Interview by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Polish black metal project Batushka was founded and created by guitarist and songwriter Krzysztof Drabikowski back in 2015. They caught the attention of metalheads and press alike with their successful debut release ‘Litourgiya’ and even went on to sign with popular label Metal Blade Records. The project also featured vocalist Bartłomiej “Bart” Krysiuk and drummer Marcin Bielemuk, to accompany Krzysztof however that is no longer the case as in December 2018 a shocking video was released from Krzysztof Drabikowski informing everyone that former vocalist Krysiuk had gone behind the creators back and essentially stolen his own band from him as Krzysztof had parted ways with the vocalist but Krysiuk turned the story around on Krzysztof instead. Currently, there are two sides claiming to be Batushka but there is only one true Batushka and we were lucky enough to speak to the real founder Krzysztof Drabikowski to get the full details of this unbelievable and shocking deceptive story and get the truth out there…
Before we go into the actual interview, here is the video Krzysztof released via YouTube to inform the world of this ultimate deception. He had to do this via YouTube as Krysiuk took control of all the band’s social media pages.
Before we go into the hard situation that is happening right now with Batushka, to offer some context, can you tell us about the formation of the band back in 2015 and how you came to meet?
In the spring of 2015, I was listening to Orthodox music on YouTube, when someone commented there: “God’s hymns are more metal than any satanic black metal music out there.” It got me thinking and eventually gave birth to the idea of creating a musical project that would combine elements of black metal with traditional liturgical songs of the Orthodox Church. I planned to work with my friend Lech, he was supposed to record the vocals. On the day 12-03-2015 I created the first project folder, which I named Batushka, and started to compose music. Lech had a problem with writing lyrics in Old Church Slavonic language and he, unfortunately, gave up, so I had to take care of the texts myself. I started to treat it as my solo project. After I recorded bass, guitars and drums I got Marcin Bielemiuk to re-record my drum parts according to my composition. After that was complete I started recording vocals.
A few months later, in July, when all the songs were recorded, I coincidentally met Bartłomiej Krysiuk in some local club. Because Lech resigned from the project, and I needed another voice, I asked Krysiuk if he would be interested in doing some additional vocal parts on the album as a guest. We sat in a car and I let him listen to the music I already recorded and he liked it and agreed. He also suggested that he could help me with pressing because he had his own label at that time. I agreed. I wanted to release an LP only in a small amount, the one in the wooden box, to not invest too much. I thought, if I sold it out then I could think about what to do next. The album suddenly met with great interest and good reviews. Litourgiya was probably selling well. But I did not see any money from it. When I was asking for money, he always had some excuse: fiscal control, bank account busting or late payment from other people. The same happened with his payments for session musicians for concerts. They often had to wait for their share more than half a year. It caused a lot of tension between us. I wanted it to be dealt with normally, in a formal way. Instead of giving money to me, Krysiuk began to spend it or invest it as his own. Of course, it happened behind my back and I found out about it later because at that time I did not know that he was a debtor. That is why there have been lots of problems with shipments. He made presales, and then he did not send the orders. Some people even received garbage instead of my album. I would not be surprised if it turned out that no press wanted to press vinyl records because he was indebted to all of them, so he had to wait until there were enough preorders to pay his debts and make a new order. He even mentioned to me later that every press wants payments in advance from him.
With the popularity of the album, some invitations to concerts appeared. I wanted to remain anonymous. I believed that a veil of mystery fits the music well. The organisers of these concerts, of course, contacted the publisher. Krysiuk told me that he has more experience and that he can talk to the organisers on my behalf. In reality, he wanted to hide all the financial matters from me. When I was collecting equipment to play that album live he also suggested that he could buy some guitar stuff, mainly for the second session guitarist because I did not have two 8 string guitars at that time. He said he could sell it later if something went wrong. I agreed to this. I had no idea what it might lead to.
Looking for session musicians I invited my friends and colleagues to collaborate. They had their regular jobs and only moonlighted in Батюшка after work. They often changed, so that there was no permanent line up. For obvious reasons, the only people who were always on stage were me and Krysiuk, the vocalist.
