The band was founded by sampler Mariusz ‘Denat’ Denst, singer, guitarist and songwriter Hubert ‘Spięty’ Dobaczewski, drummer Michał ‘Dimon’ Jastrzębski, guitarist Michał Warzycki and keyboard player Filip ‘Wieża’ Różański. The band’s predecessor was a group called Koli – in fact, Lao Che was formed during the recording of their only album, Szemrany (Shady, trans. MG), which even included a song entitled Lao Che. Koli did not gain popularity, even though the group performed the then popular hip-hop. However, Dobaczewski, Jastrzębski, and Denst had a heavy metal past behind them. Dobaczewski had previously performed with Aberration, Jastrzębski with Darkside and Stonehenge, and Denst with Hazael, with whom he recorded the album Thor in 1994. That is why Szemrany was not received well by the hip-hop scene, which considered Koli to be outsiders who did not belong to the community.
Lao Che was neither a continuation of the old heavy metal fascinations of Dobaczewski, Jastrzębski and Denst, nor an expansion of the hip-hop themes presented on Szemrany. They created their own style, in which rock, folk and even an actor’s song and elements of radio plays met. Their first three albums took the form of concept albums – each one highlighted a specific theme. The band’s initial exploration resulted in the release of Gusła, (in Polish ‘gusła’ are magical rites related to summoning ghosts) focused on the Polish Middle Ages. The originality of Lao Che, expressed among others by the use of Eastern Slavic neologisms in the lyrics, was noticeable already on their first album. A new member of the band, bass player Rafał ‘Żubr’ Borycki took part in the recordings, and after the recording session, Warzycki was replaced by Jakub ‘Krojc’ Pokorski. A year later the line-up of the band was extended by the drummer Maciej ‘Trocki’ Dzierżanowski.
Their next album did even better. Powstanie Warszawskie (Warsaw Uprising) was devoted to the 1944 rebellion of Warsaw’s citizens. Lao Che told the story in an ambitious, modern and non-stereotypical way, skilfully introducing the spirit of those times into their pieces. In order to accomplish this, they used microphones from the era, but also sampled in fragments of speeches (among others by General Władysław Sikorski) or poems by Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński and Zbigniew Jasiński. The recordings were enriched with quotations from rock songs of such bands as Siekiera, Izrael, and KSU. The album turned out to be a breakthrough in the history of Lao Che – it became one of the top Polish rock bands. Its uniqueness has been noticed both by journalists (Gazeta Wyborcza recognised the release of their album as the most important event in Polish music in 2005, and Przekrój quarterly placed it among their top five albums of the year) and listeners (album of the year in Polish Radio Three and the ‘Złoty Bączek’ audience award from the 2005 Woodstock Festival).
Powstanie Warszawskie was nominated for the Fryderyk Award in the alternative music category. It was also appreciated by the directors of the Warsaw Uprising Museum – Lao Che performed there twice in 2006: first during the Night of Museums event and then during the celebrations of the 61st anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising. The second concert was later released on a DVD entitled Koncert: Powstanie Warszawskie. In 2010, the musicians received an award for outstanding Warsaw residents working for the development of the capital from the City Council of Warsaw. Over the next two years, Lao Che performed at the most important Polish festivals, including Woodstock Festival, Off Festival in Mysłowice, and Wrocław festivals Przegląd Piosenki Aktorskiej and Last Minute Summer. In April 2007, they went on tour with the band Armia. On 27th July 2013 in Park Wolności, the musicians played songs from Powstanie Warszawskie. The concert was complemented by a 3D projection on the facade of the Warsaw Uprising Museum building. The concert was recorded and released on DVD.
Lao Che’s next album, Gospel (2008), confirmed their position and their great artistic skills. This time, the musicians focused on the relations between man and God. The lyrics were full of interesting word games, and the song Hydropiekłowstąpienie reached the top of Polish Radio Three Hits Chart. Gospel lacked elements of the radio play characteristic for the earlier records of the band, but the music was enriched with elements of jazz, samba and even Jewish music. It is Lao Che’s most popular album – it was successful both commercially (with over thirty thousand copies sold, it received platinum record status) and artistically (awards: Grzegorz Ciechowski Award of the City of Toruń, Mateusz Święcicki Award of the Polish Radio, title of the group of the year on the website infomuzyka.pl). Songs from the album were presented at the biggest festivals: Woodstock, Heineken Open’er in Gdynia, Off, Jarocin, Eko Union Of Rock in Węgorzewo, and Music from the Besieged City in Lublin. The performance at the Woodstock Festival was recorded and released on DVD.
The first release in the history of Lao Che without the main theme was the album Prąd Stały / Prąd Zmienny (Direct Current/Alternating Current). It is a tribute to the music of the 80s. The songs Czas (Time, trans. MG) and Życie Jest Jak Tramwaj (Life Is Like a Tram, trans. MG) were the most popular. The music video for the latter was later recognised as the best at the Yach Film Festival in 2010. However, Prąd Stały / Prąd Zmienny was not as popular as their two previous albums. After its release, the group went on tour, again performing at the biggest festivals, such as Jarocin, Off, Heineken Open’er and Woodstock. In March 2011, the band performed in the UK, and in the summer (without Krojc) they took part in the Męskie Granie tour with such artists as Voo Voo, Lech Janerka, and Leszek Możdżer.
Lao Che’s musicians are also artistically active outside the band. In 2009, Spięty released his solo album Antyszanty (Antishanties, trans. MG). He also performed concerts with Pidżama Porno and Strachy Na Lachy and composed songs for the play Być Jak Kazimierz Deyna (Be Like Kazimierz Deyna, trans. MG), staged in the Wybrzeże Theatre in Gdańsk. In 2010, Krojc recorded the solo album Kid ’78 and a year later, in a duo called Skadja, the album Jest M (Is M, trans. MG). Denat released solo albums as Kanabiplanto and Himillsbach even before joining Lao Che, and Różański performed in 2007-2009 with the group Frutti di Mare, known for their self-titled album.
After the release of Prąd Stały / Prąd Zmienny, inspired by classical film music albums, the band decided to prepare an album which, thanks to its diversity and original concept, would constitute their own Soundtrack. It was produced by Eddie Stevens, a British musician and producer associated with such artists as Moloko, Zero 7, and Roisin Murphy. The result of their work turned out to be an extremely diverse album, where rock, funk, electronics and hip hop mix, complemented by lyrical compositions and improvisations.
In 2015, Lao Che released their next album, Dzieciom (For Children, trans. MG). It was produced by Piotr Emade Waglewski, while Adam Miwiw-Baron and Karol Gola from Pink Freud and Miłosz Pękala (Mitch & Mitch, Kwadrofonik) took part in the recordings. Dzieciom won the 2016 Fryderyk Award in the Rock Album of the Year category. This achievement was repeated by Lao Che’s latest album, Wiedza O Społeczeństwie (Social Studies, trans. MG) in 2019. The album brings in mind the popular music of the eighties, however, the band processed it in their characteristic way, referring to many other musical genres. Piotr Emade Waglewski together with Filip Wieża Różański were once again responsible for the production of the album.
In November 2019, the band announced that it is suspending its activity and that in the first half of 2020 they would go on a farewell concert tour named ‘No to Che’.
- Gusła (CD), 2002, SP Records
- Powstanie Warszawskie (CD), 2005, Ars Mundi
- Koncert. Powstanie Warszawskie (DVD), 2006, Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
- Przystanek Woodstock (DVD), 2008, Złoty Melon
- Gospel (CD), 2008, Antena Krzyku; (LP), 2009, Rockers Publishing
- Prąd Stały/Prąd Zmienny (CD), 2010, Antena Krzyku
- Soundtrack (LP), 2012, Mystic Production
- Lao Che Live – Koncerty w Trójce (CD), 2013, Polskie Radio
- Spektakl Muzyczny: Powstanie Warszawskie (DVD), 2014, Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
- Dzieciom (LP), 2015, Mystic Production
- Wiedza o społeczeństwie (LP), 2018, Mystic Production
- Live POL’AND’ROCK Festival 2018 (CD), 2018, Mystic Production
Originally written in Polish by Leszek Gnoiński, August 2011. Translated and updated by Marcin Gozdanek, December 2019.