FOLLOW DISCIPLINE MAG
Hailing from Poland is Whalesong, the experimental metal band who continue to make a name for themselves both across Europe and further afield.
The sonic language of Whalesong has traditionally included the uncompromising crunch of an 8 stringed guitar, noise rock impulsiveness, moments of heavy soft contemplation and in more recent times, a creeping sense of free-jazz improvisation. All-the-while, this sonic diversity manages to stay united by a universal sense of depravity and personal anguish. Such formidable sounds invoking formidable influences to the tune of Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Sunn O))), and Glenn Branca – to name only a few.
Complementing Whalesong’s tectonic palette is the impeccable production value, coming at the hands of professional sound engineer and Whalesong frontman, Michal Kielbasa.
Putting this technical prowess to good use, Whalesong announced a new album Leaving a Dream slated for release on 14 July, 2023. Leaving a Dream promises to be an expansive 120 minute affair, and the band’s most ambitious release yet. Further, the album’s stellar list of guest contributors is enough make your eyes water.
I had a discussion with Michal, the man behind Whalesong’s figurative wheel, about upcoming album Leaving a Dream, tour life with Mayhem and other European black metal legends, prominent guest appearances, industrial music and more.
DM: Hi Michal, thanks for taking the time to talk with Discipline Mag. Whalesong has a new album coming out – Leaving A Dream – which you’ve described as an expansive 120 minute affair. What inspired you to release an album at a scale this large?
MK: Hi Dan! I started to write this album even before doing our last full length ‘Radiance of a Thousand Suns’. In the beginning, ‘Radiance…’ was also supposed to be just an EP and then evolved into a 105 min record. With ‘Leaving a Dream’ I wasn’t in a rush, and we’ve been playing some of the songs live since 2017.
It was a long process as I felt it needed to be my ‘masterpiece’. I really wanted to get the natural feeling of a live band + plenty of dynamics. I knew that the album would be long and released as 2CD, yet it was all quite natural – some things were forming and evolving for a long time. In the end it came to 129 minutes. I was thinking about cutting it in half and releasing 2 albums in one year, but this would destroy the concept. I feel that all these tracks are connected to one another, so it was impossible for me to break the tracks apart. At the end of the day, people who listen to music like this are used to long records so it shouldn’t be a problem.
DM: Speaking to the new album title, Leaving A Dream, this suggests the record will be quite ethereal in nature. You’ve also said the album will include “noir jazz, drone, ambient, industrial, gothic americana and noise rock with a tremendous soundtrack-style feeling.” What artists influenced this record, and what else should audiences be expecting when they finally listen to it?
MK: The record has a bit of this [soundtrack-style], but I wrote the lyrics for most of the album quite late. However, they fit the music perfectly. It was a bit like doing a puzzle – everything was forming quite naturally and gave me the feeling that it’s supposed to be.
With music genres, naturally we mixed sounds that we are inspired by and are relevant to the band. This record is literally what Whalesong is and has been for years – especially live. Leaving a Dream definitely gathers some influences from artists like Wovenhand, Sunn O))), Swans, Godflesh, Neubauten, Bohren & Club of Gore and many many more, but we just like such music. But it all comes naturally – we don’t think, we just play music.
When I write songs for Whalesong, I write down the arrangements on paper – the dynamics, colors, the overall arrangement and what I want to achieve sonically. Then, I seek the sounds on guitar/keys/dulcimer/different instruments. After that, I just tell the guys what I want – in what direction we should go and then we improvise and usually record what transpires. While recording Leaving a Dream, our drummer Grzegorz literally knew 3-4 songs that we played live, all the rest was completely improvised in the studio. That’s also why this record sounds so ‘live’ and natural. There’s no overthinking, just pure emotions.
DM: You also released a video clip for the track ‘Struggle’ which depicts yourself being smothered in clay to a soundtrack of dense and mechanical sounds. Who made this video and what can you tell me about the inspiration behind it?
MK: I had the concept of using clay with a body in my mind for years, but I never had a song that worked naturally with it. The idea to use clay here was very spontaneous, but it felt like a very natural combination, both visually and lyrically.
Regarding inspiration, one of the main ones was Oliver de Sagazan and his performances. Although, the final effect in ‘Struggle’ has a bit of a different look and vibe, as doing the same thing would have become tedious.
I directed, edited and acted in the video myself, while my good friend Michal Borek shot it with his camera. We had already worked together in the past while shooting the video for Grave of Love – ‘Time Heals Nothing’.
DM: You’ve also brought a new member into Whalesong, Elise Aranguren, who, as far as I’m aware, is more classically trained. How did Elise come to join, what is her role and how has this impacted the band’s sound?
MK: I’ve known Elise for many years as we work for the same bands on tours. I had the idea to use female voice in Whalesong for years, but I couldn’t find the right person.
At the beginning of this year, me and Elise were working together on her album, which is supposed to be released in 2024. I was completely blown away by her music and vocal performance and I asked if she would like to record vocals for the song ‘Leaving a Dream‘. It went so smoothly and I was so blown away by her skills that we decided to record more parts for the album. For example, ‘From the Ashes’, aside from the middle part with Attila’s vocals, was supposed to be an instrumental track. I still can’t believe her contributions to this song and how much it transformed. Fun fact – it was all improvised and recorded in one take.
Eventually, I invited her to join Whalesong as a full-time member. In the future, aside from vocals she will also perform synths and piano. I’m still blown away by how much her voice has added to our music.
DM: Leaving A Dream has cast a wide net of guest contributors. Some of which include Attila Csihar, Steve Blanco (Imperial Triumphant), Wuki Suryadi (Senyawa), Miro Snejdr (recent Death in June collaborations) and more. This covers a lot of continents & sounds – how did you get such a wide array of artists involved?
MK: I’ve known all these guys for years. Some of them I’ve worked with in the past, so I showed them some tracks and asked if they would like to contribute. Then whenever they had time they recorded their parts and sent them back to me.
Every single time I was blown away. Usually by unexpected things that completely changed everything. I didn’t know what to expect from the song ‘A Distant Memory’, but after I received the piano from Steve that song was easy to finish. We only added a saxophone and we were done. For months before his help I was convinced it was going to be an outtake – he saved that track haha!
DM: Your “day job” is that of a guitar tech for black metal bands Mayhem, Watain, MGLA and possibly others. You recently travelled with Mayhem on their extensive world tour. What’s it like being on the road with a band whose profile is as large as Mayhem’s? And what’s it like being on the road in general; is it as glamorous as some people may think?
MK: It’s cool. I really did not expect this to happen. A lot of things changed in my life in 2019 when I decided to go full-time with touring. I like to travel, I love live music and I’m extremely glad I can work with those bands. Their music definitely influenced me in the past and it’s an honour to work with them nowadays.
DM: Do you have any interesting or funny anecdotes from these tours?
MK: Too many things, impossible to choose. But when on tour – always expect the unexpected.
DM: One perk of going on such extensive tours is that you get to meet many famous musicians. I know this because I see a lot of photos online of yourself with such people. Who are some of the most interesting or surprising characters you’ve met? Have you ever been genuinely star-struck?
MK: Once when I met Allan Holdsworth I didn’t even know what to say and I was really stressed haha.
DM: You have a number of different projects aside from Whalesong. Mostly solo, and mostly covering different subgenres of industrial music. Can you introduce these different projects and the different sonic territory they cover?
MK: My other projects and bands are Grave of Love which is a neofolk band. 2 years ago we released our first full length material ‘All Those Tears Ago’.
Another is my solo project Lugola – noise/power electronics. It has kind of Slogun/Whitehouse vibes. I do a lot of live shows with this one.
I have another power electronics outift, but this time closer to Anenzephalia/Genocide Organ/Detrimental Effect and called Harmony of Struggle.
I also do illbient/dub/electronic stuff with Nothing Has Changed. Plus perform some ambient solo shows/black metal with Useless. I recently finished a new studio album with Lifeless Gaze – kinda death industrial/black metal thing.
DM: Whalesong played Poland’s annual Wroclaw Industrial Festival in 2020 and again in 2021. How was your experience playing WIF with Whalesong over those 2 years?
MK: It was very interesting and I am very happy we could do this. The first show we did was streamed and is available in full on our YouTube channel, we even released a digital live album from this show – From the Ashes of the Past.
Fun fact, for this show we performed 3 songs from the new album Leaving a Dream and one track (‘Flesh’) from our previous album [Radiance of a Thousand Suns], albeit in an extremely deformed and slow version. The next year we played a completely different set – highly improvised and more ‘noise’ and ‘no wave’ oriented + we performed the song ‘Bliss’ for the first time ever.
DM: Did you go to the festival last year? I’m just wondering if you saw Ramleh. If I’m not mistaken, they performed a power electronics set, but there seems to be little to no coverage of the event online.
MK: Unfortunately not, I was touring with Mgla when WIF took place in 2022. I’ve never seen Ramleh live, but I really like this band. Total classic.
DM: And you’re playing WIF again this year with your power electronics outfit, Harmony of Struggle?
MK: Yes. Last time I performed there in 2021 it was with Whalesong and my different PE/noise project Lugola. It will be interesting to do a HOS set which is again a completely different thing compared to my other bands. I love this festival and can’t wait to perform there again. The line-up this year is insane – Puce Mary, Zero Kama and many more. It will be a blast.
DM: How about tours with Whalesong; when can we expect to see shows and how extensive will this be?
MK: Right now we’re booked for two festivals for this year – Castle Party and Summer Dying Loud. We’re trying to book some more shows for 2024.
I would really like to play live more often with this group. Live, it’s a different face of the band – our live sets can differ from each other and the songs end up evolving even more. Nothing is constant. We love to deconstruct our songs into new forms while playing live. This makes for a really interesting experience.
DM: Many thanks for speaking with Discipline Mag, Michal.
WHALESONG live dates 2023
14.07 – CASTLE PARTY Festival
07.09 – SUMMER DYING LOUD Festival
Leaving a Dream guest contributors
Attila Csihar – vocals
Lazarus – vocals
Dancing Deadlips – backing vocals
Steve Blanco – piano
Aleksander Papierz – saxophone
Tomasz Herisz – vibraphone
Pawel Pelka – french horn
Miro Snejdr – piano
Wukir Suryadi – bambu wukir
Engage with Discipline Mag
If you would like to engage with Discipline Mag, you can do so in the following ways:
- Submit music for review
- Release announcement or music premiere
- Interview request
- Donate to Discipline Mag
- Write for Discipline Mag
To keep up-to-date with the latest from Discipline Mag, follow us on Instagram.
Support independent media to ensure the underground survives and thrives!