Mariusz Duda: «You understand Prog as it should always be»

Thanks to Nicole Tejero for making this interview possible.

Today we have the honor of presenting an engaging and relaxed conversation with one of the most representative figures of contemporary progressive rock. Mariusz Duda is an artist whose influence spans over two decades of music; known for his gifted vocals and bass in Riverside, his leadership in Lunatic Soul, and his solo career.

As the frontman of Riverside, he has released eight acclaimed studio albums and has gained a passionate following worldwide. Additionally, his side project, Lunatic Soul, has led him to explore more introspective and experimental sonic territories. His solo career, flirting with electronic sounds, has also been a showcase of his versatility and talent as a composer and musician.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the triumphs, challenges, and inspirations that have shaped Mariusz’s extraordinary career (hereinafter MD). We discuss the current state of Riverside, their upcoming appearance at the second edition of the CL. Prog Festival on April 6th, and the next Lunatic Soul album, which he has already stated will be the last work of the project.

PJ: Hi Mariusz. How are you? Nice to finally meet you and thank you for taking the time to be here with us at ProgJazz!

MD: I’m good, thank you very much to everyone at ProgJazz. I must say that while I knew about you, I had never heard a fusion between Prog and Jazz before.

PJ: It’s a good combination!

MD: Yes, I agree with that.

PJ: Let’s get to the questions. Undoubtedly, the influence of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Jean Michel Jarre is present in your works, as well as in your musical education during your childhood and adolescence. How does today’s Mariusz Duda view the child who, in your own words, used to hallucinate while staring at posters of Jarre and Vangelis in his bedroom?

MD: Well, I’m very happy to be able to make a living out of the things I’ve always wanted to do, to connect my work with my passion, and to live off music that is not super-commercial. So I don’t have this feeling of selling my soul. I think I have good inspirations because I choose music that reflects senses in the human body, and I hope that this legacy from which I drew inspiration will continue in some way.

I feel fulfilled, but on the other hand, nowadays I’m doing more things that make me feel better, and this also includes music.

PJ: Both Riverside and Lunatic Soul, and your own solo career, have been interesting experiences for your fans, especially for the challenge that the variety of musical landscapes in your creations imply. Would you like to explore different scenarios in the future?

MD: Well, I’ve already been in this world of pure electronics during the pandemic, so now I have three different worlds or musical languages and I would probably choose what feels best for me. It can be rock with elements of metal, and, I don’t know, ambient music with folk and electronics. I love composing good songs, good melancholic songs. I like experimenting with riffs, and I like experimenting with strange sounds. For me, that’s fine.

Of course, I could experiment more, but I think I’ve found my boundaries that I like to extend from time to time, but keeping the solid foundations of my style. I don’t think I’ve recorded a «Progjazz» album 😄, for example, but I remember I had a jazz band in the past before moving to Warsaw, the capital of Poland, and I think I already experienced that.

Also in Lunatic Soul, I have some jazz elements, like saxophones and things like that. That’s subconsciously under my skin, but yes, I feel comfortable with my musical genres, and I don’t think that will change.

PJ: I follow you quite closely (not in a stalker-way of course 😄), so I noticed that you recently posted on your social media some very interesting information about your creative process and your enjoyment of composing Lunatic Soul’s latest album. My question is related to that creative process you mentioned. How does this creative process begin? How does it unfold?

MD: I started with old ideas from different projects, which is something I always do. I found something to start with, and my thinking flew to «ok, it’s time to start composing a song.» I wanted to gather all the characteristic elements for the new Lunatic Soul album, in addition to experimenting with electronic music, which makes me feel great as an artist when I experiment, push boundaries, and do different things, but also, from time to time, I need to record things that feel more «ok.»

These days I ask myself «what am I good at?». I think that I’m not a «virtuoso» on any of my instruments, but I can create stories and create an album with a message, with a story that is coherent for you to listen to from beginning to end, and I think that from time to time I can create a good song, a good melancholic ballad, or come up with a good riff. So on this new Lunatic Soul album, I told myself «ok, it’s time to connect «Lunatic Soul 1» with «Through Shaded Woods» and «Walking on a Flashlight Beam«, connecting very basic elements of the project that reflect the style, combining good ballads and riffs. I can also tell you that I started composing more on the piano.

It’s probably the most diverse Lunatic Soul album, and it’s quite long. I still don’t know if I’ll release it as a double album, but it will definitely be very interesting. Now I’m just doing what makes me feel better, so I’m not forcing myself to do something «crazy»; I’m just doing what I want to do, what I feel, but at the same time, I think it’s also very unique.

PJ: I’m sure it is! Let’s talk about Riverside. You wrapped up the «ID. Entity» tour at the end of last year. This 2024 we will have the pleasure to welcome you again in South America, with Chile being one of the main stops. How would you describe your experience interacting with an audience that devoutly consumes highly complex music like yours?

