Riverside is one of the few bands that haven't disappointed their fans, not even once in more than ten years that they release albums. With their sixth studio work entitled "Love, Fear And The Time Machine" they take a new turn, but manage not to lose their identity and their mainman, Mariusz Duda, modest and honest as always, lets us know everything we want to know about it. Our talk also included the "Little Prince", Steve Harris, how difficult it is to make it being from Poland and a few other interesting topics as well.
Hi Mariusz. Glad to be talking with you again. Either Riverside or Lunatic Soul we seem to have a new reason each year for a new conversation and that's really good news!
Thank you. I didn't want to waste too much time...
Well, congrats for another amazing album man. You did it again. I guess you feel it...
(laughs) Why do you think I feel it? I'm happy with this album...
I guess when you have something good in your hands you understand it, no matter how the world will react to it...
Well, I think it's kind of descent, I have to agree... I don't know if it's our best think to date, but I think that we made an interesting and descent album this time. I'm pretty happy with the result to be honest.
I understand that this time around you may be a bit more concerned about people's feedback, as you're changing the game a little bit and not everybody adapts easily to such changes. Is it tricky for you?
To be honest, I don't mind what people will say about it. Of course, I would be a hypocrite if I said that I do not care. It feels really nice to meet someone during our shows (laughs), but this time honesty I didn't feel pressure, I didn't feel something like 'wow, that's some kind of switch, so maybe we will lose 50% of our fans'. No! With each album we lose someone and we gain another, it’s just normal. So, no pressure this time, really. Also, I think that people got used to the fact that Riverside are developing and changing with every album, so it would be weird if we moved forward recording the same album as "Shrine Of New Generation Slaves" I think...
That's true, but I think there's one major change, because the metal elements of your music are completely gone. On albums like "Second Life Syndrome" and "Anno Domini High Definition" you had quite a lot of metal elements in your music. Even though it was obvious from "Shrine Of New Generation Slaves" that you were moving towards a more rock direction, this is still a big step. Is this change taking place consciously, is it coming natural to you?
Yes. I think that was because of the theme of the album, the lyrical subject. I didn't have to scream this time, I didn't have to be angry, I didn't have to struggle with something. The whole album is about finding the peace within yourself, so I thought that it would be that kind of music this time. With no screaming, with no violent moments or too many distortion guitars. But, still, I think there's lots of guitars, maybe more than on the previous one, maybe because the keyboards are on the background a little bit.
The album title really summarizes the topics of the album. So, let's start with love. Obviously, you're not approaching it in the usual cheesy way most musicians do. Why was it so important for you this time around to focus on love?
I have to mention about all these three things, because obviously these three things are connected to each other. I didn't want to write an album about love, fear and the time machine in general, cause talking about everything is just talking about nothing. For me, this album mostly is not love itself or fear itself or future and the past. It's about the decision. It's about making a decision. You can even say that this is a concept album, cause this is the decision that's going on in the protagonist's head during the one hour of listening to this album. At the beginning he feels lost and at the end he feels found.
Why this title and why love? Because, when you're trying to make a very important, life changing decision, there are forces in your head and there are forces around you that help you to make this decision or don't help you make this decision. But, first of all, imagine that you need to make very important, changing-life decisions in your life. What do you do? You sit somewhere and you need to think about something.
Let's say that you need to move from Greece to Poland and you need to live in Poland for fifteen years. You are tired of something and the first thing is that you feel free, you feel a kind of excitement, maybe in Poland there is something that you feel excited about. There's this freedom, you feel like there's something in the air. And I called this love. All these positive vibrations, these positive feelings.
On the other hand, you have fear of the unknown, because you don't know what to expect, you don't know if these fifteen years will be better or worse. You don't know that. So, fear is also very important during making this decision.
And then there's the third part. Some kind of experiences from your past and some kind of thoughts about the future, I called it "Time Machine", but this is also important and also helps you to make this decision. Mostly, all these three words that we have in the title are connected with making very important, life-changing decisions and this album is about it.
You just covered three questions in one...
Yeah, I did this... (laughs)
You were pretty clear about it. Now before going to the songs of the album I'd like to say that the cover artwork is really fitting the whole concept and atmosphere of the album. I guess you wouldn't change Travis Smith for the world, right?
