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In The Barracks with Marduk: Martial Orthodoxy and the Keys of Prevalence.

Updated: Apr 9

From the cover of printed ViaOmega # 11

A conversation with Morgan Hakansson.

Written, conducted and edited by Fernando Serani .Audio transcription by Uta Arnold. All photos by F. Serani/ Shot at a Marduk’s concert in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sept. 27th, 2018.

From the “new world restrictions” to the historical lyrics and their effect in this weak “cancel world”.

From keeping the uniqueness of Abruptum to Danzig worship, from a historical look back at Marduk vocalists and line-ups to the guitarist’s favourite albums of the band. Everything blew out from the mouth of mainman Morgan Hakansson like a machine gun ready to eradicate all opposition, or die trying.

Enter the world of belligerent black metal and enjoy an interview with a added value: when not promoting an album, when doing something off-schedule, you can expect the best answers from the artists you most care about.

ViaOmega - The “30th Anniversary Tour” of 2020 had to be postponed due to obvious reasons, and you were finally able to complete its first leg (twenty five dates if I’m correct) this past October and November 2021. But which isolated gigs were you able to play during 2020-2022, apart from this first tour leg? Did you have to face severe restrictions? Did you find something different and/or interesting in the interaction with the crowds?

Morgan H. - We were supposed to go out and do four legs of that tour. We had two legs planned for Europe, one for North America, one for South America, and I think everything went well when we were preparing for it, and so everything went out and we did ONE show, and then the problem came with most parts of the world shutting down. What could we do? We were trying to make everything still happen, it was a long and hard process and we did a few gigs here and there, we did a few gigs in Poland, we were always trying to still do it. But I mean, as the world reacted, there were still a lot of problems to carry on still. So we just had to sit out and wait and see what to do. We were ready to go all the time. There were a lot of restrictions and problems, but at the end of 2021 and then in 2022 we did a selection of gigs in Poland and certain other small festivals. As I said, we were always ready to go, but there were a lot of problems to be solved and to be able to go and to do it and with all those ridiculous restrictions all over the world made it really hard. So we decided to just sit down and wait for it and do it when everything was opening up again. And that's what we have been doing. I mean, we've been out doing a few runs in Europe, a bit here and there. But The States is something that we had to wait for, because of the usual restrictions and so on. I think what we are doing is finalizing all of the "30 Year Anniversary Tour” things by the end of this year and after that we'll go out with something completely different.

Second leg of the tour is planned for this year after the completion of the tour with Vader. As far as I know everything will take place in Europe. Are you planning to schedule a US tour and a South American one in the short term?

Well, as I said, we're finalizing all of the "30 Year Anniversary Tour" stuff now, because it's been so delayed and we're not going to do those areas that we didn't get the time to do. So we're setting out to do that after the next album is out. We're reaching out to the other areas then. So that’s how it is, I mean. I can't change the world. Whatever.

Are there special conditions/requirements that you have to surrender to in order to schedule this full European tour of 2022? I mean health/restrictive measures and the sort.

Yes. I mean, we still tried to tour whilst other bands didn't have the guts to go out and tour. So we faced a lot of problems and restrictions. I remember in Europe we had to have a sitting crowd. The crowd reacted in a highly interesting way. They didn't care, they went up to the front and we had a regular show with people going crazy. So that was a great experience to see that people are still hungry to do it, although with all the restrictions and all of this ridiculous stuff. We made it happen. We toured a lot over those restricted years while a lot of bands didn't tour. We still were able to do a lot of shows because we had the guts to go out. We knew a lot of things could get cancelled, but we still tried to make it and we made a lot of things happen so we're still here and we were one of the few bands that did a lot of shows during those years while a lot of other bands were really scared to go out and do it. We still believe in the power of our music. We try to do everything we can. We did what we could. As I said, we've done everything in our power to still be able to tour. There might be restrictions and people trying to screw things up and we constantly kept marching and we believe in the power of the message in the music and we try to still make everything happen but different countries, different cities all have their different laws and whatever, but we still went out and we tried to do it and we did a lot of things. So I think it was still a success for us to go out and do it. And when it comes to all these restriction measures I don't know what to believe and it's not my call to decide what's right and wrong. But we still got out and tried to do everything that we could and we did a full tour in 2021 and nobody got sick. Whatever. We still did it and we kept on marching, we kept on doing it.

