When Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson formed Marduk in Norrköping, Sweden in 1990, he set out to become the most brutal and blasphemous metal act ever. The band released its’ first record a year later, the five-song “Fuck Me Jesus,” with the first of many lineups. A proto-black metal album with heavy death beats and black vocals, the EP got the band signed and Marduk embarked upon a two-decade plus journey that saw the highs and lows of personnel changes and label changes. Håkansson was resolute about his vision for the band from the beginning, and by the late 90s the band released its’ classic triology “Nightwing,” “Panzer Division Marduk” and “La Grande Danse Macabre.” The albums, released between 1998 and 2001, concerned Håkansson’s vision of black metal, that of blood, war and death.
The band continued marching on and expanded its’ fanbase in spite of lineup changes, including its’ third vocalist, Mortuus, who joined guitarist Håkansson in 2004. Along with bassist Devo Andersson and (since 2008) drummer Lars Broddesson, Marduk has recorded and toured relentlessly, releasing and album or EP almost every year. In 2012 the band released “Serperent Sermon,” its’ 12th studio album and its’ 22nd release (including live albums and compilations).
When he’s not recording and touring with Marduk, Håkansson has a side project called Death Wolf, in which he plays bass. The band is heavily influenced by the musical legacy of Glenn Danzig and often comes close to imitating the man himself in a roaring and metallic death-blues. The band has just released its’ second album, “DEATH WOLF – “II: Black Armoured Death” on Century Media and is on tour with Marduk. The tour is currently in North America with Portugese goth-metallers Moonspell; Inquisition from Columbia and Italy’s The Foreshadowing. When “The Voices From The Dark” tour stopped in New York City on Saturday, February 23rd, Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson was able to spare some time to chat with ROCKSALT.MX.
Backstage at the Gramercy Theater, as Moonspell takes the stage, Morgan is lively and chatty, excited about the concert and happy to accommodate as the deafening bass-heavy blasts of Moonspell fill the backstage stairwell making conversation difficult. As the interview is moved here and there, seeking a somewhat quieter place (almost impossible given how small the backstage area is), Håkansson chatted about one of his favorite bands, The Cult. Prior to recording, Håkansson professed his love of the new album “Choice of Weapon” and how he came to enjoy The Cult’s previous release “Born Into This” (which he didn’t care for at first). When a place is secured after a few minutes, the interview begins (with special thanks to Nicolas Franco for his invaluable assistance).
ROCKSALT.MX: How did this tour lineup come together and why did you think it was a good fit for Marduk?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Yeah, yeah, yeah! I like it. I mean, it’s a good combination. It’s great to go out with a lot of different bands: something for everybody. I don’t mind that as well because it’s good to have something to offer for those with other preferences and it brings a different crowd. Contrasting tours. I believe in the power of diversity and with different bands it’s something for everybody. Some people will discover a band that some would not like, you know? And that’s fine.
ROCKSALT.MX: Given the state of the U.S. economy, what are the advantages and disadvantages of touring outside of Europe?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Yeah. We’re not a really big band as we’re doing lower-level venues I would say, compared to other bands; though we’re bigger than others I guess as well. But I mean, I believe in touring all over the world for us to just make it happen. And when you do everything in the end it’s more or less about the same. I mean, I believe in trying to reach all the territories you can and some places even in The States, are better than others. But in the end, you know, it’s all good! Yeah, I don’t mind playing different places, sometimes it’s seven, eight hundred people; sometimes more, sometimes less. And I mean, on the tour we have done since we did the last one for Serpent Sermon, the first leg of that tour we started on a border town between Russia and Mongolia, in Siberia. So we’re playing everywhere! We’re trying to spread out gospels everywhere! So I mean, we’re not affected by financial things. Sometimes I understand why people would not tour because they have a hard time with it, but that’s the way it is. And we’re united for the music. You get people coming out to see you from all parts of the world, and it’s the same people everywhere, you know? People dedicated to music.
