Interview with Mortiis
Secrets Of My Kingdom was released aeons ago. Why is now the time right to resurrect this tome?
Well I guess it is fairly well documented elsewhere that, as the 90´ies wore on, I developed this dark and unhealthy obsession over everything I felt was wrong with all the music and writings I had created in the 90´ies…The turn of the century, for me, was mired in some sort of self loathing, and sense of not having meaning or value. I simply couldn´t see past the production techniques and playing mistakes. I was unable to look at that music and all the writings I had done for what they were: a semi-crazy (and I mean that in a cool way) young guy pouring extremely honest and fairly original music straight from his heart, onto tape, with minimal attention paid to production and playing technique. To some people that probably sounds like a bad thing, but to me, it was a period of just being extremely open, creative and not being bogged down by technicalities. They frankly bored me to death.
But you know, time caight up with me and I wanted to do music that was closer to the guys I grew up with…The Paul Stanleys, the Iggy Pops and all those cool front men. I´m a heavy metal guy at heart, and has been since I remember seeing Gene Simmons spit blood on TV around 1979. I was 4 years old, and totally sold. Still am.
I kinda “woke up” in the late 90´ies and early 2000´s feeling like I was wasting my time and that my back catalogue was sloppy. It was the start of a very long depression that I have had many a battle digging myself back out of.
I could go on forever, but to make a long story short, I was able to properly crawl out of the mire of mental smog and shit a couple of years ago, and I started realizing that I my thoughts about my past was less clouded, and more understanding. I love bands that are hungry and don´t give a shit about the mistakes or production flaws, and I finally understood why people liked Era 1 – for the exact same reasons (or so I assume) and once that sort of understanding started sinking in, I had no problem embracing it again. The book is a natural step in the process of regaining as much control of my back catalogue as possible, remastering (that was one thing those records really could benefit from) and reissuing. Dayal had been on my case for a couple of years, hinting at reissuing the book at some point already, so it was just a question of time. I also think it´s kinda cool it hasn´t been out for so long, and that the original has become rather rare and expensive, I think it adds to the fascination for the newcomers, the Dungeon Synth milleu, that seems to have sort of sprung up in the past couple of years. I´m not even sure a lot of those guys were aware that Mortiis had a book out way back when.
I understand an original pressing is highly valued by collectors and fetches a great price. Was part of the idea to re-release your book an effort to combat those who would seek to profit by charging outrageous prices…or does Mortiis not truly concern himself with the economics of supply and demand?
Haha no not really…I was one of the people asking outrageous prices anyway, haha! I am an avid record collector, and Im one of those pretentious assholes that need everything on original first press, otherwise it´s not really the “proper” release…And before people start screaming it out loud, yes I am aware that it´s a total hypocritical attitude to have, in the middle of this big Mortiis/Vond reissue orgy going on right now, haha! What can I say? reissues are cool for people that are into that (and not having to pay silly prices for the same music), and as an artist I see certain cool opportunities (beyond remastering) that comes with that, such as changing the cover art (you couldn´t do that to a lot of mega classics of course, but I always did stuff like that, so I think I can get away with it within the confines of Mortiis. I don´t think it would be a good idea to reissue Master of Puppets with different cover artwork for example).
I digress. Like I said I was one of the people asking big bucks for the original book, because I would always use the profits to buy really expensive first press vinyl myself, for my own collection. I have a habbit to support man! Haha! I did the same with other original, rare Mortiis stuff too. I was always on the lookout for rare titles at reasonable prices, and I´d buy then and resell, and then buy something for my own collection at the same fucking inflated prices. It´s the evil circle of record collecting!
How did you come to collaborate with Dayal and Crypt Publishing?
Like I said earlier, Dayal had been in touch on and off about reissuing the book for the past couple of years or so. I had known Dayal a while anyway, as I believe he interviewed me for some of his earlier books, and Im pretty sure we had talked on the phone, probably for interviews for other UK publications in the past too.
To be honest, the main reason I wanted to go with Dayal, was that he´s UK based, and I wanted to deal with someone in the UK again, since it was a fairly decent market for Mortiis back in the day. I had other offers, but they were non UK, so Dayal had the upper hand there. Of course another major deciding factor, was the fact that Dayal had the experience of already publishing books, which the other interested parties did not. I´m glad I went with Dayal, seeing as he did a great editing job, pointing out, and questioning certain things in the original manuscript that I had not thought of. He was also a great driving force in general, just making sure the book was the best that it could be. So that sort of made me go the extra mile as well, digging though the attic, finding old handwritten version of texts etc, just going digging and seeing what i could add to it.
Were able to resist the urge to edit and /or delete components from the original manuscript?
I didn´t change anything from the old manuscript, other than the odd space between lines etc, but that was more on Dayal´s table anyway. I was mostly busy digging up extra material, unpublished art, talking to the original artists and getting some additional stuff out of them and so on. It was always a question of what we can add to the original, as opposed to changing the contents of the original.
When the words came too you originally, was your writing routine? Did you handwrite or type or record your thoughts and later transcribe them?
A bit of everything really. When i dug through the pile of originals and notes and so on, it was a variety of handwritten and typed stuff…I think a lot of the stuff was originally handwritten, then cleaned up a bit and typed out, to finally get typed into a computer (back then, not everyone had computers).
I never had routine…I just got the stuff down on paper when inspiration hit. I mean this book wasn´t written like books normally are. It´s a collection of lyrics, texts and some poem-like writings collected across several years. The read line is that it´s all derived from the idea of this parallell world, this very bleak, dark and hopeless place. Which was sort of a reflection of at least one side of my personality at the time. I was a pretty dark minded person in the 90´ies, as were a lot of us, considering where we came from musically/ideoligically at the time.
Do you ever tire of journalists asking you about the old days, bands and events of the past, rather than focus on your current career?
I did at one point. But once you put things into perspective, what would a journalist rather talk about: a band in distress and dissolution and at the constant verge of breaking up while making the best record of their existence (The Great Deceiver) in the face of a record industry that doesn´t care, OR about this young guy that was in the middle of the shitstorm that launched black metal, that has now become the stuff of pretty big business and basically a big hipster go to genre? I think i know what I would want to talk about if i was a journalist.
The drama and shit we had to endure to even turn The Great Deceiver into album, is a story worth telling one day, but right now, people want to hear about the guy that came walking out of the shit storm of the early black metal days, and went on to create some pretty weird shit on his own…I guess in this day and age, and given the climate of what genres people are paying attention to, that´s the story people want to hear. I´m pragmatic enough to understand that I need to appreciate the fact that the media wants to talk to me. Not alot of musicians and artists get that kind of privilege anyway, and that has nothing to do with wether they are talented or interesting enough…It´s just fact.
A similar question…do you ever tire of journalists trying to codify and classify your art into ‘eras’ , instead of accepting it as an evolutionary process?
Nope, because I am the one that created the idea of the “Eras”. It a simple decision I made back in 2001, when we wereabout to put out the album “The Smell of Rain”. That was the album I made wen I needed to save my self from totally self destructing over my sort of “panic” over losing all faith in what I had been doing in the 90´ies. I changed musical styles drastically, and brought the music close to where I wanted to be as an artist. Turned myself into a singer/frontman, got a band together, guitars, drums, all that stuff. Which was awesome. I loved doing that. But, the music was so different, I decided to put a little indicator somewhere that something had changed, so I added a small “Era 2” text to the logo on that album. So once I had done that, eveything before that, became known as Era 1. I quite like it, to me it makes sense…
Do you see yourself as having two sets of fans, the old-school Black Metal fans and the current disciples?
It´s possible yes. However, I have met a good amount of people that are into the whole timeline so to speak. Of course, some people will say they like the new stuff, but the older stuff is their favourite. I´ve met more than enough people telling me they like the new stuff, but don´t get the old stuff…Everyone´s different. At this point in my life, if someone is into somthing I have done at some point in time, then that´s cool.
Do you see yourself as a poet? Or an author…or just Mortiis?
Just Mortiis I think. Even though I have collaborated with a fair share of band members, and people in the studio too, I have always been isolated mentally, so I think in some intangible way, I have been formed by that as a person. I´m pretty social, I taught myself to improve on the social skill level starting a few years ago, because I could be rather introvert in the past…I never enjoyed that very much, and to me, that´s probably a gateway to depression and negative thoughts anyway, which i try to avoid. Anyway, I don´t see myself as anything other than just Mortiis. I do get the rather distinct impression that I exist on my own level, whatever that´s worth artisitcally…
Will you ever realize your complete multi-media connect, with perhaps a film?
I dunno…It seems pretty far fetched. I think the story/ideas and themes in the book would translate into a fucking awesome film, or series given the right budget. But let´s face it, it would need a ridiculous budget to look good, and we´re daydreaming at this point, haha!
Speaking of film, as a travelled follower of fantasy, did you see the Peter Jackson film re-interpretations of Tolkien’s work and if yes, what was your opinion?
I wouldn´t call myself a travelled follower. In the 90´ies I tried to check out as much as i could, but it wasn´t a very popular genre at the time.
I remember the LOTR first part, was hyped beyond belief for about a year prior to its release, to the point where it was almost impossible to live up to the hype level.
Still, I enjoyed the movies. I thought they were very cool, and I´ve seen them a few times now. I was not such a huge fan on the Hobbit movies, way too much digital FX. The movies almost look like really good animated action sequences, the ones you get in video games… I wonder now, if they´ll turn Silmarillion into a movie? That´s the REALLY good story.
What was the most gratifying part of reissuing your book?
I think just seeing it fleshed out in a larger, and more complete format in itself is more gratifying than the way I felt the first time at least.
The first time around, I pretty much had to force the label to release it. They were going to put it out as a special edition with The Stargate in 1999, but they delayed and stalled untill 2001. And the only reason it was even put out then, was because fans were starting to email me about it pretty much daily. It reached a point where I gave everyone the email address to the label manager, telling them to ask him what the plan was. I mean I had no idea, at the time I had pretty much called their bluff anyway, they had no intention of putting it out, because it was probably something they didn´t want to pay to release. Once fans started emailing direct to the label, the book suddenly appeared in the summer of 2001. At which point I wasn´t a big fan of my 90´ies output anyway, so I was sort of robbed of the pleasure of finally seeing it released. I proved the label wrong (and that wasn´t the only time either) though, that book sold out the same year, unless I am much mistaken. So I´m sure they made their money back, and more.
Will you bother to read reviews of it or is that a concern at all?
I don´t know. I try to not focus too much on reviews…I mean if I am happy with something, then that is all that matters to me. I´m always curious what other people think, I mean I think that´s pretty natural. On the other hand, do I want to read about how my stuff gets lined up against much better writers? I dunno about that…I exist in my own universe, and that works for me…So it´s a bit of a paradox…I´m curious what people think, but at the same time I don´t want to know. I just want to go about my day and do my thing and not worry about what some review might say, but I occasionally read them. I have fairly thick skin by now, but a shit review is still a shit review, and I can still feel the sting from that, even though I was a lot more sensitive in the past. On the other hand, a great review will make my day…Haha, the ego is still there.
Now that world will have a chance to read this book, what is the best way for people to get a copy?
– As of right now, they can order from the Cult Never Dies webstore right here: https://cultneverdies.myshopify.com/collections/all/products/new-pre-order-mortiis-secrets-of-my-kingdom-return-to-dimensions-unknown, we will also start carrying it on the Mortiis webstore pretty soon: www.mortiiswebstore.com – I think certain special record stores may carry it also, as I know Plastic Head is showing interest in distributing it. As for actual book stores, I don´t know if that´s going to happen, but obviously that would have been very cool. The future will show. I know Cult Never Dies´ plan is to keep this book in print as long as it sells.
Lastly, the most predictable question of all, what is next for Mortiis?
Right now I´ve got about 20 shows lined up, performing the Re-Interpreted version of the 1994 album “Ånden som Gjorde Opprør”, and I´ll be leaving for the UK for 2 shows in a couple of hours actually. I´m playing with the idea of releasing the music on an album as well, seeing as it´s so radically different and expanded from the original version. It´s almost like a new album. I´ll be keeping it as an exclusive for people coming to the shows for now, but eventually it would be very cool to release it, even if it was just a limited release.
I´m talking to the guys from the Mortiis band about getting some music made and recorded with that version of Mortiis as well. So although I am focusing on Era 1 material as of right now, that doesnb´t mean the other side of us is dead. I´d have no problem doing both.
Order Secrets Of My Kingdom here…
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