Today, in honor of the recent release of the sublimely malevolent Serpent Sermon, Decibel presents an in depth interview with Marduk founding guitarist Morgan Håkansson delving into his roots as a musician as well as the past, present, and future of his much-revered black metal war machine.
For fence-sitters who'd like a little teaser/appetizer before taking the plunge, check out a few snippets of my conversation with Håkansson after the jump.
On the origin of his black metal beast of prey:
I remember being young, the bands I really got into begin with was probably Kiss, Accept, Judas Priest, Dio, things like that. I wanted to play guitar and I remember I bought a guitar from a friend in schools older brother -- an old Duke, was the name of the guitar. I remember the old amplifier as well! And I was nearly bringing my parents to become crazy...sitting at home, playing, playing, playing as much as I could, just learning, listening to albums...When you got into things like Kiss, Iron Maiden, then you search for something harder heavier and on that way it is you found something darker and you just travel down the road to find the most extreme.
I remember one thing had a huge impact on me was actually, we had cable television when I was young. We had this English channel called SkyTracks and they had a show called Monsters of Rock with the journalist Mick Wall. And he played ‘Piranha’ from Exodus, ‘Hell Awaits’ from Slayer,‘Circle of Tyrants' by Celtic Frost. Those things changed my mind totally.
On the controversy surrounding Panzer Division Marduk:
Some people were trying to boycott us. The biggest metal magazines in Europe were faxing at that time to local promoters trying to cancel our shows. It was a bit hilarious. We didn’t care...We just marched...It is strange how some things can be so controversial, I mean you could still sing about killing Christians in all ways but singing about a historical topic the way it happened -- ooh, that’s too much for some people…if I made a movie about it, there wouldn’t have been a problem. But you couldn’t sing about it? That’s strange.
On the Marduk mission:
I’m not here to do things that are controversial for the sake of being controversial. I do what interests me and what I believe in. I think being an artist, that’s the most important thing -- to follow your dedication and what you believe in...
People can do whatever they do. As long as I do what I do, that’s what matters to me and I don’t care what other people are doing. Simple as that. Of course it can be inspiring when people break boundaries, but sometimes it’s better being traditional [rather] than just breaking boundaries for the sake of breaking boundaries. It doesn’t always turn out in the best way.
On touring those places other bands fear to tread:
I believe in the power of our music and therefore feel both an obligation and an honor to be able to play it live in front of people everywhere...[Wherever you go] you still see the bullet-belts. You see the old Bathory shirts. Take a band like the old Swedish band Morbid that did one demo tape in ’87 or whatever. You see bootleg T-shirts for them if you’re in Japan or Indonesia or El Salvador. The power of the music and the message contained within the music is so strong.
On the current state of Marduk:
We work as a band more than we ever did before. We’re a complete unit. I usually refer to it as working in a tank -- you’re only as strong as the weakest individual because you all need to focus on what you are doing to make it work. The gunner has to do his job, the driver has to do his job. Everybody has to do their job to make perfection...
Why should we quit? I don’t see age or whatever as a problem so long as you have the dedication and the power. I mean, if I would feel I didn’t have the dedication I would of course quit the band any day. But as long as I have the dedication and energy I will do what I’m doing. And I still think we have the finest moments to come.
On the band's twenty-second anniversary:
When you work at something as much as we do, I never really sit around and reflect over how much time has passed. It’s not until you are for example on tour and you meet someone -- I met a guy who told me, ‘Yeah, I remember my sister used do like you guys when she was younger.’ It’s like, ‘Er…what?’”