Interview with Vader — “Metal is designed to be played live.”


Polish death metal institution VADER will release their new album, “Solitude in Madness,” on 1 May 2020 through Nuclear Blast. From playing super-aggressive thrash metal under the watchful eye of Communist Poland to touring the globe and enjoying a near-maniacal fanbase, there’s no stopping the Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek-led outfit. We had the opportunity to catch up with the frontman about the upcoming release. Read the entire interview below.

First of all, thank you for doing this, how are you doing in these crazy times?

Peter: There’s actually not much happening, so I’m in the same situation as most citizens of the world are right now. We’ve been in quarantine in my house now for two weeks. The good thing is I don’t really have that much time to spend with my family when I’m busy with touring, recording, and so on. So I try to use this time to spend with my family; my kids, my wife, and you know, at the same time, I’m doing promotion for the new album, so now I’ve been chatting with you and some other magazines.

You’re doing promotion for a reason of course, because you’re releasing a new album, “Solitude in Madness”; how are you feeling about the upcoming release despite the unfortunate circumstances at the moment?

Peter: We can’t change the situation. There’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to survive it and follow the instructions just to help everybody, help ourselves in the situation. In the meantime, if we still can use a tool like the internet to do online work without having direct contact with friends and everybody involved, we can release the album. We are still alive even if we’re locked down. As far as the release, you can use the music to feel better, you know (laughs), so why not you know… Of course, it’s going to hurt a little bit, as far as the regular work and touring goes. For the album release, the record company decided to keep the date of release as we had planned before. It means they can do it. The rest of the promotion is playing live, so we have to wait until the situation has cleared up.

The title of the album somehow coincidentally fits very well with the situation in the world right now. I was wondering what the story is behind “Solitude in Madness” as a title?

Peter: You know, the title, you can interpret it in your own way. Actually, that’s part of what I like about VADER and that’s what we have been doing since almost the beginning, if I can say so. The interpretation of the title and the lyrics is pretty free, so even if there’s a real story behind, I try to make the stories in that way that you can use your imagination just to see a different picture. With “Solitude in Madness,” I was thinking more about us being put in a world. The “madness” in the title is the world, and the “solitude” is us, feeling alone. More and more often you see people being just alienated, cut off from the world, some of them want to be away from what’s around, some of them don’t even control it, they just escaped from technology because of the fast life. The title was more connected to that. But, of course, coincidentally it can be interpreted in a different way due to the pandemic situation, why not. It’s part of it, if with the music, lyrics, covers, everything, we are going to make people think and focus on something and think about their life, that’s good.

I remember reading somewhere that you chose the title after you had the artwork ready? Is there a certain theme present in the lyrics that somehow connects back to the album art?

Peter: Not really, actually I came up with it during the process when I sent the music and lyrics to the artist who designed the cover art. He knew more about the style and how it is going to be musically and lyrically. I sent him the title before I got his sketches and the artwork. I don’t know how much the title influenced the whole work, but probably it’s not much. Like the title, the artwork corresponds to many things, it corresponds to the title, it corresponds to the situation today, and many other factors, so it’s all about what you want to see (laughs). Again, this is the part I like, I maintain that same style as a writer as the creator of the lyrics. I changed a lot since I was a teenage boy, writing about demons, devils, and heaven and hell. Today, I still do that, I still use those symbols and style, but the stories behind it are different since now I’m experienced with life. After so many years, I can see and I can write more than about symbols and demons. Sometimes, I put real persons or real situations behind those symbols you can see or you can hear.

That’s actually interesting because I was planning to ask you if you have learned any valuable lessons as a songwriter, considering you started out in the 80s? Is there something related to the sound that you do differently?

Peter: After 40 years of being in an active band, I’m also 40 years older. It’s not possible to stay the same; of course I can change the style, but there is definitely something more behind the lyrics than just fairytales. As I mentioned, I like this style, I like to express myself in this specific way. Every lyric is I write is influenced by a real story behind it. In the past, when I was not speaking English, I wanted to just make them brutal, so being in an extreme metal band in Communist Poland, I just wanted to scream aloud, I put all my anger in the music. I didn’t know as much as I know now. I still got anger in my head and there are still so many things to scream about, but you know, I’m just more educated as a screamer than when I used to be a teenage guy.

You mentioned that you just wanted things to be brutal, up to one year ago you mentioned that “Solitude in Madness” is the most brutal VADER album that there’s ever been. Do you still agree with that?

It is, if not the most brutal, definitely one of them. Actually, I pushed myself to put some songs I didn’t want to include on the tracklist at first. For example, “Emptiness,” which is also part of “The Messenger” EP is different because it came from the “The Empire” sessions, so from the previous full-length album. I just did not use that riff because I got enough for that album, so I kept it for later. “Emptiness” is more groovy, so I used it for this album, just to make it a little bit more different than the rest of the songs. The other one is “Dancing in the Slaughterhouse,” a cover song. We recorded that one for a special album of a band called ACID DRINKERS, who composed the song. They were not sure that the tribute album is going to happen or not. This release was supposed to be done for the local Polish scene. ACID DRINKERS is a pretty popular band in Poland but not really much outside of it. They’ve been our friends for years and I really respect them just because of their music. We were in the studio, so I just said why not do it. It was still a pretty good idea to do the music, just to record it, to support each other. I always supported those movements. They were not sure this project is going to be released or not, so finally, after we recorded them, we said it sounds so good and so different for us, that we wanted to put it on our regular tracklist on “Solitude in Madness.” Finally, they released the tribute after all in December, so a long time before we released our new album, but it doesn’t hurt at all. I explained the situation to Nuclear Blast, told them that this is more local and it’s still good promotion for us, especially since this band is not like a typical metal band, it’s more like rock/metal and they are pretty popular in the area, so just to be on an album among really popular bands in Poland, popular artists, was great. We were not alone because the guys of DECAPITATED did another cover for that project, so we’re not the only metal band on that compilation. These two songs are actually different, and we kept them because they are different to make this album not just about blasting like it’s supposed to be (laughs). As you mentioned before, definitely, this is if not the most brutal album ever recorded by VADER, it’s right behind “Litany.” One of those albums.

You guys are a very active band, actually. You tour quite a lot and you also release music very consistently; last year there was the EP. How do you stay so productive?

Because we are a professional band! (laughs) If we don’t play shows at least we need to prepare the next step by recording an album or creating new songs, right? This is normal and pretty standard for us. We have done it for years. Actually, we did not want to record an EP before the new album because we were ready to start recording at the end of 2018. Due to a situation that happened in the meantime, we knew that the full-length album was going to be delayed a lot, until the end of 2019 at first. That was the first idea, so we had a chance to release a couple of songs as an EP, so we did, just to give something fresh to the fans for 2018. So that was a good idea. Finally, after all these delays and all these decisions we had to make in the meantime, so it was a good decision. Otherwise, it would have been a long time between the two albums. At least releasing an EP is still better than nothing, in my opinion.

Totally! The EP also included two songs that are on this record as well. I read somewhere that the versions are a bit different. What is the difference, is it just the master or did you re-record them?

You know, the EP was supposed to be part of the full-length album. The songs I used for the EP, were all supposed to be part of “Solitude in Madness.” We recorded them before the EP. I decided to keep a couple of them just for this record, but not all of them, because that would be too much, I wasn’t ready for some new ideas to be put on the album. That’s why I didn’t want to leave some of the songs off – like for example, “Despair,” which felt like a typical VADER song – just because they were released on the EP. I already mentioned the story behind why we kept “Emptiness.” On the EP, we released “The Grand Deceiver,” the opening track, and the PRIEST cover of course. The rest we recorded again because that was the main part, or the main idea, to change the studio to have a different sound, different producer, to give a more fresh touch for the VADER music. It made sense to re-record those two songs we decided to keep for the full-length album again, so we did. They’re still the same songs, we just slightly made them different in sound; it’s a different session, different recording. We also added some little changes to those two songs in comparison to the ones we recorded for the EP, but not really that much, just slight differences.

How did the recording process go for the new album? Was it similar to how you have worked before?

Pretty much. We always start with drum tracks as a backbone. During the first week, we usually work on the drum tracks to get recorded, so we have the most important parts done. My part starts later, but it depends on who is composing the song. For several years, we’re not just following the standard way by recording guitars, bass, vocals separately. First, I like to mix my work, I like to mix the guitars and vocals. It saves the vocal cords, so if I want to do an intense vocal screaming session for more than two or three hours daily, that would be very disastrous for my vocal cords, even if I never really had any problems with recording vocals. I never really spent much time to do those, usually the first or second take is a good one, is the right one. During these sessions, this is actually the biggest difference, I never spent so much time with recording vocals. I put so much more attention to it with Sean Atkins as a producer. We wanted to give a little bit more just to make the voice and the screaming a little bit different, you know, even for one release, even for one album, and so we did because I mixed the work with vocals and guitars, so I could spend two hours daily with just songs I chose for that day to work with. I had more time to find different ways of singing and screaming, so on “Solitude in Madness,” maybe it’s not the first album I started that idea, but we use different screaming, different tones for the screaming. This is something you can find on this album. Sometimes I sound totally different and that was the idea. I just stopped doing the same style of vocals for all the songs. It’s a bit too boring for me as a singer, composer, and probably and definitely for the listeners and fans. So, that’s the main difference in the process of recording the album.

Would you say that because of that difference, it was more challenging for you to record the album?

Yes, it was. Each album is kind of challenging because I work so much in the studio. We usually don’t enter the studio with all the songs done, you know, of course, there are some parts, like drums, which are mostly done, but in the last sessions, even when it came down to the drums we were working on them in the studio. If we found some better ideas to improve the songs, we change them and the structure to make them better. This is certainly what I like considering studio work, the process of creation. Even if you get something done, after you listen to the songs recorded, you should change something and with the new technology, we’re given that opportunity. That’s why I never really know how the album is going to sound like until it’s done, you know, until the very last note. That’s how we work for years now, if not decades, but our last work in the studio was even more creative if we can say so.

Is that something that you will take with you to the sessions for the next album?

Yeah, there are some riffs and ideas that I had in my head but I didn’t use in those sessions. I keep those for later; it’s always the case, I always have more in my head than is released in the studio, there is always something left for the next session. Sometimes I keep it, sometimes I don’t, it depends kind of on the mood that I have during the next recording session. That’s pretty standard actually.

You guys also had planned an anniversary tour as well, for some of your albums, but due to the pandemic you had to cancel these dates. Are you planning to reschedule these?

It all depends on the situation, but I’m afraid it’s not going to happen. We’re not gonna be able to play any shows until the middle of the summer season, optimistically speaking. Actually, for us, we knew the new album is going to be released in May after delaying that date a couple of times before, so we knew that we won’t start the touring of the new album before September this year. That’s why we came up with the idea to play this anniversary tour because we had some concerts booked already. It didn’t make sense to play the new album before it’s out, you know, so that’s why we wanted to focus on this special year which is 2020, where we have 3 or 4 releases that had an anniversary: “Morbid Reich,” “De Profundis,” “Litany,” and “Art of War. They are if not the most important releases of VADER. All those albums were very important and milestones in our career as a band. We would focus on those albums, not all of them, but do something we never did before. We named that the anniversary tour. We did it in the US last month and we were supposed to do it in Europe too, but unfortunately, after the five shows we played, the European government regulated everything. So we had to get back home, stop the tour, not even in the middle, but that’s on us, we can’t even complain, it happened, we understand the situation, we absolutely understand it. If we were back on the trail in the summer season, we are probably going to focus on the songs on the anniversary releases, but after the summer season we’d like to focus on the new album, plus some songs taken from all these important VADER albums, it’s not gonna be like those we did in the US, or what we were supposed to play in Europe. We definitely are gonna focus on the new album release now.

There are also a lot of bands doing streams; you had a stream of one of your last shows in London. Do you think this is the future for bands?

We used the opportunity to stream the London show, our last show. First, we felt that something was coming up, so it might be the last time to do something like that for a long time, and secondly, we didn’t really do that before in that aspect and because of the Brexit and changing rules, I’m not sure if that show in London would be the last one in the UK for a long time. Shit may happen and I really like to give something and do it again in the future, but I just got a feeling that we’re not gonna play in England for a really long time in the future. We grabbed the opportunity since we knew the situation in the world and even after the situation with the virus happened, we did it. What I know from our friends is that it was a great idea; they really liked it. I still like to make people come in the flesh to see it, then to watch the show on TV or the internet, but you know, in this situation, it’s just better to do that than nothing at all. Personally, I’m not a fan of streaming shows, I really like to push the fans to come to our shows and see that in reality, but you know it’s just different.

I guess especially because you guys play extreme metal, so there’s quite a lot of moshpits and crowdsurfing, which is also not really possible when you watch it from your living room.

Yeah, but metal is designed to be played live and nothing will ever replace that. Even the best show, if you see that on TV or YouTube, it’s nothing compared to the real thing. There’s a huge difference.

Do you already have a tour planned for the album or are you still working on the dates?

You know, we may just hope that we can start our plans in September for the new album. It’s hard to say. We have some festivals booked as well. We may just believe and hope that something will change for the better, but it all depends on us, whether we will follow the instructions, and separate ourselves because that’s still on the way to kill the virus and so maybe we can still do some festivals, some shows in summer as well. If not, I would still hope that we could start everything in autumn. This situation is really hard to predict, you see the panic that is going all around, so it’s really hard to plan anything today.

All right, that’s it for my questions, do you have any last thoughts you want to share?

I think I said all that I wanted to say, thanks for that! I just hope that everything is gonna be normal as soon as possible and we can just enjoy the metal we love as a band and as fans. That’s my only wish. Let’s try to survive the problems, it’s not the first time we got a pandemic issue in humanity. Today we have some tools we could communicate with on the internet finally. This is a good way of using the internet, let’s hope that everything is going to be good soon.

Interview by Laureline Tilkin