Riverside are quickly becoming one of the most respected bands in the progressive rock/metal genres these days. With the release of their acclaimed sophomore album Second Life Syndrome, as well as their long lost EP Voices In My Head, recently put out by their label InsideOut Music America, the band is on the verge of taking the progressive community by storm. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo chatted with Riverside bassist/vocalist/acoustic guitar player Mariusz Duda recently to talk about all of these topics and more.
Read on for the complete interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Where are you calling from today?
Mariusz Duda: From Poland-I'm from Poland, and I'm at home now after a very busy working day and drinking some tea.
SoT: Congratulations on joining InsideOut Records-how is that working out so far?
Mariusz: Yes, thanks. They are great people, even though we have only worked together so far by email and phone the relationship has been good. We are very happy to be associated with and working with them.
SoT: The latest album Second Life Syndrome has been hailed as a masterpiece by fans and critics alike. How has the album fared for the band as far as your expectations of what your second release should accomplish?
Mariusz: What can I say? As always I can say the success of Second Life Syndrome came as a surprise to everyone. The same as Out of Myself really, as we never imagined the music would appeal to so many people, and that's great. We don't know what to say , maybe we can just play a third part of the trilogy then!
SoT: The band comes across as a perfect balance of moody progressive rock and angry progressive metal, especially on songs like "Artificial Smile" and "Volte-Face". How hard is it to create that kind of tension between the two style in the span of one song-you obviously know how to do it and do it well.
Mariusz: You know, out music is based on contrast, with long and short compositions. This is very characteristic for our style, to do something that's a step forward, to create an album with more blackness, bitterness, more aggression in music, and I think both the songs you mentioned are among the heaviest tracks we have recorded so far, along with "Dance With the Shadow". We wanted to do that because we didn't want to release "Out of Myself" again, but wanted to do our trilogy by releasing three albums that were different from each other. I hope that Second Life Syndrome has it's own specific style, just because of what it sounds like.
SoT: Your band relies more on building mood and drama, rather than many of the current progressive rock and metal bands that like to hit the listener with a lot of guitar and keyboard solos.
Mariusz: A little bit…yes. I'm very happy that people think that our music is a new approach to progressive rock styles. We like to compare our music to bands like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, and Anathema, bands of contrast. These bands have a new approach to progressive music. This is really funny-please note an interesting detail. It' s sad that we have a new band and the music is labeled progressive rock. Listeners always have problems with new bands in the genre and say that they are boring and always playing the same. For me, everyone has read the same textbook on how to create progressive music, as written by a few prog- monsters of the 70's, where it's clearly stated what musicians can and cannot do. How to play a particular instrument and how not to use it because it doesn't sound good, when really we just play music and work on improving out own style.
SoT: I absolutely agree with you that there's a certain stigma that goes along with the term progressive rock these days. Sure you can hear some influences in the music of Riverside, but some of those influences you hear are bands that don't necessarily fit into the normal progressive rock mold, like Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, or Opeth. I think Riverside has a lot in common with those bands and that's what sets you apart from much of the prog scene. What kind of bands and musical style did the members of Riverside grow up with, and what are you all listening to today?
Mariusz: If we are talking about influences, when we first started this band, sure we were interested in Porcupine Tree and Anathema, and they were an influence, but not too much. Out main influence is everything, not only music, but books, and everything that is artistic. Our main goal is to create and to build out own style, the Riverside style. In the future, no matter which direction bands like Porcupine Tree or Opeth choose to follow, we are going to go our own way all the time. I have to tell you one thing-I've heard recently that Riverside's music on Second Life Syndrome is too metal to be artrock, and too art rock to be metal. You know, that opinion was meant to be negated, but for me, it's a great and trusted compliment because it means that are music is not easy to label and that we have our own style.
SoT: Exactly. So what are some of your favorite songs that the band has written so far?
SoT: (laughs) That question always gets everyone!
Mariusz: If we are talking about the most characteristic songs of the Riverside style, then I guess the title track to the second album. This composition contains all the elements that are characteristic of our style, like guitar, keyboards, intro, complicated rhythm structure with melodic vocals, contrast, changes of mood, trance, and longer guitar solos..All the songs are my children actually!
SoT: How hard is it to write a 15-minute song like the title track to the new album?
Mariusz: We were working on this song for a long time. Each part had to work with the other parts. Some ideas come to our minds very quickly and they eventually evolve into longer compositions-so what's easier, sort tracks or long tracks? There's really no rule.
SoT: So many musicians have told me that it's harder to write a really good three-minute song than it is to write an adventurous 15 minute epic. Do you agree?
Mariusz: That's true. You know, I think sometimes it all depends on a particular moment, when you are looking for a great chorus or something like that. It's true…
SoT: Your keyboard player Michael seems to favor a lot of organ sounds on the new album as opposed to the synthesizer. Does the band favor either or?
Mariusz: We are looking for new sounds on this album, and thank to Michael we have achieved that we think. Of course, on the third album we will be looking for yet again another new sound. Michael grew up listening to Deep Purple and ELP, so thanks to him our second album doesn't sound like our first, it's darker and heavier, more in a rock style. Our first keyboard player was more lyrical, but Michael is more full of energy, especially on the stage.
SoT: Exactly. Some of the keyboard work on the first album gave your sound something closer to space rock, like Eloy or Ozric Tentacles, whereas the new album has more of a Deep Purple, ELP, or Uriah Heep feel as far as the keyboards go.
Mariusz: Yes, that's right.
SoT: Also, on the new album, you have a lot of varied vocal styles. Did you work harder on the vocals this time around?
Mariusz: Yes, I spent a lot of time in the studio on the vocals. We wanted to keep the balance going on each song. I wanted to give some nice contrast between the vocals and the music, and definitely a step forward from the first album.
SoT: We really missed you not appearing at NEARfest last year-what happened?
Mariusz-Visa problems basically. We hard all sorts of rumors that we didn't want to play, but that's not true at all. It was all about documents. But, thankfully, we are looking forward to seeing everyone at the festival this year!
SoT: Well, we look forward to seeing you!
Mariusz: Same here!
SoT: How is the music scene in Poland these days?
Mariusz: The Polish music is basically the same as most countries, dominated by pop and hip hop, general major label stuff. There is a strong opposition to non-commercial music like metal and prog rock. The most famous bands in those genres for example are Vader and Behemoth, who play extreme metal, and many people know who they are but they are not as popular as pop stars that we have here.
SoT: I will tell you that Vader and Behemoth, as well as Decapitated, are making a big splash here in the US on the extreme metal circuit. All three have been touring a lot here recently and are doing really well for themselves.
Mariusz: That's really good to hear, and I hope that means that things are changing, and that Riverside can go along with that. We just have to wait.
SoT: What does the near future hold for Riverside?
Mariusz: Well, we are planning a European tour, the NEARfest appearance, and finish our third album, the completion of our trilogy. A lot of concerts, a lot of shows, and some writing basically.
SoT: Sounds good! We look forward to what you have in store for us!