Marduk | Interview
With the faint sounds of main support band Anaal Nathrakh bulldozing the downstairs crowd filtering through the air, Metal Ireland catches up for a few words with Marduk guitarist, founder and general mainman Morgan Håkansson backstage in Dublin.
The group are in the midst of a swift UK and Ireland jaunt, and tonight they’re blazing a trail through the same Dublin venue in which they played a much celebrated gig a few years ago.
Relaxed, with gin and tonic in hand and band mates busy gearing up for their blitz of a set in the next room, the Swede is quick to point out that the group have been busy living up to their reputation as a touring machine in recent months.
MI – So the first and obvious question, have you been enjoying the tour so far?
Morgan – Yeah, of course, but it depends on how far back you mean because we’ve been on the road for some time. Even before the last album (‘Wormwood’) came out we were touring. We were on the road by August and the album came out in October. We actually did fifteen dates in Poland, starting on the day that it came out. That was like 600-1200 people per show.
MI – Pretty hefty.
Morgan – Yeah, it was great, honestly it’s one of the best countries to tour as a Metal band.
MI. – You seem to enjoy a great reception in Poland, you even did your last live album, ‘Warschau’ there.
Morgan – We’ve always had an extremely dedicated fan base in Poland. It’s a pleasure to play there. After that run of dates, we went home to Sweden, and then went out and did 30 dates around Europe. After that, we came home again for about nine days and then flew over to the U.S. for about a month. And then again after that, we went home for a week and we’re out now doing another twenty nine shows in a row.
MI. – How did you find the US? A lot of groups find the treks out there a little daunting.
Morgan – I know what you mean, but honestly it was a great experience. We had our headlining tour, covering 26 States and get through a lot of the country. Thankfully we were playing in the right places, in the major cities, and we were getting really good turnouts. We really enjoyed being back after something like eight years since the last time we were there and we’re looking forward to getting back there this year.
M.I. – Can people tonight expect you to mix a lot of ‘Wormwood’ material into the current set you’re playing?
Morgan – You know it depends on the amount of stage time we have, but if we’re playing for something like an hour, we try to get at least four songs off it in there. And then later on, we’d switch things around and maybe do a different set of songs from the album. Tonight we’ll probably do three or four new ones. I don’t have any particular favorites amongst them, as they’re really written to be played live. I honestly enjoy playing all the songs off it equally.
We don’t really think too about playing them live while writing. We are a band with those basic elements of guitar, drums, vocals and bass, so it all works out nicely when they are they’re played live regardless.
M.I. – ‘Wormwood’ certainly sounds different from the previous albums, maybe even diversifying even more from ROM 5:12.
Morgan – I can imagine people thinking so, but it’s really nothing intentional. As a band, we don’t ever sit down and say ”Let’s do a diverse sounding album”. We work with music and lyrics and try to create a strong force. If it turns out heavy and fast, great, but what’s important for me is that the lyrics are reflected in the music itself, and the other way round too. If the end result happens to be fast, slow, more mid-tempo or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t feel any great difference when I play a Plague Angel song or a Wormwood song or whatever.
M.I. – You’re on the road with Anaal Nathrakh for this tour of the UK and Ireland. Do you think your two bands have much in common?
Morgan – I still think we are two bands that do something completely different, but I like that band, ever since their first album actually. For me, it’s great to tour with them, because they’re one of my favorite bands from the UK. I do enjoy them onstage, they’re very harsh and have a great attack to their style. I think touring the UK and Ireland and Scotland, they’re probably one of the best bands from the UK that we could be out with. Maybe not quite up there with old Saxon and Iron Maiden, but they’re still pretty damn good.
M.I. – Right, but you’d obviously jump at the offer if Bruce and Iron Maiden got on the phone and said they wanted you to open for their next tour, right?
Morgan – Of course, but I don’t think it’s very reasonable that would ever happen! I wouldn’t mind doing it. You know, back in the day, more extreme bands like Morbid Angel got offers for bigger tours, and there were accusations of selling out, which I don’t think at all was a concern. As long as you get up there and do what you do, deliver your message, that’s what matters. It’s great if you get bigger exposure for doing that. But of course we like to tour by ourselves too.
M.I. – Do you think the old division of Black and Death metal bands not mixing and touring together isn’t the case? It just doesn’t matter at all any more?
Morgan – There’s no serious division between the two genres for me. I consider the best Death Metal bands to be satanic, and the best Black Metal bands to be death worshipping. I believe that we are a combination like that in some way as well.
M.I. – You’re out on the road so much, do you get time to check out many new bands? Is there anyone you’ve been listening to a lot lately.
Morgan – Well, I don’t really want to name-drop too much, but I do listen to a lot of different music and check out new things. One band that I’m really enjoying at the moment is Infernal War, a band from Poland, they’re a band that I really like. But you know, I’m into everything from classic rock to industrial.
M.I. – Would you take much influence from industrial? I’m thinking of a particular track from Plague Angel here, ‘Death March’, when you collaborated with Arditi.
Morgan – Yeah, to be honest industrial music is one of those few music styles that still really inspires me. I think when you hear something completely different like that, it inspires me to write music myself, moreso than when you listen to a lot of other metal bands. Industrial music would often serve as our intro music, even back in like ’92, and I think industrial music and Black Metal is a really great combination.
In the future, I would really love to go on tour with some industrial bands. For example, I would like to take out that Swedish group we collaborated with, Arditi. There’s another one, MZ 412, who I would also like to play live with.
M.I. – Even though Arditi have yet to appear on the live stage?
Morgan – That’s right, so far anyway. Sure, I would love to convince them to, and I’ve talked to them over the years, but it can always be difficult to make something like that a reality. That being said, we always encourage them to do it. We’ll have to see.
M.I. – Speaking of collaborations, an obvious point of interest in Ireland is the collaboration you did with Primordial’s singer, Alan ‘Nemtheanga’ Averill, for the track ‘Accuser Opposer’ on ‘ROM 5:12’ (Note: later to be perfectly recreated onstage and effortlessly winning the song of the night award). Do you have a relationship stretching back very far?
Morgan – We wouldn’t have been friends from the early days, but we’d always have known of each other. But then we joined up for a tour, and we would be hanging out for like 20 days, and at the end we said ‘Oh next time we go into the studio, maybe then we can do something’. Of course, that was talk when you’re out drinking on the road, but we didn’t forget the idea. When we were back home, we were writing this one song and “This is perfect for Alan”. So we flew him over and that was that. What I like about his voice is that it’s powerful and clear but still has that sort of rough side to it. He’s a genuine personality.
M.I. – Would you have any favorites from their discography?
Morgan – I think that, not their latest, but the one before it (‘The Gathering Wilderness’) is one of my favourite albums ever. Somewhere near my Top 5 Albums ever, as in any case I never get tired of it. It’s something really special that I always have in my car with me when I’m driving.
M.I. – Regarding singers, Mortuus has been with Marduk now for three albums and can hardly be considered the ‘new’ member in any way anymore. How do you feel when the inevitable comparisons with his project, Funeral Mist, is made?
Morgan – Well of course I feel it’s bound to happen. I think when you’re working with someone who is the main guy in another band, and you’re working together musically so much, it tends to paint a little bit of the project, if I might say so anyway. It’s only natural that people think that.
M.I. – One specific similarity I noticed was the use of the preacher sample in ‘Whorecrown’, which is somewhat similar to one used on the last Funeral Mist album.
Morgan – I know the one you mean, but they are not the same. People sometimes have said that, but it’s a different recording and it’s a different preacher. That’s just the way it is sometimes, people see similarities like that between things, but I don’t get it myself.
You understand that we’re not a band that really sits down and reflects and thinks about our direction to a great degree. We certainly don’t think, oh, we should do this and that, we just constantly march and do what we want to do musically. We feel inspired, we’re just four individuals who have the same commitment to this music.
Some bands have to sit down for a year after they write an album and decide what they’re going to do. Not us, we know what we do. We’re fueled up like a King Tiger and we just want go get out there. I have no interest in sitting down for a year to think about what I want to do. I work with music and lyrics and I like what it is I do.
MI – So when you step out onstage in about a half an hour’s time, is that where you feel most at home?
Morgan – Yeah, I’m definitely a live guy. Even when we rehearse, I’m so much more into that than being in a studio, because you get everything at once and you can face the full power of it all. Even if the sound is bad or someone fucks up, you get the energy from everybody at once. It’s a magical little thing.
MI – ‘Wormwood’ has been out now for a few months. Do you have any idea of the direction of the next release or is it something that purely comes together when you sit down to work on it?
Morgan – I do have ideas because we’ve already been working on it. Of course we’ve no full songs done, but I’ve been recording a lot of riffs and lyric ideas lately, and so have the other guys. What we do is we all work on our own with whatever we come up with, and then when we get back together it all falls into place.
M.I. – You’ll be touring futher afield than the U.S. in the coming year, and going into Latin America. People say that the crowds there are really nuts and dedicated, would you find that as the case?
Morgan – Well, you know fans can be really crazy everywhere, but we’ve played in El Salvador to 2,500 people and but that really was crazy. I do think that the fact that the area is so Catholic has something to do with it, and you can find the level of enthusiasm is so different to Europe. Over here, you’ve been having shows for twenty years, but over there, they’re understandably hunger. There’s a fanaticism over there for the experience.
M.I. – And finally, it’s a somewhat clichéd question, but do you notice anything different about the Irish crowds when you do play here?
Morgan – Well, one thing thing I honestly do remember is that when we do tours like this, London and whatever Irish gigs there are are always really good and the crowds are energetic. We usually play places like Bradford too, but even if we play the smaller cities and the turnout isn’t quite so good, it’s still fine because it means we have been here and we have been marching across this territory. And that’s what matters, to be out there and to deliver, whether we’re playing to a hundred people in some club in Leicester or two thousand in Honduras.
Words by Lorcan Archer ::: 09/02/10
Photography by Arkadi Borissov.