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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...

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.

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…

MARIUSZ: Jesus!

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!

[laughs]

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!

[laughs]

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?

MARIUSZ: Yeah.

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!

[laughs]

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.

MARIUSZ: Yeah?

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?

MARIUSZ: Yes.

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]

METAL DISCOVERY: Do you think you’d ever embark on another conceptual trilogy of albums in your career?

MARIUSZ DUDA: No, I don’t think so. Maybe we’ll create some kind of albums connected by the lyrics but not as a whole story. I think the next album will also be about some stuff that you can look around and see this so maybe it will somehow be connected with ‘ADHD’ but there’s not one hero, there’s not one story.

MD: Would you say making progressive music is also about challenging yourself as a musician as well as writing innovative music that’s actually progressing what’s gone before?

MARIUSZ: First of all, we want to combine some elements that don’t fit too much but still elements from the same mood because I’m not a huge fan of combining things like… I’m a huge fan of, let’s say, Frank Zappa but I think we should stay on some backgrounds we know. In progressive it means that you should always think that new music can be inspiring; it’s progression for someone else in the future. So if you will do the same as many others it wouldn’t be inspirational so I think you should always sound fresh. We want to do it this way… it’s a hard way still but maybe in the future there will be a… because we still haven’t recorded our top album. It’s still waiting for us.

MD: Really? In terms of your best album? You think your best is yet to come?

MARIUSZ: Yes, our best album is still waiting for us.

MD: So what about critics who have already given your albums full marks, like ten out of ten… they’ll need to award your best eleven out of ten! Some kind of Spinal Tap rating system!

MARIUSZ: If they will do ten out of ten again, that will be okay! [laughs]

MD: Well, that’s very humble of you to say!

MARIUSZ: [laughs]

MD: You have two solo albums under the Lunatic Soul name, really amazing stuff and obviously a lot mellower than Riverside but have you ever considered doing a much more mellow Riverside album, kind of like what Opeth did with ‘Damnation’?

MARIUSZ: Maybe someday, why not. We did something with ‘Memories In My Head’ a little bit that’s also like ‘Voices In My Head’ which is also the mellow side of us but, yeah, maybe in the future. We’ll see. Like I don’t want to do the same… you know, I do some metal parts in Lunatic Soul, I don’t want to do the same in Riverside. If I find some idea to make it more original than just normal acoustic songs then probably we’ll try to do something.

MD: Since ‘Out of Myself’ in 2003 you’ve had an album out every two years so can we expect a new Riverside album before the end of 2011?

MARIUSZ: No, 2012 unfortunately.

MD: Ah, so you’ve broken the two year gap pattern!

MARIUSZ: But you have ‘Memories In My Head’!

MD: Which I do actually have in my bag right now! It’s kind of a mini-album, I guess.

MARIUSZ: Yeah, a mini-album!

MD: I gather you turned professional back in 2006 when you gave up your day-jobs and became professional musicians. Would you say that’s added any pressure in terms of trying to be successful or has your outlook not changed at all?

MARIUSZ: The pressure was only because of the fact that we didn’t know if we could make it without a normal job and normal money. You never know what to expect. There are months where it’s okay and there are months where we need to be saved by money from…the previous months… [laughs] But now it’s more like… I think we’ve found each other in this and we know how to do some steps and survive… [laughs] It’s a cruel world, you know!

MD: Has it made the band a lot closer since you turned professional, would you say?

MARIUSZ: Yeah, we have some business plan. We know what we should do, when we should go on tour, when we should release something. It’s planned from the band.

MD: So what are the most important lessons you’ve learned from the music business during the past decade?

MARIUSZ: That sometimes it’s good when you take a risk a little bit because later you have the profit. I think this is the biggest lesson for us.

MD: That's a good answer! Obviously you’ve come a long way as a band during the last ten years, but what have been some of the highlights from the past decade?

MARIUSZ: I think the ProgPower festival…

MD: …in 2004. And 2006, of course, when you came back to headline. I remember you made a reference on stage in 2006 to… “Last time we were here, we were Amaran!”

MARIUSZ: Yeah, I know, and later, finally, we were Riverside! It was very funny because in Holland we were Amaran and when we played at the Arrow Rock Festival we were Pavlov’s Dog! In all leaflets we were Pavlov’s Dog! Arrow Rock Festival was also nice because it was the biggest audience so far for us, about sixty thousand people.

MD: Wow!

MARIUSZ: So that was a nice experience. We were playing about 2pm but it was full, you know. This year we are going to play in Poland at some kind of Woodstock festival and it’s two hundred thousand people or something like that. It’s the biggest one in Europe.

MD: Wow, that’s incredible.

MARIUSZ: And it’s for free!

MD: So there will be two hundred thousand people there! Have you got a good slot there?

MARIUSZ: We have a very good time because it will be Friday at 9pm. And imagine that we’re playing after Helloween! But going back to highlights, apart from ProgPower, our tour with Dream Theater. And it wasn’t because of the fact that after that a lot of people just started to like us and see us at the shows but we learnt a lot from this band. We’ve learned how to work on the stage and we’ve learned how to work behind the stage. That was very cool. And I think the last album which has proved that we can also play something more than not only this trilogy stuff. So that was also a nice thing for us that we are capable of doing something interesting! [laughs]

MD: Again, that’s a humble answer because you can still see a big progression in the first three albums, like ‘Second Life Syndrome’ is a big progression from ‘Out of Myself’ and then ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ is, again, a big progression in your songwriting. You’ve always progressed.

MARIUSZ: Yeah, but where is the end of this leather?

[laughs]

MARIUSZ: We are trying to surprise ourselves all the time so I hope we’ll continue this for another ten years.

MD: Absolutely. So what lies ahead for Riverside in the rest of the year after your summer festival appearances and what ambitions do you have left for the band?

MARIUSZ: I don’t know the names but it would be great, someday, to be on the festival where there’s no progressive things but the normal rock bands and we could be together with them. We played a festival with Dream Theater, Slayer, Mastodon, Motörhead… that was totally different, we were totally different, but people liked us and that was a very big challenge for us. We were the first band and played for only thirty minutes but, anyway, we played together with Slayer, Mastodon and Motörhead and that was cool. It would be great, someday, to play that kind of festival but a little bit later! [laughs]

MD: You’re doing one in Holland this year that’s quite a diverse lineup… Bospop?

MARIUSZ: Yeah, that’s right, we’re playing Bospop this year and Loreley in Germany. There are some more but I don’t remember now. Maybe, finally, we can play a festival in the UK, who knows.

MD: Hopefully, yeah.

MARIUSZ: Hopefully. I need to talk to our tour manager. He promised me that he would do this! [laughs]

MD: Okay, thank you so much for the interview and your time.

MARIUSZ: Thank you, it’s always a pleasure, thank you so much.

Interviewee

M.DUDA

Date

2011-05-15
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