Interview Votum (Keyboardist Zbigniew Szatkowski)

“We evolve and we try new and different things”

(September 2010, text by Pedro Bekkers, edited by Peter Willemsen)

In 2008, Polish prog metal band Votum released their promising debut album Time Must Have A Stop. After the release of the band’s second album Metafiction in 2009 (see review), I got a chance to do my first interview for Background Magazine with keyboard player Zbigniew Szatkowski. The easiest way was to send my questions by e-mail; perhaps next time it’ll be an old fashioned phone call or even a face-to-face interview, who knows. 

I would like to congratulate you with Metafiction, one of the best new Polish albums I’ve heard lately.

Zbigniew Szatkowski: “Well, thank you very much. It means a lot to know that people appreciate our work. It makes it all worth-while.”

Listening to Metafiction, I described it as a ‘light’ version of Riverside, because of the similarities in song structures and especially the vocals. Do you agree?

“As far as the vocals are concerned you might be right, but in terms of other aspects, we consider ourselves far more aggressive than Riverside. From time to time our ‘metal side’ tends to show and we give a little bit of a kick to the atmospheric and melodious side of our music. The best way to understand what I exactly mean is to see us on a live stage. Even if some listeners might consider Metafiction mellow and slightly more down-beat than its predecessor, after seeing us live they will reconsider that opinion. The tracks have an almost astounding amount of power and energy to them.”

In my review I also stated that Metafiction lost a bit of ‘metal’ with respect to the previous album. What’s your opinion about the progression of the band?

“We evolve and we try new and different things. Most probably the third album will be more forceful than Metafiction and more melodic than Time Must Have A Stop. We additionally plan to experiment with electronics and soundscapes. We’ll see where it goes from there.”

Would you please inform us a bit more about the concept of the album?

“I always try to tell as little as possible about the concept. There’s a lot of fun in trying to figure it out on your own. This concept is not simple, though. It’s the story of a writer who’s about to create his ultimate masterpiece. Unfortunately, he becomes the victim to the plot he creates. Stranger Than Fiction describes the events that lead him to believe the words he writes become reality and every action he portrays has a reaction in real life. The death of his wife pushes him to look for a way to repent his sins, that is, as he perceives it. Unfortunately, he makes a terrible judgment call and decides to finish what he started. The rest of the story you’ll have to discover for yourselves.”

To what extent are Votum musically influenced by other bands and what is the educational background of the musicians?

“Almost every one of us, at some point in time, took lessons or spent some time in a school of music. We try to learn continuously and whenever there’s a chance we attend workshops, seminars to get as much experience as we can by working with the best musicians around. What are our influences? Well, it’s a tough question. Every one of us has a different taste in music and listens to different bands. Bartek Turkowski (bass) likes vintage electronics, jazz and funk, I love movie scores, modern electronics like ambient, dubstep or dnb, the guitarists Alek Salamonik and Adam Kaczmarek enjoy everything from trip-hop, jazz to Slipknot-like metal, Adam Łukaszek (drums) and Maciej Kosinski (vocals) listen to pretty much everything they can get a hold of, so it’s quite difficult to find one, two or even a dozen things that directly influenced us.” 

I notice that a lot of new progressive music’s coming from Poland and most of them have a very high quality level. Can you explain this boost of prog music from your country?

“I’m pretty sure I can’t explain it, but it’s no surprise for me that good music comes from Poland on account of our national talents and all... No, no, seriously, when we started our ‘adventure’ we encountered lots of amazing bands – not only progressive ones though – who unfortunately are long gone now with plenty of reasons: no money, the misleading impression that ‘good music sells’, a lack of marketing ideas and the unwillingness to practice or play gigs. If you want to succeed you need lots of luck apart from all the hard work, the lack of survival instinct and heroic determination. If you say that you’ve heard top-notch bands from Poland you just had the pleasure to hear a couple of the most fortunate ones.”

At the Metal Hammer Festival 2010 in Katowice, I noticed many great progressive bands like Opeth and Riverside, only Korn seemed to be out of place. How did you experience playing on this event?

“In a way it was an amazing opportunity. We shared the stage with some of the greatest bands in the genre, with bands we used to listen to when we were kids dreaming of becoming rock-and-roll heroes. At the same time I hope it’s just another consequent step in our career.”

Are there any plans for a European tour to promote the new album?

“Currently, we’re touring around Poland, but we are thinking of a quick run behind the borders. We’ll see how it turns out. This year we also want to shoot a video and start working on our new album, hopefully out in 2011.” 

If you have some remarks or want to say something that could be interesting for our readers, please do.

“All artists rely on their fans. If you like a certain group let them know! Go to their concerts, buy their records and support them! They’re doing it for you only. Don’t let them down. Regardless of the common belief, which states that you have to be dead to be appreciated by the public, dead people don’t record good albums, well... perhaps except Tupac.”

Thanks for the interview! I wish you and the band all the best of the world. I would love to see you play once!

“I hope you will! Have a good time!”

More info about Votum on the Internet:
Votum Website
Album review "Metafiction"

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