Mortiis - Mortiis

March 5, 2002

Supposedly you are a madcapped Norwegian troll who lives in a castle in the mountainside, eats children, and has been resurrected from the dead among other interesting things.

You've been to the website. The whole troll thing is getting out of hand because I never wanted to be linked to that really. I think it's just what people choose to associate me with. From thereon it's just guilt by association basically. People look at it and they really can't find another name for what Mortiis is because for some reason people have this compulsory need to put everything in categories. Which can become bothersome but at the same time it just goes to prove that I am superior. Hehe. What can I say? The only thing I keep saying to people is that I'm not really a troll. Where the fuck did that come from? It's like I just said. People don't really know what to do with it so they put it in a very general category or pigeonhole. Just like with music. If you walk into any fucking music store, you find Ministry and you find fucking Van Halen in the same fucking pile of albums. It's called heavy metal. Those two bands are as different as it gets.

Before we get into the myths and legends about you, why don't you tell us a little about the guy behind the mask so to speak.

I consider myself to be more human than most people around. I feel like I'm actually a lot nicer than most people. As far as I try not to fucking judge people for who they are or who I think they are because I know what that's like. I stay away from that bullshit. At least as well as I can. I'm just sitting home making fucking music and trying to make something special out of it. There's not a lot more I can tell. If people want you to tell them about yourself, you don't feel like you're the right person to do that because you couldn't possibly really look at yourself the way other people do.

Who are some of your major musical influences?

On the album I was sort of inspired by stuff like Nine Inch Nails to a certain degree at least. The music in itself doesn't really sound that much like it but there were things that I thought were really great that they did and I sort of felt inspired by some of the ideas. Bands like Enigma for the atmosphere of it. Even stuff like Skinny Puppy. I'm kind of a beginner so sometimes I'll be inspired but when I'm done it doesn't really sound like it. I don't always know how to go about things to make it sound the way I want it to so it's a lot of experimentation because The Smell Of Rain was the first album that I really didn't program stuff so I kind of had to learn all the basics and then just go from there. It was a very long process. I'm kind of getting the hang of it now. Everybody fucking inspires me. I can go to a club and I'll hear something that I think is cool and I'll try to remember that and I'll try to see if I can use something similar except make it my own thing.

On this album did you pretty much do it all yourself?

Well, not the guitars and the bass and obviously not the female vocals needless to say. Some of the strings. We brought some people in to do some strings. They're pretty low in the mix so we kind of mixed it up with the strings that we also have there. Apart from that it's all me. I wrote the songs. I sing on it. Do a lot of the backing. Yeah, I did the programming. All the electronic stuff is me. A lot of it is me. I'd say 70 percent of the stuff there is done by me. I can't play though. It's all on the fucking computer.

That definitely seems to be the new way of making music.

I don't think it's new. It's been around since the mid-'70s. Using sequencers and all that but sure technology allows people to afford to buy this stuff while back in those days it was extremely expensive. Not everybody could really do it. It's not really that new. Electronics is aging. It's older than metal for example. They had keyboards fucking in the '60s. Pink Floyd was doing that stuff.

It seems like people are doing it more and more now.

Yeah, because I think it's becoming a lot more accessible. It's easier to buy. You can get a software program that can do fucking everything for probably $500. Whereas 10 years ago you probably had to pay $5000 for it.

How long have you been involved in the music business and what bands have you been in?

I've really only been with two serious bands. I was in Emperor about 10 years ago. I've been in the music business for about 10 years. Not on a very professional level. I've never been on a more professional level than I am now obviously. I signed to Earache about three years ago. That was when things went to a different level with big contracts and being told that you have a duty to people kind of crap. That was the first time I started hearing about "you should get a lawyer" which I still haven't done because fuck it, I really don't want to get involved with people unless I really have to. It's extremely uninspiring. I hate the business side of this industry. I just want to make music. Yeah, it's been about 10 years. Almost 12 years actually. I started singing in a band like back in '90. It was awful. It was dreadful. We did two shows. It was death metal though so nobody heard what I sung which was really a good thing because I think one of the shows I completely forgot the lyrics. I was just grunting my way through the whole thing, which made it very traumatic in a way when I started doing live shows for the first time in 10 years earlier this year as a singer. Now I sing lyrics that you can kind of make out. Even live, even though I sing harder. It's harsher live than it's on the album. If I start forgetting lyrics now, people could easily notice that. That makes you a little nervous before you go on. Like did I drink too much? Am I going to remember all the lyrics? Last show we did which was a while ago, I actually found myself backstage picking up a copy of the album and reading the lyrics because I'd actually forgotten one of them. It was half an hour before I went onstage.

A little nervous?

I got a little nervous then, yeah. But it was fine.

Tell us about your experiences in Emperor.

Yeah, that's your excuse for calling, isn't it? About my time in Emperor? It was a short stint. It was like a year and everything went crazy. We kind of had a band in the middle of everything and I got fired because I have a temper. I have an ego that is fairly unmatched. Maybe Danzig could beat me, I don't know. I have a temper as well which I thought that I'd gotten rid of but I haven't. Hehe. It's still here. It's only verbal. I don't get physical although I feel the need to sometimes but so far I haven't actually done that. Most of the time it's just because I have an ego that I kind of freak out over small things. I'm rather paranoid so if something doesn't work out the way I want it to, I kind of feel like it's a world conspiracy for about five minutes. But that's a rock star thing isn't it?

Yes it is. You gotta play the role.

Yeah, I live the fucking role. I don't really like that. I wish I could just be calmer because you get more done. I think it's very easy for me to start developing hatred. Things like that. There are people I wouldn't mind seeing tortured and I mean that but I won't mention names.

You could go eat them. Isn't that something you're supposed to do?

They wouldn't taste very good. These people are rotten to the core. I would probably die if I did that. Bad meat.

Some people label you as goth and some label you as black metal. What's the difference between the two and how do you view yourself?

I just view myself as an artist. Even that makes me feel a little pretentious. I don't like any words associated with somebody that creates something. It just sounds pretentious no matter what. I don't know why that is. It shouldn't be like that. I suppose it's because a lot of artists actually are pretentious. It's like I said in the beginning of our conversation, I don't necessarily really like it. I really don't like categories as such. I think they're limiting. It's not that I'm able to play jazz but if I wanted to, I'd like to be able to do that within the project that I have conceived. If somebody comes up to me going "well you're black metal", that's bullshit because I've never really played black metal. If I ever did it was 10 years ago. Goth. I don't even know what goth is. I thought it was a Victorian building style. Apparently it's also a bunch of kids.

I think it has to do with vampires.

Which is funny because I kind of like that to a certain degree. Some people really become that. It looks great on some people. It looks horrible on others. Look at heavy metal. Some people kind of look good. Most of them look like idiots. Not that they are idiots, they just happen to look like it. The same thing goes for goth. That's beside the point I suppose, but I never aimed at really hitting any particular music style at all. I think a lot of bands probably feel the same way. They just have been thrown into a bunch of pigeonholes. I don't think Sisters Of Mercy really ever could relate to the gothic crap. When you look at the way they look, they look like a bunch of hybrid bikers with leather jackets and sunglasses. They don't have fucking fangs. They don't do that. I'm not slagging goth off. I think goth is an interesting way of life. I don't think a lot of those bands ever wanted or tried to fit into that crowd. They just happened to be adopted by that crowd. I think it's the same way with me. I think I have a fair amount of black metal people, a fair amount of gothic people, and a fair amount of fucking dorkway people. Whatever makes them different that just happens to like what I do. They call my music what they want my music to be called.

Why do think people feel the need to label or categorize music?

So they can relate. It makes it easier for them to understand what it is because they have a starting point I suppose. As opposed to not knowing what to put something in and going from there. That's the way I would do it. I do the same thing. It's a human thing. You need to create a fundamental of some sort. Like a starting point so you can start there and then you start analyzing it. Rather than not knowing what the hell it is, where the fuck to put it. It's just confusing for people I think. I don't know. I think that's the way the human psyche might work. I could be wrong though.

