The first thing you had to face, which was really heavy, was finishing the record you were making with Piotr ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’. How did you manage to do that?
I think it was the hardest thing in my life. I had to return to the empty studio. I mean, there were still remnants of our previous rehearsal, we were in a creative process and suddenly one of us died, at the age of forty. So it was like an earthquake. We thought, let us finish this and return next month. We hardly realized what we were going through. We just wanted to finish that project we started up with Piotr. Listening to all his chords and the moments he did not play, because he wanted to fill up those parts later. There was no ‘later’, that was a really hard experience.
I think next step was playing live again. There were some memorial shows in Warszawa, isn’t it?
We played several shows. The first one was full of tears, the next one was a bit better. We had Mateusz Owczarek as guitarist. He is not a replacement, although he is almost a member of the band. With every show we got stronger and stronger and in the end we almost went back to our normal form.
The new album has a solo of this young, talented guitarist.
I think you could not do anything but doing it step by step and this album really seems like a catharsis to me…
Yes, we wanted to focus on the emotions. Many people call us a progressive metal band, but we have never been a progressive metal band. Sometimes it is heavy, sometimes it is metal, but on the other hand you can also find some ambient stuff, some electronic loops. The harder elements were always there but not because we wanted to make complicated music only for fun. I think this is what we wanted to do on this album: concentrate on the most important thing in our music. Emotions.
I think in the end as an artist it is the most important thing to out your emotions, rather than focus on sounding this or that way…
I think the worst thing we could do was making the same album as we did in the past to prove that we were still there and show that we managed to do it without Piotr. I had this theme ‘the end of the world’, so I thought it would be nice to do this post-apocalyptic theme running through the album. I did not want to write about Piotr directly, literally. I also added some personal experiences to them. I really did not want to repeat myself, so I thought that maybe this time it should be more in general. You have to read between the lines, that is the story of our band. There are many layers.
That apocalyptic art should be inspired by books, movies and games. How do you reflect that in the lyrics?
Let us be honest, these books and movies are just a colourful picture of the present, of the main theme. It was mostly connected with our own experiences and the things that happened. That kind of idea had to be honest, because we always want to make honest music, we do not pretend anything else. It is not about the past this time, it is mostly about the future in a broken world and how to survive. That is the album now. ‘Love, Fear And The Time Machine’ was dedicated to the here and now. Due to what happened, we also wanted to think about the future. It is the end of the world story, but connected to everything. We are living in uncertain times right now, so I think it is very up to date to use that subject.
When did you write the new Riverside album?
Well, I decided to do a Lunatic Soul album first and that became ‘Fractured’. Then I did another Lunatic Soul album and that was ‘Under The Fragmented Sky’. I kind of postponed the Riverside album. I had to wait for a good idea for that. Later I just started to compose and it went naturally. Michal had something to add and it became the album.
In the Spring of 2017 you did a first proper tour, called ‘Towards The Blue Horizon’, after the death of Piotr…
Indeed and there we had guitarist Maciej Meller with us on stage. He does a couple of solos on the album and live we are a four-piece, but it takes time to see him as a permanent member. Until now, that is not the case, although I like Maciej a lot. Because of this post apocalyptic story, I also wanted to do something different with our line-up. I was always the main composer in the band, so it is not that I had to think about something new. No, many songs, even riffs, before, were composed on a bass guitar. So this time I did some solos too, but I wanted to have a real guitar player on the album as well. So I called Maciej for help and he did some very nice space sounds on the album. I am very glad with those guests. In addition to guitars, we also have violins for the first time on an album, so the violin is a pretty interesting instrument on the album. It fits very much the subject.
How did you meet Maciej?
I know Maciej for some twenty years. He was the guitar player from the prog band Quidam. So he used to play in Quidam and we have been friends for a long time. We also did some projects together. When it came to the live playing, I was obviously thinking of him. He is of my age and I know him well. That was something that I needed. I wanted someone who was close to me. I think the worst thing we could do again would be hiring an aging great talented all round guitarist who could play everything. That would look like three guys in the band and one hired star playing for money. At last we could be a live band again, that was very important. So I just asked him and he said yes. But Maciej also understood that he cannot be a fourth member at the moment. We need time for that. We are a trio now. We want to be consequent, because we said we are a trio. When you do a photo shoot as a trio it is not enough, you need to compose the album and play live to prove that you can do this. Maciej plays three solos on the album, the rest is on me and the other guys.
’River Down Below’ is one of my favourites. Can you tell something more about this song?
First of all I changed something on this album. I decided to change the melodic lines. I wanted a bit to discard the British influences and do something which is mine. Slavic, Polish. So I was searching for a different kind of melody and that is why I wanted to sing a bit different. When you hear ‘The Day After’, the feeling is more like a hymn. Some other stuff is even more folk-like. Then we even have western influences. I just wanted to have more subcontinent in the vocals. When it comes to ‘River Down Below’, I don’t know if you remember the song that Bruce Springsteen wrote for the Philadelphia movie. That was really a simple song, easy, mellow, soft, no pressure. I wanted to do something like that. ‘River Down Below’ came from that kind of melody. Something that just flows, something you should have under your skin when you listen to it, simple but powerful at the same time. And Maciej did a great solo on it.
I have always had a soft spot for Eastern Europe, maybe those Slavonic melancholic influences make me love this song…
I think the most Slavonic influences are in the song ‘Lament’. That is kind of folky dark stuff with powerful guitars.
That is my other favourite!
(laughs) We have been shooting a video for this song and it will be revealed soon. We did this in Panska Skala in Czech Republic. That will be another song that we will reveal soon.
Can you tell something about the artwork?
The artwork was done by Travis Smith again. We have been working with him since the beginning. If you have this tragedy in your life, you look different. The cover looks more like an ancient statue, rather than a normal person. I saw it in that way anyway.
You start with the song ‘The Day After’ and close with ‘The Night Before’. Does that refer to what happened?
Well, I wanted to refer to ‘Second Life Syndrome’ actually most, because this is our second life. There you had the first song ‘After’ and the last song ‘Before’. At the very beginning I was even considering naming this album ‘Second Life Syndrome II’. Then I realized it should be a new chapter, not like going back to the past. I was thinking about some eastern eggs, that kind of stuff. But ‘The Day After’ is also a post apocalyptic movie. And ‘The Struggle For Survival’ is our first instrumental song since ‘Second Life Syndrome’. After that, we had instrumental songs amongst the bonus material, but never on the main album. This is our second life, we just wanted to mark it.
Soon you will be on tour again…
Yes, we will play with bigger productions this time. Some visuals and stuff. We will be touring Europe from 30/10 till 17/11 after our eight days tour in Poland in October. Maybe next year we will come back again. But first we look forward to cover the Netherlands and Belgium again within that tour.