With its roots reaching back in time to the birth of Norwegian Black Metal, innovative solo project Mork remains one of the leading dark lights of the current generation. The power behind the Mork throne, Thomas Eriksen, talks to Paul Castles about spreading the Norwegian darkness around the globe.
So Thomas, you have lived and breathed Mork for eight years now, touring the world and releasing great music. How satisfied have you been with the way things have developed?
Skål! I’ve been releasing albums with Mork since 2013 (Isebakke) and it is four albums in total now. Over the years I’m pleased to say that it has been a really steep incline upwards. Every album gets more exposure, more fans are coming to the shows and we’ve visited more countries and played at metal festivals all over the world. In many ways the growth of Mork has taken me by a surprise but then it also tells me that I must be doing something right.
Mork is very much a solo project but you obviously have a group of musicians with you when performing live – just explain how it all fits together?
Mork is 100% my band and I record everything in the studio. Mork runs until it stops but when that is I don’t know. But black metal to me is essentially a solitary thing and I need to be alone when making it. But live I asked the people closest to me and so on stage I am joined by my old friends Alex (guitar) and Robin (bass). Malignant from Ragnarok is our drummer but when we performed at Damnation in the UK in November he was unavailable and so we were able to call on Asgeir Mickelson, best known for drumming with the likes of Borknagar and Ihsahn. We’ve become a really tight unit on stage and have a good time on the road exploring the world together. I love playing live and travelling. The insane part is that we get to see the world because of my studio necro-music!
Your appearance in Leeds for Damnation Fest was your second trip to the UK…
Yep, we played at Nambucca in London in 2018, thanks to the metal writer Dayal Patterson bringing us over. We’ve now featured in two of his books and also appear in ‘Becoming The Forest’ by the Norwegian writer and artist Una Hamilton Helle, who lives in the UK.
Were you pleased with your most recent album, Det Svarte Juv?
Yep, it takes things further with Mork. I feel that the music on my latest album has always been in me, but since my first album I’ve been trying to make it fit in a black metal box. Now I don’t give a fuck anymore, I just let anything out. I guess that comes with confidence and experience. When I released the first album I was scared to call it ‘True’ Norwegian black metal. I questioned can I use the ‘true’ part? Some people say music should be polished up a bit more but the sound and atmosphere is what I fell in love with black metal. If black metal is really polished and well produced I don’t get any feeling from it. It needs that raw edge, mystique, a beating pulse.
The album happened around the time your father passed away. I’m very sorry to hear that. How have you been coping?
Thank you. Yes, he passed away out of the blue aged 60 from a heart attack. It has naturally made an impact on me. I tend to stress about things sometimes and the music helped keep me together at that time. Just before he died we played in Izmir in Turkey and he was like ‘is that safe?’ but afterwards he was proud. We were good friends and he died on good terms. We worked together every day and I miss him but it has happened and you just to have to carry on. I have always said everything positive about me I have from him and my mother – who we called ‘Mama Mork’ by the way! I had a good childhood and in contrast to what some may think, most people involved in the black metal scene actually come from good loving homes.
How has it been working with Peaceville Records on the last couple of albums?
It’s great, things have gone very well. Peaceville picked up with me after my first two albums, releasing Eremittens Dal in 2017. They then re-released my first two albums so my whole catalogue is now available through Peaceville. They give me the freedom to do what I want. They have an incredible history going back to the 1980s and it’s great to have that connection with a label such as this. It was always one of my goals to end up on a bigger label and when they signed Mork I couldn’t believe it. I had done a lot of work on my own trying to develop the band and through social media you can make progress if the music is good enough. But being on a recognised record label does of course help and I guess it shows that if you stick to your guns good things happen.
How conscious are you about Norwegian Black Metal’s significance and contribution to the genre and to what extent do you see yourself as among the band of artists keeping this alive today?
Of course I feel that in many ways Mork is picking up the baton first carried by the likes of Darkthrone and Mayhem. I’m Norwegian, the music Mork makes feels Norwegian but there is nothing political in our music. When I make a new album I do what I feel at the moment. It’s not just plain black metal, I come from a background that includes punk and pop and it all funnels into Mork. I love Transylvanian Hunger but if I made that album it would not sound the same. I’m all about the human mind. I’m against religion but while I’m a big fan of Burzum’s and it has been a huge influence on me that does not mean I share his views. For me you need to look at the art. People sometimes don’t agree with me but they don’t have anything on us. I don’t care about skin colour. We don’t use German war symbols on records and so on. I don’t think you have to use controversial symbols and themes to get your music heard.
Do you have any time for much outside of the band?
No! Mork is on my mind 90% of the time. I live and breathe it, It is so hard for me to do something else, just ask my girlfriend!
How do most Norwegians now view their nation’s part in the development of black metal?
It’s been accepted by the public and people do take pride in it. It’s seen as a fascinating art form and all the church burning stuff is behind us. You see black metal on TV now, and in newspapers. Some of it is a bit silly but it’s definitely out there now.
How do you spend some of your time at home?
I try to work as much as I can with Mork things and I also do some management of the band, when I do it alone don’t have to worry about someone taking away a part of it. But I could do with a partner now to take something away from me.
How was it sharing a stage with Dimmu Borgir?
Great! Their package is polished with a grand symphonic sound. I like their stuff but that kind of production does not work for Mork. They have done their thing and made a real success of it and I’m not against them at all.
How did the band’s first trip to the United States go?
We’re continually achieving new milestones and goals and playing our first show in Las Vegas at the House of Blues was one of them. It was packed out. We actually rented an apartment over at the famous Rainbow and it was great to hang out where Lemmy used to drink. I’m a big fan of Lemmy and Motörhead and it was such a cool place to stay.
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