When he broke off from Emperor right at the start of their career but already after them receiving a so-called cult status he was condemned and slagged off by many if not by all, first of all by his former bandmates. Forced to start all over again he radically changes his musical preferences hiding the nature of the changes behind a bitter somewhat self-mocking image, which triggered yet another rain of verbal bullets and lead-weight sarcasm. He has found his own unique niche (or sanctuary?) under the iron curtain of the metal scene and then almost blew himself out of it by changing his style completely once again "for the sake of his personal sanity", as he puts it himself here. Stepping down the razor's edge instead of playing safe is the priviledge of the brave and Mortiis has surely proven himself that, but at the end of the day, when the music is over and the image is resting on the cloak-hanger, he is also a smart and thoughtful interlocutor with a wicked sense of humor and an ultra-candid attitude - qualities that make a conversation with him nothing but a sheer pleasure. His slightly hissing voice and his cradle-rocking mesmerizing intonation suggested an image of an old and cunning snake, when I finallay made my way through the serpentine labirynths of the Russian international telephone network. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, the man behind the mask - Mortiis...
MetalKings.com: Over the years your style has developed and evolved quite considerably, and although, in my humble opinion, all of your works are of equal superb quality, in a recent interview to Terrorizer I remember you backing off from the early works somewhat - why so?
Mortiis: I guess what I was trying to say is that I just didn't wanna do that kind of music anymore. And that what I was doing right now felt a lot more true to what I want to do. At least that's what I am trying to tell people, but sometimes they quote me in strange ways, you know.
MetalKings.com: A lot of people down here know that you started with Emperor and then parted ways with them, but very few have the knowledge of the real reasons to this?
Mortiis: (sighs) Oh, that's classic question. The reason basically why they wanted me out of the band was that I had too much of an ego. That's pretty much it, I was fired. I mean its not even a secret.
MetalKings.com: How do you mean too much of an ego?
Mortiis: What can I say? I guess I wanted things to be my way instead of their way.
MetalKings.com: Let's turn to the more recent stuff, it's been nearly a year now since the release of the 'Smell of Rain', and the feedback as I understand has been quite positive, so the natural question is what's next?
Mortiis: I guess you mean musically, right? You know, along the same lines, only better, more self-confident I would say. I am probably angrier. It's still rather early to say how the new stuff's gonna be, because I haven't really been spending a whole lot of time making the music, it's more like a hell of a lot of ideas right now. But we are still in the phase when we are looking forward to making a couple of more tours this year hopefully.
MetalKings.com: You just said 'we' a couple of times, so is Mortiis a full band right now, not a one-man project?
Mortiis: I have a live band.
MetalKings.com: But these people are not involved in the music making?
Mortiis: Not to a large degree. There's been some ideas and all that. I mean the way Mortiis sounds live right now is really different. It's quite different from what it sounds on the record. Sure they had a little bit of input with ideas to add to what already existed. So, yes, sure they had some input, but it's not like they write songs or lyrics, I am still doing that.
MetalKings.com: Is it a constant live lineup?
Mortiis: No, it's not extremely stable. We are probably replacing a guitar player right now. We got another guy, but we don't know yet what's gonna happen there. But it's fairly stable.
MetalKings.com: The new album has introduced many new elements - such as distorted guitars, voices in most of the songs and such like, have you simply become tired of hammersmiths and battlehorns? Or is it a natural progression for you as a musician?
Mortiis: Like both (hehehe). I just got tired of all this medieval soundtrack thing and I decided to pursue what I felt was a lot more true to what I was anyway. Because the whole sort of rock structure song building, the rock bands and all that type of thing I grew up with that stuff. I've always been a big fan of those bands. I mean everything from Kiss to Nine Inch Nails I've always really been into this shit.
MetalKings.com: But didn't you think that this was a very risky decision? Because people were listening to Mortiis because they wanted to hear this particular type of music? And that's a considerable blow to the fanbase, isn't it?
Mortiis: Yes it is. And I realized it early before that I was taking a pretty big risk. On the other hand I didn't sell a million records before I did this. I wasn't running a huge risk, it was of a case of catering to my own needs, rather than a whole bunch of other people. I haven't noticed that I lost any fans to be honest with you. Obviously some but I am sure I've gained a few too, so? At the end of the day I think it was definitely worth it, I mean, I could have lost everyone, who knows?? Anything could have happened, you know. But that doesn't change anything I still would have done this, I don't have a problem starting all over again, because what I am doing now - it just feels so right. I am really happy with what I'm doing. It wasn't this experiment like selling more records or some bullshit like that. It was, like I said, something that I had to do for my personal sanity.
MetalKings.com: Do you still practice with bass or did you totally abandon the instrument?
Mortiis: Yeah, that's pretty much in the past.
MetalKings.com: So when you record all of the guitar tracks and such-like you have hired people for that.
Mortiis: On the album we have hired people? oh, I wouldn't say hired people it was a friend of mine who did it. I think I paid him like a hundred dollars or something. For like four days of work, which is? over here, cuz I am not really sure about the financial situation in Russia obviously - but over here a hundred bucks is really not a shitload of money. For four days of work in the studio it's nothing. It was a favor.
MetalKings.com: I hear a lot about the book you've published how did the idea come around in the first place, and secondly how are things on the writing department should we expect any more literary works from Mortiis?
Mortiis: Not really, that was something that I was working on in the mid-nineties, it was all part of the old Mortiis concept. And it was just delayed, and delayed, and delayed. And it was supposed to be delivered by this label and that label, then this person and that person, in the end it was supposed to be done by Earache together with 'Stargate' as a special release in 1999. And even back then everything in the book was already like several years old. But then for various reasons they never did it and didn't actually get released until like July, a couple of months before the 'Smell of Rain' was released last year. Which was so fucking annoying but what can you do? So it's like I say just old stuff that regards the old Mortiis concept. I used that to accompany the old albums and all that. It's cool but it's not what I wanna do these days so I am definitely not really going to make another book like that. And like I said when it came out last year it was already very old. The only reason why I released it at all in the end was because I knew a lot of hardcore fans was waiting for it. And I didn't wanna let them down, you know.
MetalKings.com: Well I didn't mean just something particularly like that, but some other book by you?
Mortiis: Oh, like that? Well there's no immediate plans, but that could be fun. But I mean I am not an author, I don't really have much of a talent for writing. I mean I can do lyrics and things like that, but a whole book? Jesus, I mean I read books all the time and if I was gonna even attempt at writing some kind of book I would have to at least know that I would be able to compete with these people, which I am definitely not able to do. Just trying to do something like that would have been extremely ambitious. Maybe in the future, if by some weird chance I get hit by a sudden writing talent? maybe I could do it.
MetalKings.com: What is the stuff that you read?
Mortiis: These days it's mostly horror literature. I am reading the Necroscope series right now by a guy called Brian Lumley. Actually it's vampire stuff but it's like Ann Rice, it's not that romantic stuff. You know that typical goth vampire shit - it's pretty brutal and gory stuff, you know. I like that. They are really evil alien vampires, man, coming to Earth and fucking things up (he-he).
MetalKings.com: Do you find that inspiring?
Mortiis: It would be fun to make soundtracks based on these books, I mean they certainly do give me ideas. I haven't necessarily done anything about it yet but?
MetalKings.com: So we might be facing you doing a grindcore record in the future?
Mortiis: Not grindcore, I would make something really dark, but not grindcore
MetalKings.com: In that same interview Terrorizer, quaoted you as saying: Many people have started saying "good music, rather than good makeup artist" (laughs) - that was a rather bitter quote to me, have things really been that bad? And if so, why stick to it so much then?
Mortiis: Because it wasn't really that bad, I think maybe it was bad sometimes, but I never really gave a fuck, the only thing that I guess really annoyed me was hearing it like a 150 times, at one certain point of time, like in the late 90ies, especially with the 'Stargate' came out. Because that was when I was introduced to a more commercial media, and people didn't really give a flying fuck about the music most of the time, they were just busy talking about the image, and after a while that gets annoying, I mean I like the image. But at the end of the day I also make music. And I am not hear to promote my image, I am here to promote my music. And so what happened with the 'Smell of Rain' was that all of a sudden people started listening a lot more to the actual music that I was making. Rather than just looking at the image. I think it took a while for the world to kind of get used to the image and I think when the 'Smell of the Rain' was released last year, I think it just saw the first change when people started sort of not being not so hung-up in the image, and rather listen to the album. That was probably when I made that quote.
MetalKings.com: One more makeup question if you do not mind, I've always been curious, is it makeup or is it a solid mask?
Mortiis: It's both. It's a mask and you have to apply a lot of makeup as well to make it look real.
MetalKings.com: So how much time do you spend to apply the whole thing?
Mortiis: It kind of depends. Usually between one hour and one and a half hours.
Mortiis: It's not too bad, is it?
MetalKings.com: Well, I don't know how much money do you spend on it?
Mortiis: Oh, in the beginning I spent a lot of money but now it's not a lot really, just the makeup. I think just like any other girl. (cracks)
MetalKings.com: Who is the Parasite-god?
Mortiis: (sighs) Oh, here we go? (continues in a nagging teacher-like manner of the one who is really tired of explaining the whole thing) Parasite God is the song about how society chooses to condemn people who are not like them. Even though they preach sympathy and understanding which is total hypocrisy when they don't actually practice it. So you know, to be really honest with you, Parasite God was just a catchy theme that I came up with. It doesn't have a big deeper meaning. I thought it was a cool thing (hehehe) and that's pretty much it. I mean the lyric does have a meaning. I am sure I could have called the whole thing anything else - it doesn't have to be called Parasite God I guess. It just creates a nice picture of people minds in my mind, and I really liked it.
MetalKings.com: Who do you usually play with when you go on tour, I mean the support acts?
Mortiis: Well, last time it was like gothic rock. And now we got a new tour where we will be doing the support act and that's more metal-oriented. But we could swing anyway, which is a pretty good thing you know. We could work out with metal bands, and industrial bands and even goth bands - because we have all of those elements anyway.
MetalKings.com: Ok, now for the dessert the traditional stupid questions from MetalKings.com - Marvel Comix proposes a series Mortiis vs. KISS - where you antagonize the glamorous foursome - eventually you kill all of them, however what I want to know is how you would kill each and every one?
Mortiis: Oh, my god! I would steal Gene Simmons's money? that would kill him. I would take all Ace Frahley's booze and drugs - that would kill him. And I would just basically tell Peter Criss that he is a crap drummer - he would commit suicide. And I would? Oh, Paul Stanely how do you actually kill him? I mean, I don't know? tear off all of his chest-hair? (Ouch! :)
MetalKings.com: For one day you are turned into an animal in a zoo, what animal would you choose and what would you do to entertain people?
Mortiis: (obviously mishearing the quesiton) Why do you think I would wanna be an animal in a soup?
MetalKings.com: Not a soup - a zoo!
Mortiis: Oh, in a fucking zoo, that sucks imagine that! Let's see here? Maybe? I don't know? Fucking hell! What's a good animal in the zoo? Maybe a seal. And every time they threw a ball I would just knock it into some kid's head. Since these assholes pay to see me when I am imprisoned.
MetalKings.com: What was the most stupid ever present you got from your fans?
Mortiis: Uhm, somebody once gave me a nose-warmer. That was kind of cruel.
MetalKings.com: Well, thanks very much for the interview and good luck!
Mortiis: Cool, take care!
Many thanks to Max Baylkin of Soyuz/Earache for helping organize this interview.
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