Interview: Mariusz Duda / Riverside, Lunatic Soul


On the 20th of April in Olsztyn Polish prog-rockers Riverside gave a great performance promoting their latest album “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves”. After the gig I had a chance to meet and talk for a while with vocalist/bassist as well as band’s leader – Mariusz Duda. The techs were packing up the gear, fans were finishing their beers, the evening slowly shifted into the night, while we sat by the table to exchange thoughts on the following subjects:

Hello Mariusz. Thank you for your time despite the time [we talked way past midnight]. I’d like to start our conversation about Rivrside’s latest album „Shrine Of New Generation Slaves”. The new album is different from your previous records. It’s calmer, melodic and simple, but in a good way, although while simplifying your songs you actually managed to do something difficult. You managed not to cross the rather fine line of intelligibility and triviality and I think that that is not easy. In one of the interviews you said something interesting about the latest record. You mentioned, that while composing those songs you wanted to create melodies, which would reach a listener calmly, without rush. How did you create melodies, which would work in such way?

I always compose basing on intuition. I never sit down and create melodies at certain times of the day. It usually happens at very spontaneous moments. I try to register all those ideas that pop up eg. on a recorder. Sometimes a melody, which appears in my head vanishes, because I didn’t have chance to record it, but if after some time it reappears to me, then I know it’s something valuable and I necessarily register it. I have a lot of ideas, which had been recorded 2 or 3 years ago, but some of them, despite the passing time, are still valuable. And that’s the kind of melodies I try to use in the songs Generally, be it for Riverside or Lunatic Soul, what I do is I filter melodies and try to pick those, which gain value with every listening.

Recently I read an interview with Michael Gira – leader of The Swans. When asked what the creation process of their latest album looked like, Gira replied, that the best word to describe the process would be “removing”. While working in the studio and composing the band was mainly throwing out the excessive amount of material in order to reach the essence of what they wanted to express. Referring it to the usage of previously created resources, which you had just mentioned about, I wanted to ask you how does it work in your case?

With me it’s quite contrary. I start with ascetic sounds, usually played on an out-of-tune acoustic guitar, and then I add different elements to that. During the first phase of composing a song I don’t work with a computer. I don’t record a lot of tracks in order to use them later. I usually start with a single vocal or guitar motif and then in my head I come up with different things around it. Sometimes it happens that in my head those notes sound good, but in the rehearsal room or studio some of them turn out to be total flops (laughs).

Let’s move on now to the lyrical aspects of your latest album. In the lyrics, among others you raise the issue of modern man being enslaved by technology. Such phenomena certainly is happening, but I think that it’s a man himself, who to a large extent allows for this enslavement to take place. To me elements which are often missing in the behavior of modern man, at least in broadly understood Western culture, is control and effort. We make our lives easier by creating all those helpful devices, but we do not always make an effort of controlling the extent of their usage. I think that the technology itself is neutral, it’s neither good or bad. It is us, who by the extent and methods of using it decide, what character and influence it will have on our life. What do you think about this?

Everything depends on our choices and approach to things. In Jonathan Carroll’s books pitbulls are friendly dogs. The writer himself has a few of them and they don’t jump to his throat, but are lovely animals. In my case of an artist being a musician, technology of course helps, but it also can be destructive and that is why I work in a sort of organic way. I do not allow technology to completely control me, but at the same time I don’t want to sound hypocritical. Of course I learn new things and there are times where I don’t have any other choice than to use new technical solutions, but generally technology should help you in actions, not take control over you. Today many young musicians surround themselves with all these new gadgets hoping that they will add something to their talent or even become its substitution. To me it’s like memorizing a poem by putting the book under your pillow before going to sleep and hoping that the poem will automatically get to your head come morning. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Technology itself will not make you a great composer instantly. You have to remember about the basics. All of that requires some effort, actions, reading out that poem few times or at least its few phrases.

I think it is also important to have in mind, that creating sounds isn’t always composing. I think it’s often confused. Creating is about producing sounds, which do not form a song yet. It’s the composition of those sounds, combining them in one piece, stretching or shortening, all of that helps a song have the appropriate colors or emotions.

Certainly. I realize, that using effects can make simple sounds played on ordinary or even on a out-of-tune guitar sound good. That is how you discover new landscapes and possibilities, but I always try to remember about primal instincts, which are the most important. Technology should help, but not distract. When it comes to musical gear, sometimes the excessive number of possible options becomes an obstruction, because you can’t even handle with all those possibilities, unless you are a big fan of such solutions and most importantly you have time to do that. I don’t, so dependence on technology – yes, but only in limited quantity.

