Interview by Jordan Sibberas
Vader today unleash their twelfth studio LP, ‘Solitude in Madness’. Hailing from Poland, Vader have been ravaging the world with pummeling Death Metal since the 1980’s, and frontman Piotr Wiwczarek sat down with Jordan to talk about the record, the political climate around metal in Poland, and life as a metal musician in the current political climate.
Jordan: Let’s get into it! The new album coming out soon, are you happy with how it’s turned out now that it’s in it’s ready to be released form?
Piotr Wiwczarek: You know, I’m definitely glad with the promotion. It’s started like a storm, but you know, I can’t say anything at the moment about the reaction because the album will be released at the beginning of May, so then the fans can decide they like it or not. So far I can say the reaction from media is pretty good, better than I expected, but you know, I’m waiting. The fans have also so far loved the singles we released so they should like the full length album as well. I think!
Jordan: It might be a while before you get to tour for it though right?
Piotr Wiwczarek: Yeah, it’s a global situation. It is what it is, and we can do nothing at the moment. Just stay home and try to avoid of spreading the virus more and more. So, just remain cool, and cooperation, that’s the only way at the moment. We’re staying home and we’re grounded, but we’re deep in work. Having something like internet that helps us to stay in touch with the whole world helps too. We don’t need to touch with hands, you know, in the flesh, to get work done. But we can stay connected and prepare for a bad situation. We can do nothing but wait, stay home and try to prepare to hit the road again, you know, as soon as possible.
Jordan: ‘Solitude in Madness’ as a name has taken on a new meaning then! But did you have a different meaning in mind when it was conceived?
Piotr Wiwczarek: Definitely. The name originally was pretty general. Meaning, you know, madness is in us as people in this crazy world, but now it’s even more crazy! I did not expect what common was coming up at all. But the world was crazy enough before pandemia, you know. The other thing is, the Vader art, if I can name that with that name, is pretty much within your imagination. The interpretation of the music, of the words, title, picture, everything, it’s personal, and forcing people to think, you know, to use their brain and imagination is priority to me, with the art we do together as a band. So I think Solitude in Madness is a pretty good continuation of that. The really good thing at the moment is that our lives are slowed down. It’s a good time to think about our life and just to spend time in a different way, you know, like in the old school style and be home, not rush your life, you know? When life is flowing so fast you can’t really feel all these good things, you know, a job is just a part of life. We can’t lose the most important thing, which is enjoying your life.
Jordan: Oh, definitely. Disconnecting from the schedule that we’re sort of told to run on has been a really good thing for a lot of people, so hopefully that’s a, a one positive to come out of it.
Piotr Wiwczarek: Yeah, I always was a huge enemy of the internet as a stealer of life, you know, the real life. Ironically this is the opposite situation. So I absolutely support this tool, but as a tool only. So even if we have to stay separated, isolated from each other, we still can stay connected with the internet like we do and at the moment like we are right now, so that’s a good thing. This is the way we should use it too when we come back on the trail and I mean the real life, use that balance, you know?
Jordan: Going back to the album, it sounds dangerous and it can be very hard to catch that mood on a record. I was just wondering what goes into the process of making a record sound like it’s got bite to it?
Piotr Wiwczarek: I’m not really following the trends and I lost “control” of them years ago in a way; I’m trying to walk my path. I started years ago, decades ago already, and then we’ve just evolved in a pretty natural way. It’s like with all the experience, all inspirations in that time, but what created this huge difference in sound was using a different studio and a different producer. After 15 years of recording at Hertz studios in Poland with the Wieslawscy brothers, even if I really love to work with them, it was about the time to change, to just to give some different spirit, different sound. And after weighing some options, we chose Grindstone studio with Scott Atkins, the producer. In that way, we came back to our roots. Literally England was the land when we recorded the debut album back in 1992. That said, England is a different person after so many years. It was kind of shocking, but that was just for a first day and then Scott motivated us so much, so we did much more than we planned to. First of all, we modelled the new sound together. That was really what I was looking for, you know, to grind off all that mud from the guitars, so the guitars and bass and more separated. Even for death metal, the guitars are more sharp and bright compared to the last release. I also never really focused this much on voice recording in my life too. Usually that came so easy to me, but this time I pushed to be vocal a bit differently, and just not do that in a boring way. I tried to use different styles of screaming. I could say each song sounds a little bit different vocally in this album, I tried to just to experiment a little bit with my voice in the studio. But for the old fans, all those followers with us since the beginning, it’ll be nice to be back to the roots to the first decade of Vader’s existence when we focused on speed and brutality, it should be like also pretty nice feeling for them.
Jordan: Again, coming back to this idea of a tool, one thing I really enjoyed about the album is that it the modern recording techniques allow you to force more dirt into it and it almost sounds more old school as a result, if that makes sense to you. Do you think that’s a fair statement?
