Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek of VADER
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen and Luxi Lahtinen
Transcription by David Groves (thanks mate!)
Vader, the legendary death metal force from Poland, have made quite a career for themselves with many successful albums and tours. Vader has also underwent some radical line-up changes over the years. Despite these line-up changes, the band’s mastermind Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek has managed to remain loyal to the original roots of Vader, navigating the band successfully from the stormy waters to calmer and flavorable harbors since the mid 80’s.
We met Peter about 2 hours before the showtime and had this great opportunity to make a long and in-depth interview with Peter regarding the recent comp. album XXV, talk about these line-up changes of the band - amongst many other things as well. The interview was conducted on October 21st 2008 when Vader were terrorizering the Finnish territories together with Grave and Zonaria.
THE RENEWED VADER LINE-UP
Now, something has happened in the Vader camp. The previous members Mauser (Stefanowicz, Guitar) and Daray" (Brzozowski, drums) have left the band. Were you surprised that they left all of a sudden, and at the same time?
Well, first of all it was not at the same time, maybe close. But it is something that has happened before so, it’s not like a disaster, we’ve just changed members. They wanted to do something different, they decided to do something different; you can’t do anything good if you don’t want to. So for Vader it’s actually good that these guys have left the band, because now we have those who are dedicated and want to do it. The guys playing with us now are kind of like session members at the moment, so we’ll see what happens in the future. It’s not just my decision as a leader, but especially their decision if they want to join us for longer or not. To be in Vader is not just like the good part. The bad part is having to spend the time touring. It’s hard work, you have to sacrifice yourself for that and not everybody can stand it. I think the biggest problem is to find a good member – it’s not problem to find a good musician, it’s a problem to find someone who can spend time touring for maybe two thirds of the year, far from family and friends. That’s something hard.
When did you notice the first signs that the previous members weren´t into touring any more - and overall the whole Vader thing?
With Novy (Nowak, bass) it was different because with Novy, what happened before the United States tour, that was a surprise for me. Because I never expected this man to be talking about money, it was a disappointment to hear such words from his mouth because I thought he was my friend. It appeared that he was thinking more about money than about friendship so we said Goodbye and Good Luck in the future. And Mauser, I knew we are going to split soon, already we were touring in Europe at the beginning of the year Mauser had started his project with his wife as the singer a long time ago. After he signed a deal for his first record, he put all his attention into that. I had already warned him that I will never accept problems with touring when something happens like there being two tours at the same time. So I’m sure that he needs to decide what’s going to happen I knew that he was going to go with his band – Vader’s my band and he wanted to do something of his own. The only surprise was the kind of music, because he was always orthodox in extreme metal. But something happened and how he’s more of a rocker than a metalhead. But whatever.
And the drummer Daray, when he joined Dimmu Borgir as their drummer that was always a surprise for me – until now, he’d never told me about that, I just found out on the internet. But he was looking for a job before, behind my back so that was not good. If he’d said he wanted to join a band he was always a fan of, I’d say okay, and we’d have a bit of more time to find a new drummer. But the day we played our last show with him in Warsaw, I asked him why he’d never said anything before about leaving. He hadn’t said anything about joining Dimmu Borgir, he’d been saying he needed to pay more attention to his family, to a girl, he needed to do something with his life, blah blah blah like that.
What about these new guys? You had hassles with the ex-members and some things really took you as surprise as they were really leaving the band. I was just wondering whether you already started seeking new musicians for Vader like sniffing the air a little bit in advance, who is going to replace who, etc.?
Vader is here and we play. It’s important to play a good show every night. Of course it’s easier to have permanent members because you know what to expect from them every night. But now Vader’s at such a level that it’s not a problem to find a good musician to play tours. You don’t even need to practise hours and hours a day just to be ready for the tour. There was not a problem to find a good guitarist because I’ve got a bunch of friends who would be glad to join Vader even for a while, for several tours or something. So I’m so glad that Waclaw (Kieltyka, guitar) joined the band because I’ve known him for years, since he started playing. He was talented already at the beginning, and then he started Decapitated. After the accident in Russia two years ago, when his brother and the drummer died, and there was a problem with the singer Covan, he was in a kind of coma. So it’s a good thing for him to get back to something, to forget about the problem. He loves playing – the stage is a place for him, the best place for such a musician. So we had a month, he prepared everything, and then we spent two days before this tour practising together as a band. So that was easy. Reyash (bass) joined us after the American tour. And that was hard for him, because we hadn’t played together before. We arrived in Poland and next day without playing five minutes, then we had to play probably one of the biggest festivals in Europe, Poland. So we played with no practising for two hundred thousand people. And everybody, especially him, were welcomed pretty good, so that was very important for everybody.
