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5th April 2014
Riverside's emotionally profound and perpetually riveting sonic journey continued last year with the release of their fifth studio album, 'Shrine of New Generation Slaves'. Combining melancholically haunting, and invigoratingly uplifting, melodies within the context of their atmospherically rich, musically expansive soundscapes, it's another masterful work that both consolidates and augments their genuinely progressive aesthetic, transcending any generic sense of the 'prog' label. Over in the UK early-April 2014 for six headline shows as part of a wider European trek to conclude their 'New Generation' touring cycle, Metal Discovery met up with Riverside's ever-humble frontman, Mariusz Duda, at the Academy in Liverpool. Settling down in the venue's production office a short while before showtime, we chat about 'SONGS', acronyms, festivals, cruise ships, ukuleles, his forthcoming new solo album under the Lunatic Soul moniker, and a whole lot more...
METAL DISCOVERY: This is your biggest run of UK headline shows, so is there a feeling that your profile over here is still on the rise?
MARIUSZ: I’m sure that this tour will change a little bit. I mean, this album changed something in our career because we’ve noticed that, last year, we had more people in Germany; more people in Poland. Unfortunately, last year, the UK was only London plus a couple more… but we’ve never had more than two or three shows. This time, I have to say that six shows in the UK means that this is a huge tour for Riverside!
(Mariusz Duda on eschewing "new generation slavery" through his career as a musician)
"I think I can do what a lot of people can’t do. I mean, I can connect my passion with my job so, talking about this, I feel like I’m not a slave."
Mariusz Duda backstage at the Academy, Liverpool, UK, 5th April 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: In the UK, definitely!
MARIUSZ: [Laughs] I’m maybe just kidding with this huge thing but, for the first time, we’re playing more than three shows so it means that, maybe, after the next album, we’ll have even more people. So we still feel like we’re growing and it’s really, really nice for the band, for us.
MD: Has there been big crowds at the shows so far? It’s just London you’ve done so far in the UK, isn’t it, last night…
MARIUSZ: We started with two shows in Germany for this last leg of the tour… London was yesterday and was very nice – a lot of people; a lot of guests.
MD: Last time you were over here, you were due to perform at the Y-Prog festival in Sheffield but I gather you had to cancel that show due to some sort of bad cold, or bad throat?
MARIUSZ: Yes, yes. I, unfortunately, had some kind of troubles because, usually, winter to the beginning of spring is a kind of tricky period for my health, and we had to cancel. Besides, we had some kind of logistic problems with our Nightliner and everything was not so well. But, yeah, that was last year, but this year will be different.
MD: Last time we spoke, you said that you really wanted Riverside to play a UK fest, so that must’ve been pretty hard on you to cancel…
MARIUSZ: Right, but a festival is a festival, but it’s also nice when you’re just playing your own shows. Maybe some kind of festival this year, or next year, we will play something.
MD: Festivals are a good chance to bring Riverside’s music to a crowd of people that maybe haven’t heard your music before…
MARIUSZ: Of course, there are festivals and festivals. There are festivals for, say, three hundred people for a specific festival, and festivals for fifteen thousand.
MD: Also from the last time we chatted, in 2011, it was a couple of months before you were due to play Woodstock in Poland, and you said that was a two hundred thousand capacity festival…
MARIUSZ: Five hundred thousand.
MD: Wow! So was that a more intimidating and daunting experience?
MARIUSZ: That was bizarre! You know, when you’re seeing this crowd, it’s simply ridiculous! Of course, there was a big sea of people and, behind them, camps and the places they were sleeping, and some other guys were jumping off a bungee or whatever. When you see that amount of people, you feel… it’s kind of a little bit like playing for nobody; it’s just so unrealistic. But when you’re trying to convince that amount of people, and you have this talking and hear the reaction, that’s amazing. You can feel this power from the stage. You can ask them for singing and they’re just singing. Okay, let’s say that, maybe, fifty per cent were involved in this, but that was totally enough!
MD: You were following Helloween, I remember you saying, so that must’ve been quite weird too…
MARIUSZ: Yeah, that was weird because Helloween did a lot of fire on the stage and we felt that we should do something more, but then we just realised we can’t do something more… and we should just simply show ourselves, who we are, with our music. So we started with a slow, sad song and people started to, “oooooooo”, but, after ten minutes, they were really into our show.
MD: And you were on the bill of the Prog Nation at Sea recently, so how was the whole cruise ship experience?
MARIUSZ: Well, crazy a little bit, to be honest. That was interesting; I’ve never played a boat before, especially with that kind of music. A lot of artists; a lot of people, good people; a lot of Mike Portnoy playing everywhere! But, yeah, it was really cool. The audience - everyone just bought a ticket which, by the way, were very expensive – were very polite. It wasn’t something where it felt like there were paparazzi all the time. And some kind of meetings in the elevator, like Jon Anderson, just suddenly someone appeared that we know. It was a really nice experience for us, to be honest. Unfortunately, we played two shows and one show was with technical problems. Fortunately, it latter appeared that, thanks to this, we became one of the most remembered bands. And the second one was pretty cool. Actually, it was a very nice American experience for our band. We still know that we need to fight more in America. A lot of people saw us for the first time, but that was nice.
MD: Your band name is quite apt for playing on water, I guess!
MARIUSZ: Yes, that was really cool. But I have to say that we were at sea for two days and, the third day, the ship was standing next to some sort of deserted island, and everyone went to catch the sun. But, on the last day, we were on the Grand Bahama, and that was a huge disappointment because I just thought the Bahamas were really cool, but it was a lot of factories and whatever, and had to take a taxi for ninety minutes to go on a beach in the Bahamas. No-one wanted to do that so everyone stayed on the ship… in a bar!
MD: ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’/‘SONGS’ came out last year, and there seems to be a trend where you have hidden acronyms and double meanings in the titles, after ‘Anno Domini High Definition’/‘ADHD’ as well. Is this going to be a Riverside gimmick from now on?
MARIUSZ: I’d like to continue this but I have a problem with another acronym, to be honest! That’s much easier to find six words this time, but it’s hard to find six words that make sense and are an acronym too. But I will fight with this, somehow! I would like to continue this idea; I think it’s cool when you’re just looking at the whole discography of the band, you see some kind of patterns. I think it’s nice.
MD: Did you start with ‘SONGS’ and then think of words that would fit into that acronym, or did you have a rough concept first?
MARIUSZ: I actually started with ‘SONGS’, and I started with ‘SLAVES’, this word. First it was ‘SLAVES’, that was my first idea of the new album and, later, it was ‘SONGS’. I wanted to combine those two elements, somehow.
MD: And you’ve been quoted as saying, “the acronym will definitely explain what we did with our music his time.” What exactly did you mean by that? You have some fantastic ‘songs’ already!
MARIUSZ: Yeah, exactly, we’re always playing songs but, maybe this time, I think we just paid more attention to all those things that we didn’t pay attention to before. I mean, when creating songs, when creating just the music, which has a chorus/verse, chorus/verse, a song doesn’t have to be ordinary, simple and with no deepness. We wanted to create something which has a few levels, in our opinion, of course, and more ambitious songs than just any songs. Mostly, this is based on the melodies, so I wanted to base this album mostly on melodies.
MD: There’s progression again with your sound, but is it fair to say there’s maybe a little regression as well in parts of songs, with some of the rockier grooves in the music, like in ‘Celebrity Touch’, for example?
MARIUSZ: We wanted to experiment with this a little bit. Of course, this is still in our style – we didn’t want to play hard rock music; this is not hard rock or whatever. But there are some kind of elements like, in the past, we had metal elements, but we were never a progressive metal band. This time, we really wanted to skip metal parts, mostly, and just focus on this rock band. This riff just came up and I just thought it would be nice to continue this sound. Michal, because he’s using Hammond organs and all this old fashioned stuff, when he added all his parts he would go with these hard rock elements. But I’m not sure if we want to continue this for the next album.
MD: It was within the context of your progressive music anyway, so it didn’t seem overtly regressive; it still seemed progressive in itself. Like, taking old ideas and making them sound fresh.
MARIUSZ: Actually, we didn’t want to do a tribute to the seventies because many bands, now, are just coming back with the sound and the way of composing. Those progressive bands, progressive metal or whatever, they just sound like King Crimson now. We didn’t want to do this; we wanted to just combine all those elements together with something new. So it’s progressive and regressive, maybe.
MD: Oh, absolutely. And ultimately progressive… genuinely progressive and not generically progressive.
MARIUSZ: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
MD: I’ve read that you wanted to incorporate female vocals in one song on the album but then you decided against the idea?
MARIUSZ: It was two songs even. Yeah, but it simply just doesn’t fit to this album. We wanted to add something more, and we did it, but then it was later and almost added for the bonus CD. But those two songs, maybe, they will find their places on the new album. But, this time, it didn’t work out, simply because I didn’t have the lyrics, so I couldn’t send the lyrics to them.
MD: You’ve described the concept as being “where people seem to be unable to take control over their own lives” – do you feel that you’ve taken control of your lives through pursuing Riverside as a full-time, professional band, or is there still an element of “new generation slavery” in your lives?
MARIUSZ: I think I can do what a lot of people can’t do. I mean, I can connect my passion with my job so, talking about this, I feel like I’m not a slave. Of course, I am a slave when we’re talking about something different – like, I just put on the Facebook, recently, the picture with us, together, with MacBooks, and the title “New Generation Slaves”! It’s just normal, I cannot understand it, and I don’t want to fight with this. I don’t want to shoot iPods. Right? No sense, I use this. But I think the biggest slavery for me, these days, is when someone just does something for a living that he hates. That’s something that I can’t understand. You’re just going to look for a job that you simply hate and you’re just doing it for many years. It sucks!
MD: I guess, by extension, the “…New Generation Slaves’ concept also be read as a metaphor for bands that are creatively stagnant and make commercially safe music, and don’t progress or take chances with their music? The contrary to what you do, I guess.
MARIUSZ: There’s a website, progarchives.com, we are just tagged as ‘progressive metal’, and we don’t feel like slaves of this tag so we just did that kind of album, for instance. And I remember that someone just showed me a review of our album which only had one star. Someone just wrote that we did a really good album, he likes it, but this is not progressive metal so we need to have one star.
MD: So he’s criticising it for something it’s not, or even supposed to be, or pretending to be. The worst kind of review and reviewer!
MARIUSZ: Yeah, it was a bad review because we didn’t play progressive metal.
MD: Shame on you!
MARIUSZ: We were trying to forget but it’s just not possible, so I think the next album will be very progressive metal! [Laughs]
MD: That just shows how ridiculous genre tags are in the first place. At the end of the day, there are only two genres – music you like, and music you don’t.
MARIUSZ: I just notice that people don’t like to be confused, sometimes. They just need to be… okay, with the red or blue colour, they don’t want to have any others. If they have then something’s wrong with their mind and everything, so they need some time to get used to that. And it’s always hard when there’s the release of the album and there’s something new; there’s something that people don’t expect. Some albums need some time, even two, three or four months to understand: “Okay, I didn’t like that because I was paying attention to different details. Now I see this from a different perspective, I can understand, but I wrote a review three months ago when I didn’t like it.” I think this is the main strength of that kind of music, that you really do whatever you want to. In our case, we really wanted to do something which was based on the melodies. Because originality in music doesn’t mean that music needs to sound like something which is not music.
MD: In my review of the album, I gave it ten out of ten…
MARIUSZ: Oh my god, thank you.
MD: I listened to it for around a month before I reviewed it because I wanted to digest it fully, so it was a grower, for me, in that sense. If I’d written a review after a week, probably eight out of ten but, after a month, a definite ten.
MARIUSZ: I’m just curious if, maybe one day, we should do something like play the songs live before we release them on the album. Then it’s always nice when you release the album and you know this from somewhere, and you just try to remember, and you like it even more because, “I know this from somewhere.” Yeah, maybe next time.