wtorek, 2 grudnia 2014

Rock in the bog . Jacek Żędzian for Pangea Magazine

photo Emilia Kossakowska
Polisz Czart, the music broadcast that I have been hosting in the Isles for nearly three years now, promotes numerous cultural initiatives. Not only do we support the music publishers and music events, such as concerts, but also, for the first time in our history, the Polisz Czart will have a pleasure of hosting one of the biggest and most important rock events in Poland: Rock in the Bog. This is a nice opportunity to introduce our listeners and the readers of Music Travel blog to the man who for the last 5 years, has, in his own words, skillfully omitted all dangers and traps, and navigated his way through the bog. It is thanks to him that for the fifth time we may participate in the dancing and singing madness in the scenic Podlasie region. Jacek Żędzian, organizer of the Polish punk-rock festival Rock in the Bog, sits down for a chat with Sławek Orwat.

- Everyone from the Polish underground knows who Jacek Żędzian is. How has your legend started? How did music appear in your life, and what is so special about Mońki town, where it all began?

- You have already improved my mood considerably, a “legend”, haha. Music has always been present in my life, because my mom had quite a collection of vinyl records. I could listen to many legendary Polish artists, such as Maryla Rodowicz, Jarema Stępowski, Krzysztof Krawczyk, Alibabki band… And then, by the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, Western music arrived in Poland. It was then that I started to listen to Boney M., Eruption, Afric Simone, Bee Gees, and discovered rock bands, such as Nazareth, Saxon and Deep Purple. Again, only then did I find something that intrigued me deeply.

photo Andrzej Talewicz
It was the band called Sex Pistols. I found out that this weird, coarse, intriguing music is punk rock. And it all started making sense. The Damned, UK Subs, Exploited, Chelsea… every new band gave me goose bumps. With time, I realized what has drawn me to punk rock/new wave—it encompasses many musical and ideological forms, from New York Dolls through Ian Dury, Billy Brag, GBH, Joy Division, New Model Army, till Doom, Extreme Noise Terror, Crass, 4 Skins, Bad Barains, Minor Threat or even Napalm Death. I also came to the conclusion that life is too short to bother oneself with any other type of music (laughter). The town of Mońki influenced my music taste in a way, as well, since this was the place where the first punk rock band was created in the Podlasie region. The band was called WS 666, and they played in the 70s and the 80s. In the 90s, Mońki boasted dozens of bands, and I was a member of one of them myself, for about 15 years.

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- Podlasie region supposedly has a unique charm, not found anywhere else in Poland. Where does it come from?

- From its nature. We have the immense marshes, the primeval forest, and the abundance of clean rivers and quite a number of places untouched by human hand. I think, these are gifts to be cherished along with our cuisine and the cultural and religious diversity. All this makes our region unique.

- How did it happen that five years ago Paweł Pogorzelski and Piotr Znaniecki decided to create an important rock festival? It does not happen very often nowadays that such ideas come from politicians. As far as I know, usually, the musicians themselves have to do their waiting and begging to convince the higher ups to their idea, and are often misunderstood by the other side (laughter)?

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- Piotr Znaniecki has never been a real bureaucrat; he is a professed ecologist and an ex-punk who works in his own association Agro-Group, and cooperates with Zawady Commune in the meantime. Coincidentally, Paweł Pogorzelski was a mayor of Zawady at the time, and he was quite skilled at obtaining European funds for the interesting initiatives. Once an opportunity came to have funds for a rock festival, Piotr saw it, took it, and convinced Paweł that such festival should be held in the Zawady community. All went according to the plan. But they had no experience in organizing such events, and looked for a person crazy enough to do this – a kamikaze – they found me. As you can see, I didn’t have to go anywhere nor convince anyone because “the higher up” – Paweł Pogorzeslki – was favorably disposed from the very beginning.

- Rock in the Bog is a landmark not only on the musical map of Poland; it also played an important part in improving Polish-Lithuanian relations. Would you like to comment on that?

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- The first two editions of the festival aimed at consolidating the Polish-Lithuanian friendship, and actually that was the reason why we got some of the funds. In 2010 and 2011, we had over 20 bands from Lithuania, such as IR, SAINT OIL SAND, KATEDRA, WOZU, THUNDERTALE, SPENGIMAS, SANATORIJA… About 30% of the audience was also Lithuanian, and personally, I finally got to visit Vilnius (laughter). We are bound to go back to this theme, and invite some more Lithuanian bands.

photo Karol Michalak
- Film screenings, photo and graphics exhibitions and meetings with the legends of Polish rock are only some of the sidekicks offered by Rock in the Bog. What will the highlights of the next year’s edition be?

- Other than attending concerts and visiting Biebrza National Park or Osowiec Fortress, the festival guests, as always, may expect a variety of attractions, such as meetings with musicians and book authors, exhibitions, films… There will be no time for boredom.

