AN INTERVIEW WITH LIMBONIC ART
While roaming around backstage at 013 for an interview with Morbid Angel, we found no difficulty interviewing some of the other bands on the bill. One of those bands was Limbonic Art, the band that has released several fine albums of, well, I guess you'd call it symphonic black metal. Morfeus - off stage quite a laid-back and very normal guy - was kind enough to submit himself to our questions.
We are from an underground magazine that's just starting out. This interview will be in the first issue. It will also end up in an Internet multimedia magazine (W3M3)...
Morfeus: In English?
Yes, of course...
We don't do anything other than English.
Morfeus: That's good 'cause I receive like tons of magazines and I think 'Oh, fuck'.
It's in Polish again...
Morfeus: Yeah, like... it's us on the cover... cool! Nice pictures. Anyway, there's so many interviews that I don't really care about. I mean, it's fun to read something.
I guess you can get pretty fed up, when your words are misinterpreted...
Morfeus: Yeah, there's a French guy that I would like to kick in the face. He did an interview with me. He was from 'Thrashing rage'. He really pissed me off, because he threw around all my words. Everything that I said, he mixed around. Actually he sent it to Daemon first, not to me. Daemon came over to me and said: 'Hey can't you do an interview for a change'. And I thought, 'I've never done that, this is fucking stupid'. And then when I read the interview, everything that I said he had like turned around. And he had found an old interview with Daemon, which he had copied totally.
OK, as far as we know, Limbonic Art was formed in 1993, by Daemon and three other members, who left quickly after you came in. Is that correct?
Morfeus: They were more or less splitting up, when Daemon and I started playing together and I was playing in another band, which is really not worth mentioning. It was called 'Echoes of Death' and we played one small local gig, like two songs or something.
Did Daemon play in previous bands?
Morfeus: Yeah, he played in a couple of bands. One of them was called 'Infinite Decay'. I know that he doesn't like to speak very much about it, so I won't say anything more about that. But Daemon and the other three were disagreeing a lot about what the sound should be and so on. I think the last half year of their existence, they were not rehearsing very much. And when they were rehearsing it was like Daemon rehearsing and the other guys smoking joints. So when we met and started to rehearse, we just had the spirit, both of us. Also my previous band... they were very uninterested, either they were drunk on rehearsals or they were having hangovers. They were more interested in getting to a party. Actually one of the guys is starting to play again, you know, just for fun, but he hasn't played in five years, so...
You released two demos, I think... What were they called?
Morfeus: They were called rehearsal '95 and rehearsal '96. We didn't give them a real name because they were not meant for the public, we just made some copies for friends.
Did you send the rehearsals to many record labels?
Morfeus: I don't remember, really, it's been quite a few years now, but I know Osmose was one of them. I know that Daemon sent one to some Polish thing. It was called No Trends Productions or something. He was really extremely happy about it, to sign us for this and for that. When he knew that he couldn't get us signed for anything really, he wanted to do merchandising and fanclubs and everything.
How did you get in touch with Samoth from Nocturnal Art?
Morfeus: He got in touch with us. I was really surprised, because we got a really great review in Nordic Visions magazine in Norway and I think we are one of the few bands that had some good words about them, because he's so extremely critical. And then we got a letter from Samoth. He had signed with his real name. So we thought, Nocturnal Art from Norway that's okay, but who's this guy. Then I read an interview with Emperor and one of the questions was: 'How's it going with Nocturnal Art?' and I thought 'Oh fuck...'.So I was quite surprised, since I've been an Emperor fan since the first releases they had. I think it's been good to be signed by Samoth from Emperor since everybody knows who he is. Everybody knows his label and is curious what kind of music he would release. So we sold a few thousand because of his name alone! After that we could like show that we could make like quality music and the label and the band go upwards. On each other's side.
You seem to be on a friendly level with the guys from Emperor. How did this grow?
