FEARnet recently conducted an interview with Norwegian artist Mortiis (real name: Håvard Ellefsen). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.FEARnet: You've been performing "unmasked" for a while now. What was your main reason for shedding that image? Mortiis: There was a variety of reasons really, but the main reason, was the music simply outgrowing the mask image. I mean initially the mask was created to lend more credibility (or something like that, anyway) to the Mortiis concept. Back in those days, Mortiis was based thematically on this dark and twisted parallel universe. It was pretty cool, and I did several records based around that. But time goes on, and people change, as did I. Eventually Mortiis, thematically, was a whole different thing, more introverted, more angsty and angry... it became a band, and the mask suddenly wasn't really emphasizing anything, and it started feeling like something I was only doing to keep the kids happy. So I eventually figured "fuck it, I'm done with the mask," but I wanted to do it in a cool way and not cold turkey, overnight, you know? Around the time when "The Grudge" was coming out, I came up with the idea of having the mask slowly morph off in the artwork on "The Grudge" and the singles released around it. I also started performing with the mask looking like it had been stitched on, in order to show some of the humanity underneath... eventually I started pulling the mask off during shows. After that, it's history. FEARnet: Has your on-stage persona changed in any other ways? Mortiis: I don't really think so, at least not in a major way. I mean towards the end of the mask period, we started developing our stage presence, the aggression that seemed to saturate the band during live performances. That's still there and keeps getting angrier, it feels like... I actually feel somewhat more liberated. I think anyone that has worn face prosthetics would agree when I say it's not the most flexible or comfortable thing to be wearing. It kind of prevents you from moving your mouth and face. So obviously with the mask off, it's easier to just get into the music and what's going on onstage even more. I don't know if anyone else did this for this long... maybe someone in a multi-season series or something did it, I don't know... but I did this for years. It got pretty straining towards the end. FEARnet: So what can we expect from "The Great Deceiver"? From what I've heard you're going even heavier with this one. Mortiis: Yeah, in a sense it is heavier. If nothing else, a lot more focused. Where "The Grudge" was in many ways a virgin experiment — on a lot of levels, resulting in sometimes chaotic and dense music — "The Great Deceiver" is more mature, in the sense that the noise, the anger, etc. is more musically focused; it's all pulling in the same direction. Like, it has one pulse, and not ten the way "The Grudge" sometimes had, if that makes sense. It just pulses and moves along as a solid entity. It's very compact and big-sounding most of the time, occasionally breaking into this ominous sounding soundscape. It's probably more guitar-heavy than before, but it's a far cry from an ordinary "metal record." We use guitars as a part of the sound; a lot of times the guitars are super-processed post-recording, other times they're guitars... whatever the song demands, or whatever we come up with after experimenting. FEARnet: Is it true that industrial icons Chris Vrenna and Rhys Fulber are associated with this project? If so, in what way are they involved?
Mortiis: Chris and I knew each other from being in touch earlier about him possibly doing a remix for the "Some Kind of Heroin" remix album we did, that didn't happen because the budget (courtesy of our previous record label) was very restrictive, and I believe he was pretty busy anyway. But we remained in touch and would hook up whenever he was in Norway playing with GNARLS BARKLEY or MANSON. I remember I just asked him once whether maybe he'd like to mix the record with us, because we'd just finished recording it. We eventually made it over to L.A., where we were doing the videos and also started mixing the music at his house. We were supposed to do it all with him, but unfortunately he was unable to finish more than five songs due to bigger commitments, like the new MANSON record he was also working on at the same time. Regardless, though, we were super happy with the five songs he did, and I really believe we picked out the five songs that fit him the best, so it's all good. Rhys got involved actually in a similar way: I wanted him to do a remix for "Heroin" but for the same reason as Chris it didn't happen. We were actually talking about Rhys producing the whole thing; however, that never happened. Rhys is a great guy — we met up at one occasion, really early on, during that DANZIG tour we did, and had a great time, but somehow nothing ever came out of it. We spent forever re-recording everything and creating a ton of new music, and he got involved in other projects in the meantime, so Rhys isn't involved on this record, but hopefully we'll get to do something together at some point.
Read the entire interview from FEARnet. Fan-filmed video footage of MORTIIS' March 21, 2009 performance at the Trashfest II at Gloria in Helsinki, Finland can be viewed below (courtesy of "sonicrootsfun").