Interview Mariusz Duda (Riverside, Lunatic Soul)

"When Piotr passed away, I acted like a car at high speed, despite deep feelings of grief and loss"

(February 2021, text by Pedro Bekkers, edited by Peter Willemsen)

The Polish musician Mariusz Duda is best known as the main composer, singer and bassist of Riverside. In 2008 he started his side-project Lunatic Soul and recently he delivered his seventh album Through Shaded Woods, one of the most remarkable albums of 2020. So, for Background Magazine this was a great opportunity to do an interview with this talented musician and ask him a number of questions about the new album amongst others.

The new album Through Shaded Woods contains influences of Scandinavian and Slavic folk music. Was that the result of the extra time you got to listen to this during the Covid lockdown, or have you always been interested in this kind of music?
Mariusz Duda: “The album was already recorded before the pandemic. I have always been interested in folk, rock and electronic music. I always wanted to create a mixture of the Swedish band Hedningarna and the Australian duo Dead Can Dance. In fact, I created Lunatic Soul for that reason. However, I couldn't accomplish it until the seventh album. My main inspiration was the green colour of the cover. I associated it with a forest, so it was time for forest music.”

Mariusz Duda (promo picture)
How minimalistic is your approach when you start writing songs for Lunatic Soul? Just bass, some guitar and a nice groove?
“I mainly compose on keyboards and an acoustic guitar. I always record this kind of drafts on a dictaphone. Later, I take the drafts and the unfinished ideas to the studio and record it in a professional way.”

The build-up of the album shows a dark beginning, slowly turning into a more bright, positive side. Could you tell me some more about the tracks?
“The album should mainly be healing. We live in dark and pandemic times, full of fear and uncertainty about our lives and a better future. I wanted to create something to give relief from the darkness. Through Shaded Woods is a metaphor for our traumas, fears and nightmares. Passing through that forest symbolizes to overcome them. The lyrics tell the story about a journey of the protagonist through the forest. The further he gets, the closer the main character reaches its goal. He comes closer to the light and that's why the music gradually becomes brighter. The finale represents peace and purification of the soul in The Fountain

This year also saw other solo material. When do you decide whether the composition becomes a Riverside, Lunatic Soul or solo track?
“In my work I try to be an aesthetic artist. I care about Riverside and Lunatic Soul having both their own character and identity. That also applies to the new pieces I create under my own name. These worlds sometimes get close to each other, but I think I can still keep them apart. Due to lack of concerts last year, I decided to create more songs under my own name. I think that I will continue this way of working this year.”

Click to go to review
Through Shaded Woods is almost a pure solo album. Do you get or ask for feedback during the process of writing and recording?
“I've co-operated for years with my favourite sound producers Magda and Robert Srzedniccy. Thanks to them, I can colour my sounds the way I want to. This time I decided that there were only three of us in the studio without any special guests. When it comes to composing and creating my pieces, I'm rather independent and in terms of content and from an authorial point of view, I always produce the albums myself.”

You now recorded an album influenced by folk music. What musical surprises can we expect in the future?
“As I mentioned before, folk music was associated with the forest cover. The plot of Lunatic Soul required such an album. I'm at the stage of creating another electronic album, which just as Lockdown Spaces is going to be released under my own name.”

To which extent did the occupation of the Soviet Union in Poland influence your musical journey?
“My life motto, which I hold on to for years, is humbleness and consistence. That is the consequence from the fact that I was raised in communist Poland. I experienced poverty and not being able to afford things. I remember buying products on stamps, empty store shelves and ten minutes of cartoons a day on TV. Moreover, I grew up in a small town where life was going on more slowly than it happens nowadays in Warsaw, where I've lived for twenty years. I think it definitely shaped my music sensitivity. Maybe that's why I'm fond of closed spaces, different kind of cages and dark forests that, in my work, I always try to get out of.”

What are your thoughts about the progressive musical scene at the moment? Do you listen to new bands or are you looking for other sources for inspiration as you showed on Through Shaded Woods?
Mariusz (with Riverside in 2015)
“I think rather the latter. Progressive rock and metal bore me and I can't find anything in it that would bring me joy. I'm more interested in electronic music. Since Lunatic Soul's Fractured I use it more and more. Through Shaded Woods is a turn in a different direction, showing that I'm not a stranger in these genres. The fact that I grew up with the music of Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream makes me want to go back to this kind of musical styles. Obviously, I'm not going to give up with progressive rock and in case of the new Riverside-album I'll try to find a solution.”

Would you ever consider to take Lunatic Soul to the stage?
“I think, after finishing the whole concept, that it wouldn't be wrong to collect a band and play a few concerts. That would be cool.”

Maybe a different question for you that I always wanted to ask. I understand if you don't want to answer it. Continuing with Riverside after Piotr Grudzinski's passing away must have been a heavy burden on your shoulders. How did you manage to go on and release those amazing albums without him?
“I've always been the main composer in this band and since the album Shrine Of New Generation Slaves we started basically to record my solo albums. It was caused a bit by the crisis in the band and the fact that I simply wanted to start to play albums focused more on songs than on a collection of riffs and solos. As far as songs are concerned my companions dropped out, so I've taken the initiative. When Piotr passed away, I acted like a car at high speed and despite deep feelings of grief and loss, I simply recorded another solo album. Now, in the new line-up, I would like to let it go a bit and restore the band's playing in the best way possible. We had our first rehearsals, but for now we talk more than play, although the plans for new compositions are getting more specific.”

Thanks for your time, Mariusz. Hope to see you perform live again. Stay safe.
“You're welcome.”

More info about Mariusz Duda / Riverside / Lunatic Soul:

Lunatic Soul:
       Lunatic Soul website
       Lunatic Soul facebook
       Lunatic Soul myspace

       Review album 'Lunatic Soul II' (2010)
       Review album 'Walking On A Flashlight Beam' (2014)
       Review album 'Fractured' (2017)
       Review album 'Under The Fragmented Sky' (2018)
       Review album 'Through Shaded Woods' (2020)

       Riverside website
       Riverside facebook
       Riverside myspace

       Review album 'Anno Domini High Definition' (2009)
       Review album 'Memories In My Head' (2011)
       Review album 'Shrine Of New Generation Slaves' (2013)
       Review album 'Love Fear And The Time Machine' (2015)
       Review album 'Wasteland' (2018)

       Review DVD 'Reality Dream' (2009)

       Riverside Concert April 14, 2014
       Riverside Concert September 30, 2011
       Riverside Concert April 23, 2010

Mariusz Duda:
       Interview Marius Duda, April 2014
       Interview Piotr Grudzinski, March 2013
       Interview Marius Duda about Lunatic Soul, December 2010

       Review album 'LockdownSpaces' (2020)

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