Monday, July 11, 2016

Stonerror Interview

While the Polish group known as Stonerror is still in their early days as a band, with one single and an EP (the excellent Rattlesnake Moan) to their name so far, they've made a great impression on our ears, so we were curious to know what was going on behind the scenes with this group.  Bassist/lyricist Jacek Malczewski was kind enough to field some of our questions, while also sharing some extra info, including the very welcome news that the full album is on its way through the birthing process.

The Burning Beard: Hi, and thanks for giving us some of your time!  To start things off, let's talk about the people in the band.  The members are Jarosław Daniel, a.k.a., "Faza" on guitar, yourself on bass, Łukasz Mazur on vocals, and Maciek Ołownia on drums, but could you give us some more detail on each of you?

Jacek Malczewski: We’re all semi-pro musicians, long active on the local scene in Cracow, Poland.  We’ve played in quite a few bands, but also have our "regular" lives, families, and trades.  Faza – the driving force behind Stonerror – is a former music club owner and manager, currently pursuing his career as a graphic designer.  I make my living mostly as a university scholar and teacher (of political philosophy and bioethics), while the rest of the gang also have their everyday jobs and duties.  But it is the overwhelming love for the music that really drives our lives and makes the time worthwhile.  Both Maciek and Łukasz are very talented musicians and composers – not formally trained, but gifted with an exceptional instinct and sensitivity – so I feel really lucky to be in a band with them.

TBB: How long have you known each other?

JM: Faza and Maciek have played together in a band called ZOOiD since high school, so after many years they comprehend each other musically on a deep, unspoken level.  I used to attend their gigs back in the old days, but befriended these guys only a couple of years ago.  Faza is actually my best friend now, and we talk for hours every day.  Music, beer, and a very similar life outlook brought us together.  I first met Łukasz two years ago, when his band was opening for my brother’s show.  He’s a stubborn, gutsy guy, whom I liked immediately.  Later it turned out that he was a huge ZOOiD fan, so for him joining Stonerror was like playing in a team with the heroes of his youth.  He’s a bit younger than the rest of us, but we all get along really well.  The atmosphere is friendly and challenging at the same time – we motivate each other to improve and do what’s best for the music and the band.

TBB: How did Stonerror come together?

JM: Last spring my previous musical project has reached a dead end, and I thought about starting a new band to play some heavy, overdriven stuff.  Faza and I stumbled across each other at some gig, drank several beers and decided to do something together.  He wanted to return to making music after a few years’ break, and had some cool riffs and ideas.  We recruited a drummer from my former crew, but he turned out to be immature and unreliable – suffice it to say, he quit three days before Stonerror’s debut gig, which had been planned and advertised for weeks.  An instant replacement was needed, so Faza called his old buddy, Maciek.  We rehearsed on Friday night and played the show on Saturday.  Somehow the audience loved us, so Maciek decided to stay in the band.
Łukasz is another cool story.  He is a talented and inventive guitar player, who’s never done lead vocals before joining Stonerror.  My brother recommended him to me, saying: "he’s got pipes, try him out".  Well, we did.  We were jamming on a tune that later became our opening track, "Jericho", when all of a sudden Łukasz yelled and roared like his guts were on fire.  Faza and I exchanged this meaningful look: "hell yeah, the kid’s on board".  Later it turned out that Łukasz can also come up with stunning vocal lines, and deliver them in an almost Maynard-esque fashion.  So, as you can see, Stonerror was born under a totally unpredictable, but very lucky star.

TBB: How did you settle on the name of the band?

JM: Faza had it at the ready, together with some band logo drafts and other related imagery.  We loved the name right off the bat.  It sounds powerful and majestically, it’s mysterious and catchy.  Well, it also makes people assume that we play stoner rock.  Which we don’t, by the way.  There’s a lot more un-obvious, crossover "error" than generic "stoner" to what we do.  I even coined a term describing our musical style, and it’s already taken root: "psychedelic stonerpunk".

TBB: What made you decide to cover "Tomorrow Never Knows"?  Were there any other songs you were strongly considering covering instead?

JM: We needed a cover song for the debut gig, because back then we didn’t have enough of our own stuff to play the whole set.  It was a Kyuss tribute show, so it would seem obvious to choose a piece from their catalogue, or perhaps do some Black Sabbath anthem.  But we’re "The Errors", remember?  Being a huge fan of The Beatles – perhaps the most innovative band of all time – I suggested "TNK": a powerful, psychedelic, trance riff with a beautiful melody on top of it.  This song is very special to me in so many ways, and playing it on our own terms was like a rite of passage for the band: can we put our own, original style and sound into one of the most groundbreaking tunes ever composed?  Well, we could, and so "TNK" has become a staple of our live sets.  On later occasions we’ve also covered Led Zeppelin’s "No Quarter" (the best riff ever!), and Kyuss’ "Demon Cleaner".  But we’re not going to record any more cover songs for release.  We prefer to do our own, original stuff.  O.K., one day I’d love to play New Order’s "Blue Monday" in a psychedelic stonerpunk version.  We’ll see about that.

TBB: The notes for Rattlesnake Moan describe it as a "live" EP.  Where was it recorded?  What sort of an audience did you have, and how did they respond to the music?