And the other story is with the drummer. Because to find a drummer for a band like Vader that quick, it’s not as easy. So we made something like a casting, and there was a planet of interested drummers, so we found a few names, did a meeting in Warsaw in one club, and Paul was the best of those three guys that we checked out. Not just because of playing, but because of thinking and mentality, and motivation, which is really important. We will see, I’m 80-90% sure that he’s gonna stay. He’s like Daray when he joined the band, maybe better in playing, if I can compare those two guys. But Daray, he made big progress in two years, he was working so much, so hard. And now he’s a drummer in Dimmu Borgir, so it was worth it for him. He had a big motivation and I see the same in this guy, so that’s my hope for the future. As for now, there is a deal between me and the band that we have a band now but it’s temporary, and after a few tours together, we all will decide, are we going to stay in this team or is somebody going to leave?
So you could say that these new band members are motivated enough to stay in the band and interested in touring as well…
There’s no other option. The worst thing that can happen in to play with guys who don’t have the motivation and play just for money. And that was the last month with the previous members with me. This is like fresh blood for me, when I see the fire in their eyes, they play with different power, it’s good. By the way, this is the best time for changes because we’ve finished touring and have some time for the new album, that’s coming out at the beginning of next year. So this is better for us. We would like to do something like pre-production and touring together again.
You’ve been saying that it’s important that Vader are touring around and have all that motivation and determination to work for the band. Do you think - with your band members being in some other bands, too - there might be a conflict with touring schedules and such things?
There is not an option. I have to decide because this is my decision that’s why they are not pernament members. If they decide to say in Vader - They are in Vader and there’s no option, I don’t want to hear something like ‘well, I’ve got to do a tour with my band, we can’t go to tour this season’ – no way, if somebody’s decided to be in Vader. So it’s like a sacrifice. It sounds hard but that’s the only way to do anything.
Some of us have followed Vader since your demo days, when Vader recorded the NECROLUST and MORBID REICH demos. You’ve been round 25 years and have had a lot of line-up changes, but you have still managed to keep the Vader warmachine on the merciless battle field thru these - sometimes even tough years. So, can you tell us what is Vader´s secret?
If I would not have liked to do that, if I had not loved that music I would not do that. I would probably find a chance to do something different to make myself happy. But this is what makes me happy so I do that. As I said at the beginning of this interview, the price is high because I have to steal hours for me from my own life, from my family, from my friends. But such is life – this is also a choice. My family lives together and everything is a choice, in my life I always try to do things without hurting anybody else. This is hard when you’re into this kind of music. But it’s making people happy, giving people energy, and emotions – that’s why I love it and that’s why I do it, that’s the motivation.
Vader at Tuska 2007
THE ULTIMATE XXV
You’ve just released this collection album of re-recorded versions (XXV) of the older Vader songs from several albums. What was the idea of the whole package?
Actually I don’t like this kind of thing, it always means ‘time is over’ or something like that. There is so much to do yet for Vader, there’s still people who like to see us more and more so this is no time to say ‘goodbye’. And doing the music, I think that’s the best thing we could do for fans. This album is very specific because we recorded it mainly for a new generation, the generation who knows us from IMPRESSIONS IN BLOOD and THE ART OF WAR. And that’s why there are no songs from these albums included. So we focussed on the first records and a few never released tracks just to close up the beginning of Vader. And that was the main idea for XXV. And better for those fans who have followed since our demodays. I think it’s also the best gift from the band because we collected all the songs from the last 25 years on one album, but not just collected – re-recorded to give them a new sound. The idea came also from the album Saxon recorded for their 20th anniversary with that kind of stuff. We just recorded more songs. I found it great idea and followed the same idea.
Actually the whole package is kind of an easy way for Vader rookies to get into the band, from the past up to the new albums...
