Mariusz Duda: “Riverside is not for the brain, but for the heart” (Live Review: Riverside, 26/02/2020)

Holding Mariusz Duda in high esteem, it was a pleasure to have a chat with him a few minutes before doors opened at Sala MON Live, in Madrid, the first show of Riverside’s new 2020 “With the Sun Tour”, as well as the first performance after announcing they are officially a quartet with the confirmation of Maciej Meller as the full-time guitarist of the band.

Maciej Meller, Riverside’s new official full-time guitarist

Defector Music: For someone who has never listened to “Wasteland” (2018) before, or any of your previous records, what is unique about this album? What stands out for you?

Mariusz Duda: “Wasteland” (2008) shows what Riverside is. We noticed that progressive rock these days is based on guitar solos and the technical side of playing, and that was not the most important thing for us, ever. That is not the main core of Riverside – the most important part of the band is the songwriting, doing these things in a more emotional way. We are not technical, not for the brain – but for the heart. Wasteland reflects what is most important for us as a bridge between old Riverside and the new one. The first four albums, “Out of Myself” (2004), “Second Life Syndrome” (2005), “Rapid Eye Movement” (2007), “Anno Domini High Definition” (2009), were heavier. The latest two albums before “Wasteland” (2018), “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” (2015) and “Eye of the Soundscape”, melancholic. With “Wasteland” (2008) we head into this direction which is the full circle, a transition album.

DM: You are to release your first solo track soon, “The Song Of A Dying Memory”. What has been the driving force of the composition of this song and this new special cycle? Why have you felt the need to explore new forms of art outside Lunatic Soul and Riverside?

MD: Riverside will always be progressive rock. For example, if I record three-minute songs on the acoustic guitar, there will be lots of people who will say it sounds like Dream Theater to them. That is related to the tunnel vision of prog fans. Lunatic Soul on the other side is oriental folk-ish, sometimes electronic. I wanted to leave both worlds apart to record solo tracks in order to help me highlight the most relevant thing for me. This new cycle of tracks has been created to highlight and underline the songwriting, much more important for me than playing the bass guitar. In fact, if somebody asked me who is my favourite bass player, that person would probably think that I would opt for John Wetton or Geddy Lee. But I would say Sting or Paul McCartney, as this sort of bass players appear as something more than bass players to me, that is where I want to go musically.

“If somebody asked me who my favourite bass player is, I would say Sting or Paul McCartney”

DM: How is the progressive metal scene in Poland? How about in Europe and the rest of the world?

MD: These days it is becoming more mainstream as everyone is experimenting with it. Nevertheless, I would say it is a niche. For me, to be honest, I never wanted to be the best progressive band in the world. I wanted to take care of Riverside, to go with them into this direction where we could achieve something which is their own style. The great example for me is the band Depeche Mode. They do not represent electronic discoteque music, they created something which is their own and became their own style. I do not mind if someone tells us we are part of the progressive community, as it is part of our roots. But I do not create the music only because there are progressive standards we need to follow, I would like to go on the alternative style.

“Depeche Mode is a great example for me, they became their own style”

Composer and bassist Mariusz Duda

DM: If you had to review your experience in your workplace, which is the music industry, what would you say about your career?

MD: Everything I have done in the past was for a meaning and it takes me where I am right now, so I do not regret anything I have done and I am happy. From time to time, I need to be kind of miserable because I feel I am not doing enough and I could do things in a better way. I am glad I did Lunatic Soul inbetween Riverside, because it was a release in the long twenty-year career of Riverside. It truly helped me.

DM: Is there any interesting anecdote that put you to the test and made you grow as musicians, individually or collectively?

MD: After “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” (2013) we became more confident on stage and I did not admire only my shoes whilst playing, but also started to acknowledge the rest of the people, and with “Wasteland” (2018) now, we kind of “force” people to interact with us. Every step of the way I need to do something new and feel that what I am doing matters. With pop music it would have probably been different, but we chose the ambitious and melancholic music. Not everyone likes it, but we try to do our own.

“Riverside is an honest band decided to help people whose loneliness is a burden”

DM: I see you are very communicative with your fanbase; not many bands give such a detailed and personal insight into their activities or feelings. Why did you choose to be so open and gentle with the fanbase? What has been the feedback?

MD: It is part of who we are and what we do. We are not controversial. We do not burn churches, we do not do weird stuff, we are not into politics. The lyrics and the behaviour of the band are always decided to help people who feel alone, whose loneliness is a burden, people who could have problems with accepting themselves. From this psychological point of view, I believe there is a gap: you cannot find honest bands, everything is performed and bought by lots of money. From this side, Riverside is kind of boring band because we are not controversial. However, to be an honest band you need to be close to the people and not pretend who you are. On top of that, all the bands in InsideOut Music [Riverside’s record label] need to work hard, they need to do something new every year. And next year we will be twenty years old – we are old! But we try to be young at the stage.

Keyboardist Michał Łapaj

Yes, indeed, Riverside feels very young at stage and makes the audience cheer as if attending a special musical production perfectly mastered. The Polish quartet knows exactly how to maintain the equilibrium between soundscapes, exploring electronic, psychedelic, ambient, space, post-rock and progressive rock pathways all too naturally. Drummer Piotr Kozieradzki could adopt heavy kicking during polyrhythms as well as delicately tapping the bright cymbals. The newest permanent member of the band, Maciej Meller, illustrated a peaceable way of playing the lead guitar, so smooth it would seem pastel if brought into a colour palette. Personally, it reminded one of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, his soothing approach of sustaining the notes, mind-bending. Keyboardist Michał Łapaj kept impressing the audience with constant smiles, great vitality and incredible theremin talent. Mariusz, who has more than fifteen different bass guitar pedals, sounds like a modernized poetic bass player with a futuristic twist. A highly interactive band, it was phenomenal to hear that even progressive metal moments were not loud at all, just powerfully self-contained with expertise. What is more, Riverside is not afraid of pushing boundaries with piano-driven ballads or acoustic sorrow. This is a thoughtful band, crafted with care; check all their live features as if staring at the varied brushstrokes of a sophisticated work of art.

Drummer Piotr Kozieradzki

If you feel like attending one of Riverside’s “With the Sun Tour” shows, check out their full touring schedule here.

Check out the full setlist here.

Special thanks to Mariusz, Marc and Madness Live!.

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