The Polish prog-band Riverside striked again! In January 2013 their fifth album “Shrine of new Generation Slaves” has been released and will be followed by a European tour in March and April. Prior to the release Musicheadquarter editor Shirin Kay had the chance to do an interview with mastermind Mariusz Duda on the new songs and the upcoming tour.
Hi Mariusz! How are you doing and what have you been up to?
Mariusz: Fine, thank you! Well I have had a really busy day today. I received a big package from InsideOut and one from Mystic Production and I have to tell you that I think that the new package of the limited edition is probably the best package we’ve ever come up with. Apart from that it has been a really busy time and I am looking forward to the weekend. There is only one week left to the Polish premiering oft he new album and we’ve had to do a lot of things connected with the local market.
Will there be time left for a bit of rest or some vacation, before the tour in March starts?
Mariusz: Not really, we need to learn how to play the new songs live. So maybe there will be some time to rest after the tour. Or on the tour maybe …
Yes, as we all know touring is not really like vacation.
Mariusz: Actually it’s quiet comfortable in the nightliner. You can sleep and take some rest. And when you’re lucky you get the chance to go and see the city for 15 minutes and take a quick photo for facebook. (laughs)
Have you already given interviews on the new album?
Mariusz: Yes, loads of them actually. I am kind of surprised because that means that this deal between InsideOut and Century Media works. I remember that I had a lot of interviews when we came up with “Second Life Syndrome”. But with “Rapid Eye Movement” and “Anno Domini High Definition” there weren’t that many, cause there were problems with the label SPV. But now it’s really nice. Of course it might be due to the fact that we are releasing the album right at the beginning of the year. Nothing has been really going on in the last months and the hot period when everyone releases albums hasn’t started yet. So we are the first ones to release an album in the new year. The only problem might be that many people don’t have any money left after Christmas … (laughs)
It’s been about three years now that you released the ADHD album. What has been going on in those years?
Mariusz: It’s been almost four years even, from 2009 to 2013. It was quiet a busy period in my own life and the band’s life, cause first I did two Lunatic Soul albums and together with the band we did the anniversary EP “Memories in my Head”. We also went for an interesting tour and then we spent the last year in the studio.
When did you exactly start writing the material for “Shrine of New Generation Slaves”?
Mariusz: At the end of 2011 I had the first ideas for the album and the composing progress started in December 2011, January and February 2012. In March we did kind of a promo session in the studio without drums. I just did them on the keyboards. It was just about showing my ideas to the guys. We also combined the material with some little compositions that we had recorded in the months before and after this I realized that two of the tracks weren’t that good. So I threw them away and seven tracks were left. We were still missing the final part of the album. So in April we went to our rehearsal room again and composed the “Escalator Shrine”, which unfortunately became 12 minutes long (laughs), but I think that was the closing chapter of the album. I know we had reached the final point. Later on we just added some colors and details.
The two songs that didn’t make it on the album, are those the ones that are on the limited edition of “Shrine of New Generation Slaves”?
Mariusz: No, they are are gone. Do you want to hear the story about those two songs on the second CD?
Is it exciting?
Then go ahead!
Mariusz: I wanted to finally release a Riverside album with a media book, with a really nice package. The guys from the label agreed, but only if there was a double album to go with the limited edition. And I said I didn’t have a double CD. So they asked me for some old tracks and live songs and I saw where this was going: I wanted to open a new chapter of Riverside and was asked to put old stuff on the album. No way I would do this! Fortunately I had booked a studio for Lunatic Soul for one week and Pjotr and Michael and I came together. These two long instrumental tracks are kind of ambient tracks that are based on the pieces of the album.
So, the limited edition comes with those two songs and a whole new artwork …
Mariusz: Yeah, and the artwork is amazing! It has 32 pages, and by pages I don’t mean thin pages, it’s almost like a book and Travis Smith has done a great job with it. We have been working together quiet often, but this time I got the feeling that the communication went a lot smoother and easier, it was almost as if there was a mental connection between us. He listened to a rough mix of “Escalator shrine” and sent me a draft. And I noticed immediately that that was it. I am very proud of this release. It proves all the people wrong who think that CDs are dying. Those people should really take a look at the new Riverside album.
So there has been massive work done on the album artwork, but the biggest change has taken place in the music actually … in 2011 you said, you wanted to close a chapter with the EP “Memories in my Head”.
