Interview with vocalist and guitarist Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 7, 2019
Polish Death Metal institution, Vader, have come a long way from the shadows of The Iron Curtain since they started back in 1983. Many studio albums and tours later they are still here amongst us, keeping the pedal to the metal and staying loyal to both their sound and fanbase for four decades. That's a long journey for any extreme Metal band.
The band released a five-song teaser EP, Thy Messenger, on May 31, 2019, and have been keeping themselves busy playing gigs and recording a new album, which is due to come out in early spring 2020.
The Metal Crypt caught up with vocalist/guitaris Peter in the band's luxury tour bus a few hours before the showtime when this extreme Metal caravan stopped by Finland on the band's Message to the North tour on September 8th with their country mates Hate and Thy Disease (among other bands). Peter kindly took some time to share his thoughts on touring, getting older, the forthcoming new album, living behind the Iron Curtain in the past and so on.
Luxi: Welcome to Finland again, Peter!
Peter: Thank you for welcoming me. Appreciated!
Luxi: You are no stranger to Finnish metal maniacs in the north as you have played here quite a few times before. What are your expectations from Finland this time?
Peter: I like Finland. I know that every time we visit Finland it's a very good show, we meet good people and it's always a nice atmosphere at the gigs in Finland. That's what I expect, another good show in Finland - [*laughs*] or actually good shows in Finland, because this time we have four of them in your country, so that's good.
METAL IS METAL EVERYWHERE
Luxi: How is it different touring here in the northern part of Europe compared to other Europan countries like Spain, Germany, Belgium and so on?
Peter: Well, Metal is Metal and you expect metalheads at a show, especially for Vader. We're not the guys who play soft, trendy music for people. We follow the same path which is from album to album we songs that are a little bit different but all in all the style is the same. We play extreme music, we play fast, we play brutal. Usually, people who come know what we play, maybe 10% of the visitors are trying us because they heard the name but have never heard us live. Usually, they stay fans, so that's a good thing. We feel good on stage.
Vader is a live band always. That's why I started to play Metal, to play live on stage because that's the meaning of Metal for me. Of course, we record albums like everybody because it's a must, but I feel good when we're on tour. That's the best. Because I'm a Metal fan myself and when I'm visiting diferent countries and IF I have time, I'm going to see my favorite bands as well. I take it emotionally. I like it. I try to give the same for Vader fans when we play on stage.
That's why we're here now. There was a little break. This is probably the first tour after a longer break, we had a bunch of festivals and single shows this past summer season, but generally, we didn't want to play too many shows because we were recording a new album and we wanted to focus on 2020. That's going to be the year with many, many gigs and opportunities.
Luxi: Is this tour a bit more special with the other bands from your home country, Hate, and Thy Disease?
Peter: Yes, because we are friends. If we spend time together on the bus, it's always fun. It's so much fun talking in to the early morning and lots of alcohol, of course. Among friends, we're active, touring like that. It's more than other tours since we know each other, we have toured together before, not once, not twice, so this is like another trip together. We can discover some places, we can meet new people, we can meet old people, I mean old friends. I love to tour [*laughs*]. I love to be on tour [*laughs*].
Luxi: Touring with Hate and Thy Disease must feel like a family gathering for you.
Peter: Yes, it does indeed.
HEAVIEST OF THE HEAVIEST VADER?
Luxi: Your new EP, titled Thy Messenger, was released at the end of May this year, just as a little teaser of what's to come from the Vader camp. Does the material on the EP represent the musical direction of your next album?
Peter: I think it's hard to say what to expect because actually the EP says nothing about our new stuff. It's a combination of different songs. Two of them are going to appear on the new album in new versions. We were ready to record the new album at the very beginning of 2019, but because some plans changed, we had to delay that. That's what caused the mess with the recordings because we started to record at the same time we started to play shows and festivals. This is the first and the last time because I am never going to work in the studio and play shows because I can't focus on two things at the same time. When I'm playing shows I focus on the shows. If I need time to think about, let's say, drums and I need to do something with the guitars, I need time to get things done the right way. I cannot work with a new album and play shows at the very same time - I just can't. It's the first and the last time I'm ever doing that again [*laughs*].
It was a little spread out and we spent around four weeks in Grindstone Studio in England with Scott Atkins. It already sounds very, very good and it's definitely going to be one of the heaviest and definitely one of the most brutal albums ever recorded by Vader. It's dedicated to all those fans who know that Vader is a blasting band. Of course, it's not going to be just about blast beats and that kind of brutal shit. As a reference let's take Litany, which in our fans' opinion is probably the most brutal record from us to date, I think this new one is even stronger and more brutal.