The character of Mortiis is explained as questioning society and the world we live in and people's perceptions. What's your view on these particular situations and how do you embody these views in your art?

Basically there was a time a few years back when I was going through a lot of depression. Everything was just kind of freaking me out I suppose. Society was definitely a part of that. I knew they were never going to win because I've been around for so long. Done my thing for so long. I've taken a lot of heat from society so to speak for a long time. I know they weren't going to bring me down. If they hadn't done it by now, then they'll never do that. There were times when, for some reason, I fell into a depression and everything kind of got to me a lot easier. I started writing about it. Therapeutical sessions so to speak which is so cliche really. I guess for the last few years I've always kind of questioned society. The way people can't seem to accept anything that they're not used to on a daily basis. People like me. I've started to become accepted in this little town which is amazing because 10 years ago they would have beat the shit out of us. But it's just because we're proving time and time again, me and some of my friends like from Emperor or whatever, that we're a lot more fucking successful than they are. We get to travel the fucking world. We get the girls. Well, sometimes. What do they do? They work at a fucking mechanic shop or they drive the local fucking trash truck. They work at a fucking supermarket. We get to get our pictures in magazines. They see that so apparently some of them I think kind of realize that "okay they're actually making some progress here." A lot of people still think that just because they can't relate to it, we're evil. Homosexual for some reason. Junkies is a popular one or just weirdoes. Because they can't relate to that they fear it and this is a classic one. What you fear you hate and what you hate you try to beat up or kill. It's just the way of nature I suppose. It's a circle. In a way you have to accept that because you can't really change that. If you could, how exciting would the world be, if for some reason everybody liked you and everything was just really a happy go lucky thing. Where's the excitement? In a way you kind of have to learn live with it, accept it, and actually fucking thrive on it. It was hard to realize that back in the days when depression was really sort of king, but I think I'm over the worst part of that so now I just try to turn it into something constructive. Just go Nietzsche. What can't kill you makes you stronger.

When people come up with all these interesting myths and legends about you, do you feel these people actually believe that or do you think they're just trying to be insulting?

A lot of people try to be insulting but the things that they say, I never put them on the site because what they say is unintelligent. It's not amusing. It's basically about I have a small dick. As if they'd know that. They probably do, though. If you talk about it you probably do. Things like that. Like how I slept with my mom. Crap like that. It's like yeah, that's a pretty brave thing for someone from fucking southern fucking Florida to be saying. Like you slept with your mom which he probably did. That is actually one of the reasons I call my guestbook The Piggery. That is where the pigs go. It's amazing. It's got to be one of the more controversial guestbooks in music right now. It's not like we're getting 1000 hits a day on the guestbook or anything. It's like every day there's some crazy stuff up there. Some idiot or some fanatic fan. It's kind of like Nazis and anti-Nazis. They're just as bad, both of them. They're both militant violent groups. They're just on each side of the extreme and they're just going at each other and I'm just reading it thinking "Jesus, this is insane."

It's not even about you anymore.

Yeah, it kind of starts with being about me but after a while it just turns into this piece of slagging each other off and calling each other names. It just becomes so primal. It's just like a piggery. It's just a bunch of pigs running amok. I totally appreciate what my fans do. That they stick up for me and all. But at the end of the day, you should stick up for yourself because sometimes they take it a little far. They don't really seem to be that intelligent at the end of the day, but then again I guess I just become upset. When I become upset I'm not exactly the epitome of intelligence. I make very little sense at some point but it only lasts five minutes. It's cool. What can I say? People talk about me. It's very easy because I have this fucking image and they look at it and people don't know me. How many of my fans can say that they know me? Nobody. Of course they're going to talk. It's easy to talk. I talk too. I talk about other musicians I don't know. I just don't do it on the Internet.

The Internet's a pretty easy way to spread vile accusations and hurt people.

I think I'm beyond the point where I can become hurt. I think that the whole fragility just sort of disappeared probably about a year or two ago. It was worse during the Stargate period because that was when I sort of got into the so-called mainstream which is not really the mainstream. Kind of breaking a little bit out of the underground. Getting out of the underground, a lot of people became aware of me. That's when it really started because before that I was really sort of being in the underground and being generally accepted by people. By the hard-core group so to speak. All of a sudden you get introduced to people that listen to grunge or whatever. They're just having a field fucking day and I was like Jesus, you don't have to say that. What have I done to you? I never slagged Kurt Cobain off. Why are you slagging me off? What have I done to you? It was kind of like that at the very beginning. Back then it was a little hurtful sometimes but you had to fucking realize that that's the way it is. Music is a very public profession to be in and you have to accept the fact that people are people. There's a lot of assholes in the world and they're not going to leave you alone. You just have to turn your back to it. There's nothing you can do.

I think you were confronted by a different mentality than you were used to.

Yeah, I think I got introduced to it more often. There's always been a little bit obviously but it just sort of blew up. You go through I guess some kind of emotional purgatory and when you come out of it you're stronger. You have to realize that this is the way it is. There's no way KISS was universally accepted back in 1974. People must have laughed at them so much.

They did. I'm a big KISS fan. People would beat other people up at school because they liked KISS.

Imagine when they started out. When they walked the street. No fucking bodyguards. No nothing. They lived in New York. I'm pretty sure they're fairly used to freaks up there. It's a big city. I walked through there once and I got blown away beyond fucking belief. We got a bit of attention but not even half as much as I would have done if I was going to walk down the streets of Oslo, for example, which I've also done in the whole makeup.

Where did you get the idea for the makeup?

I'm not sure. I can't really pinpoint a precise point in time. I guess it's questioned a lot and so far the answer seems to be that it was something that sort of came along when I wanted to do something. I had started Mortiis as a musical project before the image came around, but I felt like I wanted to do something that was so vastly different. I think the fact that I grew up on KISS, we all did, the whole flamboyant larger than life scene that they did. That inspired me a lot plus I was briefly into the black metal scene for about a year or two. I guess the extremist attitude really stayed with me from that period as well as the fact that I was a huge fan of Tolkien at the same time. There's no reason for me to deny that. Obviously the fantasy thing did play a certain role although I never ever wanted to portray myself as a troll. It's just Mortiis, what can I say? It's nothing more, it's nothing less. It's a personality. It's not like I'm trying to be something I'm not. I'm trying to be what I am. I've done this almost 10 years. I'll be 27 this summer. By that point it'll be about 10 years or eight years actually. That's one-third of my life. Imagine when I'm fucking 40. I'll have done that for more than half my life. How can you expect that to be something that is really not me? If I were to take that away, that would be like cutting off my balls. It's just wrong.

There was one thing on this list of interesting stuff that cracked me up. That's where you gave birth to someone's grandmother. That must have hurt.

Yeah, that also makes me one hell of a time traveler I think. That's pretty magical.

I'm surprised you didn't call the tabloids and make a great deal of money off of that.

In the States that probably would have worked. "She was 80 years old when she came out." I'm not sure. I'll keep that in mind next time I come up with something like that.

You did a photo shoot in Death Valley for "Parasite God".

It was two things. The original idea was always, and that's why we went there, was to have a photoshoot for the album artwork. You probably just have the promo lying around. The photo on the back is from Death Valley actually. I don't know if you can find a store in the States that actually fucking carries it but on the actual album you'll see that there's a lot of stuff from Death Valley. The whole album in itself. Everything from the booklet to the front and the back of the disc. It's all Death Valley footage. Four days before we were going to go there, the label called and they finally decided to follow up on our wishes to make a video for "Parasite God" and film it there. So four days prior we were told "okay we're going to film it there." Thanks for giving us so much time to prepare. This guy called Pete Bridgewater who is the director went there and filmed some stuff and we finished it off in London in this old cathedral. The video is really cool especially for being such a low budget thing as it is. I know they're promoting it in the States right now. It was kind of cool, especially the church thing. Death Valley was really cool though. It was warm because we were there in June. We had five photo shoots in two days. It was basically getting up at five in the morning, getting into all the gear, doing the shoots. In the afternoon it was insanely hot. Then you wait until about five or six in the afternoon, get into the stuff again, and go out and do it again. It's a very, very beautiful place. It's just also a very scary place because if you run out of gas out there, you're kind of fucked. It's a huge place. What we did the first day we came there, we spent the entire day just scouting out areas we knew where we going to go. Every place you go to, it's between half an hour and two hours drive from the hotel area. It's a major, major area.

