Interview by Elek Malcolm-Madill
I'm not gonna to lie, I had a little bit of a fangirl freakout moment when I learned that I would be interviewing Morten Erga, the man behind the Norwegian blackened hardcore project "Witchface". His album Skada for Livet has countless plays on my last.fm profile and I'm overall just a big fan of his music. So when he told me during the early stages of the interview that he would be releasing a new twelve inch record I couldn't resist asking him all about it, not to mention some other questions about his creative process, inspiration, the early Norwegian black metal scene, and endless bummers.
FBN: To start with, who are you and what is "Witchface"
Morten: I am a 28 year old from Sandnes, Norway. Witchface is my one man Punk/HC project/band that I started 3 years ago.
FBN: How long have you been playing music for?
Morten: I have been playing music since I was 15. First starting playing drums , then I did vocals for a while and later on I learned how to play guitar.
FBN: Have you been involved in any projects before this?
Morten: I have been involved in a few bands over the years, but we never released any material and broke up because no one was really into it and arguments was always around the corner. If there wasn't weed at our practice spot, no one bothered showing up for rehearsals.
FBN: I think one of the obvious things people question when they look at Witchface, with the music having various blackened components of it, along with you being Norwegian is the correlation between your own music, and the music of the early Norwegian black metal scene with bands such as Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, etc is? Do you draw any inspiration from any of these groups or do you prefer to think of Witchface as completely unrelated to any of this?
Morten: The recording /creative process of Witchface might have some similarities with some of the early Norwegian BM bands like Burzum or Darkthrone simply because I am alone in creating and that means a lot more work but a lot less hassle. I guess you could say that we also share similarities in that we play riff based, lo-fi, music with a lot of distortion and we don't play live. Other than this i don't see to many obvious connections with these bands, other than me liking them and being Norwegian. I think if your alone and making extreme riff based distorted music its hard not to draw inspiration from Burzum at some point, he did all that shit early on and it sounded fucking bad ass.
That said I play angry punk/hc and not black metal and I draw much more inspiration from more current bm/punk bands like Sump, Bone Awl, Sexdrome than I do from any of those early Norwegian bands.
FBN: I was interested in your writing/recording process as well- for a non-Norwegian speaker such as myself (and others reading this) could you translate the titles of the songs on "Skada for Livet" and the name of the EP title itself? Where do you find possible inspirations for lyrics as well as the rest of your music? On that note, could you also explain what the process of recording Skada for Livet was like and what sort of equipment you used on it?
Morten: The Title for my EP - Skada for Livet means Damaged for life.
The meanings of the titles on the jams are:
01 Basta! - This is actually Italian and transalates to "Enough!"
02 Negativ Kniv - translates to" Negative Knife"
03 De Nifse Normale - translates to "The scary Normal Ones"
04 Antiliv - translates to " Antilife"
05 Kjip av natur - loosely translates to " Jerk by Nature"
06 Maaneskrekk - transleates to " Moonhorror"
I find inspiration for lyrics in my day to day misanthropy and all the endless bummers that make up my life. I have seem to come upon a inexhaustible source, but I don't find writing lyrics to be very enjoyable these days. I am leaning more and more against using my vocals as a instrument to complement my sound more than grinding my brain for days on end to write "genius" lyrics that usually has to be manipulated a lot to fit into the songs when recording anyways. Truth be told absolutely no one (Norwegian or not) can make out what the fuck my lyrics are about anyways. I usually don't print lyrics and those distorted shrieks of mine are not understandable at all without lyrics, so I have come to not care to much about the words, its all about the sound.When I write lyrics these days I try to write down a couple of badass lines and then just repeat them as much as I can, more like a chant or something.
When I recorded Skada for Livet I recorded the guitar and bass at home over a weeks time and then I did drums and vocals in one day at a rehearsal spot. I did it mega easy with only one shitty vocal mic on the drums, and very much a plug and play approach to the guitars (no cut and paste) and then I did vocals last with a twist of distortion (no cut and paste) only the least shitty takes wins. I do it all on the hardware and never use a computer. The equipment I have always used and probably will continue to use is a 8 track digital mixer, a vox pathfinder 10 guitar amp, a cream fender jazzmaster copy (its a burn victim and looks really trashy) and a super shitty epiphone bass. I bring my own cymbals when I record drums.
This process doesn't cost me a single cent and I am really glad I don't have to spend any money recording to get the sound I'm after. The only money I spend is on mastering services over the interwebs when I am done recording and mixing.
FBN: Sounds good to me, mind if I ask a few questions about your new 12" as well?
Morten: No problem.
FBN: I loved that you added an intro that was a bit more noise-oriented seemingly- was that was you were going for?
Morten: I'm glad you like it. The Intro was something I made in like 15 mins, just experimenting with bass and vocals. I thought it turned out a bit "Noisey/Power electronicish black metaly whatever" and decided to use it for the first cut.
FBN: Overall the album is great but is definitely a bit different than Skada for Livet, what was your creative process like this time with the writing/recording of the album? Were you going for a different effect than before or do you think you've built on what you were doing with your debut EP on the 12"?
Morten: The creative process was pretty much the same as with the 7" EP, but I definitely had a more heavy and angry approach to writing the 12". I wanted a couple of pissed off mid tempo songs inbetween faster ones, and I knew I wanted a protopunky first riff on the album. I really liked the idea of having a "scary" intro and then diving right into a stoogesy/brainbombsy type first riff. It sounded a bit funny to me to have a evil intro and then just Ron Asheton piss all over that first riff. I was definitely going for repetitive lyrics this time around. I don't really know if I built on what I was doing with the 7", I mean the music for skada for livet is a bit more urgent and garagey. My intention was to make a new record that had a tiny bit heavier pace and more of a creepy atmosphere and that was what I did.
FBN: I was also curious as to who does the artwork for your album covers, did you make them yourself or did someone else?
Morten: Me and my Girlfriend made the 7" artwork together and the artwork for the 12" is made only by me. Its usually just me doodling around with artwork, but when the technology becomes to overwhelming I have to involve help. I am not smart, and I am definitely not smart with computers.
FBN: Do you have a favourite song or piece you liked recording, or just how it turned out on the album? Be it vocals, guitars, drums, etc
Morten: I don't think i really have a favourite song or piece I liked recording. I like the overall sound on the record and for me that's what its all about. I couldn't care less about good songs as long as the sound is awful.
FBN: What do you think the most difficult track was to "get right" in what you had envisioned for it?
Morten: All the tunes are a bit difficult to "get right" because the vision of the final product is always really strong with me. That means that recording drums and vocals can be a bit of a bummer sometimes because for me its the last two layers of the recording( - mastering) and if things are not sounding according to plan at this stage i get a bit frustrated. It usually works out in the end.
FBN: That makes sense, and I think that about wraps up everything I wanted to as far as I can think of, thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
Morten: Great. Thanks you so much for everything. I've been reading your reviews and they are a good read. I have also found a few gems om your guys blog that i probably wouldn't discover if it hadn't been for the blog. Keep up the great work.
FBN: Thanks man!
Witchface's new album "Skrekk & Gru" is out now and I highly recommend it, there are vinyl copies in the works of being pressed but they're also greatly worth pre-ordering, I personally can't wait to get my hands on one. If you're interested in checking out the review I wrote for the album to get a feel for it before you listen maybe, then here's that as well.