Increasing Speed Of Life


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Over its eight years of existence, Polish progressive rockers Riverside have become a chart success in their home country, toured Europe together with legendary Dream Theater and attracted attention of the listeners on both sides of the Atlantic. At the same time, Riverside never got to visit this country, regardless of their outstanding achievements and not such a long way to go geographically. This has finally changed! The band played two fantastic concerts in St. Petersburg and in Moscow this winter, and right before the Moscow gig I managed to chat a bit with singer Mariusz Duda and guitarist Piotr Grudzinski in order to get a closer look at this contemporary prog rock scene phenomenon.

You play the last show of the tour in support of your latest album “Anno Domini High Definition” in Moscow. Is it just a coincidence or does our city mean something special to you?

Piotr: Unfortunately it’s a coincidence. But we’re happy about it, because we are really glad to be here – we didn’t expect such a good welcome here in Russia, so we’re really surprised. And just before we left Warsaw we thought, “We’re so tired, maybe it would be better if we stay at home”. But now we’re happy about being here.

I read in the announcement of this very Moscow show that you’re supposed to play for more than two hours. Do you think it’s possible to keep people’s attention for such a long time? And isn’t it tiresome for you?

It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure that we’ll play for two hours… (both laugh)
Piotr: We didn’t know about it!

Well, it was written in the announcement…

Mariusz: They write a lot of things…
Piotr: Well, these shows here in Russia are a little bit different, because we couldn’t take all our equipment with us. Especially there’s a problem with the keyboards. But to answer your question about the attention of the audience… I think every show is different, and every time there’s a kind of cooperation between the band and the audience. That’s a kind of unique thing. I think Riverside music is “colorful”. We’re not playing the same kind of music for two hours. We’re changing moods. So I think it’s quite easy to provoke people to pay attention to the band.

Let’s talk about your new record “Anno Domini High Definition”. All your previous albums are parts of “Reality Dream Trilogy”. Are you planning to have a new trilogy beginning with “Anno Domini High Definition”?

Mariusz: No.
Piotr: We already had one trilogy, so it’s not necessary to do it for the second time. The trilogy is finished and now we’re trying to keep our style, but change the moods a little bit. The new album is a little bit heavier, it’s more energetic, the subject of the album defers from the trilogy. So now we’re trying to write music without any barriers, I would say. Of course, keeping the Riverside style. Still.

You have only five tracks on this new album. Not too many, I should say…

First of all we wanted to record a really short album. An album you can put on a vinyl record without making a double vinyl – because on the vinyl you can put only about 44 minutes. And that’s why we wanted to record this kind of album.
(while this is being said, Mariusz is looking at his colleague in surprise)

Mariusz, is it the first time you hear things like that?

Mariusz: I’ve heard it, but not from him…
Piotr: (laughs) Well, that’s the first reason. The second one is that the music on the album is quite energetic. And I think 44 minutes is enough. We even tried to put four songs on the new album and to have the whole length of the album like forty four minutes and forty four seconds, but it was too difficult for us. That’s why we did five.
Mariusz: (laughs) Yeah, that’s true, that’s true!

Mariusz, why are you so silent?

Mariusz: That’s because during the previous interview I was talking a lot, now it’s his turn. Well, why only five tracks? We like long compositions, right? Well, I thought we liked… So there are really long compositions on this album.

The main idea of the album, as far as I know, is the increasing speed of life. They say that it’s a sign of approaching end of the world. What do you think about it? Do you feel like this world is about to be destroyed?

Mariusz: I didn’t see the movie “2012” unfortunately, so… Well, the main thought of this was some kind of picture of our modern times. So I didn’t think about some kind of ideology or some “big words” – whatever. It was just like that: we thought that we’re in a hurry all the time and we should just take some picture of ourselves “running as fast as we can to stay in the same place”. So we just did it and combined it with some kind of disorder, which is second quite popular now, it’s like visit card of our modernity. I mean this “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”. So we have a short variant of the album title “Anno Domini High Definition”, which is “A.D.H.D”. That’s the whole stuff and I know nothing about the end of the world, I know nothing about the things that are going to be, I know nothing about the future of people, it’s the question that probably someone else will answer on his albums.

But still, bands that play progressive are supposed to be really philosophical. Are there any concepts, any philosophical theories you’re into?