No! I think he's a very great, talented guy and we are like a team now, we know each other. I know it's funny 'cause I asked Travis this time that I needed space in this. I needed much space. I needed to feel free when I take a look at the cover. I think he did a great job with it.
So, what are these hats you were afraid of, when you were "Lost"? I have to say that the opening track is maybe the most beautiful one in the album...
Well, that's the fear of the unknown that I mentioned. The fear of the unknown is also mentioned in the track "Discard Your Fear". I took it from "The Little Prince". I'm not sure if you remember, but the "Little Prince" was lost and I was inspired by it. At the beginning of this book there was something like the alter draw and he showed it to the adults and said to them 'isn't it scary?' and they said 'why a hat should be scary? Why should we be frightened by a hat?'. And the artist said 'this is not a hat, this is the elephant swollen by a snake'. Later he just drew it from a different perspective that that was true. But, he showed them a hat at the beginning.
What I wanted to say is 'why should I be frightened by something I don't know' right? Let's just say that I start this process of making a decision and I feel kind of lost. But, I feel this in a positive way, cause there is a part of the lyrics saying 'I am what I lost'. So, everything that I lost till this moment they make me a better person or make me stronger or make me someone who has more experiences from my life, so why should I be frightened of something I don't know? I can do this, because I've got experiences and I'm not afraid. So, that's why I wanted to put that somehow in the lyrics.
"Under The Pillow" is another great track, but in my opinion its chorus is a twist that the listener doesn't expect. Do you agree?
I don't know... what's wrong with the chorus? What's this twist you're talking about? Alright, it's different later. It starts like a normal song and ends up in something different... Maybe... yeah... Maybe I didn't want to do this in the normal way you'd expect... (laughs) I was just following my instinct.
Alright, alright! "#Addicted" is your stand against the social media generation. Do you think it's gone too far? Aren't there some pros in the social media too?
The last three albums of Riverside, you can call it some kind of crowd / social trilogy, talking about the lyrics. "#Addicted" is kind of a younger brother to "Celebrity Touch". "Celebrity Touch" is a song about us, being on the social media; not about celebrity. It is about the feeling of importance. But, I think that people mostly understood it like exactly shallow people who can see them on the TV. So, now I just wanted to remark this situation where many people these days are simply addicted to the fact that they want to show themselves like someone better in the social media. It's also kind of connected with the song "Saturate Me", but this hashtag is kind of popular now and I wanted to mark it somehow.
"Saturate Me" is a standout track, one of my favorite on the album and the proggiest one. Tell us a few words about it...
I think I composed this song as the last one. Firstly, when we had our album in a demo version we only had eight tracks. I didn't have "Saturate Me" and I didn't have "Found". When I had these eight tracks I was kind of missing something in the middle of the recordings, something a bit stronger, a bit more hard and a bit more complicated, you can say that. And I didn't have the end of the album. So, "Saturate Me" and "Found" were the two last songs that I had and "Saturate Me" is kind of a traditional Riverside song, I would say that. That's the song that when you hear you're like 'Oh, now I know what kind of band I'm listening to'. I think this is our style and I wanted to add a little more energy to the middle of the album. It's about someone who is wearing masks, who wants to be more saturated. Saturation is the filter on the pictures that you can correct it and make better colors, background, everything. Make it sharp etc. This is the part of our base. Sometimes you want to be better than you are, but not talking about something that is inside of you, for something that you can show to the other people.
It's kind of connected with a thing that I read somewhere. It's called "Multiphrenia". These days, due to the fact that people are connected to the internet all the time, they have lost their identities. To be honest, they don't know what they should like, what they should feel, what should they wear, what should they watch on television or somewhere else, so they're just picking the best parts from many other people and just collect these in one piece and they create their own personality. Which is basically not their own personality, but a personality that they would like to be, so they can show it on the social media.
Let's take a look now how many people are smiling when they're taking a picture for facebook. People are smiling, people are running in the marathons, they're just practicing, they're so happy... everything is so great there and the colors so perfect. Everyone is just amazing when you take a look at the facebook. Of course, there's a lot of truth, but there are people that simply don't behave like this, when you talk to them face to face. I just wanted to mark that these days some behaviors are more like copy / paste behaviors from someone else, which is bad and good in the same way. That's something about the modern life that I would like to mark.
