Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Lech Janerka: People treat me like a curiosity

Lech Janerka is one of the most appreciated Polish rock artists. In 1979, he founded the now cult band Klaus Mitffoch. The group created, among others: such songs as “Beware of These Places”, “Klus Mitroh”, “Śmielej”, “Jezu, jak miłość” or “Ewolucja, rewolucja, ja”. Many of the song’s lyrics were veiled criticism of the then ruling regime. The band recorded one album and disbanded in the fall of 1984.

In 1986, Janerka returned to the stage with a band bearing his name. His achievements include, among others: such songs as “Lola”, “Bicycle”, “Niewalczyk”, “Paraguay”, “It’s like heaven” and “This game is not for girls”.

At the end of last year, quite unexpectedly, the artist released a new album – “Plaster cast of a forgery”. He will promote it with a concert tour around the largest Polish cities. Janerka’s concerts will take place on March 23 in Wrocław (National Forum of Music), April 20 in Łódź (Wytwórnia), April 27 in Warsaw (Stodoła), May 10 in Poznań (CK Zamek), May 16 in Gdańsk (Shakespeare Theatre), May 31 in Bielsko-Biała (Cavatina Hall), and the tour will end with a concert in Krakow on September 7 (Juliusz Słowacki Theater).

Before the start of the tour, the artist talked to the Polish Press Agency.

PAP: What will this year’s concerts look like? Will you play only new songs or also songs by Klaus Mitffoch?

Lech Janerka: – Our previous concerts were constructed on the principle of contrast – at the beginning, like the custodians of Klaus Mitffoch’s repertoire, we played harder songs, then the music flowed rather calmly. We tried to create the atmosphere of wading through the fumes. There are a lot of sleepy songs on the last album, so we want to play a very calm concert – we will take songs from the new album and mix them with those from the old repertoire.

You have been an important figure in Polish rock for 40 years. How do you remember concerts from the 80s?

– I didn’t like concerts very much, and I still don’t like them, but that’s the requirement – if you release an album, you have to play on stage. Those concerts were different, I didn’t say a word, we played song after song, very intensely, it was primarily a transmission of distant energy. The only song that gave me a chance to rest was “Beware of These Places”. The rest was a lot of power.

The new album “Gipsowy odlew falsyfikatu” was released 18 years after the previous one. Did this material have to mature so much?

– We recorded the music quite quickly, it took more time to write the lyrics. It went on and on. Four years ago I started mixing the album in my home studio. It was a new experience for me, I had to learn many things. This took a while too. I didn’t feel pressure, I worked calmly.

How do you look at this album three months after its release? How do you rate him?

– This album is different from my previous ones. I didn’t change the tone of my voice, but I started thinking about music a little differently. For me it is still too early to judge. I think it will take at least half a year for me to get used to this material.

Are you surprised by such a positive reception of this album by listeners, reviewers and the media?

– Honestly, I’m surprised by her reception. I finished it somewhat out of a sense of duty.

What were the beginnings of your fascination with music?

– Hilarious – in the second grade of high school, it turned out that you should listen to some music, because this was how you identified with a specific group of peers. At that time I had no idea about music. My friend said “this is a huge omission”, brought me a large bag of sound postcards and a record player. I listened to these albums over the holidays and suddenly it turned out to be a huge world that sucked me in and didn’t want to let me go. After the holidays, I returned the records and the record player, but I realized that the school could borrow a guitar, which I did. By strumming, I quickly mastered the first basic chords.

It gave me the basis to write songs. Then I wrote the song “Bicycle” and a large fragment of “Chyba” – a song that I recorded now. It was 1970. Back then I had interesting ideas, but I couldn’t implement them properly. However, they stuck in my head somewhere and years later I came back to them on subsequent albums. The real excuse to play was the creation of the Klaus Mitffoch band. According to my friends, my guitar playing wasn’t very impressive, so I was relegated to the role of bass player in the band. So I played bass and sang. This is how it continues to this day. Sometimes I allow myself little excursions and, for example, on the last album I played some of the material on an acoustic guitar.

You are also a lyricist. What shaped you in this sphere?

– There was a lot of it, but mainly things that were dense and essential, for example Stanisław Lem and Jorge Luis Borges. I didn’t read poetry, but I absorbed a whole lot of different books, not paying attention to the titles or authors. I treated it like a drug. While reading, side plots were triggered in my head. Sometimes it happened that I did not remember what I had read, but I remembered my digressions and later what I wrote resulted from them.

You once called yourself “the holy cow of Polish rock”. Do you still consider yourself one?

– When I look at what I did, I think that there were interesting things, but not very often. For some time now, the feedback on what I’ve been doing has been nice but strange. I probably get positive marks for adverse possession. For years of service. I’ve been around for over 40 years, so I guess they treat me more like a curiosity than someone who’s moving things forward.

When was the last time you went on tour?

– The real tour is probably with Klaus Mitffoch. I played a lot of shows after that, but I hadn’t played a typical tour for years.

What do you think about the new route, do you have any expectations?

– I’ll go on stage and play, we’ll see what comes of it.