The first album sounded way different from the last album, it was different times in the early 90’s, we never had a chance to spend time on the album – it was hard. We just broke through from Poland, it was our first chance to do anything. So these albums, if we are talking about the sounds, were far from perfect. But they are part of our life so they were worthy to be re-done for the new generations of metal fans.
How did you end up doing “Wyrocznia” for XXV, which is an old KAT song anyway, in which you also have the Kat vocalist Roman (Kostrzewski) doing ´the guest vocals´ for it?
This song is by KAT, and you know in Finland you have important bands that are only known in Finland, not too many people know about them outside Finland. KAT were the same [for Poland], they were so important for the extreme metal scene in the underground and the special symbolic language of metal, so we included that cover – in Polish. We did that song for a KAT tribute before, but in English, under the title “Oracle”. But, the best for me, this was the original, and the original singer decided to join us as the singer so that was like, a big deal.
There are a plenty of guest musicians from bands like Vesania, Severe Torture, etc., on this release Was it pre-planned and logical thing to ask them to contribute some of these songs on this collection album?
You know, the metal scene was always brotherhood, always for me especially when we started. Everything was made by collaborating together. Which is something different, and I get a feeling that today bands are in like a competition – who’s better, who’s faster with a better song and better promotion. That’s not the point, that’s not the way. In the beginning I planned to invite way more guests on this album, but then I thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea, to make an album with just guests. From one side, yes, but this is supposed to be a Vader album. So Vader should get at least 90% of the album. So I decided to keep all the tracks I already had done with the friends I had invited before and who had found time to record, and what you hear is the final result.
It is like the brotherhood of metal...
Yes - especially the cover song of Terrorizer, so why this one? First, because it’s quite famous of Vader, like the FUTURE OF THE PAST album was a compilation of covers of all the different bands who were influences for the metal scene, not just for Vader but for the scene (chosen by us of course). But because of Jesse Pintado, who passed away not so long before, and from the other side the guys of Dead Infection, another Polish band more known in the grind scene, but they came back to the scene a few years ago with a new album. And I thought it was a perfect combination to do a tribute to Jesse, and to play together with old friends from the old days. I remember we met for the first time in the 80’s, Cyjan the drummer of the band. So it was nice to meet again in the studio and do something.
I assume you have a lot of songs from the heyday of Vader from the 80’s like “Tyrants Of Hell”. Did you consider doing more of those old songs for the comp. album?
“Tyrants of Hell” on XXV was more like something interesting for all those fans who know us from the albums like LITANY or even THE ULTIMATE INCANTATION because Vader, when we started in the 80’s, was different. So we wanted to be extreme metal but until I listened to the SHOW NO MERCY album, extreme was Priest and Motorhead and these bands. So that’s why the Vader from the 80’s was more similar to Heavy Metal and Classic Metal. A little touch of Thrash Metal. But Slayer and Destruction, these bands changed Vader, especially with their intensity, because we started playing more extreme and faster. And I think that was the first change, not just in the line up but in the music, we were into a more extreme kind of playing, not into the classic style. Probably if we had never listened to Slayer we would be some normal metal band or something like that. That was closer to the sound we played at the beginning.
Vader at Party San 2007
You also released a DVD along with XXV, which has got some old Vader stuff from the 80’s up to 2000 and something. Was it an easy task to pick up old video clips from your gigs of the past?
I have so many tapes collected from so many sources and even old ones from the 80’s. So as I said at the beginning, if we wanted to show something to the new generation about the Vader of the past, and if the technology allows us to do that, it’s good to add pictures to that. It’s so different compared to today, when you see the video clips of Vader and every band from the late 80’s and beginning of the 90’s, there’s so much that’s different. They’re hard to compare.
Is the "Dark Age" video on the DVD, too?
No, we put the first video to the EP on the American Tour.
Was it done by this one guy from Finland?
Yes. That was the Finnish team who was working for MTV. Nice to from you to mention that
Actually the guy used to play in the first Finnish heavy metal band in the early 80’s called Sarcofagus?
Yes, his name was Kimmo Kuusniemi.