ROCKSALT.MX: There’s been a pleasant diversity to be found on Serpent Sermon… continuing a trend that began with Rom 5:12, Wormwood to now. Can you discuss the new album and how the songs evolved?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: I don’t know as I don’t know what to explain about specifics of the album. It’s ten songs and it’s no real concept behind it but it is a thin red line; and I think all the titles really speak for themselves. There’s no hidden agenda in the way that it’s very clear: the message is very clear and very basic. Sometimes we try to do it where it’s a bit more… harder to figure out. But it’s super straight-forward where the meaning is in the lyrics and the lyrics are written on the album. So everybody should be able to understand the true meaning of the concept, you know? The ideas are… well, I think all the titles are really speaking for themselves.
As for the songwriting, I don’t know how it develops because I think it’s an always developing never-ending format of how we work on music. Sometimes when I write music I can have a song title in my head and I make everything around the song title. Sometimes I have a riff and the lyrics come to me; sometimes you have everything at once and you record a few ideas and then it’s like, “Nah…” And it’s not that good! You put it away and you rediscover it later on so it’s new again. I believe that everything just comes naturally. That’s what I believe in music. I never sit down and plan: it will come to you the way it comes. Just let the inspiration guide you and see where it takes you.
In the past I used to write most of the material; but today with the band everybody’s participating. We have a lineup right now where everybody’s participating. And I think we’re working more as a band, as a unit than we ever did before. Our drummer wrote some material and our bass player wrote a few songs and he’d never done that before. We all take part in the ideas and we all take part in the arrangements and we never credited anybody more than anybody else, in the past as well, because even though I would write like, all of the basic ideas, when we get back in the rehearsal room that’s where they really get structured with everybody else. We all take part in the arrangements to make everything become one and make the music and lyrics match. It’s about creating a unit, for me. Some bands do the music and then they just write the lyrics; for us it’s about making them count as a force. That they reflect each other. I want the spirit and the lyrics and the music to reflect each other and the other way around. That’s really important I think.
ROCKSALT.MX: You’re an exrememly prolific band.
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Yeah, yeah. I mean, why wait? A lot of bands that… they take such a long time or they don’t have any inspiration and they just have to really work on getting an album done. We are the opposite. We have all these ideas and have to try to relax and not release too many albums. I mean, we could come back every week and do a new album. Because I know how many songs I have in my head and then every guy in the band has a lot of ideas. We haven’t rehearsed them because we wait until the touring cycle is over and then we go back and brainstorm all of the ideas we have. I mean, I believe in what I do and I believe in the triumph of the music and the lyrics so why should we waste time? We’re here now! Let’s march! I feel that way about touring – we were one of the first black metal bands to travel the most of South America. We went to Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador before anybody else. That’s real powerful. I mean, some cities like in Europe or New York, you see everything. Every band comes through. All the bands play here, but not all the bands play El Salvador, you see? You get a different reaction from the crowd, and the energy there is so inspiring. And so that fire within them, that’s very inspiring for us.
ROCKSALT.MX: What is your take on orthodox black metal vs. non orthodox, and where does Marduk fall?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: I think that… I don’t like the terms at all, because if it is black metal it should be orthodox in its’ own way. I know some people want to call it orthodox or non-orthodox, but for me if it’s not fanatical it’s not black metal. I don’t even know how many bands are calling themselves black metal now that everyone embodies some kind of artistic worth blah-blah-blah… for me it’s black metal or not black metal.
ROCKSALT.MX: Do you identify the band as black metal?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Always. Always, yeah. But I wouldn’t mind if somebody calls us death metal as well, because I mean, always my whole life with the band I considered us to be the best of death metal and black metal. There has always been a thin red line between those styles. If I speak about the band, I’d say Immolation and Marduk, we’re very connected in that way and still we believe in the same message, you know? They are death, we are black metal, but still we deliver the same message I would say.
ROCKSALT.MX: Do you have any comment about the resignation of Pope Benedict, (allegedly following a 300-page report delivered to him concerning an internal investigation that is said to have uncovered “a number of factions within the Vatican of gay men who have engaged in sexual activity with male prostitutes and at organized sex romps”)?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Ahh… yeah, I was just reading today, myself. I was surprised to see the Pope resign and whatever this arrangement is, I don’t know anything more about it. But that’s the way they work. It’s nothing new in the Catholic world, you know? They are the true danger to kids.
ROCKSALT.MX: Did you have any exposure to Catholicism growing up in Sweden?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: No, Sweden is Protestant. We live as a free country, but most people in Sweden are probably Protestant. We got rid of the Catholics in 1500 or so. We threw them all out back then! We had a king at that time who hated the Catholics and so we went to war – the Thirty Years War in Europe to defend ourselves against Catholics. They considered the Pope to be the Devil back in the day. And they took all the Catholic church clothes and everything worn by the priests… the royal family took them and sewed them as their party dresses. That’s how they took care of them, and then threw them all out. Back in the day… and they used the old scriptures to load the cannons!
ROCKSALT.MX: Marduk will be at Station 4 on February 28 in Saint Paul, MN, the day the Pope is resigning. Is this significant to you and do you have anything special planned for that show on the 28th?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Ah, no. There is nothing planned… not really, I really didn’t know that he was going to resign on that day. For me it’s going to be fun because we’ve been there a few times before and a lot of Swedes moved there back in the day. So there’s a lot of Swedish people. But I really don’t care: the Catholics are going down – they’re killing themselves – so why bother, you know? I don’t put any energy into anything with them.
ROCKSALT.MX: Moving on, then. How did Death Wolf form and what attracted you to playing this kind of music?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Yeah, yeah, yeah! We started out doing covers back in the year 2000. We had come off of a Marduk tour and got offered a new deal and we wanted to do something different, so we got some local musicians and the bass player from Marduk and rehearsed a few songs for kind of a Misfits, Danzig tribute, live show. Already after the first rehearsals we started writing our own songs in the same vein and since then we’ve got two albums and an EP, based around the same theme and kind of the same style, but during the recording of the first album it all kind of shifted and became Death Wolf. A bit darker, a bit more extreme if I should say so, but it’s always in development and will always have the Danzig connection because he’s one of those musicians that I always admired. Like The Cult. For me it’s more than music, it’s a symbol of an attitude. A lifestyle.
ROCKSALT.MX: We talked about The Cult earlier and how much you liked the last record, “Choice of Weapon”. What did you think of the last Danzig record, “Deth Red Sabaoth?”
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: I really liked it. I like everything he’s done because he’s got his own way of doing what he wants to do. Even with Blackacidevil which he got a lot of flack for; but for me, that’s an interesting album because I already felt it coming from Danzig 4. I mean, I love everything that he’s done from Misfits, Samhain to Danzig and for me it’s always been inspiring because he’s an artist who will do what he wants to do and doesn’t give a fuck. We played with him in Hollywood in 2001 and I’ve known him ever since; we did a tour of the states with him in 2010 (“The Blackest of the Black Tour”). He’s a great person and a great personality who gets a lot of shit, and I don’t know why. He’s chosen to go his own way and if people have a problem with it… (shrugs). I think he’s a genuinely great artist who is always bringing forth something unique.
ROCKSALT.MX: What are the future plans for Death Wolf, if any? Will Death Wolf go out on its’ own tour?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: We just had the new album coming out in Europe a few days ago. And here in the States it’s coming out – I think right now or in a few weeks. So really we just want to get the band rolling and after this tour we’re going to see what we’re going to do because we have some things to do with Marduk. But we are getting shitloads of offers for Death Wolf, so we’ll see if we can’t combine them; but I think we’re going to out and tour Europe later on as well. And we’re also working on music for the next album, so…
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Yes. For our third album. And our first album will be released later on by Century Media, because it kind of disappeared when we released it because it came out on our old label (Regain) in Sweden and fell apart around the same time the album came out, so it really didn’t get the good distribution. It’s going to be available again and we are going to continue to march!
ROCKSALT.MX: You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you love history. Is this something you studied in school, or would you say it’s more of a passion? As a lover of history, what patterns (if any) do you see in society, the world?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: I was, a student of history, but I quit studies because I had so much with tours going on. I did study, though; and maybe I’ll go back some time but I’m always reading about it. History will always repeat, you know; people are the way they are and fall into the same problems and history will always repeat, that’s just the way it is. Reading about history, reading a lot about specific happenings throughout history, has inspired me about how I work with music. Finding inspiration and how to proceed and solve things and allow me to keep on doing what I am doing. So for me, history is very much alive.
