The band thought for a long time about the name, and one day Zbyszek Bieniak came across an empty bottle wine named Klosterkeller. That was it. The “legend” goes that Anja changed K for C because she wanted to be higher on all sorts of alphabetical lists.
First concerts took place in small clubs (they played their first official gig in February 1988 at young bands contest in Warsaw). Gradually, they were making themselves “visible” on the music scene.
First line-up change took place - Andrzej Szymanczak (Szczota) became a new drumer, but he was soon replaced by Piotr Bienkowski (Peterek).
Year 1989 was Closterkeller time. They won all most significant music contests in Poland - Mokotowska Jesien, Rock Pokoju in Hala Gwardii (Warsaw), Rock Pod Chelmcem, Odjazdy, and the most important one - Jarocin. They became a fully “professional” band.
Despite the success, there was a small crisis in the band caused by the situation on the music scene, especially the envy of disappointed rivals. Peterek left the band and Szczota came back.
In 1990 their debut album “Purple” came out (Izabelin). Almost as a prophecy of the future technical passion of Anja, the album was the first Polish record released in CD format. The music presented on this album is raw, heavy and slightly depressing but at the same time very spontaneous and full of expression, with Anja’s disturbing lyrics. Lots of fans adore this album to this day, others say it was poor… But that’s how it all started.
The band was already acknowlegded as rock stars, mostly thanks to Anja’s marvelous voice and charisma, as well as unique climate of their songs and the image.
In 1991 another line-up change took place. Andrzej Szymanczak left Closterkeller again and the band looked for a new drummer for quite a long time, in the meantime trying out drum-machine. Eventually Piotr Pawłlwski (Pawlos, Posejdon) joined the band.
Przemek Guryn went to the States and was replaced by Anja’s old pal Michal Rollinger, graduate of Music College. A couple of guitarists went through Closterkeller, but none was kept for long. Thus, material for the next LP was written by Anja and Wolfgang. First version of “Blue” was deleted. It consisted of the pieces which were released on the final version, but the arrangements were much colder and rawer.
Re-recorded “Blue” was out in 1992 by Polish-German label SPV. Unfortunately, because of somebody’s neglect only English version was released, and in Poland only in MC format. Still, the album was received very well indeed. “Blue” was carefully thought over, dominated by nostalgia, subtlety, and reverie, with some heavier accents too. Anja’s lyrics were a very personal analysis of emotions; from that album on her lyrics became real poetry. Highlights of the album were definitely “Czerwone wino/Vintage Wine”, “Grzech/Sin”, “Jeszcze jeden dzień/Just Another Day)” and beautiful melodic recitation in “Epitafium/Epitaph”.
After the recording session Robert Ochnio and Jacek Skirucha left the band.
Meanwhile, Pawel Pieczynski returned to Poland from a few-year stay in Belgium. In Brussels he cooperated with The Morgan’s Lovers, Fatamorgana and Naufrages du Silence (with the last band he played a tour with Closterkeller in 1991). He became a member of Closterkeller after one rehearsal only… Ha had a great talent and a very unique style of playing. He contributed to a great extent to making of “Agnieszka” - the band’s big hit.
After a serious conflict with Anja, Wolfang left the band and was replaced by Krzysztof Najman - great bass player with metal roots, previously in Charon, Blitzkrieg, Jezabel Jazz. Towards the end of 1992 mini-album “Agnieszka” was released - it consisted of tracks from “Blue” sung in Polish plus new pieces, recorded with the new line-up. In the years to come Paweł and Krzysiek, both very gifted and original musicians, created Closterkeller music.
A video clip was shot to the title song, to Anja’s screenplay. It won the grand prix at Polish Videoclips Festival in Sopot.
In November 1992 Anja marries Krzysztof. Next album is recorded by Anja being 8 and 9 months pregnant. Little Adam is born and two months later she finishes work on the new LP.
