It wouldn’t be an understatement to say Mariusz Duda, or as he known around here, The Duda, has been a busy man. Between last year and this, he’s put out not one, but two Lunatic Soul albums. In addition, he’s been busy with his day job, recording and preparing the new Riverside album, Wasteland, which is out September 28th. And then, of course, touring which will be upcoming soon. Recently, we caught up with The Duda, talking to him for the third time at this site. Topics included the concept and inspiration behind the new album, recording as a trio for the first time, various instrumentation used on the album, and why he effing hates The Eagles, man.
[Note: It’s possible that I completely made up the thing about him hating The Eagles]
[Note 2: And by possible, I mean 100% absolute metaphysical certainty]
Ok, so let’s get on with it now.
Progarchy: What made you decide to do an album about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world?
Mariusz Duda: First and foremost, the story is what I always wanted to write about but never had the occasion to until the end of the world happened in Riverside. I thought that OK, if I choose this subject, it will be multi-dimensional to have many layers, and pretty symbolic stuff, so I chose this you know. This is a story about survivors, about the end of the world, and the people who survive the end of the world. But it’s also connected with the situation in the band, and the situation all around the world, because we live in uncertain times. For some people, Wasteland might be like Poland or something, so I thought I would do that kind of subject now.
P: And you drew on The Road by Cormac McCarthy as one of your inspirations?
MD: Yes, I love that book, you know, and the same as Mad Max movies or games like Fallout, so these things are all influence on me, so yeah, the time had come.
P: And what was it about Fallout that influenced you, since I’m not familiar with that game – is it a post-apocalyptic game?
MD: Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, the story of the game. It’s just the fact that you could walk along through the wasteland, through all these weird spaces. And Wasteland is also like a road movie for me, it’s even connected with the westerns. I really wanted to do that kind of soundtrack, the road movie about the lonely rider, some kind of survivor who is trying go ahead and move on and do something in spite of what has happened in the past.
P: So you said westerns, you mean as in the American West?
MD: Yeah, sure. As you probably noticed in the title track we have some references to Spaghetti Westerns. Of course, Spaghetti Westerns as you know were shot in Italy, by Sergio Leone. But Clint Eastwood was pretty American in these movies! Together with Michal [Lapaj, Riverside’s keyboardist] we are a huge fan of that. When we started to do this it was really funny, I did the second part, and he “wow this sounds like the Westerns!” and I said “yeah, maybe we should add the singing female voice to make it sound even more like the Westerns.” And he said “Yeah! That’s a great idea – and I’ve got the bell somewhere in the keyboards” so he found that and it sounds even more like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. So it’s perfect. I really wanted to create the space on the album, and the post-apocalyptic style was kind of connected to some Western movies to me, all these spaces and that kind of stuff. So maybe that’s why I subconciously used all these musical influence too.
P: The title of the first song, The Day After, did you draw that from the movie of the same name?
MD: Yeah, that’s a post-apocalyptic movie too, I guess it’s from the 80’s. I used to see that in the past and thought it would be a nice reference. After that I realized, because of this title, I can also reference our second album, Second Life Syndrome, where the first song was After and the last song was Before. So now we have The Day After and The Night Before. I did this reference mostly because we [Riverside] started our second life now, so I thought it would be nice to do some kind of Easter egg for the people who know us, as this is also connected with our second life.
P: Now as far as that final song, The Night Before, which is a very emotional track, it seems to me that it takes place after the apocalypse, so what is that a reference to?
MD: It’s also something about our times, about the world we live in. Also, in songs like Acid Rain and Vale of Tears, these two songs are some kind of the causes of what might be the end of the world, the politics and the religion. The Night Before is another closure, the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s funny, because it’s like trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but for some people it can be about who are just trying to escape from war, like Syria for instance or that kind of stuff, so it can be connected with refugees. But I didn’t want to write the song literally, I just wanted to write the lyrics in a way that you could find your own interpretation.
P: You have a fairly significant instrumental called The Struggle for Survival on the new album – can you explain what you were trying to do there with the music?
