Words with Mariusz Duda


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I was thrilled to get the chance to sit down with Mariusz Duda of Riverside before their recent Chicago show on May 19th.  My wife, Tiffany, and I arrived at The Chop Shop around 7 pm to speak with Mariusz.  The line at the door was already getting pretty long, but tour manager Megan was thankfully able to lead us to the front of the line.  After listening to the opening band perform sound check, we were led to the green room and introduced to Michal, who promptly exited the room, and Mariusz, who greeted us warmly.

Mariusz: “Ah, Jason, The Prog Mind!  So, are you nervous?”

Jason: “Yup!  Definitely nervous.”

Mariusz: *Laughs* “Oh, you will do great.  No worries!”

Jason: “So yeah. I mean, I guess I just gotta start with the fact that we’ve been fans for a decade or more. I remember being able to win over Tiffany, oh, back in ‘09, or something like that.”

Mariusz: “Did we have a chance to meet somewhere?”

Jason: “No, no, we did talk on the phone back in 2015, though.”

Mariusz: “Oh, yes, we did a full interview, right?  Did you guys have a chance to see us somewhere during the tour? Like four years ago?”

Jason: “Yeah, yeah, we saw you for the first time in Chicago in 2013.”

Mariusz: “Was that Reggie’s?”

Jason: “Yes, I think Reggie’s is closed now, though.  And then we did see you in Cleveland in 2015.”

Mariusz:  “So, yeah, I think I was sick that night, I remember. Oh, yeah.”

Tiffany: “I was actually really pregnant at the concert.”

Jason: “Baby’s gotta hear it, too, right? But she’s [Iona] three now.

Tiffany: “Yeah, I was pregnant with our son [Atlas] at the Chicago show, too”. *laughs*

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Mariusz: “How many kids do you have now?”

Jason: “We have three kids, now. The oldest is 8 years old, and the others are 5 and 3.  They’re all Riverside fans, too. Our five year old was pretty upset that he couldn’t come to Chicago with us to see you play.”

Tiffany: “Yeah, he was pretty disappointed”.

Jason: “Well, I mean, today is actually our anniversary, too. So, like, your concerts keep lining up like that for us.”

Mariusz:  “How many years?”

Jason: “Thirteen years of marriage.”

Mariusz: “Wow, so a lucky number?  Very happy for you!”

Jason: “Thank you! So, I usually just write down a couple of questions…”

Mariusz: *Pointing to my list* “Do we have to do that?  Let’s just sit and talk”.

Jason: “Yes, definitely.  These are basically just topics?”

Mariusz:  “Topics? You know everything ever already! *Laughs*  Let’s just do this in a different way”.

US Tour and Out of Myself

Jason: *Laughs* “Sure!  I just had a couple of questions that have been on my mind.  First, I see you on Instagram, you know, before shows and everything like that.  Is it a lot different touring North America, as opposed to like Europe or someplace like that?”

Mariusz:  “Well, you know, we have different equipment. Yeah, we can’t afford to have everything, including lights and all our musical stuff. So from our point of view, that’s the biggest difference on the stage. Yeah. But the audience is different. I mean, they’re more into the show, I can say.”

Jason: “Really? Louder, maybe?”

Mariusz: “Yeah, I think more positive, too, than places in Europe.  We’ve changed maybe this way, and we’ve changed maybe that way; and this is a different band right now after Wasteland. We try more to entertain now, and people in Europe are starting to be more into the show. And they always were into the show in many countries, but not in every country. But here in every single state, we’ve got this positive reaction. So that’s good because it’s different.”

Jason: “I’ve always said that Riverside kinda spans the subgenres of Prog or music in general.  So, you have these older guys standing in the corner with their hands on their chins, and you can tell they like Yes or King Crimson.  And then you have the metalheads who like Dream Theater and all that stuff. And then everyone in between, too.”

