest musical disappointments, not that it was your fault, of course. Firstly, I could hear perfectly but I couldn’t see anything. It was like I wasn’t there, the venue was inappropriate at best. Then, less than 200 people attending the show was so disappointing. I don’t want to refer to bands that have 1.000 tickets here. It really doesn’t make sense to me...
You know, we’re not kind of a popular band in Greece, maybe it will change after this year. We just started to play in Greece four years ago, but it was just the beginning, maybe it will change a bit after this album, I don’t know. We’re planning to return of course and we’ll see how it’s going to be. It’s not all the time that you play for Woodstock festival crowds, right? (laughs)
Anyway, I’m afraid that after this fiasco the possibilities of seeing you here again are limited. I hope that’s not the case, though, I hope you’d come back.
We would love to, we would still visit Greece even if there would be only 100 people, because I know that we have a lot of fans, we have a lot of friends in Greece. And they’ll just come and see us and be happy. So, I hope one day there will be a chance that we will say ‘ok, that was a great show and it was a lot of people. We finally deserve it’. Unless, we screw up something on our next album (laughs).
So I guess the future includes a lot of touring for you, right? And hopefully not 3,5 years before you put out the next album...
No, no, I would like to do the next one a little bit sooner, I agree.
With some calculations, just to play a few of your best songs you’ll be needing about 3 hours on stage, taking for granted that your new album will be played in its entirety, hehe...
Oh my God... That’s too much, I think.
Ok then! Prog supergroups or collaborations are not a new story. In fact, it seems to be in the DNA of the musicians of the scene. So pick up the ones you’d gladly make a project with and try to imagine what it would sound like...
Oh God... Ok, I imagine I would have to say Frank Zappa, I would like to listen to his music. And he would play together with Geddy Lee on bass guitar. And the drummer... I don’t know, maybe Marco Minnemann, he’s a nice guy and very young. And someone for keyboards, ok let’s see... Keith Emerson... Oh my God, it would be chaos, chaos and chaos again. You never should pick with that perspective, they’re just artists. Sometimes you just need to take normal guys, cause it’s a band, right? And a band should establish a sound.
Thanks for your time. I hope "S.O.N.G.S." takes you to the next level as a band, cause it's something you totally deserve.
Thank you so much. I hope there will be a chance to meet you there during our next show.