Comprised by members of various Polish and British metal and punk acts, instrumental post metal / doom band SURYA live a kind of hybrid life. On one hand they experiment with sonic structures to show us what post metal is truly capable of, on the other hand they’re deeply involved in conceiving and helping spark passionate thoughts about global environmental change. It’s literally thriving and exceptionally inspiring where these two spheres intersect. I sat down with them to ask them about their passion for the planet, how youth can empower global change and to create more awareness about crucial environmental issues. In this interview, SURYA reveal everything from how the band came about, their inspirations, to thought provoking commentary on various social and environmental issues that diminish the quality of life on Earth. Open your eyes and feel inspired to take action by starting wuth yourself! Feel free to leave youth thoughts in the comments section below the interview.
Instrumental, absolutely stunning post metallic doom record ‘Apocalypse A.D.’ by SURYA was released in late May 2016 via Argonauta Records and marks one of the richest debut full lengths is recent years. The band was formed with the idea of exploring the depths of music rather than staying on the surface, connecting with themselves and everything around them. For SURYA , music and art in general are powerful tools for conveying ideas, like human/animal liberation and going back to Nature, and a whole spectrum of emotions. The music is a mix of heaviness and subtle sonic landscapes, ugliness and beauty. Earth, Water, Air and Fire- all in it’s eternal dance of creation and destruction. SURYA is about bringing light through understanding the darkness.
Hey guys! Thanks so much for taking some time with IDIOTEQ and, most of all, congratulation on your amazing new record! Please drop us a couple of lines about how you guys started SURYA and why you felt this record had to be recorded.
Hi, first of all we would like to thank you for your interest and your kind words!
SURYA’s beginnings aren’t that exciting or special. The band started as a duet but short after fate brought us all together and that’s when things got more serious. When we started working on our songs we didn’t have any specific expectations regarding musical style, it all just came naturally, without trying to sound like this or that. We all were looking for some kind of depth, a meaning in art in general, we had some concepts in our heads and that’s how we started thinking about making Apocalypse A.D.
What were some of your early experiences with music for you guys? Have you been in other bands before SURYA?
Bartek: Yes, most of us have been in some bands before. I’ve been playing in quite few bands or projects (mostly hardcore/punk but also more experimental ones) from which I can mention my polish screamo/crust band EXMISJA. For most of years that was my main band, even when I moved to the UK but at the moment we are not active. I have to say that SURYA is my slowest and heaviest band so far but that’s exactly where I wanted to go after playing faster music for so long time :)
Mark: I obsessed with guitar in my youth, total escapism into music, jamming death metal & grindcore with friends, yet most of us have slowed down for the most part these days.. Mostly! It feels full circle really, trying to play as fast and intense as possible, always pushing, moving on into experimental fields, some years with THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT and other projects, abandoning the normal way of doing things, later a 2 piece TOMBGRINDER that was pure riff worship, several bands joining for some final shows, playing bass and guitar, fast and slow, always most fulfilling when pushing beyond your comfort zone. The main thing I’ve learnt is to play with as many people as possible, jam as often as you can. Diversity leads to more creativity.
Rafal: My past is mostly focused around guitar riffs in anarcho hc punk bands and some experimental projects as well. Always liked strong message that was part of it. Ironically SURYA being an instrumental band carries stronger message than a lot of bands where lyrics are ignored.
Raquel: I learned to play guitar when I was 12 years old. I started jamming with friends (mostly punk covers) in my teens but since no one else wanted to play drums, I gave it a try. I really liked it but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I decided to take drum lessons. Shortly after, I started jamming with other people, Bartek among them. And that is how SURYA got started, which is my first proper band.
Diversity leads to more creativity.
Were there any specific artists that initially drew you into dark atmospheric post metal music? Sonic-wise, tell us about your inspirations.
Bartek: Interesting question. I was playing for quite few years in screamo emo crusty band EXMISJA but always had some kind of desire to get even heavier than that, I always liked slower tempos, whether more tribal/hypnotic or just heavy as fuck new school hardcore parts. But even if we were incorporating heavier and slower bits I always wanted more. When we recorded our last record I knew it was already this direction(more intense, deeper and more complex compositions) but still we played quite fast and our sound wasn’t too heavy. After that I knew that I want something as heavy as possible but still on the melodic side as I was always big fan of emotive music. By the time I was already living in London and by the grace of fate I started jamming with Raquel which slowly developed into SURYA. I think we all listen to slightly different music and I have to say that nowadays I don’t listen too much heavy stuff. Emotions, depth and ability of bringing reflections are one those few qualities I always value in music(and art in general), doesn’t matter if it’s neofolk, post-rock or hip-hop. But if I had to tell you my greatest inspirations (let’s say from the “heavy” scene) in last few years I would definitely have to mention bands like: AGALLOCH, ALTAR OF PLAGUES, BLACK WREATH, CALLISTO, tons of French bands from AUSSITOT MORT to YEAR OF NO LIGHT, FALL OF EFRAFA, MARANATHA, JACOB, SUFFOCATE FOR FUCK SAKE , TESA… just to name a few. The list of musical inspirations is really endless…
Rafał: I am not very good with labels and genres and I’m totally not into dark atmospheric post metal scene. The record that blew my mind and gives me shivers even when I think about its album Samobojstwo by SMAR SW. Since then I got more interested in trance aspect of music. Bands like LA AFERRA, EWA BRAUN, GUERNICA Y LUNO together with plenty crusty bands with NAUSEA upfront made also a huge impact on my sensitivity. I remember when I first listened to songs like Cybergod and Clutches, after that I wasn’t same person anymore. The first moment when I got into NEUROSIS music was crucial as well, same with SWANS and EARTH. But I guess that inspiration comes from a different source. It’s the ballast of anger and frustration with the condition of life on this planet. Like Mark wrote, it’s a total escapism, finding riffs that will make you disconnect from your thoughts and take lead bringing images in front of your eyes, making your mind wander and reach different states. When we are playing our songs I feel forests, cliffs, storms and clouds, high mountains and the mystery behind it. The moments when you are getting in touch with your primitive self. Through music it’s possible to let go of ego and feel completely united. At this moment the biggest inspiration for me is SURYA and what is binding us together, with the reflection about life and universe.
Raquel: I didn’t have any specific music genre in mind when we started to play together. I always found really hard to label music, specially our own. So it’s a difficult question to answer, There is so many great bands I love. If I have to mention just a few bands that have been life changing to me, I will say: NEUROSIS, YOB, OM, SLEEP, ELECTRIC WIZARD, CAPRICORNS, POMBAGIRA, SUMA, JAKOB, GRAVES AT THE SEA.
Ok, so diving a bit deeper into your own work, what have you experienced regarding the reception of the record? How does it feel to be on the other side of the fence so to speak?
Bartek: How does it feel to be on the other side of the fence you ask… Great but it all depends what kind of feedback you get, haha – It may feel wonderful, but it may also feel awful. I think it’s quite important to not get too attached to the things other people are saying. Of course we all want to feel appreciated and understood but I would still prefer to do “my thing” even if we had only few people resonating with what we do. But regarding reception of Apocalypse A.D. – so far, so good, we had few really nice reviews and a lot of positive feedback from people. It’s very good feeling, especially when you see that people delve deeper into your work, trying to figure out what you were trying to say by combination of some specific musical colours, words(in our case- samples), graphics etc. I think this is the most satisfying thing – knowing that it reaches deeper than in a strict musical terms…
“Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it”.
The hard-hitting issues important for the world today are central to the atmospheric intro to the record. Did you want to start a certain discussion with this record? What messages does ‘Apocalypse A . D.’ convey?
Bartek: Yes, there was an intention to start a certain discussion or to make an album which will be thought provoking. And maybe even action provoking. We haven’t used any vocals on the album, we chosen to throw a bunch of samples instead. I would rather not go into details regarding the message because I strongly believe that art should give/leave a broad space for individual interpretation. But I can definitely say that Apocalypse A.D. deals with the problems that the world is facing today. We -as a species- are running downhill, and all this comes down to our collective consciousness. It may sound cliche but the state of the world is a direct reflection of the state of mankind. We are destroying life around us and basically all of this mess has beginning in our heads, especially in the unconscious- this is the root. And another part of the story is that even if some of us(humanity) feel this basic need to find answers, to explore more spiritual part of our nature, most end up following another leader, another religion (big or small), another dogma. We don’t learn from past mistakes and as George Santayana once said: “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it”.
If you had to say what the most crucial social, political and environmental issues facing the world in 2016 are, what would they be? What has left the biggest impression on you in terms of environmental devastation?
Bartek: Another interesting, but hard question… I don’t wanna repeat myself but I think the most important issue is our collective consciousness as a species which is a root of all other problems. It is simple as that. Lack of compassion, lack of true wisdom in combination with our arrogance and technical advancement makes us the biggest threat to this planet. There is so many hotspots on the Earth today that it is really hard to point just few. For sure one of the most serious situations in the world today is what is happening in Syria and surrounding countries. For sure recent migrant crisis. Very worrying situation is also in South China Sea and other places, some are saying that there is a III World War unfolding before our eyes… Many people still don’t really understand what is really happening now, and how important it is right now. I wish people dug more into different sides of stories, not only those provided by mainstream media as it is the easiest way to be misled.
Regarding political issues – I’m pretty sure every country has its own stories to tell but what is happening right now in the US is just staggering. There are few months before elections and people are left with two very bad choices. Personally I don’t vote and I think the only significant change will come from below, from grass-roots level. Politicians won’t solve any problems for us- sounds like another cliche but it is so true.
For sure one of the most serious social issues is still human belief in so-called authorities. People are just too naive, too uninformed and many of them still believe that governments are made to represent us. The way I see it is that we simply live in a tax farm, as someone put it bluntly: “modern slaves are not in chains, they are in debts”. Central banks, politicians or so-called elites do what they want while we’re still fed by fairytales about democracy. But how is it possible that almost no politician is held accountable for all the mess, all these scandals etc.
Environmental devastation is another broad topic. Again, it’s hard to start somewhere but to me one of the most worrying situation is still Fukushima nuclear disaster. Despite people’s short memory and and lack of media coverage (which diverted towards other stuff – in today’s news bombardment by media it is hard to keep public attention to one topic for more than few weeks) there is still dramatic situation there, after 5 years from the disaster Japanese authorities and TEPCO still have no solution to the problem. So basically everyday tons of radioactive water are going into the ocean polluting many other parts of the world through ocean currents. I would really recommend great documentary about nuclear danger: “Into eternity” by Michael Madsen – from which we made few samples for our album btw – the message of this film is just staggering.
Lack of compassion, lack of true wisdom in combination with our arrogance and technical advancement makes us the biggest threat to this planet.
Can you name some more non-mainstream productions, media or sources that are helpful in educating ourselves about current social and environmental issues?
Bartek: There are tons of good sources of information nowadays, but unfortunately also tons of garbage. One thing I always try is to be as much eclectic as possible, to analyse information from different sources, different angles. If we are attached only to one side of the story, one “drawer”, be it “anarchist”, “left-wing”, “right-wing”, “mainstream”, whatever, then we can easily become dogmatic in our thinking. That’s why I also check mainstream-and other points of view. Personally I can definitely recommend documentary “The Century Of The Self” by Adam Curtis which tells the story how Freud’s theories and psychoanalysis were employed to control large populations of people, to establish consumer society and capitalism, it also touches on topics like democracy, alternative movements, conformism etc. Definitely one of the most important documentaries I’ve ever seen – great in-depth analysis of the modern world.
Another great documentary I can recommend is “Four Horsemen” by Ross Ashcroft which is a great source of knowledge about our present economic system. If anybody really wants to understand how the current capitalist/corporatist system works, the role of central banks and many other important information this is a must-see. The movie is made to make this confusing topics as easy as possible, it also deals with environmental and social issues.
For those who are interested in veganism and who want to find out what is a real impact of meat and dairy industry on Earth I can recommend “Cowspiracy- The Sustainability Secret” which also reveals how many of big environmentalist NGOs turn a blind eye on facts only because they don’t fit their agenda and threaten their source of money – mostly grants they get from governments, foundations, corporations etc.
There are also tons of Gary Yourofsky’s lectures, talks, interviews which are very informative and inspirational.
Regarding veganism there is also great community in Portugal called Vegoa which is just starting, their aim is to promote veganism and sustainability and they employ a lot of very interesting techniques to have very little impact on the environment. They also have huge and beautiful land just 8 km to the nearest beaches! Really worth to check them out!
And for those who would like to dig even deeper into things which are crucial both to us and our planet i can recommend many works of Mark Passio and his website which is just a great source of information about various aspects of the world we live in. Topics range from animal rights/carnism, anarchy, human consciousness, spirituality, history, politics, philosophy to occult knowledge – but the common ground and main focus is to look in the mirror and change this fucked up world for better.
Rafal: I think the most efficient way to educate ourselves is just to have a walk in the neighbourhood or go to local supermarket and read the ingredients of what they are calling “food”. Sit down for couple of minutes, just stop for a while and observe. We don’t need much knowledge to sense that what is happening in front of our eyes it’s not right. We have the privilege to have an access to most knowledge and communication techniques nowadays. We can easily gather and act. Years ago people had to build printers in their basements to print simple leaflets, now we have tools that people could only dream of. Yet, the apathy of societies is incredible. People are actually rotting on their sofas. Media are focusing our attention on very distant problems in times where we barely know our neighbours and ourselves. All the basic knowledge we need is how to farm food for your family and how to build a shelter to hide from rain. Simple truths that are starting to be forgotten. Our grandparents are often alienated from families and back in the days they were the source of this knowledge. I was a witness of a situation when a person refused to eat a fruit from a tree as it was not packed in plastic.
Capitalism failed and it seems like more and more people are thinking about escaping the cities, as this is not the place where you want to be in decade or two when the oil and food crisis will hit. Living off the grid, self-sustainability, agroforestry, permaculture, biogas digester, tiny house movement, earthship houses, eco villages, zero waste, low impact living, veganism are the topic you can check if you are looking how to escape and inspire others. I think that not lack of access to knowledge is stopping people but lack of need of getting the access is the problem. Life is giving us lessons every day, we need to learn how to overcome fear and attachment to change.
All changes will create a snowball effect on your life hopefully benefiting you and the whole planet. People need to wake up as there will be nothing left for future generations.
How great are the effects of this environmental degradation on our everyday lives? Do you feel them affecting you now?
Bartek: We “westerners” usually live fairly comfortable life. Most of people who live in western societies don’t see environmental degradation that much because of the way things are organized: for example we produce shit loads of garbage everyday but once a few days a waste management company comes and collects them. But so few ask what happens after the rubbish is collected. Then things look totally different. The same with power plants, be it coal or nuclear ones. We get electricity supplied to us and we don’t ask about environmental costs. Like nuclear leakages which happen regularly or unsolved dilemma of nuclear waste. As long it doesn’t affect us directly we are feeling that things “are not so bad so far”. This is the problem with the world, with us. I’ve been traveling a bit outside of Europe and I’ve seen unmasked face of the things- in many places I’ve been blown away and it is really depressing. In a lot of cases i literally couldn’t believe that people can actually live like that. There are many, many places in the world which are on a brink of environmental disaster. I would say without doubt: most of the world. The thing is that we don’t see it – or rather we don’t want to see it: as long it’s somewhere else, as long is somebody else it’s not our problem.
So how are you reacting to these problems? Are you moving to healthier parts of the country, trying to educate people, explain things to young people? What in general can we apply to our lives to prevent the apocalypse?
