No one expects to have a midlife crisis. A person who endures one typically doesn’t realize that they’re wrapped up in an emotional tidal wave until an aggrieved spouse or a concerned friend points it out. By the time it’s over, the sufferer has usually had some significant epiphanies that have changed their life for the better, but the road to that enlightened destination is always rough to navigate.
Riverside singer/bassist Mariusz Duda isn’t having an age-related mental meltdown. Instead, he consciously took one on — that is, he decided to challenge himself to make a difficult but positive change in his life. In other words, Duda is having a midlife “crisis” by his own conscious design. Instead of unwittingly being dragged through mental hell by rampaging emotions, he’s deliberately setting his own course for a personal evolution.
“I didn’t buy a Lamborghini, and I didn’t have an affair with a 25-year-old girl,” says Riverside’s chief songwriter, who turns 40 on Sept. 25. “As a musician and artist, I was a little sick and tired of the amount of the dark music that I recorded recently, so I wanted to change that finally. I would say to myself, “OK, that will be my midlife crisis. I will change myself a little bit into a more positive person [when it comes to making music.]”
Duda and the rest of Riverside explore the consequences of taking life-altering forks in the road on their new album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, which arrives Sept. 4 on Inside Out Music. The Polish progressive rock band sticks to using a conceptual lyrical framework like the one found on 2013’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves, but scales back on the running time of its sprawling, emotive compositions. The music is also far less melancholy than day-dreamy projects like 2003’s Out of Myself.
“On the previous album, I let the people in the lyrics go toward the edge of something; they’re just falling down like lemmings. I didn’t want that this time,” says Duda. “I really wanted to have something positive at the end, so I think something new appeared — something more positive, more bright, more like a message of hope.”
Watch “Love,” the first teaser trailer for Love, Fear and the Time Machine:
The theme of the album is related to transformation and life-changing decisions. What inspired you to focus on that?
I really wanted to do a different album from previous ones with a little bit brighter colors, because last year I did Lunatic Soul, my solo project. It was kind of dark, and I noticed that I’m leaning to the darkness all the time, and I was really tired of this. Maybe not tired, but I just felt, “OK, it’s time for a change.” If I’m creating something that is more positive for the first time, it would be a challenge for me, because recording and doing lots of dark stuff, it was not so difficult to me. So I thought, “OK, it’s time to do something more positive… maybe this is a good moment to finally write something about life-changing decisions.”
I’m a [certain] age, and I should be in a midlife crisis right now, but actually I’m not, because I’m happy. There were times when I was not, so I really wanted to create something like a self-help book: how to change your life, how to change yourself into a better person, or something like that. I wanted that kind of theme [for] the album, to create something that has the power that forces you to at least think about your life, about something that you can change for better.
When you face a life-altering decision, how do you tend to handle it? Do you deal with it head on, or do you analyze and procrastinate and then decide what to do?
Actually, that’s my transition. I think I was more, first and foremost, an observer, and maybe all my lyrics so far have been from the perspective of someone who is closed inside of his shell, and he has problems with relationships and other things, but now it’s like he probably is a little bit tired of [that], and now he wants to finally be happy. This is something also connected with me, because… I have this melancholy soul, this lunatic soul, if I can say that, but I actually would like to say something in a more positive way.
Watch the lyric video for Love, Fear and the Time Machine track “Discard Your Fear”:
What happened that made you want to emerge from that shell? Was it merely the decision to try to get past it, or did something push you?
There’s a [personal] part of me in the lyrics, and there are lyrics connected with not only myself. But basically, it’s the whole process of, a transition should have a happy ending, and what happens next, I don’t know. (Laughs.) At the end of this process, at the end of this self-help book, there is finally something positive. I hope that it doesn’t mean the next Riverside [album] would be like I start singing about the flowers and happy sunshine — not at all, because I am still full of melancholy, and I like those kinds of tunes. But as I said before, that is something new for me, and I wanted to try this.
The album’s first song is “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?).” Is the last song, “Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching),” about making that positive change?
Yeah … You can’t blame anyone or anything for your own failures. Everything that is important is within you. You need to find it within you and make some deal with yourself. I think this is the best part of this, and when you find yourself when you’re young — what do you want from life, where do you want to go, how do you want to live — that’s the most important thing that you can do in your life: You can feel happy, finally. The end of this album, I think, the hero is finally happy.
These days, when you ask someone, “Are you happy?” or “What do you want to do in your life?,” there’s always answers like, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do this.” OK, go back to my question again: “What do you want to do in your life? Are you happy with your life? What do you want to do to be happy?” And lots of people simply say, “I don’t know.” They know what they don’t want to do, but they don’t know what they want to do. So, I think finding yourself just takes you some time to realize and to understand. And unfortunately, you need to waste lots of time and you need to lose yourself many times to finally realize what you really want. And this album, I hope that my hero who was stuck in a cage and in all these shells on all previous Riverside albums can at least finally be happy.