Jarun: Auditory Entreaties Immersed in Death and Madness
Jarun is a vibrantly progressive collective from the rich and desolate landscapes of Poland, whose adventurous sonic tapestries are wondrous to behold. Presenting their own exquisite take on black metal laced with folk and alternative influences, the Jarun experience is infinitely submerged with a compelling amount of imagination and intrigue. As guitarist and founding member Jakub “Zagreus” Olchawa has described in the interview below, the world of Jarun is immersed in death and madness, and it’s a journey music aficionados will want to revisit time and again. Read on for dark enlightenment on Jarun and their compelling new album Sporysz, now available from the Arachnophobia Records stronghold…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Jarun, and how long the band has been in existence.
Hi. My name is Jakub “Zagreus” Olchawa. I am Jarun’s guitarist and at the same time – the main composer and author of all the lyrics. I’m also the only original member of Jarun in the current line-up – I’m there from the very beginning 😉 Jarun was created around 2008, maybe a little earlier. It is difficult to determine a specific date at this time. Initially, it was supposed to be only my solo project. I just wanted to play some music, and, as I had a lot of free time, I started to create new compositions. At some point, however, I found out that I miss the atmosphere of the real band, the rehearsals and the stage lights, to which I got used to while playing in my previous bands. Therefore, I decided to transform the solo project into a normally functioning band. I invited a few old friends, I found a young, talented drummer, and that’s how in the end of 2010 Jarun was born in its present shape. We started to rehearse, the first concert proposals appeared, and above all, we started recording the debut album, which finally was released in 2012.
Where are you based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
Initially, the band functioned in Nowy Sącz. This is a quite small, old town located in a beautiful area, at the foot of the Carpathians, and at the same time – my homeland. Unfortunately, because of some life turmoil and changes in the line-up of the band, we were forced to move to Cracow. As it is a much bigger city, it certainly helped us to unfold our wings; it was easier to find replacements for the members of the band who decided to leave us, it also allowed us to make new contacts. Relocation had a very positive impact on the band, but despite this, I sometimes miss my mountains and forests 😉
The Cracow’s scene is very strong and diversified. This is a city with a long, centuries-old music tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, a city full of excellent classical musicians, jazz musicians, etc. But I understand that you are particularly interested in a metal scene. Cracow has something to be proud of as well in this regard. I would even say that in recent years the Cracow’s scene has become the strongest in Poland. With bands such as Decapitated and Mgła, we really have something to be proud of. In addition to these larger names, there is also a whole mass of less well-known but equally excellent bands, which already gained popularity in the underground, or still wait for their chances. Outre, Mord’A’Stigmata, Redemptor, Cień, Ragehammer … dozens of bands and projects. Of course, I focus on bands of the genres most familiar to me, black or death metal. Apart from them, there is also a whole range of other bands of other subgenres of heavy music.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the title Sporysz?
As you probably know, “sporysz” (eng. ergot) is a species of parasitic fungus occurring on cereal grains. It contains a highly toxic alkaloid, and consumption of it can cause hallucinations, madness and even death. Nowadays it occurs rarely, but in medieval Europe there were cases in which whole villages fell into collective madness due to the consumption of ergot-contaminated bread. Fatal cases were also quite common.
I decided to use it as a metaphor of modern times, the whole world immersed in death and madness. This is a concept that I’ve had in mind from the very beginning of this band’s existence. Death, sadness, madness, melancholy – all of them expressed in a metaphorical language referring to nature, natural phenomena, changes of the seasons…
“Sporysz” is not a concept album, the individual songs are not related to each other, but they share common atmosphere, a common language that connects them with each other.
I think that maybe it’s a high time to finally provide English translations of my lyrics in order to enable non-Polish fans to get to know them. The lyrics play very important role in our art and I would like to share them with the widest possible group of recipients.
Select any two songs from Sporysz and what inspired the lyrics?