Morfeus: Well, they turned out to be nice guys, which I am too, haha. Of course it was like the first time we met, we were like sitting in a corner being very impressed. But later we got on very well. Also, I think the Emperor guys are a little aside from the 'We are so evil' type of guys. I try to behave as a person. On stage it's all theatrics, you climb the ladder to the stage and be king of the hill, and then you go down again and be normal. I have too many people around me all the time. Because I can't avoid it on the tour. But when I'm home I don't like to have visitors too much, because I'm so fucking busy, working in my head all the time. But that doesn't mean that I should tell everybody to fuck off, you know. Yeah, I think that's one of the things with the black metal scene... usually none of the people that appear to be so evil, or so misanthropic. As soon as they get two beers they start talking a lot, all the time. I don't see the point in saying that 'I am this and that' and behave like someone totally different.
I've heard you tried to recruit a drummer in the beginning, but you decided to use a drum computer instead. Was that a conscious choice, or was there just no drummer available.
Morfeus: Well, in the area that we live in, there was no one capable of playing this kind of music and if he were capable, he wasn't interested, because he didn't like the music genre or something like that. We asked a few drummers, by letter and we got no answer. Actually I played drums for two or three times, the first months we played, but unfortunately I don't have my own drum kit. I was actually borrowing the drum kit of the old drummer of Limbonic Art. We played in the same rehearsal room. It has always been guitars and keyboards that have been my side of the instruments. I probably would have made it, but it would have been too much work, besides concentrating on guitars and synthesisers. After a while I found a synthesiser with sounds that were good enough to use. The drum computers I was used to sounded like shit. I found one that was suitable enough at least. It wasn't good, but it was worth to start working with. I'm always trying to improve the drum sound, because... There's like two sides of it, because I want the drums to sound as good and natural sounding as possible but yet I don't want to pretend to be a live drummer. There's kind of a balance there.
Which kind of drum sound do you prefer, the live one or the computer?
Morfeus: That depends on how it's used. For our music we combine everything. We have the normal live kind of drum sounds in general. But we started to put in some drum loops and industrial like sounds on top of it. That's what I see as the big advantage of the drum computer. You're not limited to two arms and two legs. I just put in whatever the fuck I want to.
Would you want to consider using a real drummer for the live shows?
Morfeus: No, never. Not even if Hellhammer offered his services. Not that he is not a good drummer though.
From which types of music and which bands do you draw your inspiration?
Morfeus: Of course I enjoy bands like Emperor and Morbid Angel and Satyricon. Black metal bands don't inspire me that much anymore. I like the music and I like the intensity in it, like the new Emperor album which is awesome to say the least. It gets better every time you listen to it. When I make music I try to not think of anything. Just let the music emerge out of nothing. I'm not the kind of person that sits down and thinks 'Now I'm going to make music that sounds like and army, marching to battle'. It's more like I make something and think 'Oh, it sounds like marching drums. Then I kinda get the images. I think what inspires me is that I try to mix a lot of different things and see if it fits, see if it's working. It's hard to explain.
Do you listen to many types of music besides metal?
Morfeus: I listen to everything from Frank Zappa to the Prodigy. I think the thing is with music, you have kindof a line of notes and tones that are put coincidentally in a way that satisfies you, you have a melody that you personally like. Whether it's Madonna or Emperor... Some bands kindof use the same range of tones that for you personally you like. Then that is good for you. Even if they are lousy musicians or whatever, they would still make the music that appeals to you. So it's like... at least in Norway everybody is against Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and that kind of bands. Personally I don't like them very much either, but I hold nothing against them. Because probably they do just the same thing we do. They make music the way they want it to sound. It just happens that that kind of sound, that kind of music doesn't appeal to me. Obviously they are appealing to many people. I can't say that those people are stupid, because they like Dimmu Borgir. It's just that kind of thing, they don't appeal to me, that's why I don't listen to them. That's also why I don't care much about them. Yeah I think the world would be a better place if everybody could stop yelling at each other and take notice of what they do themselves.
On your latest release ('Epitome of Illusions') the guitars are more prominent in the mix. Is that because they are rerecordings of demo material or is it the way Limbonic Art will sound in the future?
Morfeus: I think we will concentrate way more on the guitars in the future. The 'Epitome...' album was kindof something that coincidentally turned out much better than we thought. Because we recorded it in three days. It was something we did just for the fun of it. We wanted to brush it up a little bit. So we just said: 'Ok, we need like three days for recording it'. Like synthesisers one day and the guitars the second day and vocals the last day. And then we used two days to mix it and we were finished. I'm really surprised that the guitars turned out as good as they did. Because we used like some shitty equipment. We just put everything up and we did almost not check the sound. I'm really curious what the guitars will sound like on the next album, because we are going to handle it from a little bit different point of view and work with it much more than we have done earlier.
When can we expect the new album?
Morfeus: We are starting to record it one week after we arrive home from this tour. I think it's scheduled to be finished early June. I probably need a little time to get the cover finished and then there's the printing. We are hoping to get it done in August or September. Samoth is a very scheduled guy. Like for the 'Epitome...' album, when I delivered the originals for the cover, then it took like two and a half weeks and the album was printed.
About 'Moon in the Scorpio', could you explain the album title?
Morfeus: No, not really...
Do have a particular interest in astrology?
Morfeus: No, I don't. I don't really believe Daemon has it either. Not very much, anyway. The album title is more a Daemon thing, because personally I don't pay much attention to lyrics anymore. First of all, I'm not good at lyrics. I cannot write a single word that sounds good. And Daemon does it so brilliantly. So I have like full confidence that he does the lyrics and he does it good. So I can just pay attention to all the other things. So I learn the lines that I have to, because I have to sing them. The only thing that concerns me about vocals and lyrics is that they fit in the music. To me vocals are an instrument that should just be fitted in the whole thing.
Looking at the artwork, you do seem to have a fascination for the night sky and stars...
Morfeus: That I do, I'm very interested in astronomy. Which is way different from astrology. I've had a fascination for that for as long as I can remember. Like lying on the roof of my parents' house, looking at the star shots and that kind of thing. There's that aspect that I've always been interested in. Another aspect is of course, when you think about it... If you go towards one of the galaxies and you get as close as the pictures that you see, that is actually what it looks like. It's like, if you get so close to a galaxy, you will actually see those kinds of colours. It's not a painting and it's not artwork done by computers, that looks great... That is what it is.
Do you know why it fascinates you so much?
Morfeus: It's just something in the atmosphere. You just think 'Wow, if I could just go up there and see these things'. It's really strange... I had this dream... Have you seen the movie 'Contact' with Jodie Foster? She is able to travel through some kind of tunnel system in the universe and she is like floating around and seeing these galaxies and she's passing them and everything, It was just so great to look at. I was just dreaming that I was walking on galaxies. Wandering around, I was walking around and looking... I was so pissed off when I woke up.
Do your dreams inspire you for your paintings?
Morfeus: No, because this is something that happened just once... The other aspect is of course that such a picture looks fucking good. After we used such a picture on 'Moon in the Scorpio' many bands came up with star-kind of covers, you know. And then we did the 'In abhorrence dementia' cover, which... It looks good, but I was kind of pissed off, because I couldn't come up with anything other than stars to make it look that good. And I did another cover for Odium, which really pissed me off, because they told me: 'We want stars'. Because it looks like a Limbonic Art cover. And that's really not the point.
Are you planning on doing more artwork?
Morfeus: Well, I'm not planning on anything, but if I get requests that I find appealing then I won't say no. If they pay me a little bit.
Did you study art school?
Morfeus: Yeah, I was at an art school for three years. Which were probably the most uninspiring years, I think. You know, you learn techniques, which is good of course... but then the teacher would come and say: 'Today we're gonna paint bananas', or a chair or whatever. It destroyed the creative part. You get so fed up with this, because I don't fancy painting normal things and I'm a fantasy type of guy. At that time also, I was very fascinated by superhero kind of things, comics and that kind of stuff. So I was like always painting these muscular guys...
So you might do the artwork for the new Bal Sagoth album... or Manowar...
Morfeus: Yeah, haha. At least the Manowar covers are really great. I've kind of moved a little bit away from that now, but at the time when I was at school this was really what I was into. I was always having the banana just rotting in front of me and just painting everything else. Then the teachers would be mad at me. But of course you grow in the way of techniques. The more you draw, the more you paint, the better you get. From an inspiring side it has not been good for me, but from a technical point of view it's been great.
Would you say there is a certain similarity in your approach painting and making music?
Morfeus: In a way... As I said I try to make music out of nothing and it is kind of the same way with images, because I'm a guy who is able to draw without thinking. I can sit and talk on the phone and just talk business with Samoth or whatever and draw without looking at it. My hand goes automatically. The ideas for the album covers were founded when I was sitting watching video. I had paper on my lap and I was just looking at the video and drawing. Of course you don't draw perfectly, but you get ideas, you can see which one is working and which isn't. So, it is a little bit the same thing.
Can you tell something about the album title 'In abhorrence dementia'?
Morfeus: It's something like to be in a terrible, horrible dementia. Abhorrence means horrible, terrible and dementia is dementia.
Do you fear that you will one day be like that?
Morfeus: It's really Daemon's thing, but to me it's like being trapped inside your own body, being insane. And the few times that you kind of wake up and understand what you are. That for me would be a terrible dementia. If that happens, I hope somebody kills me. Getting old and forgetting everything... I hope I will be like my great grandmother, who I just barely remember from when I was small, but I think she was like 90 years old, but she was sharp as hell in her mind all the time and then she got a cold and she said to my mom, 'I don't bother anymore...', because she was living in a home for elderly and there was lots of insane people around her and no one she could like talk sensibly with. So she said 'Now I'm going to go away, I don't bother anymore'. And she got sick and she used that just to die, 'cause she didn't want to go on anymore. I hope to become, like, a hundred years old. I hope I can stay sane all the time. Because, otherwise, what kind of life could you have? Still if you're insane you don't know either, because... Another funny story is that the mother of a friend of ours has also started to get looney and she has those few moments that she is kind of awake. My friend asked her mom if she should buy some magazines. And she answered: 'No, I read it and I forget it and I read it and I forget it, it's new for me every time'. Maybe you are quite happy when you're insane, I don't know. Anyway, I think it would be worse to be in a wheelchair or whatever. That would be terrible.
There is this figure in the artwork that keeps returning. Is there a particular meaning?
Morfeus: Hmmm... What should I say... Originally the cover was as it is painted on the back side. There is no person there. I thought it would be cool to have someone standing there. As I said, when I kind of invent the images, I don't think. So, to me there is kind of no story in it. Another thing is that I don't like to explain things too much. Because I know for myself that when I look at a certain painting, which I enjoy looking at, I might like fantasise the concept around it, or what has happened just before the person has arrived or what are they going to do. And then maybe a month later, or a year later, I see an interview or I listen to the radio and the artist says that this image is this and that. And I that spoils it. Everything I invented in the picture was wrong. And it will be wrong as long as the artist says that this is what it is. And then you can't pretend to make it something else. So I like to kind of keep the images open to everyone. And let everyone have their piece of it.
What is the concept behind the band name Limbonic Art?
