Hot off the Press

Grzegorz Kupczyk and Tomasz Targosz of CETI

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Sr. Columnist —

Twenty or more years of stage tenure under their belt, many bands tend to look back more often than to look forward, desperately hanging on to their “classic” repertoire in an attempt to recapture some of their past glory. However, the Polish assemble CETI is a clear opposite to the entire league of “nostalgia acts” while still retaining classic Metal flavor to their music. Their most recent album Snakes Of Eden is a clear proof of this fact, the new material was written almost entirely by the youngest addition to the band, bassist Tommy Targosz.

As for CETI’s lead singer, Grzegorz Kupczyk (Greg) is one of the founding fathers of the genre in his homeland due to his tenure with pioneering Polish Heavy Metal band Turbo. However, the charismatic frontman is a faithful follower of “here and now” philosophy and rarely looks back. This kind of attitude he reveals in the interview for Hardrock Haven – alongside Tommy Targosz’s tale of “devil, women, wine and life’s ups and downs” that became Snakes Of Eden.

Hardrock Haven: Last year CETI released a tenth studio album so far, entitled Snakes Of Eden. As it’s been a while since it hit the shelves, what kind of addition do you think it makes to the band’s overall catalog?

Tommy (Tomasz Targosz): In my humble opinion, it’s the best CETI album together with our previous one, Brutus Syndrome. The asset to Snakes Of Eden is that all elements of the album are in their right places, from its cover artwork to its lyrical content.

Greg (Grzegorz Kupczyk): Yeah, I absolutely agree. Some feedback we’ve received so far from the music industry representatives is that the album is well-developed in every detail, from A to Z. You know, from the cover artwork to the additional releases of promo singles, trailers and music video and the entire promotional campaign… What’s more, the feedback outside of Poland or even Europe on Snakes… is equally enthusiastic, the album being compared to the likes of Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath.

Hardrock Haven: What kind of feedback did you receive from the reviewers and the listeners?

Greg: As I’ve said before and I’m glad to say that again, the new material is praised worldwide. I’m also glad to say that in Poland the feedback from our staunch fans is equally positive.

Tommy: It’s been only superlatives if we talk Snakes Of Eden, no negative opinions about the album so far. The funny thing is that people are more eager to express their opinions if it enables them to criticize someone else’s work – and here it’s been only the applause since the release date (laughs).

Greg: (laughs) Right! If there’s something to be criticized, you may be sure you’ll have that pointed out to you in detail… especially in our homeland.

Hardrock Haven: Even though it’s the 28th year of CETI’s venture, the band is still developing. Have you tried to draw any conclusion from your past ups and downs while making Snakes…, either in an attempt to make a reference to your previous endeavors or perhaps to avoid repeating some mistakes?

Greg: That’s a baffling question (laughs). In a way, you’re right about drawing conclusions. But personally I – and we as a band – have always tried to keep CETI genuine and authentic. I’ve learned and concluded a lot from mistakes made in my previous band (Turbo), which in my opinion kind of chases its own tail these days… Still, the most important thing for CETI is that the new album is – at least! – as good as the previous one. The facts are that we’re getting better with each record. The band’s still in shape as we work together harmoniously, with smiles on our faces and positive attitude towards our lives… and not taking ourselves too seriously as well. I think it’s phenomenal for a band of such a long tenure to still keep going and improving… not lowering our standards and ending up playing some silly party rock thing just because it’s ‘on’.

Hardrock Haven: Snakes… is the second album recorded by the current line-up, with Tommy on bass. As the band has gone through some personal changes in the past – do you think this line-up’s the optimal one in both musical and personal terms, something every music band aims at?

Greg: I’m sure it is. We feel great with each other. There’s a perfect understanding between us as far as artistic and creative aspects of our work are concerned. We may have different opinions on things but it’s not something that triggers an argument; quite the opposite – it makes our bond stronger. We can talk about everything with each other, including any problems that appear along the way. And if possible, we try to help each other with our personal issues as well.

Hardrock Haven: Was the creative and recording process any different this time around, especially in comparison to the album’s predecessor – 2014’s Brutus Syndrome?

Tommy: Brutus Syndrome was our group effort and I contributed only a few tracks to that material. In the case of Snakes…, it’s all my ideas from the very first to the very last note. That is if we discuss the music and lyrics. As far as vocal lines are concerned, we worked on them together with Greg and the two of us made a Jagger/Richards kind of duet (laughs).

Greg: Right. What this ‘duet’ stands for is the harmonious cooperation and compromise – in a good way, of course.

Hardrock Haven: The album’s title, as well as the cover artwork, could have possibly been a suggestion of a concept album, based on biblical themes. In fact, however, Snakes… is a multitude of different stories and themes. Was it your intention from the very beginning?

Tommy: This time around, the idea of concept album was out of the question. All I searched for was a good title to turn all the tracks into one stylistic entity. But if we talk the possible release of some kind of a concept album in the future, the answer is yes. I have plenty of ideas, all I need is the proverbial wind that fills my sails (laughs).

Greg: There’s already been some discussion between band members on making such an album sometime in the future, but nothing’s won by force. We don’t feel like working under pressure of ‘having’ to do something. What we do is what and how we feel at a certain moment.

Hardrock Haven: What’s inspired the lyrical content of the album? Could you reveal something about the stories behind the songs and the message behind the entire album?

Tommy: Lyrically, Snakes… is a very rock ’n’ roll kind of thing. What we have here is the devil, women, wine and life’s ups and downs. That was my initial idea and having a few stories up the sleeve, I’m glad I managed to illustrate them with the accurate sound. It’s bits and pieces of my fantasy (“Midnight Rider”) alongside some real life stories (“Notes Of Freedom”, “Empire Of Loss”) as well as some legends and tales (“Lady From The Dark”, “Snakes Of Eden”).

Hardrock Haven: There’s a lot written and said about the cover artwork for the album, designed by Piotr Szafraniec. But let’s focus on its most compelling detail which is in fact in the background – the snake’s head with a tear in its eye. Where does this idea come from?

Greg: The truth is that we’ve suggested a thing or two to Piotr, even though in general he’s been given a free hand with his designs… to be able to express himself as an artist. This always gives the best results. When he showed us the project he’s just finished – we’ve nearly fallen off our chairs! But my suggestion was to include the snake’s head on the cover, as the main element of the background. Piotr did it and it looked fantastic. Then I asked him to add a tear to the snake’s eye. For Piotr, it seemed kind of funny at first – how come, the crying snake? Snakes don’t have lacrimal glands, do they?… But what I wanted to achieve by that was to give the picture some absolutely figurative meaning. My idea was that the biblical serpent introduced the first people to knowledge only to realize how much of a bad deed it was… and then he cried… Apparently, he was a Satan, wasn’t he? (laughs) The heart, the apple, and all the other details are all Piotr’s idea.

Hardrock Haven: Prior to the album, the first single was released. It features the total number of three songs, including the re-recorded versions of early CETI songs “Prawo piesci” and “Ogien i lzy” (released in English language version as “Fire & Tears”). Where does the idea of re-recording the tracks classic to your repertoire come from? Are there any differences as far as arrangement is concerned?

Greg: It was only my whim (laughs). It always seemed very interesting to me what the older CETI songs would sound like now, with the new sound and the new possibilities in terms of recording and sound engineering. It turned out that these songs are timeless. Some say that now the tracks finally sound as they should from the very start (laughs). As for the differences in arrangement, these are just details that don’t really matter.

Hardrock Haven: The third song released on the single is a previously unreleased track “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor”, recorded during the Snakes… sessions. Why wasn’t it included on the album? Do you think it could be included in your concert setlists sometime in the future?

Tommy: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” is my personal tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. We had no pressure to put it on the regular album – plus, in stylistic terms, it’s much closer to our song “Killing Time” off the 2014 single than the songs off the Snakes… an album such as “Edge Of Madness.” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” is just our simple rock ’n’ roll piece which I guess we’ll enjoy playing live one day.

Hardrock Haven: Do you have any plans to release next singles after “Wild & Free?”

Tommy: Out next single and music video will be “Midnight Rider,” but for now all the details related to it must remain a mystery (laughs).

Greg: (laughs) Mystery … sounds very much like us indeed, if to think about things like communication with extraterrestrial intelligence … (editor’s note – that is where the band name comes from).

Hardrock Haven: If to think about the frequency of the band’s releases in recent years, it can be assumed that 2018 will bring us another CETI album. What would be the direction you’ll take this time around?

Tommy: The material which will end up released as a follow-up to Snakes … is in progress indeed. All I can say is that the next release will sum up both Brutus Syndrome and Snakes… in musical terms. There’s gonna be a lot of changes of pace, gallops, sharp riffs and fiery melodies.

Greg: We can’t go backward now, so we’ll surely kick some ass this time around as well (laughs).

Hardrock Haven: As we talk, you’re in the middle of the ‘Snakes Are Back In Town’ tour – more dates still to be announced. Do you plan to promote your album also beyond your homeland Poland, as with Brutus Syndrome, and perhaps outside of Europe as well?

Greg: We always plan such things, although the challenge of carrying these plans all out is a whole different matter. We have many concert possibilities now, beyond Europe as well – so we may land up in some exotic areas (laughs). Our main plan is to promote the new material, although there are some other exciting things in progress too. If everything turns out fine, soon we may be able to announce some really thrilling news.

Hardrock Haven: Do you still base the majority of your concert setlists on the new material, rather than hanging on to the oldies as many ‘classic’ bands do? Are there any surprising additions to the live repertoire during the current tour?

Tommy: You’re right. We’ve been focused mostly on the new material while promoting Brutus Syndrome and now, after Snakes… saw the light of day, we just swapped a few older tracks with the brand new ones. That is, we base our concert setlists on the songs written and recorded during the last four years and the result is awesome! These songs are real killers, especially when played live. Besides, we’ve added some surprises known to our listeners from the days when Greg fronted Turbo …

Greg: The band decided to include Turbo songs into CETI repertoire because our fans expected that. Besides, it was me who wrote songs like “Juz nie z Toba” or “Sztuczne oddychanie,” so I don’t see anything wrong in performing them while playing with my own band.

Hardrock Haven: One of the most important dates during this tour is the Metalmania festival in Katowice, Poland. As it’s the seventh Metalmania you’re going to perform at – Greg, what do you think about the influence of this festival over the development of Heavy Metal music in the entire Central Europe? Does the formula or atmosphere of such events change throughout the years?

Greg: Metalmania was an unprecedented event not only in Poland but in the entire Central Europe since the very start indeed. It’s a huge, wonderful festival and a real celebration – a holiday in its own right. I’m very glad it returns this year after some hiatus, especially that CETI’s been invited to play there. And for me personally, it’s like a time travel (laughs). But it’s hard for me to say if the idea of such events changed throughout the years or not. To tell you the truth, I don’t really think so, but I’m hardly an expert as I don’t spend that much time on music festivals.

Hardrock Haven: Back to Snakes Of Eden – recently the album has been re-released in the vinyl format. What do you think are the pros and cons of the vinyl edition of Snakes…, especially in comparison to the CD?

Tommy: While preparing the album to be released in the vinyl format, we had to leave out some tracks – like the epic “Empire Of Loss” for example… But what we get instead is the hot collector’s item which allows for full exposure of the album’s unusual, amazing cover artwork… and more space for the autographs! (laughs)

Greg: From the very first moment that we started to work on Snakes…, I knew this material must be released in the vinyl format. One thing is a matter of different sound, one that fits our current album like nothing else. Besides, it’s prestigious to have your album released in the vinyl edition. The exposure of the graphic design of the album is another asset – there’s more details to be exposed and a bigger dimension to Piotr’s design.

