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Interviews   

MARDUK: BLACK METAL AS THE WORLD’S CHRONICLER


Marduk’s artistic goal is to write the soundtrack of humanity’s darkest creations, from World War Two to the Catholic religion, against which guitarist Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson expresses a radical opinion in this interview. The man reacts cynically to the various censorships Marduk have faced in their career, the most recent item in this long list being the band’s ban in Belarus.

To illustrate this blackness in the most extensive way, Marduk use a highly varied black metal, which shows in their recently released latest album, Serpent Sermon. Like every other artist in this genre, Morgan has his own opinion on what black metal represents and should be, even if he’s less definite than Ihsahn and Varg Vikernes, whose comments we asked him to comment.

« We work hard trying to paint a strong picture in the listener’s mind and for that, we use all elements of brutality, speed, heaviness and everything there is. […] I think it’s a reflection of what black metal is all about. »

Radio Metal : Radio Metal: Last year, three bands successively left Regain Records, including yours. What happened ?

Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson (guitar) :Je crois qu’ils ont eu le problème que sans doute beaucoup de petits labels ont : ils gèrent trop de groupes et n’ont pas les moyens financiers suffisants pour faire tourner la boutique. Les choses avançaient très lentement avec ce label et ça ne fonctionnait pas comme ça aurait dû, donc on a décidé qu’il était temps de passer à autre chose.

Your new record is a very diverse black metal album, you’ve got some very fast songs with blast beats, some insane mid tempos… It sounds like you really wanted to capture all the elements black metal’s been know for at its best. Do you agree with that ?

I don’t know, maybe it turned out that way, but when we work on an album we never sit down and plan that it has to be a certain way. We always follow the inspiration and see where it takes us. This time, it took us in this direction. Working as a musician, I don’t mind doing an album that is blasting all the time, it doesn’t really matters as long as it’s what is coming from the heart, but this time it turned out this way. We also put a lot of energy into making music and lyrics become one because we consider the lyrics to be of equal importance: we work hard trying to paint a strong picture in the listener’s mind and for that, we use all elements of brutality, speed, heaviness and everything there is.

You said in an interview that Serpent Sermon is what black metal should be. Do you think that nowadays most black metal bands have lost the original spirit of this music ?

In a lot of ways I would say so… What I meant is that for us, this record is the definition of a black metal album: it’s vicious, it’s angry, it’s dark, it’s brutal and most of all it’s satanic. That’s the way black metal should be. That’s how I look upon it, and that’s probably the most diabolical album we have done in ages. I think it’s a reflection of what black metal is all about.

(note : about Varg Vikernes) »His views have changed a lot during the years, and some years ago he said that he didn’t wanted to have anything to do with metal, because metal was for negroes, so… […] I heard a lot of strange things from his mouth so that’s up to him… »

We interviewed Ihsahn 2 years ago and he gave us his vision of black metal : “Nowadays, people tend to see black metal as a more traditional type of metal because everyone knows what it’s about and it’s often defined by what it should or should not be. This goes completely against what I always believed black metal to be. For me, black metal always represented the idea of musical freedom. Now that there are so many rules, it’s no longer black metal.” What do you think of this opinion ?

Well, I agree on some perspectives and and disagree on some others. I don’t see a lot of rules but anyway, then what if I’d do an album and have it in the country section of the record store because I consider it country because it’s freedom? That’s not the way it works. The ground thing regarding black metal for me is that it must be satanic and it must be metal, that’s what makes us a black metal band, like old other bands from old Celtic Frost to whatever. As long as it’s a satanic vision and it’s metal then it’s black metal in my eyes. It’s not about freedom or about doing what you want in my opinion, it’s not how I see it.

We also talked recently to Varg Vikernes of Burzum about his definition of black metal. He answered : “The whole point with black metal was that each and every band should be different from all other bands in contrast to the ultra-trendy death metal bands who by that time all sounded the same. If a band didn’t have its own style, its own originality and a special approach then it wasn’t black metal. When the rats in Emperor and Enslaved very quickly dropped their death metal dreams and all of a sudden started to copy (!) Darkthrone and Burzum”. What do you think about that ?

Well it’s a strong statement but you know, in some perspective he’s probably right about that as well. But his views have changed a lot during the years, and some years ago he said that he didn’t wanted to have anything to do with metal, because metal was for negroes, so… I don’t know how he defines things, coming out from whatever he thinks. It’s been changing a lot during the years from his view and I heard a lot of strange things from his mouth so that’s up to him.

In an interview about this new album, you said that you don’t really care about what gear you use, and you even said that for the album Rom 5:12, you just picked your gear from the rehearsal room to the studio and that it tooked you one minute to get the guitar sound for the album. Do you think that the production and the sound isn’t really what matters, and what matters most is just the music ?

No, that’s not really the way I said it. I said that of course I care about gear, but I use the same gear that I’ve been using since 92, so I just took my own stuff from the rehearsal room and plugged it in. The way we record is the way we sound when we rehearse, but I do care a lot about how we sound. We work a lot with painting the picture to make the music and the lyrics come to life, to paint a strong picture for the listener, but for the Rom album it just took one minute because I just plugged it in exactly the same way I had it before and it sounded perfect, so why sit for a week to try to get a different guitar sound when it’s already as hard-hitting and as extreme it can be ?

(note : about the band banned from playing in Minsk) « It’s kind of bizarre to get boycotted by the last existing dictatorship there is connected to Europe, you know. It’s kind of bizarre how he looks at things and when it comes to freedom and being artistic, that he’s being deciding what is artistic or not… « 

You have been banned from playing in Minsk a few weeks ago. The departmental head at the Prosecutor General’s Office said : “The band preaches Satanism, which has nothing to do with art. This is an affront to Christian values, they preach the ideas of death, of the Third Reich.” He qualified your songs as destructive. What could be you answer to that ?

I’m very flattered. I thank him a lot because it’s been a long time since I’ve heard such a reaction, so for me it’s flattering and ever-inspiring to continue to do what we do. Too bad for the loyal fans we have in Minsk but we played there once before. I mean, he’s right! Our music is destructive, and that’s the way it was meant to be.

Will you try to play there again for your fans that live in Belarus ?

Maybe not now… I don’t know for the time being, otherwise they will have to come to the borders when we play in Russia. It shouldn’t be that big of a problem if they want to catch us on tour. Then we’ll work out how to get in the Belarus in the future. But it’s kind of bizarre to get boycotted by the last existing dictatorship there is connected to Europe, you know. It’s kind of bizarre how he looks at things and when it comes to freedom and being artistic, that he’s being deciding what is artistic or not… It’s kind of fucked-up, but that’s the way it is.

« We have touched such topics […] that some people maybe got the wrong impression and then wanted to boycott it for such reasons. If I had done a movie about the same thing, nobody wouldn’t even have cared […] We were writing a soundtrack to an actual historical event, the way it sounded. »

This isn’t the first time you face that kind of legal issues. The demo Fuck Me Jesus was banned from seven countries at the time. How do you react at those kind of legal issues? Are you angry or are you, in a way, thrilled to be that subversive ?

I’m not even angry nor even thrilled, for me it’s just obstacles that we overcame during the years… A lot of people have tried to crush us, both in the medias and with all kinds of censorship, but in the end we have overcome. We’re still here, we’re still marching and we’re still playing in all those countries, our albums are still available for the ones who want to find it, so we make it work. But we would never compromise when it comes to the artistic side of what we are doing. What we do comes from the heart, it’s a reflection of our creativity and that’s the way I believe it should be, as an artist. We have touched such topics, for example when it came to World War II, that some people maybe got the wrong impression and then wanted to boycott it for such reasons. If I had done a movie about the same thing, nobody wouldn’t even have cared. When we came to that, we were writing a soundtrack to an actual historical event, the way it sounded and I don’t see what is to be boycotted about writing a story the way it happened.

« Well, that’s the way the church have always worked. When they don’t like something they try to boycott it, burn it, kill it or whatever, that’s the way they work. »

In France, every year, some fundamentalist catholic organisations try to have our French heavy metal festival called the Hellfest canceled because they say this is a satanistic festival, which it obviously isn’t. They usually quote bands like Slayer, Dimmu Borgir or Venom that clearly are just provocative. What do you think of that ?

It’s great that they get the reaction that they try to stop it but from what I understood, the festival gets stronger every year, so…

It’s funny because it looks like they don’t have any sense of humour or provocation, because obviously a band like Slayer is just provocative.

Well, that’s the way the church have always worked. When they don’t like something they try to boycott it, burn it, kill it or whatever, that’s the way they work.

Actually, we saw a few days ago that this year, a fundamentalist catholic organisation made a video in which they try to warn people of the danger of the Hellfest. They used one of your songs, “Pander Division”. How do you feel about being associated to the ultimate evil by those people ?

Eh I don’t know, that’s also flattering in a way that they use that and see us as their enemy – which we are – so for me it’s fine.

You will be playing at The Barge To Hell metal cruise. Don’t you think that the joyful atmosphere of a cruise isn’t fitting Marduk’s dark music very well ?

Maybe that’s the main reason for us to play a festival like that. We have done many of those, we are there to represent something different of all the other bands and to bring some darkness to it. Is there a better way than to ruin the trip for the others ?

Interview conducted on may, 28th, 2012, by phone
Transcription : Chloé

Marduk’s website : www.marduk.nu

Album : Serpent Sermon, out



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