Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson of Marduk: It’s a Natural Thing

Marduk's founder and guitarist Morgan on inspiration, protesters and coming back to Australia in the lead up to Direct Underground Fest.

Since their last onslaught on Australian stages in 2015, longstanding Swedish black metal band Marduk have come full circle to return to Australian shores this March to unleash upon Direct Underground Fest. Metal as Fuck speaks with guitarist and founder Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson about controversy, what we can expect in Australia, and the spirit of Marduk’s music.

It’s been two years! Are you looking forward to coming back to Australia? “Yes of course, its always been a great pleasure for us to be down there, we always have a strong following so its great to be going back there especially to do these kinds of special sets that we’re going to do, we have already been there on the Frontschwein tour and now we’re going back to do the whole Heaven Shall Burn …When We Are Gathered album from 1996, which we’ve chosen to do on ten or eleven occasions worldwide, one is in our hometown, then we are doing three in Australia then New Zealand; one on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise just recently, and also set to do one in Belgium, Finland and probably one more so its like ten or eleven specific happenings worldwide so its great to also so that in Australia.”

Is there a particular reason behind choosing the 1996 album for these shows? “Yeah I mean it was done in 1996, that’s its twenty year jubilee, when we rehearsed it and did it over here and our good friend and promoter in Australia from Direct Touring was really into having us do it over there so he invited us over, we said why not; we have a strong following there, so we chose to do that set over there as well, it’s a great opportunity for us to do it.”

Direct Underground Fest sure promises to be an exciting series of shows…“I think it’s the perfect forum for these bands to play, also I think its going to be a great different sounding format for everyone there, I mean you have us, and Mgła who do their specific thing, and then you have death metal band Gorguts and the rest of the bands, so I think its an interesting package.”

So you’ve been touring fairly solidly for the last two years since the release of Frontschwein? “We are coming to the end of the tour, and plus we have a few more things coming up in Europe, in some specific places we haven’t reached, some summer festivals and I think we are going to finish the whole world tour with the second part of the US tour, we are going to go back there for August/September and do more of the east coast then up to Canada. And then we will get back working on what’s to come in the future…the shape of things to come…”

Are there any plans for what comes next? “Of course there is [sly chuckle] People will have to wait. Of course we have been working on the vision and ideas for the next album, so when the touring cycle is complete we are going back to finalise the ideas and get set to enter the studio later on. I don’t know exactly when and I don’t know when the album will be out, we feel no stress, we are going to get back to that as soon as the touring cycle is completed.”

So you are going to complete your touring cycle in North America, you’ve been there recently with some…controversy, I understand? “Well it wasn’t really a controversy, it was like a few retarded people who decided to ruin things. Its like putting a political lens on things, so its nothing that we really put any energy into, and if it wasn’t because of the, you know, police and local security not being good enough, we would still play that show because we would have done it, promoter would have done it, booking agency, you know, because its just like demonstrators not satisfied with everything, its just like… retards.” Yeah, it’s all blown up a lot. “Yes, blown up out of proportion, it’s like, whoa …and that’s the kind of people who like those things, you know, they like to get the attention and they are…attention whores.”

Do you think their strategy is likely to be successful? “I think people will get tired of those kind of people sooner or later and stop listening, because they aren’t use to the situation, otherwise the show would still have happened. Pfft…I don’t know what to say about it.” Have you faced similar protests before? “We’ve had religious problems in Europe back in the day, but I mean its nothing that ever really affected us because it’s as soon as people start to threaten - I don’t think it is a problem, you know, if somebody wants to do something they wouldn’t threaten, they'd put action to it.”

Do you aim to be controversial? “I don’t know. I don’t sit down to try to be controversial. For me its about an artist doing what comes naturally for me and being genuine. I believe in writing whatever inspires me, if I’m inspired by specific happenings in World War II and want to write the soundtrack to it and describe the way it happened then I don’t see a problem with it. And I don’t see why they should have a problem with it either, so yeah it’s a stupid thing.”

So that’s how you approach writing your music …see what inspires you? “More or less, for the last album. I have always read a lot of history, when you read a lot about specific things, you create music in your head and what is better than to unleash whatever comes to your mind, and I like to write the soundtrack to certain things …and it comes naturally to me, I don’t give it a second thought. It’s a natural thing.”

It certainly comes through in a very powerful way…“Absolutely, it becomes very dynamic, its great to combine new interests and old, being equally important to the music, and whatever’s the subject we always work with lyrics to come with one hard-hitting force.” And intense it is! Do you channel that same intensity to your live show? “I think so, we are a band who very much believe in playing live which might not be what all the bands do now out there, I mean, I believe in the power and the greatest thing for me is not to be in the studio situation, recording…the power is within I would say is to go on a stage, to perform it once live in front of an audience, and you create magic and when everybody gets into it, the sweat, the energy, that’s pure magic to me.”

So aside from the Heaven Shall Burn material, can you give us a hint of what to expect in Australia? “Actually, we haven’t decided! Of course we will do the full Heaven Shall Burn album, which probably is only like thirty-five minutes, and we have a minimum one hour so I think it’s going to be twenty-five minutes which means we will probably have time for seven, eight songs I believe and probably, hopefully, even longer, so probably differ a bit from every show, because we have a lot of stuff in rehearsal but we will see, it will most liklely be decided the same day we play, we have a lot to choose from and will attempt to do as many songs from as many album as we have the time to do.”

Do you find the reception of Marduk different in different places? “I think it’s the kind of music that unifies people wherever they live, I think people act more or less the same whether you play South America or out in Idaho, I mean it’s still a thing that unites everybody, so I think it’s more or less equal, it’s the same fanatics worldwide [laughs].”

Is the stage show critical to black metal? “Not really, for us I would say to perform live is the spiritual side of the band, I mean, we get in our mood…or whatever you want to call it… and go out there, it's not so important to have the sick stage things because its our music and it talks really for itself and how we look is probably a reflection of the spirit of the music, but its not an important thing really because the power of the music speaks for itself” 

How would you describe that ‘spirit’ of your music? “I always use three words, which is also an album title by an old Swedish band called Bathory, I always have a sense of that, and its Blood, Fire, Death. That’s the spiritual side of the music. That’s the energy being transformed.”


Catch Marduk, Gorguts, MGLA, Départe & Ulcerate on Direct Underground Fest in two shows only!

Friday, March 17: The Factory Theatre, Sydney:

Saturday, March 18: The Corner Hotel, Melbourne: