Mind Melding With Mortiis
CoC Speaks with the Emperor of Evil Ambience
by: Henry Akeley
In the space of a few short years, the enigmatic Mortiis has ascended from mere membership in a band called Emperor (perhaps you've heard of them?) to the exalted status of "Emperor of a Dimension Unknown" - or, untranslated, "Keiser av en Dimension Utjent." (That's the title of his 1995 release for the Swedish dark ambient label Cold Meat Industries.) The dark, fantasy-inspired ambience of _Keiser..._ represents a major musical departure from the raw black metal of his previous band, and Mortiis recently sat down with CoC to explain the genesis of his experimental works and the status of his many evolving creative projects.

CoC: Most of our readers will be familiar with the name "Mortiis" mainly from your days with Emperor. But I'm sure you're pretty much sick of talking about that, so I'm not going to grill you about the Norwegian scene.

Mortiis: <laughing> Thank you, man!!

CoC: Still, I'm kind of curious. Your new stuff is so different from what you were doing in the early days with Emperor that I have to wonder what prompted you to leave the black metal thing behind and take your work in a more ambient direction.

M: Well, even when I was in Emperor, I was into stuff like Tangerine Dream, Coil, Throbbing Gristle - you know, alternative kind of stuff. And I'd kind of been playing with the idea when I was in Emperor to do a project that was not metal, but still dark, original, weird. So when I left the band, I thought "Hey, I'm gonna do this now. This is my chance."

CoC: So did you feel really frustrated when you were in Emperor, because this was something you really wanted to explore? Or did you just get sick of the band?

M: Well, I didn't really plan to leave the band, and I was happy with the band, so I was more frustrated after I left, because I didn't know what was going to happen [next]. But then I started Mortiis, and things just started rolling real fast, and I'm still here.

CoC: Do you still retain any artistic ties to the black metal scene in Scandinavia? Or are you much more interested in pursuing something quite separate from all that?

M: I'd say the latter. I mean, I do have contacts in the black metal scene, obviously. But I don't make music that's got anything to do with black metal or anything like that. I'm kind of out of that now.

CoC: Do you think that you'll ever get involved in a metal project again?

M: Metal? Very, very possibly. Black metal? Probably not.

CoC: Why not black metal? Are you just sick of it?

M: Yeah, I mean, it was great in the beginning, but it's gotten out of hand, and it's not very great any longer, is it? It all sounds the same, and honestly, the scene does not need another black metal band.

CoC: What are the basic themes and ideas behind the Mortiis project? It seems like there's a basic concept that ties all of your work together, and I'm curious to learn a little bit more about where you're coming from.

M: Actually, I'm writing a book about that! <laughs> This is kind of my nightmare question, you know - it takes so long to explain. In a very, very small nutshell, Mortiis is based on a world beyond this. It's my spiritual system of belief, and all the Mortiis records are based on that. So when you say there's a concept going through all the records, you're incredibly right. Mortiis is based on this world which I have created - and which I have great difficulties in explaining with human words. I mean, there are these thoughts, and ideas, and visions - but I can't express them with words. Therefore I'm releasing a book with a lot of lyrics - very emotional stuff, which I think might enlighten some people. I hope so.

CoC: How soon can we look forward to seeing that?

M: I'm hoping for some time during this year - at least sending it to press during this year. I'm not the one releasing the book, so I don't know, I really can't speak on behalf of the label [Misanthropy Records] that's going to do it. But I do hope that we can get some sort of release date at least clarified during the year.

CoC: Will it be illustrated?

M: Yes. [Mortiis then went on to mention the names of a few Scandinavian artists who will be contributing to the work, but they're basically inaudible on the tape of our talk, so I'm not going to do these people the injustice of butchering their names here...]

CoC: I've heard a lot of people refer to _Keiser..._ as your best work yet. Do you agree with that assessment?

M: No, because I have a new one out. <laughs> It's called _Crypt of the Wizard_, and it's a limited edition thing. It's basically a compilation of singles that I've recorded. I recorded it at home, actually, and I suppose the production is not as good as on _Keiser..._, but the music and the songs are better. There are ten songs, so they're shorter and a lot more is happening.

CoC: Does it continue to be pretty ambient, or is it more musically straightforward?

M: It's musically more straightforward. It's more orchestral; it's more structured. It's more straight to the point, if you know what I mean.

CoC: Are you at work on any even newer Mortiis material? Or are you going to take a break from Mortiis for a while to work on some other things?

M: I'm actually going to take a break from other things to work on Mortiis. <laughs> I've got a lot of new stuff coming out. I've been making new music for about a year. Usually, when my music gets released, it's pretty old. So I've got a lot of new stuff - I've got a new record which is going to be called _Stargate_. Do not think about the movie, please. <laughs> 'Cause I've had the ideas for like four years, and then this movie comes out, you know - it pissed me off. But I'm going to call it _Stargate_ anyway. I'm hoping to record in January or something. It's going to be a lot better than anything I've done. I plan to bring people in on the record with some more instruments, hopefully. Better equipment; everything is going to be better.

CoC: You've played live a couple times. How has that gone over?

M: It's been okay. I didn't have such a lot planned for it. I mean, nothing really happened. I didn't play back, because with the Mortiis outfit, it's sort of hard to play. [Mortiis wears a kind of trollish-looking costume and makeup on the covers of his solo releases, and in concert.] Plus, I don't really want to be seen on stage in makeup, in the Mortiis figure, with one thousand keyboards surrounding me. That's going to look pathetic. So I've been trying to make more of a theater out of it. I don't think the German public really understood that - but I didn't expect them to anyway. But I'm going to do another live show this week, and it's going to be a lot better. I've got more things going on. That's going to be cool.

CoC: How's the live show shaping up? What are you trying to work into it?

M: We've got monks, altars with half-naked women on them, a big movie in the background. This time, there's not going to be any light - there's just going to be candles, so there's going to be a kind of occult atmosphere. It's going to be very, very dark. And I'm going to play a few minutes on an old sixties organ, so it's going to have, like, a horror sound to it in the beginning. I think it's going to be pretty interesting. And I'll keep building, taking away things, adding things, until it gets real good.

CoC: How about the Vond project? Anything new there? [Vond is a separate solo ambient project created by Mortiis.]

M: Yeah: I'll have a new record coming in October on my own label [Dark Dungeon Music]. It's been a couple years since the last one now. It's going to be quite different from the first one. It's more experimental, not as monotonous but still very monotonous - just more experimental, and more fascinating listening, in some crazy, weird way.

CoC: Do you see the Vond project as a way to express a different facet of your personality than the one you that explore as Mortiis?

M: Yeah, you could say that. Vond is kind of my human nature: thoughts, emotions, and feelings that I have as a human... just a lot of negative vibes. I guess that's the best way to describe Vond: loads of negative feelings put into music.

CoC: So how do you think of Mortiis as distinct from that?

M: Mortiis is more like my spiritual side, it's very difficult to explain, to try to say. It's more like my religion, and Mortiis as a musical project is like a medium for me to express that. People may wonder why I bother to release Mortiis, because it's so personal. But I have certain purposes for releasing it, which are also personal, and I'm not going to get into that now.

CoC: What kind of stuff do you listen to?

M: It depends. I'm really into old heavy metal stuff, because that's what I grew up with. A lot of Mortiis music is influenced by that, especially in structure. I like German electronic stuff, 70s hard rock. I'm going to see Kiss this December - it's gonna be cool.

CoC: Full makeup!

M: <laughs> That's why I'm going. I've been into that crap for, like, sixteen or seventeen years - I mean, I gotta see it when I've got the chance. Anyway, I think you get the idea: anything unique or original...

(article submitted 11/10/1996)

9/23/2004 J Smit Mortiis: The Gloves Are Off
12/9/1999 A McKay Mortiis: The Shadow's Soul Between Obscurity and Oblivion
9/23/2004 J Smit 8.5 Mortiis - The Grudge
10/19/2001 A McKay 6.5 Mortiis - The Smell of Rain
3/5/2000 P Schwarz 6 Mortiis - Fodt Til a Herske
1/1/1998 S Hoeltzel 7.5 Mortiis - Crypt of the Wizard
12/9/1999 G Filicetti Mortiis / Christian Death / Godhead / Diet of Worms The Black Metal Opera Arriveth
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