Without discussing personal life and death choices, does Marduk have a defined opinion regarding the external requirements for the fans in order to attend shows? I mean, were you able to decide wether to play or not in certain cities where vaccination is mandatory? Do you have any opinion on this dreadful new “situation”?

I think I already said everything regarding that. We don't decide which cities to play, this is up to our booking agent to make the best in this situation. But I mean, we still went out and we did it. I am not the biggest fan of getting all this vaccine shit but I did it to be able to be out and do what I believe in, to be able to play and to perform and deliver what we do. So we had to bite that bullet. We did a lot of shows in that time period where we had sitting crowds, smaller crowds, but we still thought it's important to be one of the bands that still are out and do it and not to let ourselves be locked down by such a ridiculous situation. And how the whole world reacted, I mean ... I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in what I do, and if I die doing it, it doesn't matter.

A new line-up was put together during the past two and a half years with the inclusion of Simon on drums and Joel on bass. How did you choose them, and why? Will they be recording on the new album as well?

Things change, and we had a lot of line-up changes in this band over the years. For example, the drummer that we had at that time, Fredrik Widigs, decided to go and do something completely different in his life. I mean he had a master degree in architecture, so he wanted to become an architect, which is fine. He believes in that and he put a lot of energy when he was in the band and he just decided to do something different which is a natural progression in life, I would say. Same when it comes to our bass player Devo. He decided he wasn't really as much into touring as we do, and he decided to step down, which is fine, we all wanna do different things in life while the other guys in the band still wanted to focus and march across the world and do what we do and what we believe in. Of course it's hard to decide to change members but when it came down to it, for example changing our drummer, when Fredrik and I spoke about that, he was the guy who thought that Simon would be the perfect replacement for him so everything went really fast and smoothly. We just contacted Simon (Schilling) and he was free and he was really focused and determined to do it and to be a part of this band and step up to it. So it was a smooth thing and worked out very well. He's a very focused musician and we didn't even rehearse before we met up in Russia for the first dates together, so we just went out and did it and he was very well prepared and focused and he is on top of what he's doing. And also on a personal level he is perfect for completing how we are as a band, and as a person, so it was a very good move I would say. The same when it comes to the bass player replacement. We had a lot of time because Devo told me earlier that he wasn’t really as much into touring as we are and as I said replacing members is not always the easiest thing to do but you just have to trust your gut feeling and I just got back to Joel (Lindholm) who I got to know a few years ago when he played in another band, we met up in Holland where we played on a festival and we've been in contact ever since and he is a very competent guitar player and bass player as well and a strong and great personality as well so it was a worthy and smooth change to get him in the band as well. And I think it's been working out very well to choose people for the band and we are now preparing for the next recording and of course those guys will play on the upcoming album. It's a great pleasure to have them along and marching with us across the world.

Speaking about a new opus, please tell me if you have been recording any music during the past three years. Any concept for a new full-length that can be revealed?

Well, I don't want to say too much because we're not one of these bands that go out to say we have this and that material and we're going to do this and that and have a lot of photos during the studio time and whatever, you know, and all of that shit. Of course a new album is coming along as it's been a long time since the last one but we do not go out and explain things or put out a lot of info. People will be hearing about it when it's coming and everything is of course being prepared and when it's time to be delivered you will know. So I don't want to say much more about it as people will feel the power of it when it comes. During this down period with all the Covid-19 stuff since we all live spread out from each other we haven't really rehearsed or played together in that way; we all have been working on our material on our own sites. We all develop the stuff on our own and then we all meet together and we let everything fall into its right place. And the way that everything has been falling into its right place you will see when the album is coming. But as I mentioned earlier there’s really not a lot to say about it. People will feel the power of the album when it's coming.

Blooddawn Productions has been your own thing regarding production and music releases for a long time. Did you create it mainly as a tool for Marduk to release the astounding amount of live, EP, and compilation releases in limited physical formats? Are you planning a special release through Blooddawn before a new Marduk full length?

Blooddawn Productions was formed by me at the time we left Osmose Productions back in 1999. At that time we got a lot of offers from a lot of labels, many of the big labels. But at that time I thought we really wanted to do something that we are setting all the limits for. So I started Blooddawn Productions and it was mainly a thing for releasing Marduk stuff but it has always done a lot of other things as well and it started out as the main thing for Marduk. And we have always done different licensing deals for every album depending on where we see it fit to work. Except for Marduk, we have been doing stuff like Arditi and Puissance, industrial stuff, and a few other things as well. But there's a lot more things coming up actually right now. I won't tell too much but a lot of things are coming up. It’s good to have your own label to have control of what's coming out and what you want to do. It's a rather bizarre world with all the record labels, how they are pushing things and whatever. It's always good to have your own label and that's what I believe in. I would rather own all our recordings and do a licensing deal. That's the way I like it to work. I believe the musicians should be in control of what they are doing, not let any others tell you what to do. For us it's always been important for artistic freedom. I never want anybody or any label to say how we should do things or why. I mean, we are the artists, we know what we're doing. The same with everything in this band, we're pretty much a "do it yourself" band, I mean, we recorded the last 6 or 7 albums in the studio that was owned by our bass player and we produced the albums ourselves. We know how we want it. We have made the music, we have made the lyrics, we know how we want to leave it, we know the message. And nobody else is better at making it happen than we are. That's how we sort things out .

Last time I saw you perform live was in Argentina 2018 during the “Viktoria” tour. It was a strange night. I remember you delivered the goods onstage as usual but I was told that there was a “bad mood” since you arrived in South America. What happened back then?

Yes, that was a rather bizarre tour, because I think we never had that many problems as we had on that tour because of cancelled shows, because of local TV and local politicians were making a lot of problems with all this censorship bullshit. So it was a hard tour, I mean, I think we did 5 or 6 dates out of 15 planned, because of all these problems (Editor note: they played 9 out of 15 dates in South America, the major problem being a Colombian evangelical councilman and professional douchebag that facilitated the cancellation of Bogota’s gig thus creating major problems for the tour). So it was rather annoying and caused a bad mood. A lot of problems, but we overcame it and did the shows we could. I am very much looking forward to settling everything and marching across South America in the future, probably after the next album is out.

All four vocalists that fronted and front Marduk know how to deliver at the top of their game and have became legendary in their own right. Would you guide the reader through a brief account of how they became part of the band and what have they contributed to the house sound (in your ears), and under what circumstances have they departed?

They all had their different styles and unique approach. I remember the first vocalist Andreas (Axelsson) who sang on the demo tape and the first album “Dark Endless“, he had his own distinctive vocals, but I said it, people have a tendency to change, and he's changed a lot, and we were going into so many different directions, we didn't really want to have him in the band anymore, so we decided to get rid of him right before we recorded the second album "Those Of The Unlight". But he still had a unique voice and a great impact and great inspiration back in those days; I think he's been a very important part in Marduk's career. Then we had Joakim (Götberg) taking over the vocals, who was drumming before. It was a rather primitive way how he ended up being the vocalist, we were preparing for the second album and we hadn't decided yet who should do the vocals. We went into the studio and recorded all the music, and then I had all the lyrics written and Joakim did a tryout, he just tried out to do the vocals and we thought he had a very good voice and a good feeling so he ended up being the vocalist AND the drummer at that time. I don't believe in having a drummer as a vocalist at the same time so we just decided to keep Joakim as just the vocalist and keep getting a new drummer instead. That was an amazingly great time as well and I think he did a great job as a vocalist and as a personality. But it was the same thing; we wanted to tour more and more and he didn't really want to put it in and do the same thing as we did. And also at that time we got to know Legion (Erik Hagstedt) who at that time was singing in a Swedish band called Ophthalamia. We became really good friends and I just had a gut feeling that he was what we were looking for to take the next step as a band and keep on marching and getting into new territories. So we had a great friendship and a great time in the working years he was in the band, but as it is with people, he had change over the years, and he wanted to focus on other things. So there was a mutual agreement that we should separate and we should get another vocalist. At that time it was very important for me to get a vocalist that was not just a copy of Legion. And I remember at that time Funeral Mist had just released "Salvation" and I thought that Arioch's (Daniel Rostén, aka Mortuus) vocal appearance was something really unique. He uses his voice more as an instrument than just being a vocalist. And the vocal patterns, everything... I think it was an amazing album and an amazing vocalist so that's the only guy that I really wanted for the band. So we got in contact with him and he ended up joining Marduk and he's been with us ever since.

With Mortuus being a multi instrumentalist, has he or you had any desire at all for him to play an instrument in the band and sing at the same time? Was that ever discussed or offered between you two?

Yes, there have been a few discussions over the years but that's more like 12 or 13 years ago about maybe having Mortuus playing an instrument AND sing but the way he uses his voice, and the appearance and everything I think it's far better having a vocalist just doing the vocals and focus on that. And also, people keep on asking if we should have a second guitar player as well, which I sometimes think would be good, but I don't want to ruin the atmosphere and the feeling in the band and become a five-piece band again. I mean, it feels great to be a four-piece. Everybody's focused and delivers the best. We're having the best line-up we can have as a band. Every member is unique in his own way and I wouldn't want to have anybody else coming in. It's a unit. This is the Marduk legion of today, this is what it is!

I believe that with “Opus Nocturne”, the third album, the band started to craft the war-machine black metal sound that today you can confidently blaze forth in each release. Would you agree with that? How much of that “crafting of the sound” was intentional, or just a natural unfolding as the years went by?

I think that we have already created the sound. All of the albums that we've done are the pillars that we stand upon as a band, and all are equally important with their different stories, different approach, different spiritualism; they are all unique in their own way. So I don't know. As the years have passed by I would consider all the albums very spiritual in their own way.

Wars, history, and the deeds of men around those topics emerged a bit later if we talk about the lyricism of the band. What can you tell us about your deepest connections with these themes? Are you a history buff? Which are your favourite military/belligerent periods that you like to read and also write about?

Over the years of course history has had an impact on me as a person and us as a band. We have been inspired by historical happenings and always believed in writing the soundtrack to certain happenings. I think it suits what we are doing. It's hard to speak about connection with the themes. You will have a different personal interest... well, of course I'm a history buff and I think it's great to be able to write the soundtrack to a lot of happenings. I think it just comes naturally. We started out doing a lot of historical things, I mean if I go back to "Those Of The Unlight" which at the very beginning was very J.R.R. Tolkien‘s "Lord Of The Rings" inspired, but 2 or 3 days before we went in to do the album I had cut out 6 or 7 of the lyrics and decided not to use them because I didn't want to end up too far away from my spiritual belief at that time. So I kept all of that stuff for a project that I had in mind to come later on, which never happened. But I mean, on "Opus Nocturne'' and later on "Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered” when we went into the whole Vlad Dracul theme it was interesting to write the soundtrack to the man behind the myth because it's far more interesting than the Hollywood things, I would say. I mean, we have done a lot of military stuff and it probably started out even before that. But "Panzer Division Marduk '' was of course very much a Word War II inspired album, a theme that we have gone back to many times and probably will do again. For me it's just a fascinating era, when every part comes down to everything about politics, equipment, whatever, so when you are fascinated by something it becomes natural to write the soundtrack to those happenings and I just let the energy flow. And it takes me where it takes me and there are a lot of other historical things that some people might not have really discovered or understood and I don't think I will have to explain them. People have to discover it their own way later on. So, a lot of different things. I have no real favourite military period or whatever. For me it all goes in periods. I mean, I read about all these different historical periods and I dig into one thing, then I dig into another, then I go back to what I used to read. I don't know how to explain it, whatever turns into music something grips you more and it creates music in your head, while some don't create music in my head. Some might create music in my head that probably doesn't work for Marduk but it's been a huge inspiration with history. That's the way it is.

I’m not going to go with the obvious “pick your favourite albums” question, out of a discography of fourteen full-lengths, but instead I would like to know which Marduk albums do you think has “upgraded” or lifted the band to another level, and why?

Wow... Well, that's hard to say because as I said earlier, I think about all of the albums that we have done, I think are equally important. All are a pillar which we stand upon as a band but of course you always have your favourite ones but then being in a band and being through all of them it's hard to describe a favourite one or on which one we upgraded because they all mean very much to me. “Those Of The Unlight” was a great album at that time but they are all equally important. But I remember doing "Panzer Division Marduk" was a shock to a lot of people because at that time it was very intense. I think we had a bit of a slower moment, for example the "Le Grande Danse Macabre" album, which I think is very good but it could have been better. But it was the end of that line-up and we already knew in the studio that this would be the last album we would do with Fredrik as a drummer, because I think he lost his momentum and interest for being in the band. So that ruined a lot of that album. Well, "World Funeral” came after it was a strong fist in your face even though I look back at it sounds a bit too plastic. But overall I think the album is a great representation of Marduk of that time and I think it's an album that stands the test of time. And also "Plague Angel” which came right after, with the line-up change we had, especially looking upon the vocalist change, I think it created really hard hitting fears, a devoted, really violent album. I don't know what else to say. And after that, all the albums we have done step into the direction of our personalities. They represent us as who we are in the band and what we stand for.

Six albums have been released so far with Devils Whorehouse/Death Wolf, your other projects. What does that band add to your artistic expression that makes it necessary for you, apart from Marduk? Your Danzig worship is still intact? Hehe...

Well, Devils Whorehouse started out as a Misfits cover band. We did a few shows, recorded a mini album and then we started doing our own material, you know, right in the vein of Misfits/Samhain that was later on developed and we thought we outgrew the name. So we changed the name to Death Wolf and went in a heavier direction. We've been doing a few albums and more are to come. For me, to do something completely different music-wise brings even more inspiration back to creating stuff with Marduk just to do something different. Well, you have a lot of different inspirations and different angles and stuff that don’t work for your main band (like it doesn't work for Marduk) so then you find a different way for you to do those things and it ends up being side projects. I think Glenn Danzig is one of the most fascinating, strong minded individuals and greatest musicians that there has ever been. He has lived to create a lot of different genres and if you look at everything, what Misfits was, what Samhain was, what Danzig was, it's amazing, you know that he is one of the best, strong minded characters we had in the music scene.

Long before IT’s passing, Abruptum already relied only on your hands, I believe entirely as a one-man band (correct me if I am wrong) since the year 2000. Once in a while something gets released. How come you decided to carry it on by yourself and keep the band alive? Is it a necessity to keep on exploring a more experimental musical landscape? Did you remain in contact with IT during this entire time that you carried on alone with Abruptum?

When it comes to Abruptum well, IT (Tony Särkkä, RIP 2017) decided he wanted to move into a completely different direction with his life, and he still wanted the band to continue and left the legacy to me. It has been working since. And who else is in the band or whatever it's not that will be ever spread or delivered to the public, because it doesn't really matter, it's more than a band, it's a statement, it's a state of mind, whoever is in the band or whoever has been participating in recordings, I don't think it will ever be known. It's just not a band that we put up a lot of information about, but, there's still a few recorded albums to be coming out in the near future with some very interesting stuff. And yes, I was staying in contact with him (IT) all the time until he went off. And as I said: keeping the band alive was a promise to Euronymous, it was a promise to IT. So there's a meaning to keep the band alive because it was such a unique thing. Therefore, it will still live.

Since I don’t like to go over the usual subject over and over, I will try to go into this topic with a different angle: why do you think that exist people who try to censor art? It’s kind of stupid to even consider to censor the highest form of free expression. In my opinion, it is something that should only be filtered by the taste and interpretation of the listener, in the case of music. Obviously, this goes for the never ending issue between Marduk and Antifa, social justice warriors in general and weirdos like that... because of the topics of war and violence, fortunately themes that are always present and also having a defining role in the history of the band.

I think that we have had our fair share of that problem (censorship) over the years. I'm sure we will have it in the future as well. It just shows the nature of simple minded people and whatever. I don't even really care. They can boycott, they can censor, they can screw things up. I will still continue to do what I believe in and keep doing my vision. It is what it is. I don't put energy into it, it's not worth it. If people are that low-minded, let them be. Whatever. I still will overcome and we'll crush it. You just have to believe in what you do. We'll keep on marching. I don't really care. I rather focus on my own creations. I think we had problems with censorship from day one, from the cover of our first demo tape we had our problems, and we had it massively. You just have to overcome it. What can we do? There will always be idiots around...

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