Interview with Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 15, 2018
Vader come from the tougher side of the Iron Curtain and have stayed true to their musical roots across 11 studio albums and several successful tours across the globe. Formed in 1983 (hey, Death and Possessed were formed that year, too), Vader has worked hard over the past four decades and gained a loyal and steady fan base. The creator and leader of Vader, Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek, has never compromised in any way that would jeopardize the band's reputation as a leading Polish Death Metal band. The band's latest studio album, The Empire, released in November 2016, speaks to the band's determination and constant hunger to push hard toward success and to not give up. It's obvious the band knows what they want.
The Metal Crypt met the always polite and friendly Peter on a freezing afternoon in Helsinki, Finland, on March 20th and the following conversation took place inside the band's cozy tour bus, which they shared with Annihilator. Besides some talk about the tour with Testament and Annihilator, Peter gave insight into some things they have planned for this year, what it was like living in Poland behind the Iron Curtain back in the day and a few other things as well.
ROLLING OVER EUROPE - TOUR TALK
Luxi: Hey, Peter, nice to meet you. This tour with Testament and Annihilator has been very successful for you guys according to reviews I have read. Do you feel the same?
Peter: Yes actually, I do. In fact, I would call it a dream team. Both Testament and Annihilator are friends and it's absolutely great to be able to share the stage. It's more than I expected. It's like guaranteed quality each night. Each night is a good time spent with the fans. Everybody's rocking and happy. It's even better to know that the fans enjoy the package. That's why we're here; to give people some joy.
Luxi: How did you end up getting a slot on this tour?
Peter: I think it went through the management. They offered us this package and we decided to join it as a Death Metal band. We play a slightly different style compared to Testament and Annihilator. They were playing before with Death Angel as the opening act and to replace Death Angel is, of course, a great thing for us. Death Angel is another legend. I'm so happy that people liked the idea. First, I was afraid that maybe we were a bit too extreme, but Testament and Annihilator like playing fun Metal. They're still pretty extreme but in a different way. They are more traditional Thrash Metal acts. As I said before, just to join this party is a really, really good feeling.
Luxi: How long is this tour?
Peter: We started in Sweden and Norway. Then we had Finland and then we get a little break. Then we rejoin the pack in the UK and Ireland for 10 more shows.
Luxi: The last time you played here in Finland was in May 2017, when you came over with Decapitated and Thy Disease. Do you still have memories of those shows?
Peter: Yes, we were playing at Nosturi, if I remember correctly. That was the last time we'd been in Helsinki. Actually, we had the day off yesterday and we were visiting friends from Trivium. It's good to spend day-off and to watch them playing live and not just to play ourselves.
So yeah, last time when we played here, it was a good show as far as I can remember. I think Finland, in general, is pretty good for Metal. You have one of the best Metal festivals every year; Tuska festival in Helsinki I mean. I'm sure there is a tradition in this country. I do not really remember having any bad shows in Finland. There may have been fewer people or more people at our gigs in Finland, but it's always good.
FLORIDA AWAITS - ENTERING ERIK RUTAN'S STUDIO
Luxi: Vader's last album, The Empire, came out in November 2016. What are your plans for your next album?
Peter: I haven't thought about that, but in my head there's always something coming up. I write down ideas if there is something and I just collect them. Everything waits for a moment; the proper moment when I may record them, and to put it all together. This is how I work. I usually work in a studio. But we have a plan to make something different in the future for the next album because we want to change the studio to take a breath, do something else, work with other producers. We're talking with Erik Rutan and we're probably going to work in Florida in his studio.
In January, next year we will do a new album. This time I'm definitely changing the system. I'm sure I need to know more and to collect more songs before we enter the studio. You see we're not going to have as much time as usual when I work in Poland. I am still going to leave time for spontaneous work. I would love that. I don't really like to go to the studio with everything done. I like to do something in the studio that is spontaneous. This music is Metal. That's just my private opinion, this is how I feel.
But let's see what happens. This is a plan to record next January in Erik Rutan's studio.
Luxi: So, I take it you never write new stuff when you are on tour but just concentrate on touring, right?
Peter: Yes, sir.
