Exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: HARD TO BREATHE interview

On June 28, 2012 we conducted an interview with one of the longest running Warsaw hardcore punk bands, HARD TO BREATHE. These good friends of DEATH ROW (who we interviewed earlier this year) have recently put out their brand new EP entitled “Grey Sky Above Our Eyes” (streaming below) and are constantly pushing forward their Warsaw Hardcore collective with more and more interesting projects, such as the first edition of local Polish punk bands compilation.

Welcome, guys. Good to have you here. So you’ve just had your release party for the “Grey Sky Above Our Eyes” 7”. What bands showed up? How was the party?
Maciek:

We played with DRIP OF LIES, ASTRID LINDGREN and a new Warsaw band HEATSEEKER so it was a little bit of everything – some dark songs from DOL some more “emotional” stuff from ASTRID, and a “classic” old school style from HEATSEEKER. The gig was great, sunny Sunday afternoon, all kinds of people, most of our friends, great bands to play with – everything was right. We wanted to make younger kids come to the show so there was a no-fee entry for people under 18 and some new kids showed up so maybe there is hope ;)

Michał:

We find these bands really interesting and inspiring.
We were a bit worried about the attendance, because the kind of music that we (and the other bands) play is not so popular even in hardcore scene but it turned out surprisingly well and we are fully satisfied. In my opinion we played one of our best shows and the crowd reaction was really vivid.

Cool, I really wish I was there.

How long have you been preparing the outing? Tell us about the writing and recording process for the EP. Is there a certain message behind this joint? 

Maciek:

We all have jobs (well not really all ;) ) families and many other obligations and also a very specific and long-taking approach to writing songs, so some of the songs on the ep are almost 2 years old or even older. Since Michał joined us things are a little speeding up so I hope we will release some more stuff in the near future. The recording also last for far too long. Due to some personal problems of some of us instead of 4 days in a row it stretched to something like 4 days but over 2 months ;) We recorded everything in Studio Fonia in Warsaw, Adam recorded the drums, Paweł from Drip Of Lies recorded the guitars and did some mixing, then we gave it to Mad Greg from CAST IN IRON who did the final mixing and mastering.
All of this guys are great to talk to and work with so it was fun and recording in Fonia is always a great adventure ;)

Przemek:

It was important that all the people involved in the process of recording/producing are people that actually listen this kind of hardcore-punk , so that they can understand what we want to achieve.

Michał:

In the moment when I joined the band (about March 2011) guys had 2 unreleased songs – we’ve chosen one to record for the Warsaw Punk Attack compilation, and the second one is on the 7”. Than together we’ve written 5 more songs, but one was rejected and we ended up with the 5 song EP. I can say that the whole writing process took us about 1 year. The recording was made by Paweł (who plays guitar in DOL) and Adam of studio Fonia. They’ve got a lot of work and it was a bit hard for us to schedule the sessions, especially that at that time I had some troubles at school. As Paweł is touring quite often the mixing also took some time. Than Borsuk made the final mix and mastering. So many people were involved in the recording process.

Some of you are straight edge, some of you don’t eat meat. How do you get along with each other [laughs]

No, seriously, how does your way of life affect the vibe in the band?

Przemek:

We see each other as friends and only after that as band members. This can be sometimes less productive in terms of achieving something as a band. But on the other hand we know everyone is 100% involved in going in the direction we choose together.

 Michał:

It does not at all. There are no conflicts because these are our own choices and we consider it personal. Sometimes we joke about it but I don’t mind.

Maciek:

It was never a problem, I mean it is a problem because the SXE guys don’t drive, so sometimes we have really hard talks who is supposed to drive us and who can start to party after the show ;) We know each other for many years and the friendship and the respect we got for each other was always more important than the problem who drinks and who not.
About the vegetarian thing: only Przemek eats meat, but it is the same – we like him too much, to argue with him, I know him for almost 30 years now so believe me, he is a tough partner in discussions ;)
 Because we are not all vegetarians we don’t want to talk about it as a band, it’s really sad when bands like todays WŁOCHATY still sing about vegetarianism when half of them eat meat, and they even pretend they are sorry and talk about it in interviews etc., we don’t want to be like that, and we trying our best to convince Przemek that eating dead animals is not right ;)

Tell us about No Pasaran Records and Elephant Skin Records. How did you end up on their roster? What for do you need a record label?

Maciek:

No Pasaran released the ‘Warsaw Hardcore Punk Attack’ compilation which we were featured on and we had talks with Darek about releasing our ep there, but they had so many releases planned and already coming up it was not really an option. We are really happy Michal from Elephant Skin was into our record and wanted to put it out. I must say I was a little intimidated talking to him about the record but as I say he was into the songs and wanted to do it so we are really happy.
Michal is a great guy who is part of the Warsaw scene for many years, he is also doing the “Cudowne Lata”/ “The Wonder Years” zine and for many years he was filming most of the Warsaw shows so he has a nice archive of late ?90 and most of ?00 polish hardcore fashion styles ;)
 We did the release as a split with 0-22 records which is kind a collective-label of the 022 crew, releasing demos from our bands and friends bands. We also did the HTB/DEATH ROW split as 0-22 rec, so we had a little experience with releasing stuff and you don’t really NEED a label. I mean you CAN do it all by yourself it only lasts longer and there is way more risk you will fuck up, either with the artwork, handling the pressing or talking to distros or whatever. When you have some helping you is always easier, less stressful and most of the time it turns out better.

Przemek:

We are happy with the way things worked out and very thankful to Michał. I am sure without him the record wouldn’t be as it is.

Who’s handling your vinyl pressings?

I don’t know the name but it’s an Italian record plant, Michał from Elephant Skin handled all the pressing stuff, but they did it pretty fast- so fast it turned out they didn’t bother to make any test presses [laughs].

Let’s go back for a while.. You released your split with DEATH ROW back in 2009, two years after your debut demo recording. Aren’t you hungry for another split? What band would you like to team up with this time? Any plans for an action like this?

Maciek:

Yeah, there are some talks about a new split release and it could be another HTB/DR release. We all are Death Row “fans” and good friends and we played some mini-tours with them so another split would be great.
 There are many bands I would like to do a release with starting with my all-time favourites BURST IN, and DRIP OF LIES to bands like GUANTANAMO PARTY PROGRAM, POTLATCH, WOODLAWN or ASTRID LINDGREN. But first we have to make some new songs and it can take a while ;)

What do you think about reunions in general? People make a lot of noise about REFUSED, AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, QUICKSAND and more bands being back. How do YOU feel about it? Does it depend on the band, or do you have a general opinion on that matter?

Michał:

I think that when the band members want to play again just to play and have fan it’s cool. But when that do it for money or some other lame reasons it’s not. I know that refused charge for a show 2 times more than SLAYER and they play “secret shows” in huge clubs with barriers – I consider it really lame. Scott Vogel had a speech about it on some festival during TERROR‘s set (you can find it on youtube) and I agree with him in 100% percent.

Maciek:

I hate reunions. The song “Reunion My Ass” by Death Row sums it up. I mean, you have to be consequent in what you do- don’t come back if you said you won’t. I think it’s the guys turning 40 or something, having a midlife-crisis and thinking back to their younger days and wanting to be 20 again. I mean, I can understand that, but I think it is always better to start a new band and not re-living the memories ;) And if you don’t want to be trapped in all of this just DON’T make a “last show”, don’t write statements just take a brake and come back when you feel the need to. But if you say you are dead -just stay dead.
 I absolutely have no respect for what REFUSED did it was one of the most important bands for me and it turned out they are just another rock band.
“Rather be forgotten and remembered for giving in.”
 AM played only two shows I think, I recently watched a trailer for a documentary on their comeback and the live footage was great with hundreds of stage dives and everything but still – it’s wrong [laughs]. I didn’t noticed QUICKSAND coming back [laughs]

Well, then you seriously need to visit Idioteq from time to time [laughs].

Ok, what other gigs can we expect later this year?

Maciek:

We`are going to play a weekend-tour with DEATH ROW in October but I’d love to play a “normal” tour – with more than 3 or 4 dates [laughs], I want to play as much as it is possible.

 You call yourself one of the longest running Warsaw hardcore punk bands [smiles]. How’s that? What other local acts share that title with you?

Michał:

I think we share the title with Death Row, but I’m sure because when the band started I was 14 and at that time I was more into punk than hardcore.


Maciek:

I think Michał wrote this, I don’t know if we are so old [smiles] DEATH ROW are definitely playing longer than us BURST IN are playing about the same long as we do and of course there still is DEZERTER, playing for 30 years now [smiles]
 It seems like it is really true we are that old [laughs]. Strange.
There are many bands in Warsaw but they tend to brake up after a few years – which is totally normal for hc/punk bands. I think it is more of a personal problem, we are friends and the “personal connection” is always more important for us than “the band”.

I tend to think that you are caught somewhere in between your individual inspirations for certain styles. What inspires each of you musically?

Maciek:

I don’t like this kind of question because it’s like “what bands are you stealing from” [laughs], and we don’t really do that, we write are own songs [smiles] As far as “what are you listening to”: I’m a little stuck in the bands od the ’00 (GIVE UP THE GHOST, THE HOPE CONSPIRACY, ENDSTAND, AS FRIENDS RUST, all the early Vagrant bands), I really like some of the new punk bands like ICEAGE, TOTAL CONTROL and i really like a lot of garage bands. And KOOL SAVAS.

Przemek:

I would add AFTERLIFE as one of the most exciting bands I have seen. And also JIMMY EAT WORLD and MA$E as very inspiring.

Michał:

I listen to tons of stuff, but in this band I took my inspiration mostly from 2000s melodic/modern hardcore bands such as HAVE HEART, THE EFFORT, VERSE, SINKING SHIPS, but also (what can be heard in our newest songs) from some scream bands which I have discovered recently like THE SADDEST LANDSCAPE and TOUCHE AMORE.

So how has the Warsaw hardcore punk scene changed over the years?

Maciek:

I’m going to hc-shows since about 2000 so I can only talk about the last ten years. Then were very few shows- maybe one show a month or even less, today you have 2-3 shows every week, you got all kinds of bands. It just grew over the years.

Michał:

I attending hardcore shows regularly for about 3-4 years so I don’t have a big picture, but I can say that the band are getting better and the whole scene is getting stronger (unfortunately NOT growing) – there are more shows, records and other initiatives.

Do you see many new faces at shows? Can we be chilled out about the attendance at local punk shows in the nearest future?

Maciek:

I don’t know [laughs] Sometimes it seems like the promoters want to keep the shows very exclusive and they don’t really want new people to come [laughs]
 I think it really grow naturally- there are always some new people coming, and all the OLD people have still the energy to do it so you can chill [smiles]

Michał:

That is sad, but there are almost no kids at the shows. Most of the people are over 25. The attendance is like Russian roulette. You never know how much people will show up.

What’s missing in Polish hardcore punk scene?

Maciek:

Good venues. At least in Warsaw there is a problem with it. There is Radio Luxembourg which is the main concert place now but there are not any clubs for smaller shows, especially since they closed the Elba squat.

Michał:

I think that the biggest problem of polish scene is (as I said) lack of kids, but also the closed state of mind – a lot of guys listen only to one or two genres of hardcore. Another very annoying thing is that many people (a lot of them play also in bands, what is lame^2) don’t come at show at all. It’s killing the scene.
 I’m also missing girls in the scene, most of the bands are 100% male, there are almost no bands with girls playing. In Warsaw there is DEATH ROW, POSING DIRT, MIRAŻ, THE FIGHT, and I think that’s it, MIRAŻ being I think the only polish all-female band. I mean “not just boys fun” ;)
Oh! And I’m also missing polish hardcore bands singing in polish. I’m trying to talk Tomek into it.

Good luck then. Hope to see you guys shouting Polish words, it would be cool.

How do you engage yourselves in punk besides playing shows and doing strictly musical business?

Maciek:

I do the Warsaw hardcore site (warsawhardcore.pl), it’s mostly on facebook now (facebook.com/warsaw.hardcore) and I’m trying to give a platform to exchange information about the Warsaw scene with all the current info and an archive of classic demos and records of Warsaw bands and a show posters archive and also doing interviews, reviews etc. There is a “Warsaw hardcore” paper-zine in the making but I have no idea when it will come out.
I’m also doing a lot of artwork for bands, covers, shirts, show posters etc. check me out at maciejmisiewicz.pl and facebook.com/misiewicz.illustration.

Michał:

I don’t understand what you mean by musical business as we are not money oriented at all. About engaging into the scene: I’m trying to get the attention of younger kids, I’m showing them band, but also talk with them about vegetarianism, antifascism and straight edge, I but zines and records, I attend to show whenever I’m able to.

Oh yeah, man, of course I meant your activities.

Ok, so what are your plans for the future? Are you planning next check points for the band, or just going with the flow and seeing what happens next? What’s the strategy for HARD TO BREATHE as a band?

Michał:

We don’t really have long run plans as they never work out. We want to record 2 new songs until the end of the year and possibly release them as a split, we would like to play more shows (maybe a tour) and then start thinking about a LP.

Maciek:

We have no strategy, everything that we planned turned out different so we (at least I haha) stopped making strict plans. I want to play as much as possible and hopefully release something new by the end of the year.
We are definitely NOT breaking up. Ever :)

What are you hyped for? Hotly anticipate releases? Reunions maybe? [smiles]

Maciek:

I can’t wait to see the “new” DEATH ROW – they had some line-up changes and I have the feeling they will be even better then before. I hope Burst In will not break up and release something new. I hope WARSAW DOLLS, HEATSEEKER and BULLET BELT will record their debut albums/demos soon.
 And I hope Pulpet / No One Likes Us will not stop booking shows in Warsaw – he is the last hope.
 I also heard about a new band ready to surface with some female? punk veteran? [laughs] and i think that will be something big.
 I can?t wait to see DISCHARGE, COCKNEY REJECTS, TPN 25 and SEDES MUZGÓ play at Brutal Sound Fest – what a line-up haha
And of course Bez Ziewania fest – I think it will the hardcore highlight of the year with I think the final show of COLLINA ( which is really sad- hope they do a new band [smiles]).

Michał:

Right now I can recommend following bands: VEILS, DRIP OF LIES< POTLATCH – they have done some great records recently. And the newest THE SADDEST LANDSCAPE LP is just breathtaking.

Thanks so much. Feel free to shout out and put out a big UP for the bands and people from the scene you’re tight with.

Maciek:

We are tight with (almost) everybody [laughs]
 Shout outs to the whole 022 crew- you know who you are [smiles]

Michał:

Listen to hardcore, read the lyrics, come to shows, make a zine, start a band.

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