One month ago, as you know, I blown away by the last album of Rotengeist, a Polish progressive thrash metal band with a lot of creativity and innovative ideas. Now, what you'll read here is the interview to them. Their singer/guitarist and main composer Piotr Winiarski has replied to the many questions of mine giving very interesting answers also in order to speak about the dangerous political situation that Poland is living today plus some serious reflections about religion and the way it is used during this particular era. Let's go with the questions!
Hi guys! Well, I have to do the congratulations for your excellent last album! Now, do you want to introduce Rotengeist to the readers of Timpani allo Spiedo 'zine with a nice biography? And why did you choose a moniker like Rotengeist?
Hi! Thank you very much. Our detailed biography is on our Facebook page so in order not to bore you all to death I'm gonna give you some basics. We started in 2005. So far we've recorded a demo and 3 LP's. We've had only one major line-up change. In the middle of 2015 Adam Dryś substituted Alek Partynski as a bass guy. That change made a considerable impact on "The Test That Divides Us All".
The band's name is a coinage of two words. We've deleted one “t” from an English word rotten and added German “geist”. It can be translated as rotten, corrupt mind.
What do you remember about your first rehearsals? Did you have already the clear ideas about your very complex sound?
I do remember our first rehearsal. A friend of ours let us practice in his rehearsal room and I invited Ziemek and Alek to jam together. I've brought one song called “Strange” (it was later recorded and re-recorded on both demo and our first album). It went very smoothly so we've completed this song during that particular rehearsal.
Since now many years, Poland is producing a lot of amazing metal music, especially in its most extreme forms. Indeed, I have to say that the Polish metal has one of my favorite scenes of the entire world. But why is metal music so popular in your country? Are there some bands that are able to be into your national/independent charts?
I see our metal scene as being a mix of American metal in our own eastern package, except for black metal which is a whole different story. We used to live under a soviet boot for a long time. Everything outside the iron courtain seemed in a way better and more modern. The most popular and probably the best band of that time was KAT. Later came other bands like Vader, who gained international recognition. Less popular abroad (shame in my view) is Acid Drinkers. Their album called "Infernal Connection" is my numero uno and I don't think it will change.
Let’s talk about “The Test…”! How were the recordings for your third album? If I am not mistaken, you recorded for the second time at Torowa Studio with Przemuk Rzeszut, true?
The engineer was the same, the studio was different though. Przemek, soon after we've recorded “Start”, has built a new studio, which he called “Torowa” ("railroad street" in Polish). We enjoyed working there. It's situated 80km from our town, so it wasn't a problem to commute even daily.
What are the lyrical themes faced for “The Test…”? And, precisely, what is “the test that divides us all”? If I say right, it has something to do with religion and politics…
Exactly. Lyrics touch religion and politics, because we think these are the two most dividing issues of all. We as humanity failed a grand test, like we didn't pass an exam. You can easily see that a moral guidelines of for example Jesus Christ are now distorted, corrupt and being used as a part of the political or economical scheme. Religion is used for exploitation and one of the means of maximizing profits. So much preeching, so little practicing.
A song that has particularly impressed me is “Lunatics Fanatics”, since it is a mid-tempo with an heavy apocalyptic vibe strong even of sketches taken from political speeches by Mussolini and other dictators. What was the genesis of this number, and why did you use those sketches?
Adam (bass) wrote both music and lyrics. It depicts what is currently happening in our national politics. We're ruled by a party led by a hateful man, clearly aspiring to be a kind of a dictator figure. A bunch of “acolytes” do his bidding without any hesitation. They call themselves national-catholics who are going to free our country from the last reminders of totalitarian state we used to have before 1989. What they actually do is totally opposite. They can destroy people who think differently without breaking a fart while hypocritically kneeling in first rows in churches (this political party, that is now leading Poland since the 2015 parliamentary election, is named "Law and Justice" and, according to Wikipedia, it's right-wing populist, national-conservative and Christian "democratic").
As far as “bad boys'” speeches are concerned, we wanted the song to have a more universal meaning. Like I said before we were inspired by Polish political ”playground”, but similar scenarios happened not once in history.
In a certain sense, I consider “Moments of the Ecstasies” as a very strange track. I say this because it starts, in brief, from the end of “Nightmare within Nightmare”. What is the sense of this very particular musical choice?