Luxi: What if you get a great sounding riff in the back of your head while touring, you don't try to "save" it for use in the future?
Peter: Even if there is something like that, I really like to put it down and just forget it. My mind is not as good as it was when I was a teenager, so I have to write it down. I lost so many good ideas just because I didn't have a chance to write them down. Today, the technology gives all of us many opportunities, even your iPhone might be a recorder. That's not a problem. But as you mentioned before, if I'm touring, I focus on the tour and spending time with friends and the fans, I'm not focused on work and writing things down. I'm not that guy.
I can't divide myself to do both, you know? Spider, our guitarist, he's able to do that. He's often working with something. He just isolates from everybody, puts on headphones and spends hours on the computer. I can't do that easily. I need time, then I focus on that work, and I just cut off from the rest of the world. This is what I like.
THE ULTIMATE DARK AGE
Luxi: You re-recorded the songs of your debut album, The Ultimate Incantation, to celebrate the album's 25th anniversary. What was it like returning to this album and doing it all over again? Did it bring back memories of when you first went to the studio to record it?
Peter: Well, the story is slightly different because we were forced to do that. The first idea I had was to do a new release and we asked Earache Records for the rights to just make a limited edition of the album on vinyl and on CD. They asked us to pay double the price for the rights and we thought there's no way we can do that. So, the only option was to re-record it because of its 25th anniversary. That was a very important album not only for us but for many fans as well. We just decided to re-record all those songs again and called the album Dark Age because the title belongs to Earache as well.
We met in the studio for three or four days with James and we made all those songs. We never made any new versions. The rest we took from the session we did at Herz Studios for the 25th anniversary of the band. That was a collection of 25 songs and many of those were from the first album, actually.
For some songs, I recorded new vocals. For some songs, we recorded new leads. All in all, this is pretty fresh, I would say. We limited it to 550 digipak copies and we're selling them at our shows only. This is also special for those people who come to see us playing live.
Luxi: Do you still have some copies left?
Peter: Yes. I tried to divide them, to save something for the shows and if I hadn't they probably would be gone already. We still have the original Earache version of the first album with us on CD. Dark Age will be available officially in vinyl and cassette editions. We should have it done in April. Those are coming for sale online, too.
Luxi: The original recording of this album took place at Sunlight Studios with Tomas Skogsberg at the production helm. But something went wrong and you decided to make the effort to re-record it all over again...
Peter: Yes, the first try to record the album happened there. We didn't like the overall sound of the original too much. We're so happy that Earache agreed and we had a chance to record it again. The budget was almost done, so we had to be very quick in England (at Rhythm Studios). The album was actually a collection of songs we had known for almost a decade. We were ready after the first attempt in Tomas Skogsberg's studio. Everything was good. Tomas is a great producer and he has produced some legendary albums. He was working on the patch, these electronic drums, and for some Swedish bands that probably didn't matter too much. It's easy to have a good song with that. We're way more intense with drumming and everything else. He made it, but he was not really satisfied with the final effect. All in all, that was the main reason. The drum sound was just too synthetic.
However, today this is a very sought-after session. A few songs are available on YouTube. We wanted to make this album available in a limited version, but Earache did not give us permission. All the ideas just failed, unfortunately. We tried to save situation and we named it Dark Age. I know people understand that. Even those who never like re-editions, remakes, and things like that. They understand the situation and they like the album. Some people said it's good to listen to those old songs with a good sound and with the equipment we have. When we were recording our first album in 1992, Vader was a totally different band. That was the first time being in the studio for us. That was the first album and we had no equipment, so we had to rent equipment we did not know well. Happily, this situation for us has changed totally in the last 25 years. Now it's way easier to do something. We are maybe more experienced musicians compared to 25 years ago. [*laughs*]
Luxi: Can you still describe the feeling when you held your debut album, The Ultimate Incantation, in your hands for the very first time? I guess you felt a bit of proud, thinking "wow... See what we made!"
Peter: I am sure I did. Signing the deal with Earache was a lot to us because Earache was a legendary label at that time. They had the best Death Metal and extreme Metal bands. To belong to the company like that was a big deal for Vader and for every band, you know? We never, ever, expected to be part of that. They helped us a lot, really. We couldn't continue because of the realities in Poland. There were no connections, there was no chance to do any interviews. I didn't have a regular phone. If I wanted to call somebody, I had to go to the hotel next door and put money into the telephone booth [*laughs*].
My agent was far worse than today. There were no passports available for us. To cooperate with a band like that was not possible for Earache so no wonder they gave up after the first album. We went our own way, they went their own way. It's too bad they didn't let us reissue the first album. The Earache staff told us that this is what they do with every band. They own the songs they release for life. We can do nothing. [*laughs*]
STRANGE NOISES BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
Luxi: What was it like living behind the "Iron Curtain" 25-30 years ago?
Peter: It was hard, but I can't say that we were not happy because we respected every little step that we made, every little progress that was way better than today. Everything was hard for us because there was no equipment. There was no press, no media, nothing. Actually, we were one of the bands that started extreme Metal in Poland.
We were not the first Metal band, of course, and not the only band, but we had probably the most passion and that got us through all the problems [*laughs*] So many bands gave up. Vader was Vader so we're a hard nut to crack [*laughs*]
After we signed the deal with Earache, they gave us a chance to join big tours with Bolt Thrower and Grave, and then in the US with Deicide and Suffocation. The world could see Vader live. We're not just a band; we're live, we're real, and we're good. They liked us. That was the first chance and we took i.
Luxi: Vader has become one of the most important and noteworthy Polish Metal institutions and the band's name is known everywhere in the world. When you look back, how do you view this journey with Vader? You started out in 1983, the same time as Possessed and Death for example...
Peter: Yes, but behind the Iron Curtain [*laughs*]
Luxi: Indeed, behind the Iron Curtain [*laughs*], yes. Did you believe that you would keep Vader going for so many years? You have achieved a lot, despite a rough beginning.
Peter: We love Metal; we love music and that was actually something for us that made our life way better. We created a different world. We created a world we escaped to when everything around was so gray with nothing, just problems. That was something we could run away to at the beginning of our career. And the extremity, that was different. That made us stronger; the music, we love that. We love Metal. We have fans who see who we are, but we wanted to take it to the next level in extremity. I was very unorthodox those days in the band.
So, we did. Of course, we had dreams. We had dreams like everyone who plays guitar in a band. But nobody ever expected that we would to go to the west to play regular tours and that we would have professional equipment one day. We never expected that we would tour with bands like Testament or Slayer or Metallica. We never thought it would be possible.
We were just happy musicians - happy people, and we have followers now - like we had our own teachers, and we have followers. Nowadays we have our followers and the bands - and the fans who love Vader. For many people, we were an inspiration to start a band or to listen to music. That's the best for every musician, for every fan with passion and happy life. So yeah, I could say I'm happy these days [*laughs*].
ABOUT BANDS RETIRING
Luxi: I happen to know that you are a huge fan of both Priest and Slayer, just like I am. A sad thing is that both bands may be on their final, extensive tours, well, Slayer for sure. Do you feel like when influential bands retire, they leave a huge hole in the Heavy Metal scene?
Peter: Hard to say because both bands are absolute favorites. What can I say? I strongly believe that the problem is the age and not ability to play like Glenn Tipton. I'm sure that he'd love to stay on stage to play because this is his life. But he's been fighting this horrible disease for 10 years. If he decided to give up it means he really, really can't do that. That's sad, but I still adore him for all he did for musicians, for music. His last Judas Priest album was absolutely great. Imagine if the Epitaph tour really WAS the last tour, we would never have heard a great album like Firepower.
I'm so happy that even if they were thinking that it's going to be the last tour, they decided to stay with the fans and to give them even more. I strongly believe that the same is going to happen with Slayer. People are different, different characters. It's hard to say, but I hope that Slayer is still going to slay.
Luxi: You have played Slayer's "Raining Blood" and "Hell Awaits" live from time to time. Does it make you feel good to see how people seem to react to those early songs and just going totally nuts?