I think with Riverside we have more psychological stuff. We really try to focus not on the mankind but on one person, who’s just trying to fight with his own demons. So this time our hero is somewhere in the middle of this big rush, big speed and in his head is the noise – it’s quite similar to a traffic jam. It’s more like this, I think.
Piotr: Maybe these times are so fast that there’s no time for philosophy. Sometimes people don’t even have time to think about themselves, about their lives.

Talking about psychological problems, are they taken from your personal life experience? Do you really have to cope with things like that or you just imagine them happening to you?

Mariusz: I think it always should be like this when you’re writing lyrics, when you’re creating something – it should be your own. So all this experience is ours. Of course there are some things we read, we watched, but most of the things should come out of you, you should express yourself. For me this album is quite personal, I know this attention deficit hyperactivity disorder very well, because I have it. And this speed of life, speed of reality – we also know it, because we’re running all the time to exist, to do our job. The thing we’re doing for living is just creating music and being musicians. And we’re trying to be real musicians. So we really have to work hard to exist and to fly to Russia someday and play for the first time, you know. It was really hard work.

By the way, how do you form the sequence of songs on your albums? Is there any great idea to put songs in this or that order?

Piotr: It’s all about his brain. (taps Mariusz on the head)
Mariusz: No-no-no, it’s… Well, thank you very much.
Piotr: It’s true, Mariusz is the main brain of the band. And he has a lot of ideas, which he shares with the band and we discuss them together.

But do you try to create some kind of story with your songs?

Both: Yes, of course.
Mariusz: That’s why we always choose the tracks for the beginning, which sound like tracks for the beginning. And when you create music you just hear that that’s something for the middle of the album and this one should open it, and with this one it should end. And when you find these three points, which are the most important points – the beginning, the middle and the end – the rest is much easier.
Piotr: I want to say that we really like it when we and our fans can listen to our albums from the beginning till the end without choosing the songs. Just start the record and play it till the end. And if you want to do this kind of thing you need some scenario for the record. It’s important. Sometimes bands record just songs and maybe don’t care which song should be after this one or that one. But we care about if you can listen to the record as a whole, from the beginning till the end, and enjoy it.

Mariusz, isn’t it a problem for you to write deep and thoughtful lyrics not being a native speaker?

Mariusz: I’m trying to use only the words I understand. I’m not using the words that are too complicated just because they look good on the paper. I think it’s sick. And a lot of people use words they don’t understand because they believe that then their lyrics are better. That’s not true. You’re just writing about your feelings and you can say a lot of things with simple words. It’s fine with me. I’m writing in English and not writing in Polish and translating it. I think I’m writing better lyrics in English than in Polish.

Oh, really?

Mariusz: Yeah, you should see my Polish lyrics! They’re cool, fine, great! (smiles) That was sarcasm.

Mariusz, your voice seems to me very calm and tender and not aggressive at all, even though the themes of your songs are really “hard and heavy”. Why? I mean, is it just because of your character and temper? Or do you think that the most important things should be “said” in a very quite and simple way?

Piotr: It’s a gift. (smiles)
Mariusz: I don’t know. I like melodies and I’m trying to sing that way to achieve some good melody. And I’m screaming only in some parts, when it’s necessary. But anyway, I still think that singing that way can attract more chicks… (laughs) Well, no, we’re not that kind of a rock’n’roll band. It was a joke.

Can you say a few words about your side project Lunatic Soul, please? Do you feel that Riverside is not enough for you?

Mariusz: Yes, because I still want more chicks. That’s why I’ve created Lunatic Soul, because after the show there will be more chicks. Especially when Lunatic Soul is a solo project and only a studio project. But it was another great joke. Seriously I also like to develop as an individual musician, so I just did it to try to achieve some things that I can’t do with Riverside because of the fact that we just simply can’t record one album every year. It’s one thing. The second thing is that I would like to develop myself, I’m working on my individual style. But yeah, first of all it’s because of the chicks. Yeah, rock’n’roll.

Do you think that progressive bands can be really successful? They say that this music is difficult, so it has not very many adepts.  Can the situation change in some years, what do you think?