Morfeus: To me it's kind of a borderline place between life and death, light and darkness. It's kind of in between everything. And I like to be able to, I like to walk the borderline and cross a little bit into the light side and a little bit into the dark side. It kind of gives the opportunity to do everything and be able to defend it in a way. I don't really believe in total darkness kind of thing, because if you don't know light, you don't know darkness. So the name is kind of describing those things in the music, because we have like frills and so on, that's very beautiful and you have the... There was once a thing in a magazine in Norway, where a guy said - it was really funny to hear - he didn't believe music to be evil. If there had to be a part that was evil it had to be the middle part of our song 'Death trip to a mirage asylum'. It has a middle part, with just some synthesisers. It's very dark and just before you have a choir which sounds happier. And the last thing he says: 'And there was a ghastly silence...'. And he said that was probably the only thing he could consider evil in music. It wouldn't have worked if you'd have had a dark atmosphere during the whole song, because the it would just be the same the whole time. But when you put contrasts in it, then it's working.
Do you have a general message?
Morfeus: No... I never have general messages, because it's like every interview ends with final words. And the final words, which means the final words of wisdom... I like to end it just by the last question, because there is always this 'Praise Satan' or 'Buy our merchandise' or those kinds of things.
Do you have anything to add other than that?
Morfeus: We could talk a little about the next album...
Do you know the title already?
Morfeus: This will be the first time that this is known to the rest of the world... We are not completely certain yet, so I hope I won't fuck up, and we'll change it at the last minute, but I think it's getting quite steady now. The reason why we haven't decided yet is that there are a couple of other bands that have song titles which are exactly the same. That pissed us off a little, because we have been working with it for quite a long time. So we decided to change the title to something else. We never found anything, because we had worked with that title for so long. We couldn't find anything suitable. And then we just got back to the old title and just thought: 'Fuck off everyone, we will use this title, because we were the first band'. So title is going to be 'Ad Noctem'.
So again something to do with the night...
Morfeus: Well I think black metal should be black....
Doesn't that restrict you?
Morfeus: No, there are no restrictions. It's just that metal is what we play. I think it's wrong to be kindof like Metallica, that steps so much to the side. So I kindof use other type of sounds and I like to infiltrate them into the music to make it one. People are always telling me that Limbonic Art have quite a unique sound and so on. And I think that's because I mix things that are not normal. I mix it in a way that it makes it work. It's still metal while it's also something else. I don't see it as a limit, I see it as a possibility to do everything.
Is there any more info that you can give on the new album?
Morfeus: One track is going to be called ... [and then the tape had to be swapped around] and another called 'As the bell of immolation calls' and that's pretty much everything we have at the moment. I think at the moment we have like 80 or 90 minutes of music. At least one track will be a bonus track on the vinyl version. We'll see, because it's always good to have more songs than you need, so you can select out the best ones. It will be a bit more of a kick in the face album, I think. Not all those long synthesiser intros that build and build before the song really kicks off. Because then it's always a matter of time... when does it explode? It's kind more obscure sound intros. It's going to be a little bit more of an experimental album in the way of the sounds that are used. It will always be synthesisers, it won't be a problem to hear that it's Limbonic Art... I had the opportunity to work a little with people that are not black metal people. Like a guy who is a professional sound engineer in a studio in Oslo. He has done stuff for the most commercial, best known musicians in Norway, like people that have been on the European Song Contest and that kind of thing. This guy is able to work with the most commercial, best known people, and with the guy from the street, who has a computer and that's all he has. I've had the opportunity, to kind of sneak into his sound archive and pick out old songs that I like. There is one sample CD which is called 'Distorted reality', which has sounds like you wouldn't believe. The strangest things. And when you have that kind of basis, and you develop your own sounds out of those sounds. It's really good fun to try and experiment on new sounds. Before I was a little bit limited to my keyboard. They're limited in the creation of sounds. It's going to be fun to see how people will react to it. It's going to be like... you have this really fast metal drumming and in addition you have this slow techno kind of drum sounds. You kind of metallise the sound. It's also going to be fun to see how far we will develop things in the studio. Like I have a shitload of work next week, I'm not halfway ready with preparing things for the studio. So, I'm going to working like 24 hours a day, for five days. But anyway, it's going to be a fast, kick-ass album.
Thanks very much!
JvS & R
Written May 1999
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