Peter: Yeah, you could say that. We have huge respect for classic Slayer, Metallica, Black Sabbath. I think every band should do that. This is nothing wrong with playing covers to remind new generations of metalheads of those bands. It feels great to play those songs live from time to time [*laughs*]. It's also great to see people going crazy when we play those songs because those songs are classics. Hearing classic stuff should make people go crazy [*laughs*]
Luxi: Indeed, they should. And that's exactly what it does...
Peter: Yes, always, always!
Luxi: Knowing you are a huge fan of Slayer, have you done any shows with them?
Peter: Yes, we did a show with them at a festival in Poland. What can I say, Slayer is my favorite band and I shared the stage with them. I didn't care about anything else. I was just happy that I could be there and to have a chance to shake hands with Tom Araya, Kerry King, and everybody in the band. It's too bad I can't shake hands with Jeff Hanneman, but this is life, sad things tend to happen. So many great musicians have passed away during this past decade, it's hard to believe but the time will come for each of us.
Luxi: True, true... Also, sadly Killjoy from Necrophagia (Ohio) sadly passed away just recently...
Peter: Yes, I read the news and I was crying as well.
Luxi: Like you said already, we are not here forever.
Peter: Exactly, but it's still good that being a musician we leave something for the next generations called music, and as long as they enjoy it, we will be alive.
Luxi: What kinds of plans do you have for the fall with Vader?
Peter: We will do some festivals this year. 2018 is very special for Vader because it's 35 years since we started and 25 years since the first album was recorded and 20 years since Black to the Blind, the third album was released. So, 2018 means many special dates for us, and we want to make this year special. We're doing some special shows with two whole albums plus something very new because we're planning to record a new EP at the end of the year and to add something new, something fresh to these classic Vader albums. We will also play nine shows in Poland. We're going to play with Marduk and Morgoth, another legendary band that has made a comeback.
Luxi: Indeed. German legends Morgoth reformed in 2010 if I remember correctly. Anyway, there are many anniversaries for you guys to celebrate during this year I see...
Peter: We're going to make the year spectacular for everybody. We will play our first album as a whole, unfortunately not with Testament because we won't get enough time to do the whole album from start to finish. We've got just 35 minutes, which would only be enough for half the album. We decided to make it more like a collection of new songs plus something old. But all the shows we will play, besides this tour with Testament, we will play the whole first album, the whole Sothis EP and then we have some more stuff in our set as well. It's gonna be pretty interesting for our fans who never get a chance to listen to the first album as a whole. This is the plan for this year; we're going to be pretty busy. In May we're going to South America for twenty shows, and we plan to go to Russia after those shows I mentioned in September. This is much to do until we stop playing and focus on a new album, the one we're going to record in January.
Luxi: Do you have any other recording plans besides this next Vader album at the beginning of next year?
Peter: I've been thinking about it because I know if we record the album in January it's going to be out before summer 2019 or maybe in September 2019. It's good to do something during Christmas time and I'm definitely going to talk to Nuclear Blast and we're going to be ready to record two songs, maybe even something more in May for an EP, and to release it before the end of the year just to remind fans Vader is still active [*laughs*]. We are pretty much ready, so that's the plan.
Luxi: I already mentioned that you have achieved a lot with Vader, but is there still something that you'd like to achieve with Vader before it's time to put this band to an eternal rest six feet under, which I hope won't happen any time soon?
Peter: You know what? I have not really been thinking about that. I mean, there are still so many things to do. It would be nice to do some spectacular tour, like our friends from Behemoth, joining the Slayer, Testament, and Anthrax in the USA. But, I told you before that what we have done already is so spectacular for me and I'm so grateful for that. We're still active, people still come in to see us, we've got a new generation of Vader maniacs already, what more can I ask for? I'm ready for that, I'm ready for them. As long as we have fans, Vader will be there for them.
Luxi: One last question, kind of related to my previous question. How would you like Vader to be remembered?
Peter: For our music. That's exactly what I said about Priest, Sabbath, and Slayer. It'll be the best epitaph for me to leave some music that's going to be classic for people, that'd be great.
Luxi: Okay, that was it. Thanks a lot for this chat, Peter, and all the best for tonight's show, too.
|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 vocalist and guitarist Piotr "Peter" Wiwczarek on November 7, 2019 (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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