At this year’s No Mercy Festivals I had the chance of talking to the MARDUK singer Legion, a very pleasant, lively and entertaining interview partner. It was the first night of this tour and so everything was kind of hectical: I expected to be interviewing SINISTER! Somehow this guy in front of me didn’t look like one of the members of the Dutch Death Metal legend, though, but he might have been the object of yet another line-up change. To be on the safe side I asked him if he was from SINISTER and he said yes. Now I know the reason for Black Metal bands to be painting their faces: they don’t need any sun glasses to protect their private life… ! It took me some time to find out the truth but it’s kind of fun, so I’ll give you the original without hiding my incompetence…
When and how did you get hooked to Heavy Metal and later on to Death Metal?
"Heavy Metal must have been like, yeah, as a 7-year-old seeing IRON MAIDEN for the first time and it was like – prch! So, you know, and then it’s like just being adding on and on, a couple of years later it was SLAYER, a couple of years later it was MORBID ANGEL, I mean one thing leads to another, all the time, so that’s pretty much it."
What was the first record you ever bought?
"The first record that I ever bought was the "Piece Of Mind" album, of course then we were so freakin’ poor when I was young so I only had like, you know, peanuts each week, and so I saved and I saved and I saved and then I could finally go and buy that album and it was amazing: I didn’t know any English but still I knew all the lyrics by heart, that vinyl is like – it’s probably melted by now, like totally torn apart!"
(here it comes, folks:) What about the changes in the line-up, what’s the reason for it?
"What line-up changes?"
"I’m the singer."
You’re the singer? I thought that Rachael from OCCULT is the new singer…
"Yeah, because you’re interviewing the wrong band!"
I am… ?
"Exactly, tough luck – I thought you were bullshitting me or that you only made a joke! Okay! This is interesting, haha! Sorry, haha!"
Doesn’t really matter because the first couple of questions are almost the same…
"Yeah, I thought this is a new approach, haha!"
I’m looking for new approaches but this is a very new one. What was the interviewer’s intention, haha?
"Yeah, exactly, of course it was all planned to make me crack up and like – blablabla, you know, haha! Tough luck!"
Can you describe your feelings about the following topics: writing songs, recording them and playing live?
"Writing songs comes pretty natural anyway, it’s just like ideas that either me or Morgan start discussing some new things that we should have a song which is blablabla and then I just get some lyric lines or whatever or I hear some stuff that he has been writing, it’s just, you know, he pretty much comes up with stuff all the time and so do I and… either it’s me hearing some stuff that he has got, otherwise I just write something and he just comes up with the music pretty much when he sees my words, so… and then we put together everything in the rehearsal room, like the whole band tries out stuff, you know: "what about blablabla" and then it just grows into a song, and I mean, the studio sucked! I’m not a studio person. Nobody in the band is. We recorded our new album like – it took us 9 days, I did all the vocals in 4 hours. We don’t like hanging out in the studio, so, I mean I think it’s so boring like 20 seconds of… like the same shit all over and over again and my head is starting to spin because I’m so bored with it! So we have never been a band which spends any great deal of time in the studio, next time we might mix for a week or something like that and try out some new aspects, yeah, just toil around with the studio equipment a bit more – maybe – but I mean we’ll always be a band that records like that, so… . But anyway, I mean live is – that is where I only enjoy myself, you know, just because everybody in front of me puts so much energy back into it, so it’s like – prch! You know, and everything comes alive. I think that metal music is really meant to be performed live. So it’s like that is what it’s all about! In my eyes that is what I love doing."
In your opinion: what’s the most important aspect about a MARDUK gig?
"I don’t know, I mean we just do what we always do, I mean we’re always 100% prepared, no matter what. I mean if it’s a small club gig or if it’s like the Wacken Open Air festival or whatever: we’re always like – prch! But of course the better the audience is the better the gig gets, of course, because they put so much energy back into it. So and then I can cope with – whatever, like shit sound on stage or whatever, doesn’t really matter as long as the audience is great, then it will turn out to a great gig! It’s almost like a ritual, almost like you really can sense everything as – frch!"
What do you think about this particular tour package – are there any bands you would like to watch yourself?
"Yeah, the thing I’m really curious about is: I’m going to check out MORTICIAN because I’ve never seen them live before, so that’ll be interesting and apart from that, I don’t know, I’ll just hang around and see what happens, it’s always the same on tours. That’s the beauty of it, you’re like in a little goldfish bowl and everything is taken care of pretty much, except for the live playing, of course."
Don’t you think that 9 bands is a bit too much for one night?
"Yeah, I think so that it’s really too much, I mean when we first got on the No Mercy festivals in ’98 we were 6 bands and that was just like about to be enough and also our booking agency said that the next No Mercy festivals would be less bands or just the same amount of bands and then in 2000 we did the No Mercy festivals again and then it was 8 bands and then they said that that was way too much and now it’s 9 bands (actually, …AND OCEANS didn’t play – at least in Osnabrück – Ramon), I mean I wouldn’t wanna be in the audience there when it’s like 9 bands and I wanted to check out some because they’ll all get so freakin’ tired, so it’s… yeah, whatever, and I mean the shows start so early when there’s a curfew like tonight. (there was a disco scheduled for midnight and those people didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves when they saw the last encore of MARDUK… – Ramon) I just imagine standing on stage and just like playing for that little guy with the backpack, it’s like: YEAH! I think it’s excessive, it’s too much. Definitely. 5 bands is about enough."
Do you know any underground bands from your region we don’t know yet but who deserve to get a record deal?
"No, actually not. It was pretty long since I heard anything that really blew me away. So no, not really. And I mean Sweden has got like the weirdest scene of pretty much all the European countries I think, because there is no unity or whatsoever, there is not an underground scene as everybody thinks, at least when I meet people from all of Europe: "You’re so lucky to come from Sweden because up there… blablabla… Metal Paradise!" You should see: no clubs, no radio stations, no concerts, no nothing! Except for a whole lotta guys wanting to play and then: rehearsal rooms all over the country. And that is like the only way you can exist in like in what scene there is: just to have a band! No, it was really a long time since I heard anything that was like: YEAH!"
Some time ago I heard about this festival in Russia, I think, where you were supposed to play but for some reason didn’t or couldn’t – so afterwards the people who organized this festival tried to make everybody hate MARDUK for this – did this affect your sales over there in one way or another? What’s the situation in those eastern countries anyway, can people afford regular CDs or are there many illegal copies around?
"No, I mean you can sell, it’s like the same in the entire block (no, this interview isn’t 15 years old – Ramon): you can sell a couple of CDs and then it’s like cassettes and bootlegs, of course and I mean it’s even worse like, for instance, in Mexico because if you should charge somebody like 20 bucks for a t-shirt they are like:"Why? They’re selling the bootleg t-shirts over here for 5 Dollars!" But I mean that was like a big fuck up from our tour manager because he wanted to rip off our agency and he used that like "trouble at the border" and he said: "No papers are ready and if you go there you have to give up your passports and if you give up your passports you can be arrested and like they can confiscate everything you own and your guitars will be stolen by the police and blablablablabla". We were like: u-huh, so what can we do, we’re sitting here in Poland and the next day he was gone with all the flow cash and we were like: YEAH! HURRAY! So we had to sit and rot for a week without anything to do and it sucked! But we got in touch with these guys and they were like: "Sorry for bringing it out on the entire internet", but I mean: shit happens, but it’s like a scripture. Whatever happens, the band gets squeezed in the middle because everybody is just looking at the band and not at the organization behind the band. So I mean it’s always like that but now we’ve got a homepage of our own and we can just like defend ourselves and tell our version of what happens, something we couldn’t do in the past and then you’re like totally in the hands of like – the mob or whatever."
So how much are you involved in that homepage?
"We have a webmaster and we just tell him like this and that is going to happen soon and check this out and blablabla… so he’s taking care of it."
What about the Napster controversy? Do you think this affected MARDUK in any way?
"No, because if you really wanna hear the songs like for real you’ll buy the CDs regardless I think. To us it’s more help than it destroys, because it has got a world wide impact. Internet is a fucking great thing. But I mean in a way it kind of sucks that you just download people’s stuff for free, but on the other hand, I mean just to spread the word, internet is really great. I don’t think that it hurts us but I can understand, for instance MADONNA is pissed, of course, like her cheesy radio music and something that you just like – click – download and then you’re fine. But I don’t see that we would lose any cash or whatever."
What’s the reason for parting ways with Osmose Records? Do you think you know the right people in order to promote MARDUK with your own record company properly?
"Yeah. I mean we’ve been in this scene and business for so long, so we know what to do. And I mean Osmose started off with deducting 26.000 Dollars that they didn’t have any right to do according to our contract. So they broke the contract and then we said like: these guys are not getting our next record and then they said: "Yeah, but we got options" and we were like: yeah, sue us then! And I mean since he broke the contract, his lawyer was just telling that he fucked up. So then we were able to leave and I mean, stuff is actually working out much better now because the only thing that we were disappointed with Osmose – I mean, it’s a good label and Hervé was like a fair guy but I mean the thing that is so bad is that he never got his ass up for going in the States. He had like 8 years to fix it and he never did. And he was too proud to admit that anything was wrong with his organization. So in his office like that girl, she just wanted to kick back, smoke some wheed, go to parties, blablabla, all that instead of taking care of business. She left the office for 3 months and just put her fucking answering machine on! Stuff like that, you know. And we told him like Osmose is not working – "It’s working very good", he just said and that was it. And then in 1999 we had this option to do a CANNIBAL tour, we had a slot on the CANNIBAL bus which is like pretty huge in the US because like this bus costs like 1.500 DM a day and an American bus costs like 2.500 Dollars a day! So it’s kind of expensive. Anyway, we got a place on the bus and the CANNIBALS were willing to take a pay cut to get us out there because our distribution is so poor in the States – was so poor, so all the promoters were like – ugh. Then Hervé fucked it up because: "No, MARDUK is not playing unless they get like 10.000 Dollars and blablablabla for the gig" and the CANNIBALS were like: "Sorry!" I mean it sucked. Hervé fucked it up and so now our label has been established since last autumn and we got world wide distribution, we have like – we are exporting to Asia and then we have like full distribution still in Europe like the same distributors as Osmose is using, Century Media is taking care of Canada, the States and South America. So we got world wide distribution and now as 2001 being the first year that we are taking care of ourselves we are touring first Europe, then the States together with DEICIDE for 5 or 6 weeks, then do another US tour, maybe a headliner or maybe as a support act to some big band we are negotiating with. Then we’re doing South America and then we’re doing the Christmas Festivals. So I mean we can tour more, we sell more records, everything is so much smoother now, so I don’t regret parting with Osmose for a second. Even though – I mean, it’s a good label but I think that he kind of lost his priority or something like that, somewhere on the road something happened but I mean, yeah, it was the best thing for us to do anyway I think."
Apart from the band – what do you do when you are at home: do you have time for hobbies?
"No, I don’t do pretty much more, it’s always the same stuff that has got to be taken care of but if I have some left over time I ride my Harley or just do – whatever, some relaxation stuff and having fun, but I mean it’s really cool because I’m in the position that I can wake up every day and do something that I love, so that is like the fortunate thing about it. I mean: how many wake up and like 5 o’ clock in the morning and like: "YEAH! I can go to my factory! HURRAY! You know, it’s like – from that aspect it’s really cool."
What do you think you would be doing if you never joined MARDUK?
"I don’t know because ever since I was a kid this is like pretty much the only thing I ever wanted to do, so – I don’t know. I have some tattooing equipment back home and sooner or later I’m gonna start up like a real professional tattoo studio, so maybe that’s what I would have been doing like full time right now, I’ve been thinking about that from time to time, like what if blablabla, but I mean this is the only thing I ever wanted to do so I can’t really see it happening like me being a normal guy just at home because my ass would bounce off the wall. I’m one of those persons who can never be still or shut up or take it easy."
Can you imagine a reason for giving up MARDUK? What would you be doing in that case? Working? Putting up a new band?
"I don’t know, we’ll just see if it ever happens. And I mean the only thing that could stop us really is like the band explodes, haha. No, I don’t know. Maybe, yeah, if somebody just dies or whatever and we couldn’t go on, I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. I think I’ll still be around in one way or another."
You already achieved quite a bit with MARDUK – do you still have any unfulfilled dreams? What are your plans for the future?
