Bio: Persona Grata is a progressive rock group formed in Bratislava, Slovakia. The band, known for their signature sound and original material, is bringing a new quality to the Progrock Genre.
Influenced by groups such as Yes, Dream Theater and contemporary Muse, the band has developed a sound focused on melody and complex rhythms, which has evolved from the above inspirations.
Martin (vocals): Persona Grata came to be when the keyboardist Adam Kuruc and the solo guitarist Martin Huba joined and the band put together their first version of the instrumental trilogy – Orient Express. When I first heard the Orient Express composition I was absolutely amazed. I instantly called Jan Steno (the drummer) and told him to count me in. However, after we had finished recording the album Reaching Places High Above and had been enjoying performing it live, Adam was offered a unique opportunity as a music composer in the film and game industry which he decided to pursue and therefore had to leave the band. Shortly after, Martin Huba followed his own musical career.
Timo (bass guitar): This was a tough time for the band and finding the right band members that could stand up to the legacy proved to be a real challenge. Nevertheless, we have been persistent and not long after that found just the right person – Matej Miklos – a composer, keyboardist and an amazing performer with whom we started to work on our new compositions. At this point, the only missing member was the solo guitarist. We knew precisely who we’d like to have in the band but it wasn’t possible until only recently when Peter Luha – a man with a stunning guitar technique, great feeling and experience – came back from abroad and decided to join the band. We finished up the song Forevermore as a showcase of the new formation and are now working on the following album! In the meantime, the band rehearses and is looking forward to start performing again at the end of this year.
Genre: Jan (drums): We didn’t choose any specific genre. It just happens to be, that the music we create and love can best be described as “Progressive Rock”. The music we play is the very blood that runs in our veins and for us, there is no other genre that holds such immense possibilities, is so expressive and enables us to work with such contrasts. One of my favourite elements in our way of musical thinking are complex rhythmical structures and odd-time grooves. Combine this with raw energy and it offers you excitement which is – at least for me – very hard to achieve while playing any other type of music. There is something hypnotic, almost tribal about it. I was always fascinated with traditional Balkan music and their way of rhythmical thinking. For me as a drummer, this gives me great freedom to express myself musically.
Evolution of the initial musical and thematic elements: Timo (bass guitar): There is no easy answer to this question. I guess it depends on the given material that’s being worked on. Some parts have been composed by the individual band members and then finished off during the rehearsals and then there were a lot of parts that were simply put together by the whole band as a matter of improvisation or systematically, again, during the rehearsals.
Lyrics, themes and concepts: Jan (drums): The album Reaching Places High Above is all about metamorphosis. Whether it is an inner fight between the ego and the soul in the case of the opening track Ace, falling into the state of despair and the comeback in case of the “Edge of Insanity”, witnessing the change in culture and landscapes during an unforgettable journey of “Orient Express” (the trilogy Istanbul – Orient Express – Venice) or the search for the alter ego and understanding its motives in order to free oneself from its power in case of “I Am You”. I’m not going to disclose the themes that we would like to explore in the coming material just yet but there is a slight hint in the newly released demo “Forevermore”.
Ideas about the album: Jan (drums): Yes. We have put a lot of hard work, time and effort into the Reaching Places High Above album and we are extremely proud of what it came to be. As it happens, music seems to be an endless process of transforming ideas into what you think will be the final product. Usually while creating it, new ideas pop up and the music evolves to a whole new level. The funny thing is, there is no easy way to turn off the receiver. So at one point you have to say, guys this is it and then move onto what’s coming next, the next song, the next album…
Reception: Martin (vocals): We have received very good critics so far and we are excited about it. It’s a great feeling when the output of your work is appreciated in such a way.
Preference; live or studio: Matej (keys): Both of these 2 worlds are extremely inspiring and exciting for us even though they couldn’t be more apart from each other. The work in the studio is very intimate and focused, while playing live is about being able to present the material in a way that both people and the band enjoy themselves. If you have that synergy going on, the show is going to be great and if the show plays out to be great, there is no better feeling.
Next step; live or studio: Matej (keys): Currently we are both working on the coming album and preparing ourselves for the coming gigs. We start performing again in December. Next venues will be soon announced, but we are planning to visit main cities in Slovakia and Czech Republic but we’re communicating with other venues outside of our home countries as well, so the fans will have the opportunity to see us live in other countries as well. Please follow our page for the updates on coming gigs and also if you’re interested in hosting us.
Future plans: Peter (solo guitar): Currently we are promoting the first album, Reaching Places High Above and will be performing it live on the coming gigs. Also we’ll be adding the songs from the coming album as they are being finished. At the moment we have 4 new pieces ready and I can say that people have much to look forward to. All in all we have a lot of work in front of us because we want to deliver nothing less than an outstanding and unforgettable musical experience to our fans both on the recorded albums and live and with so many great bands out there that is not an easy task to do. 🙂
Composers: Jan (drums): As with the music compositions some lyrics are written by the individual band members and eventually reviewed together by the whole band and then some lyrics are written in cooperation among more of us. We sit down together, have a drink or two and work it out.
Inspirations: All: Oh boy, how much time do we have? 🙂 To name a few: Dream Theater, Muse, Queen, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, Devin Townsend, Led Zeppelin, Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Meshuggah, Planet X, Queens of the Stone Age, The Darkness, Jethro Tull, Yes, Haken, Tool… These are the bands more or less within our own genre but we listen to all kinds of genres and could go on for each one of them.
Preference; cater to the audience or music for its own sake: Matej (keys) I think the music has been in the forefront for us from the very beginning. We don’t consider any piece finished until we can all enjoy sitting down and listening to it like it was a piece played by one of the bands we admire. Somehow it plays out that people actually like the same stuff that we do.
Greatest Accomplishment: Martin (vocals): I am very proud of our first album that’s finally out and the current band set up that we have. There’s so much fun and inspiration in the work we do together.
Anything else? All: Thank you very much for the interview. We would like to wish your readers and our fans a great deal of amazing and inspiring music to listen to.
Despite this being Persona’s first official album release, Reaching Places High Above has managed to establish the band as one of the best progrock projects in Eastern Europe. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, the album has also achieved acceptance by the progressive rock fan community.
The concept album consists of 50 minutes of material.
Upcoming album & new single “Forevermore”
Persona Grata is currently recording new material, with a planned album release date in early 2014. As a teaser, the band has revealed their first demo song together with a video from the recording session. Titled, Forevermore, this work gives a heads-up on the band’s new sound and demonstrates the skills of new members Peter Luha (Guitars) and Matej Miklos (Keyboards).