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A Dirty Dozen with MICHAL WRONA from SCREAM MAKER – August 2023

| 18 August 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Today, Polish heavy metal rockers SCREAM MAKER share new track, “See the Light”, along with a music video. “See the Light” is the second single from their upcoming studio album, Land of Fire, out July 14th on Frontiers Srl. SCREAM MAKER formed in Warsaw, Poland in late 2010 when the original members, including current member Michał Wrona (guitar), gathered together out of a shared love of heavy metal. Wrona is joined in the current incarnation of SCREAM MAKER by vocalist Sebastian Stodolak, bassist Jan Radosz, drummer Tomek Sobieszek, and guitarist Bartosz Ziółkowski.​ ​​The band has produced three full-length studio albums (2014’s Livin in the Past, 2016’s Back Against the World, 2022’s Bloodking), plus one EP (We Are Not the Same) and has played over 300 shows in Poland and abroad, including gigs with luminaries such as Judas Priest, Motörhead, Megadeth, Saxon, Slayer, Nightwish, Primal Fear, Stratovarius, Onslaught, and many more.” We get guitarist Michal to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

This is not a Copernican revolution. We simply created an even heavy metal album with hopefully interesting, successful and well-sung compositions. On this album, as on no previous album, we are slaves to classic heavy metal, which we try to show in our own way. While the previous album was much longer, sharper and more stylistically expansive, here we have a more cohesive album, more compact, with more exposure of melodic guitars and catchy vocals. Commercial, but in the good sense, at least that’s how I explain it to myself. (Laugh) It also seems that this album “sounds warmer” than the previous one, which was also a deliberate effort. We’re trying to evolve as much as we can, and this time we’ve opted for shorter songs with a lot going on. Attentive listeners will certainly dig up interesting solutions by listening to this album again and again and listening to these numbers to the end, because I really appreciate such fans and leave various interesting details for them. I recorded literally hundreds of guitar tracks alone here, there is also a lot going on rhythmically, harmonically, and this can only be realistically discovered on headphones, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. In addition, die-hard Japanese fans got as a bonus track a rather atmospheric reworking of the song “Way to the Moon”, we decided that if we were to cover ourselves then really in a unique, crazy way.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Music has been a great passion of mine since I was a kid and probably surprisingly, from the beginning it was not disco or pop or kids’ music but heavy metal music. The first album I asked my dad for was Iron Maiden’s debut, I was 8 at the time and the cover decided because I had no idea what was inside. I quickly became a “metalhead” with a bunch of records, posters, started going to my first concerts until finally at the age of 15 I got my first guitar and started annoying the neighbors with constant noise. It was a period when in music, in my opinion, not much good was happening, classic metal had a certain stagnation, some musicians or journalists were even ashamed of it as if it had already died, which pissed me off, and I tried to compose and play it myself. Those first tracks of my own were terrible, but it couldn’t be otherwise. That’s when I really fell in love with composing, with creating, with arriving, usually with small steps, small details, at an effect that you have in your head and that, like a painter, you have to make real, but in order to do that you have to have the means of expression or, like a football player, the applied technique. For me, this process is almost magical. In Poland, there is no chance to make a living from playing classical metal sung in English, which is why, like my colleagues, I finished my studies, I have a normal so-called “serious” but flexible profession, thanks to which music is 100% my passion, composing does not force me to make any calculations, and it seems to me that what SM proposes is really sincere.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I think how I see music now is a fusion of my whole life as a metal fan. As I mentioned Maiden was the beginning, I thought and still think their first 7 studio albums are excellent. And of course Priest, which to me is a model of interesting and cool evolution of the band. To this day I remember how stunned I was when the older brother of a classmate showed me how to play the riff to “Sentinel.” It was like a lightning strike. Naturally, my canon was also the first albums of Metallica, Megadeth, Annihilator, like every teenager I listened to thrash, then I focused on music branded by good vocalists singing good melodies or very stylish compositions that Dokken or Savatage showed. Chris DeGarmo did a magical job in Queensrÿche, likewise Michael Schenker, also early Malmsteen, Dio, Rainbow, Black Sabbath with Tony Martin, Blackie Lawless, Tom Keifer, where they were always good melodies, catchy interesting songs, I could really go on and on here. Like everyone else I also had a crush on Helloween and similar bands as a kid, and interestingly enough I could listen to them alternately with heavy Slayer or Kreator albums. The first videotape my parents brought back from abroad was Live Innocence” by Saxon – this tape got torn off from constant watching. Then my parents let me go to a Scorpions concert, I was really very small at the time, but I absorbed it all as a beginner guitarist-composer, literally like a sponge.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

For composing I will immediately give three. Adrian Smith, Chris DeGarmo and Glenn Tipton. I think they represent incredible quality as composers. I was recently at a Maiden concert where the setlist was based on Smith’s compositions, mostly from the Somewhere in Time era, and I just realized for the thousandth time what talent this man has. DeGarmo carried this Queensryche to heights until the Promised Land album and even until Hear in the Frontier and after his departure the band literally lost its backbone. Glenn Tipton is a master of metamorphosis over the decades, where there was always a guarantee of an interesting composition and also an interesting solo. To be honest, I would probably sit in the studio with them in a pre-infarction state and nod my head and they would do everything. On the other hand, if I could “use” my idols as so-called “sidemen” to perform my composition, there wouldn’t be much change here either: vocals are Dickinson, Halford and Tony Martin, bass is Harris, guitars are Smith and Tipton, drums are Scott Travis.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

Nothing. (Laugh) Literally nothing – this is the best relaxation. When we finish recording an album, and I bring the music for each album and record all the guitars myself, believe me: for 2-3 months, if we don’t have gigs lined up, I don’t touch the guitar at all, and in my head I’m completely out of composing for the band, as if I turned on some kind of cleaner. I love this whole process of making music, arranging it, recording it, producing it, but it’s so exhausting that when you finish it, the best relaxation is just doing nothing and quietly recharging the batteries. The coolest thing is to relax by the water, my wife and I have our own places where there are few people, beautiful nature and above all silence, no music. I also really like to relax by watching classic movies and reading books, mostly biographies. I also live in a house near the forest to which we moved from Warsaw and this is also a very good remedy for regeneration and relaxation, the so-called quiet country life. This naturally doesn’t last too long because after a maximum of 2-3 months your hand, your mind is fresh and you start recording the first working ideas again.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Generally, and it’s immodest for me to say this, we got really good reviews for our albums starting with the We Are Not The Same EP. Then there was a time in Poland where we played a lot of concerts with big stars and within one year, for example, we shared the stage with Priest, Megadeth, Slayer, Motorhead, Saxon and a couple more. And then generally, as in life, it became downright unbearable because there was this Scream Maker lurking everywhere, and then some pissed-off kid, who may have wanted to play in front of these stars himself, couldn’t stand it and wrote in a review something like “the bastard child of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.” (Laugh) He wanted to insult us, but to me it was a beautiful compliment.  I also received a substantive, and perhaps unintentional, compliment from Alessandro DelVecchio who worked on our full-length debut Livin’ in the Past and, after listening to the demo of the album, summed it up briefly, “Dokken meets Loudness.” You know, we don’t copy other bands, with the timbre of our vocalist it would be easy to play totally like Maiden, for example, but that’s not us. We really try to create our own heavy metal in which the idea is to be interesting, although it is clear to me that there is a clearly defined framework and foundation in this music. If I had to find one of our distinguishing features I would say: melody. We always take great care of good melodies, both vocal and guitar.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Let me start by saying that we have very different personalities. Myself and the vocalist like to stand our ground and we regularly argue, fortunately 99% about compositions, vocals, etc. Afterwards, we usually go for a beer, and that’s how it’s been going on for a dozen years now. I’ve also noticed that more and more often we are able to put ourselves in the other guy’s position and look at the whole picture more maturely, I guess it’s old age. The bassist and drummer are nice guys who mentally balance this ship well, which would not go anywhere without them. We also have a “new” guitarist although he’s been with us for two years and he too has a certain character, but who didn’t at his age. It’s not a simple matter to find your way in our band, we have naturally developed a division of roles and it, at least I think, works out and is efficient. This is also due to the fact that in the past, especially at the beginning of the band, we had more personnel changes than probably Rainbow, so Sebastian and I learned our lesson, and that’s why both bassist Jasiek and drummer Tomek have been in the band for a really long time. And answering literally: whoever gets drunk first pulls out a guitar and “sings”, this also applies to our bus. Drinks are usually suggested by bassist Jasiek, in love with good whiskey, good drinks are also sought out by Tomek the drummer, who even worked as a bartender. With cooking we have a problem, I’ll be honest, I don’t remember if we ever made our own food together, during rehearsals or on tour we just mostly drink. (laughs)

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Last I said: Adrian Smith. He simply crushed me. Amazing to me is this metamorphosis of his, that it’s in private he’s such a nice, calm, unassuming man and then on stage, even though he doesn’t run marathons there because he’s focused on playing, you can’t take your eyes off mesmerized. Compositions, feeling, vibrato…. Poetry. On the day of the concert in Krakow I managed to meet him by chance as I was walking around Krakow with my wife and he was returning by boat from fishing on the Vistula River and we literally met him by chance: shy, kind, embarrassed even by his fame, well, and in the evening simply a beast.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I could guard a deserted tropical island and settle in food and beer. Naturally, along with my wife, dog, cat and refrigerator. I could be, and this was also my dream, a football manager, archaeologist, cosmonaut, Indian chief who builds a coalition against white faces. Also a sailor because I have a sea helmsman’s patent. Well, and a writer, when we are done playing I have such a naive idea for a book about this band, about metal, about my strange life in fact, half of the things I have experienced thanks to SM no one will believe me, but maybe it’s a good thing.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I don’t have a problem with questions, even stupid ones because, all in all, I can always answer stupidly after all. In general, 99% of interviews are fun and I also try to answer professionally as much as I can. So far I haven’t had a completely unprepared journalist, although sometimes you can get the impression that someone is looking for a bit of a hole in the whole, and usually it’s all about the cash. How much money do you make from this heavy metal? How is it possible that Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater performed on your debut? Implicitly: how much did you pay for it, because such a questioner will never believe that we didn’t pay even a cent and that Jordan just liked our music. Likewise with the author of the cover of “British Steel”: how is it possible that such a legend did your album cover, etc.? Why is it that you managed to play with KORN, for example? The question that, unfortunately, no one has ever asked me in an interview is: does Arsenal F.C. have a chance to regain the English championship? I answer, as a fan since childhood: this season finally YES!!!

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Mistakes build us up, in general in life. I myself remember more always one critical and rational remark and do not remember, for example, hundreds of compliments. Today I am a different person than 15 years ago. But without that entitled, spoiled kid with a gigantic ego who burned himself emotionally and knew everything best, would I be a better, more composed, more aware and fulfilled person today for the most part? In life there is a time to grope with yourself, with people, with the world but the nice thing is that there comes that moment where you just let go, flow into your some sanctuary. Everything is for something, and as they say, “life is a journey.” The key is to learn from it and correct course literally as if you were at the helm. If as a kid I had acted rationally once or twice back then when I wasn’t yet withstanding the pressure then today I would have a completely different life, maybe different friends, sure I would be richer, sure I would be duller. I sincerely doubt whether I would have recorded so much music with my own band, whether I would have had time for a band at all in my life, whether I would have fulfilled so many childhood dreams, met my idols, played, for example, 6 tours in China, etc…. I even met my wife, the true love of my life, thanks to heavy metal so that I don’t regret anything.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

1983. Nassau, Bahamas. I just wish I could have been there to watch Maiden and Martin Birch put the material for Piece of Mind together. Also in Ibiza, it would have been nice to watch Priest do the same for the Screaming… or Defenders… albums. Nice weather, lounging, free drinks. Similarly, it would be something amazing to sit in a corner, watching when Queensrÿche does Operation: Mindcrime. I would just serve them drinks there because it’s not my level of music making, but even as a bartender and waiter it would be something magical to be able to watch up close as true giants create masterpieces of the genre.






Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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