Publication: 29 May 2013
Interviewee: M.DUDA
Interviewer: Chris Bienkiewicz

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).

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.

It’s interesting you mentioned narcissism just before the next question. I know it might be a little surprising, but please tell me – do you exercise at the gym?

(laughs) Yes, some time ago I started doing some running and visiting a gym, but not to “pump myself up”, but just to have better fitness for concerts.

So I understand you are doing it more for I’d say utilitarian reasons, but is the body actually important to you?

Yes. The older I get, the more I realize it (laughs). But mostly it’s about fitness. On previous tours there were situations, in which after the fourth or fifth song I felt really tired and I wanted to finish the show. On this tour I am finally rested from the beginning to the end of the show so I can get into interactions with the audience and this is one of the coolest things during a show. The exercises and also the new songs help me to be more interactive with the crowd.

That’s true. Tonight you were very energetic on stage. Previous questions about body and feelings were really a form of introduction to this question – what is manhood to you?


Yes, manhood. I guess a question about femininity would be easier to answer, but I wanted to ask you particularly about masculinity.

I think a man should be confident. He should have his own rules, which he clings to, as well as distance to himself.

What does it mean to you?

That he should be aware of his strengths and weaknesses. It makes you have more control and a man should control certain things in life. Besides, he should know how to behave and should not be like a flag in the wind.

Ok, now let’s take it further, because in fact questions about the perception of the body and manhood were a preludes to the main question in this part of our conversation, which is: do emotions have gender?

Once a woman told me that a man, who cries is the most manly of all men. Provided he does not cry like a woman (laughs). In this context I think yes, emotions might have gender. However, if you relate it to my music, then for example my lyrics do not have any gender. I write for both sexes. I deal with issues that relate to both sides. Please note that in the lyrics to “Conceiving you” both a woman and man can identify. I never write as he or she.

It’s true. You always write in the middle.

Yes. This of course includes some danger, because it may turn out that what is in the middle is bland. So I have another challenge right there, but going back to the main subject – yes, it seems to me that emotions can have sex depending on who responds to them.

Well I think that emotions do not have gender. For me emotions are neutral, pure, part of humanity, but depending on gender they can cause different reactions.

I think that when a man reads the lyrics, in his mind there will be men’s emotions. If a woman, I hope there will be female ones, so eventually emotions do get gender attachment.

Do you think a woman’s sorrow is different from a man’s?

I think that different things sadden men and women.

I agree, but these are more causes of emotions

Tears are also different.

What is the difference?

Men are trying to hold back the tears and women don’t.

To me that is also more a symptom than a source of emotion, because when on the path of the emotional process if we were to take one step back, then the reason for tears would be one stage earlier, where the tenderness or feeling touched occurs and within it, for me it would be hard to point out any gender element. Tenderness or being emotional is simply human.

You know, in the original form all of it is rather unisexual, neutral, pure and pristine, but for me emotions are born only under the influence of interaction and I think in this process gender plays a very important role. For example, there is a movie called “Braveheart,” which I cry at when I watch at, but my wife does not. The film itself of course is also a cause, but it’s more about the fact that there will be particular emotions that my wife probably does not understand and that is why I think that emotions can have sex. For example I cry at the scene in which one of the throne successor’s goes to his father and admits that he had just betrayed his friend. There is some Shakespeare and knighthood vibe about it, but more than that it’s about loyalty and honor and those values are important to men, so I admit – this is the moment when my eyes get wet.

I know that everything we are talking about now is quite fleeting, difficult to and also strongly related to the individual characteristic of a person.

True. Sometimes some men cry at “You’ve Got Mail,” and some women are touched when a tank explodes in “Saving Private Ryan” (laughs).

You say in interviews that you are just an observer of the world, the life, the people. Your lyrics are like pictures, diary cards, notes of observations. I also notice this observer character in me and that is why for me the primary reality is my inner reality. The exterior reality to me is always secondary. How is it for you?

Likewise. For me what happens on the outside is only the background for what is going on inside of me. Microcosm is more important to me than the macrocosm. I was always more interested in psychology or philosophy than eg. sociology. Ok, on the last two albums I wanted to try something different. I wanted to find points of reference, which would cause some other emotions in me, so that corrosion could occur and break the shell, which surrounds me.

Why do you surround yourself with this shell, as you call it?

I do not know why it is that way. I am generally quite a closed person when it comes to feelings.

But you sing about them, you live them.

It is a paradox. My songs are pages from my diary. I do not run a blog, do not write down my thoughts elsewhere, so we can say that I do what some poets do – select words and publish a little book of poems every two or three years.

It’s interesting, because being, as you say, a closed man, you sing and even now are talking about something that is intimate and important.

Yes, maybe I’m a little bit of an introverted exhibitionist, but I have a feeling that I sing about something that is important and touches all of us.

After the release of your last album many opinions said, that Riverside A.D. 2013 is a combination of references to the past dressed in a modern form. It is certainly true and from that point linking the past with the future I wanted to go a little further, beyond the music and ask you which phrase defines you better: “where from” and “where to”?

In the context of my music these words are related to each other, but if I had to choose between them, I’d go for “where to”. “Where to” gives me the driving force. I still have a lot of unwritten pages that I would like to fill. I have a lot of unrealized dreams, that will never be realized.

How do you know it will not happen?

If I had realized it, it would have not wanted to do more in life. There are unrealistic dreams, which will make me head into a certain direction and make me want to get close to some kind of absolute. Under this assumption, somewhere on the way, maybe I’ll be able to achieve something important.

Don’t you have the impression that it would be shifting all the time? That with the fulfillment of another dream, the limits of this “absolute” would widen?

Yes, but I also believe in coincidence. If by chance I had fulfilled my dreams, then I would have a problem because I’d achieved what I always wanted to have.

So you’re saying it’s good to have dreams that are impossible to fulfill, for them to determine life’s purpose?

I think every person should have something like that. Each of us must have dreams that make you want to fight for your whole life, because in some way it works as a stimulant. It makes you want to give your life meaning all the time. I want to continue to seek, to put the bar for myself at the right height and therefore “where to” it is very important to me because it gives meaning to my life.

Thank you for your time and conversation.