Interview with Marcus Norman - February 23rd, 2005

On February 23rd 2005 (being snowed in here in the Alp Mountain region) I used the opportunity to phone Marcus Norman in the “Ballerina Audio” studio outside of Umeå, “brutally interrupting” ;-) the recodings for the new Naglfar album. You might know him as a member of Naglfar, but he`s involved in a lot of other bands and projects as well, the most familiar probably are “Bewitched” and “Ancient Wisdom”, or “Havayoth” (with A. Hedlund of Vintersorg on the vocals). The main reason to talk to Marcus now, is his last brilliant release with Ancient Wisdom “Cometh doom, cometh death” (see album review in the reviews section!), but of course we also talked a bit about Naglfar and Havayoth later on in the interview. I´ll spare you the warming-up-part at the beginning of the phone call… let´s enter right to the subject! ((As always > comments in double brackets are personal comments of me for a better understanding.))

Twilightheart (=“T”) > So, let´s start to talk about your last album (“Cometh doom, cometh death”) with “Ancient Wisdom”.

Marcus (= “M”) > Yeah.

T > At first I wonder… you know, there were a lot of difficulties with your label to publish the album. Why is that? Why did it take so long? I remember it was so difficult to get it. Not in the shops… but only by mail order.

M > I don`t know. That´s a thing that has annoyed me a lot as well, because practically the album is impossible to find. The previous albums were proberly distributed. I don`t know what happened with the new one. Since it was released it totally dissapeared, so it´s really kind of weird, you know, since I´ve been working on it for quite a long time and no one is able to get it.

T > It´s very unfortunate, because it´s very good.

M > Thank you.

T > Since I have it, it runs so often in my CD player.

M > Thank you very much.

T > So many people should have it, but no one knows about it.

M > The whole promotion has been quite lame as well. It haven`t had things like ads in magazines or anything and so. I need to have a serious discussion with the label.

T >Why don`t you just change the label?

M > I don´t know, I´ve been working with “Avantgarde” since 1993, I guess, 12 years to go or so.

T > Was it an Italian label?

M > Yeah.

T > How did you get in contact with them? I mean, why not a Swedish label or maybe a German one?

M > I don`t know. The thing is that Anders Nyström of Katatonia (“Blakkheim”), he was in contact with Avantgarde back in 1992/ 93, something like that, and he told me that the guys of Avantgarde really liked the first Ancient Wisdom demo tape, and I was just interested in releasing the first album, so I´ve never really sent the demo tape to any labels. You know, it was my first demo recording, so I was just happy to see that somebody was interested , so… you know… I was completely new in this recording industry as well.

T > And are you thinking about changing the label for the next record?

M > I don`t know. I haven´t really thought about it. I´ve been working on some new material now, and I guess when the time comes to record it I need to have a discussion  with the label and see what the future might bring.

T > OK… then… I have the cover of “Cometh doom, cometh death” here in my hands and I´d like to talk about the design of the cover.

M > Yeah.

T > I see… ähm… if I wouldn`t know, what it is about, and would see the record in the store, I would not have the idea that it´s Black Metal, I would rather think it´s … I don`t know… maybe christian metal…  with all this > what is it? > The Madonna with the holy child? > looks like a “christian metal” cover, haha.

M > Yeah, it´s definitely this. And that was my intention as well. If you look closely, then there´s like a lense on the cover that is covering the face of the Madonna, if you  look closely you can see that her face is kind of twisted…

T > Yeah, it´s a bit evil…

M > So, my personal interpretation of that piece is like that, because also in this lense you can see a seal, which is a seal of Lucifer (like 2 circles with some symbols) and for me that album represents that evil is everywhere, in disguise, you know. Even though it´s the Madonna and the child and it looks so innocent and so pure, there´s still a twisted darkness behind it that surrounds everything, you know… evil is everywhere, so to speak.

T > And the rest of the cover is just like surreal … ähm…

M > … just surreal art.

T > And on the back of the cover is a picture of you with a skull. Is it a REAL skull, by the way?

M > Yep.

T > Did you borrow it from Kris ((Olivius)) or do you also collect bones and skulls?

M > Actually that`s mine. Some crazy fan sent it to me like 7 or 8 years ago, and I kept it ever since, you know. You find it on a lot of photos. It goes through several albums, it´s always the same … for instance on the Bewitched albums… it´s always the same skull… we have used it quite a lot.

T > But wait, it still has teeth! Can`t be a real one then, can it!?

M > Oh yes! But they`re falling out, so we have to glue them sometimes.

T > Haha, okay. Now I´ve lost the topic. Where have I been? Oh yes > how are you personally satisfied with your album? Is the feeling alright or maybe you are one of those artists, who are never really satisfied?

M > No, I´m never TOTALLY satisfied. But… yeah… it turned out pretty much the way I wanted it to. The only thing that I can feel right now is.. that…you know… I recorded it by myself in my own studio, and after I recorded the album I got completely new recording equipment … it would have sounded much much better, if I would have recorded it NOW… but yeah, I´m satisfied with it.

T > Do you have the recording studio in your house, at home?

M > Yeah, in my appartment. I have some of the equipment here in the studio as well ((Ballerina Audio)), as you know we are doing some vocal arrangements on the pre-production for the new Naglfar album, so I have brought some stuff of my equipment.

T > Why can´t you record the whole Naglfar album in your studio at home?

M > Because I live in an appartment, you know. Recording drums would annoy my neighbours… ähm… you know…

T > Okay, I see. Next question. I´ve noticed that your Black Metal is quite different from everything that`s around in the music scene at the moment. You know, many bands just try to be really loud and grim to be “evil”… and then they call it Black Metal. And yours is much more deep and melodic… and dark… and you can slowly transfer it into your inner self… ähm, do you know what I mean?

M > Yeah, definitely.

T > And so I wonder how that “style” has developed and why you`re not taking part in that “be loud and act grim”-trend.

M > I don`t know… it´s kind of hard to explain why Ancient Wisdom sounds the way it does. But I know, when I started the band back in 1992 the big thing was like, you know, “Swedish Death Metal”, that kind of stuff, and I wanted to really get away from that and do something slow, something more melancholic  in a way.

And Ancient Wisdom has always been about creating dark musical landscapes in a way, make the listener drift away on a tragic journey.

T > That´s what`s always happening to me when I listen to it.

M > Then I succeeded in a way, I guess.

T > And where do you take your inspiration from for music like this?

M > I don`t know. I listen quite a lot to movie soundtracks (like for instance “Hellraiser”) and all the classical music, because I really enjoy the atmosphere and the structure of classical music… just working a lot with the atmosphere and the dynamics and stuff like that, and that`s something I always wanted to do with Ancient Wisdom as well… yeah, just drift away with the music, it´s kind of hard to explain.

T > And the inspiration for the lyrics? I mean, normally people who write lyrics like that are very angry people, you know what I mean?

M > Yeah.

T > But… ähm… is there any reason for you to complain in your life, that you write lyrics like that?

M > You know, there are always things to complain about and to get upset about… so… that source of inspiration really never runs out. Just, for instance, I´m taking the bus and listening to other people`s conversations about NOTHING, you know,  just makes me damn them. Most people are so empty, and they`ve got nothing… they are just like flesh and blood, nothing more. And that`s like my main inspiration , that people don`t think anymore… they are just going along with the flow and doing their shit, and I don`t get that… there has to be something more important to life than that.

T > What is that for you, that thing = more important?

M > The most important thing for me is the end. The end of everything.  And that`s what I strive for, and that is keeping me going, … my phantasies and my urge to see everything collapse.

T > Aha… okay.

By the way... you talked about the demo tapes in the beginning of the interview. Is there still a chance to listen to the stuff somewhere?

M > The Ancient Wisdom demo tapes?

T > Yeah.

M > Yeah, actually … I don`t know if you have the first Ancient Wisdom album (“For snow covered the Northland”)?

T > Yes, I have it.

M > The last 2 songs on that one, they are from the first demo tape. You know, the whole layout and everything with that album is totally messed up, there are song titles missing (if you noticed) and the 2 last songs on that one were supposed to be released on a 7-inch, but when I sent the mastertape to the label they just have misunderstood everything, so when I got the CD the demo tracks were included to that album as well… so…

T > Ah, so it wasn`t your choice…

M > Oh no. But the thing is, I´m working on a couple of new songs right now and I´ve been thinking of recording like 3 new songs and then include both demo tapes, as I got some really good rehearsing material with songs that have never been released , and I have got some live clips from back in 1994… trying to do some exclusive limited edition , whatever, just this old material is going to take part of it.

T > And will you ever go on tour again with Ancient Wisdom?

M > I was supposed to play a gig in my hometown with Ancient Wisdom in the beginning of April, but …

T > THIS April?

M > Yeah, but since the Naglfar tour kicks off in April, I have to take part in the Naglfar tour as well, so it´s a bit sad, because I had the opportunity to perform with a full symphonic orchestra, and I will never get that chance again! But… what the hell!?!

T > Oh shit! But can`t you do it at the beginning of the month and THEN go on tour with Naglfar?

M > No, because the rehearsals with the symphonical orchestra  would last for over 1 week and everything, and since we are doing the recordings of the album as well, I didn`t have the time to rehearse with the other members, the session members I would use for.

T > Which musicians would you like to join the live line up for Ancinet Wisdom?

M > Oh, it´s hard to say. The people I talked to for this… Andreas ((Nilsson)) would do the second guitar since he played guitar in the beginning of Ancient as well, and then Kris with the hand on the bass , and then another guy that played drums in a band called “Satariel” ((, that guy would play the drums. I will see what happens, I really wanna play live again with Ancient, because it´s been 9 years ago, it´s about time to do it again.

T > So you enjoy being on tour, in general…

M > Yeah. This kind of music I think it was meant to be played live, as well. Maybe not too specifically Ancient Wisdom, in a way I find it to be maybe a bit too slow to be performed live… but then, I think it could work in a way if you got a great visual concept with great lightning and stuff like that, just to get a great mood for it.

T > I think I saw some old concert photos of that. But I´m not sure if it wasn´t Bewitched. But it was that kind of atmosphere, you know, very dark…with some lights…

M > With the candles?

T > Yeah.

M > That`s Bewitched… so…

T > Ah… okay. So what was the last tour for you? It was the one with Naglfar, or?

M > Yeah, the last tour, it was just a short one with “Into Eternity”, just a couple of days, I wouldn`t really call it a tour, but the last real one I did was in 1997, so I´m really looking forward to this tour in April now.

T > What are your best tour memories from the past? Or the worst…

M > Oh, it´s a hard question. Like the best live memory I got, I must say, it´s actually TWO. When we played in Japan with Naglfar, that was amazing, everything about it, because we never played in Japan before. That`s been a great experience. And the crowd is amazing.

And in 1999 we played Mexico City with Bewitched, and that was also really really so cool, because the fans are so dedicated.

T > I heared that about Brazilian fans (being extremely dedicated). But I don´t know if you`ve been to Brazil before.

M > Not yet. Hopefully during 2005 we will go there. I heared a lot of great stuff about the Brazilian fans as well, so, I really wanna play there as soon as possible.

T > Hm, what about the worst tour memories?

M > Actually there have never been any real problems. OK, we had nights when sounds have been bad or something. That happens! We never had anything really bad. Well… actually ONE! It´s been with Bewitched in 1997 I think. We were supposed to play a festival in France. And when we arrived to the hotel, we met one of the guys who worked for “Osmose”, since we were signed to them back then, and he told us that the organizers didn`t even have a location for the gig, … so…

T > Oh my g….

M > Still it was a great weekend, because we spent the weekend with the guy from Osmose and had some beers and had a good time… still it was a good memory.

T > But at least you had a hotel room!

M > Yeah, that was good.

T > Others just have to sleep in their tour busses all the time.

M > Sometimes you`re lucky.

T > In the booklet of the CD I do not find any information about who played the other instruments on the record.

M > I did everything by myself.

T > Everything?

