“When I start writing the lyrics I always try to find a subject that fits well together with the atmosphere” – exclusive interview with Morten Veland

I’m a huge Sirenia fan for years now! If you already follow our blog for a while, you could notice that how many Sirenia interviews we did during the years, and we also took every chance to see them live when they were in town. That’s why I was so excited when I got an e-mail from Morten Veland himself in which he informed me about the next releases of his solo project, Mortemia. Of course, we took a chance and did an interview with him about his plans.

After 11 years of silence, I finally found the time to activate my solo project Mortemia once more. I am back with a new and different concept this time. Each new song will feature a well-known and highly profiled singer in metal. This new project is called ‘The Pandemic Pandemonium Sessions’, and it will be released as a series of digital singles. Mortemia to me is kind of a journey back to the nineties, as the songs are very much inspired by this decade musically, whilst my other band Sirenia is more of a journey into the future, musically speaking. This first song is just the beginning and I am very excited by all that will follow. I feel truly honored and privileged to be working with such talented singers, and I can’t wait to share more songs with you all in the time to come.

Morten Veland about Mortemia

-Let’s start with the most important question: how are you?

-Oh, the day was really busy but yeah, it was a good, productive day, so… Yeah, this Corona period turned out to be more effective as I expected, so… But that’s a good thing, so certainly I can’t complain about that. (laughs)

-You have reactivated your solo project, “Mortemia” after 11 years of silence. The question is quite simple: why now?

-Yeah, actually I kinda wanted to do it a long time ago, but I was so busy with Sirenia, so I couldn’t really find a time to sit down and work properly on Mortemia. But, you know, when the pandemic broke out all the touring came to stop and all that, so I had a lot of time in my hands all of the sudden.

We also just released a Sirenia album, so at the moment there are not so many things to do with Sirenia.

Of course, composing and there are ideas in between all the time, but basically, I just got a lot of extra time in my hands, so I thought it would be the perfect idea to try to do something positive out of this COVID-19 period. So, yeah, I began working on my Mortemia project and I had some ideas lying around that I composed over the years and so, but I didn’t really have the time to finish them or put everything together and so on, so I collected some of the old ideas that I really liked, but I started composing new stuff. Yeah, that’s basically how the idea started.

“When Morten asked me about this collaboration I was first of all honored. When I then heard the song I instantly felt that this is something I really want to do. Morten has captured a certain vibe in this song that makes it interesting, mysterious, and catchy!”

Madeleine about the collaboration

-What are the feedbacks so far?

-Yeah, I have been getting a lot of good feedback from fans and also from the press, and so far I only released 2 songs (editors note: we did the interview at the end of June), but the plan is to release a new song every month, so… Yes, it’s really exciting to see… I actually had some really amazing guests onboard this project, so it’s really special and very exciting for me to work on this project. I’m really looking forward to the continuation and to share more songs with everybody. 

The cover artwork is created by Gyula Havancsák. I have been working with him for many years with Sirenia. He also made our last 4 Sirenia covers, the first one he made was “The Seventh Life Path”. He is an amazing artist, and we developed this very good cooperation over these years with Sirenia, so I thought he was the perfect guy to get in touch with what I wanted in artwork for Mortemia as well. I had some basic ideas of what I wanted and I presented those ideas to him and he started working on it and adding his ideas to the artwork as well. I think we ended up with a really nice cover artwork once more. So yeah, I’m very happy with that one. 

Morten Veland about the artwork

-Are you planning to release the full album physically as well?

-Yeah! Actually, at first, I wanted to do just digital singles, but then a lot of fans asked me about it, and also I thought it could be a cool idea, so… I think the plan at the moment is to release 12 songs month by month, and when all 12 songs are finished to also do a physical version, a CD and probably also a vinyl if possible if the demand is there, so… I think it would be cool. Yeah, I guess probably next summer, or around this time I will release the CD and possibly the vinyl as well.

-How do you choose the guest artists for each song?

-When I was working on the songs I was thinking, you know: for this one, it would be perfect for this singer, and for the other one, for that one… I have friends that I’ve known for many years, so I thought it could be cool to write a song for this singer and so on… Most of the singers are already settled, but still, there are a few other songs for that I haven’t choose a singer yet, so I’m still working on that… Yeah, it’s gonna be exciting to see how a song develops and get in contact with the singer. Hopefully, they will be interested and join the project as well.

-What are your criteria?

-Well, generally it’s more of what I think the song needs, you know. So, I try to pick the voice that I think would fit perfectly for each song and obviously singers that I really like myself, you know… So that’s basically all. And, of course, it depends on singers’ availability and if they are even interested in… On my part, it’s quite simple. (smiles) 

-I honestly feel that the first Mortemia album, “Misere Mortem” was much darker, and based on those two songs “The Pandemic Pandemonium Sessions” is much lighter. 

-Yeah, I guess the first one was really dark for sure. I think there’s a lot of dark stuff on this new album as well, but maybe also some of the materials are more energetic in a way, so it gives that’s kind of wipe, you know… I mean, it has been 11 years so obviously it’s gonna be different, and this concept is also totally different than the previous one. 

That was also part of my idea, I didn’t want to do another album exactly like “Misere Mortem” – I wanted to try something new and different this time.

This is the project, the idea that I keep walking with and I’m really happy that I choose this idea because – for me – it’s something completely new and different. I have never done anything like this in the past, so it’s all new and really exciting. So, I’m really happy that I choose this concept for this album, and maybe there will be a third album later on… I will probably go for another concept again, try to think of something different for the third one. You know, I like to try new things, and pretty much the same with Sirenia – I try to make every album different, so I think that’s kinda important for a composer and artist to try different things. Also, over the years the personal case for music, changes and develops over the years… So, it comes very naturally you know, to try new things with each album.

-How many songs are completed and how many are still in the making?

-There are 3 songs that are totally completed and the rest of the songs are still in the works, some of them are very close to being finished like just tiny details are remaining, but yeah, everything’s went – so far- really smooth. 

Maybe the fans have to wait like 6 weeks instead of 4 weeks, if it’s necessary to do that of course, because the quality is always the most important thing.

It seems to be running really smooth and really well at the moment, and the next singers are also making their appointments to the studios to do the recordings and everything, so it’s a really exciting and really fun project to work on. 

-I noticed many different styles on “Death Turns a Blind Eye” – there are some gothic, melodic, and symphonic elements as well. How much was it conscious?

-For me, when I compose, things kinda come in a natural way so to say. I may have the basic idea for a song, and I start working on it and in the beginning, it’s like to have a vision of what I want to do and all that, and that’s what I try to work on…

But at some point, the song kinda gets its own life and coming to me in a very natural way so to say, so it’s like the song is just composing itself and I’m just going along and write, you know.

So, it’s a fun process. I guess it hasn’t changed over the years how I compose songs and that kind of stuff. I even wake up in the morning and I have all these arrangements in my head that have been kicked in overnight and stuff like that, and when I wake up everything is ready more or less in my head and I just need to get to the studio as soon as possible and start recording the ideas before I forget them again. (laughs) I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing, it sounds crazy but it helps the productivity, that’s for sure. (laughs) I get stuff written, that’s a cool thing. 

I’m not sure if they have clear messages… Mostly, my songs are more descriptions, observations, feelings, atmospheres and that kind of things, you know… When I make my songs I always make the music first, and when I start writing the lyrics I always try to find a subject that fits well together with the atmosphere and the feeling that is already there in the song, so yeah… Most of the time the songs are a little bit dark, or dramatic, and this kind of direction, so it’s all about finding subjects that match up with this. That’s getting harder and harder over the years because at this point I have written so many songs, so it’s harder to find new subjects and things to write about. 

Morten about the messages behind the released songs

-And we have a fun question for the end: all Mortemia songs start with “The” – except “Death Turns A Blind Eye”. Why?

-Yeah, exactly! (laughs) Yeah, it’s quite funny actually because you are the first one asking me about it, and there’s a funny story behind it: the thing is that I have always been a huge Seinfeld fan, and if watching Seinfeld closely, all of the episodes start with “The” as well – so it’s kind of a hidden, secret tribute to Seinfeld. (laughs) But nobody ever asked me about it actually, there was one guy that commented “why the fuck all the songs start with ‘The’, it’s kinda annoying” (laughs) and that’s like the only feedback I got back. (laughs) And I was kinda thinking about it when I started writing for album number two as well if I should continue to put “the” for all the songs and I figured maybe I should just leave it to the first album but then, you know, the first song title starts with “The” and that was not planned actually, it just happened that way but the second song – there was a different beginning with the title, but the third song starts with “The” again, so… (laughs)

Interview by Péter Tepliczky
Written by Afrodite Szeleczky
Photo credit: AngstImWald

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"I associate heavy metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers." - Christopher Lee

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