Yeah, Kimmo ja Tanya. When we were talking for the first time they said that they were more into punk and not metal, but they liked to discover new things and work with something different. And everything they were talking about was close to the natural world. So that’s why, even if we at the beginning were closer to a middle ages atmosphere, they tried to mix so many different themes in one and they succeeded. So that was fun. But any picture on MTV for any band was like big success. I don’t think that’s something that’s possible today. MTV forgot about how it started and what made them famous, what kind of music. But that’s a different story.
Vader at Nightlife in Helsinki 2006
THE PAST DAYS OF VADER
When asking Peter about Vader´s demo NECROLUST whether he kind of foresaw how Vader was going to sound like as far as their yet-unrecorded debut album at that time was concerned, Peter commented:
Actually no. The NECROLUST demo was recorded in ’89 so that was already after Darek joined us. So this was a new Vader - especially MORBID REICH, a year after that, because that was like the birth of the Vader you know today. The next years were just about evolving, progressing. But ’89-’90, that was the beginning of extreme Vader like we were from the first album onward.
THE ULTIMATE INCANTATION threw you onto the international ground when you signed with Earache...
Definitely, it was the first album, we were waiting so many years to record that.
What can you say about it some 15 years later?
You know I can’t see anything wrong with it, or any album. Of course maybe they sound not perfect, if we take it from today, but when we were recording we didn’t have much chance to do anything better. So we did the best we could. The reality to us was different - We were a band from Poland, we were waiting so many years to record something like an album and for such a known record company. So that was a big deal. And because of Earache and THE ULTIMATE INCANTATION, we broke through, played our first big tours, and the world knew Vader for the first time. I’m not talking about the tape trading because through that we met people who knew us from NECROLUST and MORBID REICH because I was sending tapes to many places around the world. But that was pretty much underground. But the real beginning is when you show yourself on stage, and in ’93, that was such a time for us.
That album truly is ´metal-to-the-bone´ with big capital letter - and you had a promo video “Dark Age” in a regular rotation on MTV. THE ULTIMATE INCANTATION - Vader´s debut album, seemed to reach lots of ears when it was released...
Ha-ha... Thank you for your kind words. It has a lot of to do with the promotion, I guess.
When someone listens to it, one may get a feeling that bands like Slayer and Morbid Angel were pretty influential bands for you when you started the band?
Not just for Vader, but for many bands I think.
When you wrote the songs for that album, how would you say those two aforementioned bands especially, influenced you back in the day? Obviously all of you were somewhat huge fans of both Slayer and Morbid Angel, correct?
We were, and we are fans. So the music is influenced even today by those two bands. At the beginning we were young, so things like composing and making music our own way had not yet been reached. So like everybody, the first albums were closer to the bands who were our influences. Later we found a way and we became Vader, so you can recognise the band from the album. But there’s not too many bands who could record their first album and become known because of a sound. Even Morbid Angel, they recorded ALTARS OF MADNESS they were influences, they started something because of fast speed speacial playing by Trey, they were pretty much influenced by the other bands as well. So that was natural.
So, kind of in a nutshell, your aim was to write brutal and fast metal…
First of all, because when we started we wanted to play metal. The sounding extreme was the point, the main goal. So today we’re still extreme, but we’re smarter, more experienced as musicians and as men so we can talk more, give more emotions and play with emotions with our fans – feel the music. But at the beginning it was different, it was just more pure, rough, rebellious, stuff like that.
FINDING A NEW HOME AT REGAIN RECORDS
You have been on several labels like Earache, Metal Blade and now on the Sweden-based Regain Records. How did you end up signing a deal with Regain Records?
That’s something natural; they were the ones who offered the good price and good conditions. And they started with some bands, Behemoth included, and because we are close with guys because we’re from Poland we knew how they worked. So we liked their way of working and cooperation with the band. I think there’s a difference between working together and cooperation. There should be a link between the band and the record company, and not just a link between their bank accounts. This is music, so everybody should be happy. That’s probably the source of our problems and the main reason we are changing labels – sometimes the promises were far from realities. We are real guys so we never wanted anybody to fuck with Vader, but we wanted attention but like everybody today, we needed promotion, and not just a title somewhere, we needed to show people out there that the new album is coming out. Today it’s not like the 80’s when one poster was enough to collect thousands of people in the streets. Today you have to stick the poster to every door. It’s easier to put it on the internet, that’s also something different.
Obviously you have been pretty pleased at least with them so far how they have pushed Vader forward with all their efforts so far - having had no problems with them so far or anything, right?
I don’t like to talk about our problems, I really like to talk about the good side of life and Vader’s life. So if we had a problem I like to leave it behind and talk about good things. Even if we know that both happen all the time.
Would you say that the Regain staff actually knows their stuff well - how bands should be promoted in the first place and get on the next level as far as the promotion is concerned?
What can I say? I strongly believe in them, but time will show us the truth. It’s not enough just to know, we have to act not just say. That’s the source of the problems with companies, they like to say but it’s so hard to realise their promises.
What kind of deal do you have with Regain?
We have a manager and all the business part is in his hands. We’ve worked together since the beginning in 89, and you know loyalty is a strong part of Vader. So if we’re talking about a cooperation between Vader’s playing members and management.
When will get a new album from you guys then? Have you already started penning down songs for it?
Yes, I’ve just started, so I’m going to focus on the album after this tour. It’s going to be called ‘The Necropolis’ and will be out next year probably in September just after the vacation.
Where do you find ideas and inspirations for all this new new stuff that you tend to release on rather regular basis?
Everywhere. That’s what I said, we have time because we are professional musicians. When we’re not touring, we have time to just sit and think, go into the studio and record. It’s easy to work and compose like that, you can focus just on the music. You don’t need to think about food and ‘how will I feed my family?’ This is what I like to do and this is what I need to do, it’s a job and a hobby together all in one.
THE 25th ANNIVERSARY SHOW IN POLAND
You recently had the Vader anniversary show in the end of August this year, with several other bands sharing the bill as well - like Samael, Grave, Rotting Christ, Gorefest, Marduk, etc… How did you pick up those bands for this special event anyway? Were also the former members of Vader taking a part of the anniversary gig?
First we thought it wasn’t going to be easy because every band is enough known, and the question was, are they going to understand the idea of this evening? Because not everyone can forget about their pride and play as a support band. Because it was our anniversary we wanted to play the long set and that’s why we played at the end. It’s not like we wanted to show that we’re the best because we play last, that would be stupid. So each band has the same time to play. We were talking to many bands but not every manager can swallow that so that’s why it was an honour for us to have some of the bands on the bill. This was mostly a gift for the fans – lots of them stayed from the beginning to the end, 12 hours non-stop in the mosh, I remember I talked to the Grave guys after that and they were shocked as they had never seen that from 11 before noon till 11 at night the people could still be so ready, not tiring. That was nice. So that was like a big step back into the good times in the past. And that was the main idea. And I’m so happy that – well we couldn’t do everything that we planned because of the size of the stage and some logistical problems – but all in all I think 90% it was a success and the people were happy and that’s important.
Will there be a DVD of this?
First we wanted to do that but that would be a problem because we’d need to sacrifice about two or three hundred people [fans] for that, because the team needs the room at the front of the stage. The stage was not as big and we didn’t want to do something like ‘Vader and the rest’ so we kept everything in the background but we left enough big stage for everybody, for the bands to feel like men, like a band. They were guests, not the support guys. The other problem is, when there is a camera, you act differently, and we count on spontaneity, a spontaneous concert. So we decided to leave that idea and just do a show. And you know if it’s not recorded, it’s one of a kind. It wasn’t recorded so everyone could buy and watch, it was one of a kind. And we didn’t expect that so many people would be interested, but a month before the show, everything was sold out, there were people who wanted to pay four or five times the price for a ticket. We tried to keep the price as low as possible but it wasn’t ass-cheap. That’s good though, it means people are into it indeed. And not just from Poland – we had visitors from Russia and from west and even a few guys from America who flew to Warsaw just for the show.
Vader shredding at Party San in 2007
The crowd was also privileged to taste an energy drink named after your band, “Vader” at that special event, which is only marketed for the Polish markets… for now. How did the idea about your own energy drink, was born in the first place?
It’s not our energy drink, it’s a funny story because many fans ask me about that. But because of the name, there is a company that called their drink the Vader. And because we had an anniversary, they found out about it and talked to management and wanted to do something together. So they asked to give drinks to fans and just to use the name. So we put the news in our official site and everybody thought that this was ‘Vader’s drink’.