Piotr Wiwczarek: To me the final result, the mastered album, that’s the main point, you know. How we got there didn’t really matter to me. The sound we get, it’s the tools we use today, which are focussed mostly on digital recordings, it’s just because this is the modern world. In my opinion people focus too much on the tools for recording than on the final result. We have so many iconic albums recorded back in 70s, 80s, that were recorded on a tape with a very natural sound because that was the only way. There were no computers, no things like that, existing in those days. So who knows how the bands like Led Zeppelin would sound on their first or second record if they were alive today? It’s just some people can’t understand, you know, the natural sound is sometimes very subjective. Many fans love the old sound just because they know that it’s old. I always think that the modern recordings went much too far with compressing to solve it, making everything just louder. You know why we had that knob volume knob in the stereo. You know, just make it louder if you want. Everything sounds like blocking, you can’t separate everything. This is very important because we play really intense, on the guitars, bass, and drums, and it’s really hard to create clear sound with much noise together. Then, that’s why I think that digital mixing and mastering to just compress everything together didn’t make sense. I’m glad that people started to think in a different way, thinking about the writing of the music, not about a product to sell. Part of choosing grindstone studios was that its connected in a way, between the old days and modern day. They have modern gear like a mixing board and everything and they use disc to record to, but Scott still uses the old vacuum amplifiers, tube amps, you know, and some older stuff to create a more natural sound too, you know what I mean? We didn’t just use just older gear though. You can even use your iPhone these days though, to create a great song, you know, but if you want everything to sound great and dynamic you need a good studio. You need somebody with the brain most of all, the producer that knows how to use the tools.
Jordan: Yeah, yeah. Gotcha. it was interesting as well to have a look at Scott Atkins’ output and there’s a lot of albums there that I’ve very much enjoyed! He’s got the touch, that’s for sure.
Piotr Wiwczarek: Oh, definitely, definitely. So that was one of the reasons, and we wanted to give Vader to someones capable hands who hadn’t dealt with us before. Extreme bands are nothing new for him, but Vader was kind of different, and that was really good too, to work with him. I can’t wait just to get back to grindstone studio to record something else, because that was just the first touch and I know how much more we can do together.
Jordan: I have one more question if we can fit it in, Poland recently has been, shall we say, an interesting place to live. Vader haven’t been the most “in the spotlight” band when it comes to clashing with politicians and the church, but it’s also very different to the volatility that perhaps you were in when Vader was first starting in a very different political climate in Poland. I was just wondering if you care to make any comments or had any thoughts on how you think the scene is in Poland and anything along that sort of topic?
Piotr Wiwczarek: It’s definitely not the same country anymore. When we started, we were still behind the iron curtain, and Poland was a different political system, a different mentality, economy too, just a totally different world. The good part of that was just actually politics did not really care about us, because they did not understand what we were doing, with extreme metal. The underground in Poland, we were just some noisy bands screaming in English so nobody could understand us, which means no danger, you know, no political danger. So actually the censorship focused those days on the Polish speaking bands, mostly punk rock bands, that were talking about political situations. We tried more to escape from politics because we’d had enough of it. So actually metal was something like a new word for us, we could escape from the grey boring realities of Poland in the 80s. We didn’t know we’d started something or how it was going to be in the future, we just enjoyed what we had. And that of course developed, back then was different and today, metal is just a business. There’s both good and bad sides of that meaning, of course, and government has changed, like an opposite to the government in 80s. The worst thing is they just started to cooperate with the church. They do not care about anything but their own, so this is like another political movement, again nothing really to do with the belief they are trying to spread. I was raised with a Christian family, with migrant parents, that taught me how to be a good man. I respect people, but the church as a religion have got nothing with that. I never was really against, you know, the belief that’s a private thing, but I am against those who just use it for political meaning. What inspires me with so much anger within me, that I release music about, is mostly because the organised religions are really not a good thing for people. You know, they should be helping people in bad situations, but they’re not, they’re using people, with politics. This is nothing to do with the Bible. They call us a Satanist because we believe in evil. No, but they do believe in evil. We use a Satan as a symbol because this is opposite to religions, you know? And they do not understand it.
Jordan: Very wise, I’m on board with you there. I think that’s all we’ve got time for, so I’ve got to let you go. Enjoy the rest of your morning. Any last comments?
Piotr Wiwczarek: I really want to get back to Australia but at this moment we can’t so we just have to wait, and stay separated. Until the virus is killed, and then we will hit the road again and I am sure we will come back to Australia. That’s the only way.
Jordan: Exactly. I thank you very much for your time!
‘Solitude in Madness’ releases May 1st 2020 through Nuclear Blast. The album can be found at https://music.apple.com/au/album/solitude-in-madness/1500029498.