Mortiis is a name immediately recognizable by the underground fans. The recently released 9th album “The Great Deceiver” is a mind blowing piece of art. Pest Webzine has asked the band’s mentor, Havard Ellefsen, some questions about the new album, the upcoming tour and other issues.
Mortiis is a persona created in order to deal with your inner demons. Has this “therapy” worked for you? Have you been able to deal better with them?
Well, I never came up with the image for Mortiis in order to deal with personal issues, Mortiis as a visual thing has evolved out of my growing up with larger than life image bands like Kiss, Alice Cooper and WASP, as well as my latter involvement in the early Norwegian black metal scene, where image was a very important aspect.
The inner demons, the psychic weaknesses, or whatever you want to call it, reared its ugly head in the mid 90´s, and have ever since sort of come and gone. I eventually started attacking these sides of my self through music and lyrics, and I guess to some extent it has helped. If nothing else it has forced me to analyze myself and to know those shittier sides of myself better, and to some extent, also to know how to handle them, and avoid them from dominating my life.
In a recent statement you said “I'm a sucker for visual shit, so obviously the mask was bound to come back at some point. I just wasn't ready to admit it to myself until now, and certainly not to some entitled ass hat yelling that he wants it back." Why was this the right time to bring it back? Do people try to interfere with your creativity?
Haha, sometimes I wonder. But in all seriousness, there are certain types of people out there that seem to be into certain bands not for the music, but for the visual aspect. I can understand it, because I really enjoy bands that provide a whole experience so to speak, something that goes beyond just the music. When I said that, it was a big tongue in cheek from my side, but there has been people out there being very vocal about how they think we suck because the mask is gone, etc. I just think they´re into it for the wrong reasons when all they care about it is the visual aspect and clearly have no real interest in the music. That was my point when I said that, I wasn´t going to let a few people influence me. If it was going to come back, it would come back when I was comfortable with it.
What does Mortiis look like in 2016 after all? Who is Mortiis nowadays?
I´m a 40 year old pissed off punk, haha! What does Mortiis look like? Every bit as handsome as always, haha!
I read somewhere that you said that “Image these days is just a bit of eyeliner”. Did you actually say this? Do you think it is true?
It´s a bit taken out of context so not sure what I may have been talking about. The Mortiis image has always been make up and effects heavy so to speak. I must have been talking about the image most other bands and artists out there were doing, I just find it boring. Obviously there are image heavy bands out there but it kind of all tends to look the same… We aren´t reinventing the wheel in any way either, but I don´t look at the next guy and think “I´ll just do whatever he´s doing” – that is my point, people seem lazy or just more into trendhopping in order to hopefully catch the next successful wave of whatever.
This March your ninth album “The Great Deceiver” is being released via Omnipresence Records. Why have you opted for that title? Is your stage persona Mortiis the deceiver?
initially it was just a title I liked. It was the title of a song we had going on for a while. As time went by and the album became a complicated thing, the band dissolved and I had to fire a lot of people around me, the image changed, the music was re-written, re-recorded, artwork and imagery was replaced and changed multiple times and so on, the title became more symbolic of something that just isn´t what it appears to be.
According to the band, “The Great Deceiver” is Mortiis’s greatest and most comprehensive effort to date and you also said that “It’s a ‘headphones record’… why is that? Can you ellaborate on that? What can people expect from it?
You´ll probably get more details out of it by listening on heapdhones. There are so many layers and little things going on. It sort of depends what you´ve heard of Mortiis before…If you never heard it, it´s a densely layered record, sort of mutated version of metal and industrial crossover… I think it´s very dynamic, there´s a lot of atmospheric sort of ambient parts in it, next to punk inspired anger…
Conceptually “The Great Deceiver” takes us back to the ’70s and appeals to fans of Filter, Static X, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie. Are these your inspirations? Why?
I don´t think I heard Static X in my life… I might have a CD by Filter, that I thought was pretty good. Ministry and NIN have always been huge influences for me… Ministry because they make the punk-ish pissed off metal industrial sound so easy, while in fact I think they did reinvent the wheel with their early 90´s sound. NIN because of awesome songwriting, programming and sound design. Rob Zombie has some brilliant use of grooves and programming going on that I find very inspiring.
Songwriting is a continual, never-ending process and it seems your songs are pieced together during long stretches of time. Are you perfectionists in terms of sound?
I don´t know if we´re perfectionists, but it certainly took a very long time this time. I think we just kept feeling that we could do better. It would often be a case of having worked on a bunch of songs, and then realizing that the oldest material needed to be improved to match the newer material…Sometimes we´d just discover a way to make something sound cool, and we´d have to go back to older material and do the same stuff… So a lot of back and forth like that was going on.
However ‘Bleed Like You’ was composed entirely on a piano and is the only song that came together in one day. Who inspired this song?
It didn’t come together in one day I think… I can´t really remember, but it´s true that it was more or less all made on a piano. To be honest I can´t recall what inspired that song musically, I probably heard some piano based songs and wanted to create something that sort of ominous and doomy sounding on a piano, surrounded by a dark and kind of metallic soundtrack. A lot of times a song come out completely different than the initial idea, because as you work away on it, at least in my case, sounds and melodies start appearing in my head and I´ll just go with the flow. I never worked in a rigid, methodical way. It´s always been flexible.
“The Shining Lamp of God” has a different sound and many fans have compared the track “The Shining Lamp of God” to Ministry. How do you feel when people compare you to other artists? Why do you keep on reinventing yourself?
