Ten years ago, a band with the name of Riverside was formed somewhere in Warsaw/Poland. Nobody knew where their journey was going but year after year the band became more and more famous. Now in the year 2011, after four studio albums, the band's name is well-known to everyone who is remotely interested in good music – whether it's prog or just pure rock. To celebrate their 10th anniversary the band set out to go on a tour through Europe. I met Riverside's head of the band and bassist Mariusz Duda for a chat about the band's history and future in the sold-out venue of Borderij in Zoetermeer/the Netherlands.
(After "hello" and "how are you") Looking back at ten years with Riverside are you happy with what the band has achieved?
Mariusz Duda: Yes! First of all I hope that we have come to a point where we have created our own sound, which is probably the hardest thing in the music business with millions of bands that sound very similar to each other. Of course you can’t really avoid being compared to other bands, but I think we are on a good way to sound very original, to get to the core of the Riverside sound. And I think that’s our biggest achievement. We’ve recorded good albums and average albums, but still with our own sound and this makes me happy … When we started we didn’t want to be the biggest band in the world, because we knew the reality, we knew that each year and each album would be a small step towards building up the band and getting bigger. And let’s face it, these days a really big band needs about twenty years until it can finally say that it has reached a decent level, so we have come half of the way now.
What do you think of bands that become famous within a very short time?
Mariusz Duda: That it sucks. And it's dangerous. I know that from time to time there are kind of bands, the label-manufactures out there. Young people become very famous after one album, they know nothing about hard work and humility, their carrier takes about two years and then they are gone, with maybe one song in the depth of the internet. So still I have a big respect to all those bands that are taking the small steps and building up their carrier slowly… I mean, take a look at these bands that we often are compared to, Opeth or Katatonia for instance, they’ve been on stage for twenty years and now you can say that they’ve finally made it. We still need about ten years to reach their level. Maybe it will be sooner, maybe we go to one of those manufactory labels and create a totally different commercial album, but I am not sure whether it would be the honest way to do it. Maybe it is possible to record an album that is very successful and commercial at the same time.
So basically patience and time is what you need if you want to achieve high quality in music …
Mariusz Duda: Patience is a good word. Doing what you feel like and doing your own thing and waiting for the right moment. I think the best album of Riverside and the best moments are still waiting for us. At least I hope so.
Speaking of best moments: In the last ten years was there a moment when the band felt that it had taken a giant step?
Mariusz Duda: I am not sure if those were giant steps, but surely they were important for us, highlights like the first show abroad, I think that was Progpower in Baarlow in 2004, playing on the Arrow Rock festival in 2006 before more than 20000 people for the first time, touring with Dream Theater – and I am not talking about the shows before 5000 people each or the music, but we learned a lot from this band, when it comes to the structure and the organization, all the things that went on before the shows. After this tour we became more professional. These were the little highlights. A lot of things happened during these ten years, but nothing like the giant change, like we went to Inside Out and everything changed, no, we always took small steps.
So, it’s not only the music that evolves but also the way you work in the business…
Mariusz Duda: I guess so. First of all I am happy that our passion is connected to our jobs and we can focus on this. But sometimes you need to be careful as well, because this business side can be very demanding. I always try to work on our life as artists, but sometimes I notice that instead of working on new songs, I am writing a lot of emails, doing a lot of interviews and promotional work. And this takes a lot of time. But unfortunately this is the way it should be in order to survive in this cruel world (laughs).
So how much of the promotion is done by the band?
Mariusz Duda: Well, of course we do the promotion work with the help of our label, but we are not a big band. This is not like the label does everything for you. We need to put up our own schedule, work out our own business plan, and that’s the tough part.
I guess you can't avoid the tough parts. So what were the lowlights or the worst moments in the past years? Was there a point that you considered quitting everything?
Mariusz Duda: No, I’ve never had that kind of thoughts… of course, you work hard on something and then someone comes along and says that everything you do is shit – just like that. In the past I read a lot of reviews, because I wanted to find out how people saw my work and of course they sometimes saw things in a different way than I did. But now I don’t care about it anymore and thanks to this I feel much healthier (laughs). It’s always like this: 50 percent say, it’s very good, 50 percent say it’s utter crap. And of course there were also a few shows that we could have skipped - but didn’t because we wanted to go for a new experience. Like Masters of Rock in the Czech Republic... We played between Korpiklaani and some other heavy metal band which was really strange, because people didn’t know how to respond to us. We tried to keep the set list as heavy as we could, even though we are not a heavy metal band, but still it was horrible. We had expected there to be much more different styles of music, but it was only Metal and Gothic. We just didn’t fit there. But when we played our show in the Czech Republic on this tour someone came up to us and said that he had seen us on the Masters of Rock and that he had been waiting to see us again. So, maybe it was worth for this one guy.
Let’s say you would start the band anew but with all the experiences you have now. Would you do things in a different way?
Mariusz Duda: Probably yes, I guess I would like to improve some details, like the sound, the production. But some things just happen by accident… For instance the Second Life Syndrome album sounds very horrible to me, the production should have been much better. But still a lot of people think that it’s the best and most original album with the most original sound. So, maybe it was bound to happen like this, maybe if the production hadn’t been like this it wouldn’t have appealed to people in this way. So, to answer your question, I would change some small details if I was to start anew, but I would try to keep the spontaneous things that we did in the past, because I am convinced that thanks to them different things happened. I saw that Butterfly Effect movie – so, I guess if I started to change everything from the beginning the outcome would be totally different. Maybe we wouldn’t sit and talk here because I would be a very famous – accountant or – barber – or working in a grocery store… (laughs).
But fortunately we are here now and can talk about the special release that you have prepared for your 10th anniversary, which is called "Memories in my Head" — an allusion to one of your EP "Voices in My Head" from 2004?
Mariusz Duda: Actually it was planned to be "Noises in my Head", because noises sound better than memories. But the music came out totally differently and the lyrics were about passing time, so I changed it to "Memories in My Head" in the very last moment. And I think it fits much better.
Did you write these songs especially for the anniversary or did they exist before?
Mariusz Duda: No, I have had some ideas from the past. This is not a new approach to Riverside’s music. If someone only knew the first two albums and then took a break, skipped "Rapid Eye Movement" and "Anno Domini High Definition" and then listened to this EP he or she would think that we hadn’t changed at all and that we would still do the same. We used some old ideas and prepared them especially for this EP, they are not meant for a future album. We just wanted to close a circle and start with something totally different, because we feel that this is a turning point for us.
So, it fits that this EP is about the passage of time…
Mariusz Duda: Yes, everything is built around that idea. First of all you have the clock on the CD with 10:10 o’clock. So, one hand of the clock is pointing to 10, because we're ten years old now and the other hand’s pointing to 2 because this is our second EP, that’s the main idea behind it. And each song is about passing time. The first one "Goodby Sweet Innocence" transports something like ‘hello, this is the end of our style, thank you and bye-bye’. In the second song "Living in the Past" I sing "My future is living in the past", which is not true, because of course we do think about the future. Even though our music sounds kind of old-fashioned, we still think look at the future. So with this song we just wanted to relive the good feeling of the old times in our carrier. And the third song "Forgotten Land" is about the most brutal side of passing time, the one that destroys everything. You can kind of go back to the young bands we talked about earlier, being famous for one or two years and then bye-bye with a song left somewhere on the internet.
That song was also used in a Role Playing game "The Witcher 2: Assassins of the Kings" …
Mariusz Duda: Yes, that was very interesting, because we finished this song and the guys from CD Projekt called us and asked for a song to use for the Witcher-game. And we presented them with this song because it was inspired by RPG in the first place. We didn’t compose it especially for this game, but it’s still funny that the lyrics are fitting so well (editor's note: it's all about the rise and fall of kingdoms). In the beginning they wanted to change some word in the lyrics, but I said no, I said: 'If you really want to have it you’ve got to take it as it is.' After some discussions we decided to do it this way.
And here we are with 33 minutes of music and only three tracks. Saying bye-bye to the long songs as well?
Mariusz Duda: Well, I won’t say that from now on Riverside songs will be about 3:30 minutes, but probably we should now start focusing on a different way of composing. I would love to do something different. Because we always do songs that are 12 or 15 minutes long. We love that kind of tracks but I still think we should get rid of some of the stamps that the band has got. And I guess after the next albums some people will understand what we wanted to say on this EP… actually some people have already realized it – (whispers in a mysterious way) and I know all about it.
Have you already started working on the new album?
Mariusz Duda: There are just some ideas in my head, but I guess I have a main idea of where this is going. Something about the post-apocalypse… this is the only thing I can say now.
Do you already have a release date?
Mariusz Duda: Well, I hope before the end of the world in 2012 (laughs) – I heard that today should have been the end of the world, but according to my calendar it’s sometime in December 2012.
Wow, I am really looking forward to this last present of yours, before we all dieeeeeee… What will happen to your side project Lunatic Soul?
Mariusz Duda: Actually, there will probably be another release this year. Because I have this deal with Kskope that besides the regular albums I also have to prepare some bonus tracks. They are very much into special releases with bonus tracks. So, it was planned for the first half this year – the black Lunatic Soul with a special two-CD edition and bonus tracks and at the end of the year the White album with a special edition. So, I prepared the bonus tracks for the black album, mostly instrumental and a remix of "Summerland" and sent them to Kskope. But they said they were too good for a bonus track edition, so they suggested a separate release. So probably – with 95 percent probability – there will be an exclusive limited version of Lunatic Soul, called "Impressions" containing instrumental tracks and two remixes. And with that release I will say bye-bye to this stage of Lunatic Soul. So, as you see this year I am closing all circles to be totally open-minded and prepared for the things to come.
Before you leave to prepare for the last show of this tour outside Poland, could you answer one last question: Are you happy with your 10th anniversary-tour?
Mariusz Duda: Yes, it was great, also playing together with Tides From Nebula, they are great and I have become a huge fan of their music. And I hope that we've reached some new audiences with our music and will do so in the future.
Only if the date for the end of the world turns out to be wrong, that is…