ROCKSALT.MX: What have you learned through when you look back on the 20+ year history of Marduk? Have you achieved everything you want to achieve; and if not, what do you hope to do in the future?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: In a way: yes. When we started out we never thought we would do what we’re doing maybe, but as the vision expands through the first years, you get new ideas, new visions and then you keep on expanding. I mean, I’ve done all that I wanted to do but of course I still see things that I want to reach and set up new goals. Naturally we will keep on marching! (laughs) That’s our attitude! I see other bands go out and they do a short tour and I think it’s ridiculous. We go out and do 200 shows and go back and do an album: so why not let it loose? We’re here, we’re now. I don’t want to sit down and wait for shit to happen.
ROCKSALT.MX: When Marduk first formed, you’ve said you wanted it to become the most blasphemous band in the world. As the founder and a Swede, do you celebrate the Christmas holiday? Do you exchange gifts with your family/what are the holidays like for you? Do you enjoy Dryck Julmust?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Ha! In a way, yes. Because coming from Sweden, it’s a pre-Christian tradition. It’s from the same time we had the mid-winter celebration back in our own history. Then we had the mid-winter celebration during the Viking age, both at the same time. Therefore the Christians tried to take those traditions and put them into Christianity. The full week of Christmas is still tradition for the Vikings. I always celebrate Christmas, but when I was young it was never any religious thing; but for me – I like the atmosphere of Christmas – but for me Christmas is about meeting with family, having good food and yeah, sure, gifts and shit like that but I never put a religious thing into it. It’s just a time to meet your family, eat good food and also you drink a lot of that thing you have written there… it’s very important.
ROCKSALT.MX: Dryck Julmust?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Dryck Julmust. I am wondering where did you hear about that?
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Okay! Well that is my favorite drink! We also drink it around Easter. I love it! It’s a very modern thing, but it’s very important in Sweden. The thing is, they actually tried to steal it – the celebration from us, the way we used to have it. Christians tried to adopt it just to make people happy back in the day. We had our mid-summer celebration which we still have and is really unique for Scandinavia; it’s also a tradition from the Viking age early on. We have two big celebrations: summer and mid-winter. So, the Christians stole our mid-winter tradition and still we have them with the same food which used to be from that time. It’s a very un-Christian tradition which needs to be kept un-Christian as a celebration. So we don’t celebrate Jesus being born, we celebrate the mid-winter.
ROCKSALT.MX: Last question: can you explain this? “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul!”
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Ha! “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a merry Christmas!” Yes, since I was a kid we, it was always, every year, and still every year. I don’t really watch it; I don’t mind watching it right now but I mean, it’s a thing that all the kids are into and it’s just the most popular tv show that four million people watch every Christmas eve. But Christmas is a very un-Christian thing from the beginning; at least up where we live. And most of the traditions, even the Christmas tree, has nothing to do with Christianity and things like that. It’s something that they tried to steal for their religion back in the day, just to make people adopt to it easily. So we still keep a very un-Christian Christmas. But that is funny about Ikea and Dryck Julmust. You know even the Coca-Cola company in Sweden was very frustrated because at Christmas they increase their sales – except for in Sweden! They tried to buy it from the company that makes it but – nope! It’s kept un-corporate!
(At this point the interview time has passed and Marduk must get ready to take the stage.)
Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson: Thank you for all the questions! Keep marching on and we will see you on tour!
Remaining “Voices From The Dark” North American Tour Dates:
March 5 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
March 6 Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
March 7 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
March 8 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Opera House
March 9 Los Angeles, CA @ The Vex
March 10 Tempe, AZ @ 910 Live
March 11 Albuquerque, NM @ TBC
March 12 Dallas, TX @ Tomcats West
March 13 San Antonio, TX @ Korova
March 15 Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
March 16 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
SERPENT SUMMER TOUR 2013
May 11 (BEL) Kuurne @ Throne Fest www.thronefest.be
May 17-19 (GER) Göllnitz @ Deathkult Open Air www.deathkult.de
June 21-23 (FRA) Clisson @ Hellfest www.hellfest.fr
June 27-30 (GER) Flugplatz Roitzschjora @ With Full Force Open Air Festival www.withfullforce.de
July 4-6 (SWE) Göteborg @ Metaltown www.metaltown.se
August 7-10 (CZ REP) Fortress Josefov @ Brutal Assault www.brutalassault.cz
August 15-18 (GER) Dinkesbühl @ Summer Breeze Open Air Festival www.summer-breeze.de
DEATH WOLF online: