Ampacity interview with Piotr Paciorkowski
©Joanna “Frota” Kurkowska –
Ampacity likes to think of themselves a “prog-rock, stoner, space, psych rock” band first and a Polish band second. Nestled in the heart of Europe honing their skills at festivals and relentless bar shows, they recently exploded onto the international scene with the release of their debut album Encounter One. Drawing from some well-known sources like Hawkwind and Kyuss there’s also a healthy dose of John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock at work behind the scenes here, proving Ampacity a diverse group of musicians worth keeping a close eye on. Between incessant jamming, recording sessions and constant gigging I managed to get guitarist Piotr Paciorkowski to talk a little bit about the history of Ampacity, Polish space rock, recording the Encounter One album and what the future has in store for them.
Who all is in the band and what do they play?
Ampacity is Wojtek Lacki on bass, Sebastian Sawicz on drums, Marek Kostecki on electric piano/synth, “Dziablas” Jan Galbas on guitar and vocals and there’s me, Piotr Paciorkowski on guitar.
Have any of your members been, or are any of them currently in, other bands? If so have they recorded or released anything?
Oh yeah! Wojtek is a bass player in a post-rock band God’s Own Prototype, they released their first CD Fall Apart…Every Time You Feel Like last year, and they’re currently preparing to release an EP.
Dziablas, Seba and I have played in a stoner rock trio “Broken Betty” since 2007. We’ve released two EP’s (Self-Titled and Original Features) and one LP (The Sorry Eye). We’re currently on hiatus, since all of our attention goes to Ampacity though.
Marek comes from a slightly different background. He’s been part of various jazz projects but he also played as a guest on Broken Betty’s LP The Sorry Eye.
How long has Ampacity been around?
Actually, we started rehearsing around spring/summer of 2012 I think. Our first public performance was on the Spacefest Festival in Gdańsk, Poland. That was in December of 2012 so we’re pretty new I guess.
How did you all meet and how did Ampacity become a band?
The idea came up when the head of our label, Nasiono Records, asked Broken Betty to play at an annual festival of space-rock and shoegaze music, called Spacefest. We agreed, but since Broken Betty was a trio, we decided it would be a good thing to have some more instruments that correspond well with space rock genre. We share the same rehearsal space with God’s Own Prototype, so we already knew Wojtek who we thought would be a great choice for a bass player, especially since Dziablas had decided to stop playing bass and pick up the guitar. Marek had been a friend for a long time and was also an instant candidate. We knew his style, and we knew he would bring in something valuable and original, and he did so indeed. We jammed together and the results were so satisfying that we decided to make a proper new band out of this supposedly one time project.
Where is the band located?
We’re from Tricity (an agglomeration consisting of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia), northern Poland, right in the center of Europe.
What’s the music scene like there? Are you very involved with that scene?
I guess it’s safe to say that it’s one of the strongest regions of Poland, when it comes to alternative music. There are many really great bands, from many various different genres; some of them have a significant worldwide recognition, like Behemoth or Blindead. We’ve been a part of that scene since 2006. When we were starting out we didn’t know anybody, but right now we are really into it. The atmosphere is great! The local bands all know and support each other, we have clubs that are willing to promote good music rather than just make a shitload of money.
Has anyone there played a significant role in Ampacity’s musical history or evolution?
Almost all of the significant events in our musical history occurred with the help of more experienced people from other bands, recording studios, clubs, magazines, blogs and such and of course our fans. We constantly feel support for our work, and that is the primary driving force behind Ampacity actually. It would be really hard to mention just a few of them here.
I don’t like labeling music. Music is art and as such it seems to avoid classification for the most part. Rather than try and label or categorize, how would you describe Ampacity’s sound?
Of course as an aspiring artist I would have to agree with you on the whole labeling thing, but it’s hard to avoid unfortunately. Our sound definitely derives from riff-laden, heavy 70’s psychedelic rock, but the arrangements are more prog-rock like. We certainly take our time to develop a composition.
Your debut album Encounter One comes out the March 31st. Where was it recorded? Can you talk a little bit about the recording of the album? I heard the tracks were all recorded in one take during a single day in the studio?
It actually took us about two hours to record two or three takes of the whole album, we just chose the ones that thought were the best and that was it. The rest of the day was setting up gear, microphones and such. We used our live rigs and played just like we do on our gigs, no metronome, no doubles. We were lucky to be one of the first bands to use the brand new Custom34 studio in Gdańsk. It’s truly a world-class facility. An 80 square meters large live recording room with a ceiling of 7 meters, hi-end equipment including a custom Neve console, Neumann microphones and some serious top-shelf preamps. The Custom34 studio would give anyone who has even the slightest idea about recording music a serious hard-on, believe me! Our vocalist and guitarist Dziablas, who happens to work as a recording/mixing engineer, was responsible for the whole recording and mixing process. We used a “retro” approach with only three microphones recording the drums and minimalized the use of external effects on the post-production. It’s basically a live album, except we recorded it in a studio!
What does the title Encounter One refer to?
The concept of the album is how small and insignificant man is in the universe and his inability to comprehend that fact despite the most sophisticated scientific methods. Although we often tend to feel all powerful, we are truly only masters of Earth and have to pay respect to anything we might encounter in outer space, even something that’s complete insignificant on a cosmic scale.
Who’s releasing Encounter One and where can people get a copy of the album?
Encounter One is being released by Nasiono Records. The physical album will be available through their website store (www.nasiono.net) as well as directly from us at www.ampacity.bigcartel.com and a digital version will be available to stream and purchase at www.ampacity.bandcamp.com as well. It should also appear on several other additional distribution networks and digital distributors like iTunes and Spotify.
Does Ampacity have any other music that’s been released aside from Encounter One?
Not at the moment.
What’s the writing process like with Ampacity? Is there a lot of experimenting and jamming or does someone come in with more of a finalized idea for the rest of the band?
Definitely a lot of jamming; we always record our every jam, based on our experience that’s where the best ideas come from. Besides, we feel that the band’s sound comes from the musical identities of its’ members and jamming with each other is the only way to properly mix them all together. But we’re also open to developing songs from ideas that are brought in from outside the rehearsal room too. Those are mostly just single riffs or melodies that we work on rather than finalized ideas or finished songs though. Sometimes it’s also the other way around. Someone will take the jam home and then work on it; basically there are no strict rules as long as the final effect is worthy.
Who would you say are Ampacity’s musical influences?
It’s a lot of bands and musicians, to be honest, but if I was to name just a few I guess, Hawkwind, Kyuss, Pink Floyd, and Causa Sui but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
©Jarek Kowal – www.gdansktown.pl
Aside from the aforementioned, are there any further influences you draw from on a more personal level rather than as a unit or a band?
Well Marek for example, is a fan of jazz. His style is heavily influenced by the likes of Herbie Hancock so that’s definitely a different influence that stands out in my opinion.
The artwork for the Encounter One album and the t-shirts you released along with it were both great psychedelic pieces. Who did that artwork?
I totally agree! That artwork just takes the album to the next level! It was made by Kuba Sokólski (www.kubasokolski.com), who is actually becoming quite a renowned artist. He’s also the drummer in a great post-metal/avant-garde band called Merkabah. We’ve been very happy with the collaboration to say the least.
Do you give a lot of thought to the visuals that represent the band? Does visual imagery of that sort play a large role in Ampacity?
We really wanted to do something that would correspond well with the music and enhance the listening experience, I feel like it really makes a difference when it’s not just some random drawing or photo. We also try to add visuals to our live shows. It’s important not to overdo it, though. We want people who attend the gig to listen to the music, not watch a movie with a soundtrack.
What do you have planned for 2013 so far? Is there any chance of you making it overseas? We’d love to have you!
That would be a dream come true but would logistically be really hard to do. We’re planning quite a few gigs this year though, some of them outside Poland. Hopefully that will open some doors for us so we can start playing more shows in Europe and then who knows? Maybe we’ll find someone willing to book us on your side of the Atlantic.
If I understand correctly this is your first English interview? How does it feel to be internationally recognized?
Yes, it’s the first interview as Ampacity in English, but we’ve had some foreign interviews while in Broken Betty before. We’re really happy that we’re gaining recognition simultaneously in Poland and internationally. Our goal from the start was to reach out to people who would enjoy this kind of music without looking at the borders of our location. For a long time there was this strange conviction amongst Polish bands that you should first get recognized and “famous” inside the country, and then, if you were good enough, you could try to export your music abroad. Thankfully that’s beginning to change now. In our case there are only so many people in Poland interested in this sort of music in the first place, so we think of them as a part of a larger worldwide community. We like to think of ourselves as a “space/psychedelic/stoner rock band” first and a “Polish band” second.
Thanks to the internet I’m being exposed to more and more music that I would never otherwise get a chance to listen to and really realizing for the first time that there is a musical world out there. For me it’s opened a door to a whole new cosmos of music and bands. How do you feel about digital music and the affect the internet has had on musical release and distribution?
You’re absolutely right. We would never have this interview if it wasn’t for the internet and social media. For bands like Ampacity this is a real blessing. We don’t need a big influential record label to spread our music because of the internet. Of course the whole shift to digital distribution changed the market. Before that recognizable bands that sold albums had enough money to make at least a decent living. Today, even the big names in the business often need day jobs just to make ends meet and sometimes that’s what kills really good underground bands; having a job and touring/recording is often really, really hard. In general though I think that the way the internet has broadened the musical universe is invaluable.
What is the best way for people to keep up on the latest news from Ampacity?
Currently it’s our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ampacityband. But if you’re not into the whole social media thing, you can also check our webpage/blog at www.ampacityband.com. We update it with all the most important news.
I ask everyone that I talk to this question and please feel free to name as many or as few people as you’d like; who should our readers be listening to from your area or scene?
Ok, the list is a long list but trust me when it comes to stoner and psychedelic stuff it’s worth checking every single one of them out. From our area I can think of;
– Naked Brown
– God’s Own Prototype (Wojtek other band)
– Octopussy (Dziablas’s second band)
– Struggle With God
From the Polish scene in general there is
– Satellite Beaver
– Major Kong
– Elvis Deluxe
– Snake Thursday
– Palm Desert. I
Who would you suggest our readers listen to nationally and internationally that they might not have heard of?
There are so many good bands out there internationally that I wouldn’t even know where to start. I can give you two bigger Polish names though: Blindead and Tides From Nebula. If you’ve never heard them, fix that ASAP!
Is there anything that I missed or that you would like to talk about?
You pretty much nailed it! Thank you very much for the interview and best of luck!
– Roman Rathert
(2013) Encounter One – Nasiono Records – CD
(2013) Encounter One – Nasiono Records – CD
© Oskar Szramka