It´s an interesting comparison, especially because that song was initially inspired by White/Rob Zombie (the chugger riffs) and The Prodigy (the drum programming). I don´t have a problem with being compared to other artists, like most other artists out there I have to get my ideas from somewhere, I just happen to be very honest about where my ideas come from. Actually songs like “Feed the Greed” and “Scalding the Burnt” are way more inspired by Ministry than The Shining Lamp Of God.
As for the reinventing of myself… It just happens, a natural evolution I suppose. It´s not 100% planned, although of course I do have a certain interest in keeping it interesting and a bit unexpected.
The video for this track is quite impressive. Who comes up with those ideas?
Both the “Doppelganger” and “The shining lamp of God” were directed by Robyn Von Swank in the same weekend. We both came up with the main theme, the sort of 1800´s dark laboratory type environment. The quality of the videos are thanks to Robyn and her team of setbuilders, camera people, makeup and FX people and so on.
Does your creativity flow easily? Apart from all the great music you’ve created, you’ve also created music for movies… is there something left for you to do? Do you use inspiration only for music or do you use it to create other kinds of art?
I had several years of creative blackout actually, which was pretty terrible. I am only recently feeling the motivation to create anything again, which is a positive thing. I never tried to create any other art, because I´m pretty confident, it would suck terribly, haha. Right now I´m starting to think about the next move musically, we are talking about possibly doing some cover songs, as we´ve never done that before. Might be fun.
This coming May the “Demons are back” tour will be available in the UK. How excited are you? What’s the best thing about being ou tour? And the worst?
The worst is probably being away from my kids. They´re noisy, crazy creatures that drive me crazy at home, but I miss them as soon as we´re apart. Natural human emotion I guess. Apart from that, I´ve been on tour many times, so while there´s a lot of stuff that sucks about it, like stinky, small backstages with poor catering etc, that stuff is nothing new. The best thing of course is playing to a great energetic crowd. Any semi professional band will feed off that crowd and deliver that energy back in the form of a great show.
Yeah pretty excited to be going back to the UK, it´s been a while. Hopefully we can get a European tour going after that.
The band played in the States late last year… how was the experience of playing live again? How are you received there?
We got great feedback from people after the shows… We played with Mushroomhead in some really strange places in the US, almost no major cities or typical markets, so often it was a scenario where we´d play a great show, and the crowds were observing and listening. We almost always hang out after the shows though, so we get to talk to people and there were lots of handshakes and great feedback, so that was always cool. Of course there would be shows where the crowd just went wild: stage diving, crowd surfing, etc…
I read you don’t tolerate mistakes live. Is that so? Why?
Sounds like you must have read some interviews where I got badly misquoted. That happens when I do phoners…Language barriers, you know. I don´t have a problem with playing mistakes live…Fuck I make them all the time. I´ve come in too early or too late, forgotten lyrics etc…It´s all part of reality on stage.
You have a punk attitude and you grew up on hard rock bands and Kiss and Wasp have had a great influence on you… did hard rock help create who you are today? When in life did you realise you needed to fight the system?
Haha I am sure real punks would laugh at me. Mr family man that I am, haha! I just fucking hate liars, in any shape or form, dishonesty, greed, etc. I have been fucked badly in past record contracts by some very greedy people. Not always dishonest, there´s honest greed too. But it still is a quality I have no time for. My family has been the victim of many a crazed monologue in front of the TV when bullshit toothpaste or hairproduct commercial claims to be miracle products… It´s all lies, lies, lies. I´m not really a politically minded person, but I fucking hate politician talk, especially when people outside of politics start talking like politicians. Just be fucking straight. I live in Norway, though, at the end of the day, very expensive and I´m pissed off at all the fees and taxes they impose on us, but regardless, it is maybe the safest place in the world… I really can´t complain too much. I am very thankful that my kids get to grow up here, and not in Swaziland or some batshit crazy place. If I was living somewhere else where life actually gets rough, I´d probably be way more dedicated.
Sometimes you use weird hastags like #duranduran. Why? To mess with the fans’ minds?
Haha yeah… I honestly hate hashtags, but like most other people, you gotta work that social media. In the beginning we´d send people paper flyers by mail… these days it´s hashtags and promoted posts on Facebook. I once hashtagged Britney Spears, and someone from her fanclub (official or not I have no idea) wrote back and said they liked our picture. It was hilarious! I try to limit the amount of hashtags to just a handful, and only to Instagram. I see guys drown their posts in hashtags….20-30 of them…It just seems so desperate: “look at me! Over here! Everyone please look at me!” Haha!
As a father what’s the lesson/value you think is most important to pass on to your kid(s)?
Don´t be a bully, and don´t let people bully you. Be honest. I don´t have a lot of great philosophies to pass on to them unfortunately… I wish I was a wiser man.
What’s on your playlist these days?
Very random. Today I listened to Missing Persons first EP from the early 1980´s… A bunch of NWOBHM singles: Crucifixion, Tygers of Pan Tang, Heavy Load, Sledgehammer, etc … I´m on this weird mix of old heavy metal and old synth/pop/new wave thing at the moment, but it varies greatly. I almost never listen to anything new.
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Thanks for your interest. The Great deceiver is out, and we have a bunch of ordering links over at www.mortiis.com - we also have a very cool double LP with triple gatefold sleeve and 12 page 12” booklet coming out May 20th. We will have the setup for preorders ready in a few days. Also over at www.mortiis.com - the LP will come in 3 different colors: black, brown and a sort of green. All very limited.
Interview by Sonia Fonseca