Robert Piernikowski is a paradoxical man – a rapper loved by punk-rockers and mocked in hip-hop circles, completely unappreciated in Poland but able to attract large crowds to his concerts in the Czech Republic and perform at such large festivals as Barcelona's Primavera and New York's Unsound. The vocalist from Napszyklat, Robert Piernikowski, released his solo debut album in 2012.
Rapper loved by punk-rockers and mocked in hip-hop circles, completely unappreciated in Poland but able to attract large crowds to his concerts in the Czech Republic and perform at such large festivals as Barcelona's Primavera and New York's Unsound.
On Się Żegnaj, the artist returns to the world of his childhood psychoses, household games, and finally to his native town of Świnoujście. This is an image taken from the memory of an overly sensitive boy who today is an ambitious producer and rapper known mainly to aficionados of alternative guitar music, and a creator of linguistic weaves analysed by foreigners.
Świnoujście was a special area to grow up in. The constant presence of the humming sea is what influenced me the most. That’s where the humming in my music is from. I know that the distance to other towns and the isolation of the island also did their share. And all those post-German remnants, the collection of visitors that brings to mind the Wild West, and every year the tourists and… the wild boars that show up in town – reminisced Piernikowski in a conversation with Culture.pl.
He left his native town in 2000. He went to Poznań, where he studied social rehabilitation. Poznań and its underground scene offered possibilities that were previously unknown to him. In small basements, like the one in Taczaka Street where the Kisielice club is located, the most interesting local artists exchanged ideas. At one such meeting, Konrad Smoleński – a visual artist and performer who had just graduated form the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts – brought into being the Pink Punk scene. Even though the persons involved with this scene were chiefly punk and hard rockers Piernikowski decided to join this group. His musical world was governed by hip-hop, but even then he didn’t want to limit his options.
Hip-hop is the root from which I stem. I think that hip-hop is much like folk, native music, both of these kinds of music have the same simplicity and authenticity. Hip-hop can also be played by a person sitting on a stool in a kitchen. DOOM showed that at Off Festival, when in a tracksuit, backed by a laptop, he gave the most authentic performance I have seen recently – that’s exactly what I call wonderful folkiness. The vocals-to-music proportion is also a matter of intuition – I know that this proportion results from something, but I don’t want to know the solution to this riddle.
To Piernikowski, hip-hop was not only a catalyst of honest confessions, but also a ticket to the world of incredible sounds. Today, he admits that had he not looked for the right samples for the albums of his original group Napszyklat, he would never have encountered the music of Kwartet Jorgi or the minimalism of Steve Reich.
The broadening of his palette of inspirations resulted in growing critical acclaim and… the increasing consternation of his fans. Piernikowski introduced to Poland the ideas of the enfant terribles of hip-hop: cLOUDDEAD, Cannibal Ox, and Dälek. To Piernikowski’s surprise, his deeply alternative experiments gained him a following abroad. The Czech Republic and Slovakia quickly became important stops on Napszyklat’s tours. Prokop Holoubek, the popular promoter and musician from Brno, became the band's manager, and 2011's album Kultur Shock features guest performances by artists, not only hip-hop ones, from across the southern border.
I quickly realized that to me it’s not the genre that matters, but the characteristic feeling of uneasiness. My music is meant to “do something with your head”. That’s why the interfering elements which are normally cut out - hums and unwanted noises – are important to me. There’s no chance to listen to music in sterile conditions in this world. There are always “other” sounds around somewhere. I like to give them the greatest significance. The same goes for words. They most often are "superfluous” and "unnecessary” thoughts and stories – explains Piernikowski.
2012 was a year of hard work for him. Piernikowski and Marek Karolczyk performed as a duo at the New York Unsound festival and at the Spanish Primavera festival. Even more important things were going on in the studio. Napszyklat began to work on an album with MC Dälek, an avant-garde rapper and a key figure of the New York scene. Piernikowski also published two albums under his own name.
The duo which he forms with the Szczecin producer Przemysław Etamski takes listeners on a surprise-filled voyage to the world of concrete music, improvisation and ambient noise. The collaboration which resulted in the album Live at Kisielice (download this record at: http://piernikowskietamski.bandcamp.com/) will soon be summed up by a studio album. On the other hand, Piernikowski’s solo debut album Się Żegnaj is similar to Napszyklat’s productions, but on features more personal lyrics and signs that the artist from Świnoujście is tired of compact rhythms.
When I was working on my solo project, I shut myself in my three-by-two metre room. I hardly saw anyone, and maybe that’s where this neurotic self-presentation came from. I said “maybe” because my work method is based on intuition. At first, I create for myself an area of inner potentiality and afterwards I move across it unconsciously. When I work with other musicians I can’t access these areas. And vice versa. Alone, I can’t create a group ritual, which to me is probably the biggest value in music. These are two parallel ways. I can’t function without one or the other.
Piernikowski plans to work intensely for the near future. He will release, together with Przemysław Etamski, a studio album after a joint concert by the two musicians which will be held at the Kraków Unsound festival. After a fruitful experience with the world of theatre (music for the play Who Killed Alona Ivanova / Kto zabił Alonę Iwanową by Michał Kmiecik), the artist decided that he would share some of his inner neuroses with theatrical circles. This will be beneficial for all, even for those who at first will feel a little perplexed.
Author: Jan Błaszczak, October 2012
Translated by: Marek Kępa