Tuesday 27 March 2018

Immortal Onion [Interview]

The timing of our discovery of Immortal Onion is eerily on point.  In March 2018, we featured a review of New Zealand DJ, producer and musician Surly’s new EP release through Astigmatic Records, ‘Trip To Warsaw’ which featured his take on the Polish jazz recordings that had been a source of such inspiration to himself and his musician father.  Polish band Immortal Onion however are actually doing the reverse: a jazz band who are incorporating a vast array of musical styles into their own sound like electronica, progressive metal and film score-style compositions.  Whichever way you look at it… we’re back in Poland as Surly prophesised and there’s no better place to visit than the debut album from Immortal Onion, ‘Ocelot of Salvation’.

The trio, comprised of Tomir Śpiołek (piano), Ziemowit Klimek (bass) and Wojtek Warmijak (drums), although a relatively young band – formed in 2016 and signed to Requiem Records in 2017 – already have a steadily growing list of accolades: winners of the Jazz Phonographic Debut competition and the City of Gdansk Culture Scholarship, the band can also boast having performed at the Warsaw Summer Jazz Days festival with Kamasi Washington, and having performed live improvised scores to two animated films at the II International Animation Film Festival in Gdansk and at the 17th Silent Film Festival at the award-winning Kino Pod Baranami in Cracow.

Then there’s the debut album to speak of, ‘Ocelot of Salvation’.  While the aforementioned musical influences are easy discussion points when discussing Immortal Onion's sound, the eight-track release certainly wears the band's influences on its sleeve but by no means relies on them: prog metal, electronics, jazz, are all parts of an exquisite musical gumbo that is distinctly Immortal Onion and incomparable to anything else.  It's a project - and a band - that deserve your attention and with so many achievements already under their belt, incredible things surely lay ahead for a band with boundless talent.

Blue-in-Green:RADIO is thrilled to have secured time with the drummer from Immortal Onion, Wojtek Warmijak, to discuss the album and how everything came together.

How did members of the band meet and come together to form Immortal Onion?
Me and Tomir used to play with Ziemowit in different bands.  We were inspired by similar artists and that was enough to start thinking about launching a new project.  At that moment all of us were looking for new musical challenges and this squad seemed like the perfect way to realise them.  After the first rehearsals, it turned out we get along very well, both as musicians and as friends and since then we have been playing together.

Who have been some of the biggest influences in shaping the band's sound?
The music we play is a mixture of different styles of music we enjoy listening to.  That’s why you can find inspirations such as prog metal Animals as Leaders, Periphery or jazz Esbjörn Svensson, Hiromi Uehara.  Our biggest inspiration is probably Tigran Hamasyan.

How does the process of writing and creating new music usually work for the band?
It’s very different.  Sometimes we improvise and the ideas just come up.  Our music is full of odd time signatures and polyrhythmics so if the idea is too complex it’s easier when Ziemowit or Tomir write it down and then I think about the drum parts.  Then we start the process of putting together all the instruments and fragments of the composition.  Then after some long hours with a metronome, we have a new song.

Can you talk a little about what went into the making of 'Ocelot of Salvation’?
After we found out that we would get funding from the Polish Music and Dance Institute to record and release our debut album, we started to work intensively on the songs we have already created and composing new ones. The name of the album is kind of an inside joke and a wordplay on lyrics from a traditional Polish Catholic song, so I won’t even try to explain it :D

You have cited 'film music' and 'progressive metal' as musical styles you draw from: what is it about these genres you're able to adopt into your style of jazz?
I think jazz is very cinematic in itself.  It's probably because of its dynamic style and the emotionality of the compositions that make jazz very suggestive and narrative.  We had the opportunity to perform at two film festivals with improvised scores to two animat[ed] movies so I guess it comes pretty naturally for us.  When it comes to progressive metal, we adapt metric modulations and often the arrangements of the songs.  The music we play is as it is because we listen to a wide variety of music and we try to adapt the features we like into our jazzy instrumentarium.  The final effect sounds like a mix of jazz and cinematic music with elements of electronica inspired by prog metal so that is why we describe it this way.

How do you find your music transfers to a live stage?
We notice our songs evolving all the time. Recording music in a studio and playing it live are two very different things and it took us a while to figure it all out.  However, with time we feel more and more comfortable on stage and it's positive effects can be observed in the quality of our performances.

Who would be a dream artist for Immortal Onion to either record or perform with?
We actually haven’t thought about it, but now that you mention it I think it would be awesome to collab with the great Colin Stetson!  His unique way of playing is so powerful and “metal” I think it would work well with our music :D

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