An Interview With Black River/Behemoth Bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wroblewski
Band Photo: Behemoth (?)
Tomasz “Orion” Wroblewski is best known as the bassist for extreme metal icons Behemoth. He is also the leader of symphonic black metal band Vesania, but his most unique side-project is the stoner/black n’ roll Black River. Fans of Orion’s other projects will definitely be surprised by how much groove the music has, and he seems to fit in just as well with this as he does with the more rambunctious Behemoth. Also featuring drummer Dariusz "Daray" Brzozowski of Dimmu Borgir and Vader fame, the band has just released their second album, “Black'n'Roll,” which is also the first look many in the U.S will get of the band. I recently had the chance to speak to Orion about Black River's new album, the current situation with Nergal, and what the future holds for Orion while he plays the waiting game with both Black River and Behemoth.
Heavytothebone2: Black River used to be called Neolithic. Why did the band change their name to Black River? How did that change happen?
We recorded an album with Neolithic and during the recording session, we changed everything in the band. We changed half of the line-up and the music just evolved in some different way than it used to be. When we were listening to the record, we just decided we need to form a new band. We already have these new members in the band and we decided to change the name.
Heavytothebone2: Why the name Black River? Is there any symbolism behind the name?
Well, there’s nothing behind it, as far as I know. It was Kay’s idea, the band’s leader, and we all agreed to that. There’s no story behind it.
Heavytothebone2: What are the band’s influences in how the sound came?
It’s anything from old rock bands, old rock metal bands to stoner rock bands. Anything that we were always listening to that we always wanted to play, but weren’t able to play that in the extreme bands we were in.
Heavytothebone2: You mentioned playing in extreme bands. Does the stoner style of music come naturally to you? Did it take a little bit of time to get adjusted to?
We didn’t adjust to anything. We were always interested in playing such music. There was no actual band we could play this music in. It just happened. It was the flow of the feeling that we had. Black River is a group of good friends and we just wanted to do it always and finally we did it. This band exists; we’re just waiting for the vocalist to recover. You probably heard the story about his illness. As soon as he is back on track, we can proceed with the band.
Heavytothebone2: Do you know how long that is going to take?
No idea for now. It could be months; could be half a year. It’s another serious story. You might have heard about Nergal too. There’s some bad omen over me.
Heavytothebone2: Black River is quite different than Behemoth. What do you get out of this that you may not out of Behemoth?
Behemoth is my job and that’s a stressful thing. That’s the band that takes up a lot of time and a lot of sacrifices in personal life and all that. Black River is just a group of friends with the same kind of feelings. When we do Black River, we just meet and we have a lot of fun together, have a lot of fun playing. There’s no stress, no tight schedules, no nothing. That’s some kind of releasing of the other stress we have with all these other bands. That’s what I get out of it; it’s just a lot of fun.
Heavytothebone2: “Black'n’Roll” is the band’s sophomore album. What was the recording process like? Was it smoother than the debut album?
As I said before, the first one was a long process with changing the band’s members and everything. The second one was an easy story, I guess. We did all the songs during the rehearsals. We entered the studios. We had good friends working as sound engineers. It was just an easy thing. It happened within not even a month. There’s nothing either interesting or stressful that happened during the recording session. It was, as I’ve said with this band, it was just fun. That’s how it was during the recording; a lot of alcohol and listening to good music and sound recordings.
Heavytothebone2: From a songwriting perspective, what is the main difference between this and the self-titled debut?
I don’t know. We are just a little more experienced with all the tours we’ve done with Black River, but I would say it’s still the same thing. There’s no trying to be original behind it or nothing like that. It sounds better and it’s got better songs on it, but that’s it.
Heavytothebone2: Are there any tracks that stand out for you more so than others?
Personally, I’m a fan of the cover song that we did (“Jumping Queeney Flash”), which is a weird thing for all the people who are writing reviews of the album. That’s the track that I like the most.
Heavytothebone2: Where did the idea come to even try to attempt to put “God Save The Queen” and “Jumping Jack Flash” together?
It happened a long time ago. It was just a spontaneous thing. We were trying to do a cover song and we changed a lot of it and Taff, the vocalist, just added some extra lyrics into it. It just happened in the rehearsal. I don’t remember the kind of alcohol that we were under the influence of (laughs), but that’s pretty much it.
Heavytothebone2: The song seems to be missing from the U.S release, is that correct?
Are you asking if there are any songs missing on the U.S release?
Heavytothebone2: Yeah, because that song is missing, correct? Am I incorrect?
Yeah, yeah, there’s one song that is not included on the U.S record. There’s a few more that we recorded during this recording session and we were planning to release the EP soon, which would include all these songs that are missing plus some live footage that we recorded during some tours. But after Taff being sick, we’re forced to cancel all further touring, so the EP is not going to include anything new on it.
Heavytothebone2: Is anything going to happen to the new tracks? Are they just going to be part of the next album?
With all the next work, we have to wait until Taff recovers. We can’t make any plans at the moment. We’re just waiting for this guy to be back on track.
Heavytothebone2: The first album never got released in the U.S. Are they any plans to release it?
We don’t really know for now. When we recorded this one and released it in Poland, we were trying to find a label anywhere outside of Poland, and for some reason, it didn’t happen. We were sending it out to anyone in the world, but nobody wanted to have it. Hopefully, with all that is happening with “Black'n'Roll” in the U.S, maybe it will cause the release of the first one, but nothing is happening in this matter at the moment.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think there is any specific reason why the first album hasn’t really catched on?
I have no idea. I don’t really know. I don’t know. Well, I can’t really see the big difference between the first one and the second one. So yeah, I don’t know.
Heavytothebone2: With all that has happened, with Black River on hold for the time being and Behemoth as well, are you doing anything else on the side to keep yourself busy?
Well, now I have a lot of free time. So I’m trying to think about reorganizing my whole life, because it seems that I have to try to either find a regular job or doing anything besides playing. I’m thinking about musical production or mastering, so that what’s I’m starting to think about now and what I’m working at. Hopefully, something comes out of it in the nearest future.
Heavytothebone2: Are you worried about the future of Behemoth?
I’m worried about Nergal, first of all. That’s a serious thing, his illness. With the band, we’re still active because we will be releasing the DVD now and working with some other stuff to be released too. I’m not really worried about the band; I’m worried about the guy, about a good friend who is in really bad condition at the moment. That’s the first thing that has to happen; he needs to recover.
Heavytothebone2: How did you learn the news about Nergal?
Well, he was feeling really bad for a few weeks, and he didn’t really know what was happening to him. We played a show and the day after the show, he decided to go to the hospital and they found out after three or four days of some medical testing.
Heavytothebone2: How have you felt about the reaction to Nergal’s illness in the metal community as a whole?
Oh, it’s been great. I just feel thankful to all the people who are reacting to this whole situation really nice; all this bone marrow transplant situation. People are registering at the bone marrow bank and there are so many new people in this bank thanks to Nergal’s illness. With this whole thing, we can help more people to get better. The reactions are just great. We’re all surprised. Just to give you an example, the bone marrow transplant bank in Poland had about 50,000 people registered. Within the last three weeks, it’s been 17,000 people new registered to this bank. It’s a massive impact.
Heavytothebone2: You’ve toured with countless bands over the years. Is there one band from the past or present that you wish you could tour with?
Well, I was always waiting to play a show with Metallica and it just recently happened. There’s a few we always wanted to, but never had a chance to go tour with, but at the same time, there’s so many bands that I would never imagine we would play a show with and we had this chance. We played a show with Metallica, we played a show with Iron Maiden, and we played a tour with Morbid Angel, King Diamond. Just the biggest and best bands in the world, so I’m really happy about that.
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