Interview for No-Wave
Trupa Trupa produce mysterious, multi-faceted music that’s open to interpretation. But it’s also direct and passionate. It’s no surprise that band member and poet Grzegorz Kwiatkowski is the same.
Your latest single, ‘Remainder’, brings up the subject of Holocaust denial. Who is it directed towards?
So — this is your interpretation, my interpretation, and the director of the video Nick Larson’s. And I know that many people share this feeling. But it’s good at the very beginning to say that every member of Trupa Trupa can have a different point of view, and different interpretations of every song and situation. We are just different people, not one body, and we’ve got a democratic system. The lyrics were written by my friend Wojciech Juchniewicz, and I really don’t know if he was thinking exactly about this topic.
But, anyway, we as a band are open for many interpretations. Not for one. So it can be song that fights with evil forces, and that’s what it is for me, but it can also be something different. We had a similar situation with the song ‘Never Forget’.
I wrote lyrics, and for me this was a song about ghettos and related to Claude Lanzmann’s Holocaust documentary Shoah. But for my friends it could be a song about modern ghettos, etc. So they are right, and I am right — but one thing is certain. Our hearts are on the left-hand side, and we are band against nationalism, hate, humiliation and terror.
It was always like that, but now we are more conscious about the real risk of terror around us. For example few months ago our mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, was murdered by a person influenced by right wing hate speech. It was big shock for people from Poland, but especially from Gdańsk. And our city is really a city of freedom, so the shock was even bigger.
So we are now more aware of reality, but of course we are mainly a psychedelic rock band so we can’t put everything into a political box. Pitchfork wrote that we bring some poetry and subtlety to psychedelic rock, and I think we can’t forget that this is the basic situation for us.
You’ve seemed to suggest Poland is a country unable to face its past. What do you see in the country’s future?
Now, I think it was too big a generalisation. I think a bit like that, but of course I’m not talking about the whole nation, and about every human being who lives in Poland. Generally, this is humankind’s problem. You or your family was very bad to someone, and afterwards you dont want to remember, and pretend that nothing bad happened. But it happened.
Look at the United States. That country was built on genocide of Native Americans. This was a fundament. Who is talking about it, how often and how loud, nowadays? Almost no-one.
So I think we shouldn’t forget about victims, and we should remember about our human capability for murder. We should be aware of the tragic past, because it can happen again.
Of course Poland is different than the US. Polish people were almost crushed, and they were defeated by Germany in the Second World War — and hundreds of thousands of Polish people were killed by Germans and Russians. The biggest genocide in history of world took place on Polish territory, but Polish people didn’t think it up. German Nazis did. So we can’t make easy generalisations.
Anyway, there was antisemitism in Poland before the War, during war time, and now it’s still a big problem. For sure, there were many victims of Polish antisemitic perpetrators. So we should remember the past, and we have to face it.
We just have to try to be better people than we generally are, despite our human nature. What do I see in the country’s future? I really don’t know. For sure we’ve got more money than in the past — but do we have more morality inside of us? I don’t think so.
In the modern world, is it easier or harder to find the truth?
I’m no expert, but I think it’s harder. I think now, in these crazy Trump times, everything is possible.
I mean: every version of truth can be seen as a fact. There are a growing number of people who claim there was no Holocaust, for example. It’s horrible — we live in crazy times. Crazy, but at the same time very comfortable for people from most of Europe, and North America or Japan. In some ways, we live in most comfortable times in the history of world.
I’ve seen you say to Wire that the band are all fans of Herzog — so I have to ask. What’s your favourite Herzog film, and why?
I think most of the band. Not all, but most. I can speak only for myself — and my favourite for sure is Fitzcarraldo: the story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an extremely determined man who intends to build an opera house in the middle of a jungle.
I think it’s a great story, and great metaphor for many artists. You try to achieve something which is impossible. And in some ways you know it’s impossible, that you will fail, but for same reason you are doing it — because you believe in things that don’t exist, and that’s why you want to create them. Only you see them, imagine them, but you want them to be visible for others.
Anyway, it’s also a good example about complicated ethical stuff. Klaus Kinski, who played Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (and who was, by the way, born and lived in his early years near our hometown Gdańsk in Sopot), was a paedophile. When I was young, I watched it without this knowledge. Now, I watch it with this knowledge and it’s a very hard feeling.
I think when you watch very carefully, you will always find some evil — and mainly, of course, in yourself. It’s good to be concious, and try to fight with it, and for sure not hide it. Almost always in my poetry, and sometimes in Trupa Trupa, we really try to put some light on the dark site of reality. Not, of course, because we support it, but to know evil’s mechanisms, and try to disarm it. Just to be conscious that the evil is a fact, and we have to be aware of it. Around and inside of us.
What are the differences between recording in the studio and playing live? And which is more enjoyable?
I think the best thing is to be prepared for each situation as much as we can. But accidents and mistakes play a very big role. Very often, accidents and mistakes are the best parts of recording sessions and gigs. So we never know.
Who are your biggest musical influences? And what stuck with you about them?
Every one of us has got rather different musical heroes, and I guess that’s our strength — this mixture of styles. For sure, we all love The Beatles. This is our foundation. And there are twenty reasons why, because their music is so full of rhythm, melodies, styles and stories and personalities.
What equipment do you use to record and construct your pieces?
We are definitely not equipment freaks. We use very simple stuff.
Are there any artists in your scene or area you’d like to shout out?
There are many great Polish artists. For example The Kurws, from the city of Wrocław. I also like Saturday Tea, Guiding Lights, and a band called Wczasy.