Monday 23 July 2012

MARDUK - Burning Black Flame

Swedish group Marduk, commanded by its only original member, guitarist and main composer Morgan Håkansson, is a fine example of an underground band, which through its impeccable consistency, dedication and persistence made it to the extreme elite already years ago. May 2012 saw the release of the band's crushing twelfth full-length "Serpent Sermon", their first release for Century Media. It's their fourth record since the departure of the charismatic frontman Legion in 2003. Completed with new vocalist Mortuus, "Angel Plague", "Rom 5:12", "Wormwood" and the latest opus surely belong to Marduk's strongest offerings to date. Morgan spoke to We Wither to explain what fuels his desire for metal destruction, why is it important to tour and his vast interest in history.

You were a 17-year-old kid in 1990. The Marduk biography says that you wanted to create the most brutal and blasphemous metal act ever. What kind of person were you at the time?
Back then I was very young and hungry. I never really wanted to be the most blasphemous because I didn't want to compete with anyone. Around 1990 a lot of metal bands became mellow and mainstream, which we really disliked. With Marduk we wanted to bring back that darkness and hate to metal music, which we think is essential.

After twenty years on stage and twelve albums how do you maintain the energy and will to keep doing what you're doing? What drives you, is it anger, passion, a need to prove something?
I feel a black flame burning inside me, which fuels everything I do and it drives my actions with Marduk. It keeps me hungry and eager to stay on course in my long dark journey that started over two decades ago. I'm inspired by the people I play with, we inspire each other and push ourselves to do extreme music. Together we create magic and we let the energy loose which affects our sound. It's a pure reflection of our spirits. I don't feel a need to prove anything. I never experience that.

Since Mortuus joined Marduk in 2004, he seems to have had a huge impact on the band. You recorded songs which correspond very well with what he's doing with Funeral Mist, for example, tracks such as "Accuser/Opposer", "Coram Satanae" and "Funeral Dawn". Did the results or your collaboration top your expectations?
It absolutely passed my expectations but from the beginning I knew we would be able to do great things together since Mortuus is as eager and passionate for extreme music as I am. He has got such a unique voice so the fact that some of Marduk songs sound a little bit like Funeral Mist is natural and doesn't bother me at all. I think we’ve achieved fantastic things so far and there is so much more to follow in the future. We constantly work and even only a month or two after releasing "Serpent Sermon" we have already started writing for the next record.

Does replacing the original logo on the cover of "Serpent Sermon" mean anything or is it just refreshing the band's image?
Some people asked me why we dumped our original logo and that's a mistake because we never got rid of it. On this album we decided to use the alternative logo, which by the way has been in use for some time now, since it looked better with this particular cover art. The original Marduk logo is something I'm very proud of and we would never dump it. I actually hate when bands do that. Possessed got rid of the white inverted cross from their logo when they released "Beyond the Gates", which really sucked.

fot. by Herman Stehouwer
Do you write and perform sensing there is pressure on your work?
I don't feel any pressure at all. I just try to get out what I have inside and channel it through music. I do what I think is right for myself and Marduk and I believe in my creativity, that's what artists do.

You start your hell of a European tour in August 2012 in Poland and finish it after over forty dates in October in Poland again. You also recorded the live album "Warschau" here. Is this a coincidence or is Poland more important to you somehow?
Yes, it is important. One of the reasons for it is that our booking agency Massive Music is from Poland, so it's great to be able to start and finish the tour there. It's very good logistically for us as well. This tour is indeed a huge one. It's 40 shows in 48 days. I have always been interested in Warsaw since it's a place connected to the history of many wars, not only the Second World War. I'm very interested in the history of wars between Sweden and Poland in the sixteenth century. I read a lot about that period. It has always been a great inspiration to me. The idea to record a live show in Warsaw was fantastic since it's a historical city and we always had very successful tours in Poland and we have extremely dedicated fans over there.

You have always toured a lot around the world. Ten or fifteen years ago Eastern Europe was a place where fans were really crazy and all the bands were talking about it. This was also the case in South America. Do you still feel the extreme and exciting hunger for metal amongst the fans now as in the ‘90s? Are metal-heads as devoted as they used to be?
Its hard to say, it gets better or worse from time to time. Actually I think it's getting better again lately. Wherever we go, Europe, America or Asia, we always meet very dedicated and fanatical fans. That's why we push each other to go to new places and reach as many new countries and cities as possible. It's very exciting to play in new places. It doesn't even matter if there is a huge crowd or only a bunch of people. Eastern Europe was always the best place to tour, it's like a highlight but there are awesome fans all over the world.