MD: I wanted to do an instrumental track on the main album, because the last instrumental we did on the main album was Second Life Syndrome. I say the main album because usually it was on the second CD or a compilation like Eye of the Soundscape, but not on the main album. So it’s been, what, 13 years? So the title and everything was connected with how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, you need to be strong to survive. So that’s why we have the subtitle Battle Royale. I just wanted to go back to some rough stuff, and the sound on this track is pretty rough. What I have to mention maybe, about the whole musical influence, because this is a post-apocalyptical story, we wanted to find something interesting for the sound. So when the world ends, you don’t have many instruments, and I just imagined myself having just an acoustic guitar, the only instrument that survived. I just couldn’t imagine doing post-apocalyptic stuff with electronic sounds, that would be like cyber-punk. So that’s why there’s lots of acoustic guitar. Anyway, The Struggle for Survival is that kind of instrumental, normal, rough song that is like ten minutes long, and organic, and I really wanted that kind of stuff this time.
P: It seems to oscillate between some really heavy sections and lighter sections, is there some meaning behind that?
MD: It’s something about Riverside in general, I always try to find balance between those two worlds. My zodiac sign, I’m a Libra, so in my music I always try to do something between the mellow stuff and the hard stuff. I believe that Riverside doesn’t play progressive metal, we may be playing progressive rock or whatever. I always believe we play melancholic rock. That’s what we play, with some electronic parts, with some heavy parts, with some metal influences, but never like a pure heavy metal band. So all these things on the album, I think Wasteland is full of contrasts, in all songs you have the hard parts and the mellow parts. The Struggle for Survival is a great example of that, especially since it’s in the middle of the album. It’s just like one of the highlights of this.
P: I notice the same thing, the contrasts, on Lament, it’s a good example with the finger-picked acoustic guitar and then the heavy section.
MD: Lament, that’s something we are just preparing a video for. You’ll see these shots where we are wearing this dark wardrobe and these mountains, yeah, it will be perfect. I think that Lament is a very good example for the new Riverside approach. At the very beginning I was searching for something new, and I thought “this time, we should focus on some Slavic melodies.” I’m from Poland, I’m from this part of Europe, and I thought I should use this more. And there is something where I could connect it with this special melodic lines. I had used that before, for instance, in The Depth of Self Delusion [from Shrine of New Generation Slaves]. It’s kind of connected with Poland, or maybe not Polish lines, but this kind of singing, it’s close to my heart. So I thought that I would like to focus on that. Usually in the past when I did something mellow it was only just acoustic guitar, like Guardian Angel on this album. But I also wanted to do something with the heavy guitar, a simple ballad with heavy guitar, and Lament is a perfect example of that.
P: It seems like the instrumentation and whole sound palette is quite expanded from your previous albums. Can you talk about that a little bit?
MD: When we lost Piotr [Grudzinski], we also lost this normal lineup. And we decided to be a trio this time, because I wanted to do this post-apocalyptic story as a trio this time. I thought it would be more honest when only the survivors were on the album. So ok, what now? We lost the guitar, which for many people was the most important instrument in Riverside. What’s next? So I thought I will try to play the guitar right now. And I also have a very interesting instrument called the piccolo bass. This is a bass with the electric strings, and I thought it would be interesting to use this. When we used this on the demo, we realized we can manage without the guitar. But later I of course added the guitar and I asked my friends for help with the solos. So Maciej Meller, a guitar player, is a guest on this album, as is Matuesz Owczarek, and Michal Jelonek is the violinist, is a perfect choice for this album. Thanks to this we have this very specific interesting space, the mood for Riverside music. The main approach changed a bit, there is a lot more experimentation, and thanks to this I think this album thinks original.
P: You mentioned the violin – is that an electronic violin?
MD: Yeah, yeah, electronic violin. In the track The Struggle for Survival, in the second part, there is a solo on the violin, that sounds like a freaky, bizarre guitar, but it’s a violin.
P: You closed out Lament with that as well, and toward the end of the opening track as it builds up toward the end.
MD: Yes, exactly. You know violin is an instrument that is kind of connected with crying, this inner cry, it’s beneath the album the entire time, so I thought the violin would be the perfect choice for the subject and the story.
P: You also did a lot more acoustic guitar than I’ve ever heard on a Riverside album before, lot’s of finger picker and strumming – is that something driven by recording as a trio?