Now, "Afloat" is the kind of songs I always love from Riverside, full of emotion, basically you and your bass. I think it works as a transition song, cause the album changes a bit after this track. Is it true?
Maybe, a little bit, yes. From this point it starts to get a bit more mellow, more introverted I'd say. "Afloat" is a song about pain. It's about something that someone doesn't feel pain anymore. He wants to feel in a good way this time. So, it's about the beginning of this feeling in a more positive way. All this album is just like the transition from the darkness to something more bright, more positive. Since the middle of the album, yeah, it goes to that lighter direction and "Afloat" is that turning point.
"Towards The Blue Horizon" is a special song. The second half kind of reminded me of Opeth after their transformation to a prog rock band... Could it be true...
Maybe, I don't know... I don't hear Opeth here...
I'm talking about just an influence of course...
No, no! It was not something like I was listening to Opeth and because of it I did this. Since many years I don't use that kind of influences. I don't listen to Opeth albums and later I create the Riverside albums. Not at all! I just do everything I do from the bottom of my heart and that's just simply it. But, of course, we are in the same genre now as Opeth have these melancholic melodies. What we have in Riverside you can also find it in Anathema, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Opeth and everything. It's like this big family that we just have the same colors, the same shapes, moods and everything. But, that doesn't mean that I am listening to these artists. No, not at all. I mean, not anymore. We're just friends now and that's it. From time to time we're just picking each other.
"Towards The Blue Horizon" is an intimate song for me and I also think it's kind of interesting, cause it shows the Riverside style. Like from the mellow parts you can go into something harder and go back and again the same. The music of contrasts, that was always something that I wanted to use and "Towards The Blue Horizon" shows that very clearly.
"Time Travelers" is all about melancholy. Do you think our childhood will haunt us in a way?
Yeah, exactly. This is the melancholy and nostalgia, but mostly I mention that I would like to mark the '80s, the decade of '80s this time. The decade of '80s was my decade, when I was growing up, when I was starting with my first experiences with music and recognizing if I like it or not. You know, it was really pure. I remember when I was ten or when I was fifteen the excitement for many things, it was totally different. You had to wait for something, you had to be patient, you had to yearn, you had to deserve something. These days you have access to everything and each moment on every possible platform that you've got. So, this nostalgia is mostly about the times when the excitements and the feelings of love from the title were totally different.
Listening to the album along with a good friend and editor of ours site, who's a big fan of yours from the beginning - he told me 'it's a great album, but I think they'll never be again the band I fell in love with'. This is not a negative comment and I believe you can see his point. Do you have any concerns about losing some people that loved Riverside for specific things in your music?
I think that we actually return to the roots, we return to something that we did a lot on the first album "Out Of Myself". We are, basically, returning to that feelings, to the emotions and this is the background of our music, not the technical stuff anymore, like we did on the "Anno Domini High Definition". That was always on the second or third place. I think pure Riverside is when we have this emotional side and this more introverted side of our music. But, this time we had to change it a little bit, because of the subject, because of this transition that I would like to listen in the lyrics. I wanted to have it in a different shape, I wanted to have it just like in the songs from the '80s.
The '80s wasn't bad. I'm not talking about new romantic or some electronic shit that they had and plastic sounds. I'm talking about normal songs that they had, let's say with bands like Peter Gabriel, The Police, Talk Talk, U2. You listen to the song on the radio and you know that there's something beneath, it is not shallow, there's something more. I really like that and I wanted to shape the songs of the new Riverside album in that kind of way. I just simply didn't see too many technical things or riffs, you know like Dream Theater or some jazzy elements or whatever. It didn't fit to the subject. The subject is very simple and mostly based on the lyrics about changing yourself. So, this time I think that if we'll lose some fans, we'll lose only these fans that were mostly into the technical side of Riverside, that wanted to see us as a second Dream Theater or something. We're not that kind of band definitely, so if we lose them, that's fine, we'll probably find someone else.
