After the release of their debut album in the autumn of last year, Riverside suddenly found themselves in the fast lane. The album was received extremely well by media and music lovers and Inside Out took this bait without hesitation. The big question was of course if the band could maintain the high level of expectation and perhaps even make a better second album. And, yes, they did. In fact Riverside is the only band that I “rewarded” with the perfect 10 this year, so time we had a chat with these Polish prog rock “stars”. Mariusz Duda (vocal and bass guitar) answered my questions without any further ado, so..
Martien: Your debut album was very successful, was the pressure to make an even better album not very high, and how did you guys cope with that pressure?
Mariusz: I think if an album is successful, it automatically wets the appetite for another one. The listeners’ expectations run much higher. We realised that and there is no denying that in our case, and especially in my case, the pressure was intrinsic to work on the second album. Fortunately, in the beginning, I made a few assumptions and wrote them down. We could stick to them in the moments of doubt and thus we managed to hold out till the end.
Martien: So, what are the musical differences between the debut album and the new album?
Mariusz: I think that unlike the debut, “Second Life Syndrome”, requires more attention and at least a few listenings. There are fewer catchy melodies than on “Out Of Myself” and most melodic lines on our second album only reach the listener after a certain time. We wanted to make an album which would sound differently than the debut, but which would also complement our style. From the very beginning we wanted it to be more of a rock album with more overdriven guitars, natural keyboard sounds, Hammond and piano. I also gave up playing the acoustic guitar to compound the effect.
Martien: As you say you wanted it to become a more rock album, is that why Grudzinski’s guitar playing is so dominant (which I love by the way) on this new album?
Mariusz: I think we managed to keep the balance between all the instruments on “Second Life Syndrome”, but indeed you may have an impression that the guitar comes to the foreground. There are plenty of heavy guitar riffs, which may give you the feeling that it is the dominant instrument. However, I think that it is also Piotr’s style of playing, it is pretty distinctive and it’s one of the characteristic elements of Riverside’s music.
Martien: Could you tell something about the song writing process within the band?
Mariusz: Usually, I come up with the basis and I build up the outline of a composition and then every one of us works on his parts. We compose during our rehearsals and then we arrange it and put it together as a whole. We always find a solution that satisfies each of us. If any of us does not like a piece, it means that piece is not good enough. So, we all have to like the final version. I come up with vocal lines while we are composing and then I write words which fit those lines. I always write lyrics at the end.
Martien: Could you please give a short comment about every song on the new album.
Mariusz: The first song was just a vocalisation at first, but then we added drums and we made it into the beginning of the album. “Volte-Face” is in fact the first track we composed for this album. “Conceiving You” is short, nice and to the point, I guess I am still looking for a recipe for a hit single. The title track, I do not know why that one evolved into such a long suite, but it sounds good. We did not intend to put “Artificial Smile” on the album in the first place. It was treated as a bonus track almost till the end of the recording process. “I turned you down” is a song to calm down the listeners. “Reality Dream 3”: we are really happy to have Michal in our band! “Dance with the Shadow” was one of the first Riverside compositions and in our opinion the best one on the album. And for the last one, I am really curious myself what will happen next, on the third album!
Martien: About the song “Reality Dream 3” you say: “we are really happy to have Michal in our band”. He is the new keyboard player, why did Jacek Melnicki leave the band?
Mariusz: Jacek left us before we released our first album in Poland. It was September 2003. He always had other priorities than the band. His studio, where he also recorded Riverside, was more important to him. He did not believe that our music could ever be successful in any way. At some point it all just could not be reconciled. We did the mix of “Out of Myself” as a trio in a different studio. In December 2003 Michal joined us and soon after, our debut album was released in Poland. We played the concerts in 2004 with Michal. From the moment he came to Riverside we started to function as a band through and through.
Martien: What are the main musical influences of Riverside according to you?
Mariusz: Right now, we are inspired by music but by everything that is happening around us. I have to admit that I suffer from the lack of good music, perhaps that is also why I want to record albums I myself could listen to with pleasure.
Martien: How did you come into contact with Inside Out?
Mariusz: People from the Inside Out label had heard our two earlier releases, “Out Of Myself” and the mini-album “Voices In My Head” and they liked them. I think the response to our first European tour, which we organised ourselves in April this year, also contributed to the fact that Inside Out offered us a contract for another album. For us, it is a great opportunity to reach more listeners all over the world, and a great pleasure to be on the same label as many artists we respect.
Martien: Any further tour plans and/or other future plans?
Mariusz: We are planning a European Tour “Second Live Syndrome” for April/May in 2006. These days we are resting a bit, then we are planning concerts, concerts and some more concerts. Then, naturally, the final part of the trilogy and more concerts again…
Martien: Looking forward to that. Thanks for your time and your answers.
Mariusz: Thank you and all the best.
Interview by Martien Koolen