Interview: Piotr of Vader
Interviewer: Tim Finch
Poland's greatest musical export and leaders of the modern death metal assault, Vader has just released their latest studio album 'Solitude In Madness'. Like a lot of bands, the tour that should follow an album release in on hiatus thanks to COVID-19 so Tim took the opportunity to jump onto Skype for a chat with Piotr over in his homeland to find out whats going on in the Vader camp right now.
The Razor’s Edge: How are you guys coping with the coronavirus pandemic?
Piotr: Well we're locked down but actually despite the situation we are still pretty busy. The new album went out two weeks ago and I'm still doing all these promotion things, interviews etc. Much to do, much to talk about, In the meantime I am trying to use the opportunity to spend time with my family, to do things I don't have the time for when I'm on tour. Life has slowed down pretty much for me and maybe that's what I needed, to have time to think.
The Razor’s Edge: It must be strange coming off the back of an album release the next steps naturally would be to take that out on the road. Have you had to cancel any planned shows yet?
Piotr: With the new album we planned to start touring in September and we've kept that date. Of course that is in theory as nobody knows what it's going to be like and if we are still in this situation. All the shows, touring need to be planned in advance thats why we chose originally to tour in September in Europe and we'll see what will happen. If the situation clears up we'll hit the road again, let's get back to the most important thing for Vader which means touring. If not we'll push it back to the next available time. I am filled with hope by September that we'll find a solution and it'll look like the world is co-operating, and staying disciplined as thats the only way to kill this virus. We'll see... Of course we have a new album which means we have new songs to be played from the stage.
The Razor’s Edge: So looking back through your career you started off speed metal and went through thrash and ended up a death metal outfit. What drove that evolution?
Piotr: You know you are talking about the evolution of the name of the genre as that was changing in the past. We were starting as a speed metal band but actually we wanted to be extreme metal. We liked all these guys with all these weird names which sounded different and it was very important, we couldn't say we played "black speed metal" or something which sounded more aggressive than heavy metal.
After 'Show No Mercy' came out, that changed everything, the meaning of extremity changed drastically and we adopted the name "thrash metal" which was pretty trendy back then. Almost every band just tried to be more aggressive in the so called thrash metal style. Later on it was of course pretty popular to expand that name... on one of our flyers we used "black thrash" thrash for aggressive music and black for lyrics with hell and the devil and things.
After we recorded the first album "death metal" became more trendy and more popular and personally I found this name the best for the music we play and that's why we kept the name for the style and that's what we do now. Death Metal is a pretty good explanation for the music we create as Vader.
The Razor’s Edge: Despite the evolution, there is still a thrash undercurrent in your music, especially on the new album. I guess you’ve kept the elements of each genre you’ve liked along your journey?
Piotr: It's really hard to give the definition of thrash metal or death metal. To me it's almost the same, it's just little differences which is just subjective opinion you know. I may understand if my vocal is not going to be that growling and you can hear the voice and the words, still angry and not that muddy but bright and clear then it's going to be created more to thrash metal than death metal.
For Vader we always just connected to thrash metal and death metal and are pretty much bound together and we fall somewhere between those styles. There are elements of both in our music, of course our next album will be a natural evolution and we keep trying to change something and give something top make the album sound different. But in general the music is the same, we are Vader and we are walking the same path since we started on the first album. It's just pretty natural.
The last album is a step back the Vader roots to the first Vader era. Especially for those who joined the Vader empire lately, the new album is more brutal, more rough, but its good.
The Razor’s Edge: Solitude In Madness is set to be one of the best albums of the year. Did you approach this album any differently from your previous releases?
Piotr: After 15 years of recording in the same studio we changed the producer and studio. Its first of all a huge change in sound, thats why we did it, we were looking for somebody who can change the formula sound for Vader and Scott Atkins did it great. It was a great decision to go to Grindstone Studios and to work with such a great person that Scott is. He's such a motivating person and there was so much fun and creativity in recording it was really a nice time spent.
The only other difference was the procedure of recording. We spent four weeks in the studio, and we hit a time when Vader was supposed to be touring and we hit a logistic problem. So we to travel here and back to England just for one or two days to finish or start something in the continuation of the work. All in all it was pretty much the same, starting with drum recordings, the backbone of the album. Then it was me or Spider mixing the guitars and vocals or bass or whatever. Everyday was not just one instrument so it was not that boring so it can feel more fun in recording.
The Razor’s Edge: And you’ve had a stable line up for a number of years now, that must help towards the writing and recording process?
Piotr: Definitely. Of course I am familiar with working with different people, talent, characters. But it's so much better to work with a stable line up and now we are almost ten years old with this line up and it's definitely better and we focus on just playing and doing music. We're not refreshing the line up and adopting a new person in the band and it's so much better. We are like a bunch of different characters, we are different ages, but we can still be a good team on stage and in the studio and give good music to our fans.
The Razor’s Edge: When writing an album, where do you take your inspiration from?
Piotr: From life! I don't know how trivial that sounds but it's true. It's not that kind of anger only that it was in the very beginning when I wanted to be against everybody and cry out my anger. I was an angry boy and wanted to be angry. I had a pretty good childhood and had no problem with that. So I started to be against everything and the band to me was a world I pictured for myself and I created that and escaped from elders, escaped to be fans of metal and to be the band. Music is everything.
When we started to tour and started to travel and learn more about the world and my hobbies and everything. I try to express myself and a little bit of my thoughts and emotions. In between the lines in the words I was writing for Vader. This is passionate language and I am not talking straight about my failings and emotions, it just like stories I create just to express myself. The stories might sound pretty similar and I use similar meanings, symbolic meanings and this kind of stuff, fairy tales but actually there is a real world behind that. If I have something to say I create a story and you may interpret it in your own way, its very subjective but this is what it's like in metal, interpretation. We can take a story and interpret it in a different way, interpret it on your own and use your own imagination.
The Razor’s Edge: We know you, like myself, are a regular at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton. How much of an influence did KK and Judas Priest in general have on you?
Piotr: I probably wouldn't be in Vader, what would I be without Judas Priest and KK? He straight influenced me as a guitarist and pushed me to change from bass guitar and his style of playing. Since I heard 'Sinner' from 'Unleashed in The East', I love that noisy expression on guitar and I am so much more in this way than harmonics or melodic songs and in the meantime I added things to say I am able to play metal. KK was the guy with those kind of emotions when he plays, the same with Priest and their style and everything around that.
I think Vader is something like Priest, but Priest becoming more and more extreme. Thats why I am such a fan of Slayer, because Slayer to me are a more aggressive and faster version of Priest. It's the same way just more extreme. We kept walking the same line, the same way that Slayer did.
I still love Priest, I'm a huge fan. I am so glad I was able to be at that show in Wolverhampton when KK was on stage with Dave [Ellefson] and Ripper [Tim Owens] and Les Binks. That was huge. I had my cover of the Japanese version of 'Unleashed in The East'. I had all signatures but I never thought I'd have Les Binks, but now I have all of them, how cool is that! It was one of those moments when a dream comes true and have a chance to see Priest playing and looking like they did in the past in a small club on a stage you can feel the band, you can see the joy on stage playing the classic tunes of Priest that even Priest do not play now. It was so great to shake KK's hand and chat for a little bit but thats so nice. I'm still a huge fan, I'm not just doing that because it's my job, it became my job but because I started to play as a fan. It's hard to be in a band like Vader without being a metal fan, you know.
The Razor’s Edge: We hear you’d love to have KK guest on some songs with you. Do you think you’ll ever pull that one off?
Piotr: Yeah I was trying, but not that much, I knew that KK was doing some important work. I had no idea he was bringing back a band and doing something like Priest, but I didn't want to bother him. But of course if something was to happen like that, to have just a few seconds of his emotional lead. I will keep asking in the future and maybe Vader can visit the Steel Mill and to dedicate a song to him, that would be great.
The Razor’s Edge: Or maybe if you play the Steel Mill in Wolverhampton you can get KK up on stage with you?
Piotr: [Laughs] Oh please, thats too much! But you know this is metal and he is a very friendly person, no rock star shit. Thats the way it should be.
The Razor’s Edge: Once the pandemic is over how soon do you think you'll be returning to the UK for a tour?
Piotr: It's hard to say at the moment. We plan to start touring the new album in September before the pandemic hit the world. We've kept the dates but now it's a much different situation. All in all we have to inform people in advance, so we did confirm yesterday we will tour the new album in September and we hope the coronavirus will be under control. It won't be a tour with massive pyro's in the Uk like we have in Poland, but I don't really care it';s going to be smaller shows and I just want to hit the road again and play new songs on stage.
Of course England, after Brexit, some things have changed. We need to have proper visa's just to perform. So It's not going to be one off shows in England any more. So when we come back it will be five or six shows especially for England. It's hard to say when, but it will be as soon as possible.
The Razor’s Edge: So where do Vader go from here?
Piotr: At the moment in isolation I am trying to the use the time for my family and myself. I know when the time is right and we hit the road again there will not be time for regular living. So I am trying to live without the band and use the time for things i never have the time for.
But of course in the meantime we start to think about new ideas, new songs. I have more time to spend and new riff's, new ideas collect in my head. The day will come when I sit in front of the computer and try to record something, just a demo for a future album.
But at the moment I need to slow down a but, enjoy regular life in my garden. you know.