SS-20 were formed in May 1981, in the Warszawa region. All four members were very young, and more or less learned to play their instruments by forming this group. The original line-up was Robert "Robal" Matera-guitar/vocals, Darek "Stepa" Stepnowski, and Krzysiek Grabowski-drums. Soon after, Darek "Skandal" Hain joined on lead vocals.
SS-20 was a secret weapon, a nuclear missile designed by the USSR. There were two designs of the missile, it was able to fly up to 6000 km, and was in use between 1975 to 1991, when the introduction of international anti-nuclear war pacts made it illegal. Hence, the name itself was considered an incredible provocation for many. Articles ran thru both the Polish and Russian press regarding the "punk" group's name. Soon enough, the group experienced censors examining their lyrics before concerts telling them which songs they could not perform due to their subject matter. "We would comply, and as soon as the censors left, we would go ahead and play them anyway..." -Robal. Eventually the group came to a point that they were unable to even list their name on concert posters, and with more and more difficulty to perform under this controversial name, the group had to abandon the title of "SS20". These early days were documented in a small film made about the group titled "Byc Czlowiekiem" (A. Pakula) filmed July 1982.
By the beginning of '83, the group had introduced the new name, Dezerter, at which point the members had solidified their sound, as a hardcore punk group, certainly the second generation. Sierpien 1983, Dezerter were granted the opportunity to record a 7" EP under supervision of the state label Tonpress. The general commission selected 4 songs they found most lyrically acceptable. Released in 1984, this became the first punk single with blatant political text against the system to be issued within Poland; ironically enough issued by the hypocritical system which they rejected. The 7", packaged in a generic coloured Tonpress sleeve, sold a phenominal 50,000 copies. Members of the group actually made an alternate xerox-collage cover, which was thinly distributed mostly around the Warszawa region. After this initial pressing sold out, the commission at Tonpress over-ruled it being re-issued, and hundreds or thousands of copies were destroyed.
Still 1984, Dezerter performed at the massive Jarocin Festival. This was a climactic point for the group, absolutely blistering fast and tightly performed. The concert was recorded, and the result was the underground cassette release, Jeszcz Zywy Czlowiek. By 1985, the group had already made a massive progression with their sound, incorporating new wave/jazzpunk elements, while still maintaining their hard edge. A second cassette was released, another soundboard recording, this time from the Hybryd Club in Warsaw, titled Izolacja. Something very interesting about this tape was that it was a split with an un-named (unknown) group from the USSR. The first Polish Underground sampler LP was issued this same year on Polton, Fala, including Dezerter. This LP was accompanied by an insert with information on each group. An interesting note is that this was quite a "grass-roots" project, and a very interesting example of the spectrum of creativity coming from the country.
In 1986, Dezerter were included on the first all-punk sampler LP from Poland, Jak Punk To Punk. This new Tonpress LP came with absolutely zero information regarding the groups which it featured.
Dezerter1987 Skandal parted ways with Dezerter, and their first concert without him would be the Jarocin Festival, at which point Robal took over on lead vocals. This same year, the group's meeting with Canadian punk Joey Shithead of D.O.A. brought them the issue of their first full length LP, Underground Out of Poland. Released by Maximum Rock n Roll Collective (U.S.A.), the LP consisted of live recordings from their demos, and the 4 tracks from their Tonpress 7", re-issued without authorization of Tonpress. The case was with all punk bands to record with Tonpress, that the label usually found some way of the rights to the recording remaining in custody of the state label, and the group receiving absolutely zero royalties. This year, the group also made their first professional studio LP, Kolaboracja. The LP was issued under a vinyl-club, and only available through the post. Released by the Razem Label, 5000 pressed. Today, a very rare item.
Dezerter are without doubt the most well known, if not the only Polish Punk group known at an international level. Their tours of Western Europe and Japan, as well as their promotion through the international underground brought them a deserved success which continues to flourish. Dezerter have maintained their power and conviction, musically and ethically. They are still a D.I.Y. band. Family and employment have obviously affected how active they are, but they still tour at least once a year. They have changed bassists a few times, but Krzysiek and Robal still remain original members. Skandal died in 1995(?).