Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with Mortiis

Andrew: To start off very generally, when you look back on your Era 1 material, what are your thoughts? Do your early fantasies of trolls, towers, and magic still resonate with the Mortiis of today?
Mortiis: Nah...That stuff ended right after I completed The Stargate and that nice little depression that ended up lasting about 4 years kicked in. i just hit this wall of self realization, it all died for me there and then, and sent me swirling head first into years of frustration and self loathing :-) i eventually got myself out of that state though...
Andrew: You are re-releasing "Ånden som Gjorde Opprør" and "Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent," two absolute classics in my opinion; can you tell us your feelings about each of these particular albums in contrast to your other works at the time?
Mortiis: to be honest those records are really similar to me...they were recorded with only about 6 months in between so to me they really are like sister records so to speak... i was getting better at putting music together at that time, the music was more varied and dynamic, i think at the time i was slowly getting into somewhat more bombastic/soundtracky type of stuff, the kind of stuff i eventually ended up creating for the Stargate a couple of years later...i was unable to even really think about this time of my life in terms of the music i made, without cringing, for the longest time. in the last couple of years i have come to peace with it, i think i finally understand myself the way i used to be again...if that makes sense. i really resented what i did back then for a long time, i don't know why, it just did... now i am able to look at it and actually embrace it and be proud of what i did. 
Andrew: What was your experience like for recording the VHS music video for "Reisene Til Grotter Og Ødemarker?"  Do you feel that it visually conveys the atmospheres and emotions of the music itself?
Mortiis: i think at least it makes an attempt. that video was shot in about 4 hours. i used to joke about it and say that we spent more time getting me into makeup than we did actual filming. it was cool to be able to spend a day at Bohus Festning (the fortress) outside Gothenburg for a day to film, we got access to places the public usually didn't get access to so that was cool. what few people know, is that there was actually a restoration crew working there as well while we were filming, so we always had to make sure they weren't part of the footage :-)
i think we could have created footage that would have been more suitable, but with time, the nostalgia that goes with it, the footage and music has blended so much together that you just accept it for what it is... it's what i'm used to now, i could't really imagine that video any other way...
Andrew: What was your process for composing and recording music back when you worked on these earlier albums?  What instrument(s) did you use?
Mortiis: i only owned one keyboard, which was a roland jv30, so that was all that was used. i didn't have any way of recording parts or anything, so i invented this system where i would come up with parts, and write them down in a specific coloured pen, then i would come up with another part that i thought would work on top of the first part, a lot of this would play itself out in my head because i had no way of recording one part and overdubbing with another to see if it would work, i would then write down the second part in another colour, and so on, for loads of layers...on and on for layers and layers for 20-25 minutes... i have no idea how i made that work, today it just seems like a completely insane way of doing things... but i had nothing else to compare to, so at the time i had no idea how utterly crazy that system was...
Andrew: Would you ever consider returning to the synth landscapes, perhaps in a side-project or something at some point in the future?  Or is the being that was Era 1 Mortiis now lost to the ages?
Mortiis: i don't see myself returning to anything that is exactly the way era1 sounded, but i am not against the idea of returning to creating atmospheric music. the idea of picking up and continuing on the natural evolution of that sound would be cool... 
Andrew: Did you ever listen to the similar ambient works in the "dungeon" style (though they weren't referring to them as such at the time), such as Wongraven or Burzum's ambient albums?  If so, what are your thoughts on them?
Mortiis: i used to love the atmospheric burzum songs, they were hugely influential. wongraven i probably heard at some point but to be honest i didn't get into it that much... actually the ambient burzum i liked were the one of songs on the early black metal albums...
Andrew: How do you feel about black metal today?
Mortiis: i don't, i have no idea what is going on with it...right now i get the impression it's really in to play "black heavy metal" for lack of a better seems to me every band is coming up with really naive, almost childish band names... going for a nwobhm kind of sound... i think that band, Ghost, kickstarted this thing...thank you mercyful fate :-D i'm not complaining, it's just amusing to see how jumping the bandwagon never gets old. For the record, i like the image Ghost has, it reminds me of what i was doing years and years ago... it really does mean putting your neck on the chopping block and a lot of people are very eager to swing the axe, but if you can handle it, you'll be just fine.
Andrew: There are a surprisingly large amount of obscure artists who have played and are playing music in a very similar style to your early material, which I cover in this blog.  Many have been influenced by you, and undoubtedly you are considered a pioneer of this style.  How would you feel if this kind of music became a much more established genre, independent of both ambient music and black metal?
Mortiis: i guess that would be cool, but in a way it already is, just a couple of sub genres away, i was always into stuff like dead can dance, the conan soundtracks, coil, and so on, and that stuff was well established for years even back then... but i see what you mean, of course it's always nice when your audience grows :-)
Andrew: Were you aware of Glenn Danzig's "Black Aria" at all, before you first released "A Song of the Long Forgotten Ghost?" 
Mortiis: no not at that time, embarrassingly i didn't really become a big danzig/misfits/samhain fan untill around 94-95.
Andrew: Did you play computer games at all, back then or even these days?  How about tabletop rpgs, such as dungeons and dragons?
Mortiis: nope... i tried a roleplaying game called Kult back in the mid 90'ies, but i never played D&D or anything. i went out and got the first Playstation console around 97 and played Final Fantasy 7 for 3 straight weeks. i couldn't walk outside without having the theme music for the battles play in my head in and endless loop. that game almost literally drove me straight to the edge of total paranoia. i never really played games heavily after that...untill the godfather game came along for PS2 years later, i played that heavilly too...and Scarface after that, but that game pissed me off to the point where i smashed the controller into a million pieces. i haven't played much since then :-D 
Andrew: How do you feel when you look back on your obscure book, Secrets of my Kingdom?  
Mortiis: i still think it's a totally unique's the mortiis world that everything was based around... if you're a fan, it's a total gem :-)
Andrew: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.
Mortiis: my pleasure. take care. 

Ånden som Gjorde Opprør and Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent are being re-released on vinyl by the Italian label Ordo MCM, limited to 500 copies.  They can be purchased at their website, here: