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Mortiis - If you want something done right, do it yourself
Mortiis, the man who hides himself behind the troll mask... that is how most stories about the unusual musician starting. There are numberless cock´n´bull stories rumor around him, but still - in Germany Mortiis remains as an insider tip. That mastermind Mortiis isn´t too shy, or ugly to show his real face is somthing all STALKER readers found out last year already, but for those who missed it - on the DVD are plenty of possibilities to have a look at him. Since our last interview a lot happend - the STALKER sqeezed it out of him.
“Soul In A Hole – live in London” is the title of your new DVD. Could you tell us something about the meaning of the name? Mortiis: Well I was looking for a fitting name for the DVD, seeing as it had the songs from Smell and Grudge and I wanted something that really encompassed the feelings behind those 2 albums, and I came across an old lyric I had done somewhere between smell and grudge that hadn´t been used yet and it had the words Soul in a Hole in it. The thoughts behind those words sort of express a state of being stuck in a dark place, not getting out of it, and it fit perfectly.
On the DVD in the live section are you playing in a huge venue like “ Hackney The Ocean” in London with an monstrous sinister intro and a really huge crowd which celebrated you something like 10 minutes long before you even did your first step on stage, followed by even more enthusiastic during the show. I guess that´s a good indicator, that you are really big in UK. How do you feel when you compare this to Germany? Mortiis: We´re not really that big. The way you film a show is to make the band bigger than it really is. Our marketing in Germany has always been really limited. We kept telling the label to get a single out there, get us into the view of people but it hasn´t happened yet. We have a couple of great friends in Germany who do what they can for us, but ultimately it´s down to what the label wants to do. I´d love to play Germany more often, to build things up. So far we haven´t pulled a lot of people to be honest. Although our festival shows over there have been okay.
What do you think makes the difference for the fans in England and Germany? Mortiis: German fans seem somewhat harder to please. The club culture is huge in Germany, so there´s a certain type of music that seems to get preferred sometimes… we´re not 100% club friendly so…
If you would book your own tour package… who would fit best to you, who would be with you on tour? Mortiis: That´s hard to tell, but someone like Rob Zombie would be great. But I think we could work well with bands like Skinny Puppy, NIN and even Rammstein… we´re pretty hybrid and don´t sound the same in each song.
If I see you live, I always ask myself, how long does Mortiis need to get himself prepared before he has to go on stage… so… how long do you need? Mortiis: Usually it´s like an hour… Not too bad, it used to be way longer before it became routine.
Have you ever thought about how it would be, if you would look permanently like you look with your mask – with no chance to get rid of it? Mortiis: No really, but I can imagine my day to day life would be slightly weirder than it is now. We just bought a house, and I doubt I´d be able to buy a house looking like that.
The DVD artwork is like the artwork of your albums always obviously Mortiis, without recurring motives. Are you doing the artwork by yourself? Mortiis: No we´re using a guy in France; I think he´s a total genius… I usually come up with the direction/concept and he´ll create it, adding his own ideas, and we´ll bounce ideas off each other like that until we´re done.
Does the label take any influence in the design of covers or merchandise? Mortiis: No, they have nothing to do with our merchandise. I pretty much call the shots in regards to album artwork etc. I´d have it no other way. I know people, who are on labels where the label dictate what their product should look like, and they´re having nervous breakdowns about it and I hope that never happens to us. The whole reason why you got into music to start with is down the drain after that happens.
Are you satisfied with your label? Mortiis: Does the pope shit in the woods? We´re actually in between labels right now.
How did you ended up there? Mortiis: I sent out tapes of The Stargate which I financed myself after leaving CMI, and Earache were pretty much the only label who didn´t tell me to go fuck myself.
What was the most difficult part in making the DVD? Mortiis: I don´t know where to begin. Every step of the way was pure hell. Initially the label approached us three times before I agreed to do it. The deals they offered were horrible. Secondly, it bothered me that they only filmed one show during that tour; we hadn´t played the songs more than (the new songs, at the time) 9-10 times when the London show came up. I had developed a sore throat by then, so my vocal performance was lacking in my opinion, it would have been good to have more takes to choose from. But budgets restricted it. The real problems began when we got into the studio after the tour and it turned out the sound recordings were so shitty we couldn´t believe someone actually charged money for them. The drums were at times non-existent, the crowd hadn´t really been recorded properly nor had the venue itself been recorded at all. The vocals were recorded clean which makes no sense as I add a bit of distortion to them live, and we didn´t want to do too much trickery in the studio because it is supposed to be live after all. We approached the sound recording company and typically they accepted no responsibility, we had a nightmare in the studio trying to make it sound okay… secondly, and even worse, the filming company took several weeks to send us a tape that we were (we thought) to check out to get an impression of the available camera angles etc… So I sat down and watched it, and wrote down about 8 pages of comments on what I like and what to avoid when editing etc… A month (!!) later, the people at the film company came back to us and said “what do you mean? This is the finished product” and everyone freaked out. They got fired, and we were going to go somewhere else… At which point a new nightmare started: getting all the tapes from the original company. These people turned out to be so amateur and so insincere; it came to a point where we discussed getting a few huge guys to show up at their office. Eventually, after like 6-8 week the tapes were obtained. At this point, for some reason I can´t remember, the label started considering releasing the DVD as it was, which meant, a horrible product in our name, so we had to start fighting the label as well at this point. Eventually I got my friend Adam Mason (who also did the decadent & desperate video) to edit the DVD. He nailed the whole thing in 10 days and he made an almost destroyed product actually look good. Me and him did it by him editing at his place, and sending me pieces via iChat which I would comment on. It was a long week but we did it. So pretty much everyone involved fucked up and as usual a couple of people had to save the day. At least for next time, we know about all the pitfalls and dangers involved in making a DVD. The only good experience was making the special FX sounds and the mutant versions of a couple of songs that are looping across some of the menus, those were cool, I also am really happy with the way the graphics/menus turned out, those guys were the only ones who did their job okay (them and Mason)… I only needed one phone call to them to tell them what I wanted and they totally nailed it. For the amount of mental stress and drainage involved, I am very happy with the result. Most other people would have given up along the way I think.
Were you able to ditch all your aggressions with the album „The Grudge“? Will the next album be again more like “Smell Of Rain”? Mortiis: Well by the looks of it right now, things are going harder than ever.
Can you already say something about the next album? Mortiis: We sent out a press release about it a while back. We´re going to work with Rhys Fulber on this one, and so far the songs are rather heavy and brutal… I still have my inspirations as always… Some song titles are “Zeitgeist”, “The Ugly Truth”, “Hard To Believe”, “Doppelganger”, “Scolding The Burnt” and “Great Deceiver”.
Were the people which you dedicated „The Grudge“ to, contacting you afterwards? Or were they some of those spineless cowards which are only able to be strong in a pack or behind your back? … there are so many of those everywhere and your album was hard to get misunderstood. Mortiis: Nah, the idiots I sing about never get in touch… although someone once sent out a little scout enquiring about a certain song, because the person obviously had suspicions… we all found that amusing… I´m not going to verify if the suspicions were justified though.
During your last STALKER interview, you mentioned that you´ll maybe create some music for a horror movie. Was that working? Mortiis: Actually it´s still sort of in progress... it´s an on and off project. I think they´re looking for a good distribution deal, which is pretty important for that kind of thing.
What is the movie about?
Mortiis: As said it´s still in production, and the theme has changed a lot, but last time I saw stuff from it was about submission, a pretty terrible situation to be in, submit or have very bad shit happen to you.
What is the name of that movie and when and where is it possible to see it? Mortiis: That has also changed several times, so honestly I am not sure right now, when stuff happens we´ll be sure to send out news about it.
I really enjoyed also the video section on “Soul In A Hole”, because I haven´t seen them before. They are like small movies itself. How was it doing them? What kind of workflow do we have to imagine here? Mortiis: Yeah it´s cool to have control. I usually talk with the director a few weeks before we shoot and we work out the script… etc – however the label usually jump in at this point because they want to make sure all stations can play it. Which is funny because at the end the band pays for it, and our stuff rarely gets any airing to speak of outside the UK. Anyway most things are usually taken care of in advance, and the band shows up and we do what we do… whatever the idea for the video was. Filming the D&D video was hard because the location was so cold; I think you can see frost smoke coming out of my mouth when I was singing. I know later that night, or the day after, when we filmed the opening scenes, our ex guitar player had some sort of fit and thought he was dying and he was rushed to the hospital… the rest of us went back to Adam (the director)´s house and got rather drunk. Åsmund (ex guitar) was real pissed off at us about that, but to be fair, we rode in a different car and got the call when we were drinking… I think he was pissed because we didn´t call our management - who we also fired later on by the way, for various GOOD reasons.
Where did you record it? The film locations look fascinating. Mortiis: Well the D&D was filmed at an abandoned military base in the Cambridge countryside I think, in the UK, the other scenes were filmed at a local hotel.
The Grudge was filmed in an abandoned old bank building in New York.
Mental Maelstrom was filmed on London, in an UK300.000 apartment up for sale, where Leo proceeded to block the toilet, and the main scenes were filmed in some pub or club, also in London. Parasite God was filmed in Death Valley, and also in an old church/abbey in London, actually I was told Bob Geldof used to squat there before he turned into Sir Bob Geldof.
Could you imagine – with or without mask – to act in a movie? Mortiis: I don´t know, I don´t think I am a great actor, and I´ve never seen a good movie with an artist in it.
What would be the role, you would like to play? Mortiis: Maybe the quiet pervert who nobody likes… haha.
If you would write a screenplay for a cinema movie, what would that be? Fantasy, horror, tragedy…? Mortiis: Probably a sadistic torture movie… It´s easy to think up ways to inflict pain upon others. It´s nothing I am a big fan of, but I find it disturbingly fascinating, I have to admit.
Tell us please some personal details about your band. Like... who are the guys? Mortiis: Ah man… Leo is the drummer, he´s the guy who can be pretty moody and sometimes get out of hand if he drinks hard liquor.
I am the guy who is always super cynical about everything, but I´ll do anything for the band.
Levi is the main guitar player and is very dedicated also, he´s the guy who´ll drive you home while I´ll try and get out of it and make you walk or get a cab.
Right now Åge, who is Levi´s brother, is on session second guitar and he´s the charming, courteous to women type of guy… also a great impressionist, does a brilliant Arnold…
Okay, hours and hours of touring in a bus with always the same people. How shall we imagine a typically bus drive day for Mortiis from wake up till sleep? Mortiis: If it´s a day off, or travel day, a day on the bus is basically get up, get dressed, and if we´re in the mood, it´s normal to crack open beers pretty much immediately, and start fucking around with the crew. We have a very abusive type of humour. If it´s a day off, we may stop somewhere depending on how long the drive is… there may be some interviews, but not always. There may be a couple of phone calls home to my wife, do the SMS thing and so on… but generally just sit on the bus and eat and drink…. I may read a book… I read a lot… If I have books I want to read I´ll read a book in a week or less, it´s pretty normal. I read 4-5 books on the last tour… I always read at least 1 book on tour, usually more.
On your DVD are between the songs on the concert sequences where you for example reel somebody in toilet paper. Do you have more games like this on tour? If so, which? Mortiis: That was Levi, and we were really bored when we did that… It was just a real lame joke. You should have seen him when I brought the Zippo lighter out, haha !! Other pranks, I dunno we seem to be boring people… I remember we toured with this band, and we thought they were really stiff, like really uptight, and so we taped real hardcore gay porno all around their beds/bunks, and thought that that might break the ice… But it didn´t, as a matter of fact, when they woke up, they didn´t say a word… I think we just gave up after that. I think our bus driver got real drunk one night and started hitting on their singer, who was dating the bass player, so that was a tense situation…
You are engaged since a while. Are you already married with Linda, or are you waiting for the summer? Mortiis: Nope, we got married in July last year.
Congratulations!!! Mortiis: Thanks.
How did you marry? Conventional? Mystic? In a church? Just in registry office? In the nature with a high priest? Mortiis: Well we wanted to just go to the registry office and not do it in a Church as obviously we´re not religious. But it turned out we couldn´t get a lot of guests in there. So Linda found this great old church in Helsingborg, Sweden, which even though we both felt a bit hypocritical about it, looked awesome, it was really old and huge and full of ornaments… So given it felt a big strange it was a great wedding, and all the guests were of course able to attend, which was the main reason.
Was it a big party? Mortiis: Semi I guess… not huge… 60-70 people so it was a good party… we had a live band, like a local band I think, and all that stuff… they played mostly rock covers.
Where did you spend your honeymoon? And how was it? Mortiis: We went to Rome, we decided we wanted something that had something cultural to offer so the choice was between Prague and Rome we thought… we´re not art people so Vienna kind of fell out, as did Paris… It was super hot there, and I made the idiotic decision to walk all through Rome to the Coliseum in my leather pants… Suffice it to say I never wore them again that week. Apart from a snotty receptionist and a horrible sea food experience we had a great time.
How did you met Linda and how do you both cope with you being on tour quite often? Mortiis: We´re not on tour very often, not as much as we´d like to anyway. She doesn´t like me being on tour, but we met at a Mortiis show. Her brother had been a fan for a long time and brought her to a show, then I think a mutual friend introduced all of us, I got her phone number and called her up a few weeks later… one thing leads to another, basically.
She is from Sweden… could you imagine moving to Sweden? Mortiis: I lived in Sweden for 6 years in the 90´ies so it´s not a problem for me to live there, but we just bought a house in Fredrikstad which is about 30 minutes from the Swedish border anyway, so we´ll probably spend more time in Sweden now than before anyway.
Are you planning to raise a family?
Mortiis: … wait and see.
Do you have brothers and sisters by your own? If so, do you still have contact with them? Mortiis: I have a brother, he lives pretty close to here and we speak now and then. But as said, we´re moving in about 2 weeks, so, I guess a bit less from now on.
What is the weirdest shit happen to you until now you would tell your children some day? Mortiis: Lots of weird stuff happens… but the weirder was a floating demon head above my chest when I was in bed trying to sleep… if I ever tell that story it´ll be when I tell them not to do drugs.
I heard a story that one time the cap drivers in New York don´t wanted to carry you, because of your show make up? Is it true, or just a rumour? Mortiis: I can´t remember exactly what happened… but there was an incident I New York where I had to walk a few blocks in the city and we couldn´t get a cab. Earache decided to use the sensationalism and issued a press release that contained mostly half truths and un-verified information. It was actually from then on we demanded that we should approve all press releases before they went out.
Was the fact, that you turned 30 last year making any difference in your life? Did you make decisions because of that? Mortiis: Nah, life goes on as usual. Fighting the bastards.
Do you have a plan B for a “life after being active musician”?
Will that also be something in the music circus? Mortiis: Not really, but I guess it would be something to do with music.
Were you doing something else before you started music? Mortiis: Nope, I went straight into it. I did some school stuff, but nothing serious.
Today is Valentines Day; do holidays mean something for you? (The interview took place on the 14 Feb 2006 – The editors) Mortiis: Holidays to me represent very little apart from business corporations hyping them up so as to cash in one people´s consciences and imposed traditions…well, maybe not imposed 100% but I think to a certain degree people are being reminded a lot for the purpose of making them buy more crap than they probably would have without that little reminder…
What is your personal opinion about religion? Mortiis: I think the worst thing to happen to religion was discovering there were other religions as well, now everyone is freaking out and there´s probably going to be a holy war at some point.
Do you have some own believes? Mortiis: only what my own experiences have taught me which is, keep your eye on your shit at all times, if not, someone will be there to screw you, and if you want to get something done the right way, you probably have to do it yourself.. Never forget, most people in the music industry are sharks and you´re nothing but fast cash to them.
Do you have experiences with a fan stalking you? Mortiis: Not really… I had an incident where I let the wrong person way too close once, and had some difficulty getting rid of the person but it´s all in the past, it sorted itself out eventually.
Were you stalking somebody since now? Mortiis: Am I a stalker? Not at all.
Thank you very much for your time! Mortiis: no problem, you´re welcome.