1993 saw a cult record “Violet”, released by Izabelin/PolyGram Poland. “Violet” is a mystic, dark, album, full of disturbing beauty. It skillfully mixes delicate, atmospheric sounds with heavy, aggressive ones. Anja’s lyrics are more mature and more beautiful; new musicians bring a new “spirit” in the music. Such pieces as “Violette”, “Dwa oblicza Ewy/Eves two faces” and “W moim kraju/In my Country” quickly became classics and are still enthusiastically received live. Beautiful video was shot to “Babeluu” with Anja and her baby Adam.
Anja and Krzysztof didn’t want to part with Adam so the boy “joined” the band for tours and gigs. The following year Closterkeller played loads of concerts, in clubs as well as huge venues, e.g. Spodek in Katowice, where they supported British new wave legend - Cocteau Twins.
Premiere of “Scarlet” took place in the beginning of 1995. It’s the heaviest album in Closterkeller discography, because at that time Krzysiek and Paweł were fascinated by such metal sounds. The album makes one coherent whole and is maintained in the band’s characteristic style, it mixes heavy accents with subtle beauty of keyboards and violins (in 3 songs). All is crowned with Anja’s majestic voice. She sings very dynamically and aggressively in some pieces, in others very softly, with great oriental vocalizations. Lyrics, as usually, describe the world around Anja, they range from melancholic, beautiful ones (“A Ona, Ona/And She, She”, “Śniło/Dreamt”, “Owoce wschodu/Fruit of Orient”) to descriptions of brutality of modern life (“Dlaczego nosze broń/Why I carry a gun”, “California”).
Videos were shot to “Scarlet” and “Owoce Wschodu” (one of the best Polish videos). The band played a very successful tour. Michal Rollinger had to leave Closterkeller for some time due to personal reasons. He was replaced by Dariusz Boral (ex-Mordor) and then by a very talented keyboard player Tomasz Wojciechowski (Mech). They both appeared on the next album, though the material was written by the “old”, four-people line-up.
“Cyan” was released in April 1996. The band turned towards electro sounds. Like every Closterkeller record, the album was a mix of heavy and sweet elements, but it was more peaceful than the previous one, filled with samplers’ analog special effects and new climates. It had a strange, magnetic charm… There were Pawel’s masterful displays supported by strong, characteristic sound of Krzysiek’s bass guitar. Anja sings delicately, her voice building characteristic atmosphere. Lyrics tell of love and fear, of decay, but also mention contemporary political situation in Poland. “Władza/Power” was especially well received by the public and the media; very suggestive video was shot to this piece. But the fans almost unanimously decided that they liked “Cisza w jej domu/Silence In Her Home” and “Smutek spełnionej baśni/Sadness Of a Tale Fulfilled” the best.
Keyboard parts on the album were played by guest musicians, as well as Paweł, Krzysiek and Anja, for whom it was the beginning of the great adventure with synthesizers.
The CD version of the album contained multimedia presentation for PC with downloadable interview with the band, discography and the band bio. It was a result of Anja fascination with computers.
The band also made another dream come true - they released a live album. “Koncert ‘97”, recorded in Rzeszow and Lublin, is recording of a classical Closterkeller set. It captures the atmosphere of their shows, more rock and crazy, post-punk almost, and lacking the melancholy and sadness known from the studio releases. One can feel the wild vibrations when the crowd sings along with Anja, as well as their love and support for the band.
After that release Mechu left the band and Michał came back. Posejdon was replaced by Gerard Klawe, great drummer known from bands like Rezerwat and Hedone. Paweł was gradually distancing himself from the band, devoting most of his time for translation of literature. Anja and Krzysiek went through a marriage crisis, after which they unfortunately separated. Anja took to computers, for a while she worked in a computer company. In 1998 Closterkeller decided to break their cooperation with PolyGram.
In such difficult circumstances the best Closterkeller album so far was written. “Graphite” was released in 1999 by Metal Mind Productions. It is an absolutely perfect record. Beauty, sorrow and poetry are its distinguishing features. Anja’s poems are very personal. Atmospheric keyboard parts are set against electronic, very modern special effects, all this adds to the “space” of the record. Vocal-wise, Anja expresses a variety of emotions, with the overwhelming sadness eventually turning into hope.
This record is the ultimate, flawless beauty. Krzysiek and Pawel do their very best, both as the composers and musicians. In one of the interviews Anja said that “Graphite” was like a fulfillment of Closterkeller mission.
Graphite was released in two versions - digipack with 2 bonus tracks and the other one with a computer programme and two great videoclips to “Na Krawędzi/Somewhere inbetween” and “Czas Komety/The Reign of the Comet”.
After the release Krzysiek Najman leaves the band, Pawel too plays less and less concerts. Anja started to look for a new bass player - her first choice was Peter Guellard (Dyda) from the USA - he played with Closterkeller on the tour promoting “Graphite”, then Andrzej Kaczynski joined the band for a while, but eventually Marcin Pluciennik (Pucek) was hired. Pawel was replaced by a young, talented guitarist from Warsaw - Marcin Mentel (Freddie).
In 1999 Metal Mind Productions re-edited all Closterkeller studio albums.
Already in a new line-up (actually, it was one of Pawel’s last appearances with the band) on 16 October 1999 Closterkeller recorded an acoustic concert in Agnieszka Osiecka Studio in Polish Radio. Atmospheric, melodic concert was released in 2000 as Fin de Siecle. Old compositions were re-arranged, acoustic instruments were set against a bit of synthetizers and electronic sounds. Anja called this record “sweet little candy”. The band also presented pieces not performed at Closterkeller usual live sets, e.g. “A nadzieja/And Hope”, to which a subtle, beautiful videoclip was shot, “Chat, Chat” sung in French or long-forgotten “To muzyka/It’s Music”.
The band still plays this set at some acoustic shows, which are very well recieved by the fans. Year 2000 brought an overview compilation “Pastel”. The release consists of 2 discs, a CD entitled “Past” and a mutlimedia CD called “El”. “Past” is a typical “the best of” collection, while on “El” one can find lots of information about the band, interview with Anja, pictures, video and rare audio tracks in MP3 format - never released before. This multimedia part contributed to a great extent to popularity of “Pastel” among the fans.
For the following 3 years the new line-up was consolidating. The band gave hundreds of great gigs, both in Poland and abroad. Slowly, new ideas and compositions were born.
In December 2002, encouraged by Metal Mind Productions, Anja recorded English versions of songs from “Graphite”. The album was released on 10 February 2003. Everyone agreed that Anja’s vocals were even better than on the Polish version. English lyrics did in no way reduce the original artistic value of the album, on the contrary, the new language added a new dimension to the already known compositions.
On 10 April 2003 Closterkeller was invited to record a show in TV Studio in Kraków. It was a thrilling, beautiful show, permeated with all elements that make Closterkeller stand out as one of the most original bands on our music scene. Apart from the classical compositions the band presented new pieces from the forthcoming album “Nero”, whose premiere is scheduled for October 2003.
This year the band celebrates their 20th anniversary. 20 years, during which they gave their fans so much beauty and joy, so many smiles and tears… Uncountable number of fans grew adult with Closterkeller music and Anja’s poetry was a life beacon for many young people…
Closterkeller music, just like the colorful titles of their albums, is a variety of shades and colors, but doubtlessly, the leader of the band is Anja - charismatic vocalist with unforgettable, amazing voice, whose strong personality and beautiful, pensive lyrics make her one of the most outstanding artists in Polish rock music.
„Agnieszka” (EP, 1993),
„Koncert’97” (1997) - live,
“Fin de siecle” (2000) - acoustic live
“Pastel” (2000) - (“The Best of…”)
“Act III (live 2003)” - DVD (2003)
Additionally available in english version are: “Blue”, “Graphite” and “Nero”.
Edited by Cyan-ek on 31 Dec 2008, 22:18
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