"I hate not owning my old work. The contracts I signed back in the day even say if man colonises other planets they will still have the rights to them on Mars!"
Håvard Ellefsen, helmsman and namesake for the group Mortiis, has come a long way since his ambient darkwave days of the 90's. In the last five years alone he dropped the mask and the labels and went out on his own. We caught up with him in the middle of the band's UK tour to talk about the past, the future and his love of music.
Intravenous Magazine: It's been quite a while since you last made and album, what have you been up to?
Håvard Ellefsen: We were working really hard on this new album. The songs have actually been ready for a long time it just took a while to get it released. We recorded it around 2012-2013 but it came with a few issues. I wanted to do things differently because in the past. Before I'd been stuck with shitty record deals where I hadn't made any money but they would demand more. It wouldn't even give me enough rope to hang myself with, but they would still expect miracles from me. Most of the labels that were interested in my work could only offer me the same and couldn't make any promises, so we just waited. We raised the money ourselves (which took a long time) and we had to remaster the whole thing at one point, which is never cheap. We weren't going to give it to some asshole who was gonna make money for making the smallest of effort and saying "maybe" all the time. In the record industry "maybe" is the same as saying "no fucking way". We needed something more reliable than that.
IVM: So is that way you released 'Perfectly Defect' for free?
HE: It was actually made at the same time. We were writing a lot of music back then and we found that some of it was coming out really weird and experimental. At first we thought we could make a mega triple CD. That would have worked in the 70's, but not today. So we took the artsy fartsy stuff and made it a free thing. We'd seen some of the bigger bands doing it and decided to make a statement, saying to the labels "If you're not going to sign us to a proper deal then you're not gonna get our stuff and we're gonna give it away to the kids!" That way the two albums were more pure cause the industrial metal songs were on one record and the more orchestral tracks were on the other.
IVM: The last two albums are on different ERAs. How do they differ from previous incarnations?
HE: I've actually dropped the whole 'ERA' thing now cause it's starting to get confusing [laughs]. I didn't even bother to add it to 'Perfectly Defect' but now it's returned because I've brought the whole 'ogre' thing back. We actually talked about it for a while, 'Should we have done 'ERA 4'? Where would it have ended? If I still make records when I'm 65 will I be up to 'ERA 17'? It was gonna get a little silly after a while. When I was younger and just starting out on my own I thought it would look cool, you know a little like Led Zeppelin and Nine Inch Nails (that's what us musicians do,we steal. Nothing is original it's just some are better at it than others!)
In the end I decided to call it 'ERA 0' to fuck with people's heads. It'll confuse the fans into what order to listen to my work. They'll think "He starts off good but then it gets really shitty!" I'm now getting asked this at nearly every interview and I feel bad cause I have no clever answer for them [laughs].
IVM: You've mentioned the return of the 'Ogre'. How has he evolved with this album?
HE: I've done work with and without the mask in recent photos. I decided to bring it back to some degree. We also have some other masks I've been working with which are more tribal. It's nice to go back but but I wanted to expand the idea to keep the fans guessing. I don't wear it on stage anymore though, it gets far too hot and sometimes gets in the way.
IVM: So the new album is a proper industrial metal record. Was there an idea behind it's inception?
HE: It's no concept album, it's just a collection of tracks of me being pissed off and angry, and it's all the better for it. Do you think Uncle Al makes good records when he's happy? [laughs] I mean don't get me wrong, if I make some money off of this record that would be nice, but it's not the main reason why I make music.
IVM: In the last few years you've gone down the self promotion route. How's that working out?
HE: It's been stressful but rewarding. Doing everything myself means I own everything now. There are some pros & cons to it but it's nice to take my time with a record and plug it in my own way. I mean sure there's a lot less coverage because you're not employing a promotional team the label sent in, but a lot of the times with that you feel like you're not in control or even involved with your own work, like you're just going through the motions. I hate not owning my old work. The contracts I signed back in the day even say if man colonises other planets they will still have the rights to them on Mars!
My label is just for me though, I won't be adding any other artists onto there. It's frustrating just doing it for myself but it's the best way to do it these days. It's like chopping off a finger to save your hand, it's not ideal but it could be a lot worse. There are some smaller labels that a doing a little better for musicians, but it means they also have full jobs and won't be able to concentrate on promoting your work. I guess I'm slightly more ambitious.
One thing I like to do is to be in control of our online content. I visit the Facebook and Twitter feeds daily to catch up with the fans. I wouldn't really trust anyone else to do it if I'm honest.
IVM: How was the US tour?
HE: We did it last October and the shows were amazing. We supported Mushroomhead. It's not an easy task as the visas for America are getting more expensive and made the whole tour quite stressful, but the guys were great to play with.
IVM: Are their any new acts you've been keeping an eye on?
HE: You tell me! [laughs] I'm on the biggest nostalgia kick. I don't even know what's been going on in the last 15 years! I recently started listening to Muse and they are pretty cool. There's too much old stuff that I'm yet to discover. I'm loving the music of the 70's and 80's cause I love the sound and effort put in, and everything these days sounds the same.
IVM: As a music collector and fan of Ministry, do you own a copy of their first record 'With Sympathy'?
HE: No unfortunately I don't! If I can find a copy and it's not too pricey I'd certainly get my hands on it! I heard that Uncle Al was offering to autograph a copy of it for $1,000. I wouldn't pay anyone that much for an autograph. I've never had that urge to do that, it seems a little weird. It would be different if they were hanging out at my house or in my town, I'd ask, but wouldn't go into any effort to get it done.
Mortiis' latest album 'The Great Deceiver' is available now via Omnipresence. For more information on the band, including new releases and tour dates, please visit their official website.