Dezerter: poroniona generacja? by Krzysztof Grabowski

Dezerter: poroniona generacja? by Krzysztof Grabowski

The story of Dezerter written by one of their own (in Polish).

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„Czym ta książka nie jest? Nie jest to opowieść sensacyjna. Nie jest to dramat obyczajowy. Nie jest to też książka historyczna, mimo że staram się choć troszkę przybliżyć najnowszą historię Polski, tak jak ją widzę z mojej perspektywy. Ta książka nie jest również biografią zespołu, ani tym bardziej moją. Owszem, staram się nie lać wody, ale nie mam zadatków na prawdziwego biografa. Nie jest to też plotkarski pamiętnik, w którym można trafić na opisy seksualnych wyczynów rodzimych rockandrollowców. To nie moja działka. Niech zajmują się tym pismacy z brukowców.” - Krzysztof Grabowski


The Biography of Dezerter

Dezerter was formed in Warsaw in May 1981. The original line-up comprised Robert “Robal” Matera (vocals, guitar & music), Krzysztof Grabowski (drums & lyrics) and Darek “Stepa” Stepnowski (bass). Soon after, Darek “Skandal” Hajn joined the band and became its frontman. The group was called SS-20 at that time, and the name was deeply provocative, as it referred to Soviet nuclear warhead missiles. The band’s first concert took place at the Mokotowska Jesień Muzyczna in November 1981. During the period of martial law in Poland (1981-1983), the band was forced to change its name to DEZERTER. In 1982, the group toured under the new name with bands such as TZN Xenna and Deuter, taking part in Rock Galicja (a famous musical event that was a watershed in the history of Polish punk rock; it took place in 1982).

Towards the end of 1983, Dezerter recorded a single for the Tonpress label. The single was called “Ku przyszłości” and it comprised 4 tracks (“Ku przyszłości”, “Spytaj milicjanta”, “Szara rzeczywistość”, “Wojna głupców”). As the band had problems releasing albums, they decided to establish their own small record label, the Tank Records. The company released two audio cassettes: “Jeszcze żywy człowiek” (Dezerter concert recording from Jarocin 1984) and “Izolacja” (Dezerter concert recording from the Hybrydy club, with the addition of a few tracks by new wave Soviet bands). In 1984, Stepa left Dezerter, and soon after he was replaced by Paweł Piotrowski. A year later, Skandal decided to give up singing in the band (Skandal died in 1995). Despite difficulties, the band decided to continue to play, with Robal on lead vocals again. In 1985, a compilation album “Fala” was released. It combined tracks by Polish bands such as Siekiera, Kryzys, Izrael, and it also included 2 releases by Dezerter (“Nie ma zagrożenia” and “Plakat).

In 1987, two important events in the history of the band took place. Firstly, Dezerter played a gig at Jarocin Festival. Secondly, their first album in the United States, “Underground Out Of Poland”, was released on the Maximum Rock'n'Roll label. Additionally, thanks to the then manager, Maciej Chmiel, Dezerter could relase their first LP album, entitled “Kolaboracja”. Obviously, the album was censored. 

In 1989, the band recorded the album “Kolaboracja II”. In 1990, the album “Wszyscy przeciwko wszystkim” was released both in Poland and France. After Dezerter had performed a series of concerts to foreign countries (Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany, France, Holland, Japan, and others), QQryQ Productions label released a vinyl album, “Blasfemia”. The album “Jak powstrzymałem III wojnę światową” followed in 1994. Being a collection of archival recordings, the release included ex. the concert given by Dezerter at Jarocin Festival in 1984. In 1993, Dezerter bass player Paweł left the band, and he was replaced by Mariusz “Zyziek” Zych for a short while. In the summer of 1994, Dezerter recorded their next album “Ile procent duszy?”, the group then comprising Robert Matera and Krzysztof Grabowski.

In 1994, a film about the group, „Dezerter – nie ma zagrożenia” was made by Paweł Konnak. At that time, the band took also part in a Polish TV programme “Alternativi”, the co-producer of which was the Brulion Foundation. The next Dezerter album, “Deuter” was released in 1995. This album was a compilation of re-recorded Deuter tracks. Together with Robert Matera and Krzysztof Grabowski, it also featured Paweł “Kelner” Rozwadowski, Deuter frontman, on vocals, and Tony von Kinsky on bass guitar. Tony left Dezerter in 1999, and he was replaced by Jacek Chrzanowski in 2000. In the years to come, Dezerter recorded the following albums: “Mam kły mam pazury” (1996; the title referred to the zine published by the Animal Liberation Front Poland), “Ziemia jest płaska” (1997) and “Decydujące starcie” (recorded in 2000 by Matera & Grabowski, with a guest cello performance of Bolek Błaszczyk).

In 2002, the band did plenty of interesting gigs. Of these, the most important were the concerts played with the French band La Fraction during the tour of Belgium, Holland and England. Definitely the most memorable event of the year was the gig in the London Astoria, performed with the bands Conflict and Subhumans to a few thousand people. Worth mentioning is also a concert in Cracow, where Dezerter played with Dead Kennedys and Chumbawamba. Guest vocals at most of the concerts in 2002 were performed by Katarzyna Nosowska from the band Hey.

In 2003 for a few months, the band was meeting in a rehearsal room in Szmulki, the old part of Warsaw's Praga district. The group entered the recording studio towards the end of May 2004, and released the album “Nielegalny zabójca czasu” just before summer. It was the first album recorded with Jacek Chrzanowski, who is also a member of Hey, on bass guitar. Produced and arranged by the band themselves, the album comprises 14 tracks and a video clip.

In April 2005, the first DVD in the history of Dezerter was released. The DVD contains the concert given at the tenth Przystanek Woodstock in Kostrzyn by the Odra River. It also includes an interview with the band, illustrated with interesting archival materials.

In the spring of 2006, Dezerter played a few concerts in Poland and Germany (Berlin, Brema, Hamburg). On April 24, the 2-CD collection album “Punk’s Not Jazz” was released, which was connected with the band’s 25th birthday falling in May 2006. In July, Dezerter gave a gig at Rock For People festival in The Czech Republic. In the autumn of 2006, the band toured Poland again, as well as gave a few concerts in London.
In May 2008 the band performed at the “Save Tibet” concert in Warsaw, and in July it did its first gig at the Eko Union of Rock festival in Wegorzewo. At the end of the year Dezerter took part in a concert celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which took place on December 12 in the Centralny Dom Qultury in Warsaw.

In 2009 Dezerter played over a dosen of concerts in Poland, Europe (Berlin, London, Edinborough) and the USA (New York, Chicago). In New York Dezerter performed at a festival „Rebel Waltz: Underground Music From Behind the Iron Curtain”, organized by the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. The event was designed to show the cultural and social life of East Europe before 1989.

In October 2010, the new album, "Prawo do bycia idiotą" was released. After that Dezerter has successfully played the tour in Poland.

Band members:
Robert Matera – guitar, vocals
Krzysiek Grabowski – drums, lyrics
Jacek Chrzanowski – bass

Band websites: