Interview with Mariusz – Progmetalzone
By all rights, the Polish band Pinkroom should be huge by now. They have two very well-received albums, 2009’s Psychosoltice and last year’s Unloved Toy but, like a lot of indie bands, they seem to not have much name recognition, even among die-hard prog rock and metal fans. Yeah, perhaps it’s because they’ve only done those two albums in 6 years but more likely it’s due to their distinctive and very idiosyncratic approach to their music. Sure, they have their influences like anyone else (Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Porcupine Tree etc.) but don’t really fit into a style that is easily pigeonholed and is even harder to describe. The Pinkroom sound is a combination of riffs, moods and textures that run the gamut from light to dark moods with elements of psychedelic, jazz, chamber and prog rock with tons of heavier metal elements along the way. Liberal use of keys and even trumpet, flute and cello also really help to give the band their unique style. We recently had the pleasure of discussing all things Pinkroom with band founder, guitarist and vocalist Mariusz Boniecki and he definitely had a lot to say about his musical influences, compositional approach and how to make your mark in a very crowded musical landscape. After the interview you can check out a band video along with full album streams and purchase links of both of the band’s albums.
Hey Mariusz, thanks for taking some time to talk to our readers about your band.
Thanks. It’s my pleasure.
Hope you don’t think it’s hyperbolic but around these parts we consider you guys to be one of the best “unknown” prog bands going. Maybe because you only have those two albums released five years apart and even most die-hard prog metal fans haven’t really heard of Pinkroom.
That’s quite an expression. I like it! Especially because I guess there are more unknown bands than known ones so the rivalry is much more intense. But seriously it’s a fact that it’s hard to break through these days. Of course there is the Internet and it’s easy to share your work with a broad audience, but still, without proper promotion it’s not easy for artists to be noticed in this flood of music. We don’t make a living off of music so we can’t afford to spend all our time and money to promote ourselves. But still I’m pleased that we can manage to release our own albums because it’s not so easy. We are like unloved toys sitting somewhere in the corner and waiting for their turn and because of that we have some sort of charm. All reviews that appear in the media are very positive but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it converts into success. However, it’s the music itself that speaks the loudest to the audience. That’s why we are very pleased when the newspapers, magazines or other review portals write about us and we slowly reach a broader audience.
Can you give us some background on the band and what you’ve been up to since the release of Psychosolstice? Also how did you decide on the band name?
Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I fell in love with Led Zeppelin and the guitar. I met Marcin after our former group Empty Room, disbanded. In the meantime Marcin played in a metal band called Island so when we met again we sat for a few nights to consider starting a new band. I think, speaking for myself, that while forming a band we already knew this was not going to be a school band. We had big ambitions which some found to be excessive and we began to jam together. After a few personnel changes we formed the trio of me, Marcin Kledzik (drums) and Kacper Ostrowski (bass) and we began to compose the material.
From the beginning the band decided to give up any live performing until the record would be issued. Unfortunately in 2008 Kacper left the group and from that moment on Pinkroom was a duo. At that time I was already very determined to lead Pinkroom into releasing the debut album and paying no attention to any adversities. Because of that mindset I decided to give up my job for a while and focus only on composing music and for some period I was saving money to realize what I had planned. I resigned my job and after a few days there was only me and the music. For a few months I worked hard, sitting every day in the rehearsal room composing tunes and then improving them with Marcin.
After Psychosolstice was released we played over a dozen live shows around Poland but unfortunately we didn’t have enough funds to tour around Europe. After a short rest I began to compose some new material which I was able to do it in quite a short period of time but gathering the funds to cover the studio expenses slowed down the process of recording. Meanwhile each of us became happy parents. Finally we made it to the studio and recorded the new album and then we collected some funds to finance the release.
As far as the name of the band is concerned – there is not much philosophy behind it. You surely know the Twin Peaks series by David Lynch? In the movie Fire Walk With Me there is one scene when characters come into the club and there is this band playing onstage, the atmosphere is heavy and the tune is called The Pink Room. Personally I really like the ambiguity of the name.
Who are yours and the other band members’ major musical influences? I’m detecting a strong King Crimson vibe as well as perhaps some Tool and Porcupine Tree along with a ton of psychedelic infused metal going on. Am I correct in that?
Many bands that I’ve listened or still listen to for sure influenced my view on music. Pink Floyd was really the band that formed me and was the first band to reach my consciousness as a group that created music that acts on imagination. Certainly in our music one can hear the influences of King Crimson and we value their creativity and approach to music. They first showed me that there is no need to be afraid of non-matching sounds, that there is no such thing as musical canons but first of all they showed that they do not have to create sweet songs for the masses and that we can reach the human psyche with other means that are much more valuable and that compel the listener to think and sometimes to even change their lives. Some bands infected me with polymetric rhythms, some with complex compositions and finally others with melodiousness.
Like many people I had periods of musical fascination, one time it was a fascination with Pink Floyd, another with Jimmy Page’s guitar and another time the rich areas of Porcupine Tree and King Crimson. And Roger Waters’ concert in Warsaw was just a great mystical experience. Porcupine Tree has also become a kind of continuation of these fascinations with psychedelic rock with those beautiful nostalgic sound passages. I really appreciate Steven Wilson’s approach to music a lot. He doesn’t limit himself by genres as well – he does his own thing and he does it great. Even though, as I said before, I try not to copy someone’s ideas, if I heard something before – I discard it, and the eventual associations to these bands may be the result of my being fond of their attitude towards music as works of art that affect me emotionally. Just like them I try to make rich and uncommon music. Certainly, you can’t avoid some influences but is it wrong to be compared to such masters? All in all I try to listen to everything that I feel has some emotional value.
I reviewed Psycholstice back in 2011 (review link HERE) and commented on how much I loved the use of multiple textures including trumpet and cello along with some of the heaviest riffs around. Can you give us a description of the Pinkroom sound and what you feel makes the band unique?
It’s known that when a band makes its debut they have to compare it to something which already exists in order to determine approximately what music we play. It’s a bit like exotic fruits – if you eat an unknown fruit for the first time, you might say something like “tastes a little like a pear, mixed with orange, etc.” I hope that soon there will be such an exotic fruit with the Pinkroom flavor! We try to play music that we would love to listen to but want to add to it some piece of our soul.
I don’t really limit myself as far as music genres are concerned. I think there are many different genres contained on our record, from jazz, through pop, up to metal. I believe the most important thing is to create a harmony within your self. If I composed a tune that has a tint of pop music, I don’t reject it just because of that. I think if I had such a need then I have to follow the voice of my soul. Then there is a chance that the record will be interesting and the listener won’t be bored. I’ve never wanted to play one-genre music, I’m not really into records on which one piece is similar to another, played on the same match of instruments and in a similar way. Basically, each of our tunes is different and in each song I use different effects and sounds. There is trumpet, flute and cello in two of the tunes along with various samples, background sounds and keyboards. Based on that, someone might think that there must be quite a mess on that record but I guarantee that it’s not like that at all. The material is very coherent and fastened by the rhythm section, vocals and guitars.
The whole record is very well produced so there’s no need to be concerned. Besides, the reviews that showed up so far confirm that everything from the music and lyrics and even the graphics sum it up as integrity. We know that Pinkroom must be attached to some kind of genre but by saying our music is difficult to determine and that we don’t like pigeonholing, we would fall directly into the drawer occupied with bands that say they are original and cannot be determined. In my opinion, we play rock music, certainly guitar, with multiple layers of moods and melodies interspersed with seemingly noisy disharmony. We also like to play with rhythm, but not to the extent that it sounds like musical showing off. Finally, all of this is served in a gentle electronic background sauce. I basically create music that I would like to listen myself and one of the elements that I really love in our music is the multitude of ideas in each piece. So when the album comes to an end you really want to play it again because you have this feeling that you missed something.
One thing that really struck me about your albums is that you start each of them with a real bang. Psychosoltice had “Path of Dying Truth” with its killer, heavy riffs and “Blow” off of the new record, Unloved Toy which has a strong atmospheric melodic style alternated with more of those punchy riffs that you guys do so well. Is that intentional – to really grab the listener right from the get-go?
Nothing is accidental in our albums – the arrangement of tunes is as important as all of the other elements. The assumption is to lead a listener through the record, gradation of moods etc. The choice of first piece in my opinion is very important. After all we are the unknown band and if someone hears our record for the first time the first sounds will determine if he’ll stay with it or put it away, perhaps forever. Besides, in this first tune, I wanted to show more or less what comes next. It’s also the beginning of the story in a textual layer so it basically has to be this way. When you work on an album for about a year then you begin to know all of its sounds so well that while working on it some arrangements just come into your head by themselves.
I’m embarrassed to say that we missed the boat on Unloved Toy when it came out. We posted about it but hadn’t heard the whole album until recently but we definitely would have included it in our year-end top album list if we had!
As I mentioned, we are an unknown band. We don’t have worldwide promotion and basically we deal with all media contacts by ourselves. We didn’t reach all places where the music is reviewed but we’ve done a good job at building up our contact list. That’s the second part of work in a band – we don’t have a manager because we just can’t afford one but I can promise you that when we release our third album you will get a copy of it. I very much value the media that helps unknown bands to break through. Big stars have big money for promotion so they don’t need such help. Sometimes I have the impression that some in the music press just make it easier for themselves by writing about well-known artists because they can be sure that someone will read it and then they can cash in the money from advertisements. So I have respect for the media that write about the unknown ones in such a compelling way that they can lure in the reader.
Thanks! That’s very much appreciated. We’re really glad to have you back after five years and Unloved Toy has become one of our favorite albums of the last year. It seems that you guys have only gotten better and deeper as a band and, as good as Psychosoltice was, Unloved Toy has even more variety in the sound and I’m also detecting a much stronger polyrhythmic style reminiscent of 80’s era King Crimson. Do you feel that, given the years between the two albums, that you guys have grown musically?
