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Riverside

Riverside is hot. Especially for a Polish prog metal band, because can you name one other Polish prog metal band at all? And if you're a die hard nerd about Polish prog, I suppose your answer would be bands that hardly exist outside their rehearsal room. That's not the case with Riverside, because slowly and steadily their worldwide fan base is growing and growing. They hardly finished their 22-gig tour in Poland, or they already hit the road again for 25 shows in Europe in hardly more days. How do you keep fit and inspired during those touring marathons, and what does the touring life of a prog metal band looks like? Lords Of Metal asks this Piotr Grudziñski, guitarist of Riverside. And although their European tour was only at the beginning, which started with no less than five shows in Holland, we thought it was a good idea to give Piotr some typical Dutch vitamins to stay (healthy) on the road. Piotr thankfully chuckles when we gave him a bag full of peanut butter, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate éclairs (although these happen to be less Dutch as expected), gingerbread, chocolate milk and liquorice extracts, although he admits that he had quite a decent meal this evening. Catching a glimpse at his Burgundy belly and I definitely believe him….

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under prog / sympho metal

This 'Anno Domini High Definition Tour 2009' starts with five dates in Holland, with the first one in the so-called 'Auw Kerk' (Dutch dialect for Old Church) in a place called Bunde. I'm a native Dutch guy and visit many gigs, but I've never heard about this place, let alone the venue. How on Earth…?
Hehe, I really don't know either, but you should asked that our manager Rob Palmen; he's responsible. Strangely enough three of our shows in Holland will be held in churches (also Paradiso and Romein ('Romain') in Leeuwarden). Although we're not religious our selves, this would have been totally unacceptable in Poland. Nobody would let you change an old church into a rock club.

We are sitting here in Hedon, which is built at the riverside of a river called “Black Water”. Therefore it's no coincidence I'm wearing my 'Blackwater Park' hoody this night, from a band that's a definitive influence on your band. Funny coincidences, isn't it? Or are you all diehard jazz fans, and named the band after the legendary jazz label?
No, we're not really jazz fans. In fact there wasn't any specific reason why we named our band Riverside. We wanted an English sounded name, definitely not Polish, because already from the beginning we wanted to get outside our country with the band.

band imageThere's no deeper meaning? These days you even have a philosophy behind the length of an album, but the band name was just a random choice? Kinda weird…
Well, Mariusz (Duda, vocalist, bassist and general mastermind of Riverside - EDS) didn't take part in the discussion when we were choosing a band name. In the beginning we weren't even a band, but a kind of project. We didn't think as a band. But walking back from a rehearsal session one day, we started to think to get more seriously, because we had a lot of fun and playing together went really great. We were saying to each other: “What will happen with us in the future? Don't we think it's time for us to start really as a band? We should give ourselves a name. But what?” I think it was Mittloff (Piotr Kozieradzki, the drummer – EDS) that came up with something like Dream River. I responded with: “Maybe Riverside?” He said it sounds fine, and it simply stayed like that. That's all. And it's okay, because the word “riverside” is quite popular in the States and in Canada, and people from all over the world send us pictures with 'riverside road', 'riverside drive', 'riverside hotel', et cetera. That's quite fun. Sometimes people want to have a deeper meaning, but sometimes it's just a coincidence. If Mariusz would have chosen the band name, then we probably would have had a different name, hehe…

Can you recall your very first live gig with Riverside?
I think it was at a very small show in Warsaw. I remembered it, because I played that evening also with my previous band (metal band Unnamed – EDS), so I played two shows in a row. We had about forty minutes of music and played together with only metal bands. The show didn't have any special meaning for me, but the second show did. In 2003 we played at a really great venue in Warsaw, which doesn't exist anymore, and we were releasing our first demo tape that same day. Everyone who visited the show got the demo as a gift from the band. We had about 300 demos, and at the show there were 300 people. I really have no clue how they knew about our band, but the venue was stuffed. I don't think it's common to play for a full venue when you just play your second show…

Were you scared or nervous going no stage?
Phew… yeah, all the time! But I think that is good. When you feel something that's better than when you feel nothing at all, or act out of routine. Every show is different with different emotions. Music is emotion. It's not just listen to the music, you have to feel it. Inside of you, in your head and heart.
But I'm not really a brave man. I always think about things that might happen during shows. Sometimes I feel I should not be the person on the main stage that the audience is looking at. It should make me feel like a star or something, but that doesn't give me a good feeling. But when you're on tour and play shows day after day, it's easier to do. I feel more comfortable.

Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
Shortly before we enter the stage we put our hands together and do some ritual screaming together. I think it's important to have and to share the band feeling with each other. We have a good relationship with each other and we try to have a good atmosphere in the band as long as possible.

Do you feel and act different on stage than, let's say, four years ago? When I saw you play a show in Den Bosch in May 2006, I really love the music you performed, but you were kinda static on stage.
Yeah, I think I do act a little different, but that's also because the music on our new album is more aggressive. The music needs more attention from the band. So I think that with our new album we are more energetic on stage. On the other hand, we are not a metal band and headbang or surfcrowd or something…

Hmmm, I think some parts on the new album are more than heavy and metallic enough to headbang on…
Yeah, you're right. There are parts that are good to headbang on. So I do hope you will headbang during our show, because I need to say that people were listening, but not moving during the three gigs we gave here in Holland now. The audience in Holland is also quite static.

