Artist: Maciej Kupinawski (guitarist/singer for Gwynbleidd)
Label: Black Currant Music
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
I remember the first time that I heard Gwynbleidd and it was when a friend suggested that I look into them based on their being located in my own hometown of Brooklyn, NY or very close by when it came down to it. The band was just releasing their EP “Amaranthine” and had delivered it to those who would choose to listen on their own dime without any sort of record label funding. The EP was received very well and led to the bands composing and eventually releasing the stunning full-length album “Nostalgia”. The time between the EP and the full-length has been interesting for the guys in the band and recently I sat down with guitarist/death growler/composer Maciej Kupinawski to find out some of the inside mechanics about Gwynbleidd. Below is our full discussion.
PiercingMetal: How long has Gwynbleidd been together and what actually led to the band s formation and to have you push forward on behalf of the Metal genre.
Maciej: Gwynbleidd was first started by Michal and I back in 2002. Adam joined us around late 2004 in preparation for the recording of Amaranthine EP. By beginning of 2006 Gwynbleidd was fully assembled. We have all already had some experience within metal genre before the formation of the band, with other more or less successful projects. Personally I became interested in metal because at the time, and still, I believe that it is the most diverse and unrestrictive genre of music which allows for a lot of creative freedom while making it possible to deliver emotionally strong statements and push the innovation envelope.
PiercingMetal: Let’s talk about the band s actual name “Gwynbleidd”. Is there any special meaning or significance to this and what events about you and the guys guided you to call the band this very mystical sounding name.
Maciej: The band name was borrowed from a book by Andrzej Sapkowski called “Wiedzmin” (the Witcher) which Michal and I were fans of. At the time the book was not as well known as it is today, but now in fact there’s a video game called the Witcher and there was a (not so great) movie made by based on the books as well. As far as the meaning, the name was not chosen for the literal translation but rather for the symbolic values inspired by the book’s tale of the struggle of values and questions of morality. The fight between old and new. Tradition and Innovation. Such struggles we also try to present within our music.
PiercingMetal: I first heard the band via the EP “Amaranthine” that while not under any official label as far as being a signed act, was distributed by The End Records. How did this come to pass and did it work out positively for the group?
Maciej: When “Amaranthine” EP came out, our friend Adrian Bromley who at the time worked for The End Records helped get us in touch with the label to arrange for a distribution deal. It was a symbolic deal which nevertheless marked a beginning of sorts, and helped introduce Gwynbleidd’s music to a wider audience.
PiercingMetal: I know that I enjoyed the EP quite a bit but what was the larger consensus for the body of work that people were hearing?
Maciej: “Amaranthine” was well received, and I believe it was the EP’s thematical diversity that painted some picture of the promise of future releases by Gwynbleidd. It was meant to be a foreshadowing of sorts.
PiercingMetal: Did you find that the response was what you had hoped for and gave you stronger resolved to press forward in this lifestyle?
Maciej: I believe the response was good wherever found, I only wish more people had heard it at the time. The song The Awakening was highlighted by many reviewers and was in fact chosen by Ballet Deviare to be used in their live productions. As far as the second part of your question, the popularity was far from life or lifestyle changing. Our resolve has remained, as did our hopes to continue the work. Amaranthine was supposed to be only a symbolic start.
PiercingMetal: Tell me about the association with The Ballet Deviare. According to some sources the band actually used to perform during the recitals or do I have my information mixed up a bit. Either way, please dish out the scoop.
Maciej: Ballet Deviare approached us shortly after “Amaranthine” was released (2006), with the offer to perform “The Awakening” as part of their productions in early 2007 live in a theater situation. We have agreed and it has proven to be a fruitful relationship: we have again performed as part of Ballet Deviare’s “Memento Mori” production in 2008, this time playing more music and an even bigger role in the production.
PiercingMetal: It’s been awhile since I found your name connected with that enterprise, do you think you will be doing anything together in the future?
Maciej: I think you would have to check with Ballet Deviare on their plans, but from our perspective we would certainly be open to discussing such collaborations in the future.
PiercingMetal: Were there any concerns about the band participating in an art form like a ballet company even if the guys were providing the music as opposed to dancing around, I mean its not something that the average Metal fan hears about every day in the first place and might not be too supportive of even though this particular company is true to the Metal spirit itself.
Maciej: I would be lying if I said there was not a hint of apprehension initially but honestly it was just a hint and the feeling was completely overshadowed by artistic curiosity. Once we saw the productions and how well the choreography worked well to the music, we could focus entirely on our own jobs which was to perform the music we have written without any feeling of compromising our artistic integrity. I would also add that I doubt we’ll even not do something specifically because of fears of alienating an elitist group of listeners. If someone is not open to new ideas and collaborations, they’re bound to get disappointed by us sooner or later – sorry. As long as Gwynbleidd exists, the plan is to evolve and not look back.
PiercingMetal: Moving on to the official debut album “Nostalgia”, congratulations on what I feel is a stunning piece of music. Are you happy to finally have this recording out for the hungry Metal fans of the world?
Maciej: Absolutely, this music has been in the works pretty much since 2002 so it’s a huge feeling of relief to finally have it presented just as the band envisioned. We are generally happy with how the album turned out and I believe that the end “product” approaches the vision that motivated us pretty well. It is also a great feeling to be able to close a chapter and start anew from a creative standpoint.
PiercingMetal: Let’s talk about labels and the genre where the band falls at this stage of the game. To me it is slightly Doomish, but also has a lot of both Atmospheric and Melodic Death Metal to it. If I said “define the Gwynbleidd style to me” what would be the scripted answer?
Maciej: Tough question because I believe we touch on many existing genres. There are elements of death, black, folk, and progressive metal. The formula will no doubt shift over time though; please don’t call us a doom band though.
PiercingMetal: Tell me a little about the recording and production process for the record. How easy or hard was it to get this completed?
Maciej: It was both easy and hard because of how we chose to proceed. It was easy for us to focus on quality because we secured access to an excellent studio which offered us nearly unlimited time to complete the tracking process using quite great equipment and for a flat fee. That was the blessing and the curse since, without time constraints, we got pretty lazy and somewhat unfocused and the recording took over a year to complete. It is my hope that we will never repeat this mistake, as this really too a toll on the band and cost us so much time. The mixing was hard to complete because it was done “remotely” in Poland without us physically there, but fortunately Pawel Marciniak did a really great job. Mastering was again a bit tricky but we were again in the right hands with Alan Silverman. Working with Travis Smith on the artwork was truly a breeze.
PiercingMetal: As a listener, I found it best to start at the beginning and let the album play through until complete. Is this the way that you as the composer suggests the Metal fans best absorb the piece or would you say please work with this track and then do as you will.
Maciej: Nostalgia was meant to flow well in exactly that order, and started off as a concept album. Not sure if it really ended up being a concept album, but we wanted to album to flow well musically from beginning to end and the songs were ordered this way on purpose.
PiercingMetal: What is your favorite of all the tracks on the release? Please don’t tell me all of them like some other folks tend to do. Do the other guys agree or disagree with you or are you all pretty much on the same page about the favorite.
Maciej: I have my favorites but I am also happy to hear that different people have different favorites instead of just 1 or 2 uniformly hailed tracks. I think this speaks to a level of quality throughout which makes me happier about the album as a whole. My favorites include Thawing Innocence, New Setting, and Canvas for Departure.. All for different reasons.
PiercingMetal: I wanted to commend you on the releases packaging as well. It’s very ornate and cool to look at. There are lyrics and great artwork that makes it stand out much more than some releases by other independent or even some signed bands are offering up. Tell me about the overall design and who did it for the band . What is its significance to the body of musical work inside.
Maciej: We have really spent a lot of time on the design and packaging for Nostalgia in hopes that the artwork, lyrics and photography will further enhance the music. The artwork was done by Travis Smith who very quickly caught the vibe we were going for. The booklet photography was mostly done by Jakub (bass) and a couple pictures came from Ewa Graniak. The photos were very specifically selected for each song but for the entire Nostalgia theme as well, and all pictures were taken in Poland. Some of the originals do look somewhat different though since these were all treated by Travis to form an artistic unity. The lyrics took forever to write..
PiercingMetal: While this is not intended to come off as a stupid question, what are the hopes for Gwynbleidd based on “Nostalgia” being out. Have any record companies approached the band about its future or do you think that in this time of music industry upheaval that it is better to rise to fame and hopeful fortune on your own merits.
Maciej: I do hear from everywhere that this is a pretty bad time for music labels, which quite a shame unfortunately. There is a prevalent myth everywhere that labels are evil and they only steal from the artists and other nonsense like that. While I do believe that, like all other myths, there is some truth to that, unfortunately the bigger picture which should be realized by everyone is that these labels are also what allowed for many great musicians to release a lot of great music. The labels are what allows musicians to be musicians as opposed to self promoting halfwit business people really.. The internet age has its blessings but also brought fundamental change to the economic model for the music industry. As to Gwynbleidd, we are currently working with BlackCurrant Music and this is working out well, at least in the short term. What will happen in the future – no one knows, we are certainly always open to whatever the opportunities will arise. Gwynbleidd is still a largely self-financed affair until the masses catch on and bail us out a bit from all the recording debt. Wishful thinking.
PiercingMetal: What scares you about the music industry of today?
Maciej: You mean other than the fact that it’s dying? I am not in favor of the “cult of the amateur” as someone else has described the current phenomenon brought on by the internet age.
PiercingMetal: As far as doing shows are concerned, what has been the biggest myth you cracked about touring.
Maciej: We have only had a limited experience in touring so hopefully we’ll have more experiences to use for the answer the next time you ask me this question!
PiercingMetal: Tell me one of the best memories from a gig that you have.
Maciej: Best memories from gigs? Playing in front of 1600 crazy folk metal fanatics as part of the Paganfest in Montreal back in 2008 tops the list. Playing at the Heathen Crusade although quite terrifying and uncomfortable at the time (huge hangovers from the night prior!) was a thrill. More recently, we played a show in Worcester, MA, where possibly for the first time a large chunk of the crowd knew our songs and came to see Gwynbleidd as well as the other bands on the bill. It felt really great playing for fans of our music as opposed to a completely uninitiated crowd.
PiercingMetal: Tell me something special about each of the guys in the group that you are working with. What makes them vital to the musical puzzle that is Gwynbleidd.
Maciej: Michal brings fantastic folk influences, and is really great at either providing riffs/arrangements or adding arrangements to something I bring guitar-wise. Michal’s clean voice is only starting to develop and I hope that he will be more involved from that perspective in the future. He’s also the “sound engineer” in the band. As a drummer, Adam is possibly the best instrumentalist in the band. He’s the most experienced musician in the band and is a drummer’s drummer, really. He’s also the peacemaker in the band, and swears he’s never heard Opeth before meeting Michal and I ha-ha. Jakub is the most care-free, easygoing dude that adds to the personality’s chemistry in the band. Sometimes I wish he got a bit more serious! He’s also the artwork/photography/flier guy. And I won’t talk about myself other than to say that my role which is to co-write music, write lyrics, and annoy the heck out of everyone while fooling myself that I can control or steer these three into some common direction.
PiercingMetal: As a fan of Metal yourself, who inspires you to greatness. I used to ask what CD was in your player, but in this time of IPods and the like, I would have to say what are you playing the most on your own device.
Maciej: I think there’s too many to mention but here’s a couple things I am inspired by the most right now and not just metal either in no particular order: Ulver, Arcturus, Emperor, Kat, My Dying Bride, Dead Can Dance, Katatonia, Bjork, Agalloch, and Moonspell. The list could go on..
PiercingMetal: Every Metal band has an audience base of their own and many of these fans cross-pollinate into other artists of a similar sound or vibe. Name for me three bands whose fan base would get the most out of what Gwynbleidd is doing as a band and should investigate them.
Maciej: Just going off of what I hear out there on the internets: Opeth, Agalloch, Enslaved.
PiercingMetal: As the composer and performer in the band what question are you finding never being asked that you want to address right now about the band .
Maciej: How I come up with such emotive, poetic lyrics. Next question!
PiercingMetal: When you see a movie like “The Story Of Anvil” and get reminded about some of the pitfalls a band can face on the big screen, what goes through your mind as someone who is pursuing this as a career path.
Maciej: I actually have not seen the Anvil flick, sorry.
PiercingMetal: I was just curious about European adventures for the band , especially since all of the members are Polish. Do you think you would be able to travel over there and perform for your home cities or is this something you have not even thought of right now.
Maciej: We hope we can do that in the future and have talked about it many times. It would be a blast. Given the proper timing and opportunity, we hope we get to tour Poland, but also Europe in general.
PiercingMetal: Do you have any favorite bands that are working as hard as you are to make a difference? Care to name a few so that more people can investigate.
Maciej: We’re not really working that hard, promise. ..and I doubt we’re making a huge amount of difference right now. Unfortunatly I do not have any fantastic new recommendations right now, I seem to be stuck with artists you are probably already familiar with.
PiercingMetal: Who would you like to tour with and deliver the Gwynbleidd message? Why would this pairing work out for the music you do.
Maciej: There’s at least a few bands which would be good matches, if you had to pick US bands someone like Agalloch, Novembers Doom, Daylight Dies or Woods of Ypres audiences might be interested in seeing us support them. In Europe – too many to mention.
PiercingMetal: Have I left anything out?
Maciej: Nope, you’re pretty thorough! Good job.
It was great to speak to Maciej about the band for sure and I hope some of you readers will be looking deeper into their offerings thanks to these inquiries. PiercingMetal.com has caught the band in concert a couple of times in the recent months and we invite you to check out our words and images from these gigs by clicking HERE and HERE. We hope you can help to support the efforts of this incredibly talented independent band.
Official Website: http://www.gwynbleidd.com