The Calm Before the storm :: Interview with Sui Generis Umbra ::


[Interview by: Valentine Wiggin]

I’ve heard it through the grapevine that you both met and were rehearsing for the upcoming shows. All for the first time in nine years(!) Can you tell us a bit more about the circumstances of the meeting and the impact it had on you both. Anything to raise a few eyebrows?

It was Maciek who was brave enough to set the wheels in motion and bring SGU back to life. Much appreciated. It is a damn good feeling to have been able to leave my cocoon, which I would have sure stayed in forever, had it not been for Maciek. So here we are, SGU sprang to life filling the air with very positive energy. It’s hard to believe this boundless zest is going to be turned into depressive drones, piercing vocals and the darkest ambient soundscapes one can imagine.

Jaw-dropping news? October 2013, the last day of rehearsals, five minutes before I leave the studio … We blow ourselves away with this incredibly mind-blowing melody and a body-piercing, captivating rhythm that suddenly fills the room. No longer are we staring into the void… we quickly exchange glances and the ‘Rec” button is pressed. Is this really happening? Have we just created the bass line for a new album? So … instead of rehearsing for the summer shows, we spent most of the two weeks in February working on the bass line and building the whole track on it. And as for today I can announce that the first track for the next, fourth album, has been made. Truly thrilling. We’d love to carry on creating music but we really cannot, we have to focus on preparing for the upcoming shows, that’s our priority. We expect to tick all the boxes in May and reveal a few details at the beginning of June. We’re going to make an appearance at two outstanding Festivals, Hradby Samoty Festival in Czech Republic and Castle Party Festival in Poland – superb food-for-ears for the lovers of the genre.

And as for live events… don’t you think they are a powerful tool for whipping up creativity and uncovering music potential that has been out there since always? I think playing live is magic of its own kind, taming the unknown. Do you agree? What is it like from your perspective?

I agree with you, however, it’s not our cup of tea, I’m afraid. Just.., I don’t know. somehow it doesn’t appeal to us. I guess mainly because we are both unbelievably disorganised, living 2000km away from each other, we end up dealing with thousands of problems while there should only be half of them. There’s lots of moaning, putting off things, forgetting, remembering, then forgetting again, and eventually ending up stressed, anxious and the like. Nightmare… Preparing for gigs takes it’s toll, especially on me. Where it might be me who is responsible for the havoc, Maciek isn’t a great help either. However, when we get round to the job, it’s done professionally and with great results on stage. Also, the mental challenge each show requires is a bit too much for me. I mean, it’s too challenging to be enjoyed. I am a wreck after I’ve left the stage as this is the price you pay for the ultimate concentration necessary to recreate a full palette of vocals recorded on studio albums, which vary from whispers to singing and yelling. And the most upsetting thing for me is that no matter how hard I try and practise, I won’t do them the original way. I’ve now ticked those vocal parts that I won’t be even rehearsing, I’ll be improvising and adjusting them to the very atmosphere of a particular show. After all, this is the SGU essence – unrepeatability, or in other words – sui generis.

Where does the style of the vocals come from?

I think from my personality which is as extreme and emotional as the vocals. In my opinion, it’s innate. I mean, we are all born with some, already encoded, qualities and abilities. It has nothing to do with learning, it’s just a matter of time when it’s awoken..

When did you start creating SGU? How did you perceive your music relationship at the time when you both had no idea where you were heading with the music journey?

I must admit we fail to comprehend the beginnings of SGU and what it was that made it happen. It really was, and still is, inexplicable how I was able to make a phone call to a guy, who I had met just once, and without any hesitation to ask to make music with me. I would have never done that under different circumstances. My shyness is rather extreme. Although Maciek was very busy recording and touring with his other band at that time, not only did he agree to meet up but also created half of the tracks for the ‘Ater’ LP in one day. He was very ill that day but I had no compassion. Gosh. What a bitch (laughs). I was in a trance, nothing could stop me. It seems it was a meant to be ….After that we didn’t see each other and continue to make music for a long time until we met at a party, by chance.

Since then, until now, nothing has really changed. SGU follows the same rhythm: no plans, no regular meetings, rehearsals, all is set by the universe and its pace. I don’t know what to call SGU but it’s a kind of Energy, drifting out there and far beyond our control. Against all odds, separated by 2000km, with no money and itinerary, we’re setting off on yet another part of the journey. Insane.

And what did you and Maciek dream about at that time?

I always dreamt of releasing the music on a profesionally produced CD. So did Maciek, I think. This was the synonym of bliss. I do remember the day and the moment when I first held ‘Ater’ in my hands. What I felt is beyond any description. A kind of catharsis I guess. I think I need to add that in that very second my way of thinking and perceiving life changed forever. Still wondering how different my life would be today if ‘Ater’ had never been brought to life. Better or worse…? Not sure.

What have you both been up to for the past nine years? I think it’s quite an important question.