Originally it was supposed to be connected with "Butcher's Bill". Look, “Butcher's Bill” ends in a slow-down and 4 chords which go very well together with the first riff of “Moments”. We've finally decided that we drop this idea. We wanted the beginning of the album to be surprising and interesting. I think we managed to do it. “Nightmare” slows down, fades out, comes back and gives way to next song with plenty of “action”.
Considering your particular style, “Gest Idoli” represent a totally sui generis song. So, why did you want to cover this song of the Polish HC punk band Karcer? Please, tell us something about Karcer, also because I think they are almost unknown outside your borders. And I would like also to know how was possible to play HC punk in Poland during the Communist dictatorship…
Karcer has a legendary status amongs people who listen to punk music. I grew up with that folk. I used to listen to electro and everyone around me used to wear mohawk. Years passing by, I began to listen to more and more punk rock. Thrash metal originated from punk and all it's “dirt” and aggression. I love the first 4 Megadeth albums. They're just like that.
Coming back to “Gest Idoli”, a friend of ours reminded us of that song. I figured it's going to fit perfectly into our album, especially the meaning of lyrics. It has famale vocals, because women have always been neglected by “Abrahamic” religions. Shit hitting the fan, eh?
Several guest were used for your last album, even Spider from Vader! But how did you choose the songs to play with your guests?
Our long time friend Marcin Dyvan Pitorek recorded backing vocals. I just love his growl. He even used to sing live with us replacing me as a vocalist. Eventually we've decided his vocal suits better as a supplement. Dominika sang on “Gest idoli”, but we've talked about it before.
The craziest idea was getting Spider to appear on our album. We've known each other for years. We used to tour together with his band Esqarial, and it was great! “Butcher's Bill” is one of Adam's songs. He left quite a long (at least for my taste) space for a lyrical, virtuoso type of solo. I honestly didn't have an idea for this solo, but I realized that I know just the guy for this job. Marek (aka Spider) is obviously very busy playing long international tours with Vader. We were very lucky, that Vader had a gig scheduled in Rzeszow (where we recorded). I pre-booked the studio and sent him the song. We had one hour window before he was going to play a show. He rushed into the studio and nailed this amazing solo. The final version is take 4, mind you.
“The Test…” is your second album released by Defense Records. How was born your alliance with this fantastic label?
Piotr Popiel, who runs Defense Records, used to be the manager of another band from our town called Cryptic Tales. We met through them. When we recorded "Start to Exterminate" we showed him a rough mix and he liked it a lot. That's how we started.
For you, what are the differences between your first two albums and “The Test…”? I have to admit that I have still to listen to the other albums of yours.
On the first one we wanted to prove that we can play technical music. We realized that that's not the most important thing. Of course we still play similar music, you can hear it's Rotengeist, but it's more mature now. We don't plan our moves, if you get my point. It's not that we decide, let's make it simpler. No. We recorded an album without any pressure. Besides it's best if you judge our progress and the direction in which we're going.
You play a progressive and unpredictable thrash metal influenced recently a lot by death metal. In your opinion, what are the main features which characterize strongly your sound? For me, one of them is your incredible creativity by which you are able to give to every song of yours a very strong personality.
Thank you. It's very nice of you. Until now I used to be the main writer of music. Of course I don't want to diminish Alek's and Ziemek's input in previous albums, but we arranged songs that I wrote. Now we write together with Adam. He did 2 songs on “Test..” and we did “Nightmare” together.
As far as our sound is concerned, my friend said once that our last album has a dark feeling. Raw thrash mixed with latest Meshuggah. I agree with him. I'd like our new stuff to sound rawer.
Unfortunately we had to cancel. MoshMachine who were going to support us has become inactive. Logistics went south so we had to give up on this tour.
Have you ever played outside Poland? I have to say that it would be fantastic if, soon or later, you will have the chance to play in Italy, possibly in my city, Rome!
Yes. We played in Czech Republic and in Ukraine. Now we plan to play some shows in western Europe in spring 2018. It's not impossible we're going to visit Rome.
Ok, this interview is ending and thank you very much for replying to my questions. Now you can end it in your words.
Thank you very much for this interview. Best regards to your readers and we invite you to check out Rotengeist. See you in your local venue!
If you want, make a donation to Timpani allo Spiedo 'zine through the PayPal button at your right, above the cover artwork of my upcoming book about proto-black metal. Thank you very much!