We are still growing musically, for sure. I personally listen to a large amount of different musical genres and I’m always searching the Internet for new sounds. I like to discover the new and if something engages my attention it goes to my shelf and after a while I come back to it. It’s the same when I compose. I want to discover as much new sound as possible and I’m always looking for new sound solutions and interesting rhythms. All this for our music to become interesting for the listener. Even Marcin often says that I come with such sections and rhythms that I mobilize him to practice! I would like to create music that will be better album after album and guess that’s just natural. When I pass the record on to the press I always think that this is the best thing that I’ve ever managed to make and just let the critics judge if I made any progress.
I get the feeling that you structure your songs more around rhythms, riffs and atmosphere than on melodies. Would you agree with that assessment?
I guess you’re right, since you receive it this way there must be something to it. I didn’t assume to create this way. Apparently the rhythm is deeply rooted in our nature, life is a rhythm, sex is a rhythm, birth is a rhythm.
Originally I know that Pinkroom was a project between you and drummer Marcin Kledzik but it looks like you now have a full band with two additional full-time members. Did the four of you all play on Unloved Toy and do play any live shows?
Yes, that’s how we recorded Unloved Toy and that’s how we’ll play live shows.
I also love the occasional, soft vocal melodies you guys throw out. It’s pretty cool to hear a sophisticated, layered “pop” approach right alongside some really angular heaviness. Is that an integral part of your musical conception?
Well I grew up listening to Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, Death, Cannibal Corpse and My Dying Bride. I gradually broadened my listening on purpose even coming to Steven Wilson’s Blackfield. I’ve always wanted to play heavy, but for how long you can scream and rumble? Sometimes a good melody crosses this frenzy of being aggressively rebellious and then you pass to another method of attack but it’s important not to force it. There has to be some kind of a continuation. Besides as far as development and moving forward are concerned, what would become of playing only so-called metal? Another thing is constant pigeonholing. Pop or metal – music is for the people so why discourage a listener by definitions at the very beginning?
How do you come up with such great riffs? Honestly, I can’t really remember if you do many guitar solos on your albums but those riffs stay with me long after I’ve heard ‘em.
You see, the solos are even better but you have to approach them from the proper direction. And riffs… well, I’m happy that you think so. Recently I discovered that I probably search and listen to so much music in order to know as much as possible and to be sure that, while composing, I create something that wasn’t played before. When I compose the riff the inner filter in my head searches through the database making sure that I haven’t heard it before and, if not, then it’ll pass to the next stage of evaluation – “is it proper”, “is it good enough to sleep with”.
Can you talk a bit about the new record, Unloved Toy? What are your favorite songs and can you let us know more about the album concept of a “man living in the world today” is all about?
It’s definitely not a classic concept album. Unloved Toy tells the story of how a man may feel living in the world today and it presents many of our thoughts and emotional states. We’re not moralizing, we just want the listener to feel an emotional connection with the album. The music on Unloved Toy is my alter ego, a story from my soul. I don’t have favorite songs, I love all of the tracks, even those that weren’t included on the album.
I was also especially taken by the chamber rock meets jazz feel of the song Moodroom v.3. The strings and melancholy mood that changes into a spacey jazz piece before ending so heavy is just stunning. How did that piece come about and are you going to be doing more songs like that in the future?
As the name shows itself the series of these tunes is meant to create various moods in the listener’s head, to flow. It’s kind of a theatrical performance with many actors that are changing as in a Breugel painting and it’s created from improvisation. In Moodroom v.3 I allowed myself to release my imagination intensively and at the beginning I put inside it as many layers as possible in order to restrain it without limiting myself to the bonds of musical genres or particular instruments. Perhaps these constructions are not very commercial but I really like those kinds of sound kaleidoscopes.
When I can afford it, I will record a whole album in that way. All parts of Moodroom are important and each member of Pinkroom will tell you the same.
Also, the song Enslaved is just knocking me out as well. It’s so damned hypnotic and powerful which is pretty impressive considering how much acoustic guitar you use on the song (or am I not hearing that correctly?)
Yes, there’s a lot of acoustic guitar in this tune but it is played in a very non-standard way. The whole piece was meant to be hypnotic and it was composed by basing it on an acoustic motif that you can hear from the beginning. The motif itself is quite old and I unearthed it from the Psychosolsticesessions. I just didn’t want to put it away again because it tamed me with its charm so much that I ended up creating a new piece for it. I actually have a few more guitar motifs that I recorded on my cell phone because they appear momentarily and there is no time to record it in a studio. Let them wait peacefully to be unearthed. I hope I won’t lose my cell phone because you can never know if someone else would be able to use such recordings properly
So what’s next for Pinkroom?
Collecting the funds to arrange the tour and the 3rd album. We already have 5 to 6 tunes so I hope that listeners won’t have to wait as long as they did between our two albums. I’m also thinking about a solo project which will be musically quite different from Pinkroom. But I still lack time to do it all. Time… do you happen to know where it can be bought?
I wish! Anything else you’d like to add?
Well, it’s hard for me to convince anyone to listen to our music but I think that anyone who expects something more from music than catchy melodies embellished with rhythm certainly will not be disappointed. Certainly, emotions in our music are unique and I invite everyone to explore our musical world and hope to see you at live shows!
Interview by Jeff Stevens
Posted by Jeff Stevens | Published on May 18, 2015