M > Yeah…

T > So you play a lot of instruments…

M > Oh yeah, I do my best. Meanwhile I do consider myself to be a guitar player, but I´ve been playing piano for a couple of years and I´ve been studying music for 5 years, when I went to school… and I played the piano quite a lot…

T > So you started to practise very early in your childhood?

M > No, I wouldn`t say that. I think I started playing guitar when I was maybe… oh… when did I start playing the guitar?… I don`t know, I might have been maybe 11? Something like that… 11 or 12.

T > I would call that early.

M > Oh well, early for me is when you hear that people started playing the piano at like 4. But my parents didn´t force me to do that.

T > Oh… I have a question for the guitar freaks among my readers > what kind of guitar are you playing at the moment?

M > Well, I´m sticking to my old “Gibson X-plorer”. I have had that one for like 8 years.

T > Is it sponsored by anyone?

M > No, I bought it myself. I´ve been in contact with Gibson and trying to get them to conduce me, but… you know… they don`t seem that interested.

T > And what`s the guitar of your dreams (to own one day)?

M > Oh, actually the only thing I want is another Gibson X-plorer… I wanna have 2.

T > What`s so special about this one?

M > I don´t know. I tried maybe 10 different guitars before I bought this one. I have a guitar for maybe 1 year before I buy another one. But when I bought this one, there´s never been any problems with it. Usually the old guitars I have I played it for maybe a couple of rehearsals , then it broke a string or then it broke a string live, and other things. But with this one I never have any problems… it´s just pure perfection.

T > OK, to a different matter again!

Why (in the beginning of this band) … I heared you first called it “Ancient”, then “Ancient Wisdom”, why did you chose a name like this? I mean, it associates with maybe rather “Viking metal” than with BM… the word “ancient” I mean…

M > Oh… that was a long time ago…

T > So you would chose a different name today if you could?

M > No, I consider “Ancient Wisdom” to be the perfect name for the band, because for me it has all the important parts from what this band is all about, you  know, with the lyrics and everything… it reflects my own thoughts about this world.

T > You also play in Naglfar, Bewitched and so on. Are there any other side projects you work on at the moment, where we don`t know about yet? Some surprises maybe?

M > Oh yes. I got a lot of stuff going on as usual. Me and Kris got a Black Metal Thrash Industrial thing going on as well.

T > What`s it called?

M > We haven`t decided for the moment. We´ve got like 3 songs finished ….

T > In Swedish language?

M > No … in English. But we haven`t decided for a name yet… so… but we try to record a full-length during this year. And also I´m doing a lot of instrumental music and see what happens with that. I don`t know what to use it for…

T > And why don´t you sing in Swedish sometimes?

M > I´ve never been a fan of that really, because I spend a lot of time with my music and my lyrics and I want as many people as possible to understand everything.

T > Now there`s something else. I told someone I would ask you about this again. > How far are you with the Havayoth CD = the new one? Because that guy has told me, he mailed you some weeks ago and you told him, that in 2005 you hope you will be able to publish it, but you can`t say anything concrete.

M > Yeah… I don`t KNOW really! The thing is, we`re still having problems with Hammerheart going… or Karmageddon, or whatever they are called right now…

T > Karmageddon!

M > Yeah. You know, they are being a bunch of fuckers. It´s all up to them, you know. They`ve been treating us like complete assholes. I´ve got like 8 or 9 songs ready, so I´m just waiting to solve the business side of everything, and then we`ll start recording the album.

T > Why did they treat you like assholes?

M > No, but they`ve just been making a lot of problems. When the first album was released they didn`t do anything for us and they owed us money and blablabla and they didn`t pay. And then we decided “Okay, we`ll leave and go and search for another label” and they said “Yeah, that´s okay”. And then we got in contact with another label and when they heared about this, that we`ve got new material going, they contacted us like: “No, you still owe us 1 album according to the contract” and blabla. I don`t know what their problem is. I don`t really care as long as we get to record the new album, because that`s the most important thing.

T > So you really have that kind of contract over more than 1 record.

M > We just had a 2-album-deal. So we`re going to record this new album and get rid of Karmageddon.

T > Have you already recorded everything for the new Havayoth, also the vocals and everything?

M > Yes, I´ve recorded everything, I´m doing the vocals. It´s just a pre-production, so that Andreas ((Hedlund / of Vintersorg)) can listen to the songs and…

T > So he will do the vocals again…

M > Yes, of course.

T > Ah, cool!

M > I´m not really a vocalist.

T > Oh, I woudn`t say so. Okay, maybe not for that kind of music with those clean vocals. That brings me to another question about vocals… on a different field thou’ > why did you chose KRIS to do the vocals for Naglfar now? Why not… ähm… you, or whoever!?

M > That’s just natural! Because he`s been doing a lot of back-up vocals for the albums, and also doing a lot of back-up vocals live, so his voice has always been involved in Naglfar, so for us it was a natural thing to do, to give him the opportunity to do it whole-hearted. He´s a great vocalist.

T > So he wanted that? Or did you persuade him?

M > No, it was natural for us to continue that way.

T > And, is he doing a great job?

M > Oh yes. It sounds really really good.

T > I´m sooo curious about it…. but I know… you`re not allowed to say something…

M > Of course we`re not…

T > Is there any chance that Jens will return …in … whatever… 2 years or something?

M > It´s impossible to say. Nothing is impossible, but it´s impossible to say. I think his studies will last for 2 years… and when he`s done with that we`ll see what happens.

T > Because as far as I understood, he just quit only because of time problems, not because he didn`t like it.

((At the time of this interview the statement of Jens about his reasons etc. wasn´t published yet on www.naglfar .net …))

M > Yeah, it was a mutual agreement between us, since he couldn`t face that 100% with Naglfar, he couldn`t tour… we had to deal with it, because we couldn`t wait for 2 years for him to finish his studies. We have to continue, record the new album and touring and so.

T > And how is the new guy doing?

M > Ah, he`s doing fine.

T > I don`t remember his name, sorry.

M > Morgan.

T > How did you find him?

M > He´s been a friend of ours for I don`t know how many years. I´ve known him since maybe like 8 or 10 years. Because you know, Umeå is a quite small town. So everybody knows everybody.

T > Small? I heared that 100 000 people live there.

M > Yeah, 120 000, something like that.

T > That´s not what I would call small!

M > No, but the thing is that everybody who is involved in that kind of music, every of them knows about each other.

T > So the musicians know each other you mean.

M > Yeah.

T > And he`s a great live musician as well?

M > Yes. He´s really really talented. It will be revealed soon for all to see.

T > I know. In April I will see you in Germany on tour… I think.

And… are you allowed to say anything about the recordings at the moment? I suppose the next Naglfar album will be more misanthropic than the last?

M > Yeah, it´s just a natural progression from the Sheol album I would say. It´s a lot more professional, more intense… in my opinion just better. Because we`ve been working on these songs for a long time and it feels really really good. And right now we`ve finished all the guitars and we`ve started with the vocals.

T > Will you do some backing vocals?

M > No.

T > Will there be non, or is it all Kris doing?

M > Yeah, Kris is doing it all, because his voice is very very unique and he can shade his voice in so many different ways. He can do a lot of different voice characters. And it will be very intense.

T > OK.

To a total different matter again. On the first 3 albums of Vintersorg you did the programming for the drums, I heared.

M > The drums and the keyboards.

T > Are there any other albums where you have worked on (where the fans don`t know about), behind the scenes or something?

M > Let´s think. I have done some things for a Swedish band called “Angst” (that might be found at “Black Attakk”, I think), for their demo… and also the vocals on a 7” are recorded in my studio, and I did the drum programming for that one as well… but nothing bigger.

T > The vocals for a 7 inch?

M > Yeah, I just recorded the vocals for the vocalist in my studio.

T > What`s the song from that called?

M > From the 7”?

T > Yeah.

M > Oh, I don´t remember, I´m sorry.

T > So, how can we get it, if you don`t remember! ((*kidding*))

M > Oh… I figure something out…

T > From all your many bands > how is it with all the other demo tapes like “Maiden slaughter” etc./ where can I get an original of that?

M > I don`t know. I don`t even got it myself. Maybe like Ebay or tape trading.

T > There`s nothing like this on Ebay.

M > I have no idea how to get it then.

T > Very unfortunate. I don`t know anyone who has it.

M > Too bad. Maybe Jens or Andreas might have 1 or 2…

T > OK. A different subject again. Are you going on tour in Japan again now with Naglfar?

M > It´s impossible to say, but I definitely hope so. We´ll see what happens when the new album is released. But I hope we´ll be able to go back there because it was amazing.

T > Yeah, I heared business men came to your shows.

M > Yeah, it was a surreal scene if people in suits came and wanted to have the albums signed. It was really so different and everybody was really serious about music. It was nice.

T > How big are the clubs in Japan? How many people were there at the gigs?

M > We played 3 shows and the clubs were not that big. There were between 300 and 500. The biggest was like 500 people. It was really good.

T > When you are in Munich (Germany) in the “Metropolis” you`re gonna play in front of many many people.

M > Is it a big venue?

T > Yeah.

M > Do you think a lot of people will show up?

T > Oh, I don`t know. Maybe only 200 will pay a ticket!? You never know. Or maybe they only come because of Finntroll!?

M > Let´s hope for the best.

T > I still think, it doesn`t really match (you and Finntroll), because of totally different musical styles.

M > I don`t think that`s a bad thing, because then you attract a different kind of audience. You know, people who normally would never go to a Naglfar show get to see us, since they go there only for Finntroll. It might be the same for them as well, people that would only come to see us, get the opportunity to see Finntroll and maybe they appreciate them as well.

T > But maybe it could turn out strange… for instance all those Finntroll fans standing in front of the stage, not reacting to your music…

M > Ah, I don´t think that would be a problem.

T > Are you used to that or what?

M > No no no, I have confidence in our live performance… so, if there are no reactions we can get them moving…

T > Is your management trying to get you to more festivals this summer?

M > I definitely hope so… I think so, but I haven`t heared anything more than Wacken and Tuska so far. The more gigs the better, so let`s hope for more to come.

T > What is your favourite German festival?

M > I would say Party San Open Air. It´s been 3 years now… it´s a perfect festival, because it´s not too big, it´s not too small, and I like the idea of having just one stage, instead of like Wacken that`s got… ähm… what is it? … 60 stages there?

T > … 4 stages…

M > Yeah, but I like that it´s only 1 stage, because then you´re not missing a band, unless you pass out.

T > Do you already have any information on which stage in Wacken you will play? Because it´s a big difference if you play in the “Wet tent” or on the “Main Stage”.

M > I don`t know really. I haven`t heared about it. I think we played the Wet Stage the last time!? I don`t really remember which stage we played the last time, but hopefully we have moved up to a bigger stage.

I kind of like to play indoors, because I really like playing clubs more than festivals  in a way, because it gets more intense.

T > More intense?

M > Yeah, small clubs… because it´s closer to the audience and not as many people…

((While I was turning the tape to the B-side I heared some tones of a piano.))

M > I´m just walking around here in the studio and always when I see the piano I can`t help myself… I HAVE to play it.

((And as some other member seems to be waiting for Marcus to join, it seems to be time to stop the interview.))

T > I don`t wanna steal your time anymore, I´m done with my questions anyway. So, thank you for the interview.

M > No problem. Sorry for not doing the e-mail version, but you know I got too much to do with everything, recording albums and so on…

T > You´re engeneering the album also?

M > Yeah.

T > Do you get extra payment from the record company for it?

M > No, nothing at all. It´s just a big interest of mine, recording and stuff, since I got my own studio… I´ve been sitting here like 16 hours a day in front of the computer and all… it messes you up a bit… so I think I´ll have a beer tonight and just celebrate that we have stopped recording until tomorrow.

T > Okay, then I wish you a lot of fun doing that.

M > Thank you.

T > And have a nice time and see you on tour in April!

((Of ourse a full report and many photos of that you`ll find here in Sheol Magazine then.))

M > Yeah, definitely.

T > Okay, bye bye.

M > Thank you very much, take care, bye.


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