The Lithuanian prog-rock band called The Skys put a new spin on 21st century European music with their 2012 CD called Colours Of The Desert and in 2016 they return with yet another new CD, Journey Through The Skies. The album continues to feature fine group performances that highlight the core Skys band with guitarist / vocalist Jonas Ciurlionis, keyboardist / vocalist Bozena Buinicka, Ilja Molodcov (drums, percussion) and Justinas Tamasevicius (bass). The 12 cut Journey Through The Skies features a number of guest artists including Snowy White (lead guitar) and singer Anne Marie Helder. Once again teaming with sound engineer Steve Rispen, the CD features eye-popping full color art work with the album lyrics. Speaking about the album and future plans for The Skys, Jonas Ciurlionis tells mwe3.com, “Journey Through The Skies is a kind of retrospective sum-up album of the Skys’ journey. It starts with very early compositions and ends with the newest one. After the release of Colours Of The Desert we got busy with heavy touring. We plan to release a new album soon but I never ever will force myself into rushing. So I’d rather wait another 20 years to write one good song than just give birth to bunch of mediocre ones. And as a philosopher I love to think we will try to deliver the best we can for the next one.”Superbly recorded in both Lithuania and the UK, Journey Through The Skies offers a number of good reasons why progressive rock fans should give The Skys a good listen.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Jonas Ciurlionis and Bozena Buinicka
mwe3: The 2016 Skys CD, Journey Through The Skies CD starts with “One Saturday Of The Spring”. The song speaks of refugees and having war on our menu. Does the song a commentary of the current events going on in Lithuania or a broader scope involving worldwide events this past year? Are the Skys inspired mainly by news and current events which seems to be dominating our cultures these days?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Well, the song was written back in 1994 but I guess you can apply the war and refugees theme to every century and every decade. If in 2016 one can associate with this song then it seems we hit the target. The Skys do not try to be fashionable and speak about current events—we rather sing about eternal themes, which are important any time.
Bozena Buinicka: War is always a favorite dish on a menu though it contains many more things such as faith, love, peace. However, when people strive for victory in war and wealth it brings tears, blood, pain and death. Thousands of years we would just fight and make wars—ancient wars, world wars, civil wars, drug wars, wars for diamonds and new territories. All this leads to self-destruction of humanity and spiritual poverty. It’s a shame that today people don’t know how to forgive each other as only then can real peace prevail.
mwe3: Is track 2 on Journey Through The Skies, “The Rain” a metaphor for something else? There’s some great harpsichord work on the track. How are we like the rain?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Yes, “The Rain” is a metaphor. I think art must speak in metaphors and symbols rather than having direct straight into your face approach. I won’t be explaining that metaphor as it would take pleasure from the listener.
Bozena Buinicka: Rain is life. Humanity needs rain, which washes away the dust and brings spiritual, instead of material thoughts. Our homes and hearts are full of dust. Money, cars, material junk, our thoughts are all about them. And we always strive to sink in this pile of dust. We need storms and colorful clouds, which would make people see the beauty of the sky instead of dirt of this ground.
mwe3: “This Is What You Got” is sure to be one of the more controversial songs on the Journey Through The Skies CD. Is this the price we have paid for a technology-based culture that moves faster than people ever imagined? How are we going to cope with all these fast moving problems of the 21st century or will we not? How do you compare “diamonds and gold” to what we really need in the world? How is life in Lithuania different from other European countries in coping with problems of the 21st century?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Oh well, life is controversial. This song’s about what we have in our contemporary society. We have various things: banks and technologies, economical and technological progress, various social and gender rights movements, lethal diseases and drugs to cure but we are never satisfied with anything. We strive for diamonds and gold but never have enough. I think Lithuania, like most of Western countries have similar problems: drugs, and crime, poverty and economical issues, gender and social movements. So this song is kind of the mirror of contemporary problems of our societies.
Bozena Buinicka: Technologies are an endless abyss, which we try to measure. Nietzsche once said if you keep on looking for a long time into an abyss it will start staring back at you.
mwe3: “Take A Look Inside” is a great segue to “This Is What You Got”. Are the 2 songs connected and why is “Take A Look Inside” so short?
Jonas Ciurlionis: “Take A Look Inside” is the answer to “This Is What You’ve Got”. Both songs come from our first concept album Civilized (released in 1997) which deals with civilized versus natural themes. So, “Take A Look Inside” says that we have to see inside us instead of just rushing, progressing, fighting, getting involved, becoming, blaming everything. I think one of the major issues of mankind is inability to be happy. So, we kinda have everything in “This Is What You’ve Got” but we are still unsatisfied. So why don’t we take a closer look inside?
Bozena Buinicka: “Take A Look Inside” is a short song where everything that is important is being told. Inner vision is important for understanding our goals. Is our main goal technological progress, diamonds and revolutions? Don’t you think it leads to child prostitution, drugs, AIDS? Doesn’t craziness of humanity start sexual revolutions? Is this what we want? If yes—then congratulations “This Is What You’ve Got”, if not, then “Take A Look Inside”.
mwe3: Is track 5 on Journey Through The Skies, “The Ancient Indian’s Song” a song about the American Indian? Is there somewhat of a contrast or dichotomy between the ancient people and today’s exposures to religions that we all live in fear of? I like the sitar guitar sounds on the track, which mixes with the American Indian vibes and the Indians of India. It does get confusing—right? What did you learn and appreciate most about the American Indians?
Jonas Ciurlionis: You are right! When I hear theword Indian it gets confusing. American or Indian Indian? (lol) The song pictures that confusion. However, is this the only confusion? What about religion? We tend to mix everything here too. It gets confusing too. This song also develops further the theme of civilization and nature. Are these uncivilized and uneducated Indians of India or America or maybe Africa and Australia or Europe worse than deaf civilized people? We’ve toured quite a lot in The US and Canada and met many Indians who were just the most wonderful people, far more advanced than ordinary Americans or Canadians or Europeans.
mwe3: “Should Stop Now” is another controversial song. Are these problems you speak about universal and have you noticed them in Lithuania too? Are there too many problems in the world now to try to focus on anyone one problem? How can we help the homeless and hopeless while still living in sin or even greed? There’s a great guitar solo in the song!. Who’s playing the guitar solo in “Should Stop Now”?
Jonas Ciurlionis: This song about us closing our eyes in front of contemporary social and moral problems. We see a blind homeless woman and we can associate with her because this is in fact us. We close our eyes in front of child prostitution, drugs and pornography, teenagers becoming killers. How long would it take for our governments to end the drug business? Human slavery? Prostitution? I can answer you a month at most. However, the political marionettes often are same political prostitutes that close their eyes because it is huge mafia industry with huge money involved. And they know if they start doing anything against it they’ll be killed. Therefore all those dirty businesses exist and are cancer of today’s societies, countries and governments.
Bozena Buinicka: The guitar solo on this song was recorded by Snowy White. When sending him the track we planned a much shorter solo but he recorded it twice longer. However, it was so beautiful that we decided to leave it and prolong the song instead.
mwe3: Is “The Wings Of The Night” a different kind of song that deals less with obvious social issues? Is it a kind of love song, or love that is here today, and then gone too quickly type of song? Is that a more obvious prog-rock song? Again, great song but it’s too short!
Jonas Ciurlionis: You are right it is a love song, and it’s short as some of our “loves” tend to be. And then one can say, yeah it is a great love but too short! (lol) In fact I don’t believe in short or long songs. I believe in good or bad songs. This album goes, in fact against all so called “prog rules”. But I don’t care because for me it is not a song length that makes it great. Would “Yesterday” by The Beatles be greater if it was a bit longer? Most of the times, those who speak a lot have little to say. With music it’s the same.
Bozena Buinicka: Everything that is good ends quickly.
mwe3: “Dreams” is a much more progressive rock type song. Where do your dreams lead you in both sleep and wakefulness? “Through closed eyes you cannot see The Skys” is a great line. What is the message in “Dreams”? Do you still dream in sleep or is it better to dream when awake? Are we safer in sleep, wakefulness or even in death? What’s your interpretation of dreams and death? Are they connected or do we secretly hope they are?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Well this is a bunch of philosophical questions here. What is a dream? Is “Life” a dream? Is death like a state of dream? Humanity for centuries was looking for the answers. From Indian, Mayan to Aristotle’s writings on dreams and on to Jung and Freud and Lacan. We are still not sure what is a dream. Here we also have a double meaning of this word; one meaning dream when we sleep and another dreams like goals and fantasies in our lives. We have to open our eyes to see beyond the light. But can you tell others what you see? Will they be able to see the same things? Do we all see the same? Do we all dream the same? Everyone has to find the answer himself.
Bozena Buinicka: Dreams are our second life. Things we see in our dreams are symbols of feelings we experienced. We can interpret them with our intuition. Dreams and music are linked and veiled by secret.
mwe3: Is “Broken Sounds Of Truth” another socially pointed song? Great keyboard sounds on the track. Can you get too socially satirical in songwriting or are there just too many social ills these days and that makes sure there’s no end to broken truths and endless songwriting ideas?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Do you remember that fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, which speaks about pieces of broken mirror in some people’s eyes? So this song is about that. About reflected and distorted reality full of relative so-called truths. I guess some themes are just eternal.
Bozena Buinicka: Today we often hear that my truth is this and your truth is different. However, isn’t there one truth? How it can be two different truths? Truth is one even if some don’t recognize it or don’t agree with it. It is one and unchangeable. You cannot sink water or burn fire itself and you cannot destroy truth. We must separate opinion from knowledge.
mwe3: “Virtual Reality” is track 10 on Journey Through The Skies. Is “Virtual Reality” the life we created for ourselves because real life is just too painful and treacherous? Is it easier to stare at the “petrified screen” than to try to deal with reality or real people 24/7? Were we born to live this life and where will this world lead us humans by 2099?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Virtual reality is like a drug where we sink with our psychological complex of reality. How many friends do you have on Facebook? Wait… but are they real? Some of these people I have never met. How many likes does my new video generate? How much money do you have in your virtual bank account? What are your relationships? Do you fell in love on the internet? Do you have virtual sex? Are you a real hero in your virtual online game? Pokemon Go. We can destroy an entire real city with a virtual press of a button. We can ruin lives with just virtual bank transactions. I think Jean Baudrillard and others successfully raise those kind of questions. What is real nowadays? I don’t know where all of this going to lead but the sense of reality in 2099 will be entirely different for sure.
Bozena Buinicka: Virtual reality gives us possibility to create another self. You can become somebody you are not. It lets you create another personality, fake identity. One can develop himself like a hero of a computer game. And a human being, instead of developing himself develops his imaginary I (self). At the same time it becomes more and more difficult to survive in a real world. There’s no responsibility for one’s actions in virtual reality while it is one of the most important things in real world relations. In 2099 we might have a society where everyone will be a hero for himself. Virtual reality lets human beings compensate real life complexes satisfying himself with a created image on a computer screen.
mwe3: Do you feel that track 11, “Is This The Way” is high point of Journey Through The Skies? What way have you found to be the best way? Clearly we won’t be able to bomb our way towards moving civilization forward although some may crazily argue that point. Do you struggle with these issues and why don’t you think people don’t discuss these issues further? Can we live happily in the future while (not) forgetting the past?
Jonas Ciurlionis: Well we always tend to forget the past. Just think how long ago was the holocaust or Stalin’s repression? Some 70 years ago? Did we learn the lessons? I doubt it. Look what is going on in the world? Ukrainian war, terrorist attacks that seems to me that people are thirsty for blood. And they just cannot stop. Why people don’t discuss all those issues? Because closing our eyes is rather a comfortable strategy. We don’t like speaking about those things. We tend to put our happy life glasses on and be sweet politically correct like good boys and girls.
mwe3: “Love Of Life” closes Journey Through The Skies. Does the song speak of the repetition of life and how perhaps money isn’t the root of all evil, in fact maybe it doesn’t exist at all? Does the song speak of reincarnation; “How can I change this game, which will be again and again”. Do you believe in human recycling until we finally get it right?
Jonas Ciurlionis: I’ll let Bo answer this. Generally, this song about greed.
Bozena Buinicka: This song was inspired by one of the people we met during our Canadian tour back in 2013. One evening we took a walk in streets of Dawson City. And we saw a man with a hat. I immediately thought that this guy looks like a hero from the books of Jack London. We started talking and he invited us to his house where we met his father. The old man was real gold miner and survivor. He couldn’t walk. He told us a story how people died in search of gold and he himself lost his legs during one of expeditions when he spent 3 days in freezing cold and three of his friends died. He showed us gold and guns and pelts and antlers. Guns that kill people and animals. And gold still makes people go crazy and leads them to death.
mwe3: What can you tell us about the incredible Journey Through The Skies artwork by Rezo on the new CD? Does the artwork reflect the song’s subject matter? Tell us about Rezo.
Jonas Ciurlionis: Oh, Rezo is a great artist from Georgia, the country not the U.S. state. I think he did just what we needed. The surrealistic approach is full of symbolism. In fact, I don’t think we asked for any corrections. He just fell for the music, the ideas, the concept and it really perfectly matches the song lyrics. He was able to see far more than I could have expected. At the same time the artwork is full of Rezo himself. And yes he has a great sense of humor. (Lol)
Bozena Buinicka: Our album cover design was made by Rezo according to lyrics. When I first saw his project for the album cover I was amazed and thought to myself—this is what we need!
mwe3: So where does Journey Through The Skies lead the Skys next? What were some of the band’s highlights since Colours Of The Desert came out just about four years? I hope you’re planning a lot of new musical adventures so we don’t have to wait four more years for a new Skys album!
Jonas Ciurlionis: Journey Through The Skies is a kind of retrospective sum up album of The Skys Journey. It starts with very early compositions and ends with the newest one. After the release of Colors Of The Desert we got busy with heavy touring. 2012 – whole summer in Poland, 2013 – UK, Canada and USA, 2014 – USA, 2015 Europe, 2016 USA and UK and probably Japan. The schedule is heavy. Highlights? Well I don’t remember. Some awards, some songs in the charts. We plan to release a new album soon but I never ever will force myself into rushing. So I’d rather wait another 20 years to write one good song than just give birth to bunch of mediocre ones. Again it takes time to collect money as an album recording is a very expensive thing unless you DIY of course. Da Vinci was working on his “Last Supper” for years driving abbey monks crazy who most probably expected art to be something like macaroni with cheese. Well it takes time to think as giving birth to spiritual things takes much longer than just simple 9 months of pregnancy. And as a philosopher I love to think we will try to deliver the best we can for the next one.
Bozena Buinicka: After the release of Colours of the Desert we toured Canada and the USA and for several times, Europe. All touring was very intense. After the release of the previous album we had a new member who joined the band. We wrote couple of new songs, one of which was recorded and included in Journey Through The Skies. At this stage we are waiting for inspiration from the muses for our new album.