Szadkowski, Wotjtek (Collage) (July 2000)

Collage: The Wise Men From The East

This interview was conducted way back in 1995. However due to the fact that Collage is still fairly unknown to a lot of people and also because the band doesn't exist any longer I thought it would be nice to include this interesting interview out of respect for this great band. Wherever possible this interview has been updated.

CollagePoland is not a country widely known for its position regarding progressive rock.

A band like SBB and its inspiring leader Jozef Skrzek are about the only names known outside of the country. Unfortunately they stem from the seventies so it was about time that new blood emerged in order to continue the quest for melodic structures.

With Collage we finally found just that and with drummer/leader/founder Wojtek Szadkowski we found ourselves in the company of the perfect public relation!

BoBo: Collage was founded in 1986. How did the musical scene look like at the time in Poland?

Wojtek SzadkowskiWojek Szadkowski: It was mainly the radio dictating [to] us what should be heard. Therefore most of the bands were active in those types of music which were already given heavy airplay. It was mainly heavy metal, punk and new wave which got onto radio. In fact it was aggression all around!

BoBo: Was there no room at all for progressive rock?

Wojtek: If we look at the sales of our first album Basnie (Polish for "fairytales") then we have to conclude that there are a lot of people out there who like prog rock very much. Unfortunately we were the only band in '86 to play that kind of music. We played gigantic festivals in front of 20,000 to 30,000 people. This way we soon became an established name in Polish rock. It was mainly our reputation as a strong live act which clinched it!

BoBo: Are record labels in Poland still controlled by the government?

Wojtek: As Poland is more and more getting into the Western way of living, our record companies are mainly branches of multinationals such as Polygram, EMI and Sony.

Bobo: Did you already make the same kind of music in '86 than that of later period Collage?

Wojtek: It wasn't so detailed. The title track of Moonshine already dates from '86. Only later did we start working on it but the rough sketch already existed way back in '86.

Basnie (1990)Bobo: Nevertheless it takes you four long years before the first album is released...

Wojtek: The first four years of our existence we only thought about performing live as much as we could. Back then we didn't have the ambition to make an album. The main target was to feel as good as possible when performing live so that people would recognise us as a damn good live band. Only then could Collage establish itself in the rock scene and could we approach people with our music. We also had a lot of difficulty with personnel changes, which was one of the main reasons why it took us so long before we actually "broke through." The reason why we recorded the cover album Nine Songs From John Lennon was to save the band from splitting! If we hadn't entered the studio then, Collage would no longer exist, so thank God that we did it! Because of this obligation we had to search for new musicians who felt the same way about our music as we did. Having done some severe selections we finally got a line-up who not only liked our music but also thought along the same lines as we did. For the first time it felt like a unity, a wonderful feeling.

Nine Songs From John Lennon (1993)Bobo: Why a cover album with Lennon material?

Wojtek: It was mainly to work out a new singer. Because we weren't 100% sure whether at all it would work out we thought it would be a good idea not to use any original material. Only if we were 100% satisfied with the singer, only then would we confide him our music. On top of this our Polish sung debut album Basnie had sold well abroad. In order to make our music a little more acceptable we thought of changing from the difficult Polish language to the more universal sound of English. Only this way could we guarantee the fact that the name Collage got known throughout the world.

Bobo: Was there an obligation as to whether at all Basnie had to be sung in Polish?

Wojtek: It never crossed our minds. It was our first album so we thought it would be fine to record it in our native tongue. However it is not an easy task, as the Polish language has, compared to other languages, very few vowels. As a writer I had a lot of difficulty in keeping up with the melody.

Bobo: Nevertheless there were a lot of reactions from abroad?

Wojtek: We didn't expect this at all. We saw Basnie mainly as a home match. The fact that the rather hard sounding Polish language would also score abroad was a complete surprise!

Robert AmirianBobo: Yet the album has been released in its original form by the well-established Italian label Vinyl Magic?[now BTF]

Wojtek: Without us knowing about it, some copies of Basnie must have found their way out of our country. A friend of us had seen a copy while in Paris, which for us was an unbelievable experience. Through the import of these copies we also got reviews in some of the specialized press, which in turn opened the doors to Vinyl Magic. In spite of the Polish language they were charmed by the musical contents, so they decided to release it in Italy.

Bobo: Do you know how many copies of Basnie have been sold?

Wojtek: In Poland alone we sold around 15,000 CDs and 50,000 cassettes of Basnie. We already have the third pressing now and the album keeps on selling!.

Bobo: Incredible! 15,000 CDs is what most bands would love to sell ? worldwide! Amongst others you played a festival in front of 50,000 people with Uriah Heep.

Wojtek: The festival you are referring to lasts four days and covers all kinds of music such as reggae, afro, punk, new wave, metal, pop and prog rock. It is up to the audience to decide what kind of music they like. Because we are different to what is mainly played on the radio, people tend to like our music although they are not "real" fans of progressive rock. However they are looking for something completely different to what is played constantly on the air. Prog rock can be an ideal answer for them.

Bobo: Do you follow the new prog scene?

Safe (1995)Wojtek: I used to for some time, but all I could see was masses of bands who all wanted to sound exactly like Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd or ELP. Or they would use all of these influences and create something new, which was, in fact, far from new in the right sense of the word! What [it] lacks is the inventive spirit. I'm sure there's a big audience out there who likes this sort of music but I want to bring something completely different with Collage. However I do like the first CD from Jadis, as well as the first album by Pallas and Art And Illusion from Twelfth Night.

Bobo: You released Basnie , Nine Songs From John Lennon , Moonshine and Safe, but there's also talk of an album called Zmiany?

Changes (Zmiany) (1995)Wojtek: Zmiany is a mix of demos, rare versions of songs, radio appearances and edited versions. At first the album was to be released in Poland only, both on tape and CD. In fact it's just a thing for the diehards, as it doesn't contain any newly recorded material. The company who released the tape in Poland went bust but then the Japanese based Marquee label released it boasting some stunning artwork, as with all of their releases. As a special treat for all of you out there who have been waiting very long for this CD, we have added four extra tracks which are not on the tape version! It is also out on the Ars Mundi label called Changes

Bobo: What is the BIG difference between Basnie and Moonshine?

Wojtek: The production, the sound. We were able to record Moonshine in Holland and the acoustics in the studio were fabulous. I can't say a lot of bad things about Basnie because it was our first baby. Basnie has something powerful whilst we had more time for the arrangements on Moonshine.

Moonshine (1994)Bobo: How was Moonshine received in Poland?

Wojtek: We had some very good press and airplay with the album, although our record company Metalmind Productions didn't do anything at all for us. In fact, we virtually handled all of the promotion ourselves, which was the only way of establishing ourselves. Through the years we made some very good contacts with the press, radio and TV. Maybe it's strange to believe, but right then we were one of the top bands in Poland!

Bobo: How can we imagine this situation?

Wojtek: Since the release of Moonshine we had recorded three videoclips for Polish TV. They were played several times each over a period of about two to three months. The songs that had benefited from this situation were "Heroes Cry," "Lovely Day" and "Living In The Moonlight" We then did a fourth video for "War Is Over" which was directed in the same way like the film The Abyss.

Piotr Mintay WitkowskiBobo: What about the status of Collage in Poland?

Wojtek: When Moonshine was released, the album sold out within two weeks of its release so people had to wait for a repress. We also had lots of publicity concerning our concert in Tilburg. We were about the only band breaking ground abroad. Therefore the public is rather proud of what we do because it's like they share a little victory with us. We even had our album reviewed in Billboard!

Bobo: Collage has been a band since 1986. Have other progressive outfits emerged in Poland after all those years?

Wojtek: Something more interesting has happened. The public has started to actually listen to our music. They no longer need "noise".

Mirek GilBobo: The public now gets the chance to hear your music through the radio?

Wojtek: Small independents have formed cartels so they can pay radio stations to play their music. Majors have their branches in Poland and they decide what goes on the air by paying lots of money. The amount of good artists has grown and the choice is now made entirely by the listener. One of the upcoming bands is Hey, kind of [like] Nirvana with a female singer, who were sponsored by MTV.

Bobo: Whilst Basnie was sung in Polish, Moonshine is done in English. Wasn't the Polish public angry about this move?

Wojtek: We were a little worried ourselves because, in the beginning, the public only liked you when you sung in Polish so they knew what you were singing about. Luckily that mentality has changed and they understand it's a necessity for any band, if you want to compete on an international level. I even dare to say they are now angry when you sing in Polish!

Krzysztof PalczewskiBobo: Apart from Zmiany , which is old material, have you been recording new songs?

Wojtek: The last six months we have been concentrating on the promotion of Moonshine so no, we have not recorded or even composed new material. We have done a tour supporting Fish and soon we will embark on our own headlining tour of Poland in which we'll play in ten major cities.

Bobo: Can we imagine this to be the same Collage we have so far witnessed twice live in Holland?

Wojtek SzadkowskiWojtek: When we play in Poland only then can you witness the true Collage. First of all, I no longer take my drum kit abroad for the simple reason that there are always problems with customs. I have a rather large and expensive drum kit. When I cross the border with Germany in the direction of say Holland, then customs think I will sell it abroad. When I return to Poland, they think I have bought it somewhere and want me to pay taxes! That's why I decided to leave my kit in Poland and play on the kit of the support band. In Utrecht I had only two toms at my disposal whilst my kit has eight toms! Furthermore, in Poland we have our own lighting engineer plus a very extensive light show. Every single note has extra theatrical gimmicks attached to it to enhance our music. This thing has so far been completely missed when we play abroad so outside of Poland; people still have to witness the real Collage!

Bobo: What does the future have in store for Collage?

Wojtek: We hope to record our new album in the fall of this year. SI wants us to check out the studio where Everon recorded their Flood album (the home studio of E. Roc). They will be giving us both of Everon's albums so we can listen to the production. So again chances are very strong that we will record our new album outside of Poland. Also we have been negotiating regarding some concerts in England this summer. In fact what we need is someone taking care of the management side of things in Europe, for we want to perform as much as possible because Collage is primarily a live band!

Bobo: If I'm not mistaken you have the fullest confidence in the band?

Wojtek: With the line-up with which we recorded Moonshine we have the Collage I always dreamed of. I'm sure our difficult period is now behind us. The future has never been better!

Collage live (l to r: Mirek Gil, Wojtek Szadkowski, Piotr Mintay Witkowski, Robert Amirian)

All photos accompanying this article are copyright Collage (and the respective photographer)

[Collage split around/before 2000, the members forming several offshoots - Satellite (Szadkowski, Amiran, Palczewski, Zawadzki, and, for the first album, Gil) - they've released four albums to date; Mr. Gil (Gil, Zawadzki, Szadkowski, Witkowski) - releasing two albums; Believe (Gil, Zawadzki); and most recently Strawberry Fields, a side project of Szadowski's with vocalist Marta Kniewska, and including Satellite's keyboardist Krzysiek Palczewski, guitarist Sarhan Kubeisi, and bassist Jarek Michalski - they've released one album to date. Starting their own Polish version of a "six degrees?" link that, if it hasn't already, will probably include John Jowitt at some point (he being one of the UK's 6° figures... -ed.]

[... and in 2013 the band got back together; in 2015 the current lineup is: Karol Wróblewski, Krzyś Palczewski, Piotr Mintay Witkowski, Wojtek Szadkowski, and Michał Kirmuć-ed.]

Basnie (1990/2003)
Nine Songs Of John Lennon (1993)
Moonshine (1994)
Zmiany (1994)
Changes (1995/2003)
Safe (1995/2003)

Living In The Moonlight (DVD) (2005)

Added: July 22nd 2000
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english

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