interview by: Roberto Martinelli
This interview was conducted in 2010 with Peter of Vader, Poland's most important metal act of all time. It took place in the band's tour bus during the US trip in which Vader was billed as playing its second album, De Profundis, in its entirety. (Which turned out to be in fact not exactly true, as "in its entirety" ended up being "80% of its entirety, and not in order, and with songs from the new album thrown in instead. Read more in our live review of the show in issue #71). The chat with Peter was the highlight of the event, and one of the greatest experiences being a longtime fan of the band.
Maelstrom: Iíve got every Vader album, EP... whatever. Iíve got it. I started listening to Vader 15 years ago, and to this day, the basic enjoyment I get from it has not changed. I recently re-watched the Visions and the Voice DVD you guys put out some 10 years ago, and was reminded as to why I loved the band.
So, first, thanks for all the music.
Your career has moved forward, perhaps, recently, in that you signed to Nuclear Blast Records, and released Necropolis as your debut on that label. As a fan, I wondered about the timing of those events, and how it felt a little strange that such a milestone album would come out when it did considering the bandís practical lineup was in such a state of flux.
Peter Wiczwarek: Itís hard to say. I feel the lineup is pretty much stable now (edís note: from the time of this interview, drummer Paul has decided to quit the band). The world and its people are not stable anymore, so I canít count on anybody.
Nobody likes big changes ó it interrupts the regular work. To join a band is a decision, but to stay in the band is something deeper. To be part of a band for longer means, like, to follow the rules. Vader is a band that is out much of the time, far from family and friends; not everyone can stand it. This is usually the hardest point for new members.
Because everyone wants to be in Vader. Itís a good thing. But then when faced with the pain of touring all the time, members wonder if itís something they really want to do with their lives.
Now Iím playing with people who are veterans, so they know whatís up. Spider or me, we have families and kids, and we know what our job is.
Aside from that, I like playing with people who want to play: people who come into it for fun and the emotions of spending time on stage... not just for money... I donít work with those people, because you can feel it from the audience. You can see that we have so much joy on stage.
Maelstrom: The last time I saw you live was the last time you came through town. And... I think this is a problem I have with being a Vader fan: Iím not even sure whoís in Vader right now. Paulís still on drums?
Peter Wiczwarek: Hehe. Yes, he is.
Maelstrom: Is Vogg still with you?
Peter Wiczwarek: No. He signed on for a season. We knew that from the beginning. He helped us and we helped him. After the accident and tragedy when he lost his brother, who was a huge part of the Decapitated band, the shock was so big for him that he left the scene. He went to working in a music store... and heís not a person to be in a store. He's a great musician and needs to get back on stage. I'm happy we were able to help him get back on that trail. Spider did leads on Necropolis, so he jumped in (on 2nd guitar) after Vogg left.
Maelstrom: Who's your bass player now?
Peter Wiczwarek: Reyash (interviewer's note: as of the posting of this interview, Reyash is no longer in the band. The revolving door continues). After the big change in Vader in 2008, in August, when we had the last show with Mauser and Daray, Reyash and then Paul were the first ones to join. Then Vogg joined, and we played with that lineup till December, 2009.
Maelstrom: You talked about touring and the commitment involved. I wonder about different perspectives: a fan might wonder, "oh, man, how come a stable line-up can't stay together?"But then from a musician's standpoint... how many tours do you do a year, and how much are you in a van a year?
Peter Wiczwarek: Since '93, the first year we toured regularly around the world, we have played at least 150 shows every year.
Maelstrom: How much of an adjustment was it for you to get used to that?
Peter Wiczwarek: The hardest decision for me was to quit university a year before I was supposed to graduate. I was learning to be a biology teacher. But I believed in what I was going to do, no matter what would happen. I still like doing what I do. I would never do it if I didn't like it.
Naturally, since I was the one who was so long in Vader, I became the leader. That was natural. Every band has a leader. Show me one band with two or three leaders, and how long they survive. I think this is an aspect that fans don't understand. They want the line-up to be stable, because they like personalities... which is normal.
I'm still a fan of music, and I have my favorites. For example, when Halford left Judas Priest, I felt a kind of pain, like, "how can this be?" But when I heard Ripper sing, it was different, but it didn't mean it was bad. Sometimes fans need some time to understand the situation.
Maelstrom: You mentioned '93 being your break-out year. Do you think that if you had to do it over again, being as young as you were in '93, but now, in 2010, that it would be more difficult to repeat what you did?
Peter Wiczwarek: One of the biggest successes of the band is, through all these years, we have so many die-hard fans of different ages. These people trust the band, they like the music, and they trust me as the guy leading the band since the beginning. Even if it was a shock for many fans when 3/4ths of Vader left in 2008, it had happened before...
I don't want to sound like an arrogant guy, because Vader's success is a success of the whole team, not just mine... but I was the guy that kept the whole thing together. Even if someone in the band lost belief for the future of the band, it was me who kept believing, and stayed, and kept everything together.
