Mortal Sin – Mat Maurer
Written by Simon Lukic
Transcribed by Alxs
Mortal Sin is Australiaâ€™s premier Thash Metal bands. After a number of false starts and a 16 year wait the band has returned to the scene with a new album titled AN ABSENCE OF FAITH. I spoke to vocalist Mat Maurer after the albums release and here is what we discussed.
What does it feel like to finally have the album out and available to the public?
(Laughs) Have you ever felt the world go off your shoulders (laughs)? Thatâ€™s it. Itâ€™s a relief but itâ€™s also rewarding because we spent quite a long while on it and we were patient. Itâ€™s been sixteen years since the last album and now weâ€™re there.
Does the title reflect that patience?
Well, not necessarily, the titleâ€™s got quite a bit of meaning across the board, you know. I was thinking of an absence of faith in mankind, you know. You could also see it as an absence of faith in the record industry or an absence of faith in metal heads, you know. Thatâ€™s pretty much how we were going with things. We actually chose the painting before we chose the title, so the title more or less fits the picture on the album.
So tell me a little bit about the songs. Some of them will be familiar to fans while others wonâ€™t.
Well weâ€™ve been playing quite a lot of them live for the last two years so theyâ€™ve had a pretty good run with people. A couple weâ€™ve never played live but we actually will be including in our set next time we play because a lot of them are actually quite hard to play. Weâ€™ve got a pretty diverse range of songs on the album so thereâ€™s something there for everyone. If thereâ€™s a head banger out there that says that they donâ€™t like at least one song on that album, they really canâ€™t call themselves a head banger can they?
True. What songs are you the most proudest of at the moment?
Well thatâ€™s a hard one to answer. Every song you write especially if youâ€™re one of the main writers – like when I write lyrics, makes the song a part of me. Thereâ€™s something thatâ€™s come from inside me and you treat every song differently. Itâ€™s like when youâ€™re playing them live, some of them feel better live whereas some of them give you more satisfaction when you listen to them on the record. Iâ€™d be lying if I didnâ€™t say that all of them have got something that Iâ€™m really proud of.
â€˜Tears of Redemptionâ€™ is â€˜Lebanonâ€™ Part II, correct?
So is that a reflection of whatâ€™s going on in the world right now?
Well there are two reasons for doing that song. I set a challenge out to the boys, and said if â€˜Lebanonâ€™ is the song that everyone remembers Mortal Sin by then letâ€™s see if we can come up with a song thatâ€™s as good if not better then that. I thought, well why not just write â€˜Lebanon Part IIâ€™. At the time of writing, the War had just broken out over there. I thought, well the timeâ€™s right, we can write Part II. I didnâ€™t really know what I was going to write about and as it was twenty years since we wrote the original song. I thought that I should carry this song twenty years on. So itâ€™s 20 years later for the kid who was in the first song. He was a four years old then and an orphaned during the First War. Now heâ€™s 24 and he has an objection to religion because he feels â€œwell look, my whole family was killed. If thereâ€™s a God, then why has this happened?â€ This is a song about a person who rejects religion because he believes if there is a God then there shouldnâ€™t be war. So we tackled it on that issue and the fact that this was a Lebanese guy, well his religion is Muslim, you know. The underlining theme of the song is that Muslims are pushing their religion onto the world and this guyâ€™s saying â€œYou canâ€™t make me be a Muslim. I donâ€™t want to be a Muslim anymore.â€
You were very forthright in mentioning that in the lyrics.
It had to be a song that either had controversy or had real meaning in its words. When I first wrote the lyrics, the guys said, â€œMan you canâ€™t say that. What are you doing? Youâ€™re going to have us all killed. And I thought, well man, Iâ€™m telling a story here. If people canâ€™t see that Iâ€™m telling a story then theyâ€™re idiots. Itâ€™s a story about a young Lebanese kid who refuses to be a Muslim anymore. Sure thereâ€™s a lot of read between the lines meanings in there but man, itâ€™s a story about a kid whose family was killed in Lebanon. Whatâ€™s wrong with that? You know there are novels that are written about stuff like that all the time. I believe in putting a really strong message out there and I think the message in that song is about as strong as you can get.
So do you see the band playing Part I and Part II one after another?
We have done that. The only thing is that oneâ€™s written in D and the otherâ€™s in drop C, so we better have a bit of a break between so we can change tuning. Thatâ€™s the only thing, but we have done that live. The two songs can be played separately because theyâ€™re not linked musically and one doesnâ€™t have to feed off the other. I think we can play one without the other with no problem.
Any new material you were going to write was going to be compared to the past efforts, which is inevitable. What did you have in mind when you finally chose these tunes?
Well I donâ€™t know, musically itâ€™s hard because there are different members in the band now and there was no real briefs. We never sat down and said that we should write a song about this. Although â€˜Tears of Redemptionâ€™ was a bit different because I said to the guys, â€œletâ€™s write Lebanon Part IIâ€ so obviously we set about writing that one. The rest of the songs developed from someone coming up with a good riff and we would just go from there. So, realistically, the songs that are on the album just popped out. Some of those songs we wrote back in 2004 so theyâ€™ve been developing for the last three years. Now that theyâ€™re finally on the album, we can sit back and listen to them and say â€˜well hey, we did a pretty good jobâ€™.
I agree. Do you think all those live shows you performed in the interim worked to your advantage because people have had a chance to hear the new songs? They knew what to expect to a degree.
Yeah. Thereâ€™s two ways to look at that, sometimes people come to see a show and you could play them a new song that they havenâ€™t heard before and you think theyâ€™re not going to get it. On the other hand you could probably say that we shouldnâ€™t play those songs until theyâ€™ve heard them because then theyâ€™ll get the song or theyâ€™ll probably like it more because they know it. It can work both ways, but personally I think itâ€™s helped us to develop ours songs. The most important thing is that when youâ€™re playing live you play the songs as close as you can to the record. If you put a song on a record and you canâ€™t pull that off live, I just think youâ€™re cheating your fans.
Being a big Robert Plant fan, for example, I love all those Led Zeppelin albums but when you go and see him live and he canâ€™t pull off what he does on the record, you think, I feel ripped off, you know. Even hearing a legend like him, sometimes he does some really great stuff, but when you donâ€™t hear what youâ€™ve heard on the record, you think, man it might as well be someone else singing it.
Speaking about singing, your voice has really matured. Is that something does that works hand in hand with the music the band has written or are you just wanting to progress as a singer?
I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know what it is. I probably could put it down to the talent thatâ€™s in the band now. The guys are writing to such a good standard that Iâ€™ve had to raise mine. I could also put it down to looking after myself and staying healthy. You know, there are probably a lot of things I could attribute it to. I really donâ€™t know how to answer that one.
I remember the early days when I used to catch the band down in Melbourne. You were always an aggressive vocalist but catchy as well. Youâ€™ve obviously carried that through.
Yeah. When Iâ€™m writing a song I actually start with the chorus. I think the chorus is the most important part of the song and the chorus is whatâ€™s going to give you the important aspect of the song. Itâ€™s the seed, itâ€™s the seed for the song. Weâ€™ve always had catchy songs, but theyâ€™re always good stories. Hey, maybe thatâ€™s what a lot of people like about us. Iâ€™m not quite sure.
So what are the reactions to the album been like so far?
Ahh pretty awesome, you know. Itâ€™s one of those things where a lot of people are surprised. They think, ah, you know Mortal Sin, theyâ€™ve been gone for 16 years or they havenâ€™t put a record out in 16 years, whatâ€™s this going to be like? But some of the reports, or some of the things people have been saying are â€˜Best album of 2007â€™ or just stuff like that. I was like â€˜Really?â€™ (laughs) Weâ€™ll take that.
(Laughs) Why not?
I mean, look, these are obviously fans and that dug Mortal Sin since the beginning, but also magazines and internet websites saying similar things. So, you know, when you hear it coming from your fans, you think, oh you know thatâ€™s cool, a bit biased because theyâ€™re Mortal Sin fans. When you hear it from Magazine editors and things like that, itâ€™s like, well ok, all right, it went a bit further then that. Itâ€™s a little bit more then what we thought. You know, we didnâ€™t jump in 2 years ago – we put effort into it and the time that it took to do the songs. We changed them here and there and fixed bits up and then, when we finally felt that we were ready to record we actually did record. We really wanted to be ready. So I think thatâ€™s important too because when you do record, you need to be ready to record, otherwise youâ€™re not going to get the best out of the songs.
Having taken the time to get things right might work to your advantage because thereâ€™s a bit of a mini thrash revival happening around the world at the moment. Mortal Sin might be able to ride that wave again.
Yea, we have been lucky actually. Itâ€™s sort of like all our cards are playing and weâ€™re just about to play a trump card, you know. As I was saying in an earlier interview, I was saying, well look, Testamentâ€™s bringing an album out, Overkillâ€™s just brought their album out (Mortal Sin will actually be supporting Overkill in March, 2008 â€“ Simon), Death Angelâ€™s doing an album. Metallicaâ€™s bringing an album out next year, I think. Weâ€™ve timed it really well.
We could, we could ride a really big wave. It could be a big wave of thrash coming through and hopefully weâ€™ll be on that wave, you know.
So what do you think about the resurgence again?
Ah well, mate, weâ€™re a thrash band, you know. What could we say but that weâ€™re really happy about it. Itâ€™s helped us and I think hopefully itâ€™ll put us back up there and people will be talking and saying Mortal Sin in the same breath as Testament. That would be my ultimate goal that we could be talked about in the same breath.
Tell me about how you hooked up with Armageddon Music.
Itâ€™s been pretty good, They were the only record company who didnâ€™t say â€˜ah Mortal Sin, you knowâ€¦ Thrash is dead.â€™ Oh my god, I spoke to some one from, I think it was Nuclear Blast or someone like that, I sent an email to them and sent a demo of the album and they were all saying â€˜Oh, weâ€™re not signing any thrash bands.â€™ And I sit back and I see some of the bands that theyâ€™re signing and I think, well, what the fuck are theyâ€?
What are you talking about? Armageddonâ€™s really good. They were patient with us and we were patient with them and I think itâ€™s worked to our advantage as you said. The timingâ€™s been good and I think, I think next yearâ€™s going to be a really big year for Mortal Sin.
So will the reissues of MAYHEMIC DESTRUCTION an FACE OF DESPAIR happen through Armageddon or is that going to beâ€¦
No, weâ€™re actually doing the reissues ourselves.
Umâ€¦ if Armageddon put up some money and say, â€˜Hey, we want a part of thisâ€™. Well, weâ€™ll let them take it. For now, Riot! Distribution has said that theyâ€™ll give us a hand with it, so weâ€™ll just go with that.
And how did the support with Slayer go in April?
Yea, that was really good. I mean, obviously itâ€™s probably one of the biggest honors any band could have. I got up on stage and the first thing I said to everyone was, â€˜Itâ€™s a huge honor to be hereâ€™. We made the most of it and while there were a few technical problems once we got up thereâ€¦we heard that a lot of the bands in the other states were pissed off that they got treated so badly. But, we got treated badly as well. We were there and we got an opportunity. We were there to make the most of it and we did. I think the best thing to come out of it was when 18 and 16 year olds came up to us and said, â€˜Man you guys are awesome!â€™ That was really cool for us. Thatâ€™s probably what you enjoy most when you come back from a show and kids that have never seen you before come up and say â€œI thought you were really coolâ€.
Horden Pavilion, Sydney – 17-04-2007