Vader Frontman Piotr Wiwczarek: ‘Yes, I’m a Satanist’
But not “an evil guy who sacrifices humans or something at the altar,” clarifies the Polish death metal veteran in an exclusive interview ahead of his band’s India debut at Bangalore Open Air
For a band that took its name from the Star Wars movie franchise back in 1983, it’s surprising to hear Polish death metal band Vader’s frontman Piotr Wiwczarek say he’s notÂ “diehard” fan of the fantasy film series. Piotr says over a Skype call from Bialystok in northeastern Poland, “I remember the first three episodes ”“ there was the fourth, fifth and sixth. They were very dark and totally different, but I was much younger, so I took that in a different way. I didn’t like the first episode too much ”“ when Anakin was a kid. It was just a bit childish, you know? Typical Hollywood movie.”
Piotr and the band ”“ currently comprising guitarist Marek Pajak aka Spider, bassist Tomasz Halicki and drummer James Stewart ”“ are in Bialystok recording their upcoming 11th full-length album, called The Empire. While that’s set to release in November via Nuclear Blast Records, the band has an EP, Iron Times, ready for an August 12th launch. Says Piotr, “It’s more of a promotional record before the full-length album.”
With both releases nearly ready to go, Vader have set their sights on touring as much as they can. There’s excitement of an experienced traveler in his voice when he talks about coming to India. “India is a land of dreams and I’m so glad that finally, after years, Vader can visit this beautiful land. I’m full of hope and I’m just so excited. It’s going to happen this week, so it’s real soon,” says Piotr of the band’s headlining set at the fifth edition of annual metal festival Bangalore Open Air on July 9th.
In an exclusive interview with ROLLING STONE India, Piotr talks about their India trip, their upcoming releases and metal in Poland. Excerpts:
You’re coming to India thisÂ month. How are the preparations coming along?
We don’t need to specially prepare. We’re always prepared. We’re now pretty much ready for touring. We’re still in the studio working on the new album. The summer season just started. We already playing a few festivals, but the real thing is going to start for us in about middle of July. That’s when more festivals are coming up. Of course, Bangalore is something super extra. It’s a great thing and a pleasure and we can’t miss that.
What have you heard about this place?
Not much. The only place I was in close to India was Nepal [Vader headlined Silence Festival in 2011 in Kathmandu]. That was the very first time in this territory. It was impressive, because I never ever expected so many fans of this music in that land [laughs]. I hear even more about India and metal. It’s like it’s more and more popular there. I can’t wait to see it.
How long have the new EP Iron Times and The Empire been in the works?
I can’t say much about the album yet. It’s almost done, but it’s not done. What I know is that is it’s going to be released on November 4th, so we’ve got time. There’s the EP called Iron Times, which is already done and it’s ready to go. We prepared two songs for the EP and two covers. One of the covers [“Overkill”] is my personal tribute to Lemmy and MotÃ¶rhead.Â He was a big icon. He was a good musician and a good man. We have a chance to pay respect to him through this cover to let it be known that the music is never going to die.
The other cover [“PiÄ™Å›Ä‡ I Stal”] is not so much a cover. It’s something I composed 10 years ago for the other metal project I had called Panzer X. That was pretty much a”¦ combination of metalheads from different generations. One of the songs fits perfectly into the concept of the new album [The Empire], which is all about this frustration and the war tensions in the world now. We try to talk about that. These songs, I wrote the lyrics in Polish. It’s been decades since I’ve done something in my home language [laughs].
I’ve noticed a lot of Polish bands like to sing in their own language. Why don’t you do it more often?
English is just like an international language for metal, you know? We use this because it’s probably the easiest way to learn and to communicate with everybody.
I know that in metal, in this music, lyrics were never as important as it is in rock music, but they are there. It’s words and words mean emotions. If I write a song, I put my emotions into it. It’d be good to know that people, even those who can’t speak English, can understand it. [laughs]
I’m glad if people can use their imagination and interpret it. Our lyrics are pretty much about”¦ they sound like fantasy. They sound like supernatural stories, but they’re real. I just put real emotions about my real experience in the world into these stories. If I write something about hell, it doesn’t mean I’m writing about just devils and things. I may write about hell like if it was on Earth. Like a war.
War is hell and everybody knows that. Everybody knows there’s more to war than just any story books. It’s good to remind humanity about this. They forget about it, some days and the price of that.
Is war a major theme on The Empire as well?
I named the album The Empire, because it’s a term that’s pretty much connected to things like corruption, politics, war, territorialism and greed. It’s also connected to the Star Wars movie The Empire [Episode V]. It’s not meant to be funny, just because we’re Vader [laughs]. The movie was talking about that ”“ how to fool people to go and die, just to get more territory, you know?
I use all these symbols on our albums. The previous one was called Tibi Et Igni, and I focused on the symbol of fire and the different aspects of humanity. This time, because wars keep getting crazier, it’s about violence. There’s so much about war and violence, about why we’re doing that on this album. This is the main concept of the album, but it’s not all just about that. There’s one song called “No Gravity”, it’s a picture of what I see on stage when I see the real crazy fans. Moshing, jumping into the crowd, diving ”“ it looks like there’s no gravity [laughs].
Vader regularly tours Poland – what have you noticed about the demand for metal over the decades?
It’s a very special country. There’s a lot of fans, but Poland never supported this music. We even had a problem because of that. Poland has very deep Christian traditions. This is actually kind of a problem for musicians who try to talk about something they don’t understand. If we’re talking about the devil and Hell in our lyrics, many politicians try to blame bands for creating evil cults. They don’t want to understand the symbolic meaning. We use this language and the symbols to talk to people. Nobody blames movie directors for making a horror movie around Satan or whatever, they’re not called Satanists.
But it’s all about respect. If we respect somebody, we expect it from the other side as well. It’s how it should work. Poland also has this historical background about freedom and liberation. We’re apparently a liberal country for people who believe in different things, but the reality is totally different. I know that from the inside. I watch the news on the TV and sometimes, I want to cry.
Maybe that’s why every Vader album is so aggressive [laughs]. That’s my way of screaming and spreading out the anger. I don’t understand why people who are so stupid get power about ruling other people. This is what I can do. This is my voice. I’m so glad that many fans think in the same way. That brings hope for the future.
I read a 1997 interview where someone asked if you were Satanists. Do you still get that kind of question in Poland or elsewhere?
Sometimes. The answer is not the same. When I started to listen to the music and play metal, I was very much an Orthodox Christian. I was a teenager. What I knew was my yard, my city. I tried to be evil-looking, just to scare people, just to be different. I couldn’t accept this grey, boring world around me. For that phase, Satanism was great, but it was pure rebellion.
After many years, I had traveled around the globe and learnt so much ”“ I’m still a rebel, but I’m smarter. If I would say I’m a Satanist just because I use Satan’s symbol to rebel. In the Bible, he was a rebel. It doesn’t mean I respect and adore evil. I use the name as someone who doesn’t agree with everything that’s happening in the world, with political decisions, wars and the violence. That’s why, even today, if somebody were to ask, I would say, ”˜Yes, I’m a Satanist’. If you mean an evil guy who sacrifices humans or something at the altar, then no. This is just different.
After you guys, [blackened death metal band] Behemoth will also play in India. What, if anything, would you say are the commonalities between the bands?
The whole scene in metal, in the Eighties, had a chance to rise just because we were friends. Maybe today, the situation seems to be that the bands fight for a place or something like that. It’s mostly fans who try to say, ”˜My band’s better than yours’. We know each other ”“ the Behemoth guys, the [death metallers] Decapitated guys ”“ we’re friends. We’re always happy if the other guys gain something ”“ if they win an award or a good response at shows. It feels pretty nice, which is why we, as metal bands, are a brotherhood. We should be like that.
I know there are bands that cannot understand this and they don’t give a fuck ”“ they just want to be famous. If they play on a stage, they don’t care about the other bands. This is the rock star syndrome. We never accepted that. I saw many young bands who like to be like rock stars ”“ they kick the other bands’ asses and take everything. But we’re all humans, you know? We can’t be all good. That’d be boring. We need to have the bad people and the assholes and there are many of them around.
Vader performs at Bangalore Open Air 2016 on July 9th, 2016 at Royal Orchids Resort and Convention Centre, Bengaluru. Buy tickets here.