Riverside returned to Finland a year and a half after the group’s last visit to our country on the Towards the Blue Horizon tour, during which we had interviewed frontman Mariusz Duda. On April 4th, before the band’s show in Tampere, we had the chance to talk to a man who was more confident and in a happier place than in 2017, having toured Europe relentlessly with his bandmates since the successful release of Wasteland last September. The topics of our chat included the new album, the setlist for the current tour, Disney, and what makes Finland a special place for Riverside to play.
It’s been a year and a half since we last talked. How would you describe the time in between in 3 adjectives?
Quick… Intense… When was it exactly, the Towards the Blue Horizon tour?
Yeah, at the end of it.
Ok, so it was really quick, intense, and exciting.
I remember last time you said the 7th album would have 7 letters in the title, the 8th would have 8 letters, and the 9th 9 letters, but Wasteland (Was7eland) has 9 so…
I skipped this idea with the letters and decided to put the numbers in the titles, so the 8th album will have the number 8 somewhere in the title. ‘Cause I felt that boundaries are too much, and sometimes I spend too much time on the things that are not so important. So I just skipped that and said: “Enough – Was7eland is a very good title, it fits very much. I can’t search for something post-apocalyptic with 7 letters – that would not be good.” I mean, it could be Fallout for instance – maybe Fallout 7. [chuckles]
You could still do it the other way round: 8 letters for the next one and 7 for the 9th…
I don’t know, maybe this trilogy [with] 4, 5, 6 letters – that was it. Maybe number 8 will be something else, a totally different idea of how to put the number 8 in there. With Wasteland I just skipped the trilogy idea. Enough! [laughs]
The album has been out for a while now, so how do you feel about the songs now that you’ve had the chance to play them on stage and see people react to them?
I actually feel great. I know that every artist probably says something [like], “The last album is the best one,” or, “The last tour is the best one,” but actually the Wasteland tour is our biggest success to date, ’cause we have the biggest crowds, and I think that finally we did a good job with the setlist, ’cause it works. It’s really dynamic, and there’s a lot of interaction with the audience. I think during the Wasteland tour all these people who saw us before will see the difference that’s just like another step; another level for us. We saw it after the Towards the Blue Horizon tour, which was full of past mourning, grief, and sad moments. Now we’ve definitely moved on and we have lots of fun on stage. And people see that and probably they also have lots of fun when they see us, so it’s interaction 100%.
You mentioned the setlist – is it like a journey or story this time around too?
I was wondering what could fit [in with] the Wasteland songs – definitely not the Love, Fear and the Time Machine (2015) and Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013) mood. These are different albums and Wasteland is a bit darker, so we decided to connect Wasteland with our first four albums, basically. We kind of skipped the two previous ones – we don’t play “The Depth of Self-Delusion”, because we’ve played it so many, many times, so we just did the brave move and got rid of it this time. But we play “Loose Heart”, we play “Reality Dream”, we play something from Out of Myself (2003), and I think that’s a very fresh mixture, ’cause we also play almost the entire new album. So it’s not like we’re just promoting the new album, but with four songs only, because people would love to hear the old stuff only. We don’t care, we just connect, and I think this is a really good mixture, because it fits and the show flows.
“Acid Rain” sounds very live-friendly, so did you write it with shows in mind?
We play “Acid Rain”, we start with “Acid Rain”, so it’s the normal beginning of the show. We skip the introduction and just start with [slaps hands together] a big hit.
I remember when “Vale of Tears” came out, someone in the YouTube comments said they thought the intro sounded like Muse. Do you like that band?
I like the album Absolution (2003) and I like a few songs of theirs, but it’s not a band that inspires me somehow. I respect them – I think they did a great job, because they are in the pop mainstream and they try – still – to do this in an ambitious way. But maybe I’m not a huge fan of their last album, because I think they’re late, like, 10 years, because the 80s are now… They should’ve released this album 6 years ago, 10 years ago when Kung Fury was out, but now I think it’s just a bit… not so uncommon.
But it’s fine – I’m always happy when people compare us to someone else than all these 5-6 bands all the time, because I have this impression that people don’t listen to anything else, especially when it comes to these “Prog Something” interviews or “Prog Something” portals and everything which is connected with prog. But fortunately with this album I’ve noticed that lots of journalists finally gave up: they just stopped with the, “The guy and his band from the past” and some other things, so I’m happy for that very much.
The last time we talked you also mentioned that becoming a stepfather affected the lyrics of Lunatic Soul.
It was before Fractured (2017), right?
So since our last conversation I’ve released 3 albums. [chuckles] How is it even possible? But what was your question?
So did it affect Wasteland as well?
Of course, yeah, because for me Wasteland was the third album in a row. It’s about the same subject: how to deal with the grief. But the funny thing is that I was sure that I would put all my misery and all these dark things into the Lunatic Soul albums, but when I started to compose [for] Lunatic Soul I wanted to be somewhere else already. I didn’t want to repeat myself and do another Walking on a Flashlight Beam (2014); the album about the darkness, the album about the days when I feel really bad, so I kind of moved on. It was the same with Love, Fear and the Time Machine, ’cause I kind of imagined myself happy on this album.
So with Lunatic Soul’s Fractured I was after this sort of way, but I think subconsciously there was still something to do with these dark moments, and it came out on the Riverside album. But thanks to Lunatic Soul I found a good way to make it… not too light literally, if you know what I mean. It’s like I found this space and I did the album not only about how we deal with the past, but also about this situation we’ve got here, and there’s lots of layers. But Lunatic Soul definitely helped me first and foremost to feel good in the studio. People are asking me: “Was it hard for you to record without Piotr?” No, it was the third album in a row without Piotr for me – that’s it. So yeah, it helped me very much.
You’ve also written about mental issues in the past, particularly in the Reality Dream trilogy. Was psychology something you were interested in when you were younger and in school?
I was always the guy who was helping the others when they had problems with girls or boys, you know? Psychology was always in the center of my attention, but I never wanted to study [it], ’cause I believe that if you study psychology, it means that you’re fucked up and you have to do something with your own mental state. I didn’t have a problem with that in that way – I mean, I had problems, but I found the solution doing music, so the therapy for me is doing my albums. I don’t have to go to the shrink to solve my problems, I can simply do the album, like Walking on a Flashlight Beam – it’s much better for my health. But yeah, I really love that, and that’s why in Riverside I was always in my lyrics focused on this human area. I didn’t write about politics, I didn’t write about religion – I was always into “How do you feel about it?” or “How do you feel in general?” when it comes to something. That’s why Wasteland is this post-apocalyptic album, but this is not about Mad Max, Fallout, The Last of Us [types of] things. It’s just like “How do you feel when you lose someone?” That’s it.
What kind of music have you been listening to lately – either new or old stuff?
Lately, I’ve started to listen to the new Devin Townsend, and I think that the song “Genesis” is one of the best things that he ever wrote. But I’m not sure if [in] its entirety I’m very into Disney metal, ’cause it’s Disney metal for me. I don’t listen to rock bands or metal bands unless they’re my friends or my colleagues, so I’m just checking them out to see how it goes. But in general I always try to listen to something like ambient, electronic stuff when I go to sleep; Max Richter, for instance.
Speaking of Disney, I saw this photo of you guys at the Disney Studios.
How was that?
Disney Studios sucks as hell, but the normal Disney is fine. You can go there with your kids and stuff, but Disney Studios is a misunderstanding. I don’t know why the tickets cost the same amount as the normal one – it’s ridiculous. Seeing some Marvel figures made from gum? It’s stupid.
Are you a Mickey Mouse guy or a Donald Duck guy?
No, I’m not into… come on – it’s 50s or 60s. We don’t live in these times anymore.
So neither? [laughs]
No, we just went there to do something with our day off – that’s it. Plus, I still remember 11 or 13 years ago when we had 3 days off in Paris we went to Disneyland, so we kind of wanted to go back and see how it goes after 13 years. I remember 13 years ago in Disneyland I took this space rollercoaster thing, and after that I started to have panic attacks everywhere. I wanted to see if it still exists and it exists, so I’m just cursing that. It was just, like, spend[ing] some time and [having] some fun. It’s not like I was enjoying like a child – no, it was more like I felt like an observer of all these people. I don’t even know if they were happy, but it was so funny to see how they react.
That’s interesting. I also saw your Instagram post about the Roger Waters concert you went to, so what did you think of that?
It was a great production. Actually I had the chance to see three big shows last year: Roger Waters, the Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney. I’m kind of sad that I see and I feel that these are [some] of the latest shows of theirs. Soon they’re going to die, and so we are the witnesses of the dying of this origin[al] rock music. But yeah, I enjoyed this very much, lots of very nice feelings. This year my stepdaughter took me to the concert of Twenty One Pilots, and I have to say that I enjoyed that too [laughs] because of the production and because of the audience. It was like a refreshment after all these classic artists, all these old guys. You see the audience: only 13-year-old girls that are singing [in unison]. It’s amazing.
You have one more show left in Estonia after this one, so do you have any end-of-tour rituals or pranks in mind?
No, we don’t have a Green Night [ed: (apparently) the last night of a children’s camp in Poland, during which they pull pranks on each other instead of sleeping], we don’t have that. We just did one ritual today: we took a picture with the band that tours with us, Lesoir, and we’ll probably put [out] the picture at the end of this tour with “big thanks to everyone.” That’s the only ritual. We’re kind of tired and we want to go back, but still we have lots of strength to play those two shows that’s left, so it’s fine.
I have a few fan questions from Facebook, and one of them is: “What would you do for a living if you weren’t a musician?”
Probably I would do something with cinematography, movies, comic books, screenwriting – something like that. I used to write stories as comic books, so probably it would be connected with storytelling again, but in a different way. Not a musical way, so probably I would try to stay behind the camera.
Something more visual.
Something more visual, for sure.
Another question is that you play in Finland pretty often, so what keeps you coming back?
I think we have the biggest and nicest audiences here. I would say that after Poland, Germany, Holland, and the UK you guys are like the 5th biggest crowd that we always have, so it’s really nice.
Oh, that’s cool!
Yeah, in Helsinki we had 600, yesterday [in Jyväskylä] we had like 300, and tonight we know it will be like 500 or something. With one show we have over 1000 people, so it’s great. Still nice for our level, I believe.
Finally, what’s next for Riverside and Lunatic Soul?
Another album’s just another boring pattern, I think. I want to kind of destroy that, because if you ask me what’s my plan, I would love to do something also under my own name. I feel that I need something without the limits. Lunatic Soul… The new album that I’m planning will be very folk-oriented – this time I want to go back to the black-and-white mood from my first two albums, because there’s the gap on this scan(?) that I made, two free spots for two more albums, and now I want to go back to this dark side, where the white album, dark album, and Impressions (2011) are. But still, I can’t use the electric guitar there – because I said that once – in the entire Lunatic Soul, so I feel that my hands are tied. But anyway, I think that I found the solution to make this as good as I can.
In Riverside, probably we’ll go with the 8th album for more live footage. I mean, on the normal studio album we would like to have this live approach that’s connected with the sound and compositions, so maybe we’ll even go back to our first four albums’ sort of way, to our first decade. But I still think that I need something more and I’m considering the fact that it’s about time to make something under my own name. Maybe just with the songs, ’cause I would love to have electric guitar again [outside] Riverside, so if Lunatic Soul is without it, I should find something else. But I don’t want to create anything else, like any other project, unless I still have something in my mind. But yeah, there’s lots of things to do, but I also try to find lots of time for resting also, or slowing down.
Yes. The older I [get], the more time I need for… No, actually it’s not true, but I should take some rest, definitely. ‘Cause now I’m in a different relationship – I’ve got a family right now, so I’m due to spend some time with them. But Lunatic Soul 7 and Riverside 8 are the biggest plans.
I’m looking forward to those. These were all the questions I had to ask, so thank you!
Thank you very much!
Photos: Charlotta Rajala