- January 18, 2013
Konecki: We don’t exhort people to hatred
My wife and kids are proud of my playing in a band. They even call me a “star”— jokes Ryszard “Insmuth” Konecki in an interview with PL DELFI. He is a Pole from Vilnius and the drummer of the best Lithuanian metal band, OBTEST. “There has never been any conflict in the band based on nationality” — he says.
On February 2 in the “New York” club in Vilnius there will be a concert on 20th anniversary of OBTEST. In 2006 A.Lt jury decided you are the best metal band in Lithuania. At the same time, you are the oldest Lithuanian metal band that is still active. What can we expect from the jubilee concert?
We haven’t played in Vilnius for more than a year, and now there’s a good occasion, so it has to be a powerful performance. We are preparing a programme for about 1.5 hour. There will be old and new songs, a video showing the history of our band, we are also planning a few surprises.
Officially the band was created in 1992. Do you remember the exact date? How did it happen that the band was created and how did you join?
There is no exact date. Towards the end of 1992 the guitarist, creator of music and lyrics Sadlave and the singer Baalberith simply decided to start a band, and I joined in 1993. My neighbour studieds with these boys in one school, he wanted to play in a band too, so we met at Sadlave’s, we talked a bit and you can say that this is how it all began…
In official information about OBTEST you always appear under a pseudonym Insmuth. What does it mean and how did it appear?
You know, you surprised me with this question. It was so long ago… It is a dark character from some book, like The Lord of the Rings. The tradition of adopting such dark pseudonyms came from a Norwegian black metal tradition, where everyone has pseudonyms (Immortal-Demonaz, Abbath, Mayhem-Hellhammer, Euronymous). At that time we were under influence of that ideology and the music.
At the beginning of 1990s a Pole in Lithuanian metal band, especially a patriotic one- singing about pagan Lithuania, about Lithuanian warriors fighting enemies, and Lithuania’s enemies inevitably also included Poles- it is a rather untypical phenomenon. How did you see it? Didn’t you have any trouble because of that, because, as far as I remember, sometimes you were performing on one stage with Diktatūra, and their fans do not like national minorities too much. Weren’t there any Lithuanian-Polish conflicts in the band?
It has never been a problem for me. There has never been any conflict in the band based on nationality, I can’t even imagine how such a thing could happen. We came together to play metal and have fun, not to look for problems. Lyrics tell the history of this land, and many different things happened there, but that cannot be changed, we don’t exhort people to hatred based on nationalities, and if someone sees it like that, then, well, what can we do?
You succeeded in both, Lithuanian music and in business, without giving up your Polish identity. As far as I know, you bring your sons up „in the Polish spirit.” In your eyes, how the situation of Poles in Lithuania looks like? How do you assess the current Polish-Lithuanian relations?
I think that stupid ambitions of politicians have the biggest influence on the situation. Lithuanian politicians dig in the past too much and they don’t look into the future, they make a mountain out of a mole-hill, sometimes Poles also add fuel to the fire, for instance with the matter of bilingual names of streets. Between ordinary people there are not problems, though. Of course there are exceptions. Another problem is that in Lithuanian people just cannot agree on simple everyday matters, they look for problems everywhere. Lithuania, a small country, reacts nervously to all national topics, instead of thinking about the economy, innovations, education. For Poland, Lithuanian market is really small, and if it wasn’t for the Polish minority, Poland wouldn’t even pay attention to this region.
At the beginning OBTEST played very brutal death metal, but slowly the music shifted toward more melodious, toned sounds and today you are considered the leaders of Lithuania pagan metal. What music was inspiring you at the beginning of your career in the band and how these fascinations changed during those 20 years? What is your favourite music today?
Initially we played trash and heavy metal, later we started playing death and black metal. Our music, I think, has a bit of everything; it is a kind of mixture. Now, I am conservative, I do not listen to new bands, I prefer the old, good ones: Iron Maiden, Slayer, Dio, Death, Morbid Angel or Megadeth. I don’t have time for listening to music now, and if I listen to it, then only from a CD and using a really good equipment. Practically, I can listen to my favourite music for a longer while only when we are on tour.
OBTEST is „famous” for recording albums very rarely (only four in twenty years). What is the reason? Which of the albums is your favourite one?
You know, we don’t want to record albums because „it should be done.” We record when we want to and when we have material. We have a lot of music, but there is a problem with lyrics. Sadlave is a perfectionist, he wants every word and every syllable to fit perfectly into the music. We don’t want to repeat ourselves, too. We won’t sing more about wars in Middle Ages, because we’ve already done it. And my favourite albums, as a whole, are „Auka Seniems Dievams” and „Iš kartos į kartą”. I think these are the best.
You also play concerts pretty rarely, but in 20 years you have managed to play everywhere in Europe and, as the only Lithuanian metal band, you played in the USA. During the American tour you even played in a Native American reservation. Could you say something about this unusual concert? How did it happen? How did American Indians like your music?
Yes, that’s true, we rarely perform, and recently- not at all. In Lithuania we don’t want to repeat the same material over and over. And it is difficult to go to the West, because you need a good organiser for such a tour, and the conditions are unacceptable for us, because we have to cover all the expenses from our private money, sell something during concerts and hope that we’ll promote the band during a tour enough to increase the sale of the CDs and we will make people invite us to festivals. Additionally, there are problems with leaving work for longer time, there is family, and we are not so young anymore… (Laugh).
I remember the USA tour well, maybe not even the performances, but the journey from Chicago to Los Angeles. We came to the reservation because of one of our old friends. She is Lithuanian and at that time she lived in the reservation with an Indian chief and she was writing a scientific paper about the local people. It was an unplanned concert, organised on the spot during one day. The reception was great, our themes are similar to the Indian history. After all, they also experienced someone’s coming from the outside and taking away their land and telling them how to live.
You have a wife and two sons, your own business and you still play in a metal band. Doesn’t one interfere with another? How do you find time for it all? How do you manage to reconcile family with playing and work?
Well, somehow I manage to do it… Recently we haven’t been meeting with the band, because there was no reason. But we start rehearsals with new material and we hope that until the end of the year we will release a new album. I always find time for the music, sometimes at the expense of work and family, but the family supports me, so there is no big problem.
How do your children and wife react to your playing? Are there any chances that the sons will follow the father and will play metal? Are you trying to bring them up to be metal musicians?
I will say it like this: my wife and the kids are proud of me and of my playing in the band that is a bit famous in Lithuania and around the world. They support me. They even call me a „star”. (laugh) Will the boys play- we will see. I do not want to push them into anything. Maybe one day they will be bitten by the same bug and they will start their own band, who knows?
Thank you for the conversation.
Thanks for making the interview! I’d like to invite everyone for the concert and greet all the readers of PL DELFI. Metal forever!
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.