For almost 30 years, Mortiis has been sharing his music and inspiration with us. From the very beginnings with Emperor to his solo stuff, from wearing a mask to just make-up back to mask, from Dreadlocks to short cut, back to dreadlocks, we saw it all. Lately he returned with all the music from Era 1, when his music was mainly instrumental and he performed alone on stage. Back to the roots and back to the mask-wearing mysterious music-genius he’s always been.
Thank you very much for your time to answer our questions. You have already been touring a while now with Era 1, how was that time for you compared with the last tour involving a band?
– This has been a solo effort, so obviously the only person I have to argue with is myself, which can be more than enough sometimes, haha! But in general, there’s something to be said for doing things solo: a lot less complications, less expenses (obviously), more room on stage, and perhaps the biggest advantage of all is, if something goes wrong, I don’t have to yell at a ton of other people, it’s pretty much my fault whenever something goes wrong (with some exceptions). On the other hand, there’s a lot more work, since most of the workload falls on me. But so far so good.
Do you have plans on how long you want to tour with Era I, maybe returning to Europe one more time later this year? As there hasn’t been a gig in Switzerland yet, I have to ask if we also get the chance to see you perform.
– I feel like there’s a million places I haven’t visited yet, for a show. Switzerland being one of them. It really is down to promoter interest. I mean they dictate what you guys get to see, and don’t get to see. I’m like most other bands and artists, meaning I’ll go wherever I’m booked to play. We’re still trying to get a show in Switzerland, among many other places.
As for how long I want to do the Era 1 thing… As long as I’m inspired. Which is pretty much the way I look at everything in life.
How were the fan reactions that you are back with mask but only with the instrumental songs from the 90’s?
– Really good I would say. I mean if you want to see some shitty comments, you can always scroll down the comments fields on our videos on Youtube. Of course Youtube is pretty much a magnet for trolls and dickheads, so I don’t put much weight or consideration into bullshit like that. In fact most of those comments never make it through the Youtube filter anyway, so they’re wasting their time and energy, haha!
The wonderful stage decoration at the Helsinki show, was that your idea and do you travel with this kind of stage set, or was it done by the club?
– It was actually specially made for the 2 shows we did in Finland at the end of December last year. I’d love to be able to bring stuff like that around, we’ll have to see in the future. I thought it was rather effective. Needless to say, visuals are a big part of Mortiis. Yeah, that was my idea. I got it after we’d done the video for “Visions of an Ancient Future”, which had a similar set decor.
I guess there are a few who ask for the Era II songs as well, is that an option or do you think we will see something completely new from you after you finished touring with Era I?
– That’s totally open at the moment. I have some options, in terms of where I want to take things. I’m not against doing Era 1 material while also doing other styles, perhaps with a band. Time will tell.
You will be touring North America in March and April, what are you looking forward to especially?
– I dunno, I mean we’re planning on using a similar stage set as we did in Finland recently, so I’m hoping that will work out painlessly. When I go on tour, I don’t really have hopes, apart from hoping the tour runs smoothly and no accidents or cancelled shows happen. That would be the worst, and it’s very bad for tours in general (accidents, cancellations). But it very rarely happens. Looking forward to performing Era 1 material in the US though. It’s been a very long time since I did that, and I don’t know of anyone over there doing anything similar, so it should be interesting to see what people think about it.
In the past years you surely got used to have a band with you on stage. How was it to play the gigs all by yourself? What do you prefer?
– It was a bit weird for the first couple of shows, since I was used to a crowded, sort of violently active stage floor that I moved around a lot on… But once you get into the atmosphere of the show, and the idea that this is completely different kind of show, I became totally comfortable with it.
If I understood that right, you caught up with Era I again, because you were not really satisfied with the old stuff anymore, or more you knew that you could do it nowadays better. And also you liked the fact of doing this all on your own, instead having to deal with band members, is that correct?
– Well yeah, I do enjoy being a solo artist, as it’s just a much cleaner table, if that makes sense. I’m not saying I don’t like being in bands, I really do, but there’s certain aspects of doing things solo, that’s just a much simpler and less complicated experience.
As for the return to Era 1, I guess you could say the reason I didn’t return to it sooner, was because, and this is making a long story really short, I was very unhappy with some of the original results, from a technical perspective. But another major factor that ties into this, was that my psyche was not in a good or healthy place for a long time, and that very likely clouded, or darkened my view of my 90s output… I was unable to look past the negatives, and I couldn’t see all the positives, for many years. That slowly changed, and when the band version of Mortiis disintegrated around 2017, I decided that now was good time to try a return, and see how it felt. Thankfully, I enjoyed it. So I continued.
You mentioned that you had to deal with depression and also personal issues from the past years and Era I was also part of it, is it some kind of therapy for you to catch up with it and face your old demons?
– I have tried many things, with varying success, to keep dark and unhealthy mental places away, or for me to avoid going to those places. Being creative, is probably the best medicine, speaking for myself. Being satisfied with the things I create is a great way stray away from the dark places, so to speak. I also learnt very early on, that having a great sense of humour, and being able to laugh at a lot of things, keeps the demons away as well.
Of course, life sometimes has other plans, so occasionally you get thrown into a hole, and you gotta find a way back out, and it can sometimes take a long time. It’s happened to me many times over the years. I tend to use creative channels to exorcize, or at least use these demons for something productive… in the end I always win.
But the depression, or whatever it would be termed by a doctor, certainly made it hard for me to face certain aspects of myself for a long time, and like I mentioned above. Era 1 was one of those.
How satisfied are you with the outcome of the whole going back in time so far? Did it turn out like you expected it to be?
– No it did not, because when I went back into it, I thought I was going to do a few special performances, with a re-recorded version of “Ånden som gjorde Opprør”. It ended up being performances all over the world, a re-recording that became more or less a new album (we are putting it out this year, under the title “Spirit of Rebellion”) and I am currently working on more or less brand new Era 1-style music. We also created a ton of merchandise (all under my supervision, of course) and reissued as much Era 1 material as we could… It obviously turned into a bigger thing than I expected. I still notice a lot of media ignore Mortiis, as they have done for a long time, mostly because we are not a big advertiser, and mags pretty much request that you place ads these days, before they’ll feature you with an interview etc. It’s just the way the world of media has turned out.
(NOTE: STALKER has never followed a paid-interview / pay-to-be-featured scheme for artists; nobody of us here gets paid, actually, for anything we are doing for STALKER! the editor in the name of the whole crew)
And why did you choose to get back to wearing the mask? If I remember correctly you told me you don’t really like wearing it.
– Well it’s not physically comfortable to wear, so that is true, I don’t really “like” wearing it. However, back in the day, the mask was very much connected to Era 1, even though I wore it way beyond the existence of Era 1… It all ties into how I started feeling psychologically, and the associations I made with the mask and Era 1. It reached a point where I didn’t see the point, or the connection, between the mask, and the music and lyrics I was performing then. I still think that was the right decision to make, because there were massive differences between Era 1 and the years that followed.
Your children were both born in a time when you were not using the mask, how do they like daddy with the mask on?
– Haha, I don’t think they care too much about what I do, they’re so used to this dreadlocked weirdo that doesn’t look like any of the other dads that pick the kids up at school… They know I do music, but they grew up with me around. I suspect they think I’m a bit more famous than what I really am, though! Haha! My daughter is a pretty typical 10 year old girl. She doesn’t understand or like metal, or hard rock… Which is mostly what I listen to. She’s into stuff like Shakira and Beyonce, haha! My son is still in his gaming period, he’s 7… He just started learning to play the drums, and we got him a drum kit recently, so hopefully he continues that.
In 2018 you released “The Perfect Reject” a remix of the “Perfectly Defect” which was released 2010. You’ve got very nice reviews for this album, so do you have plans for a remix of another older album or do we get something completely new with the next release?
– That would be great. I’d love to supervise a remix project for The Smell of Rain. I mean we already did it for The Great Deceiver (The Great Corrupter) and The Grudge (Some Kind of Heroin) so The Smell would have been fantastic. The problem is, The Smell is owned by Earache Records, and they have shown zero interest in anything related to Mortiis the last few years, so I have no idea how that can be achieved, except re-recording the whole album, and own the new masters myself. That would be a crazy amount of work though. Earache would still be the owner of the publishing too, even for the new masters.
You’ve signed 50 copies of “The Unraveling Mind” LP with your own blood, which makes it a very special merchandise item. What do you plan next? Giving away part of your dreadlocks maybe?
– haha! I already did that. I cut off my original dreadlocks back around 2013 or so, as I was sick of them. I actually kept them in the attic, and when The Great Deceiver came out, I sold a very limited amount of them, with a dreadlock included. We called that edition “Dreadful Stalker” haha! I got my dreads back in the summer of 2015 though, as I realised no other hairdo works for me, apart from dreads. I just looked like a dick… Haha!
You’ve done so many different things musically, you also gave the fans so many opportunities to buy different merchandise they usually don’t get from other artists, is there something in your mind you haven’t been able to do so far but would really like to? A Mortiis movie, a special art collection, another book?
– I really like the idea of making a dark, violent comic book version of the Mortiis universe. All that crazy shit from the book, that sort of make up the Mortiis universe that all the Era 1 records drew their concepts from.
In our last interview in 2011 you mentioned that it is always a problem to find a good record deal and a company that supports you the way you need it and still can make living out of it. I saw that you nowadays do everything yourself, is that right? You founded your own label called Omnipresence Productions?
– Yeah, haha, that’s pretty much the result of realising that unless you can get yourself a very good deal, that is lucrative to everyone, not just the record label (and possibly, your management), you might as well hold on to all your rights, and get down to work and do it on your own. I did that a lot back in the 90s, so that was an attitude I started rediscovering probably rather shortly after my contract with Earache was over. During the period of that contract, I discovered how unfair a record deal can be, and swore an oath that I would never let that happen again. I’d rather quit.
By the way, Omnipresence was actually something I created around 2001, and I always included the Omnipresence logo on everything from then on, even the Earache Records releases. If you check them out, you’ll see the Omnipresence Logo.
Is it easier or let’s say more profitable for you to do all the work by yourself?
– The short answer is yes. It’s very easy to sign away rights, or agree to low royalties, if you don’t understand the contracts… Or if you get lazy and like the idea of someone else doing the work. Like a record label, or merch company… But that comes at a price. Of course, if you become very successful, someone else will have to do it, you won’t be able to, but then you have the power to negotiate, and make sure you don’t get fucked. Well, in theory you should, anyway.
Thank you so much for your time and we wish you all the best for the US /Canada Tour.
– Thank you 🙂
Photos: Mortiis & Fernando Serani, live photos K. Weber