With a third album out now it was time for me to discover MORMANT DE SNAGOV. Answers by M. Lehtivuori / Vocals, Guitar. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
A band name sets the tone for the band. With the right name you don’t really need any sort of declaration of intent. Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?>
-When we first came up with the idea of this band, the original thought was to write music based on a concept of horror stories with a twist of blasphemy and personal ideologies. We ended up adopting a Romanian name with a reference to the grave of Vlad The Impaler. Eventually the outcome of this plan was, that we ended up writing only a couple of songs with the original idea. We soon realized the lyrical themes of our music were slipping more and more to the personal ideologies leaving the original idea to the background. However, we ended up keeping the name as we simply liked it and the original idea behind it.
Who would say are the founding stones of the kind of sound you have? Who are your house Gods and how have they colored your music?
The common reason why we are writing music together as a band is Iron Maiden. That’s one of the few bands we all love. After that comes more individual likings including bands like Megadeth, Paradise Lost, Moonspell, Slayer, Dream Theater, Emperor, Mayhem, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, Helloween… the usual stuff. Then going deeper into the actual extreme metal influences there are bands like Secrets of The Moon, Marduk, Dark Fortress, Nile, Rotting Christ and Immolation where we have picked some ideas. Then on the other hand you we can’t deny that bands like Toto, Queen, Rush, Magnum and Guns N’ Roses have also played their part in the life of Mormânt De Snagov. What is important here, is that there are influences not only from black and death metal but also from heavy, power, prog metal and even pop / rock genres. This is something I’m very proud of because when listening to our records one can surely find these elements in there. It might be an odd time signature or just a pop song structure that indicates these influences come from an unexpected source.
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
-Not really. The riffs that we write just usually come out the way they do and the riff itself defines the tempo: what sounds good and how it feels to play something. There’s not much thinking in that phase of the writing process. It’s more like a flow. Later when we arrange the songs together in our rehearsal place things might change sometimes very dramatically but rarely the tempo and the overall feeling of the songs change that much.
Playing live is a totally different beast to studio work. How does your music work in a live environment?
-Quite well actually. We haven’t used that much keyboards or studio tricks on our first two albums so playing those songs live make no big difference. The songs on our third album “Depths Below Space and Existence” have more layers and keyboards. Of those songs we can still play all the essential parts live so the song doesn’t change too much. We have also discussed the possibility of playing some of the keyboard and choir parts from a backing track, but the final decision is still pending. The core of our music is composed and arranged for two guitars, bass, drums and vocals so whatever we ended up doing in studio with the keyboards etc. are only lower importance layers on top of the essential core.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
-I think it’s still important to have a label nowadays. There’s no way the artist alone (at least in our case) can have that wide of a network or contacts. It’s more important that the artist can concentrate on doing what the artist does best and leaves the promotion and other important tasks to someone who can handle that part the best. Of course, there are exceptions to this but in our case, this is an ideal way of working. We have been very happy with Pest Records. All the communication and collaboration with them have been easy and we seem to share the idea how this kind of work should be done together.
One negative side for the music being too easily available for the fans is that it has an economic impact on the label and artist. Mormânt De Snagov never cared about the money. This band has taken more money than given and that’s the way it will remain. Of course, we try to minimize the loss of money in all ways we can, but at the end of the day, we don’t really care if we lose a dime or two. I would rather give our CD free to someone who really listens to it than sell it to someone who doesn’t give a shit and puts it away to the record collection untouched. So, in our case the economic impact is irrelevant but that’s not the case for many other bands.
The label side of this story is different though. In the underground the labels are run by real people with no access to a corporate level bank account or risk tolerance. The UG labels are run by people who might have their personal money at stake. A payback for the money they have invested would be a desirable thing.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
-I agree with that. I’ve always been quite a dedicated fan of the bands I really like and appreciate. I buy all the CDs and LPs I can afford and also t-shirts and stuff. For me it’s a bit hard to understand how someone can just listen to the music on streaming services without actually owning the product. I too have a streaming service account and pay for it monthly but I still buy everything I listen in physical format as well. I don’t really do much pre-listening either. I like the idea and feeling of the magical “first spin”.
Considering all this I think it’s a bad thing that the concept of liking music has changed. To me it seems that in metal the true fans are more common than in mainstream radio music for example. Back in the days of physical releases people used to listen songs from the radio and then buy the albums and most likely even listen to the albums in full. Nowadays it seems that people listen to those one or two hit songs per artist on the radio and then go and listen the same songs in streaming services leaving the full album without any attention.
What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
-I’ve always liked front covers that have a cool picture on it. For example, the covers of Iron Maiden, Immolation, Blind Guardian and Gates of Ishtar (reissues) are outstanding. A different approach with a fantastic dark atmosphere, like the first two Emperor albums and some early Darkthrone albums are also something that I like.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
-Not really. There are a lot of friends from across the country which I go and see in concerts or festivals, mainly to have a good time together, but that’s about it. The thing that worries me a bit is the fact that the same old faces go to all of the concerts. Where’s the younger generation of metalheads? When we were younger we went to see all possible metal gigs around even though the band itself was not that interesting. I must admit though that nowadays I do not attend all the concerts I would like due to the family etc. and this is the case with many others as well. Good thing is that we still have some active event organizers like for example, Metallihelvetti here in Turku, Finland who do a great work booking underground names to play here.
Metal music used to be a huge mainstream thing in Finland about ten years ago. The popularity of metal music has faded a bit since that, but still big metal and rock festivals are something you see a lot during the summer time. On most festivals at least, some of the headliners are rock or metal artists. So yeah, I guess metal is still doing fine in Finland. Of course, there are still huge amount on metal bands in this small country and that has its downsides too: It’s hard to filter the good stuff from the endless amount of bad stuff.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-What worries me the most is that bands stop releasing full length albums. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, at least in (underground) metal, but some day this might be the way things work. As an artist and as a fan I hate the idea of such scenario. I like the feeling of writing an album. The whole cycle: Writing riffs, arranging and rehearsing the stuff, writing lyrics, pre-production, recording sessions, mixing, the anticipation of the album release and all that. It’s an exciting journey which starts all over again after one album is released. The idea of writing and doing all this just for singles isn’t pleasant at all. It needs to be a full-length album. On the other hand, as a fan I like the idea of hearing the news of a new album from a band, then seeing the artwork and track list for the first time and finally the moment when you get your hands on the CD / LP and do the first spin.
What lies in the future?
-Due to some unfortunate circumstances all our gigs planned for Spring 2018 were cancelled. We are currently trying to book some live shows to the Fall 2018. We are really looking forward to playing the songs from “Depths Below Space and Existence” live.
Meanwhile we have not stood still. The songs for the next Mormânt De Snagov album are almost complete. We are now in the middle of the pre-production and working with the arrangements. The recordings are planned to start sometimes close to the end of 2018. I’m really excited about the new stuff. We are again taking steps to territories we have never visited before. This means we are also slowly fading further away from the second wave black metal that our first two albums represented. Ideologically we will always be black metal yet the music seems to wander further and further away from what is usually considered as black metal.