Nothing worth mentioning, to be honest. We have been kind of lifted above ourselves, drinking up and tasting ‘normal’ life. 2005 was a very evil year – lots of friendships were ended, including ours. People stopped hanging out, having fun together, got isolated and disappeared completely. You cannot imagine the utter nothingness. I’ve analyzed the situation many times and still have no idea what this force that destroyed everything was. I had no choice but to start a new life so I moved out from SGU hometown. So did Maciek, in the opposite direction though, to Warsaw. I remember I didn’t listen to any SGU tracks for the whole six years, even once! A heroic act of erasing the past. How naive…

Do you want to say you regret it?

No, I don’t. Certainly not. It all makes sense now.

You moved to Scotland and lived in Aberdeen. Now, Edinburgh for the past few months – how do you feel in your new home town, could you tell us a little about the city? What have you been up to recently in your private life?

I must admit I’m having the time of my life – namely, for the first time in eleven years, I’m not working. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying it, or I should rather say – nurturing every minute of it as it won’t last forever. Only now have I realized how much I nedeed it. I lead a hectic life, always on the run, never with a single minute wasted. I’ve eventually said to myself – stop. Stop the madness. Slow down, take a deep breath, think calm thoughts and relax. It feels so damn good…so good. However, in order to achieve this state I had to leave my prestigious job of a Lecturer at North East Scotland College and start everything from scratch in Edinburgh. After six years, it was a really hard decision to make… Still, I think it was worth the risk, especially when I walk the streets of Edinburgh which almost feels like being part of the most magical and captivating tale. It’s unbearably beautiful, majestic and full of artistic spirit, with half of the buildings dating back to Medieval Ages. Truly amazing, it’s so different from everything I’ve seen so far. I’m sure all those who have been to Edinburgh would agree that there is not a better place to serve as the Hub of Dark Ambient, and Gothic music! There are lots of midnight ghost tours to haunted places and cemeteries where spooky stories about vampires are told. Paradoxically, there are no gothic/ambient/dark electro/industrial parties whatsoever. Nothing. As if this genre has never reached these lands. Unbelievable. From what I’ve observed it’s folk/medieval/celtic/viking music that is favoured, with lots of festivals and events of ritualistic nature. One of them, annual Beltane Fire Festival, is taking place today, on 30th April (Walpurgis Night) on Calton Hill situated in the very centre of the city. If you’re around, come and join us for this stunning celebration of one of the oldest rituals. Expect a deep night, flaming torches, hypnotic drumming and over a hundred performers in a sui generis Celtic tale.

What do you usually listen to? I’ve always been intrigued by what people like you, listen to to relax, during a day? Also, how important is listening to music for you?

It’s very important, or even the most important. A day without music doesn’t exist in my life. I stopped watching TV many years ago and had a HiFi system put in instead. I think you’ve got a point and I agree that music you listen to during the day is often quite different from what you listen to in the evening. In my case it also depends whether I’m on my own or with someone else. It’s really weird because if there is someone else with me in the same room/car I never listen to what I want but to what I think the other person likes. Unless I am sure the person is happy with my choice, I won’t stop searching. Personally, I like listening to ‘vocal-free’ music during the day, thus I often listen to everything that is chill-out/lounge oriented. What I like about it is that it doesn’t take my attention away and I can focus on some other things while it would be impossible otherwise. It just floats in a room’s space and is positive enough to help me restore my inner equilibrium after such depressing activities like peeling potatoes for example. However, the closer to the evening, the hungrier I am for something spicy and demanding. The deeper the night, the better the taste in music.

Creating music… – what role does it play in your life?

Firstly, it’s the most enjoyable way of escaping from the reality. Secondly, it’s also a state where you can be an utter egoist with no remorses because of that. Last but not least, it’s the most effective way of dealing with my inner demons…

Is it easier to accept the world when you’re getting older?

It is, at least from my experience. I think I’m a lot better at coming to grips with every-day reality than in the past. The older you get, the wiser you become (theoretically) and by this you’re able to explain the phenomenon called ‘the world’ and everything it produces. Hopefully, it will lead to acceptance and agreement.

Do you consider yourself an accomplished artist?

I’m definitely more mature and experienced and this is reflected in my music. However, I’m still building my artistic profile and it will take a while before I can consider myself a fully developed artist who has achieved an ultimate form which, what I believe, makes a truly accomplished artist.

Please say a few words about music collaborations you’ve been involved in. Which one did you enjoy most? Is there an artist that you would be particularly willing to collaborate with?

I’ve been invited by four great artists – Paranoia Inducta, Niegrzeczna Pensjonarka, MATO and Asmorod. Not only did I enjoy working with all of them but I also felt honoured that my voice had been considered as a way to enrich their music. What Asmorod made on ‘Hysope’ is the closest to my music tastes but the format of the release produced by MATO is unbeatable – the LP was released on two red (!) vinyls with beautiful graphic design and high quality print. Breathtaking.

Dream-team? All Dark Ambient artists! I admire various bands and singers representing a wide range of styles and genres but when it comes to creating music, all ideas and sounds are processed through the sole converter of my soul – Dark Ambient.

What can we expect, if at all, from you guys in the upcoming year?

Nothing, I’m afraid. I know, it sounds appalling. We apologize to our supporters for having to read such words, we really do. However, you need to understand, it’s all somewhere in the space and we hardly have any control over it. Nevertheless, there is definitely something in the air…. and keeps us anxious.

The calm before the storm?


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