Last week, following my review of Vader’s excellent new album, The Empire, Piotr was kind enough to take some time to chat with me. The interview had a bit of a rocky start: Piotr forgot to plug his speakers in, so the first five minutes of the interview was made up of each of us shouting “Hello? Can you hear me?” But once things got going, we had a very insightful and interesting chat, which you can now read below!
All About The Rock: How you doing today, Piotr?
Piotr: Yeah, yeah, I’m fine! Pretty busy, as always, before the trip! [refering to Vader’s European tour with Hate Eternal and Threat Signal, dates below.]
AATR: Of course, I can imagine! Are you excited to get back out on the road?
Piotr: Touring is my life! Of course I’m excited, this is my life!
AATR: Excellent! Are you excited for The Empire to drop next week, and for everyone to hear it?
Piotr: Oh come on – what do you think?! [Laughs] Actually, to be honest, I’m personally more excited to be touring, getting on the stage and playing these new songs live. But of course, the new album is like a new chapter, so I am, of course excited. I’m pretty curious as to how the record is going to be taken by the fans.
AATR: There is, sadly, no Scotland dates on your upcoming tour with Hate Eternal and Threat Signal. Have you any plans to get back to Scotland in the new year?
Piotr: What I know from our management is we are planning a seperate trip to the UK next year. We’re definitely not going to forget about Scotland, and all of the UK. This is just the first part of the tour, and we’re focussing mainly on Germany and Poland. But we will be focussing on the real promotion next year – 2017 will be the “Imperial” year, this is just the first taste, the appetiser.
AATR: Fucking nice one, can’t wait to catch you live next year then! Can you walk us through the creation process for The Empire?
Piotr: The process was pretty similar to everything we’ve done before. This time, though, we focussed more on the organic sound. We wanted to avoid all the surgery in the studio. You can hear some noises and crashes in the guitars, and the drums were all recorded acoustically, with the natural ambience. There is a bit more balance in the instruments, you can hear the bass a bit more, the vocals are a little bit different. The album sounds a bit different in general, especially with the riffs, they are a bit different.
When we are playing them live, they will fit in perfectly with the live set. When you listen to the album, we wanted to produce something a bit more… clean, and back to the roots. It’ still Vader, but it’s a little bit different – not as muddy as the last album, if you want to compare the sounds.
There is still a lot to achieve, and challenge us. We are a band that wants to go over the boundaries of everything. We are an extreme metal band, and we try to keep that spirit in our music. Of course, we are not going to copy ourselves [musically] – I’ve been saying that over and over for years. This is pretty natural to me as a composer, and I’m sure it’s natural to Spider [Marek Pająk, guitarist] as a composer, just as it is for every single one of us taking part in the studio. We just create music. We don’t think about if it’s trendy or not, if it sounds like this, or like that. This is more natural.
Sometimes I find something interesting that influences me as a composer, and I try to include that in music, which makes Vader sound a little bit different. It’s happened in the past, it’ll happen in the future. With the new album, I’d been listening to the old-school ’80s metal more than usual, so you can probably hear a bit of that in the music. But from the other side, I was also listening to a lot of noisey demo tapes from the ’80s and ’90s. I kept them all in my attic, so after I found my casette recorder a few years ago I started listening to them again. I think The Empiore is a perfect balance of all the underground, noisey stuff and the classic metal like Saxon and Judas Priest.
AATR: Has there been any progress made with the English version of Total War, the Vader book?
Piotr: We have had different priorities recently. Actually, I think the Russian version is further along. though it’s still not done. This year, we put it aside. But it is making progress, we’re getting it translated. It’s not a big deal to translate, but we want to translate it well. I wish to give the same feeling for the readers in all the English speaking countries that I had when I first read the Polish version, written by Jarek Szubrycht. He is a very good writer, and we wanted to keep the very specific spirit of the ’80s that he gave the book. But I promise, we are working on it and it will be released sooner or later!