Maelstrom: What you're talking about are things that I, as a fan, can't notice. What I can notice are bands that sound like Vader, but just aren't as good. Perhaps the most obvious one is Dies Irae, which even featured Doc AND Mauser (Peter chuckles). It's basically Vader, but it's not the same thing.
Peter Wiczwarek: That's why I waited such a long time till I let Mauser compose songs for Vader. He had some bright ideas at first. He's a splendid composer, but his stuff sounded too much like his own band. After some years, he got the clue, and he made such songs as "Lead Us!" and "The Book" and "Warlords." Those were pretty great Vader songs, and composed by Mauser!
Maelstrom: That's a tricky thing, isn't it? Fans can see it that a band doesn't progress -- that it's too much of the same thing album after album; or, it's too different and they can't get into it.
Peter Wiczwarek: What does "progression" mean? Once in my life, I tried to do something different with the album called The Beast. It was too big a shock for people. It was not something totally different: we put some more melody in the music.
The fans are very important to us, but we cannot satisfy people 100%. Art is about the artist's choice, and that might or might not be accepted by the fans. It's all about the art: you either like it or not. It's not about perfection.
Maelstrom: Very interesting that you brought up The Beast. That was the record that, if I don't actually concentrate, I'd say The Beast is my least favorite Vader album. My memory of the album is that I don't like it. But if I actually listen to it, I think it's not bad at all... and in fact, there is some cool stuff on that record. But then I'll revert to thinking of it as the one I like the least -- it's just not like the others, and I want the others instead.
Peter Wiczwarek: The other factor that was pretty important was The Beast was the first album without Doc drumming on it. Believe me, if Doc had been on the record (and he was supposed to be, as we had started recording it when he fell and broke his hand, basically because he was drunk, which was one of the reasons we decided he had to quit the band), it wouldn't have been such a big drama around it.
First, I tried to make The Beast more melodic compared to the previous one, Revelations. And then we had a new guy (Daray) replacing one the most important persons in the band (Doc), who created Vader and its songs since the beginning.
Maelstrom: Anyone who's a fan of Vader can hear that album as a transitional point and understand why. As a fan, I wondered at the time if Vader was finished, but what happened in the records after that was such an important sound change and development with The Art of War and Impressions in Blood. The change in drum sound was particularly noticeable for me, because I'm a drummer.
Peter Wiczwarek: We started to sound more modern. Doc was from an older school. Daray was a modern drummer, with different definition of drumming. You can really hear that on Impressions in Blood. The Beast was his first time with Vader, and he was probably a little bit stressed. It was not what I wanted to show people about him as a drummer.
Maelstrom: It wasnít only your slicker drum sound, the guitars, too, became bigger and showier from The Art of War. Can you comment on how that decision was made?
Peter Wiczwarek: Iím the guy who makes the decisions, but I never say straight that we must do this or that. I write the main guitar parts, and then the drummer Ė it didnít matter if it was Doc, Daray, or Paul Ė work out the details about the drums. Sometimes what they do influences me in making changes in the riffs. About the sound, the drummer and producer decide on those things.
Being a musician is like being cursed, because itís hard to focus on oneís own music as a whole, because what you hear are separated instruments instead. This is a totally different perspective than a fan, who listens to the same music.
However, sometimes I get the impression that the new generation of music fans donít listen to the music as a whole. Theyíll take a point, like, the drummer, guitarist, singer... or the uniforms Ė how the band looks on stage. The music as a whole becomes like a background as a whole. This is not good.
The new generation of bands has tremendous musicians with great abilities, but if you listen to the music, it comes in through one ear and out the other. Good musicians but bad composers. Compare to the early years of like Kreator, Destruction, Sodom... those guys sounded like they couldnít even play! But they created some of the best songs ever!
Maelstrom: I agree with your point, but could it also be because there were far fewer bands to choose from at the time, so what existed seemed better because of how rare it was?
Peter Wiczwarek: Of course there were fewer bands compared to today, when music is like a hobby for so many people. You can be at home, and put on your computer, record everything, and then burn it or put it online, and you have a band. It was much harder in the past. It took more time. Today, maybe itís too easy to do. You can record something at home that sounds way better than what was recorded in the past. So people think, "if I can record something that sounds better, maybe that means Iím a better musician." Itís not that way. New musicians should think about the music as a whole, not just how fast their fingers are. This is not the point. This is good Ė theyíre tools. But the art of music is not showing the tools Ė itís showing the emotions.
Maelstrom: I love death metal, but the problem I see with death metal more and more as time goes on is that itís become like an athletic event. But really, itís not the Olympics Ė itís music.
Peter Wiczwarek: Totally! Itís about fun. Thatís what Vader started with. I get the feeling these new guys are losing the fun. That they donít even cooperate between bands. That they are always competing. This is basically wrong because, as I mentioned before, this is art, and people will either like it, or not. The fans decide that... and, unfortunately, the mass media decides it. It depends a lot on media and propaganda. Thatís a big difference between today and 20 years ago.
Maelstrom: Was there not as much media back then?
Peter Wiczwarek: When we started becoming part of the underground in Poland, I remember reading reviews of albums in the big magazines: If the review was really bad, it meant that the album must be great. It must be extremely good! If the review was good, it was probably some fucking lemon.
I still respect media, though. I know that no band, even the best, can survive without the support of media and the record label. But I still get disappointed when I see some bands that have success only because they had a big push from managers, while other young bands with talent donít have a chance to get through because they donít have support.
In the past, it was more natural: If the band was good, people supported it and came to the shows. The band signed a deal, and things progressed. Today, it can be different. Itís like you donít have to play to be famous. Even in metal.
Maelstrom: You mentioned Sodom briefly. I had already started making some connections between Vader and Sodom when we started talking today. One of the reasons I really got into Sodom was from watching the documentaries made about the band. I see Tom Angelripper as being kind of like you: Youíve been the main guy, like Angelripper. Sodomís had a number of different lineups in their career, but Angelripper talks about his band as "we" ó that itís always been a group.
Itís easy to go along with these changes as a fan, but for someone like Angelripper, or for someone like you, in the band, is it a big crush every time you have to find a new lineup to carry on?
Peter Wiczwarek: I donít think my life is routine. I donít like change. I prefer having something established, at least for a good while. But I canít help it if people lose passion or will to do the band anymore. I could not accept people on stage with long faces, playing as if they had no choice. Thatís not acceptable. Not for Vader. I know that people come and they pay money, and they expect something. They donít want to see a band that has lost energy. They donít care about our personal problems. And why should they? They have their own problems in life. We are here to give some energy ó to give the best we can.
Sometimes itís a hard decision to say, "sorry, but we cannot be together anymore," but the band is still the priority. If thereís someone who does not fit in with the rest anymore, or even if itís three out of four members that no longer fit, they must go. Of course it is my decision, and some people may say that maybe it is me that is wrong, and not them... but this is all about Vader, which I started, and people can decide whether Iím wrong or not.
Maelstrom: Yeah, you are the only one in the band since the beginning, and write most of the material... and people can say youíre a dick. Itís like people can say John Gallagher from Dying Fetus is a dick, but John Gallagher *is* Dying Fetus!
When a band like Vader, who in my mind is the biggest metal band out of Poland, needs to find a new drummer, whatís the process like? Were there like 1,000 great drummers that presented themselves?
Peter Wiczwarek: We had plenty of propositions, but I focused on a few personalities that I wanted to try. I have to consider the situation of cooperating with a professional drummer, who may say good-bye the next year because heíll be busy with a different project. Or the situation of a young blood who will give big emotional support to the band. That was the situation with Daray: You could feel he was filled with energy and was very into working. He would spend hours, days drumming. His progress was like that. Same with Paul. This is what I focus on. We collected four candidates in a club in Warsaw where the owner is a friend of mine. Everyone had time to prepare the same set of songs ,and all played on the same drum set. It was a relaxed atmosphere.
And I watched. Itís not only hearing, but you can see how a drummer is. Like with Daray, Paul was the first one to audition, and I knew it was going to be him.
Maelstrom: Iím very excited tonight because youíll be playing De Profundis in its entirety!
Peter Wiczwarek: Yes.
Maelstrom: Iím so excited by that! I think itís a wonderful idea.
Peter Wiczwarek: This idea came from the bigger names, like Metallica and Slayer. So I thought, "why not you, man?" All Vader fans like De Profundis, so it seemed like a great time to do this.
Maelstrom: What guitar are you playing and why?
Peter Wiczwarek: Itís the same one, a Ran custom model. The company makes only custom models. I was the first main guy to help promote Darek and his company. And now he is cooperating with other big musicians, like Jeff Waters from Annihilator, Pat from Cannibal Corpse...
I love the V-shape. Iíve loved it since the first time I saw KK Downing play. I knew that if I would have a guitar, it would be a V. Itís totally metal. Mine is very simple: one pickup, one knob (volume), and a tremolo (of course). Thatís it. Itís not too heavy. Itís got a good sound, and itís comfortable to play. Itís a lot of good basic things put together, and itís not very expensive... so itís available to musicians ó you donít need to be a millionaire to buy one.
Maelstrom: What amplifiers do you choose?
Peter Wiczwarek: I still have my old Mesa Boogie Rectifier at home. I play a Laboga, which is a new amplifier from Poland. Sometimes in the studio I try to add different sounds from like a Randall, or an old Fender or Marshall, to add a different flavor to the soup. But I always keep the main spine sound. To make things easier on tour I use Line 6 Pedals. Iím using the same Rectifier on tour that Immolation used.
Maelstrom: I think that wraps it up.
Peter Wiczwarek: Thank you.