Mortiis: From Black Metal to Dungeon Synth and Beyond

One of the things that initially drew me to black metal was atmosphere. I was introverted when I was younger, and I spent a lot of time living in my own head. Black metal had such a mysterious and weird aura (this was the ’90s and I was in high school) that it touched that part of me, helped give it a soundtrack. But it was never enough; it still had an earthly quality to it. Enter Mortiis. Mortiis created what is now called “dungeon synth,” but at the time I’d never heard anything like it, nor have I heard anyone create it as he did since.

The Beginning

Mortiis was originally known for his work in Emperor but came into his own when he went solo, creating worlds, first with his eponymous Mortiis and later with Vond, Fata Morgana and Cintecele Diavolului. Over time, Mortiis made a sonic shift from dungeon synth to electro pop and eventually cultivated an industrial/dance sound, leaving his past behind. Or so it seemed. Last year, he began a project of reissuing his previous work under the “Era 1” banner, much of which has been difficult to come by in recent years. Mortiis (Håvard Ellefsen) was nice enough to take time out to answer some questions, many of which I’ve wondered about for two decades.

But to start, I was curious why he was revisiting his early works now, when he has such momentum with his current creations?  

“Well  I think I finally came over my hangups over the old stuff,” he says. “I mean, those old records are all recorded straight to tape, so to speak. No sequencers or quantized grids, no studio magic that enabled me to go back and fix mistakes and so on. It’s played direct to tape. Which is obviously totally standard for most musical styles, so nothing unique there, but for keyboard-based music, it’s pretty standard to record everything as MIDI first, which enables you to go in and fix playing mistakes, even move notes around, if needed. I didn’t have any of that really, so those recordings haunted me for years in terms of “fuck, why didn’t I do this differently, that note is dissonant, that part there is full of mistakes…” and so on. So, that really ate away at me to the point where I just didn’t want to know about those albums.

“I think in the middle of all that resentment, I lost sight of the big picture,” Mortiis continues, “which was that all those factors ARE those records. The naivete of the visual imagery, so to speak, the energy and the conviction I possessed at the time. There was this total belief in what I was doing, what Mortiis was, as spaced out and disconnected from reality as it was, which made it all very mysterious and fascinating. Coming out of Scandinavia, not really sounding like anything else… Mortiis was all those things and I think fans really connected with that. Unfortunately, I disconnected with it because I couldn’t get over the production flaws. Of course, my personal mental instabilities didn’t help. As time passed by, I restarted my old hobby of collecting records, and I started thinking about why I liked some bands more than others, and what made me like those bands, and that was when I started realizing I was into certain bands periods more than other periods because something magical (to me) happened with those bands during those times, and usually it would be their early periods. I think it was the honesty that stems from bands early periods. You know, the years when they’re fans themselves, and it’s all straight from the heart, energetic in terms of really trying and wanting and believing in what you´re doing enough to put it out there for everyone to lobotomize and love (or hate). I started realizing that this is exactly what I was doing early on myself… Just doing what I wanted to do, and from that moment I saw the value and the worth in it, you know, I saw things in a different light.”

The Emperor days

I figured the best way to handle a conversation about such a large and diverse body of work would be to take it from the start of things. So, how long before his departure from Emperor was the concept of solo work germinating? Even (especially?) back then black metal seemed to portray a strong adherence to dogma, was the idea of something completely non metal somehow freeing? Ellefsen is surprisingly open about such early times:

”With Emperor, we didn’t really set any rules,  at least not when I was in the band,” he explains.
“I mean, I remember we specifically agreed we weren’t going to call in black metal, because we thought it was starting to look like a trend, and this was back in 1992! There were like maybe 10 bands in our social vicinity that were doing it at the time. I remember we briefly referred to it as “witching metal,” which was directly stolen from one of the old Sodom demos. Emperor, when I was in the band, had some interesting ideas that never happened. I remember we started working on some music that was totally different from what we had written for the mini LP. This was in the summer of 1992. I guess they threw away all that music after I left in December 1992. We were also planning on doing a cover of KISS’ “Do You Love Me” from Love Gun, I think, just to fuck with people’s heads. That never happened.

“I started writing a whole bunch of lyrics during the summer of 1992, which laid the foundation for the whole Mortiis ‘parallel world’ concept. The idea was to make the first Emperor album a concept album. Only two (of my) lyrics were ever used in songs which were ‘Cosmic Keys’ and ‘Black Wizards.’ I guess Candlelight came into the picture and that mini LP happened, and then I was out, and I’m not sure what happened, but they didn’t use any of the other lyrics, and I told them ‘I´m keeping these lyrics’ anyway, so it was what it was. I think Samoth wanted to take things in a more black metal-ish direction anyway, where I was more into occultism-type stuff.”

