Things are changing for Mortiis – the music industry, the band he has created, and of course, his face. The troll-like figure we know is gone, and we are left with an eager, refreshed human and a band that is more than ready to unleash a new breed of industrial music upon us all. As the group get ready to release their new album entitled ‘The Great Deceiver, we had a quick chat with the man behind the mask to discuss the events and themes that fuelled the creation of this latest material.
“It´s a lot more about the music these days than the image”
S] How will Mortiis as a persona, image and concept be developed further this year?
M] I don’t know, I tend to take that kind of thing as it comes. Now that the mask is off, I don´t worry too much about it. It´s a lot more about the music these days than the image.
S] You are praised for your evocative live show when you come to the UK, what do you enjoy most about coming here to play – and when will you be back?
M] I think we need to get the new album out before we go back, at least in a headlining situation. As for the UK crowd, they´ve usually been pretty receptive and responsive, which is always cool.
S] How will you be expanding on the live performance when you tour, do you have any ideas that you would like to take into the live arena?
M] It´s always down to budgets, which so far has been abysmal, a lot due to our earlier label situation. As much as I´d love to, we´ve never been able to put on a real show, it´s always been down to ‘well the stage is naked, let´s just go crazy and hopefully we´ll get away with it’. Maybe that will change this time around, then again, maybe not. It´s hard to tell right now, with the music industry being as fucked up as it is.
S] You are hailed as somewhat of a household name within the Industrial genre, what keeps you interested in the style to this day?
M] Household name? [laughs] I never got that feeling. We´ve had some ups and downs, but I never thought of us as a household name, we´re still recouping on royalties after all these years. Anyway I digress. I don´t even know if I´m interested in the genre as it stands right now, I tend to want to listen to anything but industrial music. I got into the old school industrial, I started out listening to Throbbing Gristle, Coil, old NIN and Ministry… and that´s the stuff that still inspires me today, that and big beat stuff like older Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Fluke, etcetera. To be honest I couldn´t care less about the current club sound it´s just too generic, some of it, I can listen to, but most of the time, it´s just too meaningless.
S] Can you tell us the kind of themes you will be exploring on your upcoming album (The Great Deceiver) and how is it a “clean slate” in comparison to previous work?
M] Well I really don´t want to get too deeply into it since we haven´t set a release date or anything, some things still needs to be worked out. I think once I was able to stand back and look at it, I thought it was just much more masterfully crafted than earlier stuff. This record is heavier, angrier, and somehow more focused in its frustration. There´s a lot of pent up anger here, more than I realised. The clean slate, well, it´s just got a different approach, the mask is gone, it´s got a bigger band vibe than before, I think I matured as a singer, we´re off of Earache, we fired a management that turned out to be extremely self-serving and destructive, so they had to go, we just got rid of everyone around us, and went to work on this album. We did this album on our own, in the face of a ton of adversity, in a musical climate that has become incredibly disposable and in a climate where people forget that there´s value to music, where it´s believed to be something to be taken and not paid for. Maybe all those things, all those fucking enemies I’ve been killing off inspired the vibe of the album. Songs like ‘Feed The Greed’ & ‘The Ugly Truth’ certainly hint at that.
S] You described the new material (nearly two years ago) as sounding “heavy, angry and atmospheric” has this formula changed at all – if so, why? Are there any particular emotions and events in your life that have helped you create this album – – you described it as being “full of angst” and about the band “tearing its mask off”?
M] It’s like I said, this is heavier, angrier and more focussed and that formula stands and probably will for some time. It´s the sound we dig. We can sit around for days just fucking around creating sounds for later use. We´ll put anything through anything and see what happens. That´s why I still keep an OS9 Mac around so we can fuck around with those ‘vintage plugs and apps’ [laughs]. I think the de-masking, for lack of a better expression, made me a little paranoid at first, but it felt like the right thing to do, so we did a couple of tours without it and I regret nothing. As for people and events, yeah there are a number of events and people in my life that helped shape this into what it became, but nobody I care to mention. Let´s just say they are a waste of space.
S] Your songs obviously take a lot of time to compose considering they are made out of so many layers – was it a cathartic process to work on ‘Bleed Like You’ which is entirely piano based?
M] That song was just composed on piano, and rather simple piano lines at that. We layered with synths, guitars, samples etc after the fact and actually removed a lot of the piano after that. Actually the stuff that takes the longest, is all the editing and programming. The songs in themselves are usually rather simple, as are the arrangements. It´s the soundscape that they exist within that is the real time consumer. Finding the right drum sounds, tweaking them around and redoing that about twelve times. Then came the process of creating the samples and the layers within the background, building new sounds out of combinations.
The experimentation takes a long time, and I usually try to do something cool and new with each song. I´m not saying we´re experts, we´re not, far from it, but we do spend a great deal of time, and we try to get it right, for our sound. Sometimes we stray off and lose sight of what the song really is, sometimes we lose the sound because I´ve been too hung up on something else I really like and forget it doesn´t work for us, so in the creation process, it´s not unusual for days of work just going in the bin, or 90% in the bin or whatever. Shit happens. As far as ‘Bleed Like You’ being cathartic? No, it wasn’t at the time, I think that feeling is yet to come, probably once the album is out and I´ll allow myself to relax a little.
S] As much as you can, tell us how the themes in the songs ‘Doppelganger’ and ‘Zeitgeist’ come across in the music videos you have created with Robyn Van Swank?
M] I think they embody the angst, the want for something unattainable, and the general paranoia I realized in hindsight that the album is saturated with [pause] thematically, the videos are massively metaphoric and symbolic, and in a very brutal and disturbing way. It´s all very artistic and it´s difficult to talk about them in non-artistic term so I probably come across as a little artsy-fartsy right now. But those videos are insane; we had to cut censored versions as well, because when we were cutting them, I think we all realized this is going to get banned on certain stations, so we´re going need some “nicer” versions as well.
‘Doppelganger’ is a very soul searching, and actually a very self-loathing song while ‘Zeitgeist’ is a bit more all over the place emotionally, blaming everyone from myself to others. The videos we did are actually a two-part story, ‘Zeitgeist’ being part one, and ‘Doppelganger’ is part two. There´s a direct link between the two and they were both done in the same intense weekend.
S] You co-produced the album with Chris Vrenna, can you tell us about some of the best moments you had working with him?
M] Vrenna was only able to do five of the songs, and we did it at the same time as we did the vids. We went over to LA for about ten days, did the filming and went straight over to Chris´ house and started mixing. It was a pretty straight thing, the best thing about Chris is that he´s about the nicest guy you´ll ever meet, so even though you may feel intimidated about his past with NIN, currently working with Marilyn Manson, and been part of all these big cool projects, that´s all out the window because it really hasn´t made him the rockstar type he could have turned into. So that´s a great thing, I really like that in people, as I can´t stand fucking rockstar types. So yeah, it was a very straight, cool mixing session. I probably drank too many beers, and I know I drove him crazy at one point asking for something to be changed for the 4th time, but hey, it´s all for the better [laughs].
For more information visit the band’s Myspace and website.
The band’s video for ‘Decadent and Desperate’ can be viewed below: