Marduk Interview with Morgan Hakansson
Marduk is one of the few black metal bands that has released albums with a consistent, high quality for more than two decades now. That alone makes them a unique band. You add a larger-than-life character like band leader Morgan “Evil” Stenmeyer Hakansson and you really have an interesting set up for any live performance. Marduk are now about to return to Australia for a few special shows celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the release of their “Heaven Shall Burn…When We Are Gathered” album. I had a chat with Morgan before the flight to down under.
Marc: You already had a busy start to the year. You just finished a tour in the US. How was that for you?
Morgan: It was great. We hadn’t been there since 2013. We are going back for a second part in August and September. This will be the final part of the touring cycle for ‘Frontschwein’.
Marc: Your last album ‘Frontschwein’ has been very successful. It was well received by media and your fans. You have played the material quite a bit by now. How is it working for you on stage?
Morgan: It is working very well. I think it is hard-hitting, fast and furious, everything extreme metal should be. It is a good combination of everything and mixed with the lyrics it is a hard-hitting force. That’s what we believe in. It’s been great to be able to tour the world with this latest album. It has always been great. We have done that with every album. To play live is the ultimate thing, to get it right in your face.
“It is the greatest achievement to be able to perform what you have been working on for your loyal fans, wherever they are located all across the world.”
Marc: That’s what it’s all about. How important is it for you to play live and how stressful is it actually for you to play these extremely energetic sets?
Morgan: I don’t think it’s stressful for me. It’s an enjoyment and a magical moment when you go to your own concerts. You become one with the crowd and that’s when you create magic. Sweat and a lot of energy, that’s live. It is the greatest achievement to be able to perform what you have been working on for your loyal fans, wherever they are located all across the world. That’s what I believe in.
Marc: How is the work on a new album progressing?
Morgan: It’s not like we started recording the album but we always work on ideas and visions for the next albums. We completed a lot of the material and we will do the final part of it as soon as we finished touring. I don’t know when we’ll go into the studio exactly. Let’s see when we will finish the touring cycle. It it’s no stress for us. It’s the usual work. It’s a bit hard to say when the album will be released. It depends on the progress of the songwriting. It’s just about finishing the touring cycle, getting back together and putting everything in its right place. Then we will start recording. We will focus on that after the touring.
Marc: You are on record saying that you always have a vision for the next album. When you get to the final songwriting and recording, is this an organic process or do you follow that vision in a more planned way?
Morgan: It’s not really planned and it’s not really unplanned. It’s hard to describe. I mean usually I have kind of a theme that comes to my mind. When you start working on both the music and the lyrics you start to feel what the album should have. Then you let everything fall into its right place. We constantly work on the music, all of us. Then we meet again and see how everything melts together. It’s also hard to describe how an album is going to sound because you have all the technology that changes. So we see that when we get to the studio. Things can change up to the last minute.
Marc: You just said that you played in the US the first time since 2013. You are now about to return to Australia where you played in 2015. It seems Australia works quite well for you.
Morgan: It’s great to be back. Now we are going to do a special thing. It’s not going to be like the regular ‘Frontschwein’ shows. Twenty years ago we released the ‘Heaven Shall Burn…When We Are Gathered’ album. We rehearsed the whole album and played it on a festival in our hometown in December 2016. Our promoter in Australia was really into having us down there to do that show. We only did the show in Sweden and now we are going to do it in New Zealand and Australia. We are only doing three more of these shows worldwide. It’s kind of a jubilee thing. That’s what we’re going to do in Australia. We’re not going to do that on the European tour. It’s great to do that in Australia. We always had a strong followership in Australia. So it’s good to do that whole album there. Of course we will also play a selection of other songs.
“We completed a lot of the material and we will do the final part of it as soon as we finished touring.” Morgan about the new album
Marc: You’ve been around for quite a while with Marduk and you have been at the forefront of black metal for more than a couple of decades. How do you see the development of black metal over that period and what do you think about the state of black metal in 2017?
Morgan: It’s actually hard to stay. There are still a few unique acts and personalities out there but on the other hand there’s also a lot of crap out there. That’s what happens. When something explodes you get a lot of crap as well. I don’t think that there is a strong scene. It’s worn out and there is that stupefying media, if I should say so. It’s hard to explain but I don’t feel really comfortable with everything. I stick to myself and do what I’m doing. That’s what I believe in. So I don’t focus too much on what’s happening. It’s nothing that really crosses my mind. There is nothing really there for me. The modern world is more like a Facebook and Instagram thing. I feel still very strange with that so I prefer to keep to myself.
Marc: What kind of music do you listen to?
Morgan: There is so much for me. To me music is either good or bad. I like to listen to music where I can feel that the band or the composer has something to say, something that grabs my mind, a strong vision. I listen to a lot of classical music like Händel and Wagner. That’s timeless music and that’s what I like. I like English renaissance music and German baroque music. It’s so powerful and it’s timeless. Apart from that I listen to old rock to metal and extreme metal, whatever I think gives me something. I listen to a lot of Deep Purple. I’m a big fan of Richie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix, stuff like that. Music that has really something to say, that’s what I believe in. I wanna feel that conviction, I wanna feel that power and I wanna feel that need to be played. I can feel that with Wagner, that I can feel with early Morbid Angel and Possessed for example. It can be any music as long as I can feel the power.
“There are still a few unique acts and personalities out there but on the other hand there’s also a lot of crap out there.” Morgan about black metal in 2017.
Marc: That’s interesting that you say that. A lot of the guys from black metal bands that interview listen to a wide variety of music and seem to be quite open-minded. Do you think that’s part of the spirit of being in a black metal band?
Morgan: I don’t know. I leave that up to everybody. I think a lot of the black metal bands are probably not that open-minded. I don’t call myself open-minded. I try to find things that I believe in. Open minded is not even the word I’m thinking about. In regards to some things I am very open-minded and in regards to other things I am very narrow-minded. I just like a few selected things in every style. I think there is a handful of what I call real death metal bands and a handful of black metal bands. These are a few bands that have grasped the power and idea behind it. Those bands I adore. The rest doesn’t matter to me. I am both open-minded and narrow-minded I guess.
Marc: The lyrics are a big part of the music of Marduk. Where do you get your inspiration from these days?
Morgan: It depends. We have done a lot of historical topics and these are obviously inspired by these historical happenings. The older you get you don’t find that much inspiration from other things. When you get older it comes more natural and from within.
Marc: The topic of war seems to be important to you. Where does that come from?
Morgan: It’s something that has come and gone during our career. It’s there for an album or two and then it goes away and comes back again. For us in Europe it’s so close. I started playing with tanks when I was a kid and then I started reading books about it. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years. When it comes to World War II I probably have 600 or 700 books.