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- Janusz Stasiak, the leader of Korpus, a prominent 80s band, has been openly talking about my part in reactivating his group. You have some reasons to be proud as well. What was your role in reactivating the legendary TZN Xenna, and what other reactivations have you helped?

- The idea to reactivate TZN XENNA was born during the first edition of RnB. “Zygzak” was invited to host the punk day at the festival, and „Dynia” was there because he played drums at the time in CYTADELA.

photo Andrzej Talewicz
I figured, since there they were, we might as well talk about the reactivation. Some other people present at the festival wouldn’t drop the subject either. At first, Zygzak and Dynia were resistant, Zygzak especially, but I wouldn’t give up. I pursued the subject after the festival as well, and after a few weeks, it paid off. The band started having rehearsals, to get ready to play at the next RnB. Initially it was supposed to be their only concert, but in the end, they decided to carry on, and play together till this very day.

photo Marek Nowicki
Other reactivations that I prompted, or at least helped with, were: TEMPELHOF, 4 KOPNIĘTYCH I FRED, and ZŁOŚLIWY ANEMIK. What’s more, Darek Dusza came back to the punk stage especially for the RnB, with the band RED ACTION. „Jakób” once mentioned to me that THE CORPSE’s come back was also to some degree related to the possibility of playing at RnB. POCESSS – so far – has played with us only once, and the well known photographer of the 1980s, Andrzej Talewicz, has also become active once more thanks to us; we organized an exhibition of his photos from old concerts… there were quite a few to display (laughter).

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- After one year break, in 2013 Rock in the Bog was set in a new, but very scenic setting, and under new auspices. How did you power through the crisis that you had to struggle with in 2012, and how did you manage to find some new benefactors and allies?

- One day, when I was thinking where to set up the festival after we lost the venue in Strękowa Góra, and the failure of 2012 edition in Żółtki, I had a visitor, Krzysztof Falkowski, whom I have known since childhood, and with whom I organized some events in the 1990s.

photo Karol Michalak
He used to play in some local metal and hardcore bands, but at some point he chose a career in politics, and he became a chairman of Moniecki district. At this time our paths parted. But as a chairman, he once mentioned to his colleague, Robert Sidorski, the idea of moving the festival to Moniecki district. The idea got the support from Joanna Kulikowska, another prominent politician in the region. They were the ones who helped me contact the Foundation for the Development of Moniecki District, now the official organizer of the festival. I am a member of its managing board. Initially, we planned for the third edition of RnB to take place in Osowiec Fortress, but after visiting the mayor of Goniądz, Tadeusz Kulikowski, we chose the banks of Biebrza river in his town – and it was the right choice! Quite a lot of people work at the festival now, and I’d say, the work is going pretty well. The core of the staff are Anna Porębska and Sebastian Kulikowski. There are quite a few other valuable coworkers. I’m really grateful for my team.

photo Andrzej Talewicz
- This year’s edition of Rock in the Bog won the title of “the best initiative for culture and national heritage”, awarded by the head of the region. What’s more, the regional tourist board and the local Marshall Office called your event “one of the 10 best tourist products of the voivodeship”. After such a spectacular success can you finally breathe a sigh of relief and say that the crisis will never fall upon your noble initiative again?

- I hope that the awards will finally draw a serious sponsor, without which we are always facing a threat of crisis. Gathering funds for a festival is a tough and arduous job, it is also quite stressful, as we always take some risk on our shoulders.

- Even though punk-rock dominates Rock in the Bog, you invite all kinds of bands. What styles will we be able to hear next year?

- Other than punk-rock in all its forms, we’ll have some reggae, ska, psychobilly, rock n roll, metal…

photo Karol Michalak
- The previous question was a prelude to the next one: in 2010, in Strękowa Góra, there was a concert of the heavy metal Lithuanian band, Katedra. In Poland a hippie-psychodelic band of the same name from Wrocław has gained some popularity. Don’t you think it would be interesting to ask both of them to perform?

- Haha, not a bad idea, but the waiting list is long, I think we have enough eager bands for the next 10 years (laughter). The bands you’ve mentioned have not applied so far.

photo Karol Michalak
- Do you know already what bands will play next year, on July 3 and 4, on the river banks in Goniądz, or is the question still open?

- I have the preliminary plan, a rough copy with names of the bands that applied to perform, but the list is not going public for a while. I need to be certain. I can only say that 30 bands will play in 2 days!

- What do you do besides working hard to ensure the success of the next RnB? How do you find time to fulfill all your obligations?

photo Karol Michalak
- For the last 20 years, I have been many things: a postman, a security guard, a sales assistant, a counselor, a sales representative. Now, I am a pencil pusher at the City Office in Mońki. After hours I’m a husband and a father dealing with everyday tasks, and in between, I focus on organizing the festival, which is, really, a year round project.

- Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?

- Yes. Reactivating SIEKIERA with Budzy and Adamski (laughter).

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