Marduk interview (05/2012)
|With:||Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson|
|Conducted by:||D.T. Metal (phone)|
Marduk, formed in 1990 by guitarist Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson, will be touring North America later this month in support of their 12th full length studio album Serpent Sermon. Check here for dates.
Last time I saw Marduk was during the Metalfest Winter Edtition in Germany and I was looking forward to grilling Morgan about their upcoming tour, the new album and their recent signing with Century Media among others.
Birgit: Hey man; nice talking to you again. And to start things off; when you formed the band, did you think Marduk would still be around 20 plus years later?
Morgan: Hey what's up, hope you are doing fine. And well, it's hard to say, because when you first start you have that one vision, you work hard and when you get more dedicated to your work you sometimes might have doubts that you don't stand the test of time. But right now after 22 years I think we are stronger as a band as we ever have been before. And I personally feel stronger, body and mind alike, so I believe our journey has just begun.
Birgit: You are one of the older black metal bands; are there any newer bands in your opinion that stand out in today's scene?
Morgan: I don't know, and I don't sit down and reflect on what other bands are doing. I care about what I am and we as a band are doing. I see where my life is expanding and where my dedication and loyalty is, so I focus on my own creativity. I can not think of any specific new band that I listen too, but there are a lot of bands for people to find and check out.
Birgit: I just had a conversation with another musician and he said that he makes music mostly for himself and what people take away from it it's up to them. What is your stand on this subject?
Morgan: I understand the thought. I write with my own meaning of the lyrics and the music. And when people listen to it they can make up their own mind what it means to them, while I know exactly what it means to me. That's why I never speak that much about the lyrical concept of an album; I prefer people to read them and decide for themselves what they will take away from it. So many people ask me about this and that but I think it's stupid to sit here and explain the lyrics. It's the same like trying to explain to someone the meaning of a painting. It talks to the viewer in its own way and I believe music should do the same.
Birgit: So would it be fair to say that black metal is not necessarily for the masses but more of a personal, reflecting type of music?
Morgan: That's personal as well. I mean the whole "it's personal" thing is usual said by people who … well their music isn't worth to be released anyway and I don't see the point in it. I have a message in my music so why shouldn't I have it out for the masses? I remember in the early nineties, Morbid Angel was playing with bigger bands and people were saying they are selling out which I don't agree upon. I mean believing in your music and playing to bigger audiences is spreading your message to the masses which is the meaning of it all.
Birgit: Serpent Sermon will be your 12th studio album and your first release on Century Media; do you have a worldwide deal and do you also still have your own label Blooddawn Productions?
Morgan: We did a world wide deal with Century Media but also still have Blooddawn Productions, which is basically my label. …(then the audio was bad due to skype)…
the past 10 years we also had our own label and did distribution through a Swedish label, Regain Records. Things were kinda falling apart with them so we decided to move on and got offers from more or less all of the extreme music labels. But in the end we decided that Century Media had the strongest foundation and the strongest plateau for a band like us to work with. So far so good. (laughs)
Birgit: So Century Media didn't put any restrictions on you?
Morgan: No, because otherwise we wouldn't be on Century Media. This is the most important thing to us and all the labels we have ever worked with never tried to interfere with that. We need to have total artistic freedom because otherwise we would just put the music out ourselves. We don't except any interference with our production, lay out or whatsoever. We do our job and then they can do theirs; take care of the album.
Birgit: The new album will also be released on vinyl and since vinyl records have become more and more popular over the years; what is your take on mp3 vs. CD vs. vinyl in regards to sound quality?
Morgan: Everybody knows that mp3's are usually worse then any of the others. But honestly I don't listen to music that much. I listen to my stereo at home or in my car and that's about it. Of course vinyl has a certain charm and some older recordings sound really good, but then also on a CD. But I don't listen to music on the computer or on the telephone; I rather listen the old fashion way, sitting at home.
Birgit: You took your time to record Serpent Sermon and Mortuus's vocals have become somewhat more distinct over the years. So can we expect some groundbreaking stuff or did you stick with the same great Marduk formula and just defined it some?
Morgan: I don't know if its groundbreaking, people who listen to the album would have to decide that. For me the importance of groundbreaking is that the music is coming from the heart and soul, that is what matters to me. And then if it sounds like some of our earlier albums, I wouldn't mind, as long as we are unleashing the energy and creativity the way it speaks to us. That's what it's all about. We don't want to be extreme metal just for the sake of being called extreme metal. (and then the skype audio sucked for a minute)
Birgit: So who are the main composers in the band now; music and lyric wise?
Morgan: In the past I did most of the material, but these days, with the line up we have now we work more as a unit as we ever done before. On this album everybody participated and worked on the music while the lyrics are done mostly by me and Mortuus. Music wise everybody came up with ideas and we shared them in the rehearsal room and whatever fit the band well fits the band. In the past people really didn't do that but now pretty much everybody works on it the same.
Birgit: Do you write on the road or more at home in peace and quite or in the studio?
Morgan: I always have the ideas on the road, but I don't think I have ever written one song on the road, well maybe one or two riffs. Usually on the road we don't focus on that but rather concentrate more on our live performance and there are a lot of things going on. The writing is done at home but not necessarily in peace and quite. (laughs) We are not that kind of band that says "and now we should come up with some new material". We all do work constantly on our own and then come together and see how the ideas are going.