Until December 2018, no one doubted who the author and the leader was, and from the beginning, it was clear what functions each of us performs in the band.
How did you arrive at the band name and what does it mean?
The name was invented during a conversation with Lech. It was then that I shared my idea of the band. The name Батюшка/Batushka was therefore used from the very beginning. Before the first sound was created. Batushka is a transliteration of Батюшка because it’s not easy to register an email account with cyrillic. It is also used interchangeably with Baciuszka – the Polish transliteration of that word. It means father, a spiritual guide. A priest is called like that in the Orthodox Church.
What was the vision for the band for you?
From the beginning, I had visions for the whole project. I wanted to use the Old Church Slavonic language. I wanted the cover to be wooden. I wanted it to look like an icon. At first, I did not think about concerts. I always treated it as a solo studio project. When the concerts approached, I decided to gather people and create a line up that could play live. I knew immediately what it was supposed to look like, the stage design: in the centre an icon from the album cover, a vocalist behind it. On both sides of the vocalist, I wanted to put the characteristic candlesticks that I made myself, such as in the church, with many thin candles. I also knew what kind of costumes I would use – I wanted them to look like schema monk’s frock. I sent all my inspirations and projects to Krysiuk, and he commissioned them to be made.
I was shocked to watch your video announcing what went on behind your back in December 2018, about how your former vocalist Krysiuk took your band away following you parting ways with him for him to turn it around on you. Did you see any of this coming and how did this make you feel?
After the release of the album, his friends started to talk to me, they warned me and told me to be careful because he is known to cheat people. At first, I told myself to keep an eye on Krysiuk but with time I figured that we will just part ways after the touring ends.
Krysiuk hired musicians to produce an album that he planned to release as the new Batushka record behind your back, why do you think he decided to do this and how did you first learn of this?
I will start with the fact that I decided to take a break from concerts. Last year was very intense. I wanted to take a break from touring and finish the second album.
In connection with this, I told Krysiuk not to book concerts for 2019. It was still him who dealt with the organisers. I thought it was all settled for now. At the end of December, a Батюшка concert was announced somewhere on the internet … I was surprised. I thought it was a mistake. I called Krysiuk to find out where this information came from. He did not answer the phone. So I wrote him a message. He wrote back that it was not a mistake, and that he also booked other concerts and that he would announce them soon. He informed me that he will release a Батюшка album without me – the founder, intellectual owner and author of all the compositions on the first album. He claimed that it was already recorded, by Paweł Jaroszewicz and Artur Rumiński, musicians that he hired for that. He thinks that Батюшка belongs to him. He even calls himself a producer.
Yet the album was completely made by myself, in my private home studio. I made the album cover, and I made a prototype of the wooden box LP. I wanted to be the author of 100% of that album. Krysiuk released it via his label and, of course, he sang on it in accordance with the melody I composed. But I also authored the lyrics myself.
I did not think he was capable of anything like that. He pretended to be a friend until the last moment. That day, when everything came to light, I asked: what now? He knows that I am making a second album. Then he told me that he patented the name Batushka. So if I try to release an album or publish music on YouTube, he would ban me from there by taking advantage of his newly registered trademark. He decided to rob me of my copyright. He even issued a statement on Facebook, in which he wrote that he had intellectual rights. He did the same in an absurd interview, full of slanders and lies.
Coming back to your question. I can not be sure why he did this. An honest, but also just an honourable man, does not do that. I can, however, only guess. He did it for money. Батюшка brought real income. He tried to force me to make another record on time. I do not like when someone tries to force me into anything. Making music has to be a pleasure. It should be honest.
That is why I wanted to take a break from concerts to take care of the second album. He did not like it. He was dependent on the money flow. That is why he invented his dishonest plan. If I add to this the fact that he was struggling with financial problems already before Batushka, everything makes sense. His name appears on the lists of debtors, which are public in Poland and published on the Internet. Just search his name or his label together with the word “dług” in Google.
Krysiuk also sadly registered Batushka as his personal trademark, surely as the founder you can prove that you founded the band or can you not say due to legal reasons?
