"Everything we do must be on the highest level achievable for us in that given moment"
Poland and death metal. You must know about that combo. The death metal scene in Poland is not only wide, it is also famous for its high quality. Young newcomers Northern Plague's debut EP 'Blizzard of the North' was reviewed here on Archaic Metallurgy last Autumn, and it left a feeling, that it is much more than any typical debut release; it's of high quality on all levels. It's always interesting to hear stories from up-and-coming bands, so we got in contact with new drummer Damyen Gwardzik. Here we go...
AM: Greetings from cold and snowy Finland. How is the winter time in Poland?
Damyen Gwardzik: Hey, thanks! The winter time in Poland? Well this year I think we would give you a run for your money with the weather. It's absolutely fucking cold, snowy, icy and windy, so I doubt its much worse in Finland. But if it is, remind me to never go there during winter!
AM: So, what's in the program for Northern Plague at the moment?
DW: Well, basically we're playing now as much gigs as we can. Very recently we played on a tour with Polish black metal legends Pandemonium, which just released their new album called 'Misanthropy'. Soon, we are going to continue our own "We are the Plague Tour". It will be the third and final part of this tour. Then we got some festivals to go to, then an European Tour. So its great, our calendar is slowly starting to fill up.
AM: Northern Plague's debut release 'Blizzard of the North' EP came out in 2011. How was it greeted among the metal music audience?
DW: I think the response so far is absolutely great, we got a lot of great reviews in various parts of Europe and also people who know the stuff show great support as well. Personally I'm amazed.
AM: The EP isn't only professionally composed, but also sounds like a bigger bands' recordings. It was produced by guitarist/vocalist Fenris. Can you tell about its studio sessions and such?
DW: The way 'Blizzard of the North' was produced really shows the philosophy of the band. Everything we do must be on the highest level achievable for us in that given moment, and since the band is from Bialystok there was no mystery about where the band would record. It was of course in Hertz studio. Wiesławski Brothers have recorded with Behemoth, Vader, Decapitated so the biggest Polish metal bands, but more then that, a large group of metal bands from all over the world. So it was a given that 'Blizzard of the North' would sound great.
AM: Have the band composed any new song material?
DW: The four tracks you hear on the EP were selected from a wider range of songs. Some of those songs got re-arranged, so they sound more powerful, some of them aren't played anymore. Yes, we started making new stuff. The new songs are very different. They're more aggressive, more brutal, faster but still, they have that something that links with the songs written before 'Blizzard of the North'so you know its the same band.
AM: Let's jump back in time. How did Northern Plague start? And how did it all come to this?
DW: Well the band started in 2009, Fenris and Northern Plague's ex-drummer Saryon formed a band which in the beginning was more of a hobby, they got together, jammed, played covers. Since Janus and Ghorakh joined the band it started slowly to change. New ideas came, new songs were composed and before you knew it, it stopped being just a hobby.
AM: What kind of influences, musical and perhaps other kind too, do you guys have?
DW: Every one of us listens to different bands, but there are some that we all like, for example Behemoth or Nile.
AM: You still haven't recorded anything with the band. What kind of expectations do you have for that process?
DW: Well. we're thinking to go to the studio this year. And I'm slowly starting to think about it. Well I expect we will have fun and do a great job. I'm sure all of us will give a 100%, everyone in the band is very committed, so there's no way things will go wrong.
AM: How did the guys find you, and why did they decide to pick you as a new drummer? And how did you feel when you got the "job"?
DW: Thatís a good one. I stopped playing in my previous band and was "in the market", going through ads on the internet. And I found them, Fenris sent me their material and I was blown away. Such a young band, but very professional which were the main qualities I was looking for. I was so taken into it, that I didn't even check, where were they from. So yeah, we got in touch, chatted, and wanted to arrange the first meeting, I checked the map and was like FUCK! 550 km? But then I had a second look at it, lifeís a gamble, let's go!
I prepared the stuff they wanted me to prepare, we met in Bialystok. I was slightly nervous, cause I may have played metal before but it was like in 2006 and since then I focused around jazz and rock. But somehow I've managed and the guys were pleased, so I became the new drummer.
AM: What kind of a drums setup do you have?
DW: At the moment I'm using a Premier Artist Maple drum kit and a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute snare. Cymbals are a mix of Sabians Zildijans and Saludas.
AM: Are you a beer-swiller or do you rather take care of yourself? How much do you train drumming?
DW: When Playing we never drink. Thatís one of the main rules within the band. And that counts no matter if we're doing a gig or a rehearsal. When we play, we don't drink. When playing this kind of music you have to be sober. Especially on drums. Itís all about being dependable and professional as a performer. When the gig is done, and the gear loaded up, then we have the moment to chill out.
AM: Are you a self-taught drummer, or do you have some kind of music conservatory background? Tell us about your history, what made you become a metal drummer! Have you played with other bands?
I started playing at the age of nearly 3. I began with the piano, I graduated in a music school in Pila as a classical pianist, and in Poznan as a jazz drummer. My father used to play drums, He had a band which played on weddings and stuff like that, so occasionally I drove to a rehearsal with him and got the chance to try playing on this beautiful instrument. The very first bands I played in were metal bands, when we used to play covers of Metallica, Guns 'N' Roses, Black Sabbath and all of those cult bands, then it started to get heavier and heavier culminating in a band called Dying Spirit which was playing death metal. It was then, that I moved to Poznan to learn playing jazz. You can imagine, how most of my peers reacted to a metal drummer joining a group of people that were already used to jazz. I had a hard time with them. For me it was a whole new world. After I graduated, I took part in some rock projects but I felt there was something I was missing, the pure emotion you feel when playing brutal music. The intensity, the anger you give away, so I joined Northern Plague and returned to playing metal.
AM: What kind of tempos and stuff do you enjoy playing the most?
DW: It depends on the music. I may play in a metal band, but I also enjoy playing slow, jazzy ballads or Latin rhythms and there there's no point in playing at a million BPM. I try to play as musically on the drum set as possible. I always play to a riff of the guitar, so first I analyze in what tempo the riff sounds the best and then arrange a drum part to that. But, if you really want to know, there will be songs not far from 300bpm.
AM: How do you see the use of triggering in drums?
DW: They're really helpful on bass drums. In a big hall or arena bass drums give a lot of air, and that's great when you play a rock beat at 150bpm. But while playing death/black metal, when you're sometimes doing almost twice that the bass drums give away just one long roll. Triggers help with that, because each hit sounds so clear, tight and powerful no matter how fast you play, and that's what gives double bass parts the power you want.
AM: How is the rehearsal place politics for bands in Poland?
DW: It's a case of where will you find a place, with who and on what conditions. some bands play in some shitty old buildings accompanied by rats, some play in house if one of the musicians has the space for that. At the moment We have a great spot near Bialystok, a nice, alarmed building and were the only band playing there, so that's great.
AM: There are a lot of legendary and semi-legendary bands, also death metal ones, in Poland operating at the moment. How do you see the scene is doing?
DW: The Polish metal scene is quite respected in the world, We have Behemoth, Vader, Hate, Decapitated and as far as I see it We have something that we can be proud of, but this being Poland only a select group of people is.
AM: How are metal clubs/bars/festivals and such over there?
DW: It depends, there're not that many places specifically for metalheads, but gigs do get done in clubs, bars, where ever, because there are people who are hungry for such events. There are more and more festivals in Poland which is great but if I had it my way I'd have twice as many at least.
AM: Do you have any Finnish metal favorites?
DW: Well the classics - Nightwish, Apocalyptica or Children Of Bodom, but more recently I heard a Finnish folk metal band called Korpiklaani and it was fun to listen to.
AM: Okay, let's list some bands, and you can comment on them, ok?
DW: Cult in Polish metal.
DW: In my view the best Polish metal band currently.
DW: Awesome band, great people, far more "for the masses" then Behemoth.
AM: Lost Soul
DW: 'Immerse in Infinity', great album, madness!
AM: That I have to second!!! Awesome platter, a bit more unknown a band, but hopefully not long!
DW: I never was a great fan of them, but a good band nonetheless.
AM: Morbid Angel
DW: Didn't listen that much, very Cannibal Corpse -like, and since I've listened to CC I didn't bother that much with them.
DW: Hah, another great finish band. 'Slumber of Sullen Eyes' is a great old school death metal record.
AM: What are you all-time favorite bands, artists and perhaps composers?
DW: Well I love to listen to music from movies, and for me Hans Zimmer is just a god. Dimmu Borgir, especially in 'Abrahadabra' for combining my love for orchestral music with my love for metal.
AM: Any hot bands you simply need to mention, right now?! And why do you name them anyways?
DW: Well I dearly recommend you a Brazilian band called Unearthly. Great guys, playing great music. Recorded a very good album called 'Flagellum Dei', also in Hertz Studio. Check them out!
AM: Do you have any other hobbies, or does Northern Plague eat your whole spare time?
DW: I love cars, and great comedy, but I try to do as much as I can for the band and focus as much as I can on the band.
AM: Okay, now we've reached the end of this interview. Is there anything you still haven't said here? The last chance!
DW: Sure, I'd like to thank everyone for the support and invite you all to our Facebook fan page, come to the shows and let the plague spread. Cheers!
Interviewed by Lane
Northern Plague (from left ot right): Fenris (vocals, guitar), Janus (guitar), Ghorakh (bass) and Damyen (drums).