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SHADOW WARRIOR's Marcin Puszka: "I remember one interview with Paul Di’Anno who said that heavy metal wasn’t anything more than hard rock mixed with punk. I can agree with that. So you found punk in our music? Correct, my friend!

Interview with Marcin Puszka & Karol Zmaczyński from Shadow Warrior
by Rachel Montgomery at 20 February 2021, 2:29 AM

SHADOW WARRIOR broke out on the scene from Poland with the first full-length album "Cyberblade." Their debut album blends a lot of interesting concepts, from overpowered 80s rock to a tale about a robot samurai straight out of a Power Rangers or Voltron episode. Today, they’re speaking with Metal Temple writer Rachel Montgomery to discuss the concept behind their album and what their plans are once they go back on tour.

How did you come up with the concept of an invading steel samurai from space for the album?

Marcin: Well, it’s not as easy as you wrote (laugh) The main story is included in the first and last track. Let’s say that the cover art of the album is just an artistic vision of the “Cyberblade” theme, which has to correspond with the lyrics, but not in the direct way. So if you’re looking for sci-fi macabresque with big robot samurai cutting the world apart – sorry, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t want to spoil the full story, but the main theme is about samurai robots from “Cyberblade” factory. They were made to protect the world from evil and keep the countries in peaceful order. But something began to happen, as the robots started their rebellion, forming into the squadrons, killing the people… Why? Make sure to go straight into “Flight of the Steel Samurai” to get the answer. And don’t get it wrong: “Steel Samurai” is not a robot, it’s a name of the spacecraft. Holy hell, I’m talking too much! (laugh).

Regarding your first question: this concept came up to us from our former guitarist, Peter. One day he rang to me and told about his dream about Samurai robots rebellion. He didn’t say too much, it was just a sketch of the theme, but it was enough for me to carry on with that. I built the main concept pretty fast, which allowed me to write lyrics for 2 final songs of the album and gave the album a final shape. It was something like the missing element of puzzles. After that, we could get all the songs together and put them into the right order. Right after I made this concept in full, I realized that it can be similar to a couple of Doctor Who episodes with Cybermen in main roles. If anybody can recall this, I guess it will be easy to find some similarities.

In an interview with Filthy Dogs of Metal, you mentioned you went into this EP with “little expectations”. How overwhelmed were you with the positive feedback?

Karol: We were very excited and very surprised to be honest. Our goal was to do something bigger than be another local band playing in local pubs, but no one expected that our EP will bring us the contract with one of the biggest labels in Japan. Since then almost every new press of EP was sold out quite fast. All those situations gave as a tremendous boost to keep going. Now I feel that Shadow Warrior is like a freight train running 200 miles per hour and crushing every obstacle in its way.

Marcin: Yeah, that’s right! Honestly I have to say that all that happened about the EP was pretty surreal for us and we were blown away by such a great feedback. You know, when we were starting in 2019 and recording the EP, we honestly didn’t expect anything – we were just another band from the garage, without the name, without any position. But like Karol said, we knew one thing for sure: we don’t want to be another band who’s playing only in local pubs till death. So, we wanted to test ourselves and our material. We felt that songs were pretty good, but we weren’t sure how the people will react on them. But once the first 1,5 minutes of the first song hit the internet, the wheels started to roll. You know, it was something like a snowball effect – it was growing and growing, more and more people from all around the world started to write us with various requests! And seriously, it was very unexpected for us! To be honest, personally I thought that maybe just a couple of people from our hometown will get interested in this, as there is so many good bands around the world and a lot of good music to listen to. We were just some guys who released 100 pieces of our music on CD-R on our own. Of course we’ve done it in the right way: jewel case with good looking cover art and lyric insert but, well, there is so many jewel cases with CD’s around the world, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have enough belief in our material, I just thought that even if you have a good stuff, it’s very hard to reach the listeners who could be interested in that, as there are many many many bands and music available right now and it’s hard to get yourself heard. Thankfully, I was wrong (laugh).

How did you translate your experience writing folk doom metal into a more futuristic concept?

Marcin: Oh, I don’t think that genre has anything to do here. Folk Doom Metal which I, our drummer Zdzisław, and former guitarist Peter were playing in our previous band, Black Velvet Band, was a natural evolution of the band, who was initially influenced by the bands like Bathory, Enslaved or Primordial. The last album we’ve made together was “Pożoga” (“Conflagration”) and it had some kind of a cosmic concept – it was about the big purifying fire which will cleanse the world, forcing people to start everything all over almost completely from scratch. So the concept wasn’t too far from the futuristic visions of “Cyberblade”, even cover art was quite similar – in “Pożoga” we had an Atlas titan in the cosmic space, trying to keep the burning Earth globe. Globe and cosmic space are also present on “Cyberblade”. Anyway, I think that concepts are just concepts, I mean that it’s not a problem to change them, if you have enough creativity and ideas to handle with that. This time on “Cyberblade” we had some futuristic ideas, but it doesn’t mean that we will follow that themes on another albums – we can, but it’s not our obligation. Anyway, you have to remember that “Cyberblade” has only 2 songs connected to the concept, the remaining 6 songs are totally different and don’t have wider relation to the main story. Just as, for example, “Powerslave” by Iron Maiden – title song gave the title and full idea for cover art etc., but other songs are not related to ancient Egypt culture at all. The same thing is with “Cyberblade”. So, if someday we will get the concept which will be strong and we will have enough ideas to make it as the main album concept, it’s ok, whatever it will be and for sure we will not care about any of our past experiences.

The EP was mainly crowdfunded. Did you have experience doing your own marketing before and if this was your first time, what was the hardest part about selling your album directly to fans?

Karol: Crowd in this case were the band members (laugh).

Marcin: Yeah, definitely, it wasn’t crowdfunded at all. Where did you find this info? We made the first edition of “Return of the Shadow Warrior” with our own money, defrayed the recording session and printed the CDs from our own pockets. Of course that investment was quickly covered, as within 2 weeks we sold out everything what we had. It allowed us to move forward and do another steps, like t-shirts or special single “Heavy Metal Typhoon”. This event also put us in the spotlight of labels like Spiritual Beast or Burning Leather Mexico, who decided to prepare special reissues of this EP. Regarding the “marketing experience”, we just felt it right to do it like all our idols do so. We knew that if we want to release the EP, it needs to look good. You know, sometimes it’s obvious that a lot of bands are just putting their music on YouTube channel and that’s all. But we felt that it’s not enough, so we invested in the CDs and the vinyl single, which was some unique addition to full EP – just because we could and we felt that it would look professional and can attract some people to the band. We just wanted people to say “hey, this guys are doing it right!”. And you know what? It worked. Fans, promoters, labels spotted us. We gained some really important feedback from the people “from the business” who said: “it was well prepared, you’re looking strong in the media”. So we achieved the goal. It was the confirmation that our way of promotion was right. You know, I’m working in marketing since 2012 and I just felt that it’s my duty to transfer my experiences into my band’s activity, even though I  work in different marketing areas. There was a lot of work to do and time to spend, but definitely all of that was worth it.

Karol: Yes, lot of time to sacrifice. For me the worst part was when I was “the logistic guy” and I was packing the orders and bring them to the post office. Boring and time consuming experience, but someone had to do that.

You mentioned you had played together in bands before. What made you decide to come together as a group to make this album?

Marcin: When we were forming the Shadow Warrior together with Zdzisław and Peter, we knew that we don’t want to play with some random musicians from the advertisement. We had a lot of contacts with very good musicians with whom we played before in various squads or simply knew them from other bands which shared the stage with us in the past. So we just typed who can fit into this kind of band and just took a phone and called them. With Karol we made our first step into music in 2003, forming our first band ever, Sentinel. This band didn’t last too long, but it gave us this first, very important experience. We met again in the band named Snakebite, circa 2007. But it also didn’t exist too long. Our music ways parted, but we were always good friends and kept in touch. So when it came to form Shadow Warrior and we were looking for bass player, I recommended Karol and it was very smart choice. I also remember that since I first saw Anna performing with her previous band Highlow, around 2013 or 2014, I knew that I need to work with her someday. So when we formed Shadow Warrior, it wasn’t any other candidate for the mic. And finally: when Peter left, and then Łukasz left, and we were looking for a good and solid replacement, Zdzisław proposed Krzysiek, as they played together around 2014 and we crossed our ways many times before so we knew Krzysiek’s abilities. I think that all of these experiences allowed us to save a lot of time and don’t waste it for unfitted people. Quickly we turned into the collective with a common goal.

Karol: With Marcin we formed our first band many years ago. When he gave me a call and asked about playing some heavy metal I said: Sure, no problem. Let’s give it a shot. My other band was on hiatus, so I was really missing playing with the band. I think it was good decision (laugh).

A big promoter for you and your album was YouTuber Anderson Thiago of NWOTHM Full Albums. Do you think social media has made promotions easier or is it too easy to get lost in the noise?

Karol: Anderson is doing great job and he is really carrying the torch of heavy metal music and social media are the very good carrier. Now almost every band in the world is just a few clicks away. I remember how the things were in the 90’s, without internet and so on. I agree that you can easily get lost in the noise, but it’s better to have a choice and options others than listening only to Iron Maiden or Motörhead.

Marcin: Anderson helped us so much in the beginning, as everything started with his upload of 1,5 minute introduction of “Night of the Blades” track. Of course we got some recognition later on when “Return of the Shadow Warrior” hit the channel, same thing with “Cyberblade”. Of course nowadays social media are making everything way easier. Your connection with anyone in the world is getting closer, it’s amazing how easy metal maniacs from such a long-distance places like Thailand, Japan or Mexico can reach us directly! Of course I can also agree that there’s a dark side of that – it’s the “noise”, how you called it. Few decades before, it wasn’t as easy to make your music visible. You had to record in the studio, made a physical release… Now it’s enough to record it in home and put on internet, post a link in Facebook. Everyone can do it! It’s like a yin-yang, good piece in the bad part, and bad piece in good part. It helps a lot but also complicates things a little.

In Rubber Axe, you described how you went from playing heavier sounds to more traditional tracks. Was it easy for you to adjust your playing style while you were recording the album?

Marcin: I don’t think it’s the case of ‘playing style’. Every single note by Shadow Warrior is coming from the bottom of our hearts and it’s nothing to do with the ‘style’ I guess. When we were playing heavier, it was also a result of our current feelings, we just felt it right at the time – to play heavier, sad sounds, use a blast beats or tune guitars lower. Now it’s just a history, we have returned to our roots, which always were an shall remain the classic hard rock and heavy metal. No one is forcing us to do that, it’s our own will and the need from the our very depths. So I really don’t feel any discomfort or collision with the styles.

I heard a lot of punk influence while listening to this album. Were there any particular acts from that genre that influenced you?

Karol: That’s interesting (laugh). I’m a huge fan of horror movies so I really like Misfits, but I never consider them as a musical influence. I love Motörhead and in their music you can find punk elements – maybe that’s the best answer.

Marcin: Maybe it’s just a case of our skills? (laugh). But seriously, I just think that this kind of genre, I mean that classic heavy metal, always had something close to the punk. When I’m putting on the first Iron Maiden album, I heard a lot of punk aggression and vibe in these songs. Angel Witch, Diamond Head or Jaguar – the same story. So these small punk elements were always present in classic heavy metal, especially in NWOBHM. I remember one interview with – If I remember correctly – Paul Di’Anno who said that heavy metal wasn’t anything more than hard rock mixed with punk. And after some deeper thinking, I can agree with that. So you found punk in our music? Correct, my friend! I can tell you that for me it’s very important part of my music education. Till now I like to come back to some punk albums, like Bad Religion’s “Against the Grain” or “The Grey Race”, Good Riddance, Ramones or Polish punk bands The Analogs or CF98. Still very good stuff.

After being on lockdown through 2020, where’s the first place you’d like to perform live once COVID-19 is contained and why?

Marcin: I guess anywhere. We are very hungry for the live gigs. Seriously, I can play a gig even in your flat, if you promise that there will be any metal maniacs you can get there! We can’t wait!

Speaking of lockdown, what’s the biggest thing you miss about playing live?

Marcin: This specific energy exchange between the crowd and you. Pure power transfer. Miss it as fuck!

Karol: For me playing live is the reason why I play bass. Probably it’s all about interaction with the crowd. People can really give you energy and good vibe. With my previous band we were struggling to find proper vocalist and we were trapped in the rehearsals room. When you are in the situation like this, you are slowly losing all the excitement about the band.

What would your ideal tour be like and if you could plan a world tour right now, where would you like to stop the most?

Marcin: Honestly, I just want to visit all these various countries where our fans come from. Every place where we sent our CD, vinyl or tapes. It would be great to meet all these people in person, do a high five with them and drink a beer. No matter how far, no matter how big are these towns. Visit all these maniacs personally and give them bloody good heavy metal show will be a biggest privilege for us.

Karol: Ideal tour? Every tour that wouldn’t be postponed or cancelled (laugh). I was very excited when it came out that we are gonna play with Riot City, Traveler, Sabire or Atlantean Kodex but then shit has hit the fan. I hope that we will play with those remarkable bands one day. Also playing with Crystal Viper, Polish heavy metal legend, would be something awesome.

You cited Motorhead and Iron Maiden as some of your biggest influences and favorite bands, respectively. What are your biggest takeaways from those bands as a musician?

Marcin: For me, generally, is their steadfastness. Their careers are really important road signs for me. Maiden is a great example how to make a band big, when you have wise and clear vision of your next steps. Personally I am impressed how Steve Harris managed to build his empire. He had big faith in every step he took, it gave him power to carry on and lead the band where he only wanted to.

Karol: Steve Harris is a monster. I love his playing on first 3 Maiden LPs. It’s awesome concept of bass playing with giving all those crazy licks and bass riffs. I love this approach and I really like to add some licks to my playing, not only stick to root note and stating that a job’s done. On the other hand, Motörhead is a good example of a band that puts just 3 chords together and it sounds brilliant! Adding some crazy licks in the wrong places might really kill the song.

What’s a strategy you use to stand out from other NWOBHM bands? How do you stick to your own style and not veer too much towards replicating old styles or a specific band?

Marcin: I don’t think that it needs any specific strategy or such kind of this shit. Music is not competition, I really despise all these music challenges like the band battles or the challenges for the band to win something. I really don’t give a fuck about that. We are just doing what every band should do. Working on the music, improving our skills and technique, recording the songs, playing the shows, releasing the albums and singles. We are really trying to not bother our minds with some boring and unanswerable questions like: “how it should work?” or “what to do to gain more recognition”. We don’t care. We are doing our stuff and at first we want to enjoy it. Everything else is just happening and we’re just deciding whether we want to get on the train or not. Please don’t get me wrong, but I saw many bands trying to build their names on some unreachable goals or just dream about how they can become a big stadium bands. We are the guys in our 30s, and we are treating life seriously. We don’t waste our time on dreaming, we just trying to do everything which is possible at the moment. It was always our first and only goal. Thanks to that, we avoid the big disappointments and just enjoy our current status. We believe that it’s the only way to keep the flame burning.

What is your craziest concert story?

Karol: Hmmmm… Probably the weirdest thing happened to me during the show when I was playing a gig with my former band. While I was playing on stage, some guy came to me and started doing push-ups in front of me. Till this day I wonder what was it all about (laugh).

Marcin: In Shadow Warrior there were also a couple of good stories to tell. On the road we are typical rock’n’roll beasts, so lot of crazy things are happening. For example: our former guitarist, Łukasz, had to catch the early morning train day after the show – he has to return back home little earlier than rest of the band. But, well, typically, after the show we ended in the hotel room with a many bottles of moonshine and beers. We ended the party around 2 AM, and even if Łukasz tried to get some sleep earlier, wouldn’t allow him to do that, as we were singing some drunken songs and generally made a lot of mess before we finally fell asleep. Train has departed around 4:30 AM from the station near the hotel, so Łukasz should wake up around 4 to be ready. Around 6:30 AM we were all waked up by loudest KURWA ever (laugh). Yes, you’ve got it, he overslept. Funny thing was that after that, it turned out that everyone in the room has heard the alarm clock, excepts Łukasz (laugh). But we were too drunk to get to his bed and wake him up (laugh). Of course he caught later train and finally he was in home way earlier than us, but we calmly got back home in comfortable conditions in a warm bus, when he had to travel in a cold, noisy train.

You mentioned liking a few bands in the Hellenic metal scene and the Polish underground metal scene. Are there any bands you would like to tour or collaborate with from those scenes?

Marcin: Honestly, we are open for any collaborations! There is a lot of very good and solid bands in both scenes and it would be a honor to share the stage with them. Before pandemic we done some gigs with Polish bands Axe Crazy, Aquilla, Divine Weep, Hellhaim, Destroyers and Młot na Czarownice and there were a pretty good shows and with love we will repeat it in the future. For the last year we had scheduled a show with some other cool bands like Roadhog and Rascal, but unfortunately it was cancelled because of pandemic. Regarding the Greek scene, it would be nice if someday we can cross the roads with Dexter Ward, Stygian Oath, Wrathblade or Crystal Winds. There are great bands and we really like their albums! I was in Greece couple of times and I fell in love with the food and landscapes. I’d like to return there with some heavy metal this time!

When you’re not touring or recording, what do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of music?

Marcin: Hey, hey, wait, who said that we’re not recording! (laugh). When all this pandemic shit exploded, we quickly turned out, that we have to keep the flame burning and move forward. So as there is no show possibilities, we decided to work intensively on our new songs and currently we have full new album ready. We are in the demo process as we speak, what means that we are sitting in our rehearsal room and recording the demo / pilot versions of new songs and working very hard on their final shape. I can’t tell you for now when we will enter the main studio, but I’m sure that it will happen around the holidays and we will try our best to release our new album in late fall of 2021.

Will your next LP be a concept album like this one or a compilation of songs?

Marcin: Yes it will be a concept. Main concept was a Karol’s idea this time.

Karol: It won’t be something like “Abigail” or “Them”, but definitely all the songs are linked by the history of Japan.

Marcin: We just felt it right, to continue the Japanese influences once again. Our first EP was 100% about Japan and this theme worked very well for us, so after some sci-fi ideas on “Cyberblade”, once again we will turn to the history for inspiration. We dig up a lot of amazing stories so we hope the fans will enjoy that!

Is there anything else you wish your fans knew?

Karol: Thank you all for being out there and supporting Shadow Warrior! You are a big reason that this band is still going! Hope you’ll enjoy the next record!

Marcin: You should know that we are working pretty hard during the pandemic, there is no time for relax or wasting the time and waiting till all this madness comes to an end. We are working on new music, on new show, on some extremely amazing goodies for you, as a ‘thank you’ for all your overwhelming support which we received and are still receiving every single day. We will do everything to bring you the greatest piece of steel, in the form which both we and you love the most.



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Edited 19 September 2021
 

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