Latest Release: The Empire (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.vader.pl
Polish death metal band Vader are veterans of metal and notably continue to produce and tour some ferocious music that leaves a lot of younger bands with an aggressive edge in reverent awe. Their latest album, The Empire is a simply punishing excursion and soon Australian audiences will be able to hear some selections live as the band will return down under on a tour with Germany’s mighty thrash metal titans, Kreator. We spoke to founding member, guitarist and overall front man Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek about the impending tour which hits our shores this very week.
Your most recent album is very well produced and many guitar solos really pop out nicely in the mix.
When we entered the studio we did so with a plan of ideas already collected. I personally like to do a lot of spontaneous work. For Prayer to the God of War, everything was very rapid when we recorded it. I never really know how it is going to sound like until after we have finished the production. I’ll have a main melody or backbone with some drums and to find the way to the solo is always at the end of the recording session. It is common sense because it is regular that new ideas keep coming up as you go along. Our first material is recorded in a regular way when we are ready with songs before we start recording.
So is it a similar process even going back to your 1989 demo of Necrolust?
No, Necrolust was ready before. We live in Poland and our situation wasn’t really good or especially it wasn’t for metal heads and that is why we had to wait almost a decade to record really heavy albums and so the songs had been collected for all those years. Necrolust and Live in Decay were two demo tapes that appeared pretty late because we started to exist as a band since 1983. The second demo tape was recorded in 1989 which was a year after Docent [Krzysztof ‘Docent’ Raczkowski] joined the band as the drummer. By then we had changed so much and we started to become more extreme.
Even in a new song like ‘No Gravity’, the early Metallica influence is evident.
The last album was pretty much a combination of everything. For me, as the leader in Vader, the influence of metal has been there for years and for that album, I was listening to so much old stuff. I found my old cassette demo tapes from back when we were trading tapes as fans so I probably would steal ideas. The older bands were a big inspiration to me – bands like Slayer, Kreator, Saxon, Priest and Black Sabbath. I was listening to a lot of that stuff during those demos so maybe that is the reason for that being in between the lines. It was all pretty natural.
Then there is a song such as ‘The Army-Geddon’ where it almost has a bit of Meshuggah about it.
That song was composed by Spider [Marek ‘Spider’ Pająk – rhythm guitar] and in that case he was going for a different feeling. Sometimes he tries to steal a little bit of some of the modern sounds to open the Vader body up, if I can say it in this way. He was working with James [Stewart – drums] on the songs to make them sound more modern than like ‘No Gravity’ which does sound more old school.
James is really copping a workout on the album, how will he cope with that playing live?
Oh yeah, he is a crazy guy and is progressing like hell. When he joined Vader, obviously he was already a really good drummer but he has been working at trying to get something from all sorts of drumming styles. He doesn’t just focus on the metal style with blast beats, he tries to mix in everything to be ready for the challenges when it comes to recording the next album. It is a priority because a good band playing metal has to have a good drummer so he is valuable and an absolute priority.
You have toured with Slayer, Testament, Cryptopsy, Behemoth and Krisiun, among many others. Are there performance techniques have you picked up from those artists as a front man?
Vader likes to play live because metal has to be played live and that is my opinion. Our first tour outside of Poland was in 1993 and we play many shows each year. So actually, who we toured with was not so important even if it was a big deal to me to share the stage with bands who I have admired and who’ve influenced me in the past, it is more about making sure we’re having fun with all of the musicians we play with and to simply play metal. The name is not so much important but to be playing together is enough. That’s my approach on what we’ve done and what we do.
You’re about to be on tour with Kreator in Australia. They are also still producing some seriously solid and amazing product in metal. Given Vader are doing likewise, what can fans expect from the tour?
Well, however it sounds like, it is the truth, you know, it was a while since Vader was in Australia. We have recorded a lot since and with a totally new line-up. We want to bring something which is like a thrash collection. We are not just going to play what we did in the last couple of years. We will also try to bring back something of what we did from in the beginning of our existence. It should be a great collection for everybody depending on how much time is given to play. But everybody from new fans to old Vader fans will be satisfied, I am sure of that. We love the Kreator guys too; the band is great but the guys are even better, you know and that is impressive when you know that the band was an inspiration back in the day. They still kick with the same attitude but they are really nice people and are good musicians to be touring with – we’re all into metal.
Are you trading off guitar leads with Spider when playing live?
I always did and I always will be but you know, the difference is that Spider is way more into the guitar and open to a lot of different styles whereas I have always been a metal head from the day I started to play guitar. I’ve never had an ambition to play anything for everybody as I play what I find to be really fun and that is the form of expression that I really like. I just play in the style that I like. Ha ha.
You do have a Morley Bad Horsie pedal in your rig too.
Yeah but the aim of the band is to have four minds especially now when we’re in a different age where we came from different scenes. Together we are pretty good at simply expressing aggression in our music and we convey that. I’m just the leader in the band but it is four minds working together.
Indeed. The band name hails from Star Wars but lyrically you’ve delved into everything from fantasy such as H.P. Lovecraft to World War II. So, what are your thoughts on Metallica and their links to say H.P. Lovecraft in their early material?
Oh, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, if I can even compare to my writing, is using language to express or speak about themes and to me, lyrics were always like a second part of the music. When you grow older, you pronounce more than speak and so it is something that you add to give anything the whole art of what the Vader machine is all about. Probably bands like Metallica were impressed after they read it [H.P. Lovecraft] and so it helped them create their music and that is what I did. I read his work but that is part of the inspiration that goes into the work of what is our art.
Do the new Star Wars films inspire in the same capacity as the old films did with your band’s name?
Vader as a name was taken when we were looking for a name but remember that was back in the 80’s when Star Wars was absolutely different. We were teenage guys so we took it differently. For us it was a personification of power or a way of explaining the type of band that we becoming. I am not sure if I would choose the name Vader today but back then, that was everything so we did.
Production wise you’ve gained skills that came to the fore with Decapitated’s Winds of Creation album. Did you attain those skills from watching others working along the way?
I had no production skills, I was more like a young man who wanted to know how to do things. When Decapitated entered the studio for the first time were already very talented, especially Vogg [Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka], their guitarist and his [late] brother Vitek [Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka]. Vogg progressed a little later but in those days, Vogg would just look up and really would just do thrash in the studio. Actually, I remember how it was when we first went into the studio; there was a lot of thrash and nobody helped us in a way so we knew what to do but just needed ‘that guy’ to deal with the problems here and there whilst we’d spend 100% of the time on the headphones, so they did. I’m not the producer so much as the guy who controls everything and to try to push forward the best art of the band so even if the notes aren’t prefect that’s okay because I try to keep it a little insane and that was my passing on of those skills. I helped them mostly as a fan, a friend and then as a producer.
Finally, after years of playing live, how are you keeping your vocals in shape?
Oh, you have it and that’s it. The technique of screaming is a bit like singing because it takes experience. I started to sing in Vader when we had no singer anymore. He [Robert ‘Czarny’ Czarneta] moved to Germany with his wife as he changed his life totally. I had to learn English on my own so I did and the first demos and albums you can tell I was still searching for a singer but I think I gave that away, maybe by our fourth album. For years after that, I never really focused on the voice but just on playing what I wanted but on the last two albums I found myself on some great tours and discovered my voice again after so many years. So probably in the future I am going to try to use the voice in a different way as well. It won’t just be screaming but I don’t think I am going to sing anything like all those heavy metal singers like Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford but I am going to try to experiment with my voice.