MD: Ok, well, this time it will be a pleasure to see the audience in Chile without face masks, because last time we had problems with that and we suffered along with the audience.

Our new album works very well live, and if today you don’t feel much connection with it, you will probably change your mind when you hear it live. If you connect that with the reactions of the Chileans, it could be a performance bomb, a blast, so I’m looking forward to experiencing that.

PJ: Between «Out of Myself» and «ID. Entity«, 20 years and eight studio albums have gone by. A catalog that has elevated Riverside to a position of influence over the last decade. How would you compare, looking back at those early years and the position you are in nowadays, headlining festivals and filling venues all over the world?

MD: Well, it’s great to headline festivals after 20 active years. It’s like the saying goes, «sooner or later.» We could have been stuck in the same position, but we have always grown, although not very fast. In fact, we have grown slowly, but what matters is growth.

It’s great to have this feeling that every year we are reaching larger audiences. I wrote about it in «Anno Domini High Definition,» something like «you have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place,» and for that reason, we haven’t gone backward. That’s great. Our growth is progressive, just like our style (laughs), so I’m happy because we’re doing well. Otherwise, I would be doing something else by now.

PJ: On September 7, 2015, Riverside made its debut in Chile, at the Cariola theater, a quite small venue compared to the capacity of the Caupolicán theater. What memories do you have of that day, where you immediately won over the local fans, and what were your impressions of the audience?

MD: I remember from that tour that I was crazy fighting against deadlines. I was recording a song one day before sending the master to the record label because we had to meet the album release date, and unfortunately, we had to stop because the tour, which was scheduled a year and a half before, was starting. We had to embark on this «Love, Fear and the Time Machine» release tour. So when I arrived there, it was like «hello, we’re promoting the new album, it just got released now

The audience supported us a lot, but we didn’t play the new songs well because they were very new. We only played four tracks from «Love, Fear and the Time Machine,» and we were like «we need to practice them more.» We could have played a better show in Chile, definitely. It’s not like today, where we feel more confident, so probably at that time it was a stressful moment. We said to ourselves «we will come back to play them better,» but a few years later the COVID happened. Anyway, it was a great experience in Chile.

PJ: Speaking of the present and what’s to come. You just announced the second edition of the CL.Prog festival, where you will share the stage with VOLA, the post-rock of the Japanese band Mono, and the psychedelic fantasies of the legendary Gong, among others. What is your opinion about these referential bands? Have you met them or played alongside them in the past?

MD: We played with Mono once, I don’t remember where, I think it was at a festival in Spain. I’m not a big fan of post-rock because for me it sounds the same on all the albums of all the bands, with some exceptions; but I have great respect for bands like Mono because they are pioneers in that genre, like Mogwai. They are interesting.

As for the rest, I know Gong from the 70s’, but I don’t know what they play now. VOLA is one of those bands that have a very defined idea in their music; I have many friends who are fans of them. There are many metal bands with 7 or 8-string guitars that sound really similar to each other, but VOLA tries to be a band that experiments differently. They are more melodic, in my opinion.

This festival is really great, and something I’ve said in previous interviews is that I get the feeling that you in your country understand prog as everyone should understand prog. It shouldn’t be conservative music, as some people in America understand it, listening to only one musical genre. That’s very outdated and conservative.

In Chile, people listen to many different styles of genres, and this is great, and even the festivals showcase this perspective. This is not like having a festival with «Transatlantic», «Flower Kings», «Neal Morse», and having Mike Portnoy on drums in all the bands. It’s totally different there in Chile. That’s awesome, and I’m happy that we can attend a festival like that.

PJ: You commented a bit about my next question. What are your impressions of Chile and South America compared to your regular circuit in Europe where you have more or less a fixed tour?

MD: Regarding the age of the audience, we noticed that when we play in some European cities that are not capitals, the audience tends to be a bit older, but in capitals like Amsterdam, we play for all ages. The same goes for France. If you play in Paris, you see all ages, and a lot of young smiling people, but if we play in Bordeaux, Lyon, or places like that, it’s mostly older people. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone over 60 in the audience in Chile, I’d say it’s people around 30, although I don’t know the reason for that.

PJ: Finally, any words for your South American fans? Any special message for the Chilean fans who will be waiting with open arms to welcome you again on April 6th?

MD: No, I don’t have any (laughs). Just kidding! What can I say? I’m happy that we’ll see each other again, it will be a great pleasure. We feel very good when we are in Chile, and even though we’ve only been there twice, this third time could be the best. I think we miss that energy from you, so it will be inspiring, and we’ll take that energy back to our country to use it as a shield against adversity.

When I returned from your country last time, I remember coming back with a smile on my face. So I just want to say thank you for all your support. Even after more than 20 years… what can I say?… I’m grateful for the memories, and for always reminding us.

Melómana, coleccionista de música en formato físico, traductora y administradora del grupo oficial de Riverside en Chile.

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