All Батюшка compositions were created before I met with Krysiuk and we took up cooperation. I can prove all of this and everything is secured by a notary public and constitutes evidence in the case. When all the files are secured by the court I will publish them.
What will you do with the true second Batushka album you created? Do you have plans to release this? (if you can say)
Панихида is almost finished, the labels are interested in it, some of them even without hearing it, but I want to be fair and let them listen to it first before signing anything.
What has the reaction and support been like from the fans so far who know the truth?
I got huge support from fans. Whoever wanted to know the truth, who was interested in Батюшка earlier, knows how it was. Fans are always in touch with me. Their support gives me strength and motivates me to work. Thanks to their support, I have the strength to fight for what has been taken away from me.
Do you think the rest of the band are aware of the fact that fans know of the real truth?
The team is divided. Some of them are manipulated by Krysiuk. They want to go to concerts, make money of what I created, feel important, and he has got the festivals, not me. In addition, now there is a chance for them to be an integral ”part” of Батюшка. They think that by playing with Krysiuk they will finally be in the spotlight – famous musicians of a famous band – not hired session musicians. The people who took Krysiuk’s side are mostly unfulfilled musicians who in the end have the opportunity to be on large stages despite the fact that their own creativity is too weak. So, self-interested persons are with Krysiuk. Are they afraid of the truth and reaction of the fans? They think that hiding behind a mask will keep them from exposure. I hope the fans will show what they think of this.
People who did not participate in the process of making the album now tell me that for the same reason they cannot be sure how the album was created and by whom. Earlier, no one questioned my authorship.
You know, in Poland we have a proverb: An opportunity makes a thief. Fortunately, there are musicians who stayed with me, my friends whom I know many, many years. They are honest people. For them, the truth is important. These people are my witnesses in the case and will testify in the court. There is also another proverb in Poland: We get to know real friends in times of trial. There are also some musicians who try to not get involved in the dispute. They prefer peace, they do not want to be dragged into anything. I can understand this.
When can fans expect to hear official updates on the progress of this bizarre situation?
I really do not know. The claim was filed in court. Currently, I am waiting for information about its admission. Unfortunately, courts in Poland are considering cases for a very long time. Processes take years so that my situation will become even more difficult. The solution will not come quickly…
Have you had any promoters or other musicians who you have worked with previously reach out to you rather than the band following this?
Yes, a lot of promoters and musicians were contacting me after all that happened. They are open for our future cooperation. I appreciate it a lot.
Would you consider hiring other musicians and releasing the intended Batushka album or whilst legal activities go on can you not proceed with this?
On the new album “Panihida” I played the parts of all instruments myself and did some vocals. I also invited my closest trusted friends to take part in it as vocalists, so the vocals belong to several different people, though my voice appears there as well. At first, I planned to hire a drummer, but I also did the drums myself. You see, Батюшка is not really a band, it’s a project, my child. I did everything by myself, just exactly as I wanted, without accepting other’s suggestions. It was like that from the beginning. That is why I can not and I do not want to give it away, that is why I will fight.
Back to the topic. I can legally release the new album. The copyright belongs to me. I never renounced it, I never signed a document to sell my rights. All files, with subsequent stages of music creation, are secured. Krysiuk’s activities make it difficult for me to carry out the plans, but they do not make it impossible. Although he was sure of that.
What can you say about the whole shocking and upsetting situation?
I know that the whole situation looks unbelievable. Some of you may be sceptical about my words. I hope the truth will prevail and no one will have any doubts as to how it was. I know that the name Батюшка has lost a lot. I would like to be able to fix everything, although I doubt it myself.
Krysiuk wants to perform under my name, he wants to use other people’s creativity to continue Batushka’s discography. It pisses me off that the festival organizers do not break the deals with him. My lawyer sent letters to all the organizers. Despite the unclear situation, these people continue to cooperate with a man who cheated and robbed me. Those people do not care about the truth or copyrights. It is only the money that counts.
Is there anything else you would like to add or share with us at this time about the whole situation?
I simply thank you, and everyone who reads this and who supports me. If it will be possible, if the court agrees, I will post updates on the situation on Батюшка.pl. Remember – There is only one true Батюшка.