Mariusz: “Yes, we’ve got lots of newcomers, just, they just come to see who we actually are. Maybe they found us on the Internet or on a Spotify playlist.  I might have an idea to do some collections of, I don’t know, shorts and longs, you know? Some people found us because we toured with Dream Theater in 2007, and lots of people think that we were that same sort of band.  Yeah, but this isn’t metal about the fantasy world, like Game of Thrones, you know what I mean? *Laughs* Okay, yeah, I’ve not seen the last season yet, but it’s full of dragons, I guess. But anyways, it was just the flavor of something else, I think.  Longtime fans realize that, though, but the newcomers don’t know what to expect. Sometimes, the fans just want to listen to metal things and they just kind of get bored and say we are just singing Coldplay songs, right? But yeah, maybe we just prefer Coldplay to Dream Theater.” *Laughs*

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Jason: “Well, that reminds me for some reason: Earlier this year, Inside Out released all the Riverside vinyl again, for the most part.  Did you think we will see the same for Out of Myself?”

Mariusz: “Maybe. We need to talk to Ken Gordon because he has the rights to that through Laser’s Edge.  I know that there are plans for re-releasing, but we have this problem. We wanted to kind of remake it in the musical layers, but we don’t have the original master, so all we can do is remaster. Whatever. Maybe we should re-record that. Or maybe not. The only thing that we can do is just remaster, and some people just want more than a remastered version but I think we should try to release that anyways because it’s not available anymore, right? And it’s really expensive on eBay because we only made like 1000 copies, so it’s just really rare.  But Inside Out doesn’t have the rights since it released only on Laser’s Edge and Mystic. Second Life Syndrome was the first album that we released with Inside Out, so we had to do the trilogy box set only through Mystic. Sooner or later, we will just do all these things together.  For now, we have just released what we can.”

Jason: “Ah, I was wondering about all of that.”

Mariusz: “You’re not cold, by the way? Because it’s just, like, freezing in here.”

Jason: “No, I’m actually boiling.” *laughs*

Mariusz: “I can just cover up like this. *Wraps himself in his black cloak*  I run a lot, and I’m like, what the hell?”

Jason: “We’re from Akron, Ohio; just a couple of states over, so we’re kind used to it.”

Mariusz: “Really? Why’d you pick Chicago?  You were able to leave the kids?”

Jason: “Well, it being our anniversary, the kids are with their grandparents.  We thought about Detroit. But…”

Mariusz: “I think there will be more people tonight and will be a better show than at Detroit.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the lights we usually like here, and like 30% aren’t over the stage; so weird.  We have a great light guy who will try to do something with what we have.”

Jason:  “Really? That kinda sucks.”

Mariusz:  “I know. For some people, this is probably their first contact with our live music, so we always try to deliver the visual aspect and hopefully we can do this tonight. Sorry for that up front.”

The Path Towards Ambient

Jason:  “Oh, I know it’ll be good show. Like, you know, I just need you guys up there.  That’s about it. That reminds me, though: Back in 2015 with Love, Fear & the Time Machine, you came across as more hopeful and uplifting.  Then a lot of stuff obviously has happened since then, and so Wasteland takes a darker path.  Do you think Riverside is still on that path?  Do you think the hope will come back?

Mariusz: “You know, in 2014, I was depressed and was having dark thoughts.  I had just finished Walking on a Flashlight Beam, mostly to deal with voices in my head.  And I remember that was almost the worst time for me. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to express myself in the same way. I’m talking about the route to Riverside, and to do another dark album. But it’s just that I wanted to escape from that. And that was the darkest time for me. So, I just imagined myself somewhere else. That’s why I decided that this album [LFATTM] is totally different because I just really wanted to escape from the darkness. Right? So I decided to do the most joyful thing, and a joyful thing in Riverside means the saddest hour for many people, but anyway, it was still just like, kind of a personal thing. That’s why I can agree with some people when they say that maybe this is not Riverside 100% because I just did it almost by myself, but I just really wanted to escape from that darkness. That’s why I used all these colors. But when I dealt with that, I went back to my normal melancholic state. Yeah.  And with Wasteland, I just discovered some Slavic melodies this time. I just wanted to build that up more, because I was thinking of what I should do with my roots. So with Wasteland, parts are different, but maybe not everything. But that album was recorded as a trio because we have to deal with Riverside for the future as a trio. Yeah. I don’t know, maybe we’ll come back to normal Riverside.”

Jason: “It seems like everything you guys do, like even the Eye of the Soundscape, just always has this melodic core to it.  That’s the real Riverside sound.”

Mariusz: “And that’s the most important part for me always! Even if I try to do ambient stuff with some noises and whispers and some things, I’m always trying to find a melody in there.”

Jason: “It was electronic, but still just sounded so much like Riverside. Do you guys think that you will do more of that?”

Mariusz: “For Riverside, no.  The thing is that I’m always the visual guy.  Always when I try to do something, I take notes, and I always do some circles in my notebook, some drawings, too.  And I really wanted to create an independent musical work, where I could do something connected with the music I grew up on, which means electronic music, like Tangerine Dream and stuff like that. I wanted to find a bridge between Riverside and a brand new project. I still have Eye of the Soundscape saved on Facebook as the name of a different band because that’s something that’s supposed to happen, you know.  Eye of the Soundscape is supposed to be a band or a project with that kind of music and will release independent things, you know. So next to Riverside, next to Lunatic Soul, I could have Eye of the Soundscape to do something. So I needed that album. Unfortunately, with Piotr passing away, he was one of the three people that was going to be writing it (Mariusz, Piotr, and Michal). So, I don’t know where that’s going. I talked with Michal about moving on with this, though, maybe only by ourselves, maybe with someone else. Well, let’s see. That’s still in line for the future.  Because I need to finish that up. I’ve got some ideas for, you know, all these concepts that I threw on my notebook.”

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Jason: “I saw that Instagram post not too long ago where you’re looking at your old cassettes of the music you made when you were younger…”

Mariusz: “You know, when I started Riverside, the guys came to me and said that they would like to start a band. Actually, probably I was the only one who had already a vision of the entire first album. I always did that when I was a kid. These guys just want to play music. Yeah, but I already had: Okay, so this track will be the first one, that song will be the last one, right? Let’s do it. Yeah, I just did that. I also did comic books. I wrote novels. I was just visiting my mother’s house recently and just saw all these things, like even some games that I did because I didn’t have money for my first IBM whatever. So I did the games, and lots of things like this, lots of spending time. And I have all these things, like a pile of comic books, or like the pile of cassettes with my own albums that were 90 minutes or longer.”

Jason: “I really wanted to hear more of that.” *laughs*”

Mariusz:  “No, you don’t. *laughs* Half of them were recorded on a very crappy keyboard player with no good sounds. The melodies are cliche. There were some moments, though.”

Jason: *Gesturing to Tiffany* “She knows that I love ambient and electronic.  So if you want to do more of that, that’s perfect for me. Do you think Lunatic Soul will ever get a live show?”

Mariusz: “I’m not sure.  I think it is kind of a brave move to keep it as a studio project these days. Yeah. So maybe I want to finish this as a studio project, at least the ones with the LS symbol, the snake one. I do have to admit that I plan to do something under my own name. I mean, some people think that Riverside is my band music and Lunatic Soul is my solo music. It’s not true. Because you know, Riverside, it’s one face of something that I’ve got inside of me, I don’t know, more like a band with a rock approach. Lunatic Soul is this full package of condensed stuff that is another side of me. But I also think that I should release an album with “songs” only, and maybe collect all these songs of mine, like “In Two Minds”, “River Down Below”, “The Depth of Self Delusion”, “Embryonic”, and things like that, and just put them in one album. And I would also like a chance to play this live.  So then I can play everything. I’ve got the plans to do something like that. But I don’t want to play, let’s say, songs like “Second Life Syndrome” or “The Same River” because it belongs to Riverside. But I can always play “In Two Minds” because it’s my own song. Yeah. And that kind of stuff together with Lunatic Soul, so I’m not sure if I want to play “The In-Between Kingdom” but I can always play “Adrift”, right? Songs that I can play by myself. But anyway, I think that, to answer your question, Lunatic Soul should get a chance to play songs like “Gutter”, or, I don’t know, “A Thousand Shards of Heaven”—I can also play that by myself *laughs*. So maybe after everything [the Riverside tour], I’ll just do something like, do something like a few shows. Yeah. But I don’t see this as more like a condensed thing, so I want like eight people on the stage doing lots of stuff, like Dead Can Dance. So it takes some time. And it’s even harder now. And Riverside is on the flow again.”

Oskar-2Dead Can Dance

Jason: “So you are a Dead Can Dance fan?”

Mariusz: “Sure. Have been from the very beginning. I think that was what made me really close with Piotr [Grudzinski].  I think that is what connected us, since Riverside mostly came into being because of Dead Can Dance. Since that moment. I always thought that I was the best Dead Can Dance fan that could be found. And he was like, “I have the two arm tattoos”, and I was like, “Really? Seriously?” Just to show everybody, you know? *laughs*  It appears now that he was right. But anyway, yeah, that’s what connected us. So, Lunatic Soul also came about mostly because of Dead Can Dance, and maybe some, you know, Peter Gabriel’s “Passion” or Karma.”

Jason: “Do you think Piotr would have liked the new Dead Can Dance album? Have you heard that?”

Mariusz: “Yes, actually, I’m not a huge fan of that. Because, to me, it sounds like some kind of leftovers from Spiritchaser.”

Jason: “It definitely does sound like Spiritchaser.”

Mariusz: “I just thought that they did that album mostly to go on tour. Right. But I’ve heard that this tour is going pretty well, because they play lots of stuff from the past. So I forgave them already. I liked, maybe, three songs, maybe at the end of the record. I’m very into those video game soundtracks, like Journey, for instance, and for me the new album sounded more like that, and it was just too little, too short to enjoy.”

Jason:  “Yeah, it was only about 30 minutes long, I think.”

Mariusz: “It’s still good, you know; but, like, come on, it’s like an EP.  For me, most of their albums had their own identity, but this one just isn’t a stand alone.  If you are fan, you will love it, though.”

*Tour Manager Megan peeks in the door*

Mariusz: “Do we still have time?  Okay! Yeah, we are kinda freezing in here, though.”

Personal Process

Jason: “I think Lisa Gerrard wasn’t available to write for that new album, so it’s mainly just Brendan on that record, so it’s more like one of his solo albums.  Anyways, I did have a question for you that might be kinda personal: Ten or twenty years from now, do you think you’d still be doing this?”

Mariusz: “Music? Yeah, I always wanted to do that. But I didn’t know that I would have a chance, you know. It’s “the same river”, the title is connected with the fact that I entered the same river again, because I had a prog band in the past. And it actually happened. And I was happy that I got this chance. That’s why I’m thankful to the Riverside guys. And I will never say something like, “I don’t need them”. I know that that’s the problem with many artists: They just think that when they compose the songs, they should feel the most important. But for many people, it’s kind of equal, like one guy only composed the songs, some other guy only played the drums. But for other people, drums are as important as composing the songs.  With Riverside, I’m grateful for that. But if I didn’t have a chance to meet these guys, probably I would have started something by myself somewhere. With that, I’m not sure what kind of results I would have had, but I would have tried it. I always wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a creator of my own, you know, worlds. I’m not sure musical worlds, or if there was no music, probably I will do something connected with films, or maybe commercials. I enjoy very much the process of creating. That is more important to me than the results themselves. I’m kind of like a Johnny Depp: When I’ve just finished an album, I’m not going to listen to it. I’m going to move onto the next project. So it’s just something that’s keeping me alive. That’s why maybe I should maybe spend more time and I’ll try to do this more properly or maybe that, and stuff. But it’s just like, these albums are like taking photos of a moment in your life just like some people collect the photos of their children. I’m just collecting moments, like: Here, I was depressed, and here I had a problem with my second album.  I’m just running all the time. That’s why I called the one album ADHD, since everything is connected in my life. I like to collect these in my notebook, and I’m collecting my life memories, and in some ways that just feels more sincere.”

Jason: “I know what you mean. I find that when I am writing something, if I go back and edit too many times, my writing becomes some sort of, I don’t know, machine; not a snapshot of what I was thinking at that time.  But that’s why I like your music. It’s a sincere snapshot of your thinking.”

Mariusz: ”I do deadlines. Yeah, that saves my creative process because I have to finish this out at some point, right?  Otherwise, I could probably do less. And I could do, of course, more. Woody Allen said that once. I think someone asked about Ingmar Bergman, his idol. He said that, “For him, quality was much more important: I’m just doing more movies than him.”  For me, I think I just try to do as much as I can to survive.”

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Xanadu and Polish bands

Jason: “Your earlier band was Xanadu, right?”

Mariusz: “Yeah, yeah, that was something. I think you can find it on the Internet, maybe YouTube. Unfortunately, you can’t listen to our first album. Well, maybe that’s a good thing. *laughs* I just want to hide it from people, honestly. Maybe we can bring it back for the HBO documentary in 20 years. *laughs*

Jason: *laughs* “I’ll just wait for the documentary. Some guy messaged my page the other day to ask where he could get the early Xanadu CDs.  I’m not sure why he’s asking me, but okay. I gave him some YouTube links. I think he asked me because I had just shared something from that band.  They reformed, I think, in 2011 with The Last Sunrise.”

Mariusz: “But it’s a totally different band, right? I have to tell you, the drummer, Hubert, called me once and he said, “Can you continue with the band?” And I said, “You don’t think that more than two people of the former band should be involved?” I don’t know, the lineup continued to change.  It’s kind of awkward, you know, I said that maybe he should change the name and just start something new. He said that he would think about it. He called me back later and said, “You know, I couldn’t think of another name. I’ll go with Xanadu, if you’re okay with that.” And I said, “Okay, but don’t be mad if everyone will compare you to Riverside, and if every time you hear my name, because I’ve mentioned in many interviews from the very beginning that I had this old band, and now I’m kind of popular, you will have the same comparison all the time.” And he admitted later that he was mad because people told him his music sounds like Riverside. “Stop talking about Riverside!!” *laughs*

Jason: “Well, I don’t think they exist anymore. They did another album, but I think they’re done now.”

Mariusz:  “We didn’t talk for a while. But that’s changed. Hubert and I, we are in touch again. And it’s just— it’s just fine. That’s the biggest problem for many, many artists, you know, from my hometown. We grew up together, we lived together, and I was the only one who did something. For many of them, music is still like a hobby. Yeah, but they are “specialists”. Always after I tried to release something, they just said to me that I shouldn’t have done this or I should have done that; you should give more space, you should give more melodies. They’re so brilliant, you know?  And I always say, you know, I think I know what I’m doing. People come to see me, you know?”

Jason: I do get all kinds of emails from Prog bands from Poland: tons. And some are pretty good, but others—not so much.”

Mariusz: *Laughs* “I know shit about the Polish market nowadays.”

Jason: “Most of them will say in their email, “for fans of Riverside”, and I always have to laugh about that.”

Mariusz: “I think we are the only band in Poland that can cross this magic number of 100 people per show. It’s sad because [in the prog community], we have only like 200 people at a Prog festival. A festival?  Maybe because these bands are not so good as they think they are. That’s what bothers me always. They’ll be like, “What’s going on with these people: They don’t like good music.” And I’m thinking, “Maybe you just simply don’t play good music. Maybe you’re boring.” These days, you need to be much more open for everybody, not just the Prog community. I tried to escape from that, but it’s really hard. But I don’t want to say that there is something wrong with the Prog community; I’m happy that lots of people with Cruise to the Edge T-shirts come to see us. I mean, there’s lots of young people, different kinds of people, even metal heads, checking out who we are. It’s still a really wide range. This is what I’ve noticed on this tour. So it’s really great. When I always ask who is seeing us for the first time, it’s like 50% of them. And I don’t think that I just broke out. I just know people are listening to more music online and even Spotify playlists.”

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Cruise to the Edge and “Prog”

Jason: “That Cruise to the Edge event: Did you enjoy that?”

Mariusz: Well, I didn’t want to go at first when I realized it’s all about this Prog thing.  Playing on the Cruise to the Edge means that you will never escape that label. But on the other hand, it was very nice to meet all these people and to have these experiences, you know, just to have a good trip. So, we’re going again next year.  Plus, we finally get the chance to be on the normal hours. I mean, last year, they had us play small venues somewhere around 2pm. This time, we’re being treated like stars or something. So, we became pretty popular after the first time, so that’s why we are going again next year. Why the hell not?”

Jason: “You know, my page: It’s getting to be a good mix, because you’ll have people that follow it that do want to get outside of that, like, Prog cliche. There are other pages, you know: I’m friends with the guys who, if they post something that isn’t Prog enough, they’ll get hate messages and stuff.  It’s crazy. My page has been growing more organically, and I’m happy about that because it’s people who just want good music, you know? I’m so glad to see that you are not stuck in this Prog thing.”

Mariusz: “No, no, these days, I’ve seen that we’ve got three or maybe four kinds of bands, and they basically just want to sound old fashioned.  And we have these American bands with the same drummer all the time.”

Jason: *Laughs* “I know exactly who you mean”.

Mariusz: “They’re the same people just in different bands with different lineups, but all the same people all the time. And then there is this, you know, tech metal with their djent.  These bands all sound identical to me. Now, I do have to say that I changed my mind about Haken. I saw them on Cruise to the Edge, and they are really incredible live. They are like machines. But okay, the musical aspect is a different part of the story, right? Maybe not my cup of tea, but I really respect these guys. Anyway, there’s lots of bands like this: They can play tech metal or something. Yeah. And there are other bands that just don’t want to be Prog. We just simply try to have proper songs, and we are based more on melody, so we always try to be somewhere in between, but we can be in this Prog part, for sure, too.”

Jason: “I was glad to see you guys re-teaming with Jolly in New York recently. We found them because of the 2013 tour. We’ve followed them ever since. And they are kind of the same way.  They will post asking everyone to give labels for what kind of music they make, and many people say “Prog”, but they really aren’t just that. They just do their own thing.”

Mariusz: “We’re just rock bands, you know? Yeah, Jolly, they’re a weird rock band.  Personally, they are really cool guys, too.”

Parting Company

Jason: “Well, I know that you have to go soon. I’m really glad that I was able to sit down with you and finally get to shake your hand. Riverside will continue to be a mainstay in our household.”

Mariusz:  “Is it okay if we just officially finish this [the interview].  Yeah, just finish it some sort of way?”

Jason: *Gesturing to the recording device* “I can turn this off any time you want.”

Mariusz: “Okay, we can just say something like, “Okay, thank you to everyone from The Prog Mind, or you can just write an ending.”

*End of Feed*

Mariusz took out his phone because he wanted to show us a song from his new Lunatic Soul record.  He said that the cover art will be green, and the music will have more of a folk influence. It releases in January on Kscope. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find the track on his phone since he was using a different phone for the US tour.  *Sigh* He seemed really excited to show it to us. Maybe next time.

_____________________

Find Mariusz Duda online:

Facebook

Riverside Facebook

Lunatic Soul Facebook

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