I´m a bit curious to know, how does it taste like then?
Believe it or not, I didn’t taste it. That was not funny for us, we were really pissed off, these drinks were supposed to be really cheap for everybody, it was a special price. And the special price was made double the price of regular by the owner of the club. So that’s a very stupid thing and definitely not right. So maybe it’s good I didn’t taste it.
Going back to the history of the Polish metal scene… How do you recall those days? Vader have come a long road from the catacombs of the underground, behind the fallen iron curtain. How do you recall those days in Poland? Poland had a very strong death,- thrash- and black metal underground scene even back in late ´80s and early ´90s, with bands like Hazael, Behemoth, Violent Dirge, Christ Agony, Slashing Death, Condemnation, Betrayer, etc., leading your underground troops…
I’m so glad to hear that. Vader was not the first band, but among the first bands from Poland. We just survived and they didn’t. Which is too bad, because there were really good bands in Poland those days. And it’s pretty much unique because it was so hard to be a band in general. There were no metal stores, not many record stores, not many music stores. There were a few that did regular equipment but the prices were ridiculously high and we, without thick wallets, couldn’t buy anything like a good guitar sound. So we used homemade shit, just something we could use to play, like amps, guitars, everything. Even the uniforms, the spikes, everything was handmade, t-shirts too. But you know, that was a passion and maybe because of that, people were happy with everything. Even five minutes of listening to metal from vinyls or tapes – we’d be travelling to the other side of the country just to tape some new demo tracks for a totally unknown band, totally shitty quality. But I never saw as many happy faces listening to the high quality sounds of today from the best sounding band in the world. So that was very special and definitely today the new generation will never understand it because they were born in a different world. Especially in Poland. You were closer to the regular world so you had regular everything but Poland was totally different, totally different. So we tried to do anything to break through. Any show we did was in cooperation between the bands. Lets say we invited somebody, talked to the student clubs so we got together two or three bands, we collected equipment…we were travelling by train with the amps and drums. But we were happy, the passion was really high in these days.
Vader has become some kind of death metal institution in Poland as you seem to play at all these big festivals there and outside of Poland, and pull large crowds to your shows all the time? How would you view this matter from your own point of view? Is this all result of believing in this band so strongly and all your hard efforts that you have done for this band for all these past years where you are now at?
No, no way. In ´95, 12 years after we started, I decided to put all my attention into the band and that’s when we became professional. I quit my studying. It was a risk, but that’s life. Sometimes we have to risk. I strongly believed in the music and I wanted to do it. Maybe we had dreams to play on big stages or to be know, but nobody expected to be a rich person playing death metal. But in 95, that was like two years since we broke through with Bolt Thrower in Europe and Deicide in the US, so we knew there was a chance to follow on, to do more and more. So we did.
Looking a bit into the future, there´s this “Winterfest” coming up in January for Vader also, in which Deicide and Samael will join their troops with you for 15 shows around the Europe. How much do you look forward to playing those shows with both Deicide and Samael?
That’s nice because after so many ears we can play again with those guys we met at the beginning. I remember we played with Samael when they were a two piece band, the two brothers. And we met for the first time in Poland. I remember we had some beers, and we were sleeping with Samael under the table in my friend’s house, that was funny. It’s good to know they became so famous and found a style. Different, but still interesting. And Deicide, that’s a different story because they were a big influence, they were like stars on the death metal scene. I found these guys so friendly when we were touring in the US the first time. And we met twice after that in Europe, and now after the years there’s a chance for us to do something together again. That’s really fun, that’s a good team.
Do you think Glen Benton will be able to come over this time?
We will see, I hope so.
They have got quite a few problems on their way from time to time...
There are so many where you think that ‘problems’ is their middle name. Personally I never expected any problems from this guy because he was always very funny and friendly. So he never made any problems for us as a band or as friends. So I can’t say I’m that worried about it.
How about the future looks for Vader?
Hard to say about the future. This is another chance to show the new line up of vader. And these are like the first shows, we’ve just started and it’s like we’re taking a breath. But in January we’ll be blowing back. I can’t wait for that.
Thanks to Jussi "Metalglory" Helenius for arranging the interview
More pics taken from Vader´s show in Helsinki on October 21st 2008, with the new line-up