Jean-Christophe : hello Kamil, and thank you to answer our questions. We have been impressed and really seduced by Hiraeth, your first album. First of all how did you come to music, and what does it represent for you ?
Kamil : Hello! Thank You so much and I am very glad You like it ! Well… It is difficult question but I think the road to music was quite usual. First I was a listener and also a rebel minded kid. I wanted to express myself in many different ways and one of them was music. So I started to write lyrics, tried to learn few cords on a guitar… And this is how it began. For me music is constant way of defining myself, way of expression, psychotherapy even. It is an adventure, and way of spending time many people can only dream about and I am grateful I still can do it.
Photo Bartosz Śmiełowski
Jean-Christophe : can you tell us the human and musical story of Lion Shepherd, how all started, and how this first album came true ?
Kamil : We played with Mateusz Owczarek in heavy rock/prog band called Maqama. Mateusz joined us as live guitar player for tours. We became close friends. In that time the band for many reasons stopped being creative, we had internal problems and so on. Something simply came to an end. In the meantime we started to make music combining our passions and very different styles of music we like and we started to blend it. It was huge fun and adventure so naturally we decided - we need to make a new band! The music we were creating was completely different than the music we were doing previously and we thought it is worth to give a shot for something brand new. And here we are as Lion Shepherd.
Jean-Christophe : the name of your group comes from one of Aesop's fables, The Lion and The Shepherd. I guess that that name has not been chosen randomly, can you explain what lies behind this name ?
Kamil : Nothing in our creation is random (laugh). So is the name! But still we want to keep some secret behind it, Aesop’s tale was perfect for BIO of the band that did not yet existed and in some manner described the thought behind the name. But there is much more to be revealed and discovered.
Jean-Christophe : knowing the meaning of the word hiraeth which describes the feeling of homeland sickness and nostalgy, and all topics mentioned in the songs, such as war, but also hope, is it true to say that Hiraeth album can be considered as a concept album ?
Is hiraeth a word which refers to your childhood years and your personal family background, and so in that way could we say that Hiraeth is very close to autobiographic pieces ?
Kamil : Yes we can say somehow it is a concept album although we didn’t have such intention. But during writing lyrics and finding the title I decided to move bit forward into concept. The music is also quite consistent so there definitely is a “concept thought” behind it. All my works are very personal so we can describe them as autobiographic. But on the other hand I want them to be as universal as possible and I want to give an opportunity to Listeners to feel them in their own way. This is why I don’t like to talk much about lyrics. It’s just like destroying a good movie by revealing the ending to someone who has just bought the tickets (laugh).
Photo Bartosz Śmiełowski
Jean-Christophe : we feel in Hiraeth very mixed feelings with a wide range, from despair with war, greed and a black lost world, to hope with a new world, and light after survival. No need to say that we have of course in mind dramatic events happening in Syria. Can you tell us more about these feelings ? Is it something close to your personality, or the way you see things ?
Kamil : I always try to put behind words some kind of statement of our times. I want to leave some “mark of time” for people who will listen to it in 10, 20 or even more years. I treat lyrics as a notebook. I want my kids when they grow up to say after listening to these songs: “wow, so in 2016 this was the mood”. I want them to have the same thrill I got during listening Hendrix or Zepps where I can literally smell the 60ties or 70ties. So Hiraeth is somehow a conclusion of times I live in. And as to Syria - Smell of War is a song dedicated directly to my Father’s homeland. It is very personal to me as I grew up there, I still got big family there, and my roots are from there. Even though my Mom is Polish and I live in Europe for most of my life, I was born here - I treat very personally every news from the frontline, news about another boat with refugees sank… I hate all these xenophobic yell about immigrants, and immigrant threat from Syria where less than 15% of people coming on boats are Syrians. It doesn’t matter of course where they come from but it is a big pressure on making an equal sign between refugee and terrorist. Especially in Poland there is very aggressive public language of discussion on this matter. It worries me.
Jean-Christophe : to come to the music, there is in Hiraeth album a very good balance between quiet and melodic, metal and more nervous moments, mixed with traditional middle east instruments. Is it something you caught attention to, or did not pay attention at all ?
Kamil : This is the quintessence of our sound. This is what we wanted to achieve. We try to blend all styles we love in one coherent band. It is not easy but we would like to play some world music, rock, metal sometimes, even hip-hop or gospel! (laugh) but it doesn’t mean I want to start separate band for all these genres. So we try to put everything in one bag. When You listen to Lion Shepherd I want You to feel: “man, these guys dig into so much different music! It is insane and I can hear that!”.
Jean-Christophe : about this middle east influence which makes the originality of this album with, among others, arabic lyrics and oriental instruments, did you chose it as a base, and added the metal touch, or the other way round ? Knowing your childhood, did you first learn and play traditional music and then added metal/rock to your musical skills?
Kamil : Most of my early childhood I spent in Syria and Libya. So we were surrounded by Arabic music, Islamic art and we were not quite familiar with western music. After finally moving to Europe I started to listen tons of rock, grunge and so on. And this music encouraged me to write my own music. But I always wanted to use my heritage as I always new it will be unique and will make me different. I am very happy You can see it. If You would listen even to my earliest records, You would see that everywhere You can find this middle eastern flavor.
During Hiraeth writing session we always started composing with traditional instruments, percussion and acoustic 12string guitar. Afterwards we added distortion (laugh). As a result, we can play this music in many different ways without big effort. For example, it was quite easy to transpose it to world music versions during Lion Shepherd Orient Ensemble live session we recorded recently. We played these songs only with traditional instruments (without drumset for exemple) and it sounds awesome. It will be released this year along with our second album. So yes: Lion Shepherd always delivers You more than You expect! (laugh).
Photo Bartosz Śmiełowski
Jean-Christophe : there are a few guests musicians appearances, bringing additional musical value to your songs with Hammond, Santur, and harmonica. Did you know them before ? How did you chose to incorporate these musicians ? Did they propose by themselves to bring their own colors ?
Kamil : Half-half. Some of them were invited ealier and they were our friends. But some of them we met already in the studio by accident. They were recording or rehearsing with their own projects and it was like this: “hey do You hear that Persian Santur? Yeah! It’s cool let’s ask the guy if he can play some tunes on the record”. So it Was quite an adventure.
Jean-Christophe : now let's talk a bit of your next album. We are really eager and impatient to discover it. How is this new baby birth going ? What about the recordings ? What are the challenges you have to face ? Can we have a few information on it ? What musical direction did you chose for that one ? In other works will it be in the same mood as Hiraeth, or something totally different ?
Kamil : While we talk, we are mixing the second album. It was different production and it was a real challenge. First of all, a lot of people are waiting if we will fight the “second album syndrome”, so there is completely different pressure than during Hiraeth session. But we don’t pay much attention to it, honestly. It will be different in sound, You will definitely hear the progress but still You will get all the features those define Lion Shepherd sound. So still a lot of percussion, many different instruments, we also added some new ones we haven’t used earlier. We have a great recording band and production team so I really can’t wait to see Audience reaction.
Jean-Christophe : it seems like 'The book of Symbols' book is one source of inspiration for your songs. Will the album totally based on that publication, or just a few songs ? Can you tell us more about this book, how it inspires you, and how you come to that process which gives birth to a song along with the associated music ?
Kamil : No, it was just one of few I read during the session. It was not a main inspiration, one of many. A lot of things happened in my personal life during this session. My first kid was born just before we started writing music so she was present during writing sessions, and in the meantime, our dear Friend died so it affected the lyrics a lot. Also ongoing events all over the world, instability, consumption, degradation of basic achievements of civilization like humanity, dignity and sense of community. So there is metaphysical trip around life and death, attempt to define what really matters in life on one hand and on the other the note left about what is happening with us as human beings right now.
Photo Bartosz Śmiełowski
Jean-Christophe : is there a special musician or group you feel close to, or you get influence from ? What music(s) or groups and artists do you listen ?
Kamil : Oh I don’t want to destroy Your interview by writing 50 pages of bands we like! (laugh). There are so different things we both listen. Mateusz is following all the guitar virtuoso scene and progressive scene too. He always brings me some names I have never heard and probably would not hear (laugh). I try to follow many different styles. It is difficult to say so I checked my “most listened to” on my iTunes account and last year I got a nostalgic trip to 90ties rebels like N.W.A., RATM through classic like Allman Brothers or Stones to world music like Tinariwen, Anoushka Shankar or Yasmin Levy.
Jean-Christophe : Poland seems to be the origin of lots of prog music groups. Of course there is today Riverside, but we can mention lots of others, past and current (Collage, Moonrise, Satellite, Millenium, SBB, Votum, Quidam…). According to you, what are the reasons for which so many prog rock groups raised in that country ?
Kamil : I really have no idea :D. Of course we can’t be super power in reggae due to our weather (laugh) but it is hard to say why the Prog is so strong. I am very happy about it though. Maybe Slavic soul and this kind of nostalgia we got in our veins makes it unique?
Jean-Christophe : so transition with Riverside is now done. Can you say a few words about your last tour with Riverside ? How did you manage to tour with Mariuszgroup ? Quite honestly before seeing you live in Karlsruhe, we did not know your group. What is for you the outcome of this tour, humanly and financially speaking, and in terms of visibility and audience for Lion Shepherd ?
Kamil : It was wonderful time and really good shows. We are friends with Riverside crew for couple of years now and we like each other privately. So, natural consequence was to tour together. This tour helped us a lot and we got everything we expected from it. The experience, new audience that accepted us and let’s be honest we are not classic Prog band so it was a task for everyone if people will like our blend of tunes.
Lion Shepherd 2015 tour in Karlsruhe (Substage)
Jean-Christophe : about touring or concerts, any anecdot, special event, or funny moment you experienced when being on tour, and you would like to share with us ?
Kamil : Oh there are tons of it! But I remember when we accidentally drove the Nightliner to a pier in Biarritz where only pedestrian move is allowed and it is actually a one way road down. So to turn back we had to disconnect the trailer. Imagine 16 tattoed guys in boardshorts moving 3 ton trailer by hand in front of dozens of couples during romantic sunset walk. Everything was supported by Bee Gees music played from our boombox. People kept asking if this is some kind of performance and where to put coins (laugh).
Jean-Christophe : so of course the very next original question is to know if we'll have the pleasure to see you on a future touring event …
Kamil : Of course! We are working on our European 2017 tour now so definitely see You soon!
Jean-Christophe : merci beaucoup for having answered our questions Kamil. Last words, conclusion of this interview are all yours now.
Kamil : Merci beaucoup for having me and I hope to tour France soon as one of my most memorable shows where Paris and Lyon during last tour. I love Your country and I very often travel to France privately so I really hope our roads will cross soon !
Rédigé par Jean-Christophe le 06/02/2017