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Muniek Staszczyk and Maciek “Majcher” Majchrzak about T.LOVE

Date: 19.08.2016
Place: JG Master Lab

ul. Aleja Szucha 16/40 | 00-582 Warszawa


he premiere of the new T.LOVE band studio album, the first one in 4 years, simply entitled T.LOVE, took place on November 4th. As we can read in promotional materials, the day after the premiere the band went on a one and a half-month tour promoting the album. It started on November 5th in Muniek Staszczyk’s home-city –
Częstochowa. The premiere album includes pieces composed by all the band members with the frontman’s lyrics, apart from the song written by John Porter and the song entitled Pielgrzym (Eng. Pilgrim) which was co-written by Przemysław “Stachu” Pawłowski, Muniek’s and the band’s friend.

In contrast to the previous album – Old is Gold from the year 2012, whose lyrics mostly focused on spiritual matters, the new album includes many references to the present times. As it was said in our conversation and pointed out in press materials, the songs are almost journalistic, focused on Poland and the world, here and now, and they touch fears, fascinations and uncertainty. “The album – says Muniek – rocks hard with music based on good melodies and guitar riffs. It is a kind of soul-punk, i.e. an intersection of the black Motown or Stax tradition with white rock’n’roll.”

Jacek’s contribution to the album was much larger than just “technical”. He took part in many decisions regarding its final shape and that is why the band has asked him to deal with production together on the new album. There is more to it – the idea for the Old is Gold cover is also Jacek’s. The new album is equally interesting, as it has not only been created in a similar way, i.e. recorded on a multi-path analog tape recorder, but also its cover was designed by Rosław Szaybo, responsible for the covers of the first albums in the Polish Jazz series and the author of the series’ iconic logo.

The T.LOVE album differs from the previous band albums, as it is going to be issued in a few versions. The basic version will be one-disc album (13 tracks). Apart from it, a “de luxe” version will be available with an additional CD with tracks that complement the basic album version (18 tracks altogether). There will also be an analog version with 12 songs and, finally, a version exceptional for the Polish market – this is probably the first rock album in Poland (and probably in the world) that can be bought in the form of a high-resolution 24/88.2 file, i.e. the version which was mixed and mastered, and downsampled to 16/44.1 in order to press a CD.

Before the interview, I listened to the almost final versions of six songs from the new album with Muniek Staszczyk and Maciek “Majcher” Majchrzak, straight from a workstation. I must say some of them shocked me and threw me on the floor. A combination of extremely “up-to-date” lyrics that make us get goosebumps (as they are so likely to become reality) and strong, heavy music with dense groove was excellent. Never before had I heard such a coherent combination of these elements, including one more component – exceptional sound. I have not dealt with rock music recordings that would sound so good for a long time.

MUNIEK STASZCZYK and MACIEK “MAJCHER” MAJCHRZAK interviewed by Wojciech Pacuła.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Your first publishing medium, still at the times of T.Love Alternative, was a cassette. Recently, more and more bands are starting to publish their music again in this way – does it mean the music industry has a hiccup and does not know what to do with itself?
MUNIEK STASZCZYK: There has been a crisis in the music market for a long time. I do not do any market research, but I know there are some paradoxes in certain countries, e.g. Japan that is mega-technological and ultra-modern, but they are still selling vinyl and CD there. The digital domain rules in other countries. In Poland, CDs are still selling – perhaps because we are traditional, or maybe delayed. However, this is all coming to an end. It is enough to look at Gold Albums are awarded – I remember that when we started performing, we used to get it for 100,000 CDs sold, in the 1990s – for 50,000 and later for 30,000, while today you get Gold for 15,000 sold CDs. When it comes to the cassette – I still have quite a lot of them myself, since our first albums were released on cassettes, but I think it is a gadget rather than anything serious.

JACEK GAWŁOWSKI: Perhaps there will be some kind of revival of the cassette market in Poland because there are still cassette players in many old cars that are being imported to Poland from Germany :) However, it is just a gadget that has nothing to do with the music market.

MACIEK “MAJCHER” MAJCHRZAK: To me, it is a similar tendency to the return of vinyl.

MS: No, I think it is about something else – in the end, vinyl sounds different.

MM: I would perceive it as a present trend, however. Hipsters like such things, they are fascinated by the vintage, they like vinyl recordings that produce low-quality sound – and the worse they sound, the better for such users, but for me it is completely different :) Cassette recordings have characteristic noise and compression, thus creating very specific sound, but nothing more.

MS: I see it in a different way. You are asking me about the cassette and our first cassette Nasz Bubelon (T.Love Alternative, 1984 – editor’s note) was produced by us. Our first manager did it using a two-cassette recorder – that was our concert from Jarocin. We started selling it in Toruń during the New Wave Festival. Jarek Knorowski, our guitarist, made some cassette stickers, as well as covers at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Of course, it was illegal, but the communist authorities luckily had other things to do. We were first to do this in Poland – I remember Dezerter asked us how we did it. However, thanks to that we started to exist in people’s minds. Wherever we went, we had our album and we sold about 1000 copies in a few years, but then people copied these cassettes, as they used to share music.

That was a kind of prehistoric Internet :) However, all things change with time and now everything is part of the real Internet. How do you see these changes, i.e. for example the fact that people no longer want to pay for music and want to have everything for free?
MM: I would worry more about the socio-political situation :) But if you ask me, what David Bowie said is becoming true: fewer and fewer records are going to be sold, unless some strict regulations are imposed on piracy. However, I don’t know if it’s going to happen. If Babylon has put its hand on something, it will remain there for good and if it can get money, it gets it. So, perhaps the need to impose taxes will hinder piracy. For now, however, all these streaming situations are not working out at all. Theft is being replaced by streaming, which harms us in a similar way, as it pays us very little money we can buy toilet paper for.

MS: We’re a not-too-digital band. Our audience includes people of different ages – from 25 to 50. Young people often get to know us through their parents or siblings – but we are surely not oriented at the young. Income from records used to be similar to income from concerts. What I earn from concerts has been my main source of income for quite a long time and I say this as an author. Well, we do sell some records – in two days we are going to receive our Platinum Record for Old is Gold – a record that was not easy to handle, without singles, prepared in the same team that you can see here today. We are incredibly proud of the fact that our fans have given us such a gift – Platinum, even though it was a long double album. So, it is not true that people do not want to listen to music.

However, you need to be a realist – rock music is not as important as it used to be. It does not convey any new message or lifestyle and it is not revolutionary. It is just an addition to toys and gadgets. People no longer look for albums that change their lives. They listen to one song and you’ve got to accept that. Rock has lost its significance.

The concept of an album as such seems to be losing its significance, too.
MM: Definitely. It has always been like that, perhaps except for a short period in the second half of the 1960s when young people emancipated. The tools that they used for that purpose were recordings that conveyed certain ideas. Refrains would change the whole generation. And then, in the 1970s, this domain turned into big business. Artists used to earn quite a lot on their albums, even though that was less than a half of their income. Now you earn 1% of your income from albums and the rest from concerts and the radio.

MS: My generation is a bit of an exception – in Poland of the 1980s people still would hold on to what was sung by artists. However, this was happening because of the specific historical conditions. The communist rule and the martial law had impact on people’s perception of music. And we have so many possibilities today – music is just one of the elements of reality. However, I know one thing – concerts have always been and will always be important, as people will want to see artists live. So, artists will always have some income from concerts.

MM: Probably just from them.

MS: But albums let you show that you are doing something, that you are alive. Everyone has a CD and if someone comes to me after a concert with a demo and says that we might, perhaps, help them record something, they do have the CD. These recordings sound ok, as now you can record something anywhere you want. And in the past… I remember when the Abaddon band recorded their material in the former Yugoslavia, in Ljubljana and even though they did not play musical instruments too well, it did sound 100% better than what we recorded in Poland. Of course, there were also exceptions in Poland, as Maanam, Klaus Mitffoch or the original Lady Pank sounded fantastic. Now there is no difference. Why go to London to record an album, as we can get equally high quality here, in Poland.

JG: The studio where T.Love recorded their new album – Custom34 is wonderfully equipped and, honestly, it would be hard to find such a good studio even in London. All western studios are equipped with a standard set of devices, instruments, etc. If you want something extra, you need to order it from a special rental agency or pay extra cash. At Custom34 everything is ready for us to work. There is absolutely everything – a wall of guitar amps, percussions, just everything.

MM: As we are talking about Custom, let us say that this is a unique place on a global scale – it is not about profit at all – the studio is not run according to principles of economy. They have an analog 40-channel Neve mixing console with two layers of legendary preamps: the 1073 and 1081 per each channel, ale but also 7 or 8 racks behind your back with almost all classic preamps, compressors and limiters that are worth having in a recording studio. There is also a room with many, many microphones, including those totally legendary ones, such as the Neumann U67 from Abbey Road that the Beatles must have used.

JG: What is more, they know how to use this stuff. Piotr Łukaszewski, who recorded tracks onto that album with his son, Łukasz, has a lot of studio experience.

How did you get there?
MS: Jacek recommended the studio to us – I recorded two bonus tracks there to be added to the reissue of our Szwagierkolaska album (the Luksus album, 1995 – editor’s note). I saw what it was like to record there – the place has a specific atmosphere and the resulting sound is warm and full. When we recorded Old is Gold, the studio did not exist and we had to record at a few different places. Now we have everything there – available and ready to use. We went there to carry out some quick tests and we instantly knew we would record there. Thanks to that, we have sound that beats the shit out of our ears :)

JG: With ambience at the studio, we get really broad warm sound, like unpainted wood.

MS: And the microphones… I sang to an old Telefunken ELAM, one that was neither too old, nor too new. It’s great to work there and that is why the place is becoming more and more crowded.

Custom34 is a studio where you can make analog or digital recordings, or combine both of the techniques. You decided to make an all-analog recording and now, surprisingly, you will be the first Polish band that is going to release an album in the form of 24/88.2 high resolution files, i.e. exactly in the same form in which Jacek mixed and mastered the material.

JG: The album was mixed and mastered in 24/88.2 to obtain good resolution at the very beginning. For analog-to-digital conversion we used very good converters from the Canadian Burl Audio company. I do all the mixing in the analog domain – I have an SSL mixing console. So, I could have set the clock on the output at 44.1. However, I carried out a test and recorded the same mix on 44.1 and 88.2 – there was a striking difference! Converting 24/88.2 into 16/44.1, using a good algorithm, gives excellent results. So, it is worth doing everything in hi-res since the beginning.

As we obtained such good sound and people have better audio equipment at homes, we decided to start selling the same sound as we have here, at the studio. Even if there are only going to be 1000 downloads, we will be really satisfied, as it will mean there are people who will hear sound that is as close as possible to the recording studio. The same files will be used to press vinyl discs.

Old is Gold was released on vinyl straight away and you plan to do the same with T.LOVE. Was it your idea?
MM: Surely – I am the “constant” vinyl man here. What I said before referred to the reasons for vinyl revitalization, not to the medium itself. I do not like contemporary vinyl recordings. The fact that something is “180 g” does not mean anything, as in most cases it is crap. The sound is most often ugly and does not sound what it should like, as it is rarely done well. However, vinyl discs from the 1970s, the first issues from the USA and the UK – there was so much bass and they all sounded so good! Also German vinyl recordings from the 1970s and 80s are fantastic and very durable.

MS: I like vinyl as a gadget. Over 1000 copies of the vinyl version of Old is Gold have been sold so far, which is a great achievement in Poland, comparable with the sales of Pink Floyd or the Beatles albums. That was a return to blues and vinyl helped us in this respect, as it fits the aesthetics. I have a turntable but I rarely use it. However, I like it when people come to us with vinyl copies of our album – then I treat them like VIPs :).