Mariusz: First of all I just wanted to release something new because I don’t like repeating myself. Of course I wanted to keep the style and the soul but I wanted to change some details. Before I started to compose I told the guys that I had become tired of some of the stuff we had been doing until then, let’s call them “the immature moments”. From time to time there has been something like a garage style in our music and I also wanted to have a better production. In the last years I have collected more experience with Lunatic Soul and become more self-confident in the studio. I know exactly what I want to achieve and I know that I can achieve it. This time I asked the guys to focus a bit more on the production of the album, I wouldn’t exactly be sitting next to the mixing desk, cause we’ve got Magda and Robert to do this, but I have a vision and I know what to do. And first of all I wanted to get rid of the metal parts and replace them with hard rock elements, because it is much more honest and true to our style of playing — more honest than just playing some square thrash metal riffs. I had become a bit tired of them … Secondly I wanted to focus more on the melodies, the vocals and the arrangements, not on the compositions. That’s why I also wanted to change the style of the drums, Piotr has previously played some strange things at some points and I wanted to calm him down. The same goes for the guitar: I didn’t want to have the “Second Live Syndrome” solos again. I wanted to experiment a bit on the sound, even add a bit of blues to some parts. That was a challenge for all of us and the beginning of the composition process. And in the end we managed to come up with something that is mature and very precious to us. It’s like a real calling card, a reference for Riverside that we can be proud of.
Would you call the previous album “immature”?
Mariusz: No, not at all. I am not the kind of guy who thinks that the old stuff is bad — I remember when I once met one of my old heroes, I think it was a guy from Pestilence and they had just recorded a new album. The guy told me that the old albums are shit and that was disappointing. No it’s not like this. My personal problem with ADHD for instance is that I had the feeling that something was missing, from the scale from 1 to 6, it was maybe on 4.5, but never 5 or 6 for me. I think that when you do a decent album, it should always be something like 80% of, the 20% is booked for personal and emotional stuff. But with “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” I feel something like 90%! It’s growing. This is the best score for me so far. I feel like I have achieved almost everything that I wanted to achieve — this time. Of course there are still 10% left, but still! I have managed to make it up to the vision I had. I am happy! I had this feeling only once before and that was with the first Lunatic Soul album.
By the way, the last time we had an interview you told me you wanted to do something about the end of the world.
Mariusz: Haha, yeah. You could say that “Escalator Shrine” is some kind of introduction to that subject, when people just crawl in the dark and into some big add and they are about to fall down. In the beginning I wanted to do some kind of EP, but during the process there was a flow, and some emotions appeared – it was a bit like the emotions we had when we were working on “Out of Myself” and “Voices in My head”. It was quiet similar because I was composing more on the acoustic guitar and there was this specific melancholy on those albums which is there again. And when I realized they were so many details I felt that it would be more than an album in there and that I had to work more on the arrangements to create a good album. So after SONGS I will definitely go back to the post-apocalyptic subject.
You have been mentioning the song “Escalator Shrine” and there is the escalator on the album cover, so I guess the escalator stands for something, doesn’t it?
Mariusz: Yeah, exactly. All those tracks on the new album are in one way or other about feeling or being like a slave in some particular situation. When you take a look at the cover you can see the new shrine, the new temple, which is the shopping mall or the super market. When you go to temples you normally get down on your knees to pray, but in the new temple the only time for thinking is only when you are on the escalator – even though the escalator was made to make the people walk faster, people normally stand on the escalator. This for me is the new kind of slavery. For many people the Sunday in the shopping mall is the best time they can spend with their family or their friends, hanging around and do some shopping. Plus this track is about identities and about how simple it is these days to abandon your present identity. In the past changing things took time, these day you can easily go from being a Catholic to being a Buddhist within two weeks. You just need to buy the right clothes … The other point is that about the wiki-girls and google-boys in the song I am referring to the fact that you have a much faster access to knowledge, everything is in your smart-phone, so if you don’t know something you can easily look it up in the web. In the past you had to go and check a book, find and the gather the information, so it was a much more intense search for knowledge. At the same time you had a better chance to remember things, because you put a lot more effort into it. And now everything is very easy, especially for the young generation. And this has a huge effect on their memory.
You could think that having easier access to information would save you some time for other things …
Mariusz: Of course, but the easy access to all knowledge also means that no-one has anything interesting to say, because everyone can look everything up within seconds. Communication becomes very shallow this way, it becomes like reading the news on twitter.
How much of that change do you find in your own life?
Mariuz: I think it’s more of an issue with the younger generation. I don’t understand many things these days … let’s go back to the production of a CD with artwork for instance. I remember a story, when a father gave a CD to his daughter. Later on he found the CD in the dustbin and asked her why she threw the CD away. And she responded that she had already downloaded the CD on her computer. Maybe the younger generation doesn’t need the things that we grew up with. Things have changed.
On the other hand our generation doesn’t communicate via telegrams anymore either.
Mariusz: You see, I am not against developing things that should help us with our lives. But from time to time such developments make our life more shallow. From time to time we should stop and think, otherwise we risk talking in acronyms only. I am not making judgments in the lyrics of “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” but I am trying to get inside the people in the modern times and understand them. On ADHD, which was also about modern times, there was an outside perspective, on the new album, it’s more an inner view. And there are also some more personal songs.
Which ones are the personal songs?
Mariusz: For instance “The Depth of Self-Delusion”, which is about the fact that I have found myself and my own place and that I feel good. Even though there are still the 10% we talked about earlier. (laughs)
Which means that you will never be 100% happy?
Mariusz: I don’t know. If I was 100% happy I would probably write happy songs. I am not sure if I can write happy songs, maybe I will one day. Anyway, “Deprived” would be another personal song. It’s about the times, when we had only vinegar in the shops in Poland (laughs) and I used to collect cigarette boxes, Pepsi cans and stuff like that. I did a lot of things as a child, those puppet shows that I am singing about for instance, drawing my own comic books, I did all of that. My imagination was amazing at that time. And now that I have got everything I don’t do these things. In the past you needed to use your imagination, now you don’t.
Haha, that reminds me of the times when I was a child in Iran and we had nothing but a shitty black and white TV and I had to make my own books and tapes. Food was scarce those days as well and I am still amazed every time I go into the super market, I still have the feeling of being in wonderland and having to buy everything.
Mariusz: Exactly … This is what I write about. You have books, CDs, movies, everything around you, all the time! I can afford all these things now. I couldn’t do that in the past, but now I have the Playstation and the video-games, and there are those periods, when I play them with my eyes wide open and my toenails coming out of my mouth. People tell me “oh my God, you’re a serious musician, you write such and such lyrics, you should read a decent book and not play zombie-games.” But I like it, you know. (laughs) This is what I always wanted to do in the past.
Since we have been talking about video-games, let’s move on to the next subject, which is the new video to “Celebrity Touch”.
Mariusz: That’s the second video we’ve done with Riverside so far. We did our first one “Panic Room”, but when SPV died the video on youtube died with it … This time we worked with a Polish company and there are two stories in the video. You can see the band and the down-fall of a celebrity. The band is playing at some private party at some point decides to cut it and play in the cellar for themselves. The song is about celebrities and the feeling of importance — about the people who feel very important. In the video I just wanted to show what it can be like to be a celebrity.
Would you call yourself a celebrity?
Mariusz: No, you see, I play my music in the corridor of a cellar!
Yeah, in the video, but not in real life. You play in front of hundreds of people on your live shows.
Mariusz: Still I am not a celebrity. You can call me one when you see me wearing strange clothes.
But you still have a lot of fans and people who worship you.
Mariusz: But it’s a decent amount of fans, and these are fans, real people, who don’t like me just because I am in the press.
Are you afraid of becoming a real celebrity?
Mariusz: With that kind of music? (laughs) No, I don’t think so. But who knows, maybe one day the hipsters start listening to prog, then maybe … hmm, it could be interesting.
Okay, but that won’t stop you to reach out for the 100%?
Mariusz: No, not at all. I will probably try to reach 95,5% the next time, raise the bar, but still leave room for a challenge. If I would ever say “that’s it, I did it” it would mean I would have to pack my things and go home. No, I still want to do more interesting things with Riverside. Take a look at these bands that are now on a decent level of fame, it took them 15 to 20 years to get that far. So we still have time, I think we are somewhere in the middle of the road. Maybe when we talk in five years you will go “Do you remember, five years ago we were talking about you being a celebrity?” and I will throw aside my fur coat and say “Sorry, I don’t remember you, did we have an appointment? Go away, I need to take care of my tiger.” (laughs)
It should at least be two tigers!!! (laughs until she sounds like a broken engine) … One last question: Which of the new songs are you going to play live?
Mariusz: All of them, I think. I am sure it will be an interesting tour. I am really looking forward to the tour. I have been waiting for this for so long. I feel sober, like an alcoholic who hasn’t been drinking for a long time. It’s time for the tour! By the way, since I am an administrator for our facebook page I couldn’t help but notice that we have a lot of fans from Iran. I don’t know why! Maybe this is because of my lyrics. Because I am writing about not being happy.
That doesn’t surprise me. We are not a happy nation, especially those of us who still live in Iran. That could explain it …