AATR: Nice one, well I’m looking forward to grabbing a copy when it does come! It’s been 10 years since your last DVD, And Blood Was Shed In Warsaw. Have you any plans to do a new one soon?
Piotr: Today, video is not as big a deal as it was in the past. If you take a look on Youtube, you can see some pretty good quality videos of us playing live. So that’s why we’ve not focussed on it. But who knows? If we get the opportunity, we’re going to do it! It’s about time, actually, as we’ve recorded so many albums in the mean time [since the release of And Blood Was Shed In Warsaw].
I asked the guy in Hong Kong about using the video they filmed of our show. It looks pretty underground, but the sound is good and the picture was taken from two cameras. There is a nice atmosphere from the show, a really metal feeling. [Video below.] I’m still waiting for an answer, though. Maybe they think we wonna make some products? But we just want to use it, make it more professional. It shouldn’t be a problem, as they had no added permissions for filming the show, so I could use it for free. It’s just an idea. This isn’t a priority, but if we get the opportunity, then we’re definitely gonna do it!
AATR: So Vader is a touring machine – where are your favourite places to tour?
Piotr: Well, anywhere we are welcome! There is so many places, and every show is pretty good. Of course, we remember those that are a bit more furious, the crowd gets a bit more crazy. I don’t understand this bullshit where a band stands with no movement, and the crowd stands with no movement, it’s fucking crazy. I’ve seen many symphonic and orchestral shows where the crowd has more emotion than some metal shows these days, you know? But the world is changing. So maybe people are more interested in just tasting the music. I don’t understand it, but what can I do? If people want to just stand and stare, fine, but I can’t do that!
We all love to play shows. In the Far East, the Far West, we have crazy shows, we have less crazy shows. But people are coming, and they are happy. That’s all that matters.
AATR: What are some of your most memorable tour moments? You’ve been on the road of well over 20 years, you must have some great stories?
Piotr: Oh bro… Wait for the English edition of Total War! There’s so much in there about that kind of stuff. We play a lot of shows every year, and I have great fun at every one, it’s really hard to remember every one of them. Of course, the first show! The first tour in ’93 with Bolt Thrower in Europe and Deicide and Suffocation in North America, that was a big deal. It was a great tour with such a good response.
I remember one tour after Impressions In Blood came out, it was 90 days we were on tour. We had two or three days off inbetween, but it was almost straight through. And we did it! It was the first, and last, time, but we did it. We made it happen. But if you’re really tired, you cannot perform 100%. And I want to give 120%. That’s why we play shorter tour, but more often. Also, we’re not as young anymore. I feel alright, but I’m over 50 years old, sometimes I need to relax, get a walk around. I don’t want the only thing I see in a city to be toilets in the venue! I’m curious about the world. I’ve seen a lot, but not enough.
AATR: You’ve done a huge, huge number of covers over your career, including the two Future of the Past albums. Oviously at the moment, the main focus is The Empire, but do you have any plans for a third installment?
Piotr: [Scoffs] Have mercy! We released them because we had time. The plan to record the second Future of the Past had been ongoing, for years. And everytime we set out to plan it, the idea changed. I wanted to just do another tribute to all the bands who influenced me that didn’t appear on the first edition. Then I changed my mind, and I wanted to cover all the non-extreme bands who influenced extreme metal – punk bands, hardcore bands and such. And then I changed my mind again. I wanted to do something very different and cover bands that are not metal and have nothing to do with metal. Finally, and it was actually a very short time before we started to record the project, we wanted to remind everyone of the old Polish bands, the bands in the scene in the late ’80s and ’90s.
These bands we so important for us in the underground scene in Poland. But they did not have so much luck, and they have disappeared in the mean time. We wanted to remeber those bands, and show the world that in the ’80s, in Poland, we had a very strong scene, it was just very underground. Probably, the really die-hard fans who are into tape-trading will know of Imperator, Ghost, Slashing Death… We jusar wanted to show the world these bands. It was really nice. Especially as 90% of those bands are close friends of mine. We partied together, we played together, we drank a lot of beers together! We had some crazy times, and it was nice to remember these old days!
The trigger was actually Total War! There is a lot of the early days, and that is the most important part of the book. Because today, everyone can follow what’s going on with Vader thanks to the internet. But we obviously didn’t have that back in the day. The early days are completely unknown to younger fans. And that was actually the trigger to releasing another book, Jaskinia Hałasu, or Cave of Noise, in English. The book was absolutely focussed on the early days of the whole Polish underground scene, not just one band. It was written by two friends who remember the days, it’s very good! That was the trigger for us to remember the old days, and for Polish metalheads to look into the old bands and research the history.
AATR: Wow! I don’t suppose you would know if there is an English version of that floating around? I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to read that!
Piotr: I’m not sure… It’s possible. But even if there isn’t, it’s something they might look into doing. They should! It’s interesting for everyone to see how Poland was in the ’80s, how it was from the point of view of Polish metalheads.
AATR: Definitely, I love Polish death metal, I don’t know what it is, there is just a sound to it…
Piotr: Back then it was not called death metal! Death metal came later. Even with Vader, we took death metal as the name of it fits the style of music we write. Maybe with the release of The Empire, people will be saying we are more thrash. We are thrash! Thrash and death metal are almost the same thing. The only different to me between thrash and death metal is the vocals. Thrash vocals are clearer and have more melody than death metal vocals. I think even though I’m growling, my style is more thrash than death – it’s clearer, and more recognisable.
AATR: So Vader have been a force to be reckoned with through the history of thrash and death metal. But what is your opinion on how thrash and death metal sounds today, in 2016?
Piotr: I wish I had more time to follow what’s going on. In the ’80s, it was easy. The styles were divided into clear subgenres – death metal, thrash metal, black metal, doom metal. But today, it’s crazy! There are so many bands that still have metal in their genre, but they do not look or sound like anything close to metal! It’s really hard to connect it to anything I know about metal from the past. But I’m not here to judge. I just don’t feel that stuff, leave it to people who do. Math metal? Meshuggah? Nope, I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.
Music that is done only to show off your abilities or how many sick drum fills you can do… I don’t get it. Metal should be power, and technical of course, but that shouldn’t be a priority. We then forget with the main thing, which is composition. But I’m classical, I was born with Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon, Judas Priest… Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to understand. I know, even in Vader, we get some technicality, but not as extreme as all of that stuff. There is always a balance. But of course, this is objective. I’m sure there are thousand of people around with different opinions, and that’s fine.
Just be natural. Too many bands are trying to be trendy, they want to be adored. They want to be popular in magazines, see their face on Facebook… Some people need that to be happy. I don’t. I’m happy when I see people having fun when we play shows. Is there 100 people? 100,00? It doesn’t matter. It’s just good to know that people are having fun! [Piotr’s phone alarm goes off] Oh, I’m sorry! That’s my reminder for the next interview, here is your two minute warning! [Laughs]
AATR: Haha, no worries! I’ll fire one last question at you then before I let you go! Do you think Poland still has a strong underground scene, or is it weaker compared to back in the day?
Piotr: Poland is known for it’s extreme metal. You probably know more bands now than from the ’80s or ’90s, when Vader was one of the only bands coming out of that exotic nation of Poland! But now, we’ve got some really huge bands! Behemoth. Decapitated, Hate, Riverside… 90% of all the popular bands coming out of Poland are extreme metal. Maybe it’s because Poland just creates so much anger in us, and the only way to get it out is to write extreme metal! This is how I do it! Actually Poland is known pretty well for it’s extreme metal scene!
AATR: Awesome! Well thanks for your time tonight, I really do appreciate it! I’ll let you crack on with the rest of your interviews.
Piotr: I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening over in Scotland! And I really hope to see you next year when we make it over, I’m making a promise we’ll play Scotland in 2017!
AATR: And I promise if you come to Scotland, I’ll be at the gig and I’ll bring you some beer!
Piotr: Don’t be silly, I’ll buy you the beer! Okay, I’ll see you later, take care!