Birgit: The album cover looks really old school as well. Was that intentionally and who did the artwork?
Morgan: The artwork was done by our vocalist Mortuus. We did the whole album on a DIY path; it was recorded in our bass player's studio, produced by ourselves, then also mixed by our bass player and the layout was done by our vocalist. We have worked on our new (ed: inaudible) and worked on the concept of everything. So who should better know how to do the artwork and visual reflections of the music than us? And speaking of the album cover; it is kind of simplistic and minimalistic compared to our others and I think it really reflects the spirit of the album. You have the pentagram and you also have the devil or demon or whatever you want to make out of it and it very much symbolizes the diabolic sense of the album. It doesn't have that many pictures in the booklet as some of our others but I think it portrays the visual side of the music and lyrics.
Birgit: And speaking of album covers; is the Iron Dawn EP still available or was it limited to 500 or so copies?
Morgan: I think it is sold out but check online just to be sure. It was just a release in between the albums ..
Birgit: To fulfill the contract with Regain?
Morgan: No, we actually never had a contract with Regain; we kinda worked in a gentleman's way. We had an agreement, mouth to mouth, and as long things worked we worked together and any of us could walk out at any time. It is a great way to do business. But we just came to the realization that it was time to move on and they agreed. It was not on bad terms or anything like that.
Birgit: The sleeve of Iron Dawn again had a panzer on it and I remember years ago you were accused of belonging or sympathizing with National Socialist Black Metal, did this blow over or do you still get the shaft about it?
Morgan: That whole thing was rather strange. If somebody would have done a movie about it (ed: Iron Dawn) then nobody would have accused them about being a Nazi. We have a lot of songs related to WWII and I can not change history. Some historical events paint a strong picture in my mind and I write a soundtrack to the happenings. I don't see a problem with that and if anybody else has a problem with it then they can go and fuck themselves. The whole incident still comes up once in a while but I don't care because anybody with some sense should understand what it's all about and it shouldn't be a big deal. It's just another release and we shouldn't get slandered about it, it's an historical interest and everybody should be able to sing about war.
Birgit: Very true! Now your new songs "M.A.M.M.O.N." and "Souls for Belial" were already released to the public. I remember the good old days when nobody, including the press, would hear a new album until the day of the release. Do you think now, with the day and age of downloading and leaking albums it takes away from the magic of a new record?
Morgan: Absolutely, I think it is destroying music. Even with our own album's I really don't get annoyed with people downloading our music, but what destroys it is that you expect an album to be out on a certain day and a lot of people already have listened to it. I remember back in the day when you actually went to record stores to buy an album and you were maybe late and they already closed and you had to go back the next day to get it and hold the album in your hand. That's magic you know.
I personally wait, because I don't want to hear it over shitty YouTube or whatnot ever. But I understand that labels want to push in that direction.
For example, I like The Cult a lot and a friend of mine is a journalist and had an advance copy of the new album, but I really didn't want to hear it. I want to have the album in my hand so I can listen to it and also look at the graphics and everything. I want the full impression of the album. But that's just me. The younger generation can't wait I guess. (laughs)
Birgit: Speaking of can't wait; over the last couple of years you had your fair share of visa issues coming to North America; everything cleared this time?
Morgan: There are always problems with papers and shit, but we got the visas. We have been over to the states five times in the last two years, and even for some shorter tours like the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise. And speaking of touring, we actually are starting the tour in Siberia, Russia with Vader and Kataklysm; a two week run which is the warm up tour I guess. And after Russia we are going to Belarus and we also go back to Mexico. Then of course the tour with 1349, Withered and Weapon and in September we have a tour coming up with Immolation …
Birgit: Nice, I love Immolation!
Morgan: Me too. I liked them from day one and they are still releasing great, great albums and are awesome people as well. So I am very much looking forward getting back onto the road with those guys.
Birgit: How hard is it to choose a set list for a tour, with a back catalog as large as yours and the fans wanting to hear the older stuff as well?
Morgan: Actually it is very hard to decide what we are going to play. This tour is for our latest album so of course we are trying to promote the new songs but we also will play the older ones. The set list will probably change from night to night. When we are out in Russia we probably only play one or two new songs since the album isn't out yet, and in America a couple more. We would like to play songs from all our albums, but we will see.
Birgit: Real quick about Death Wolf; what was the reason you changed the band name from Devils Whorehouse?
Morgan: I think it was just a natural progression. We were changing and moving on and entering a different stage of mind and we decided we have outgrown the old vision and had a stronger new vision. We needed a different moniker and get away from the whole idea of the previous band with the name of an old Misfits song. I think the whole band moved into a different direction and has a stronger foundation so we decided to move on with a more symbolic or stronger name to symbolize the strengths of the music.
Birgit: What would be your dream tour line-up with you headlining or supporting?
Morgan: Oh, I don't know. I mean I am open to play with any band because we are out to do our own thing. Over the years I had the privilege of playing with some great bands so I think I had that opportunity already. We toured with a lot of bands that I really appreciate but we never got to tour with Celtic Frost, but we have toured with Triptykon! We toured with Danzig, Morbid Angel, just to name a few; well we toured with a lot of great bands so I really can't answer that question.
Birgit: Well, that's about it; any last words to your fans!
Morgan: I hope you all show up and get embraced by the Serpent Sermon; hope to see you all.
Posted on 23.05.2012 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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