Bartek: First of all I have to say that I’m really struggling with my pessimism regarding this topic. I don’t know if we still have time or we already ran out of time – as many scientist state. But we do what we can. I try to keep myself up by thinking that i wanna do my best regardless of success of failure- even if things are so bad that it is already too late i still wanna know that i was trying to do as least harm i could in my life. First of all we are all vegans and i think this is very important step towards better world- in deeper sense as well. Some of us are also actively trying to promote this lifestyle. I have to say that what we do with SURYA is not to make people depressed but the opposite – to inspire them to deeply reflect on some things and to try reforge it into everyday actions and choices. The last thing I would like to do is to make an impression that we are some fucking eco-warriors or big activists but there are few everyday things that everyone can do.
For example I’m trying to make conscious choices regarding everyday shopping – it makes me angry when I go to a supermarket and see everything packed in plastic/polystyrene trays, plastic bags, so i quit – at the moment I’m shopping mostly in places where i can buy unpacked vegetables and other stuff, I also try to eat as organic as possible. Everyday choices like that are really important because in many cases we can affect some changes just through our wallets. At the moment part of the band is involved in the vegan eco-village in Portugal that I mentioned earlier. Places like Vegoa are great opportunity to really start better, sustainable life. What is very important to me is that it is not just another way of escapism, because escapism is an attitude I personally disdain. Many people involved in the project are people who want to learn more stuff about sustainability, implement more of these techniques and to spread this knowledge – to show that this is possible, to inspire others to start their own healthy communities. I think this short movie speaks for itself.
Thanks! The most urgent social issue facing our lives today is our unhealthy lifestyle with sick drive towards everything ‘faster’ and ‘more digital’. The issue is often framed as ‘the inevitable’. What is your ‘big picture’ perspective? Where’s the world heading?
Bartek: Yes, the society bought a lie that this “progress” is inevitable, that if we don’t keep progressing technologically we are doomed. The truth is rather opposite. This constant drive towards “progress” is the same destructive factor that keeps today capitalism searching for more and more profits- it never stops, never reflects on itself. Just more and more, faster, cheaper… The tragedy is that we as consumers got manipulated by “big business” that we need more to be happy(again i recommend documentary “The century Of The Self” by Adam Curtis which explores this subject in much greater detail) and we are unconscious of that, and hence we are unconscious we cannot get out of that state. So we are both oppressors of this world and victims at the same time. Who is more responsible: we consumers, or big business “magicians” manipulating us to buy their stuff? There is really interesting documentary “The end of the World as we know it” by Marcel Theroux which speaks painful truth about us and our choice we have to make: either we want constant “progress”(and pay very high price for that) or clean environment (and have less “advanced” civilisation, less “comfort”) – at this point there’s no way to have both.
Of course most of us use modern day technology, whether it’s computer, washing machine or guitar amplifier. But life is the art of choices. We don’t have to give up everything but we need to ask ourselves what is really more important because every choice has it’s cost.
Thank you so much! Thanks so much for your interesting thoughts! Lastly, what are your plans for the nearest future? Also, can we expect some live appearances? Feel free to wrap it up with anything that’s in your agenda for the next months or anything that you feel we should check out after reading this interview.
Our plans for the nearest future aren’t very special: we just want to play as much as possible, haha! At the moment we are focusing on writing new stuff, we used vocals in one new song so it looks like our next album won’t be 100% instrumental. We also want to start using video projections during our shows, maybe it will help us to create some interesting atmosphere. We are also planning to do some short tours in the UK and Europe this autumn. We also got an invitation to play a tour in Russia and we are really excited about it but because all costs are quite high and there’s more stuff to organize we will probably have to wait till spring 2017. So fingers crossed! I would also recommend to check Argonauta Records who released our album and so far we are really satisfied with our co-operation with them- they release tons of great music and Gero is really cool and reliable dude.
What else? Thanx a lot for your interest in the band and for giving us opportunity to express ourselves through IDIOTEQ. Keep up the good work!
The pleasure is all mine. Thanks so much for your time. Good luck!