An interview with Morgan Hakansson of Marduk at the Camden Underworld, Jan 28th 2010.
Matt ~ When you started Marduk, did you have any long term goals or any aspirations other than to make ‘blasphemous black music’?
Morgan ~ Hell no, of course you had the ambitions to go ahead and just let the energy flow; it takes you where it takes you you know what I mean? I don’t know, it’s hard to say because the industry was completely different 20 years ago. I mean, we had a big explosion and maybe I didn’t have THAT big ambititions to go this far but I mean, as you started to progress and work on it you felt that you had something (coming?) and when you get the first album deal and you think “hmmm” and then you always take it one step ahead you know? But I never supposed this music scene would explode and become as big as it actually is; at that time it was very small I would say the scene and you more or less knew everybody involved in it and it just kinda exploded. I never thought that extreme black metal albums would be available in huge record stores but it’s a triumph that it is…
Matt ~ And it’s great that it is. It’s definitely great that it is!
Morgan ~ Ha, yeah it’s great; you gotta spread the message.
Matt ~ One thing; do you guys mind / want to be called by your first names or do you want stage names?
Morgan ~ Some of us have; one of us has. Our vocalist has, but apart from that none of us have.
Matt ~ Yeah, I was gonna say Daniel…
Morgan ~ Yeah, Mortus, but I mean I’m fine with my own name; works very well. I mean I don’t have a personal problem with stage names; it can be good but usually some of them end up a bit… silly I think…
Matt ~ It’s more personal (without them)…
Morgan ~ Yeah, it should be personal and a reflection of what you are but I mean it’s getting kinda ridiculous over the years so I don’t really care!
Matt ~ I was going to say he’s really added to your ‘sound’ in his own unique way because with black metal vocalists to some people, they all sound the same.
Morgan ~ They do, a lot of them… Some people just sing the lyrics or cram the lyrics to a song but that’s why I wanted Mortuus as vocalist because the way he uses his voice it’s not just singing it’s more of an instrument you know and it adds something unique and therefore he’s also taking lots of parts in (the) songwriting and he specialises in his vocal arrangements and it adds something unique to the music; it’s as important as the guitars you know?
Matt ~ I was going to say; was there anything special about his style that put him above anyone else for the position?
Morgan ~ Yes. When I knew I was going to change vocalist he was the only one that I wanted.
Matt ~ Excellent, so you had him in mind straightaway? Onto the current album, ‘Wormwood’; how long did the process of writing and recording and was anything significantly different that you did this time?
Morgan ~ Naah, I wouldn’t saything anything very different because we don’t work in a specific pattern when we work on music. It’s not like we say “today, we start writing music”; we’re all working on ideas all the time and we’re recording ideas and lyrics. Then we more or less get together and everything falls into place really. But I mean, recording wise we recorded our 3rd album in the same studio which is owned by our bass player which makes it very easy to work that way because we can go in and work for 24 hours in a row if we wanted to for 3 days and not go home whenever we’re in the mood and are really excited to be recording. It’s far better than going to the studio when you work maybe 9-5. I think that it reflects in the spirit of the recording so I think that’s very good. It’s a very ‘basic’ album; it’s got guitar, drums, bass and vocals. It’s hard to say how long it took to write because we’re constantly working on ideas, but we recorded it over a 2 months period in the studio but usually we’re maybe active for 3 weeks in the studio.
Matt ~ ‘Wormwood’ itself seems to have a more mature yet still ‘filthy and raw’ sound. Progression is natural and for a respectable band like yourselves it’s gonna happen, but if it makes sense, how much of the sound you have now is an intentional thing or has it all basically come from a progressive place?
Morgan ~ I would say that we just let things come the way they do; we never plan anything and it just turns out the way it does. If an album turns out one way or the other, it’s hard to say; it’s not like we decide we have to have a certain amount of songs. For us, it’s important that music and lyrics become one so that’s what we really work with; we reflect each other.
Matt ~ With metal anyway (especially black metal), it’s more obvious when there’s that emotion it’s not just fucking, you haven’t just gone “let’s just play that bit again as fast as we can; you can blastbeat constantly”. You know, you just go “fuck it; what comes, comes”.
Morgan ~ Yeah. I believe in trying to create music in a way that creates a picture in your mind you know. That’s what I believe is really important that the music and lyrics become one because when they feed each other it’s dynamite in your spirit.
Matt ~ There’s definitely that added edge with black metal music, for example alot of people don’t ‘get it’; my brother is into metal for example, but doesn’t really dig really black metal like I do, and to him it’s “I don’t like that filthy, raw sound” whilst I’m like “it’s not about the best production”…
Morgan ~ Aah, I believe in having a good production and a good production in my eyes in something that reflects the spirit of the music; I mean, if we were used to production such as Darkthrone, that would not work for us but it works for them very fine. For what we do, with speed and aggression, I believe that everything has to be of course brutal and filthy but still a bit clear so you gotta hear everything that goes on to feel the power of the music.
Morgan ~ But also you can hear the bass, which is something you rarely hear. We actually recorded the guitars for this album differently because in the past we’ve always had 4 or 6 guitars that gives you a massive ‘wall of sound’ but now we’ve got the two guitars of course you get much more of a Slayer dynamic and you hear the bass even better.
Matt ~ There’s a lot more melody to this album, well I say ‘melody’ with as much melody black metal can have… but there’s definitely a little bit!
Morgan ~ Yeah, yeah.
Matt ~ Bit of a random one; you’ve worked a few times in the past with Peter Tagtgren. He even played guitar on your first live album…
Morgan ~ Yeah, he played for two tours; one in ’96 and one in ’97 where he’s played live guitar with us.
Matt ~ I was going to say; how different was it NOT to work with him on this album or what is it like generally to work with him?
Morgan ~ Nah, it’s no problem because we worked with a guy who’s also a very competent technician so it’s no problem for us. So that’s no problem at all. I mean, of course it was great to work with Peter. We did like 4 or 5 albums but it was just a natural thing to move on and maybe we will work together in the future, I mean, you never know.
Matt ~ Yeah I’ve heard good things and from other bands that he’s a nice guy and I tried to meet him before at a Pain gig but briefly missed him…
Morgan ~ Yeah, he’s a very amusing guy. I’ve been knowing him since like ’93/94 or something. We played together a few shows in ’93 and he wanted us to come up and record with him for a long time and we finally ended up going there, you know.
Matt ~ And it worked out?
Morgan ~ Yeah, I mean we don’t speak that much but we’re still very good friends so we talk every time we talk and because we’re both very active being away so we’ve been saying for like 4 years “yeah we gotta meet up this summer”. But I’m actually going to meet him soon as we’re playing the same festival in March in the North of Sweden…
Matt ~ And is this the first time you’ve been that far North in Sweden?
Morgan ~ Yeah, we’ve been there before but this time we’re going to do a festival with Behemoth playing, Hyprocrisy and us, so…
Matt ~ The one thing that has to be said about Scandanavian music, especially in Norway and Sweden, is that it’d be great if the music was as popular here as it is there. One of the reasons why some of the people here who are into their black metal are so passionate about it is because of the fucking bollocks we have to put up with; you NEVER see anything similar on TV and seldom on the radio…
Morgan ~ No, no, you don’t see that very much at home. It’s more of a Norwegian thing to see it on television but in Sweden I don’t think it’s that.
Matt ~ And everybody thinks that everyone in Sweden is in a band aren’t they?
Morgan ~ Yeah, more or less. Everything thinks it’s some big thing; but everybody is in a band. Well, not really but it used to like that!
Matt ~ Another random one, going back further; you were saying about trying out a new vocalist, when Roger left did you immediately seek to replace him with Magnus or was that circumstantial?
Morgan ~ No, actually. He was gonna leave; it was kinda bizarre because he told me that he was going to move to the States and I was like “OK…” but we had a final show coming up with him and I said “yeah, let’s do the show” you know, and on the way to that show I was speaking to our old guitar player Devo who’s actually the studio technician to do the live sound for us at that show and then I told him after the show Roger’s gonna quit the band and he was like “whaaaat?!”. He asked me “who you gonna get for bass players?” and I said “I don’t know; are you interested?!” and he’s like “yeah sure!” and then we talk for a minutes and he’s back in the band. He used to be in the band since ’92-94 so now he’s been back since 2004 being our studio technician and bass player. You should have a gut-feeling when about to change members so you trust that feeling. Right now, I think we have the strongest line-up we’ve ever had, you know?
Matt ~ Excellent. It’s always nice when you have that feeling. One thing I’ve always wanted to know, because I can’t see it anywhere; is it possible to ask about your unfortunate experience with the No Fashion label?