I think you are among the best current singers in rock / metal music and especially in prog, because you have a characteristic voice and mostly because you have a charisma in writing amazing vocal lines. Do you see yourself getting better with time?
This is not a question for me! For sure, I have to tell that when I was singing this album I saw everything more lighter. I mean, I didn't have to struggle with something, I had a good flow. Maybe it was connected with the fact that this subject was like I didn't have to scream and I didn't have to be angry as I said before. Or maybe, because I gave up smoking nine months ago (laughs), so maybe I have a bit of a different voice...
But, I see myself as a developing artist, making progress. I never treat myself as a great singer or something, but I always felt that my skills are enough to the music I compose, that we do together. It fits! And it fits to this new Riverside mood too.
Also, the sound of Riverside's bass is also so characteristic and up in front in the mix that I could name you 'Steve Harris of modern prog'. Would you mind?
Bruce Dickinson had his birthday today or yesterday and I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden today, cause I was listening to the radio. It was a special day. I remember exactly twenty or thirty years ago, when I was listening to Iron Maiden for some time and I was amazed by the bass playing of Steve Harris. He played almost the same all the time (editor: sings a characteristic Iron Maiden bass line) but it was very fast, played with fingers and it was really cool. I think it's a compliment what you said, so thank you... (laughs)
Piotr did an exceptional job in the guitar on this album. Was he listening to a lot of Pink Floyd lately?
I don't think so. This is just Piotr you know. We've been listening to Pink Floyd, to Porcupine Tree, to many-many bands some time ago. This process of creation of music it doesn't look like 'I listen to Meshuggah a lot, so I create an album that sounds like Meshuggah'. I don't think that any music influenced me so much these days that I would definitely go into this direction. I think we've just found our own style by mixing all these influences in the past. So, Peter always liked that kind of playing, which is similar to Dave Gilmour or to someone else. This time he did really melodic lines and I'm proud of the things that he did on this album.
You're among the leading names in the prog rock scene internationally. How difficult was it to achieve such status being from Poland? I have you as a benchmark and kind of best practice when I think of Greek bands trying to succeed internationally...
Well... I think I have two words for this... It's just like... Maybe I have more words for that. We always try to be modest, we always try to respect that some stuff have a distance to us and there was some kind of determination. Maybe not determination, but consequence of doing small steps every year. I don't know what will happen with this new album, but definitely we think we're moving on and everything is connected with a time.
I don't think it matters if you're from Poland or if you're from some other country. You can say that it's easier if you're in the United States or in the U.K. or in Sweden, but these days it's not like we're a poor country and other countries have money and that's why they have instruments and they can play. No! For them it's also hard, cause there's a lot of competitors there. There's lots and lots of bands from Sweden, U.K. and America. So, maybe from Poland it's easier, I don't know if we'd exist somewhere else (laughs).
For sure, first thing and foremost, it's the matter of time. You just simply need to know that you can't be a successful band within one year. You need to wait. You need to learn that you have to wait a little bit for your time. There will be a consequence. You will probably one day strike someone and there will be a lot of people when you play your own show.
What we did so far, it was just a matter of being consequent and probably people feel it when a band is honest with its music, when the band has something to say of its own. We always wanted to be that kind of band from the beginning. We didn't want to copy anyone. We just wanted to play our music and we knew we need to wait for some moments to be at least on a descent level in this rock scene or prog rock scene, or whatever we have now.
So, what's the future holding for Riverside? I know you have a big tour coming up, but artistically what's left for you to explore and achieve?
I don't know yet. I think we'll continue this melody journey, but it doesn't mean that because we just did a more mellow album than the previous ones, we'll continue it. Maybe we can go back to something harder. Everything depends on the subject and everything depends on the feelings. It's always fluent and I don't know which direction we'll go, but for sure we'll stay Riverside and we'll try to develop ourselves and make another challenge and maybe make another life-changing decision.
Before we close I'd like to tell you that your show here was one of the best concerts I've attended the last few years...
We're planning to come back to you in 2016, cause this year -because of the tour in the States- we had to postpone some shows. We can't play in December when it's full of snow, we don't want to do this. So, let's hope that we'll get back to you and play another show that you'll like.