MORTY BLACK – ex TNT, Vagabond, Jorn etc

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Morty Black (real name Morten Skaget) is a bassist, best known for his long career with Norwegian hard rock band TNT. Morty recorded seven studio albums with the band, including the classics TELL NO TALES and INTUITION. Altogether he spent 21 years with TNT before leaving the band in 2004. Morty later played for many famous Norwegian artists like JORN, Terje Rypdal, and Åke Alexanderson. He’s also been doing session work for international artists such as Mariah Carey, and he’s running his booking agency called Intro Music. On June 2, 2012, TNT celebrated its 30th anniversary by playing a concert at the Clarion Hotel in Trondheim. The band performed with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and former TNT vocalists Dag Ingebrigtsen and Tony Harnell. Still, unfortunately, Morty wasn’t able to do the show because of his other commitments. We met Morty on the following day at the Clarion hotel, discussed his ongoing things and past with TNT and other exciting topics. Read on!

THE 30’TH ANNIVERSARY OF TNT Yesterday was indeed a great event for TNT and fans when the band celebrated its 30’TH anniversary here in Trondheim. What does it mean for you that TNT is now 30 years old?

Morty Black: Well, first of all, it means that the kid has grown up, and yeah, I think it’s great.  It’s great that the band is still around, and there are so many people still loving the band. Many people I’ve been growing in the band, who are now grownups, and they’re still enjoying the band. The band is still doing great shows, and I feel good that they’re still around. How much do you keep on following what’s going on with the band these days?

Morty Black: I have many friends and family who are working with TNT, and Diesel and I are staying in touch since we’re living in the same city and it’s a small city.  So I keep track of what’s going on. About yesterday’s Anniversary show, many fans were disappointed when you couldn’t do the show.

Morty Black: Yeah. I know… Do you want to say anything more about it?

Morty Black: Well, I was disappointed too, of course, but I have been playing with these other artists who unfortunately were booked on the same date, so I just had to do that show because I can’t have somebody step in for me in doing that other show.  So, unfortunately, it didn’t happen for me to play with TNT this time. But maybe you will get another chance when the band is doing its 40’TH Anniversary? “Laughs”

Morty Black: Yeah, I’m planning for the 40th anniversary, so I have to be available for that “Laughs.” Okay, so do you have any opinion about the latest TNT albums with Tony Mills?

Morty Black: I think he’s a great singer.  To be honest, I haven’t listened too much to them just because I’m working with music all the time.  So I haven’t had time. Too much music all the time.

Morty Black: Yeah, it is.  So but I hear from the fans that they’re very, very happy and they’re in their style, I think, so I believe they are doing well. It’s still Ronni in there.

Morty Black: Yeah, he’s got his mark on everything, so as long as he’s there, I think the TNT fans are safe and happy.

THE CURRENT STUFF So, after all, what are you up to these days?

Morty Black: I’m playing lots, of course.  I’m doing lots of studio work for different artists.  Every summer, I go on tour with an artist called Åge Aleksandersen.  He’s like, I don’t know, maybe he’s the Norwegian Bruce Springsteen, not musically but in a type of his career artist. He’s very popular, and I’m playing with my best friend Steinar Krokstad on drums.  He’s like my brother. Steinar, is he living now in Trondheim as well?

Morty Black: He’s from Trondheim, but he’s now living in Bergen.  He was the drummer in Stage Dolls and Vagabond, and much more.  So and I’m playing with great musicians, so it’s a fun job to have.  Other than that, I have my own company, Intro Music, an artist booking agency, plus we do concerts the same as Diesel does, and we’re doing a lot of events for companies. Are you working only with Norwegian artists and bands?

Morty Black: Mostly, yeah, but I sometimes introduce international artists for promoters in Norway, but mostly it’s Norwegian acts that I’m working with. As you said, you’re doing a lot of session work with different artists, and one of those really big stars you did work for was Mariah Carey. How on earth did that come about?

Morty Black: Yeah, some friends of mine have a studio.  They are a producing team, and they have now written music for Rihanna and other artists on the top of Billboard charts all the time, and they got the offer to do a song with Mariah Carey, so they asked me to come in.  At that time, I was their ballad bass player.  So whenever they were recording and producing a ballad, they asked me to come in and play.  So that was fun.


Åke Alexandersen on left and Morty Black.

ALMOST MAKING IT How about discussing the old days as well?

Morty Black: Of course! When TNT was having its “heydays” in the late ’80s, did it ever go, you know, in your heads?

Morty Black: You know, when we lived in Trondheim, you very fast get pulled back on the ground, so and we had kids and families in the 80s, yeah.  From ‘85 and up, we had kids.  So it’s very easy to get pulled back again and especially here in Trondheim.  It’s like a small town, and everybody knows everybody, so if you come here acting like a big star, it’s like, “Hey, relax.  You’re in Trondheim now.  Be yourself”  So I think that’s a plus because then you start don’t believe everything you’re doing and hearing because when you tour, you only hear positive things, and everybody loves what you’re doing.  You don’t hear anything negative. So it’s good to come back and be put back in place.  It’s healthy, I think. Was it any different, like in Japan and the U.S where you did those big tours with Twisted Sister and Stryper?

Morty Black: Yeah, it’s very easy to get that rush and kick to…  You start believing the things people are saying around you, of course, and for a guy coming from Trondheim, going out in the big world, getting, playing with the big stars, you’re out playing at the same arenas and stuff, of course, it’s a big rush.  I mean, and maybe if we were more in the States, I would probably believe it more.  So it was great, great fun and we saw the whole world.  We met a lot of different people.  We played with big stars. In your opinion, what was the main reason that you never made it in a big with TNT?

Morty Black: That’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Tony mentioned that one of the reasons was that you didn’t spend enough time in the U.S?

Morty Black: That could be one of the reasons, yeah.  We should have done more and be available more in the States probably and, I think we also think we had the betting chance of making it bigger if we agreed more within the band.  So I think there are some different reasons really and one of them is, of course, that we should have been more in the States. So, but that is an easy thing to say afterward. Was it ever an option that the band could have moved permanently to the States?

Morty Black: Yeah, we had a house on Long Island.  So we were thinking about it, but we are Norwegians.  We have to come back and smell the area, you know, “Laughs.” Actually, I do understand that.  This is such a beautiful place.

Morty Black: It’s a beautiful place, and the people are great, and it’s a great atmosphere here.  So it’s hard to be away. When you are doing serious business, you have to think differently, don’t you?

Morty Black: Yeah, and we did, but we were also young.  We were in our 20’s, so we didn’t know much about life.  So, of course, that’s why I said when we started again in 2003, “Now we know. Let’s do the right thing”, but the people weren’t ready for it.

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THE 90’S STUFF In 1992, after touring in Japan for REALIZED FANTASIES, you quit the whole band for a while.

Morty Black: We kind of had a time out, as I would say it, and then Ronni and I started with playing with the Vagabond. Together with Jorn, Steinar and Dag Stokke

Morty Black: Yeah, and Vagabond was for me was one of the best bands I ever played in, I think, because we had some freedom in doing whatever we wanted to do and which was great for us because we have been very formed in TNT and the TNT sound is very specific.  So for me, it was great to play again with Steinar on drums and but as friends in that band.  Plus, also we did something that we couldn’t do at TNT. We moved together in the same area and worked every day with the band.  So that was a really enjoyable time. TNT then returned to the scene with the album FIREFLY, which was quite a shocking album for “old school” fans like me!

Morty Black: What happened, yeah?  First of all, while we were playing with Vagabond, the request for TNT was more and more.  So we finally gave in, and I think we had one foot in the Vagabond world and one foot in the TNT world, one hand in somewhere else, and we used the opportunity to try out to be more of the 90s style.  So but I can understand that some fans were in shock once they did hear that album. I’m living proof about that because I was in shock when I did hear it for the first time, “Laughs.”

Morty Black: It was shocking for many, for sure. That’s why in Norway, we packed the FIREFLY with the TNT live from Japan so that all fans could have something new but some old material too. And try to learn to like your newer material.

Morty Black: Yeah. But afterward, was it a good move from the band?

Morty Black: Afterwards, I’m really proud of the albums we did, both FIREFLY and TRANSISTOR. Right, but TRANSISTOR, it was a kind of little step back towards the old style?

Morty Black: Yeah, so but it’s hard to say, but we should maybe have done differently, but we didn’t.  So but I think when we came back with MY RELIGION in 2003, we were more in tune musically.

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MY RELIGION AND SPLIT MY RELIGION was a brilliant album from you guys. Musically, it was like going back to TELL NO TALES?

Morty Black: Yeah, yeah, and that’s why it was sad,  I think, that we didn’t agree more on the planning and how to do things because musically, we were really tight, and I felt that we were back on track again.  So but I wanted to do more.  I wanted to work much harder back then. So, if you could have decided how the band should have work differently back then?

Morty Black: First of all, I don’t think that the world was sitting back and waiting for TNT.  If you want to make a comeback, you have to tell the world about it and do some hard work for one/two years to set things right. Plus, I think it was the wrong people coming in on the management side again.  So, people we didn’t want to work with in the past came in again, so I didn’t like that.  So I felt that on the planning side, we could’ve done a better job.  So and I said that “We’re in our 40s, and we should be able to do the things right this time instead of going backward in time and making the same mistakes” So that was it. You know, I wanted the band to get back on track, to set the higher level. Like last night, that’s a TNT level.  Playing in clubs and stuff, I don’t think TNT should be there anymore. I believe TNT should be – TNT is a band for the big events, and to get there, you have to do some work to get back on track and position yourself better, both internationally and in Norway and maybe not do so many small clubs.  Just play, but do the right type of gigs.  And sometimes you have to wait for two months to do that and sometimes and also present ourselves again internationally.  That was like the big key for me. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that the band was always too stuck in Norway?

Morty Black: Yeah, maybe, I think if we have had maybe management in Europe or England and Germany or something like that, they can work on the territory because we had some good connections in the U.S. and Tony was in the U.S.  He was our man over there.  So I felt that that part was on track. Still, instead of mixing with the people we did, we could’ve maybe gotten management work more on getting management in Europe and then start building the TNT name back again because in the 80s, we had a good position, and I feel that just for the fans and for the others – You know, we were so close. So if we did the right things in 2003/2004, I think we could have gotten back on track again. You left the band actually in the middle of MY RELIGION –tour in 2004, right?

Morty Black: Yeah, it was in August of 2004.  I told the band earlier, but I finished some gigs, so they had time to find another bass player, and at the same time, I got the offer from this Åge Aleksandersen to join his band.  So I had to start that tour at the same time.  So I had my last gig with TNT here in Trondheim on the 7th of August, I believe it was, in 2004, and on the same night, I left Trondheim and went to another gig this other guy two hours from here. Actually, I remember I did see TNT playing in Sweden Rock that year, and you did not play on that show, although you were still in the band.

Morty Black: No, that’s true because I wanted to do that show to help out finish the gigs, but of course, like yesterday, we had a gig at a different place.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that, which I would love to play Sweden Rock, of course. Leaving the band… was it a financial decision why you decided to leave the band?

Morty Black: No, it was actually because we disagreed on different things within the band.  I felt like we should do things one way, and the others felt doing things differently.  After 21 years, I felt that somebody new had to come in and do the work.  So it was nothing that matters here.  We just disagreed, and those things happened.  I was in the band for 21 years and enjoyed every year, but I felt we should do things a bit differently and do something more. I wanted to play as much as possible.  So and we didn’t agree on those things.  That’s the reason why I left.


TNT during INTUITION era. Tony, Morty, Steinar Krokstad, and Ronni.

WORKING WITH RONNI Besides, you did play for 21 years with Ronni in TNT, you also played on his Rypdall/Tekro albums, his solo record, and the list goes on… 

Morty Black: Yeah, Vagabond also, and we did some gigs for the Bad Habitz, a cover band.  So in the 21 years I was in TNT, we were like brothers.  So we followed each other musically on everything we did, and that was very enjoyable, and that’s something I miss the most.  Of course, I moved back from the area around his studio, where we lived for five years, and when I moved back, we drifted apart, and it was after I left TNT that happened, but that’s life. So, how is your relationship with him now? 

Morty Black: We don’t see each other too much, unfortunately.  But when we see each other, we’re back again.  So I hope that we have opportunities to work together more, musically. On last year, Ronni stated that the album FAREWELL TO ARMS would be the last TNT studio album. What do you think about that statement?

Morty Black: Ronni says a lot of things “Laughs.” So it’s just about the day?

Morty Black: Exactly, it’s maybe the last one today? It’s Tuesday.  Let’s do an album, “Laughs.” Tony Harnell just told me an interesting thing.  He said he would love to work with Ronni again, but under a different name because of TNT’s past load. How do you think about that?

Morty Black: Yeah, maybe.  That’s an interesting thought.  Then you have to do totally different songs and different material. The record company would anyway add stickers on the album cover with text “featuring TNT members”…

Morty Black: Yeah, you will always have that, so and yeah, if you don’t want to do TNT, you can always do a different project.  Of course, a lot of musicians do that, but it will never be the same as the popularity TNT has because TNT is a solid trademark, and we have its 30 years of music. I think that here in Norway, it’s like everybody knows TNT?

Morty Black: Yeah, yeah, even my grandmother who, of course, since I was in the band, but many grandmothers know about TNT and kids. So even the young generation of Norway knows TNT and its music?

Morty Black: Yeah, yeah.

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SPECULATIONS Although yesterday was a great event on every level, it seems that TNT is currently stuck at a certain level, and the band probably won’t go much further anymore. How is your opinion about that?

Morty Black: No, sadly enough that’s – but it’s great to see evenings like last night when you have a little touch of it, the bigness again, but to be honest, I think it’s sad because I think TNT deserves to be up there because it’s such a good band and such great music and talent is still there.  So but you have to do it the right way. In my mind, if I were in TNT today, I would pull back a little, stay away maybe for a year and do some solid work writing, planning, and do some solid work. With whom do you think the band should work then?

Morty Black: Whoever is interested in having TNT on their bill? Right, and what would be the ideal band line up in your opinion?

Morty Black: The best lineup. Okay, which is?

Morty Black: I think the 2003 lineup was solid, I guess.  It’s the lineup that has the most the strongest looks.  Not looks, but it’s the strongest muscle, I think, personalities. Hey, if you have Black Sabbath making a new album with Ozzy, then everything’s possible.

Morty Black: Yeah, I mean, yeah. People sometimes need a break to realize what the band is all about. And with age, you get a little bit clever.  No, but I think to look at many of these strong bands like U2, for instance. They have been together, these four guys, when they do things on their own, they’re not that big.  But when the muscle gets pulled together, it’s strong, and I think that’s the thing with TNT as well. So, in a way, really in a way, you’re saying you don’t rule out working with TNT again someday?

Morty Black: Yeah, you never know.  I’m not sitting here saying that things are never going to happen.  I’m open-minded, so – And at least we have the 40’TH anniversary waiting behind the corner “Laughs.”

Morty Black: Yeah, “Laughs” So, you already have that day booked for TNT. The same time and the same place then, right?

Morty Black: Yeah. Of course, “Laughs.” Okay, thanks for your time Morty!

Morty Black: Very good. Thank you!