Morgan ~ This is a record label and they always do it haha one way or the other! I mean, I still look back on that time with great joy I would say because it’s not even the same. The guy who started the label didn’t run it later on; he had the label and it was stolen from him by a big distributor in Sweden called Sound Pollution because he fucked up his economy and then Sound Pollution took care of everything; he had good intentions when he started the label but he couldn’t handle everything. But he made a good start for us so I’m still happy.
Matt ~ And everything happens for a reason you know and now obviously you’re where you are now.
Morgan ~ You learn from it, you know. That’s the way record labels work, and we had another label after that who also acted kinda strange, but that’s the way it is.
Matt ~ The albums ‘Those of the Unlight’ and ‘Opus Nocturne’ have songs on them that have taken names from Mayhem songs originally…
Morgan ~ Ah, yeah, from lyrics that Dead wrote that never were completed, yes.
Matt ~ I was going to ask were the homages, as it were, to Mayhem or Dead himself?
Morgan ~ Ah, they were to Dead.
Matt ~ So they were to Dead, to Per, cool.
Morgan ~ Because I think that he was a strong personality in this scene and I think his death started up a lot of things and his death meant a lot…
Matt ~ I believe Necrobutcher in the past has said that if it wasn’t for that, unfortunate as it was, perhaps things would not have exploded as quickly as they did…
Morgan ~ Yeah, and I think he MADE Mayhem the band it became because before that, yeah it was Mayhem, but Dead brought the real darkness to that band when it comes to lyrics and everything. Saying that I had a lot of song titles that he wrote as wrote a lot of letters at that time as we didn’t talk, they didn’t even have a phone you know, so we were always writing. He wrote me, he was actually on a train down to Turkey and he’s like “yeah, we’re working on this song called ‘Burn My Coffin'” and when he died, I was like “hmm, it’s too good a song title to let loose” so it’s an homage to Dead. There are some more things that people don’t know and when I’ll go back later on and some people will… there’s even more you know.
Matt ~ Aside of the ‘band’ then, what equipment do you use, or do you have any invaluable or favourite guitar or pedal?
Morgan ~ Well, I have some old guitars that I really like but I don’t even use all of them, I used to have this old Fender that I used for many tours that I think is a magical item; so much blood and sweat, but I’m not really a technical guy and I don’t really care that much, but I’ve been having the same old amplifier since ’92; a good old Marshall JCM800 and I use the same fucking distortion pedals I’ve been using since the early ’90s.
Matt ~ It does the job.
Morgan ~ I mean, I don’t care. For me it’s just weapons, you know?
Matt ~ On your website you’ve stated that in 2004 you wrote and recorded pretty much all the parts to a 3 track EP…
Morgan ~ Yeah, I did some primitive recordings…
Matt ~ The question is had you or would you considering doing a ‘Burzum’ as it were and write your own music solely?
Morgan ~ Aah, not really, I believe in a band. But I’ve been doing some recordings when I have the time for future things. I did actually 2 kinds of demo recordings some are very different from the way we sound. I recorded ideas and some of them ended up in other songs later on but I still have the old recordings.
Matt ~ Are there any future plans for Marduk this year? You trying any festivals?
Morgan ~ Yes, we’ve got a lot of things coming up. We’ve constantly been on tour more or less since the album came out and even before but when we get back to Sweden after this tour we have 10 dates left now we are actually doing a festival in the North of Sweden that’s February-March and then in April we’re doing a headlining tour and then in April we’re also going for a South American tour; Brazil, I think Peru, Argentina, Chile and then come home and in May we go out to Europe for a two week tour playing 5 big open air festivals and 5 selected shows inbetween together with Deicide and Vader…
Matt ~ Bloody hell…
Morgan ~ And after that we actually some two more festivals coming up for the summer which I don’t yet and also during the summer we’re going to go back to play the second part of South America to play the more central American parts like Mexico…
Matt ~ Yeah, you’re massive in Mexico aren’t you?
Morgan ~ Yeah, and they’re good to us. It was the first place we played outside Europe. So we’re going to go back to Mexico and for the first to Hondurras and back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
Matt ~ In South America they love their black metal!
Morgan ~ And after that we’ll plan to do an Asia tour and try and do Australia too, so a lot of things coming up.
Matt ~ Excellent. Well, that’s pretty much it! I won’t keep you. Thank you.
Morgan ~ Thank you!