JM: Yet another incredible story.  In December of 2015 we were opening for Ścianka – the best and most renowned Polish alternative band of the last twenty years, who were touring behind their new, long-awaited album.  It was a real honor for us to play with them.  The club was packed with their faithful audience (200 people), who obviously had no idea who we were and where we came from.  And it only was our 5th(!) gig together as Stonerror.  We drank a few beers, jumped on the stage and played our hearts out.  It was a short set: five songs, twenty-two minutes or so.  The audience was cool, not booing or throwing us away from the stage.  After the show Faza says: "Guys, I’ve got a surprise for you. The gig has been professionally recorded".  He arranged everything, but wouldn’t tell us in advance, so we wouldn’t get too anxious and screw up.  It only took a few guitar overdubs in the studio and some basic mixing, and boom! – we had our debut EP ready for release.  Ladies and gentlemen – 100% live Stonerror!  And here comes the best part: Ścianka’s leader, Maciek Cieślak, offered to release "Rattlesnake Moan" on his own independent record label, My Shit In Your Coffee.  Seriously, it was almost like being knighted by the King himself!  All the reviews so far have been favorable – both at home, and abroad, in the UK, USA, Greece or Spain.  It’s so amazing and cool!

TBB: You have a music video for "Rattlesnake Moan", done in stop-motion animation by a Polish artist.   Who is this artist, and how did the decision to have that artist create a music video for you come about?

JM: Natalia Brożyńska is a Polish female visual artist, who specializes in stop-motion animation.  She’s young, but already recognized and award-winning: in 2013 she received the most prestigious honor in the Polish music video industry for creating a music video to Devo’s "Blockhead".  Amazing stuff, you can find it on YouTube.  Natalia is also a life partner of one of our good friends, an artist and musician – Tomasz Jerzy Tumidajewicz.  Tomasz wrote the script for us and Natalia took care of the puppets and camerawork.  They built a post-apocalyptic desert in their apartment, and created the characters of the Rattlesnake, the Danger Man, and the Hangman.  The final effect is marvelous: a story about frustrated love, retribution, and death, visually influenced by William Faulkner, David Lynch, and Tim Burton.  I almost cried when I saw the video for the first time, because it has illustrated our song and the lyrics perfectly.  Now, that’s what I call a successful artistic collaboration!  We’ll certainly work with Natalia and Tomasz again in the future.

TBB: Between the imagery of the music video and the cover art, there's a lot of desert atmosphere to the presentation of your music, along with the notable desert rock elements of the music itself.  What is the landscape like where Stonerror lives, and how does that contrast with the moods you try to bring to life in your songs?

JM: Well, as you can imagine, Cracow is quite far geographically from the Mojave Desert and Rancho de la Luna.  In our case the desert is more of an imagined representation of desolate, untamed nature, and unrestrained creative freedom.  Our moods come from within, not from the outside.  They’re a reflection of our own wild natures.  Stonerror’s music and lyrics are very personal and cathartic.  The dirty, heavy riffs combined with angry, dark poetry help us to exorcise the inner demons from the past, cleanse the wounds, and retain our internal liberty.

TBB: What are some specific influences on Stonerror's music and imagery?

JM: Musically, we’re all into Kyuss and the early-to-mid 1990s grunge and alternative rock scene that has shaped our musical sensitivity as kids.  Soundgarden’s "Superunknown" is one of our favorite albums that we play on the road.  But there is much more to it.  We love The Stooges with their raw power and brutal punk simplicity, we cherish the dark, mystical and psychedelic Tool.  Seriously, I could mention dozens of bands and genres here – but it’s pointless, since we’re neither closing our music within any fixed stylistic boundaries nor trying to emulate someone else’s sound.
The lyrics and imagery?  Well, you’ve already mentioned the desert.  But the desert has many faces.  It’s not only California and Kyuss, but also the Sinai desert of the Old Testament, the Sierra Morena wilderness of the "Saragossa Manuscript" or the Mad Max dystopian wasteland.  As the band’s lyricist, I draw a lot from the scriptural books of Exodus, Joshua, Apocalypse, and others.  I also employ visions and phrases borrowed from classic literary works, movies and – lately – Native American mythology.  It is an unending quest for a symbolic, universal language to express my deep-seated emotions, fears, and passions.  The desert sky is the limit.  Our imagery is also influenced by the desert – from sun-scorched land and bare cattle skulls, to rattlesnakes and vultures, to oil wells and muscle cars.
You must have noticed the stunning B&W photograph on the cover of our EP: a beautiful naked lady playing the huge skull.  It was taken by an independent artist from Chicago, O. Levent Eryilmaz.  We found this image on the Internet and were amazed, because somehow it perfectly matched our own intuitions and emotions.  So we wrote a letter to Levent, and he simply allowed us to use the whole photo session for the visual purposes of our debut EP and live shows.  The model, Anna Rob, was also very happy about it.  You can find generous and talented people everywhere.

TBB: What are Stonerror's plans for the near future?  Will we be seeing a full album from the band anytime soon?

JM: The preproduction of the studio album has already begun.  We are working on the new songs and preparing the professional photo shoot.  The recording session has been scheduled for early November.  The album will be produced and engineered by Maciek Cieślak in his private studio.  He is also going to contribute musically, playing the guitar, keyboards, and perhaps doing some backing vocals.  Another dream comes true – we are working with one of the greatest artists in our country.  The album is due for release around Christmas of 2016.  We’ll certainly send it to The Burning Beard for review.

TBB: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

JM: Follow your visions, find the right people to collaborate with, work hard and consistently.  Always trust your instincts, and never let the bastards grind you down.  If we could make it, so can you.

TBB: Thanks very much for your time and the excellent music!
~ Gabriel

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