Sunday, September 3, 2017

Blasphemy and Beyond: Morgan from Marduk on Black Metal, The Misfits and Battling Antifa

Photo courtesy of Century Media

“Fuck Me, Jesus.”

When long-running Swedish Black Metal legends Marduk recorded a demo with the above title in 1991, they promptly solidified their status as one of the most incendiary acts on the planet. Beyond brutal, the group’s discography stands as a high-water mark of a genre that never fails to gain as much controversy as it does a rabid international fanbase.

Recently, the band brought its brand of blistering, war-fixated blasphemy to the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA. On stage, guitarist and sole remaining original member Morgan "Evil” Steinmeyer Håkansson is one menacing motherfucker – tall, built like a brick shithouse and spewing demonic riffs while covered in white and black stage makeup. Off stage, he’s a warm, gracious fellow who is honored to perform for audiences here and abroad.

“There are a lot people dedicated to this kind of music, and I appreciate playing in all parts of the world. I believe in playing in China, Africa, the Middle East, Idaho or wherever. Every place has its charm, I think.”

Naturally, a band that has built a career out of corpse paint, leather, battle-themed lyrics and savage music draws plenty of attention – and not always the kind that succeeds in selling albums or concert tickets. Back in the ’80s, the enemies of free expression were the obvious suspects: Senators’ wives, Christian evangelicals, television talk show hosts and concerned (if quite misguided) suburban parents. But these days, the greatest calls for censorship come from supposedly left-leaning factions like Antifa, who succeeded in having a Marduk performance in Oakland, CA canceled earlier this year under the premise that the friendly Swede giving this interview was somehow an unabashed white supremacist. (In a letter sent to the venue, Oakland police stated that “based on the riot that occurred in Berkeley in regards to Milo Yiannopolous speaking at the university, it is reasonable to believe that there would be a threat to public safety if these groups showed up to protest Marduk.”) Ask any touring band (especially one from overseas) what it means to have a show fall through, and you’ll inevitably hear tales of missed merch sales, lost meals and less gas in the tank to make it to the next gig. But instead of giving in to such lunacy and returning home with his tail between his legs, Morgan dismisses the situation with a shrug and a few pointed words towards his band’s newest adversaries.

“The thing is, when it happened in Oakland, it shouldn’t have become this problem. Even the Metal community – even if they didn’t want to – were part of making it as big as it became. Everybody wanted to write about it, so they gave [Antifa] more exposure than they deserve. If everybody – local promoters, the Metal media – wouldn’t have given a fuck about them, it wouldn’t have been a problem. [Antifa] were happy because that’s the way they work. They want things to become big; when people start talking about it and writing about it, it becomes bigger than it is. It wouldn’t have been a problem; if there had been a problem at the place, we could have sorted it there. It’s ridiculous. People always ask me to comment on it, and what should I say? It’s obvious that [these] people don’t know shit about anything. It’s not even worth commenting about. The things they’ve said about us as a band… Somebody showed it to me, and it’s like. ‘Okay, this just proves that they are fucking retards, so I don’t care.’ If they want to cancel the show, who cares? We’ll survive a canceled show; we’ll still be back. We’ll survive longer than them, for sure.”

One topic that is not up for debate is Morgan’s admiration for both The Misfits and the band’s original (and recently reinstated) frontman, Glenn Danzig. The guitarist’s devotion to the Garden State Horror Punk progenitor extends to his work with the Misfits-flavored act Devils Whorehouse, while Marduk have recorded covers of both The Misfits’ “Earth A.D.” and Samhain’s “Macabre.”

“The Misfits have always been a great inspiration in some ways, especially Earth A.D. for me. It’s power and aggression right in your face. The most preferable era [Glenn] ever did, for me, was Samhain. That’s meant a lot inspiration-wise to me, but I love all the Danzig stuff because it’s different. Every time I meet him, it’s a personal boost for me because I get an energy kick out of it. He just has this strong personality that I really miss out in a lot of artists today. He has a certain charisma and power, and I’m a fanboy [of his] in that way. I feel very glad to have gotten to know him, and I respect him so much. He’s one of those people who’ve always gone in their own direction – doing what he wants to do and never caring about what anybody said... That’s the way it should be.”

As for Marduk, plans are underway for a new studio album, while the band’s lineup has been stable since 2013. After experiencing regular personnel shifts in the band’s early years, Morgan greets the future with strength and stability.

“We’re four people with different personalities, but we all have a strong vision of what we want to do. We work well together, and we strive in the same direction. That’s the most important thing. Of course, we look upon things differently, but when it comes to working together, it goes really smoothly. We share the same devotion.”

Nearly 30 years after their formation, Marduk is as active as ever. As the last musician standing from their initial incarnation, Morgan remain a man driven by a powerful philosophy that has kept the band’s spiked, blood-drenched ball in the air for close to three decades.

“I think it’s the same with everything you do in your life; you have to believe in what you do. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go, and I’ve seen a lot of big-mouthed people come and go. I’ve always had a strong confidence in what I do. I believe in the power of the music; I believe in the power of the lyrics and the concept that’s been put together. For me, it’s just a great, long, dark journey… I feel inspired; this is what I believe in. Why should I do something else?

“We’re not a band that’s about doing what everybody likes; it’s about being loyal and true to yourself. In doing music or anything else, you should do what you believe in. I see so many people try to adjust to the current scene or try to do what works best now. A lot of bands from the past have tried to adjust, and that’s the biggest mistake…I will even give respect to a guy like Yngwie Malmsteen – everybody hates him, but he’s still doing the thing he believes in. He’s stubborn; he's the same [as] Glenn Danzig. They do what they believe in, even if it's completely different styles. You’ve got to do what comes from within.”

Official Marduk Website


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