Interview with Marduk Guitarist Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson
Band Photo: Marduk (?)
Marduk is really a true contender for one of the best second wave acts of black metal. Having been around since the 1990’s, Marduk has been around for quite sometime. Their message of past ravages of war, blood, the Third Reich, and their fascination of the occult has sparked controversy, but does not hinder the share tenacity of their lyrics; overshadowing the majority of other black metal acts that try to model after them. When I missed them with Mayhem this year, I thought that the chances of me interviewing and seeing them live would be minuscule because of the visa incident that prevented them from playing in the United States. Fortunately, I found out that they were playing at Reggie’s in Chicago, so I could not pass up the opportunity to see them and ask some questions. Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson has a reputation for being really intimidating. Indeed, I can say his stare is very piercing, but the interview was a huge success, as I got to know one of the most renowned black metal guitarist/ philosophers of our time.
Daniel Becker: Your last two albums have had a much more mature sound compared to previous albums. Was there any particular catalyst like those who directed “Those of the Unlight”?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson : Yeah, I don’t know if they were really more mature. For me, all the albums are equally important because they all represent eleven pillars that we all stand upon as band. I can see what you mean in some perspectives but, I don’t really sit down and reflect over it. We work on the lyrics and it just goes the way that it goes. We just let our energy flow and it takes us in the direction that it just takes us. We don’t sit down and have a plan for our albums. We just work at it, and it becomes natural.
Becker: Since you were there from the beginning, what was it like to play a role in the early second wave of black metal?
Morgan: I don’t even really reflect over that. We just do what we do and what matters to us. People who look upon it we really don’t care because we just do what we do and if they do not like it that’s fine. We just continue spreading around the world our message….
Becker: What is your message?
Morgan: I think that is very clear if you listen to the music and read the lyrics.
Becker: Pretty much war?
Morgan: In a way. Special kinds of war, but you have to scratch the surface to see that.
Becker: I heard their was some incidents with total dickhead fans over the past few days like the guy who got pepper sprayed because he decided to set a bible on fire in a small club.
Morgan: And it was not small, but a big club so it affected half of the crowd because they had to go out. People could not breathe in there and needed to leave.
Becker: Also the drunk guy who tried to hug Mortuus and got slammed to the ground.
Morgan: I don’t understand why there is a huge reaction to that. It’s not normal for a person to come from behind like that so it is a natural reaction. If someone were to be coming from behind, it is a normal reaction to throw them away. I mean it happens everyday in Europe, so I don’t understand why it is a big reaction when this happened.
Becker: But it was such a quick, and almost an organized throw. Does Mortuus have some martial arts training?
Becker: What kinds?
Morgan: I don’t know exactly. I think Kung-Fu, maybe MMA fighting. I just don’t understand the huge reaction. We have been kicking people off stage because they were messing around with the pedal or whatever.
Becker: What's it like to know that you're one of the most imitated black metal bands of all time? For instance, 1349 are pretty much a carbon copy of you and Anaal Nathrakh stole the main riff to "On Darkened Wings" on their newest album. Are you more flattered or insulted by the fact that you're so often imitated?
Morgan: I don’t know. Of course it is flattering in a way that people appreciate what you do, but people should be able to do their own thing; It is natural to be influenced by other bands, it is just natural.
Becker: As somebody who's been part of the black metal scene for the past two decades, what do you think of some of the third wave black metal bands that are popping up now like Wolves in the Throne Room, Vreid and Xasthur?
Morgan: Some bands are good; some bands are not that good. I don’t really reflect what other bands are doing, I just discover the ones I really like for example, I like a new Swedish band called Horde of Hel that is really good. Some bands I find here that are both good and bad. A lot of people come up with something special, and a lot of other bands like to ride the wings of others already done similar to older music styles.
Becker: It's been said in previous interviews that the primary theme of Marduk is war and many of your lyrics have to do with World War II but what other wars fascinate you?
Morgan: A lot of them. I study and read history and a lot of wars fascinate me in different ways. Not just war, I am also interested in politics and history too because they go hand in hand as well. It’s just World War II has a lot of ways to create such inspiration. It makes me want to create a soundtrack to it.
Becker: Did you see the movie Zeitgeist?
Morgan: Yes, I have seen that documentary. I take it with a pinch of salt because it is a documentary. But it is quite fascinated with all the material they are bringing fourth. I was really fascinated by it.
Becker: What factors led to the dissolution of Abruptum?
Morgan: It’s not dissolute, it is still around. There is some albums that have been recorded but have not been released, that might be released later on.
Becker: Do you know when they will be released?
Morgan: No, but maybe in a year or two.
Becker: Why do you think that it is that Sweden is such a breeding ground for metal bands since you come from the same country as Dismember, The Haunted, Dark Funeral, Meshuggah and Arch Enemy?
Morgan: Yeah, there are a lot of bands that come from Sweden. I don’t know why. A lot of people think that we have a huge, strong scene, but the fact of the matter is most of the people probably play in a band. I don’t know why we have so many bands; it is just a natural scene.
Becker: Do you think that what makes Sweden a huge breeding ground is the Northern darkness? I heard that Sweden gets like 3-4 hours of sunlight during its winter…
Morgan: Depends on where you live. In some places up north it is not even four hours a day.
Becker: Do you think that can have an effect?
Morgan: Maybe, but most bands do not come from there because it is not that populated. Maybe I can agree that the Northern darkness has created this musical mentality, but I don’t know. It is very strange because in a lot of points in northern Sweden it is very dark during the winter but during the summer it is not dark at all.
Becker: Over here in America, there has always been a separation of church and state but a clerical/anti-clerical divide, of which you are firmly on the side of the latter, defines European politics. What's it like to live in a country where there is not only a state-church but you couldn't even couldn't self-identify as an atheist until 1951 despite most of the population not being religious?
Morgan: But Still in Sweden it is separated. 1950’s, that is not true. You can identify yourself as an atheist for a long time. Sweden has been a Christian country, but not as Christian as a lot of other countries.
Becker: Church attendance is around 10%
Morgan: Yeah, something like that.
Becker: This year you were supposed to tour with Mayhem and when we saw them in Chicago you were not there. What exactly happened? Are you disappointed that you were not there?
Morgan: Of course. When you are booked on a tour, and you end up not doing it, is a huge disappointment for us and everyone involved including fans, local promoters, and main booking agency. You know we suffered as well. People thought you know that we did not want to do it. You know we don’t buy plane tickets, printing, fixings, etc. to not just do it. We lost so much on it as well, and it was really frustrating because it was a fuck up from the side of the embassy in Sweden and the American embassy because three of us got visas in really good time. They assured us that we were all going to have it in time, but our vocalist did not get it. We called out the day we were supposed to fly out and they said we need your paper translated to English. So we did not need any other papers translated into English so we went to a special office to get everything translated and stamped, but we did not know how long that was going to take. It took three weeks. We had huge problems with paper work. We almost nearly missed out on this tour too because during our European tour, before this one, two passports were stolen from our backpack with visas, computers and telephones. We thought if we call the embassy they can print out new ones because they can see from their computer that we already had visas. No. We had to apply from the very beginning until we got home from the European tour. We had to get new Swedish passports and apply for a new Visa. This time though, they really helped us because we got it back within a week before this tour. We also nearly missed out on this date as well because our bus broke down a few days ago. We had to miss two shows in Denver and Kansas.
Becker: Since you guys spend a lot of time on the road in this dark, ensconced tour bus, do you find inspiration from it?
Morgan: No, not really, not that inspiring. I don’t write music on tour. I focus more on performing. Maybe a few riffs will come out on tours, but usually I’m not that focused to create music on tour. That is something I do more of at home.
Becker: As a Black Metal band, do you listen to a lot of black metal, death metal, and other sub-genres of metal?
Morgan: Yeah, what I listen to is usually either good or bad. I like old hard rock, rock from 60’s and 70’s, and heavy metal from the 80’s and 90’s. I like what I consider to be the best of death and black metal; bands that really speak to me and mean what they say. Of course I like all thrash. Bonded By Blood by Exodus is one of the best albums ever made. I am not too impressed by the new wave, but I like the old shit. I also listen to a lot of Industrial music as well. I listen to a lot of music with what I think has soul.
Becker: Speaking of Industrial, how did you get those collaborations with Arditi?
Morgan: You know the guy from Arditi I have known since 1990. He does not live that far from me and I liked what he did and we spoke about doing something together and we ended up doing it. There are more industrial bands we could work with in the future, it is just a matter of time and finding the right time to work together you know? I think industrial music is something that really creates and paints a great picture in my mind. For me it is one of the few music styles that really still inspire me to write music. I’m not really inspired by any metal bands. I’m really more inspired by listening to something like Industrial in the background when I work on a thing that creates more music in my head.
Becker: Do you guys still have a relationship with Mayhem?
Morgan: Yeah, we don’t talk to them very often, but we have played with them in the past, and I know the older lineup of the band.
Becker: What do you think of Varg Vikernes getting released?
Morgan:I think nothing. He sat through his years. I don’t care. I was not involved in whatever happened between him and Euronymous.
Becker: All right, thanks for your time.
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