What's the crowd like in Poland?
That's different. They're more spontaneous and more enthusiastic.

There are differences between playing in countries like Holland, France, Poland?
It's different, because in Holland the drugs are legal [chuckles]. We have a strong fan base in Holland, Germany and Poland. In France, Spain and Italy we are growing and we need to focus on those countries the next couple of years to gain the same popularity over there as in Holland and Germany. But it's not only the amount of people that is important, it's also the reactions on the shows. And I would say that these Mediterranean countries are more enthusiastic en spontaneous. It's difficult for me to explain this in English, but also these reactions didn't say everything. Some people just want to have a good time during the show, but most people really wanted to listen to the music. I can't expect from the people that they should move more during the Riverside shows, because if I'm a fan and I'm going to a show, I'm just standing and listening to the music. Why should I expect different reactions from the people than my own?
We also have different types of fans. We have metal fans, but we have also progressive rock fans. Metal fans are mostly more expressive during shows than prog fans. We have eighteen-year old fans, but also fans that are fifty. Yesterday for example (at the show in Leeuwarden, Holland), I think the average age of the audience was about 30, 35 and there were a lot of people that were in their fifties. I can't expect from them that they're gonna headbang on our music.

Different types of fans? My ass! I'll bet your music mostly attracts ugly computer geeks and is very male orientated.
No no no, I don't say that! I even think there are almost as many women at our shows as men. Sometimes these girls came to our show with their boyfriends, but then these girls staring to Mariusz with those eyes, while their boyfriends are standing behind their girls, not knowing how their girlfriends are looking at Mariusz with those hungry eyes. If these guys can see what we can see from the front stage, they would be sick of jealousy…hehe.

That's a great development in the metal scene, because twenty years ago a metal show was visited by only male people. The only female that might be there, was there with her boyfriend, or has a body that took half an hour to walk around it.
Yeah, that's a good thing. Especially in Poland, because I'm sorry to say this, but we have in Poland much prettier girls than Holland! Sorry for all those girls, but our drummer is already married and has a child. Mariusz and me have a steady relationship, and only our youngest member Michal (he's 26) is single. But really, if a girl were showing up backstage looking for some action, I really don't know what to do, because it simply never happens, haha! I don't think we have the ambition to become the Polish Mötley Crüe.

Robert (Lord Of Metal guest that was also presence at this interview): When your last album was released, the records shops were more advertising with your new album and put it with bigger piles on the displays than the last compilation album from Michael Jackson. It looks like you were even bigger than Wacko Jacko.
Yeah, both albums were released about the same time. We work with a quite big label in Poland (Mystic Records) and we are one of the most important bands for the label. When you enter the big record stores in Poland, the first thing you'll see is Riverside…

Robert: Poland must be very proud of Riverside to have such an international good sounding band.
Yeah, I think that's the point. In Poland we don't have too many things we can be proud of, culturally speaking. Yeah, don't mention our soccer team. But for example our volleyball teams are great. Although we recently lost with our women team against Holland in the European championship, they're still third best at the moment. And the volleyball men are even the European champions. Soccer sucks, luckily we're strong at volleyball!

There are a various extreme metal bands that are quite popular outside Poland, like Vader, Decapitated, Behemoth. In the progressive corner I can't think of any, besides you. Any recommendations?
There are a few bands that deserve to be well-known outside Poland. Especially a very young band named Disperse. They supported us on our Polish tour the last time. They're sixteen to twenty-one, and especially the sixteen-year old guitarist is incredible. He only plays for like three years or so and I will not compare him with John Petrucci or so, but he's extremely talented. And it's not just his technical skills, he got a feeling in his play like he's a really old guitarist. Although he's sixteen, he thinks about the music like an adult man. He became even an inspiration for me now. When I see him play and think that he's only sixteen years old, it's like: “Wow!”

Robert: Do you have any other inspirations, that are bit older and more famous?
David Gilmour. From the beginning I know I wasn't going to be an extremely fast or good guitarist. For me it was important to play melodies. I play one tune, but correct.

Robert: The guitars on the old Marillion albums have sometimes this kind of crying sound. I hear a strong resemblance with your sound. When I'm listening to the middle section of the song 'Second Life Syndrome' with those exotic drums and all, I feel the same tension as the song 'Fugazi'
Steve Rothery is also a great guitar player. There's definitely a strong influence, that's for sure. I'm a really big fan of the Marillion albums with Fish. I think Marillion with Fish and Marillion with Steve Hogarth are two different bands. I think Marillion with Fish and Marillion with Steve Hogarth are two different bands. And yes, I think 'Fugazi' is a masterpiece…

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So with Disperse you had a support-act that puts you to the test. Did you play as a support-act yourself and blew the headliner to smithereens?
These kind of things are difficult to say. Although I remember a couple of shows here in Holland about three or four years ago. We played then as a support for Vanden Plas, together with the Dutch band The Aurora Project. We played as the second band every evening, and after our show more or less half the audience leaves the venue. Vanden Plas is not really a big name, but we have a story that after our tour we have never heard from Vanden Plas again. Obviously this is a joke, since we don't know what the real situation with the band is and was. But I think we were kinda “hot” then, and we have still a strong fan base in Holland and other European countries and that's cool.

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