So eventually control.

Exactly (laughs).

(photo by Wojciech Miklaszewski)

Next question is connected with the previous one, at least when it comes to addictions and independence, but it reaches out a bit further, beyond technology. Once I came across an interesting article about Lech Janerka [well-known Polisch rock musician]. The article had one line, which particularly drew my attention as it said: “Being independent is no big deal. The real deal is the ability to answer the question: do you know on what you want to be dependent on in life?”. Does Mariusz Duda know what he wants to be dependent on in life?

First of all I started to trust my instincts. I am an intuitive musician. I often create things spontaneously, without over thinking and overdoing, although of course in time melodies develop in a natural way. I trust myself on that. If I have a deadline in the studio, but I still don’t have any idea, I know that once I enter the recording room, those ideas will appear. I know myself about it so I know, that once new elements such as new gear or interaction with people around me appear, then by that deadline I will have a material I will be happy and proud of. So generally I am a little bit dependent on those primal instincts and I wouldn’t want to lose that.

I think this very positive ability is actually quite a challenge. Learning yourself through confrontation, which at the end of the day builds this trust and conviction about taking the right choices.

Yes, it is a challenge. I like to throw myself into deep water. I feel I have a mission to accomplish. A purpose. Referring to the situation with studio deadlines – actually it’ s quite amazing, that you entered this place having nothing but an open mind and conscious thought, that you have to create something. And then when you start working on it, it starts happening. There was never a situation in which I had limited time and I couldn’t come up with something I’d like. There might come a time when a crisis hits and nothing will come out of my head. Yet so far in this about 15 year long musical career of mine it has never happened and it doesn’t seem to happen in the near future.

But are you ready for this? I guess it’s hard to declare unless it actually happens, so let me put it this way – are you aware that one day it might happen?

I think sooner or later it will happen. Some external factors may stop my creativity for some time, but until now neither before hitting the studio nor the start of composing process a total emptiness has not occurred. I have never been in a situation without any point I could relate to, an element I could cling to, which usually makes me know where to start from. It hasn’t happened so far. But if anything happens – yes, I am ready. You know, I think we gain strength from what we lose. So if I was to lose something and had a temporary crisis, I know that sooner or later it would have had a positive effect on my creativity. I must believe in it. I want to believe in this.

In your lyrics on “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” you also deal with the subject of people’s need to be important. The best example of this phenomena is social media, where people put their photos, write comments, share many, sometimes very personal matters, so that somebody could like the photo, make a praising comment and eventually make them feel appreciated or important. Do you also have such a need in your musical field? Let’s look at what is happening now, after the album’s release. There are many very positive reviews, praise, sold out shows. I mean even just tonight. Before the interview I was observing what was happening around you. People lined up to get an autograph, take a photo, chat for a moment. How do you feel in such moments? Is it maybe some form of payment for all the effort and hard work you put into your activities?

I think so. Touring or some of the reviews are this kind of payment. I’d lie if I said I am not interested how our music is perceived and what people think about it. I don’t read all the reviews, but some of them I do, because I want to know what the critics or listeners think about our music. I try to know the opinions, but at the same time I try not to allow them to influence me. If I did, we would have to reproduce our first album over and over. But I’d like to check what the reactions are to my intuition and confidence. When I see, that thanks to the ideas I had reactions to the album are positive and many people come to the shows and sing the songs, it is my payback and fulfillment. I don’t make music just for myself. I want to share my music with people. If I didn’t, I would have kept all the songs in the drawer but when you create something and keep it only to yourself, it’s like masturbation. You think you’re the best lover in the world, but nobody except you knows about it (laughs). I don’t want to be such “lover”.

(laughs) So you want to confront.

Yes and cooperate with other musicians. Thanks to the reactions I mentioned about before I feel important and appreciated. Not only in the eyes of the fans, but also within our band. Until some point in the interviews with Riverside members the plural was dominant – you know, the guys were saying “we wrote, we composed, we did”. But then at some point one of the boys mentioned that it’s actually Mariusz who did this and that and I can’t hide the fact, that it felt nice, that I have been noticed by my band members. It flattered me, but all of it happens with the control we had been talking about earlier. Riverside is a band, so the plural must be there. Besides I also try to be not to narcissist about myself.

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  1. Maesky

    %A %B %e%q, %Y o godz. %I:%M %p

    Bardzo ciekawy i niebanalny wywiad.


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