JG: Everything depends on the engineer responsible for sound at the final stage. If he has old elliptic Neumann equalizers in the console and does not screw up the whole bottom of the scale (different things may happen here), everything is great. Polish engineers used to process everything in a system with the high-pass filter permanently set at 100 Hz, without listening to music. Everything that was below was cut off. And even if the sound was well-made in the studio, the recording lacked bass altogether.

What is more, in the 1980s there were bands whose records did not sell and their albums were thrown away by record labels together with their labels. The discs were processed in grinders and the powder was used to make new vinyl discs. That simply couldn’t work.

Returning to T.Love – I talked the boys into making a double album, as we had plenty of material. In the end, we removed one track from the album in order to maintain proper distance between grooves, to achieve better sound quality.

MS: Yeah, the LP will include twelve tracks and the CD – thirteen.

JG: Sound quality was a priority for us – we did not want to have more than 44 – 45 minutes of recorded material, perhaps even not more than 43 minutes (if we shortened the pauses), which is an ideal recording duration for an LP disc. I knew the material was to be released on LP, so I have made the master versions loud, louder than usual, which will result in better sound. Vinyl is very noisy. If we raise sound a little, it will always be high and noise will not modulate it. Thanks to this, crackling sounds on the T.Love album will not be that audible.

However, this is also the result of assumptions that the album is based on. When they came to me, they said they wanted to have a modern record, with a kick, groove and pulsating rhythm. I instantly knew that my approach has to be totally modern and different than towards jazz albums. So, the recording is loud but you can hear everything in it. There is bass, there is dynamics, there is simply…

MS: … sound that beats the shit out of your ears :) I’m really glad that T.Love albums are released on vinyl and even though I don’t know if they sound good or bad, this is an important souvenir.

Jacek is the co-producer of the new album. What is production all about today?
MS: The main album producer is Maciek and he did most of the work. I presented the album outline and I was also responsible for the selection of songs. The album was made quickly, during rehearsals between January and April this year. I wrote all the lyrics then and the boys had come up with ideas. The whole team was more engaged in making the previous album, now me and Jacek are the co-producers, while Maciek is the producer.

MM: When it comes to the production of our records, Muniek first comes up with some very general idea for an album. As regards Old is Gold, he just said it was time to play roots rock, including blues that we had never dealt with before. That opened a new door in my head. So, Muniek shares an idea that inspires me – or, indeed, fertilizes :) – I develop it and then wonder how to implement it. When I get an idea, I “fertilize” Jacek with these mixed ideas and he adapts some kind of a working method.

So, Jacek has tremendous impact on the final outcome. Actually, he was also the co-producer of the previous album, even though the information was not given on the cover. It was he who invented the patent with the Decca Tree (more HERE and HERE – editor’s note).

JG: Maciek gave me the idea at the very beginning and when I heard it was to be a return to the roots, I simply had to use the Decca Tree. The whole album is mainly made using these microphones. We started the mix by raising the tracks with the Decca Tree on the mixing console and changing their equalization a bit. Only after that did we add microphones and “direct” signals, but really rarely – e.g. if the guitar was supposed to bite, etc. However, in most cases (70% – 30%) it is signal from the Decca Tree microphones. Only one of the tracks, in which the proportions are reversed, is an exception. Nobody has done that in Poland before.

JG: To give you an example, I will tell you I had an important role in creating the sound of the Pielgrzym single that is already available. I had an idea for the opening part: vintage percussion in the left channel and guitar in the right one – both elements with extreme panorama settings, with Muniek’s distorted vocal in the centre. After the opening part, normal percussion bit enters and the sound opens with a subkick and reverse cymbal that I added from my archive of samples. The recording is suspended twice at the word “God”, to which I added extremely long reverberation on the vocal, opening “heavenly” space. I added subkicks to strong parts of the measure in other tracks as well, such as, for example, Siedem, or in order to give the recordings a more “dancing” character.

MM: We wanted to have a lot of air in that album – we wanted it to breathe and to be something between modern Dylan and old Muddy Waters. And now it is the reverse – we come to Jacek and tell him we would like the album to be rhythmical, with a good beat.