You have so much material that it must be difficult to choose the set-list each time you tour. Do you ever think about which songs fans would like to hear or do you not compromise at all in this field?
We always perform only the tracks we want to and don’t compromise. For me what's important is the present. I believe that the band is as strong as its last album. I don't want to live in the past, though we play some older songs too because we are proud of the older material as well. My idea for live shows is to play as many new songs as possible. I like to present the new material live whenever we go on tour so we usually put quite a few new tracks in the set.

Lots of musicians joined and left Marduk over the years. Supposedly so far you’ve had three vocalists, three guitarists, two bass players and three drummers who are no longer in the band. According to your experience, what position is the most difficult to replace?
I would say it's the vocalist. In my opinion, to find a charismatic frontman who is determined and 100% devoted is definitely a very hard thing. There are lots of awesome guitarists and drummers around but good vocalists are rare. When I recruited Mortuus I didn't want him to be a copy of Legion and was sure that he would be able to lift Marduk to another level because of his extraordinary energy and dedication. His voice is so unique that you recognize it right away when you put the record on. I don't think that's been the case with any of our drummers, though they are all good musicians.

Most metal bands have two guitarists but not Marduk, apart from your early years when Devo was a guitar player. Do you think playing with one guitar makes metal more straightforward?
In a way it does, though it can sometimes sound a little empty. If you ask me about the current line-up, I have to say I feel very confident with one guitar right now. The whole band is very tight and focused at the moment. It's the best line-up we’ve had since forever.

Marduk often speaks about Nazi Germany and the Second World War. You seem to have a lot in common with death metal veterans Vader in that field. Is your interest in history one of the reasons you have toured together so many times?
Not in the beginning. One of the reasons we toured together a lot is that we have the same promoter. We became very good friends with Vader and playing with them is always a pleasure and a good chance to spend time talking about some aspects of the history since Peter and I are both interested in lots of similar things, such as the Second World War. We often discuss the history books we read and films we’ve watched. Once when we were on a European tour and we had a day off in France, Peter and I went to the panzer museum, which was just great.

A relatively small population of ten million Swedes has been able to produce an endless number of groundbreaking and essential metal bands. Scandinavia also has a very high percentage of people who listen to metal. What do you think is the reason for this and would you dare to explain it?
For some reason, it seems everybody here is somehow involved in a scene, playing in a band or doing something connected with metal. For example, my hometown of Norrköping has around 90,000 inhabitants but there are quite a few awesome bands around here. Let's mention the occult hard rock band Year of the Goat or the doom group Griftegård. And there are more. I can’t really explain why Scandinavians love metal so much, but the extreme stuff might simply be in our blood.

fot. by Herman Stehouwer
Do you care if Marduk is called a black or death metal band? Is it important to you to be labeled as black metal?
The line between death and black metal is pretty vague nowadays. For example, I understand Morbid Angel's "Altars of Madness" as a black metal record but most people would say it's a typical death metal album. I personally think about Marduk as a black metal band but, honestly, I don't really care what people call it. It's extreme metal with a strong dedication to all things dark and satanic and that's all what matters.

Your other band Death Wolf (previously known as Devil's Whorehouse) is clearly influenced by Danzig. Taking a look at your tattoo, it is easy to figure out that you are a huge fan of his work. Are the Misfits and Danzig bands which originally got you interested in dark, disturbing music? You also played with Danzig a couple of times…
Originally it was Samhain, his band between the Misfits and Danzig, that got my attention but at the time I was so much more interested in very extreme metal so I only rediscovered and got hooked up with his albums later on. Danzig is a huge inspiration to me. In a way, I see my reflection in him. He never cared what people were saying about his music and never changed because the press was criticizing him. He always kept doing his thing, following his own path. In that sense we are similar. We had an opportunity to tour twice, in 2002 and 2010. I really appreciate that we had a chance to do it, we felt privileged. Being able to see one of your favourite bands every night is amazing.

What's up with the as yet unreleased EP "Portraits Of Dead Children"?
It was a very primitive recording. Done with not the best equipment at a time when Legion and B.War had left the band after "World Funeral". I still have it somewhere and maybe one day I will put it on our website or maybe go back to the studio to restore it but I don't have exact plans for it at the moment.

What message are you sending to the world with your alias Evil?
I don't think evil is a thing you can or should explain, you need to figure it out for yourself. That nickname was strictly connected to what I was doing in Abruptum. I didn't really choose that name. It was given to me by the former band members All and It. With Marduk I never use a nickname, I don't need it, I know who I am.

There is a saying that you should know your enemy to be able to fight it. Does being a radical antichristian and not knowing the Bible and its message make sense to you?
You definitely should know your enemy if you want to fight it right. The Bible inspires me in so many ways. My interest in reading came originally in school. First it was rather in history books, then it was the Bible. Later over the years it developed into something bigger. What really drives me is to represent the exact opposite to what Christianity stands for.