Saturday, 24 July 2010

Max Bienkowski Part 1

Here's the first part of a short interview with my man Max Bienkowski, the vocalist for Wayfarer and also the rhythmically challenged bassist for Breaking Point. I've only known this dude for about a year or so, but over the course of our communications Max has constantly impressed me with his encyclopedic knowledge of myth and folklore and a nonchalant/half arsed attitude to playing music to fuckwits that mirrors my own lack of enthusiasm. I sent him a couple of questions yesterday and he had the answers back to me in double-quick time, I guess there was no one around that wanted to play Risk, eh mate?
Also, i couldn't find any pictures of Wayfarer or BxP on the internet (actually i didn't even try) so i just googled Polish Ogre instead and the guy in the picture showed up. The file is called Ogre Commander, cool dude alert.

The Days Have Gone Down In The West is very heavy in both sound and content.
Was this conceptual approach to writing a record part of the bands original remit or something that developed along with the music?

The content changed very little between me scrawling down the lyrics to what would become 'Ragnarok'' in my university halls in winter 2006, and the finished versions that appear on the record. The Norse influence has always been the dominant theme, the only minor changes that have come about were edging out early references to eschatology in Abrahamic religion, as there enough bands around already running that theme into the ground. Also, as the concept for Wayfarer developed, so did the Anglo-Saxon influence, and in fact the name (originally 'Dawn of Fenris') was changed as a vague reference to the Anglo-Saxon rune poem 'The Wanderer". Musically, the conceptual approach never existed when Pat came round mine in summer 2008 to write the first tracks, but as we gained members, a shared adoration of Fall of Efrafa became apparent, so we tried to mix that in with the Clevo style, and The Days Have Gone Down In The West was the consequence.

Over the course of our conversations I’ve discovered that we share an enthusiasm for mythology, in particular the myths of the north. How were you first exposed to them and what is it about the Norse myths that initially captured your imagination? Will Wayfarer remain solely focused on this branch of legend or do you have plans to plunder other cultures for future releases?

Through Tolkien, basically. Reading Tolkien led to me towards Norse mythology, the Edda's, the Volsungsaga, and then also onto Old English poetry (Beowulf, the Wanderer, Battle of Maldon etc.). There's lots of things in the aforementioned works that stuck with me, particularly the resilience, fatalism and unrelenting nature of the protagonists. In the face of insurmountable opposition, exile, and death, none of the heroes (and anti-heroes) ever compromises, and I thought this was an important lesson to take into the modern world. In an age where we are meant to respect everyone's point of view, tolerate and forgive immorality; and as a result choke in the embers of a dying world, people should be unafraid to draw a line over what they believe, and vehemently espouse what you know to be right, rather than what society tells you is right. The middle ground will always be the first piece of scorched earth. I could ramble on all day about other things that I love about the sagas, the majestic landscapes, melancholy overtones etc, but I notice this is dragging on somewhat.

Wayfarer will always have a Norse/A-S heart, but I don't want it to be a one-trick pony. The next record we are writing at the moment already has influences from Irish myth cycles (the Tuatha De Dannan), and I'm writing something about the Albigensian crusade for something that I'd like to use on a split, or maybe a tape. The Hellboy canon also remains a constant inspiration.

The hardcore scene in Kent seemed to drop off somewhat after the boom years of the early to mid part of the decade, with a lot of people moving on/dropping out and only a few die hards holding on. It seems once again though that south is rising and both Breaking Point and Wayfarer are a part of that resurgence. How did you first come to be involved in HC and why now after such a lull is the dirty south coming back with a vengeance?

I first got involved in hardcore completely by accident. I suppose I had listened to bits and pieces from late 2003, or whenever it was That Within Blood Ill Tempered by Shai Hulud came out, which put me on to other things through exploring bands mentioned in the thanks list and previous/associated acts (most notably Morning Again, which blew my mind, despite not really knowing where the fuck that sound had evolved from); but for about 18 months after that, I only sporadically listened to a few hardcore records, amongst a whole load of other dross. I didn't really realise there was any decent bands in the UK, until I met my good friend Phil (who put on shows in Kent at the time) at a Rise Against show in London, through a friend. He then proceeded to put me onto a lot of UKHC, Knuckledust, Canaan, OTI (yeah, I'm a dicksucker), as well as key US bands, and let me find my way from there. We have quite different tastes in HC in some cases now, but I still owe him in a huge way for getting him involved, the dude is golden to me. Went to the occasional Kent show back then, but didn't start regularly attending shows there until spring 2007 when I dropped out of uni and bought a car (and did a shit band with Pat that I don't care to discuss). For me that was the start of the resurgence, that summer when the Cold Snap demo dropped, and a whole bunch of people started catching them at shows religiously, the core of people who made up the first 15 or so members of SRH (although I could be looking back at this with rosy tint). As much as I'd love to knock his ego, Rome (Cold Snap) has to be given credit for co-ordinating any kind of "movement", and from the start of Southern Rise, you also have the start of Breaking Point and Never Again, and then later on, The Hard Way, Wayfarer, and now Ripped To Shreds. I think that it all came from dudes who had been in either decent bands before, or had put their sketchy first bands behind them all working together to write solid hardcore, and I certainly think the dudes slightly older than myself who'd been around in the mid-decade heyday that I'd unfortunately missed most of wanted to put the south coast back on the map. So yeah, props to all the Southern Rise dudes, and especially Mayes, Syndrome, Simpson, Shredder Leng and Roman for doing a band that we could rally behind. I wish they'd still play The Great Depression live, though.

Part 2 coming when I can be arsed.

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