"It’s like: go right ahead and do another album and another tour, I mean as long as you are hungry or, I mean, we are never satisfied with anything! As soon as we have completed something it’s like: "Next time we’ll show them!", I mean we’re still a band in progress, we are still very hungry, we’ll just keep right on going full spead ahead."
Do you have any funny or interesting stories for our readers, maybe about your life on the road?
"Yeah, it’s like, let’s see, something that is not too obnoxious. Yeah, it was on the "Panzer" tour: the bus had some problems with the heat in the back lounge, so it was pretty cold on the bus and we were in Tilburg in Holland and after the show we were partying with the CANNIBAL CORPSE guys because they were there as well and so the busses were parked and we were just playing music and running around between the busses and drinking whiskey and then this old dutch geezer comes along and "Hey guys, shut up, blablablabla" and we were like: "Yeah, fine, cool!" and we had a party on the bus instead and I mean we played like EXODUS on like the loudest volume and just jumping around, you know, and it was a great party and then – like all of a sudden – the window is fucking shattered – like – krch! – and we were like: What! And that guy is back with an iron rod just smashing the window! And we were like: come on, let’s get his ass! And we just ran out and Morgan was the first guy and he kicked him between his legs like: mph! And he was like: "Ugh!" And then he kicked him in the side and he was like: "Help!" And he was like falling to the ground and we were just like: "Fuck you!" (good friendly violent fun, eh? – Ramon) And we kept on drinking and the police got there because he called them and he was like: "They assaulted me and blablabla!" "No, you fell", Morgan said and the police lust looked at the window and then they looked at him and: "Yeah, you fell", they said and arrested him instead and I was just standing next to the cops and puking from all the whiskey and Freddy got out of the bus: "YEAH! Cops!" And he was like: "Uah!" And he posed on photos with them and everything, but anyway… And after that it was so freakin’ cold, we went to the east and it was like November and I mean, I had to stop and buy myself one of them alpha bomber jackets which is like warmer than the usual bomber, because each night when we went to sleep we could see our breaths in the bus because it was freezing! Everything in the bus was wet because it was so cold and it sucked so much, everybody had colds, it took us like 2 weeks to get a new window and that was pretty fucked up because it was so freaking cold on the bus. But apart from that it was like pretty fun, you know. It’s bound to happen some stuff. Always."
"Yeah, it’s like the hardest part, as always, to just come up with something, I don’t know. I’ll just say that: yeah, fuck the world or whatever."
Statement from Hervé Herbaut (Osmose Productions):
"The 26.000 US Dollars that MARDUK mentioned is simply the money requested from the side of the booking agent in the USA who wanted us to cover all quotations at each club who set up a show (25 shows were booked for the first appearance of MARDUK in the USA). We didn’t know that before we got a call from our US office (R.I.P) at that time who told us that without the quotation payed, the tour wouldn’t happen. In the meantime plans for IMMORTAL and IMPALED NAZARENE shows were under booking, so obviously to do not lose those two future tours, we’d better pay the quotation that we would get back afterwards anyway. But: Mr. Morgan Hakansson suddenly became sick 6 hours before the band was supposed to take the plane and in the name of the band he decided to cancel the tour without providing a doctor statement about his illness. It was the only way to get back all the quotations that we lost. We never got this statement that Mr. Morgan Hakansson promised us. We had 76 hours to provide this to all organisators, but couldn’t cause he suddenly disappeared !!! What a disaster when we discovered his attitude! Then he accepted to pay the quotations and again radically changed his mind and started with arguments blablabla. A pure cowardly attitude. Regarding the tour with CANNIBAL CORPSE that was supposed to be set up, 20.000 US Dollars have been requested from the side of Metal Blade (Mike Fairley) to be on that tour and for all plane tickets etc… You have to be sure that it will work out, because we are certainly not interested to invest this money when we know that we would never get it back!! And to finish, MARDUK played this game during the No Mercy Festival (the last with us), and before the French TV went there for a report, just to get the merchandising that they never payed back to Osmose (they got it for wholesale prices which is a really fair deal for a band when they are on tour!) THEY WOULD BE KILLED DURING THE WAR FOR THEIR COWARDLY ATTITUDE!"
– Hervé Herbaut – OSMOSE PRODUCTIONS
Interview and all pics: Ramon Claassen