MS: As regards my idea, that was supposed to be soul-punk.

MM: And then we have to add flesh to it. We wanted rock music that could compete with everything that is now happening on the market with regard to rhythm and pulse, to be better than all of that. But we also wanted people to hear live drums, fucking strong guitars and a clear vocal. I think we’ve managed to achieve this. Well, you could hear it a moment ago. But to say something is one thing and to do it is something completely different – that is why Jacek is the co-producer. We experimented a bit and he contributed a lot of ideas to the recording that allowed us to fulfill the assumptions I was talking about. The sound does beat the shit out of people’s ears, so we have what we wanted – play this recording, having listened to any new album, even a dance one, and you will see what we have managed to do. We smother everything with a “punch”.

JG: To make it possible, I combined two processes at the same time – mixing and mastering. We have already talked about it, but here it is the easiest to see. In order to maintain such high average sound level, I have to have control of signal from the beginning to the end. I cannot make a mix first and then mastering, as it won’t work. There is always some compromise. Fortunately, it is changing and there are people in the world who do these things my way.

MM: It’s true, as we’ve been making records with Jacek in this way for years. I do it in a similar way when I deal with some additional tasks not connected with T.Love – I can’t imagine doing my work differently anymore.

Muniek, I listened to Marsz and I got scared. It is a super-strong thing, very much up-to-date and disturbingly realistic. Are you not afraid of being categorized as belonging to one of the “options”?
Indeed, we have some powerful tracks on the album, such as Marsz that you are talking about or Bum Kassandra and other ones. My whole life, I have portrayed myself as an outsider and observer in all T.Love lyrics. I have never taken any sides, I do not have the temperament to become part of some political party or to fall in love with a politician. However, I am also a Polish citizen, I take part in our country’s political life by voting, for example – I have always taken part in elections. Anyway, there are a few songs on the album referring to our divided nation. I am looking at it from where I’m standing and it both scares me and pisses me off, as there are absolutely no reasons for such a division. I am not using any names or surnames, but just talking about the situation.

T.Love has always been firmly set “here and now”, which is especially true for the new album. The media, The Holy Bible, conversations with friends, things I overhear at a pub – everything provides me with inspiration. Marsz is a song about the current situation – there are two groups of marching people, shouting different slogans and it is all strongly polarized. When I talk about it, I am not afraid of anything, as I don’t offend anyone. I just say what I think. Anyway, I reckon it’s a very ecumenical recording – I am talking about reconciliation here – as the album generally strongly pinpoints and addresses important issues. However, this album is not only about Poland – four songs are devoted to our motherland, while the rest are related to the world and to love. I am not pretending to be a punk and I do care a lot about my country. I can see a lot of paranoia in what is happening and I am for reconciliation. May no clash occur…

At the same time, I try to be responsible for what I say. We release an album with songs and anyone can buy it. It would be strange for me to pretend that “it wasn’t me”. I have always treated my lyrics seriously and it is still the same. While preparing lyrics to be used with this album, I did it really quickly. It took us four years to make Old is Gold and its music had existed long before the lyrics were written. This time I also did not have anything for a long time and then my mind suddenly opened up. From February to May I wrote seventeen songs – one of them is John Porter’s. The last three tracks on the album are a kind of a trilogy related to Poland: Marsz, Ostatni gasi światło and Kwartyrnik. These are songs that are strongly focused on what is “here and now”. I know that people expect some message from me and I’m not going to write about just anything – I can’t even do that. It sometimes happens that some lyrics seem to make no sense after a while – for example, Bum Kassandra originally had completely different lyrics. However, generally speaking, I instantly write the final versions of my songs.

The world is taking a turn that we don’t know what is going to happen next. There is too much of everything and people’s greed is incredible. We don’t know who rules the world – is it countries or perhaps the two hundred richest people? Everything is changing so quickly that we cannot stay up to date with the changes. I used to know what people listened to or watched, only judging by the way they dressed, but it’s a thing of the past. Music is just one of many areas of interest for young people and it is not the most important one at all.

Isn’t it so that people nowadays listen to music more than ever before?
MM: They do, but the function of music has changed – now it’s usually just “wallpaper” which doesn’t change people’s lives or points of view.

MS: I once went to an HMV store in London and wanted to buy myself something that would hit me hard and blow off my mind, something strong. I asked a young buddy with fifteen earrings for it and he gave me albums of such bands as Thirty Seconds to Mars… some kind of a joke. Next to him there was another assistant, a hippie with dreadlocks, who saw the other one was not giving me anything sensible. Some indie, but pure plastic, even for a youngster… After my unsuccessful conversation with the young buddy, the hippie came to me and said he knew what I was looking for – an album that would turn my life upside down and change my whole world. He said he could only recommend the new Noel Gallagher album to me, as it’s cool, but it doesn’t change anything. And it is so. You’ll no longer find Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, London Calling or Dark Side of The Moon on the shelves. The end. There are no more albums that might shape us. Of course, I know something has to change in music, I’m no old man. However, it does not change anything in us.

So, why are you releasing a new album in such a world?
To demonstrate how we think and show that we seriously treat our audience. We are following our musical path and the album is not being released because of any contract. Fucking shit, it’s not about making money at any cost, but about releasing something that has accumulated in us. We have to get rid of it.

Let’s return to sound – we are constantly repeating that this is a strong, loud album…
JG: I think that the Bauta loudspeakers that I designed helped us a lot to create the sound of this album...

MS: The bass, the keyboard… Anyway, we have already tested some of the songs during concerts and received really positive feedback.

JG: Ambience that we get thanks to using the Decca Tree had an important role in the case of the Old is Gold album, but here I did not play with phase too much. There are certain flavors added and I pray that nothing goes wrong when the vinyl recordings are prepared. I wanted to hit hard, but also convey information. There’s a track in which a police car enters and the klaxon is in counter-phase – one can hear it in the background. If you listen to it in your car, you’ll definitely brake, as you will think the police is stopping you. Despite such an enormous amount of information, it is still a very strong and loud recording which sounds good when it’s played really loud.

MS: It’s a very modern album, but not one that enforces modernity. We have just become mature enough to do certain things and we’re comfortable with that. There’s an excellent duo with John Porter, there is also Sławek Łosowski from the original line-up of the Kombi band who played atmospheric things on the keyboard in two of our songs. Additionally, there are also strong guitars. I think we’re not fucking things up and that this is a good album for the year 2016, with the necessary POWER.

MM: But even when you turn it down, it still “bites” and beats the shit out your ears…

Thanks for the conversation, it is going to be an excellent album!
MS: We also think so, but time will tell :)


1988: Miejscowi Live | Klub Płytowy Razem/Polton
1989: Wychowanie | Polskie Nagrania
1991: Pocisk miło¶ci | Arston
1992: King | Baron Records
1992: Dzieci Rewolucji 1982-92 | Pomaton EMI
1994: I Love You | Pomaton EMI
1994: Prymityw | Pomaton EMI
1996: Al Capone | Pomaton EMI
1997: Chłopaki nie płacz± | Pomaton EMI
1999: Antyidol | Pomaton EMI
2001: Model 01 | Pomaton EMI
2003: T.LIVE | Pomaton EMI
2006: I Hate Rock'n'Roll | EMI Music Poland
2012: Old is Gold | EMI Music Poland
2016: T. Love | WARNER Music Poland

Record label:

WARNER Music Poland

ul. Osmańska 11 | 02-823 Warszawa


T.LOVE: Muniek Staszczyk and Maciek “Majcher” Majchrzak, i.e. BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR EARS is the third interview in a miniseries that I conducted during three days at the JG Master Lab studio. The first one, entitled I Love… Marek Sierocki, was published in the September issue of HF (No. 149, read HERE), the second one, Emade, czyli (s)tworzyciel – was published on October 16th (No. 150, read HERE).