Mariusz: It depends on the female audience, I think.
Piotr: It depends on chicks! (both laugh) I think that progressive music had really a good time in 70-s. And now rock music is finished in general. But it’s developing somehow. Now people care more about producing and the sound, than about the music itself. Maybe Riverside also. Somehow we’re copying things that were 20 or 30 years ago…
Mariusz: I would say that it’s the future of music, when you’re just trying to combine a lot of different styles. In the previous times there were rock bands, metal bands, rock’n’roll bands, and now a lot of bands mix styles together. There are some people who just label this as progressive rock, but mostly that kind of bands doesn’t like that label, because they say, “We just play rock music of our times”. You just have to do something with music when it’s finished. I believe that it will be this kind of situation: some people will “return” to the music of the 60-s, all these simple songs, and some of them will listen to complicated music, because they will like to have something new. It’s very hard to invent something new, because everyone combines everything with everything, and that’s something that has already been. But we’re trying to have our own style and maybe find our own direction.
Piotr: I would say that music is more or less like fashion. The fashion from the past comes back…
Mariusz: Every 30 years.
Piotr: Yeah, so every band can someday “fit” the time. I couldn’t expect that someday a band playing progressive music in Poland could live on that. But we can! So maybe now the fashion of the 70s is reanimated. And progressive music becomes more popular. But in five years maybe no one will remember us. (everybody laughs) And those chicks too!
Mariusz: Damn it!

Which are your favorite progressive bands?

Mariusz: Comanda Pinka Floyda. (smiles) For some of us, maybe… I don’t know.

What about Dream Theater?

Mariusz: Ok.

You used to tour with them, so share your emotions about it.

It was nice.

Just “nice”?

(both laugh)
Mariusz: Yeah, that was ok. Nice guys.
Piotr: They are said to be the best modern progressive band in the world. Of course they’re really great musicians and there’s no clue about that. But if we talk about the music, it’s, you know, individual thing. So for me and the bigger part of our band the first two or three albums are really great, but after that…
Mariusz: Dream Theater is a great band… for many people. And we admire this and we really respect it. And it was a huge honor for us that we could play together during that tour. But if we talk about bands of all the times I’d probably choose something from the 70s. And there’re a lot of bands from the 70s, I can’t choose just one.

Do you know any Russian musicians?

Mariusz: No, not too many. We remember Alla Pugacheva. (everybody laughs)
I also remember something like Aria. Russian Iron Maiden, something like that.
Mariusz: Yeah, a heavy metal band.
Piotr: And of course we met one progressive Russian band named Nova Art. We met three years ago, I think. But we don’t know what happened to this band…

Well, they’re alive and kicking. And the last question is about Russia too, it’s quite traditional…

Piotr: Oh, we know some words in Russian! “Nasha Tanja gromko plachet…” (the beginning of a children’s poem) (laughs)
Mariusz: We had this language at school.

So, what else can you say about Russia? It’s your first time here and you’ve already seen St. Petersburg and maybe Moscow too. How do you like it? Which city do you like more?

Piotr: First of all, this question should be asked after the show, because we can’t compare them now. We saw St. Petersburg yesterday, but we’ll see more of Moscow tomorrow. St. Petersburg was really beautiful, especially at night with all those lights. We’ve seen Aurora and Hermitage, not inside – just the building.
Mariusz: And we liked them!
Piotr: Yeah, we liked them. And we’re really happy about being here, and people are really nice.
Mariusz: And today when we entered the railway station, there were fans, who wanted just to say “hello” to us and give us gifts. Very nice gifts.
Piotr: Ogurzy (cucumbers).
Mariusz: And some kind of strange animals… They were very funny. We’re really surprised.
Piotr: We think it’s one of the nicest welcomes in our career. We’ve never been so good treated.
Mariusz: We like Russia very much. And it wasn’t a joke.

After this interview I attended the band’s news conference, which was arranged for the journalists who couldn’t talk to the band individually for some reason. We learned a few interesting details there, too. For instance, Riverside confessed that all their songs were about sex. They like to play at rock festivals because they can get new fans there. The band’s drummer and guitar player still believe that they play death metal, and the keyboard player is convinced that he’s playing pure blues. The band’s next record (which they will “start thinking about” next year) will feature Jim Morrison and John Lennon. On top on that, Riverside believe that their fellow countrymen, Behemoth, owe their popularity to the love affair their frontman has with a well-known Polish pop singer …

Riverside on the Internet: http://www.riverside.art.pl/

Special thanks to Taras (Meta Promo) for arranging this interview

Interview by Ksenia Artamonova, Dmitry “Ward” Kulikov
Photos by Dmitry “Ward” Kulikov
December 13, 2009
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