Luxi: Wow, it sounds like you have one badass album coming up, the heaviest of heaviest of Vader, eh?
Peter: It's hard to say because I'm still far from giving an opinion on it. I really like to leave opinions for listeners, for the fans, after they get more familiar with our new songs. As for Thy Messenger, we wanted to record the EP because we knew that the album was going to be delayed and we wanted to have something fresh for 2019. Actually, one of the songs was supposed to be on the album, so I left it on the EP, the opening track, "Grand Deceiver". All of them are supposed to be on the album, so I kept them for the album but as different versions. The cover song of "Steeler" by Judas Priest on the EP, well it's is a cover song, it's just spontaneous.
OF JUDAS PRIEST'S IMPORTANCE
In fact, I was visiting Judas Priest lately both in Europe and in Japan. You know, I'm a fan of the band since the beginning. Actually, Judas Priest made me a metalhead. I started maybe with Black Sabbath before, but after Judas Priest, I wanted to be a real rocker, become a guitar player and all that. They made me the guy who became a metalhead, who started to be greedier for faster, brutal stuff. After Judas Priest came Slayer then Morbid Angel, all those bands, you know. I still have huge respect for some of those JP albums. I think they're iconic for all the Metal world and also for me, the British Steel album included, of course. I love this album, even today it just sounds great. "Steeler" was, to me anyway, an underrated song and they never really played it live, so I was so happy to hear Judas Priest bring that song back to their set list. It was 1980 when it came out and this song has a touch of Thrash Metal, especially riff-wise. It's just an unbelievable song, I love it.
Vader's known for bringing some classic Metal songs on stage. We have played Slayer, we've played Black Sabbath. This time we play Judas Priest.
Luxi: Yes, "Steeler" is a great pick from you guys; love the song, too.
Peter: "Steeler", of course. Yes [*laughter*]. You can expect us to play that song tonight as well.
Luxi: You actually gave a really nice twist to it, your own Vader way. Your cover sounds a lot of like Priest, but just way more brutal and in-yer-face, of course!
Peter: I'm not able to sing old Judas Priest songs because Halford has a very unique scale vocally, but actually this one sounds good as a cover for Vader. I still try to keep that little melody line, but I love this barking style of early Rob Halford [*vocalizing*]. I love that.
Luxi: Anyways, it's a very cool version of "Steeler" from you and your boys, that's what I wanted to say.
Peter: Thank you.
...AND OF SLAYER'S
Luxi: "Emptiness" off this new EP has a pretty strong Slayer vibe to it, especially the latter part of the song. That's hardly surprising as you have said many times before that they have had a huge impact on Vader's sound, right?
Peter: I am a Slayer fan. It's just too bad that Slayer are going to retire. It's actually hard to believe. I hope they will not, but we all have to be prepared for that [*laughs*]. Slayer has left so much for my heart and head to be memorized as a Metal fan. It's never going to disappear. I'm sure Vader will play some Slayer as covers at gigs in the future as well, just to remind everyone that there was a band that was iconic for many Metal fans. Even if they stop playing live and call it quits, people will still have all this classic Slayer songs they recorded. It's not going to go away.
Luxi: I assume you have also seen them on this final tour?
Peter: Yes, I saw them. The last one was in Poland, but the time before that I saw them at Download festival in Japan. It was a crushing show from them. During the last three years, I have seen Slayer perform at some festivals and it really made me feel because they sounded really bad. I mean, it was not the same band. I'm not really objective with my opinion for Slayer because I love them, but some of those shows were not that good. The last three shows I have seen from them on this final tour, they were just spectacular. Everything was great; the sound, the show, everything. Tom Araya sounded like it was '80s Slayer again; he was singing and screaming like he was 20 years old. He was unbelievable. I got goose pumps all over my body. I was just so into their whole performance. That's why it is even harder to believe that Slayer are going to retire, I can't believe that. I would really like to believe that it's going to be like Judas Priest with them, too. I hope that they will see how many people are still into them so they say, "All right... Fuck that! We'll think about retirement later [*laughs*].
Luxi: Priest is supposed to start their 50th anniversary tour in 2020. It's amazing!
Peter: Yes, it's truly amazing for a band to be around for 50 years, man!
IMPROVISATION WHILE PLAYING MAKES METAL SWEETER
Luxi: back to Vader and talking about your songwriting, have you ever noticed that the older you get, the pickier and more selective you become when you are choosing what stuff you use and what you reject?
Peter: No, no, I don't think about that kind of perfection in Metal. If we become more perfect, it is because we have played together a long time and we have become better musicians. The more time you spend time with an instrument, the better a player you become. But playing Metal music is not a place, in my opinion, for perfection. If you're too perfect, if you play every set with the same manner it's not Metal any more. In my opinion, it starts resembling a recording and not an artist. If you have a little grit in your performance, add a little bit more noise into your playing, that's Metal, that's a part of that true Metal sound.
Luxi: You also need to have space to improvise a little bit.
Peter: Yes. I love that because It would be easy to learn to every fucking note, but there's not much sense in that. Some people like it, some people don't, but I'm more with those who don't like it. I always love to hear a live version of a song which is slightly different, like a lead or some other part, that adds something a bit different to a song. People also like it. Because you feel better, you feel unique. You saw a show, which was just that, just here and now, and nobody will hear that again because they will change and it's not going to be the same. Every show is unique - and that's a good thing.
The other problem is I'm too lazy to spend hours learning every note just to play it the same every time. Come on, life is beautiful, and you should spend your time better. If you enjoy your life, you give better music to people, too. You can't be tired because then your music is sort of tired, too.
THE STRING DUO JAMES AND SPIDER
Luxi: Talking about your songwriting process, how has it changed since James and Spider joined the band in 2010-2011? What new things have these two gentlemen brought into the band?
Peter: James brought a lot, I think. He is the drummer, and for me drums are the backbone of Metal, especially for a band like Vader. We couldn't do what we do with a bad drummer. James progressed a lot since he joined us. He's joined us already a good drummer but he was very young but it's been eight years we've played together. This is the most stable lineup in the whole history of Vader so we feel good.
Spider has his tastes. He found his own way to contribute to the band's songwriting. There are actually two new songs composed by Spider on the forthcoming Vader album. He feels like he's part of Vader, you can feel that from the music as well, and that's a good thing. He found himself in Vader. He's a good musician, good guitarist, he teaches guitar. He knows that line between staying loyal to the style but also giving something new. He knows how to do that and that's why I enjoy having him as a part of Vader.
WITH SPRING 2020 COMES NEW VADER ALBUM
Luxi: So, what's up with this new Vader album now that you mention it? When will it come out?
Peter: The album is recorded, the tracks are done. Next week or so, I should have some mixed tracks back. Actually, the album should be done and the master should be ready this month. The only thing we're waiting for is the album title, because I have some options and I can't make a decision about the name until I see the cover art. I'm waiting for the cover art from Wes Benscoter, who's still working it. All the song titles, the order of the songs on the album, everything else is done. As soon as we have the cover art and as soon as we have decided on the title, we will make it public. I will discuss it with Nuclear Blast so they can push it to the public as far as the promotion is concerned. Right after, we start touring for the new album, around March or April I believe.
Luxi: After your new album is out, intensive touring starts for you guys again, I assume?
Peter: Yes. The only way to play is headlining because then we get let's say, 70 minutes at a minimum. We can play songs off the new album with some older songs as well. Of course, it'd be nice to support some bigger bands like we did with Kreator or Testament. I can't tell you about the names because we have some options that we are working on. As soon as we know all the details, we will make it public, of course.
Luxi: Since you first started to tour for the Ultimate Incantation album in 1992, more than 25 years ago, I am sure a lot of things have changed regarding the logistics of being on the road. What are some of the changes that have made touring a bit more pleasant and comfortable these days?
Peter: In Western Europe, actually, it did not change as much. People were more crazy in those days because Death Metal was something fresh, people were coming in masses and they got crazy on stage. Today, in some places you cannot be really crazy because it's forbidden to mosh, stage dive or other things that were popular to do in the past. Some people were injured at gigs, so the venues forbid that kind of activity nowadays. It's simply forbidden.
But at the end of the day, Metal is Metal. Some fans still cannot control themselves when we start playing. So many times I've seen that happening at our gigs even in those places where you just should need to calm down a bit. When we start playing "Wings" or something, people go fucking crazy - and I love that. I'm crazy on stage, too.
Logistically, the whole base of clubs is much better now. Many clubs have better equipment, the sound system is better, the lights are better so the people can see a better performance. When we started in '93, we had nothing. We were a new band from Poland playing in the West for the first time, with no good instruments. Everything came later for us, you know. We were perhaps not as experienced musicians, but the passion was overwhelming. We wanted to play live as much as possible and everywhere, which was our first priority, so nobody really cared about a perfect sound or anything like that. We wanted to mosh on stage, give the power, and that's it. That was Metal for us. We were, of course, much younger back then, and that's the other thing for our enthusiasm to play live.
Luxi: You must feel touring is a little more pleasant nowadays because the crew is better, more professional, and the equipment is better, etc. - just like you told me.
Peter: Yes. But in those days there was not much for us when we started and we actually were among the bands that started the Polish underground Metal scene. There were no Polish underground Metal magazines yet. Everything came later. Instruments, everything, there was just nothing, you know.
Poland became a more "normal" country when we got record and music stores. After the Berlin Wall fell, everything started becoming better for us, just like after we joined European Union, things got ever better for us. At the same time, life for the Polish musicians became better, but before that life was really tough in Poland. As for instruments, they were mostly homemade because that was the only way to get them. Trying to get some of those original brands... Forget it! To have an original Gibson guitar back in those years... [*scoffs*]. If you were able to find it in a store, there were actually these private stores in Poland that had them for sale, the prices were absolutely crazy [*trills lips*]. The price tag was like one year's salary.
Luxi: Crazy. Well, I have one more question. Poland has become known for its high-quality extreme metal scene over the years. During the tape trading time that Vader was heavily part of, you had bands like Hazael, Violent Dirge, Imperator, Merciless Death, Armagedon and many more.
Peter: Yes, the underground Metal scene in Poland was great back in those days. That's why I changed the idea about recording the second part of Future of the Past (Hell in the East), which was kind of another homage to the bands that inspired me as a metalhead after we did the first one. The original idea was supposed to be to record more covers of some bands from those days, but then I changed the idea and focused on the Polish underground scene from the '80s instead. In those days there were so many good Metal bands in Poland - really good bands that unfortunately vanished from the scene after a while. Not all of those bands had as much will as Vader and they just did not survive, but still did some good recordings. I wanted to bring some of them back to the daylight on the second edition of Future of the Past. Not only for the Polish metal maniacs, but for everyone. Tape traders knew about bands better than anybody else. For me, it was a shock when we played for the first time in Germany, let's say, or Switzerland in 1993 when we were touring with Bolt Thrower and Grave, and so many people knew us already from the demos and all because of this tape trading thing. I thought nobody knew us before, but they did know us due to the strong tape trading scene back in those days. The tape trading scene was like the Internet; a sort of analog internet in the past. That was the only source to support bands and to spread the name across the world.
Luxi: Do you see any reasons that explains the quality Metal scene that seems to be there in Polish?
Peter: I think it might be related to the same (poor) situation like they used to have there in Brazil. We must all remember that the Brazilian underground scene produced many so brutal sounding bands in the past. Maybe Poland was in the same situation when the country was still behind The Iron Curtain. Life was grey; there wasn't much happening back then, the system kept everything under control. We tried to escape and create our own world and playing Metal was just perfect for that. You could forget about everything when you started to play in a band and that was the way to escape from the bad reality of those days.
Luxi: Unlike many other Polish extreme Metal bands, there are bands like Behemoth and Vader and a few others that have survived all these decades and just kept going...
Peter: Yes. There are more but bands like Behemoth, Vader, Decapitated and Hate are a little more successful. People know them outside Poland. But there is a bunch of new Metal bands coming up in Poland with a more updated and new sound of 21st century Metal, but it still sounds good. You know, Poland is a good country for playing Metal [*laughs*].
Luxi: It certainly is. OK, I don't want to take any more of your time. Thank you for your time and good luck with tonight's show!
Peter: Thank you, and thanks for the interview. See you in the mosh pit [*laughs*]!
|Other information about Vader on this site|
|Review: Reign Forever World|
|Review: The Ultimate Incantation|
|Review: More Vision And The Voice|
|Review: The Beast|
|Review: Impressions in Blood|
|Review: Lead Us!!!|
|Review: Welcome to the Morbid Reich|
|Review: The Empire|
|Review: Thy Messenger|
|Review: Solitude in Madness|
|Review: Solitude in Madness|
|Interview with Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek on June 15, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with drummer James Stewart on May 9, 2020 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: Never Say My Name|
|Video: Come And See My Sacrifice (Live)|
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