Time for the next edition of Metal Anarchy’s “Music In The Age Of COVID-19” series, the feature where I discuss the ongoing pandemic with various artists. This time I have an interview with Rock Dance Theatre’s Anna Achimowicz.
METAL ANARCHY: How have you been holding up during the coronavirus pandemic?
ACHIMOWICZ: It has been challenging. I have to say most of 2020 has been very creative and productive non the less. Situations like restrictions or limitations that we’re imposed necessary, in my case work as a stimulator for creating against all odds. It’s just what I do and who I am in my nature. I’m also very stubborn and as a rock n roller naturally, I hate limitations when it comes to my expression. Being a rock choreographer with what I do with Rock Dance Theatre is very complex, requires a certain stage set up, lighting and enough space for the interaction with musicians and instruments in order for the full experience to translate as I would want it. So doing a living room streaming version of that simply wouldn’t work, so I didn’t attempt those. But I was fortunate enough to find a way to create online and put out content, created a rock podcast “ Rock Dance Theatre LIVE stream meetings”, put out series of performance-thru quarantine collaborations and “Video Vault” of unseen before stage footage. With restrictions lighter here in Europe I was able to get out and shoot two music videos with Jenara, team based out of Germany and for a polish rock band Vincent. Performed a handful of shows in August which was just great. Appeared as an animated character where I couldn’t be in person, like in ‘Animals ’by SupremeUnbeing. So it was a good and interesting season still.
Each day is different, as we’re all finding ways to deal with Covid lasting literally a year now and in 2021 finding ways to keep moving forward, stay optimistic and engaged. Some days are better others are worse, I’m not gonna lie. It has been probably the longest and only mandatory ‘vacation’ from travelling and performing ever since I was 6 years old. I think the most important thing is trying to see how can I help and contribute to the industry and help other as much as myself thru my Performing Arts Medicine info & support group that I set up online, the BANDAid- Physiotherapy for rockstars practice or otherwise.
I keep healthy and fit, workout almost every day and try to stay connected, mentally I act as if the phone rings tomorrow and I get to rock out on stage. I am always ready to go. As nerve wrecking as the unknown is it’s kind of thrilling at the same time to wake up each day and see what inspiration and creative outlet hits me today. Playing bass, writing scripts, editing videos, or answering interview questions for Metal Anarchy.
METAL ANARCHY: Have you been using your downtime to work on new music?
ACHIMOWICZ: Ironically thanks to the pandemic lockdown, I have introduced a new instrument to my Rock Dance Theatre arsenal of tools, props and inspirations. I picked up the bass guitar and seriously focused on it. I had a fretless 4 string bass, given to me by a friend in 2019, and it literally sat in the kitchen for a year, without me ever touching it. I’m laughing it took a world pandemic for it to find it’s way into my hands. Almost all of my time and energy has been concentrated around learning to play it, and especially the thrash, heavy metal stuff that seems to in my blood the most. (I swapped it for a fretted 4 string, which is more fitting for what I like to play). After being a professionally educated dancer and choreographer for 20 years, it was initially electric guitar that led me to form Rock Dance Theatre. I just picked it up in march 2016 on day and self taught myself to play, but the bass is something that definitely found me and stuck for good.
I wasn’t working on writing or composing music per say. I definitely come up with licks or riffs on the bass, just as they come to me, exchange ideas with my musician friends in Sweden and US. Who knows maybe they turn into something in the future or even just as an inspiration for various other creative outlets.
I did a couple quarantine jam song covers with friends from Latin America and Scandinavia, I was listening to a whole catalog of hard rock and heavy metal from the 80s and binge watching documentaries on my favorite artists like Megadeth, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Krokus to Yngwie Malmsteen as well as quite honestly discovering a whole bunch of tunes I’ve never heard before so it was great to just immerse myself into old and new sound and be surrounded by it day and night.
METAL ANARCHY: What was the last show you played or attended before the shutdown?
ACHIMOWICZ: My last arena show I saw was Megadeth on February 12th, on the FFDP & Bad Wolves European Tour, I was lucky to do a couple of shows in mid 2020 on my “Without You” Tour with Vincent Grotesque. Before everything shut down, I was on a mini workshop tour “TIME to Rock” In February and March, so the last workshop I taught was in Cracow, Poland, I spent two days in Paris after that, and flew back literally on the day as the boarders were closing behind me on March 10th. That would be the last day of the ‘old world’ for me if you will, I flew in to Warsaw, and have been here ever since.
METAL ANARCHY: Are you planning to play any livestream concerts during this time?
ACHIMOWICZ: Yes, if given the opportunity to stream a full stage performance for sure it’s on the to do list. Although the main aim now is getting back to in-person appearances, shows and workshops I teach, restrictions allowing of course.
It is a bit tricky logistically as with RDT depending on the production, my cast is international, so between Poland, Sweden, and United States we’re still on border shutdown. For sure when we get a chance to finally get together we will try to stream the show for everybody else to see around the world. That one element for sure would be great to take away from the pandemic, streaming some of the live shows next to the live performance to those that simply won’t be able to travel and get out to see them for whatever reason. It could be a good extension for us performers to reach to wider audiences and get a broader viewing around the globe, down the line.
METAL ANARCHY: Do you think the live entertainment industry will ever recover?
ACHIMOWICZ: It has to! I simply don’t see a way for it not to. Again, I’m too stubborn to think of it otherwise.
Jokes aside, that’s an interesting question we all ask ourselves everyday, it certainly will be a different reality from what we’ve been used to in unrestricted travel, maximum capacity venues, after parties, or just simply hang outs that we remember pre-pandemic. Especially initially, in the transition phase as the world will be opening up, yet still keeping safety measures and protocols. It will take some years to come back to how it was. The virus is here to stay and might be an issue to deal with from now on, Entertainment has to take that under consideration and certainly everyone around it.
None of us really know, as there are so many variables to our performance industry and we’re all pivoting and kind of making up new rules as we go. No one has an instructional manual you can download for this. I have to and want to be optimistic as certainly as a creator and stage performer I don’t imagine having to do anything else. There is a hunger on our end and certainly you feel that from the fans and audience, the longer this proceeds the bigger the hunger gets. I only wish that governments and people giving the ‘green’ or ‘red’ lights acknowledged more how essential the live industry is, not only to the national and global ‘economy’ but also for a mentally healthy and happy society. I think most of them still don’t realize or want to acknowledge that hundreds and thousands of performers like us have been practically unemployed and without income for over a year, not to mention staff and services around the industry.
If recovery means for us still wearing masks and sanitizing hands more often that before the pandemic, that’s fine by me, masks can be just turned into a fashion piece and a stage outfit, extra washing of hands I do anyway because of my medical profession, working as a rockstar physiotherapist with bands on and off tours, so that’s a norm to me either way.
In order for us to recover sooner rather than later, it’s time to stop acting egoistic about just my tour or my show and my project and start acting together as an industry hit the hardest: artists, legislators, managers, scientists, researchers, venue owners, sponsors etc. What’s the most needed is specialists from all of the mentioned professions talking about problem solving, implementing practical solutions together but more than anything acting in a complex way united. If that doesn’t happen, our wishful thinking for ‘green light givers’ to let us out of the gate won’t simply cut it. Sitting around and waiting for a miracle to happen without taking action is not the right approach.
We need them to realize the culture/ entertainment is as essential to any other ‘mass’ workforce. Same for collaborations within out industry as well, like for instance the bigger acts taking out the smaller and gig relying ones on the road with them. Taking on individual talent from independents that offer great services and can enchase your next project. There are so many ways we can simply help each other, choreographing a music video for someone, teaching a guitar class, designing your merch etc. Question of circulating those talents around, and while the world rebuilds in the bigger picture we can positively affect the smaller circles around us.
Now probably is the one and only time in our history to complete reset and restructure our whole industry. If it’s done wisely we might have a chance of coming back to a whole new better reality for all of us. Like in the medical systems, Covid has exposed a lot of problems and issues behind the scenes of our industry, I think now is the perfect time to address those and form a more favorable set up for performing artists in general.
METAL ANARCHY: Lastly, is there anything fans can do to help your band or others that may be struggling during this time?
ACHIMOWICZ: There is indeed. Since we can’t perform live just yet, great help is getting our merch, buying in person online classes and experiences. There’s always a simple donation PayPal button when we put out a video or any other content out there, any sum is greatly appreciated. Rock Dance Theatre is freelance and independent, so we pretty much rely on the fans, viewers and attendants booking the workshops and classes, paying for the ticket to our shows etc. All of these formats have had to changed into the main virtual realm right now. Also what doesn’t require and financial investment yet is very helpful is simply sharing our Rock Dance Theatre art and content. Engaging in our social media, sharing links, videos etc. Getting those thumbs up, likes and follows going. All that helps us stay in the game and help us create more art with a wider reach for all of you. Until we can meet in person again, which with the vaccination process in motion now and plans and perspectives for the world opening up will hopefully be soon. Everything you need to know about Rock Dance Theatre is on our website and all of our @rockdancetheatre socials. Just reach out to us. Thank You!! I think this says it best: