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15th May 2011
Ever since Riverside's first live show peripheral to their home country, at the ProgPower Europe festival in Holland towards the end of 2004 where they became a last minute addition to the bill after the now defunct Swedish metallers Amaran pulled out, their rise to prominence and popularity within the progressive scene has been both rapid and momentous. The Polish musicians' blend of classic prog-rock sounds from the seventies with an appropriation of more modern-edged influences from innovatory acts such as Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Pain of Salvation and Anathema, together with a unique sonic atmosphere that has become an inherent part of their musical identity and instantly discernible as Riverside, they are one of the genre's most forward-thinking, exciting bands to emerge during the twenty first century. And 2011 marks the occasion of a decade in existence for Riverside which sees them hit Europe for an eighteen date tour to celebrate their tenth anniversary. Metal Discovery met up with the band's charismatic frontman, Mariusz Duda, a short while after their mind-blowing performance to a near-capacity audience in Holmfirth's Picturedrome, a venue that's bizarrely, and rather aptly, a stone's throw from a shopping centre called Riverside! As roadies shift gear out of the hall, we sit at a table just in front of the sound desk to discuss the past, present and future...
METAL DISCOVERY: How’s the tour going so far?
MARIUSZ DUDA: The tour…cool! [laughs] No, no, amazing, really. We’re very happy that we started from the east of Europe because, for the first time, we were in Romania…a very, very good audience; very enthusiastic. Almost like here, you know. And so far it’s very nice. I wish we could play more shows during this tenth anniversary tour. Maybe next time.
(Mariusz Duda on last studio album 'Anno Domini High Definition')
"...we wanted to prove that we’re some kind of energetic band because people saw in us another neo-progressive band and we didn’t want to look like this..."
Mariusz Duda in the Picturedrome, Holmfirth, UK, 15th May 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Yeah, obviously your tenth anniversary tour but my first experience of your band…if I can take you back to Sunday 3rd October 2004…
MD: The Dutch ProgPower festival in Baarlo…
MARIUSZ: You were there?
MD: Absolutely, yeah, that’s where I discovered Riverside.
MARIUSZ: You also went to different shows, right?
MD: Yeah, Zoetermeer a couple of times…Apeldoorn too…
MARIUSZ: I remember you!
MD: Obviously ProgPower was your first show outside of Poland…
MARIUSZ: We were Amaran!
MD: Yeah, Amaran who you replaced at the last minute and who spilt up a couple of months after that festival. I actually loved Amaran so was disappointed I never got to see them but discovered Riverside instead so it was still good! Looking back now, how important was that show for Riverside?
MARIUSZ: It was our first show abroad; our first show outside of Poland so that was very important for us. And, of course, the reaction of the people. And the fact that Amaran didn’t play was very important!
MARIUSZ: I think when someone will ask about those ten years and all those very important moments, I would say that ProgPower was the first one… like the turning point in our career.
MD: And you sold out of CDs at the merch stand before you finished playing…
MARIUSZ: Yeah, we had seven or eight!... no, much more…
MD: Didn’t you bring fifty or something like that with you?
MD: I was actually anticipating doing this interview before the show and was going to ask if you’ve developed a new stage exit because the five or six times I’ve seen Riverside before, in Holland, you’ve always ended with ‘The Curtain Falls’ with one band member at a time walking off, but you did that tonight...
MARIUSZ: Yeah, we wanted to do some kind of circle, a closing chapter. That’s why we returned to ‘The Curtain Falls’. I don’t think we’ve played this for three years or something…four years even…so we wanted to do this. Honestly, it’s been fun when we’re talking about our career and our tenth anniversary but, you know, it’s like we started the band from 2001 but, as you’ve probably noticed, we’ve started everything from 2004 or even 2005…when we started playing live. This anniversary is only because we didn’t release an album!
MD: You haven’t released an album, but you have released an EP, of course. It’s called an EP but it’s actually longer than some bands’ albums at 33 minutes! I read on your website where you’re quoted as saying: “We have consciously gone back to our beginnings to create a certain kind of a circle.” So being a progressive band and progressing with your music, was it a struggle in any way to go back and make music in your earlier style?
MARIUSZ: We don’t wanna be another Dream Theater band and, after ‘Anno Domini High Definition’, a lot of people thought that we were just going for this direction. So we wanted to just do some kind of closure with the music and that was different to what was on ‘ADHD’. Also with some kind of blinking eye because, let’s say, we have the lyrics ‘Living in the Past’ but it doesn’t mean that we like to play like the bands in the seventies…but there is a lot of Hammond and old instruments. But, yeah, this is some kind of closure, some kind of circle. We did it and I hope on the next album it will be totally different.
MD: So would you say the new EP is more regressive than progressive?
MARIUSZ: I’m not sure about regressive but I would say that the first track is more like in the mood of the first album, the second one is in the mood of ‘Second Life Syndrome’ and the third one is some kind of moving on, really… maybe, in some parts.
MD: The two new tracks you played tonight sounded amazing actually.
MD: Yeah, fantastic, definitely. So the EP is available to buy at shows on this tour but it’s coming out in stores on 20th June?
MD: It seems to be like what you did with the ‘Voices In My Head’ EP back in 2005 where that was available at shows first and then officially released in stores on Inside Out. Because the music’s a nod towards the past, is releasing it at shows first a nod towards the past as well?
MARIUSZ: The thing with ‘Voices…’ was because ‘Second Life Syndrome’ was a big success for Inside Out and they kind of wanted to do something more. We didn’t have something new prepared but the label heard that we’d released ‘Voices In My Head’ in Poland, only for the fan club, so they decided to release this also, all over the world. That’s why they did it a little bit later. The original date of release was the beginning of 2005, six months before ‘Second Life Syndrome’. But yes, we wanted to do the new EP in the mood of that. I have to admit that we had an idea for ‘Noises In My Head’ and totally different ideas but later we decided that if there is our tenth anniversary then we should connect this somehow. So we connected it.
MD: And it’s being released on a Dutch label, Glassville Records – why’s it not on Inside Out?
MARIUSZ: This is some kind of experiment. First of all we just finished our contracts, both with Mystic Productions in Poland and Inside Out. We’re waiting for the new documents. Now there was a good option to experiment a little bit and Glassville Records is a label of our manager and booking agent, and we just wanted to start with a new experience so we decided to help him somehow, and go back to Laser’s Edge that released our first album, ‘Out of Myself’, so it’s also some kind of another circle.
MD: One of the new tracks, ‘Forgotten Land’, has been used for a roleplaying game, ‘The Witcher 2’. Were you asked to specifically write that for the game or did you already have the song and they asked to use it?
MARIUSZ: Yeah, exactly. But it was very nice because I was inspired by games in the past and lyrics from ‘Memories In My Head’ I connected with the past with passing time. I know this is not very original but it fits. I received a phone call from someone who just said that he’s from the company that’s doing ‘The Witcher’ and maybe we have something new, inspired by some game, some new songs. I said, “yes, we have one song”, and they used that. When they put out the official information about it a lot of people, when they heard it for the first time, were really surprised because they expected another Vader and brutal music! What is very important is the fact that it was cool because ‘The Witcher 2’ has the subtitle of ‘Assassins of Kings’ and the lyrics are also about kings and the assassination of kings so it fit perfect.
MD: That’s cool. So did you ever envisage Riverside’s music would end up in a computer game at any point in your career and has this been an ambition of yours?
MARIUSZ: Yes, yes, I’ve always loved to because I think this is the future now. Some video games are very ambitious…not FIFA games or ‘Need For Speed’ and all that kind of stuff. Video games connected with the movies somehow, that’s what’s inspired me very much and I’m very open to that.
MD: Your most recent album, ‘Anno Domini…’, has a noticeable change in style for Riverside…maybe less melancholic than the trilogy and a bit brighter in places, like ‘Egoist Hedonist’ has a bit of 70s funk in there and whatever. Did you feel more free to explore different styles when you finished with the trilogy?
MARIUSZ: Yes, yes. First of all, we wanted to prove that we’re some kind of energetic band because people saw in us another neo-progressive band and we didn’t want to look like this so we wanted to prove it but be careful with…
MD: …to still keep the core of Riverside there…
MARIUSZ: Yeah, connections with some other bands which are maybe closer to prog-metal music. We always wanted somewhere in-between, you know. For some people we did it, for others not so much. Okay, that’s the old problem… [laughs]