MD: As I said before, that was the main instrument, because this was a post apocalyptic story. So I couldn’t imagine playing too much electronic stuff. Piotr Grudzinski did not play acoustic guitar on the previous albums, I did that, I’m the acoustic guitar player. So I thought I’d do more of that this time. I also thought I would use the piccolo bass as an acoustic guitar in some ways. Thanks to this we have kind of a wide range of different playing. But I really wanted a rough sound at many moments, so the acoustic guitar gave me the opportunity to do that rough sound a bit more than electric [guitar] solo. Besides, since we didn’t have Piotr so we didn’t have these David Gilmour influences, so it’s not so Pink Floyd-ish as it used to be. So thanks to that, I think it’s a different chapter in Riverside with different possibilities for the future.
P: So are there any guitarists whose acoustic guitar playing influenced you?
MD: I don’t know. I don’t have anyone who just influenced me like that. It’s just that acoustic guitar is may main instrument for composing. I’m composing on the acoustic guitar and not the bass guitar. So I thought that this time I would simply use that in more aspects. You know, playing with the acoustic guitar and singing is like going back to roots, and I really love this. And I just wanted to express that more on this album.
P: As far as the piccolo bass, that’s new on Riverside, is it not?
MD: That’s true. On Lunatic Soul Fractured, I even played a solo on this bass, in two tracks. But to be honest, I learned how to used piccolo bass on Wasteland, because now it’s perfectly blended and it’s perfectly mixed, and you can’t say “this is the guitar” or “this is the bass”, and I think I found how to use this instrument for the first time.
P: Yes, I wanted to ask about that – there is a section toward the end of the title song of Wasteland, where I think you are using it, do you know where I’m talking about?
MD: You mean the whole spaghetti western part? Yes, that’s the piccolo bass. Thanks to this, it gave me the darker sound, and gave my more rhythmic possibilities to do this, more even than the electric guitar. We even tried to experiment with the electric guitar but it didn’t sound too good. All these weird distortion things I can only use on the piccolo bass but not the electric guitar – we tried these things with the electric guitar, but it sounded too cliché. Thanks to this bass, it sounded more alternative.
P: A lot of times you simply can’t tell whether “is this a guitar” or “is this a bass”, is that the effect you were shooting for?
MD: That’s the new Riverside lineup, this is our trio, you know. I wouldn’t say that or wouldn’t mark that if it would be like “ok, we are a trio now, but 30% of the music is the guitar guy we hired for the studio.” That wouldn’t be fair for our trio lineup. Yeah, in this case, a lot was made up by the trio, but the guitar solos were played by guests while the rest is played by the three of us.
P: This album also had a much heavier drum sound, was that part of the idea behind Wasteland?
MD: Yes. I wanted to find something and new for the band, so when I had to decide what to change, I just went with firstly this weird guitar sound, which is a blend of piccolo bass distortion and guitar distortion. And thanks to this it’s something between metal and some other stuff. The second was the lower singing, because I felt it was time for some lower singing. And then I thought it was time for some bigger drums. The drums were always behind the wall of sound, and now they are really the drums, and I just wanted to hear that. There was some other stuff like I mentioned before like I mentioned with some Slavic melodies or some western stuff, and to get rid of that British influence if you know what I mean. I just wanted to finally create something that is our own. And I think that helps us to be on a good road.
P: Another thing I noticed Michal [Lapaj, the keyboardist] had a few more credits on this, maybe a little more creative input – is that something we’ll see a little more of going forward?
MD: I hope so. It’s a funny thing, I was always the main composer in Riverside, but we always named that as music by Riverside. So nobody knew who did what. But on Love, Fear, and The Time Machine I said “enough!” and we started to name that. Michal did the song The Night Before. I was writing the lyrics, but he did the music, and this is the first Riverside track composed without me, if you know what I mean. So I hope that means there will be more of that kind of stuff in the future, I would be very open to that.
P: It that the first Riverside song that features only piano and no other instrumentation?
MD: Yes, this is something we always wanted to do, and that moment came on this album.
P: So you guys are going on tour, when, in October?
MD: Yeah, we are going on tour in Europe in October, and there will be 4 or 5 people on stage at a time, bigger productions, better lights, and some other surprises. In February, we are playing Cruise to the Edge. March and April we come back to Europe, but in May we play ROSFest, but we also are going to tour in the U.S. I hope that it will be more than several shows.
P: It’s been a great talk, Mariusz, thanks for your time.
MD: Thank you!
Riverside’s latest album, Wasteland, hits the streets on September 28th. Watch this space for a review or two.