DEZERTER - biography

Dezerter was founded in the spring of 1981 by Warsaw’s electronic technical high school students   Krzysztof Grabowski (drums, lyrics) and Robert „Robal” Matera (music, guitar, vocals). The band was originally called SS-20 (after Soviet ballistic missiles, they were stationed, among other places, in Poland), the lineup was augmented by: Darek „Stepa” Stepnowski (bass, vocals) and Darek „Skandal” Hajn (vocals).

Band’s first public appearance occurred in November of 1981 during the X Mokotowska Jesień Muzyczna [10th Youth Music Autumn in Mokotów], a review of amateur bands.   The band received a distinction, but the awards were not handed out due to the introduction of the Martial Law.  After a few stormy, at times broken up concerts, the band qualified for the Jarocin festival (1982), where it performed with great success. 

Due to controversial name the band quickly lost opportunities to perform and faced a dilemma:  either    to breakup or to rename. The musicians picked the latter option and since September 15, 1982, the band performs as Dezerter [Deserter]. In the spring of 1983 Dezerter entered a professional recording studio for the first time, to record four songs that were later released as an EP.  

That same year the band appeared in Jarocin again, the following year too (Jarocin’84); that appearance has entered history annals because of the quarrel with the festival organizers.  Recording of that concert (and the quarrel) was out on a tape „Jeszcze żywy człowiek” [“Still Living Man”] released on its own by the band under the label Tank Records. In 1985 Stepa was replaced by Paweł Piotrowski. A year later Skandal quit singing, his task was appropriated by Robal and since that moment Dezerter operates as a trio. 

In 1987 an American record label Maximum Rock'n'Roll released the „Underground out of Poland” album, and after many years of trying the musicians finally obtained passports from the Communist authorities and could start going abroad. That’s how a new period in band’s history began, i.e. concerts in Western Europe. Starting from 1988 several important tours were organized, both in the West (Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland), and the East (Ukraine), climaxing in 1990, when Dezerter visited Japan. The time of performing abroad coincided with suspension of gigs in Poland.   Due to growing disturbances and lack of safety for musicians and the public, Dezerter suspended performing in 1987. It was resumed in December of 1989.   

In 1987 Dezerter was able to record its first full scale record in Poland. Because of existing censorship, problems couldn’t be avoided. The censor demanded change in lyrics and album cover and banned the title „Collaboration”.   The band insisted that censor’s interference be audible to the listeners and instead of changing questionable words, beeped them out.  Due to that, album’s edition was limited and was available  to chosen members of a record club only. 

The next published work, in 1988, was „Collaboration II”. Dezerter chose to call their records that way as an ironic commentary to cooperation with the state owned record labels (no other record labels existed at the time). During that period offers to appear on TV started.  However, TV was still associated with the regime and the Dezerters were not very keen to appear there. And if the appearance was going to happen, it would have to be done on their own terms. So, for example, when the band received an invitation to the show hosted by Wojciecha Mann and Jan Chojnacki , the band offered to perform live, without using playback, while wearing pig masks.  As is expected, the terms were not agreed upon and the appearance did not happen.   

When the political system in Poland changed, the way the band operated changed. What was impossible until now, i.e. regular concerts and record publishing, became main occupation for the musicians in the next decade.  “Wszyscy przeciwko wszystkim” [„All Against All”] (1990) was the first album published in free Poland; the next one was „Blasfemia” [“Blasphemy”] in 1992.  In 1993    Paweł Piotrowski left the band, and Matera with Grabowski started to prepare new material for a new record („Ile procent duszy?” [“How Many Percent of Soul?”], 1994). For a few gigs Mariusz „Zyziek” Zych played bass, and soon after Tony von Kinsky joined the band. 

At the turn of 1993 and 1994 Matera and Grabowski were invited to co-edit the first fully independent show on the TVP [Polish (public) Television] - „Alternativi”. The show dealt with widely defined alternative culture and had over thirty episodes.  The next maverick idea of the band was to cooperate with Paweł „Kelner” Rozwadowski, the singer from Deuter, a band that ceased to exist at that time; Dezerter recorded twenty Deuter songs with him. The material appeared on a record    („Deuter”, 1995) and was promoted by two tours with Kelner taking part.  Being in great artistic shape the band quickly recorded another material    – „Mam kły mam pazury” [„I Have Fangs I Have Claws”] (1996), followed by „Ziemia jest płaska” [“The Earth is Flat”] (1998), that album featured an unusual instrument for Dezerter – an accordion. Jarek Smak and Arek Waś played as guests. .

The end of the 90’s is marked by the decrease in number of gigs and Tony von Kinsky bailing out.   For that reason, the band as a duo creates an album „Decydujące starcie” [“Decisive Clash”] (2000). That same year Jacek Chrzanowski, known from the bands Kolaboranci and Hey, became the new Dezerter member; he plays in the band to this day. In 2004 there was a new album  „Nielegalny zabójca czasu” [„Illicit Time Killer”], as well as the first ever DVD for the band   –  the concert at the 10th  Przystanek Woodstock.

The 21st century is marked by an increase of gig performances abroad.  The band visits Great Britain on regular basis (including the tour featuring Katarzyna Nosowska in 2002) and incidentally performs in the U.S. (in 2009 as a guest of „Rebel Waltz: Underground Music From Behind the Iron Curtain”, in New York City). And visits other countries too (Czech Republic, Germany, Finland).

The album „The Right To Be An Idiot” published in 2010 received the Fryderyk Award as a record of the year, being the second distinction in band’s history. In 2014 a new work,  „Większy zjada mniejszego” [„The Big Eats the Small”] was published.


Post scriptum

Throughout the years Dezerter’s songs appeared on many Polish and worldwide compilation records and were used as soundtrack for several movies.

In 1994 Paweł „Konjo” Konnak featured the Dezerters as the protagonists of his documentary film „Nie ma zagrożenia” [“There Is No Threat”].

In 2006 an album „Nie ma zagrożenia, jest Dezerter” [„There Is No Threat, There Is Dezerter”]   was published, featuring Dezerter songs covered by several dozen different bands.