INTERVIEW WITH SEBASTIAN SWART OF MORGOTH
by Arto Lehtinen
The German death metal squad Morgoth unleashed the fiery lethal death metal outputs in early 90’s such as ETERNAL FALL, CURSED and ODIUM when death metal was at its peak. When the wind of changes started blowing the band changed the sounds more into the brutal industrilized approach and finally called its quits. The German death metal giant slept till 201o when Morgoth was resurrected back to life. Despite the vocalist change, the five piece’s most recent album UNGOD still proves the old school death metal lives and well. The band’s guitarist Sebastian Swart unveils more about Morgoth.
Guten tag, wie geths ihnen ?
Hallo, Danke, gut!
UNGOD – NEW ALBUM AND NEW VOCALIST
Let’s start the whole interview by focusing on the new album titled UNGOD coming out on Century Media. I guess the working of the album was a long term process?
The whole process took us about two years. From the decision to make a new album to the final tone in the studio.
UNGOD sounds like the pure old school Morgoth in the vein of the first outputs, not having the extra gimmicks, pure death metal in your face. Simple question ; are you pleased with the achieved result on the album or do you find some parts which could have been carried out in the other way ?
I am – and I think I speak for the whole band – very satisfied with what we have achieved on this album. We wanted to write Death Metal songs again and that is what we did. Of course: when you write the music and you know it for such a long time already by know, you always find something that could be different or better. Small pieces maybe… But most important for us this time is that our friends at fans like the result.
Was the main purpose of the stuff on UNGOD to stay and be loyal to the old school death metal approach in the first place, not trying out other types of musical influences and territories like industrial elements ?
To us it was very clear from the beginning that we wanted to release a Death Metal album. Why? because when we started the reunion back in 2011 we felt that we still love the old material and that it is awesome to play it live. When we decided to write new material it was clear: It should sound somewhere between CURSED or ODIUM. Grown up Death Metal.
Did you decide in the early stage of the writing of the new material, the newer songs will be in the pure death metal in the music wise without extra vibes or did the new stuff come out naturally as a result of the jamming and playing together ?
Like I said before, we wanted to close a gap. The gap between CURSED and ODIUM. This was not a business decision. Morgoth was always a band that played the music the members like and this time we really wanted to play Death Metal again.
Was the writing and composing new stuff harder and even more challenging than for example in early 90’s or was the process the same kind after all?
It was very different because the first songs were written without even going in the rehearsal room. The modern technology makes it possible. I lived in Spain when we started and Harry in Germany. Thanks to programs like Google Drive, Dropbox or Garage Band or iPad we could send our first riff ideas forth and back and basically write the stuff in the web. Remember that our last album was released in 1997, a time when all this was not existing. First Harry and me had some doubts that this will work and even we didn’t knew if we would have enough good ideas at all. But when we later jammed the first pre-arrangements with all the guys we knew: this can work for us.
Apparently Marc Grewe was supposed to take care of the growling on UNGOD, but a vocalist spot was replaced with a quite quick move. How much did the recording and working process of UNGOD delay because of the vocalist change or did you have to re-write the material to be suitable for Karsten “Jagger” Jäger’s voice ?
To be honest and that was a surprise even for us: nothing was delayed because of the vocals. It took us 48h to find Jagger and in that time we just recorded something else. We really had not to re-write anything except a handful of lines that suited Jagger better than Marc. Basically all lyrics had been written by Harry, me. Most by Harry. But also Marc Reign contributed “Die as Deceiver” already for the 7”. Even Jagger had the chance to add some lines on “Voice of Slumber” and Black Enemy”.
actually it is less about religion as it sounds on the first glance. Its more about beliefs of mankind in religion and the fancy story people make out of religion. It is also about the abyss of mankind. If we look back in history, for million of years the whole nature was in harmony and everything was well balanced. But this ended with the appearance of mankind on this planet. We created gods and religions, to distract from our own imperfection- we ourselves are the UNGOD. And the evil UNGOD is destroying all creation. The two main themes the lyrics on Ungod are about the struggle within yourself, the inner struggle and the conflict each of us has to fight day by day. The other one is struggle which is brought to you from the outside. And the main problem that we are concerned about, is that we see a violent rising of the so called religions
Apparently the front cover refers to the religious issues ?
It is god (us) drowning in the void killing It’s own creation and becoming the UNGOD… We wanted it to be in a more metaphoric way…
Before the departure of Marc from Morgoth, you recorded that “God Is Evil” tune for the fans being deadly eager to hear how Morgoth of nowadays sound. That made me wonder if you managed to record more songs to the final formats with Marc ?
There is “God is Evil” and “Die as Deceiver” that we released on the 7” last year. Marc also sang on “House of Blood” but that will is not released. Jagger sang on all songs with vocals on the album.
Could you tell a bit more about the recording process of UNGOD ; where did you record the album, how long did the recording process last and in which studio did you make the whole album ?
We recorded here. The album was produced by Morgoth, Jörn Michutta and Matthias Klinkmann. We started on November 1st 2014 and finished on the 7th of Dec.
When did you actually realize working with Marc was no longer possible as expected ? Was the split-up mutual or did it happen in the bad terms ?
It was a decision of all other band members not to work with Marc on this album or in the future. It was not ONE situation that caused that decision. It was something ongoing partly very private, partly in terms of the band.
What caused the split-up now, cos you have been knowing each other since your teen years ? Did something happen on the tour with Bolt Thrower ?
I really don’t want to talk about details here. But yes some things happened in the past years. And yes we know since so many years and had been very close friends. So I really hope that our fans understand that this was not a decision that was taken just out of nothing.
When Marc dismissed Morgoth, was Karsten “Jagger” Jäger on your mind as the first choice to replace Marc ? Is he now the fulltime member of Morgoth and how does he balance his time between Disbelief and Morgoth ?
There was no first choice at such. We knew we can’t go on with Marc but there was no plan B. It was our luck that our Management had a quick solution. And that was Jagger. We totally did not know if he is the right one for us. We knew a bit of Disbelief but not the guy. If it wasn’t Jagger the release would have been postponed. For sure at some point we would have found another singer some day, but Jagger just did a good job in the first place… There was no need to look further. We were lucky
Jäger’s voice, in my opinion, fits to the Morgoth sound perfectly, but how quickly did he have to learn the songs ?
Yes he fits 100% and you are not the first one who mentions this. I was very surprised by myself when I listened closer to the rehearsal sessions. As said before 95% of the lyrics were ready when he came In the studio. Also the vocal-lines were basically finished. So he had to spring in icy water and really had to follow what Harry and me told him. It was not always easy but that was total naturally as he really had to get into our minds and understand what we wanted from him. Besides the new material he also had to learn the old stuff as we already had live shows confirmed since months. Unfortunately we had to cancel the Show in Romania in November but 4 weeks later we played Warsaw and the people really got nuts. Metal Fans like Jagger and that’s a good thing.
REBIRTH OF MORGOTH
Morgoth returned to the limelight in 2010, how did this come about ? Did the idea of the rebirth or return of Morgoth pop up in your head all the time after the split up 1998, thinking “we gotta return as we got some unfinished business left on the last Morgoth gig in Paris” ?
In late 2010 it happened that some festival promoters came up to us saying: “next year is the 20th Anniversary of Cursed, why not playing some festival shows for a celebration?” Marc and me said: “ok, let’s do it BUT NO Harry NO Morgoth…” That Carsten and Rüdiger would not be in the idea was for sure anyway. So we called Harry and he said “yes I am in”- That was when everything started again.
How did you regain the old spirit and attitude to re-create the old school death metal vibe that you had in 87-98 ?
I really don’t know. We just found back into the music again. We really had lots of fun playing all the old stuff and had a grin on our faces. Something that was lost for a long time.
After going on a hiatus in 1998 and being on a break, did you ever make a tryout to resurrect Morgoth during that hiatus period, did you just let a sleeping giant lie ?
There was no serious attempt to resurrect Morgoth again until 2011. We had a rehearsal with Rüdiger in Berlin in about 2008 but that ended up in a physical fight after too many beers and we decided not to continue J
When the return became realistic in every aspect, but did you want to return with the same line-up as you quit ? And why did other former members turn down the idea of returning to the band life ?
Of course it would have been awesome to continue with the 5 guys from 1990, but Carsten and Rüdiger are very busy with different things and they did not see a sense in doing it.
When a band gets back together, they make a couple of gigs to test the water and then hit the studio to work on a comeback album. As for Morgoth, instead you spent years playing several festivals, did you want to check out if there is demand for Morgoth or was the return meant to be some sort of nostalgia thing to enjoy playing the good old death metal hymns from the past ?
Because we just wanted to play some festivals in 2011 and then step back again. But we really found back the vibes of back in the days. We are not a band that is creating business cases or is coming up with a SWAT-Analysis. We are thinking from year to year. All decisions are coming more from the heart. We are not 20 anymore and we are not planning a rock star career. Whatever happens happens.
Rudiger Hennecke didn’t join Morgoth and was replaced by the former Destruction / Mystic Circle drummer Marc Reign – Was Marc immediately asked to take a part of Morgoth or how did he come into the pic ? And what about Sotirios Kelekidis for the bass ?
Marc Reign was introduced to Marc and me by Mille at a Kreator Show in Berlin. What we did was to cast a couple of different drummers. At the end Marcus was the one who got the job. Soti was introduced to us by my girlfriend who knows him for many years from the band Sinew. A band I really like btw. Soti was casted with 4 different bassplayers.
Is Rudiger still working for Viva ?
Haha… No, since many years. Today he is a producer for a big German television company.
As for Carsten Otterbach he obviously still runs a management bureau of his own ?
Yes he still is running a band management business that is quite successful. He is working with a lot of well known bands.
BACK TO THE PAST
FEEL FOR THE FANATIC is either disliked or liked, obviously the death metal puritans (incl. me) were dropping their jaws down when hearing the album for the first time, but I can’t help asking If the purpose was to find more newer musical metallic territories to bring different kind of brutality ?
You actually answered your question yourself (Oh well AL)
When recording that particular album, were you kind of fed up with death metal at that time?
In the mid 90’s Death Metal was not such a big thing anymore. But besides that, yes we really wanted to try something different outside the Death Metal world. We all went into different music styles and that is what you hear on that record. Our skills as musicians developed a lot in the years before and we just wanted to try how far we can get. FSFTF was the result. I still like that album very much. But certainly it is not a Morgoth Death Metal album.
When you started working on the 3rd full length album, was everyone eager to take steps away from the death metal approach, or did you have a constructive discussion within the band to which direction Morgoth is supposed to aim at?
FSFST was basically written by Rüdiger, Harry and me. Most of the time it was just the three of us in the rehearsal room. And when had finished one or 2 songs Marc and Carsten showed up and gave their feedbacks. Everyone liked the music but we already knew that it would not be easy to communicate the outcome.
What kind of memories do you still have to treasure from the recording session of ODIUM and CURSED ?
I was very young on the first recordings (17) and very excited about the work in a studio. To be honest I really can’t remember details so much. This is 24 years ago J
Woodhouse was kind of home for several bands in the 90’s, did you feel at that time recording both CURSED and ODIUM at Woodhouse was nothing, but the best choice that you would achieve the best deadly result ?
Woodhouse was recommended to us by our producer Dirk Draeger for the first recording, the second time we went there because we liked it so much in the first place.
Morgoth toured a lot. I remember you had slots with Obituary, Demolition Hammer, Unleashed, Tiamat, Massacre, Immolation. What kinds of memories do you have from those long tours ?
I joined Morgoth in November 1990 so right after the Obituary/Demolition Hammer Tour. But yes, we toured quite a lot. The 3 month USA Tour with Kreator and Biohazard was my very first tour with the age of 17. I turned 18 on that tour and Kreator played “Happy Birthday” for me during their soundcheck. Me, Frederick and Anders got almost arrested in France in 1991. There are a lot of stories… Too much to mention here.
You also toured in the Stated with Kreator and Biohazard from the coast to the coast. How was that tour ? ( I remember a gig article I though it was from some Brooklyn gig and wondered “quite a strange bill”)
It was a fun tour. We were all very young and touring the USA with Kreator just was awesome of course. We toured in a Mobile Home with 7 or 8 people. Quite tough conditions all in all that for sure we wouldn’t do in our age today again. I think it was more than 60 Shows in close to three month. Sometimes very long distances between the shows. The shows were all very different. One night we played in a salad bar in front of 50 people, the next night at Hollywood Palladium in front of 2000. I kind of felt in love with San Fransico and returned there a couple of times the years after. Biohazard did not play the whole tour. The first half it was a band called Blitzspeer whos guitarplayer Phil Caivano today plays in Monster Magnet. I met him a couple of years ago at a Monster Magnet Show in Helsinki or Berlin, can’t remember. Blitzspeer for sure was a strange band with all that glamour rockstar attitude. They really did not fit on the bill.Biohazard fitted quite good I think. They were cool guys and we got along very good. Sometimes they joined us during the long rides in our Mobile home. They were traveling in a Van which was really NOT comfortable.
Marc Grew had also formed Power Of Expression, did that band take a bit too much time away from Morgoth and how did you react when POE got started ?
No time wise that was ok. We had a lot of time between ODIUM and FSFTF. We wanted to relax and Marc wanted to go on. Totally ok. Rüdiger, Harry and me finished FSFTF, also most of the lyrics and when we were done Marc just had to join the studio for growling.
As mentioned before the last gig of Morgoth was in Paris with Die Krupps, did you feel it would have been the last gig for Morgoth or did you have the long term plans to continue or was the flaming fire entirely gone?
The very last show was not with Krupps in Paris. That one was the last show on that tour. We had one very final show at a small festival in Germany. Bolt Thrower were supposed to play there but couldn’t come. They asked us if we can jump in what we did. After that we split silently. We did not even split, we just did not continue. Yes the flame was gone.
When looking at that decade, do you feel you were lucky to be in a right place at the right time when the death metal was raging all around even though you were hardly 18 ?
Absolutely. For me but also for the band there was a good portion of luck involved plus doing the right thing at the right time.
Now what, how shall the future will look alike for Morgoth ? Obviously tons of festival gigs ?
We are going to play Blastfest in Norway soon. Then 4 release shows at the end of March in Germany plus a couple of festivals like Copenhell, Graspop and Wacken. There are no plans for a tour as we speak but lets see, what happens. We never played in Finland, so that would be awesome.
Before concluding the massive long interview, name five important death metal albums that you will adore and worship
1. Death : Leprosy 2. Autopsy : Mental Funeral. 3. Bolt Thrower : For Victory 4. Possessed : Seven Churches, 5. Obituary : Cause of Death
I for one thank you for time and patience to do this interview. Danke schon und alles gutes, aber the last words are yours!!!
Thank you for the Interview. 36 questions could be a record for me J We hope that people and fans in Finland like our new release and our new voice. Maybe we meet some day at a show in your country! Viele Grüße
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