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[INTERVIEW] MARDUK

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Like carrion flying ominously above its prey, the shadow of death stalks Marduk mastermind Morgan Hakansson to this day. Only recently did his partner in crime from the notorious Abruptum, IT, pass away in mysterious circumstances.

“We were growing up together, back in the day. He was a great personality and had great ideas, but then he decided to do something different with his life and travel”, recalls Hakansson. “Then we didn’t speak that often any more over the last few years, but we kept in contact”.

Where Marduk was notorious for unabashed blasphemy, Abruptum’s notoriety stemmed from a mystique drenched in sadism, ritual and horror. Working with IT as far back as 1989, it was a critical period of time that brought forth the second wave of black metal. Gone were days of simply playing as fast as possible and making casual references to Satan. At this point, bands were beginning to seriously explore the dark arts and imbue that within their music.

In particular, the guitarist remembers Per Yngve Ohlin, better known as doomed Mayhem vocalist ‘Dead’. Controversially, he doesn’t hesitate to declare that “everything that made Norway great in that perspective comes from Sweden.”

“When Dead joined the band, then it really became the Mayhem that I appreciated”, explains Hakansson. “He brought the really black energy to the band that everything comes from. He really made the band, not only him, but the connection with Euronymous I would say, which is really the Mayhem that I appreciate.” On a personal level, Hakansson remembers two sides to Dead. “As a person, he was very serious and interested in what he was doing, but he still had a very humorous side you wouldn’t believe. He was probably one of the most humorous guys I ever met”.

“It’s hard to believe when I look back on it, because when he died he was twenty-one or twenty-two years old. He died in 1991 and the world was different. To me, it was a great inspiration to get to know him. I really admired the December Moon demo by Morbid. He had a strong vision and he had a unique way of thinking and so it was a great inspiration and it still is in a way”.

Hakansson doesn’t hesitate to describe those early days as “a great time”. “I think because there were not that many bands from that first day. I think with the internet today, everything is not as exciting as it used to be”, he declares. “In the past, it was a select group of people, mostly Sweden, Norway, and Greece, and we had one good contact in Australia with some ambitions. I thought it was a growing from a black spark, I would say. It’s not really the same any more”. These days, however, he is adamant that a person like Dead would be “disgusted” with the current milieu. “He liked the small underground stuff, so today, he would be so disgusted because it’s everything that he didn’t believe in”.

“The magic has been lost because most of the scene has been related to gossiping like old ladies magazines”, laments the guitarist. “It’s just so lame and I try to disconnect myself as much as possible and keep doing what I do without contact from the so-called scene. People want to know this and that and it’s like gossiping. I don’t want to be a part of it”.

Where corpse paint and pseudonyms added to the black metal mystique, it could be rightly argued that it has all but been obliterated with the advent of the internet. These days, the cult of information has given way to the cult of outrage and Marduk recently found themselves on the receiving end of a campaign spearheaded by ANTIFA. A recent show in Oakland, California was cancelled after the anti-Fascist group took exception to the content of latest album Frontschwein and previous efforts such as Panzer Division Marduk. With the band accused of endorsing Nazism, the Oakland Metro Opera House consequently cancelled their concert for fear of attracting violent protests.

Despite this setback, Hakansson remains phlegmatic. “We don’t really care. I don’t put the attention to that at all and give these people air. People will always find something to complain about”, he reasons. “For me, it’s about writing soundtracks to specific happenings and I write about whatever fascinates me. I don’t care from which side or whatever. For me, it’s an artform. If I would have done a movie about it, nobody would complain. I don’t see why people should complain about a form of music.”

So, what is so fascinating about the Nazi’s? Why doesn’t Marduk perhaps write with a similar level of interest for the Allied effort?

Hakansson is unmoved. “I’m fascinated by all sides, but when it comes to writing the soundtrack to it, you just go for a certain sound and I don’t know, I don’t even sit down to reflect on it. It just comes naturally, writing through the perspective that we do. It’s just writing about specific stories because they fascinate me so much, I think it’s worked to write the soundtrack to it”. That said, the interest does have its limits for him. “It’s always the same with people who read about Hitler, they start to be annoying when they read books like ‘I Was Hitler’s School Friend’”, observes Hakansson, punctuating his sentence with an exasperated groan.

Much as he disregards his detractors, the guitarist feels similarly about those who clamour for the supposed ‘glory days’ of black metal. “It’s been lost and will never been recovered. But I don’t really care. Things change. Everything changes. Everybody wants to go back to the good old times with whatever it is and whatever in history, but things change, things move on, nothing will ever be the same.”

That said, Hakansson has no qualms with indulging in the occasional spot of nostalgia and for Marduk’s upcoming Australian shows, he and his cohorts will be performing 1997’s Heaven Shall Burn…When We Are Gathered. “It’s interesting to be back in a time capsule and have a bit of nostalgia”, admits the Swede. “I like to be a bit nostalgic once in a while, but nothing can be more important that your latest album, that’s what I really believe in. It brings back a lot of memories. Time flies and it’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years”. It will be the third Marduk album Australian audiences get to experience in full in as many years, with their last tour featuring play-throughs of Those of the Unlight and Panzer Division Marduk.

In being the sole original member of Marduk, Hakansson feels that although there hasn’t been “any real big change in what we do”, each of their albums are unique in their own way. “I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything. I think they all have a very distinctive sound and they all speak to me in a different way. It’s all a part of really the essence of the band”.

 

Marduk will be touring with Gorguts down the eastern coast of Australia as part of Direct Underground Festival for the following dates:

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Marduk with Gorguts

Crowbar, Fortitude Valley, QLD, Australia

Friday 17 March 2017

Marduk with Gorguts and Départe

The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, NSW, Australia

Saturday 18 March 2017

Marduk with Gorguts and Départe

Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC, Australia

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