We have a lot of areas like that in the States. You better make sure you fill up before you go out or you're going to be in trouble.

We weren't but an hour out. This was while we were scouting. It was up in some of the mountains that you have there. They're not huge mountains but they're still mountains. All of a sudden the car just broke down. We're in Death Valley, we haven't done shit yet, and we're going to die. Beautiful. But all of a sudden the car just started again.

Can you tell me about the Toilet Boys incident with fire? It seems you won't be doing any pyro because of that.

Apparently they'd done a show in the same place, I can't remember where that was. I think it was the London thing. Apparently they almost burned the place down so fire is not allowed. Fire is not something I'm even thinking about now because I'm so preoccupied doing vocals for my songs. When I was touring The Stargate I had all the time in the world because we were just doing drum stuff and I could walk around, do whatever the fuck I pleased basically while torturing people. Breathing fire at the audience. That was fun. It wasn't really that rewarding for me because it wasn't a lot of action. It was bizarre. That was it. It's fun for a tour but that's it. You don't want to keep doing it. Now it's a lot more rock. There's a lineup. There's live drums and live guitars and live vocals. I'm more like a front figure which really harmonizes a lot more with what I am and what I want to do.

The Smell Of Rain is the first album you've done vocals on.

I've done backings for a few albums. I did it on The Stargate together with another guy. I'm not sure if it's on the really old albums I've done. I did it on one or two albums before that. They have Norwegian titles. They're really obscure. They came out on the Swedish label. They're basically not even available in the States. We're gonna try and change that right now actually so people can hear it. That's just ambient kind of stuff though. I did stuff there but never really sung lyrics as such with some kind of emotion put into it. Never really done that before.

I understand you're going on your very first European tour.

It's the first tour that has such a lot dates on the string. It's not the first tour I've played in Europe. We've done shows in Europe. It's 19 or 20 shows. It's a tour but not like what Iron Maiden would have done. It's not half a year of constant touring which I'm pretty happy about. It's what we like to think of as the first part of hopefully more European touring later this year. We're going out there sort of teasing the market. If we do well, we're going back in the autumn possibly. We'll have to see. We even hope to go to the States in June. That's not finalized. That's being looked into at this point. That's something I really want to do. We haven't been to the States for a long time. We need to become rockstars over there as well.

Are there any tracks on the new album that really stand out to you?

I think they all do in their own way. "Mental Maelstrom", the lyrics were written with a certain person in mind. I will not mention names. It's a group of people where there's no love lost between us. No love gained. I'd say a song like "Everyone Leaves". That means a lot to me even though I don't play it live. Basically it's a pussy song. It doesn't rhyme with my image live. It's about how people keep fucking disappearing on me. Apart from that, they're all great. "Parasite God" is questioning society which used to mean a lot to me. These days I'm over it. I like them all. A song like "Antimental". I wasn't even sure if it was a good song or a bad song when I was making it but I decided to go with it because sometimes I'd love it. Other times I'd think it was crap. It was such a strange, weird song. It's a good song I guess. It does promote a reaction even in me.

The person who does the female vocals is Sara Jezebel Diva.

There's actually three girls on this album. Sara does what she does best which is the rather powerful operatic stuff. She does that. There's a girl from Germany called Martina. In the beginning of "Spirit In A Vacuum" it has a couple of rather quiet parts where a girl sings solo on top of it. That's her. Because she has a different type of voice I decided to go with her for those parts. She also is the one that sings with me on "Everyone Leaves" in the choruses. There's a girl called Suvi who's basically doing the same things that Sara does which is mainly the choir stuff. She just has a different voice. More like a darker kind of voice which is not so operatic but just really fills up well. She does that. Everyone just compliments each other.