THROUGH THE DEADLANDS WITH MADDER MORTEM


Updated: 05/09/03

Madder Mortem is a Norwegian metal band whose gloomy music and dynamic female vocalist are getting them known all over the world. Deadlands is their third release, and with just one listen, itís an aural experience youíll never forget. Together with the disturbing cover artwork by former member Christian Ruud (who has since left to pursue an education as a graphic designer), Madder Mortem leaves a lasting impression. Let lead vocals Agnette M. Kirkevaag take you on a tour through the DeadlandsÖ

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Madder Mortem, and how long the band has been together.
Well, my name is Agnete M. Kirkevaag, Iím 26 years old and generally a nice person. In Madder Mortem I sing, make songs with my fellow musicians, write lyrics and anything else that might need doing. The very first beginning was back in 1993, then under the name of Mystery Tribe, the first solid line-up came together in 1997, along with the name Madder Mortem, and the current line-up has been together since 2000 and the recording of our second album, All Flesh Is Grass.

Where is the band from in Norway and what is the current music scene like there?
Weíre all from different towns in a part of Norway called Hedmark, but our main base is Nord-Odal, where me and BP grew up and our rehearsal room is. Nord-Odal is approx an hour from Oslo, and apart from us, there arenít any bands that do more than local gigs. This might have something to do with a population of 5.400 peopleÖ.

Describe the music of Madder Mortem to someone who has never heard it before.
Heavy, gloomy and melodic weirdness, with an aftertaste of aggression, spite and hopelessness, made to satisfy our own musical needs.

What bizarre cover art! Who is the artist and how much input did you have on the final artwork? What does it represent? I understand the artist use to be in the band.
The cover artist is Christian Ruud, guitar player on Mercury, our first release, and one of our best friends. (He left the band when he moved away to start his education as a graphic designer.) The artwork is pretty much Christianís visualization of the music and the lyrics, so this is a taste of what the deadlands could look and feel like.

We started working on the cover art at the same time as the first song for the album was finished, so itís been a long process. Our input has definitely been there, but more in the way of trying to explain the concept and ideas behind the music and lyrics than in actual visual ideas. Since weíve known each other for a long, long time, and Christian really understands the music as well, it easily gives us the result we want: Cover art that compliments and adds to the album as an artistic entity.

How did your tour with Opeth go? Any usually happenings while out on the road with these guys?
The tour was absolutely great. As far as I can judge, the response we got from the audience was very good, and I do think we made some new friends and converts. Socially speaking, it was far beyond anything we could have hoped for. The Opeths are amazing, both as a band and as persons, and I really missing having their special brand of humour around.

Unusual happenings? No, not really. There was the occasional party, but much of the nice stuff consists of inside jokes that wouldnít really make sense for anybody who wasnít there at the time.

How much of an aggravation is it touring with a bunch of guys? Are you stuck in a van with the whole lot of them while on the road?
Oh, I donít see it as an aggravation at all. Iím pretty used to having my fellow Madders around all the time anyhow, and this far, the bands weíve toured with have been very nice to us and well behaved. I tend to hang around with males most of the time, probably because of my main interest being music of the heavy kind, so itís basically as being at home, except for the lack of a proper bed and a clean bathroom. Also, weíve been lucky enough to get on the nightliner for both our tours, so the comfort is far greater than what I imagine it would be in a tiny little van filled with metalheads. The only thing that occasionally bothers me, is the smellÖ. tour feet have a very peculiar and prominent smell, and eating often fascinatingly strange food every day does wonders for the air in the bunk area.

The vocals are the album are remarkable! Have you had any vocal training and who are some of your influences?
Thank you! Well, Iíve done a tiny bit of classical training, but the most important thing for my voice has been being in a band and rehearsing as often as possible. Some of the singers that have been really important to me, are Mike Patton, Annie Lennox, Dalbello, James Hetfield and Chris Cornell. Musically, some of them are far from Madder Mortem, but theyíve all got a lot of personality in what theyíre doing, which is very important to me. I also love the way Neurosis do vocals; the screaming sounds like it comes from the very bottom of their souls and lends a very special brand of anguish to their records.

So what exactly is a Madder Mortem and why is Mortem so seemingly mad?
(Hehe, Iím very tempted to reply ĒA smallish crocodile from the southern part of Norway, who tends to eat jellyfish and get grumpy from the lack of taste.Ē)

To keep it serious: Madder is a deep red/purple colour, named from the plant itís made from. Mortem is latin for death. To point out some of the symbolics: Red is the colour of life, passion, anger, fire, blood; anything vibrant and energetic. Death is the ultimate lack of activity, the silence to drown it all out. Itís two contradictory and contrasting ideas, but nevertheless linked, and I think it fits our music well.

Where do you get the ideas for some of the lyrics on Deadlands?
They all stem from the very private sections of my head; all the stuff Iím refusing to share with anybody. Iím in many ways a cheery and sociable person, but thereís a deeper vein where thereís a suspicious, malicious and unforgiving regent whoís tired to death with their own and othersí little lies and inconsequences, who believes that all good does wither and die, and is tiring of the joke. On bad day, I can analyze any gesture until itís rendered meaningless or spiteful, which is a pretty sure way of ending up miserable.

For the style and phrasing of the lyrics, Necropol Lit set the theme for the rest of the record. It was the first lyric finished, and it made me want to tie all the songs to the same idea, sort of nine angles, nine views of the Deadlands.

Imagine the moment when you have total knowledge that no one will ever pick you up or extend a hand, and youíre too exhausted and numbed to really care. The landscape and population of the deadlands is a physical and visual representation of that state of mind. Iíll have to quote myself on this, since this is the best Iíve ever managed to describe it:

ďImagine a stone desert. The air is stale and without movement, but cold. The light is constant and somewhere between dark and day, and there is no movement anywhere, nor has there ever been. Everything is coated with a thin layer of a dust that looks and feels filthy, and you know that if you open your mouth for one breath or make any kind of movement, this dust will cling to you and coat your tongue. Nothing has ever lived here, nothing has ever died here, but instead is motionlessly waiting to desiccate and dissolve and become a part of the ever-present dust.

Somewhere in this landscape is a city, where the stone buildings loom over the broad avenues. This is the Necropol, brightly lit for no purpose other than to drive the point home, and here reigns a disappointment and a lack of belief that is greater than hopelessness, stronger than distrust and more patient than any illusion.Ē

What do you think of the Black Metal movement your country is so famous for, and about Varg Vikernes in particular?
The Black Metal movement gave us quite a few really great bands, which Iím very thankful for. Other than that, I donít really care. Iím not very fond of any kind of movements or sects, and the uniformity and the closemindedness that seemed to be some of the trademarks of the early black metal scene, is completely at odds with my way of thinking. I certainly donít approve of the burning of beautiful buildings, especially since I believe it strengthened the church in Norway (I would very much like to see the Norwegian church lose influence and be separated from the state). Then again, it has turned out to opened some new musical directions, and the impression I have of the Black Metal scene is of a scene partly commercialised and standardized, but also one of the major points of origin of creativity and originality in metal these days.

Mr. Vikernes has turned into a nazi, promoting fascist ideas and racial purity. Those are ideas totally opposite to everything I am and believe, and I have no respect for his opinions at all. Iím very sad that this person happens to have made some of the most brilliant black metal releases.

Describe a live Madder Mortem show for those of us in the States who have yet to see you play?
Pretty intense. If we have a concentrated audience, I think it is a moving experience, both for us and the audience. Weíre not an especially handsome band, we have no special visual effects or gimmicks. We bang our heads where it feels right, we play as good as we possibly can, and apart from that, we just try to concentrate on communicating the music and the feelings behind it as well as it deserves. Since the live situation is something we really love, youíll probably see us grinning quite a bit as well. I think we recreate the nuances from the albums in a good manner, and the situation and the presence of an audience makes it all intense. I think that if we ever get to the point where we can headline for large audiences of Madder Mortem fans, itíll be a truly unique and almost scary experience.

Has Madder Mortem ever played here in the States and/or is there any chance of you coming over to do some shows?
Weíve never played in the States; in fact, I think none of us have ever been outside Europe. We desperately want to come over and play, but there hasnít been a chance yet. Transatlantic flights are really expensive, but we might be going to Mexico this summer, and weíre hoping there could be a possibility to do some gigs in the US as well. Other than that, weíre just waiting for the opportunity!

What are the future plans for Madder Mortem?
Weíre doing some Norwegian festivals (actually, we played the Inferno festival in Oslo on Saturday the 19th), but apart from that, weíre planning to concentrate on getting a new album started. We donít want to delay any longer in at least starting the process, and since weíve been pretty busy ever since the release of Deadlands, we need a bit of concentration and silence to get to work. If the process goes as quickly and smoothly as for Deadlands, we hope to have a new album out within a year from now, but the music must be free to develop at its own pace, so itís dangerous to promise or predict.

Do you have any messages for metal fans here in the States?
I hope weíll be able to see you on tour in the relatively near future! Apart from that, check out our website, http://www.maddermortem.com, and please leave a message in our guestbook and tell us what you think of what weíre doing. And love music just for musicís sake!


MADDER MORTEM LINKS

MADDER MORTEM: Their Official Home Page!
THE END RECORDS: The US Record Label for Madder Mortem!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!

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