A few of the songs on this album are something that I call “impressional lyrics”. This is a record of my inner experiences related to what I saw, what I observed wandering in the mountains and forests, looking out the window, or even driving a car. It is a kaleidoscope of more or less interesting pictures that somehow emotionally moved me, that stayed in my memory, made me think deeper. The tip of a tiny fir tree emerging from under the snow, a building of rooks flying over the surface of the winter river, the light reflecting off the clouds at dusk…
Most of this type of references you can find in the song “Powidoki“. Its title itself says a lot, as in English it is “afterimages”. And that’s what it is about. Afterimages that still lie under my eyelids, that have fallen into my heart and each time I recall them, they touch me with the same intensity.
For a moment, I planned to title a whole album “Powidoki” (Afterimages), but at the same time, there was a premiere of the last movie by Andrzej Wajda, a famous Polish director, Oscar winner for Lifetime Achievement. This movie was entitled “Powidoki”, so I changed my mind in terms of Jarun’s album title. I didn’t want anyone to think that in any way I was inspired by this, that I could have taken the title from there.
A similar atmosphere to this of “Powidoki” appeared, for example, in “Wichry“. The idea of these lyrics appeared in my mind at an extremely windy November night, during a lonely walk. It is a very impressional lyric. But of course, apart from these descriptions of impressions and feeling, in each of our songs, there is some leading thought, main topic – death, sadness, nonconformity, misanthropy … It’s how I see them, but everyone can interpret it in their own way .
Who did the cover art for Sporysz and how much input did you have on it?
The cover and the entire graphic design of the album were created by our former bassist, Damian “Radogost” Szpiłyk. From the very beginning of the band’s existence, he has been responsible for this aspect of our activity. My influence on it is not especially significant. Usually I’m only suggesting the direction, the general theme, and I leave the rest to Damian. As for the cover for “Sporysz“, all my contribution was limited to some minor suggestions. Oh, and I found this strange mushroom, the picture of which is decorating the inner side of the cover 😉
What could one expect from a live Jarun show?
The changes in the line-up of the band over the past years have caused a lot of changes in our stage appearance as well. Concerts have become more energetic, more spectacular, while maintaining the distinctive mood and atmosphere. We work all the time to make our show more attractive, both from the visual and musical perspective. Perhaps we will introduce some interesting visualizations, additional elements of the stage setting. We’ll see.
But regardless of the visual aspect, people coming to our concerts can be sure that we will do our best, give the 100% out of ourselves. Playing concerts is a lot of fun for us and I think that it can be seen during our performances, even if we have serious looks on the stage, and the music is not really cheerful. A good concert always recharges our batteries, gives us strength to engage in other aspects of the band’s activity and inspires our creativity. As I said, we always do our best, but we also get a lot of energy from fans. This is very important for us.
In recent times, due to changes in the line-up and intensive work on the new material, we have not played too much. We hope that it will change now. We really miss the stage lights.
What was the experience like playing with Skyforger and were you able to meet them at all?
We played with them on the great underground festival in Slovakia, called Noc Besov. There we shared the scene with many great performers, both black metal and purely folk bands playing very traditional old music. Skyforger was one of the stars of the evening, but they were treated equally with other bands and so they behaved. I don’t remember talking to them in particular, but it was not because they were separating themselves from the others in any way, but rather because of my innate unwillingness to make contacts. Privately, I am a rather taciturn and secretive person. I just don’t want to make friends with everyone. I prefer to stay in my comfort zone, surround myself with people I know. Members of my own band are quite enough.
If Jarun could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
It’s a very difficult question. There are many great bands that have influenced my musical development, that inspire me or have inspired me in the past. Performers whom I respect and value and with whom I would very much like to share the scene. Among the contemporary performers, those who are still active, probably Emperor would be in the leading position, as the band which many years ago influenced me very much. I had the pleasure of seeing their concert last year and I must admit that they’re still doing well. I was truly moved and touched. A few other veterans of the Norwegian black metal scene would find themselves high on my list. Enslaved, Solefald, Borknagar, Arcturus … I would also like to share the stage with Gaahl. His current project – Gaahl’s Wyrd makes a really great impression live. I’ve checked 🙂
In addition, there are still a few bands with which I would like to play. Primordial, Rotting Christ, Akercocke, Bölzer…
Of the bands no longer existing, well … there is only one name, but it absolutely beats all the others – Led Zeppelin. I’m not sure however if I would have the courage to appear on the same stage. It would be hard to compete with them and not be eaten alive by the public. I did not have the chance to see LZ live, but their concerts were legendary.
In general, we’re striving to make other bands dream of supporting us, and not the opposite way. We still have a long way to go, but we are definitely not going to give up.
When you look back on your two previous albums, what do you think of them now in retrospect?
I must admit that I don’t come back to them often, but I still like them very much and I consider them to be very good. Each of our albums is slightly different, shows a little altered face of the band, but each is unique and original in its own way.
“Wziemiozstapienie“, our debut album, was based on my old, sometimes very old ideas that have accumulated over the years. Actually it supposed to be the only album of Jarun project. When I started planning its recording, I didn’t think about turning the project into a full-sized band. I just wanted to record my ideas, and later start something new, move in a different direction. It came out completely different, but I don’t regret it. And “Wziemiozstapienie” remains a good record, even after so many years. Its strengths are originality, unique atmosphere and honesty. Looking from a distance, I would probably do a lot of things differently, perhaps better, but I don’t know if it wouldn’t have been harmful to the character of the album.
“Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu” is a much more mature album, more interesting and, who knows, maybe even the best of our works till now. This material is full of really interesting and original ideas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound as good as it should. Because of problems with the line-up (in the middle of the recording session the previous drummer left us), some things were done in a hurry, but in the end we did not avoid big delays anyway. The mix and mastering too didn’t really meet our expectations. Luckily, the sound is not everything, and in every other respect, I consider this album to be a really good job. I am happy with the lyrics, as for me they are very important element of our work. As “Wziemiozstąpienie” lyrics were still quite raw, not fully developed, unfledged – and only on the next material I fully unfolded my wings.
But whatever I think about our previous albums, I still think that the best material is still ahead of us. We’re still looking; we’re still exploring new music paths. Time will show exactly where it will take us. The material for the fourth album is already being made…
What is your favorite beer of choice and why?
I would not call myself an exceptional enthusiast or an expert on beer. Although I do not deny that sometimes I like to drink one or two. A few years ago, before the “beer revolution” developed for good, it was hard for me to find a beer that would fully satisfy my tastes. The most popular, typical lagers, produced by large corporations are for me undrinkable garbage. I definitely preferred some good wine, fine whisky, gin, or cider. Fortunately, in recent years a lot has changed. Small breweries, producing interesting beers, in small quantities and according to original recipes, have made me reach for these types of products more often. If I have to choose, I definitely prefer wheat beers, refreshing, slightly sour “witbiers”. On the other hand, I also like heavy, dark beers, especially made with an addition of honey. I would also not refuse to have some American Pale Ale, brewed from Cascade hops.
What is it you’d like to listener to remember most after hearing Sporysz the first time?
Definitely its originality. I think that this is our trademark. This element has always been of huge importance for me. Not only from musician’s perspective, but also for me as a fan. When I was looking for new music, I always paid attention to its originality first. I like and respect only those performers who have the courage to look for their own ways, who are able to work out their own style, are not afraid of risk. I do not understand the phenomenon of many bands that gain popularity being nothing but skillful artisans and imitators of other people’s ideas. Why should I listen to a band that sounds like Darkthrone, if I can listen to the original? Why should Bathory’s followers amaze me, since the original is still better? Unfortunately, this is a very frequent phenomenon recently.
Of course, I am not thinking only about originality in terms of music, about creating riffs, which no one has invented before, about the pointless complicating of music. This is not a good way; it usually leads to works that are difficult to digest, often even inaudible.
Originality could be also a specific mood, a unique atmosphere, an original approach to music as such. I think that this is the very thing that distinguishes Jarun from the other performers, which make a distinction between “Sporysz” and other albums of the metal bands. And, I hope, the listeners will remember that after the first contact with our material. I hope they could have a feeling that they were dealing with something original and unconventional, and therefore difficult to ignore.
Any final words of wisdom?
Don’t be afraid to think. Look for your own ways and paths. Never stop searching.
Mateusz Kujawa – vocals
Marcin “Pazuzu” Pazera – drums
Dawid Wierzbicki – bass
Krzysztof “Gambit” Stanisz – guitars
Jakub “Zagreus” Olchawa – guitars
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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