Hardrock Haven: Have you ever thought you’ll witness the resurgence of vinyl format?

Tommy: I always knew the vinyl format will return someday… Now we have to brace ourselves as the resurgence of audio cassettes is coming as well – and this will be a real blast! Fans of guitar-oriented music are simply tired with the achievements of digital technology which, in fact, deprives their favorite music of its heart and soul. They need this kind of magic that only vinyl is able to retain!

Greg: I’ve got nothing to add – Tommy said it all (laughs).

Hardrock Haven: If we talk about new CETI releases, we can’t omit the topic of the recent re-release of the second album in the band’s discography – 1992’s Lamiastrata. Whose idea was it?

Greg: This album has been described as exceptional among those we’ve released. Firstly, it was released only on cassette, then we had the first CD edition … but for many different reasons, both of these were extremely hard to get. Even for the avid record collectors, Lamiastrata is a rarity. That’s why Piotr Szafraniec – our graphic designer, a big fan of the album and quite a successful businessman – suggested us to re-release it this year. I agreed and now that I see how many people are interested in it I can say it was a good decision. Re-released twenty-five years after it was ‘born’ and included in a specially designed wooden box set alongside other treats from CETI, together with its brand new cover artwork, Lamiastrata is now a real collector’s item.

Hardrock Haven: Are there any differences between the re-released edition of Lamiastrata and the previous CD edition of the album?

Greg: No, not at all. The only exception is that we’ve added two live recordings from that era – the title track and “Burning Fantasy”.

Hardrock Haven: This year, it’s thirty-five years since Turbo released their chart-topper “Dorosle dzieci,” which could be considered the beginning of Grzegorz Kupczyk’s career. Greg, do you have any plans related to the celebration of this anniversary?

Greg: Well, I don’t think so. There’s too many people who waste too much time celebrating every little thing possible. Here comes the anniversary of the first release, then the third, and here’s another band anniversary … (laughs) Personally, I live here and now and I live for the future. In my personal and artistic life, there’s so much going on – so many wonderful things – that I don’t feel like looking back and I don’t have time for that. Whatever happened, it happened. It’s already far behind me and I can’t change anything, so it doesn’t make sense to reminisce. Memories become a frustration.

Hardrock Haven: What does the future hold in store for CETI?

Tommy: Releasing a brand new album and going on the road to discover and conquer the places yet unknown to us – all across Europe, then towards the West and all the way back to the East! There’s nothing more beautiful in this life than to play rock’n’roll music for the roaring crowds… the power, the energy, the sheer adrenaline… It’s better than having sex – a kind of orgasm that lasts two hours! (laughs)

Greg: That’s well-said! (laughs)

Hardrock Haven: Do you intend to dedicate all your time and energy to band issues only during the next months, or are there any side projects we should pay our attention to?

Greg: In my case – I don’t think so… Maybe some exceptional thing will happen somewhere along the way, but still, I’m all about CETI. I don’t feel like doing anything else, plus there’s too little time for that…

Tommy: I’m open to all possible ideas… but the facts are that there’s too little time indeed to dedicate enough time and energy to someone else’s musical endeavors. Besides, perhaps it would’ve been better if we focused on what’s going on in the band’s camp. We need to gather strength so as to leave all listeners in awe when our new material sees the light of day – even our opponents (laughs).

Hardrock Haven: Any last words?

Tommy: Greetings to all Hardrock Haven readers – especially, the female readers! In rock we trust! See you on tour or somewhere in the pub… or maybe under the table (laughs)!

Greg: The option ‘under the table’ sounds best, doesn’t it? (laughs) What I’d like to add is that we’re honest in what we say and do – no bullshit allowed. We really enjoy what we do and the feedback we receive from people, especially from our fans.

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