He continues: “Anyway, massive digression aside, I took all those lyrics with me, so yeah, you can safely say my solo work was germinating in the summer of ’92, several months before I left the band, at least thematically. Not that I knew I’d be going solo at that point. Musically, I was getting into a lot of early German electronic music like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, which was a passion I shared with Euronymous as well, and that inspired me greatly in the early days of going solo.”

Many people associate Mortiis with his prosthetics but initially his aesthetic was similar to his appearance in Emperor. What motivated the shift in appearance and creation of the Mortiis character?  

“I had grown up with larger than life bands like KISS, W.A.S.P. and Alice Cooper. My first memory of music was seeing KISS on TV, probably back in ‘79 or ‘80, when I was four or five. So, that was moment that cemented itself in my memory. Of course, when my brother (for some mysterious fucking reason) got the first W.A.S.P. cassette for Christmas of 1984 (and my parents gave me fucking Huey Lewis and the News, can you believe it?) that just changed everything. If you’ve seen (and heard) the first WASP album, it’s a pretty striking sight image wise. No one looked cooler than W.A.S.P. in 1984. Mötley Crüe came pretty close with the Shout at the Devil look, but I thought Blackie and crew were cooler. So of course that laid the foundation for my love of imagery in music. It’s all totally stemming from heavy metal.

“Later on, when I started reading the odd book or two, I was getting into fantasy literature, which obviously means you’ll be reading your Lord of the Rings and so on, which in itself is very visual, imaginary, and beyond over the top really, so that really sort of jump started my imagination. It was something I really connected with, especially since I didn’t want to write a bunch of lyrics about Satan, or gore (which I did for a short while circa 1990). I loved bands that did that, I just didn’t think it was what I should be doing myself. When I got involved with black metal around 1991 as a band member, I developed this very extreme form of thinking, and I think once I went solo in December of 1992, I took all these elements, the larger than life heavy metal mentality, fantasy literature imagery and the madness that black metal brought, the dark and disturbing ideas from black metal, and that became the Mortiis image and to some extent, theme. But yeah, for the demo photoshoot (which is now lost, unfortunately), I had some type of corpse paint. A couple of months later, I kicked into image high gear and came up with the prosthetic image.”

At the time Mortiis released his first full length (Født til å Herske), he had signed to a primarily black metal label (Malicious Records) and was still firmly entrenched, in the eyes of the public, as a black metal artist. I’ve always wondered if he ever had the itch to create black metal again or just work in a traditional band setting around those years or if working alone was the true creative freedom he sought.

“Well, given that Emperor fired me, I was fairly skeptical about being in a band situation again,” Mortiis says. “The solo thing was liberating in that I didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I was definitely aware that I had turned myself into that ‘loner’ or the ‘town weirdo’ doing what I was doing with the prosthetics image and so on. I was aware that I was potentially turning myself into a target, even back in those days. But it worked out pretty well, most of the black metal fans back in those days got it, and seemed to like it.

“Of course there’s always the exceptions,” he acknowledges. “There were some pretty elitist types in the scene back then too, that didn’t connect with it at all. There were times when I thought that I had become fairly vulnerable to criticism, since I wasn’t a great musician. Mortiis back then was an entity that was all about atmosphere and concepts, and not so much about musicianship. I think some people missed that, and tried to give me a hard time over it. But by and large it didn’t bother me. But of course, in the light of that, it would have been easier to be in a band situation where you might be four or five guys fighting the world together. I was doing it alone, and in a sense I have been ever since, more or less, alone. Even when Mortiis became a band later on, I never really exposed the other guys to any of the media bullshit.”

With some time passing, you could see his visual aesthetic tightening and his music was expanding. By the time of the second full length, Ånden som Gjorde Opprør, his musical identity was solidified. With this did he feel a sense of confidence in his vision?

Well, by that point I had signed with Cold Meat Industry, which was a much more musically fitting label than Malicious were,” he says. “Some may not agree, as I came out of a black metal scene, and Malicious was a black metal label. CMI were industrial and experimental music at the time, with some ambient type projects as well. I think musically it was a better fit. It was also rewarding for me to hear [CMI owner] Roger Karmanik tell me he loved the Født and Ånden albums, so that very likely boosted my confidence a little bit. I think actually signing to CMI is the best memory from that time, since it was a label I had started following a year or two earlier, and I was already into Roger’s own project Brighter Death Now as well as stuff like In Slaughter Natives and Raison D’etre. It really felt like I had found a good place for my music.

“Of course, this was my first proper foray into the industrial/experimental/ambient world, and lo and behold, there were more than enough elitist dicks in that scene too. I know several artists from that scene (not to my knowledge anyone actually signed to CMI at the time, I got along great with most of those guys) couldn’t get over the mask, and probably not the music either. But I was getting used to it by that time anyway.”

When Ånden som Gjorde Opprør was released, it was obvious he had built a vibrant mythos around the Mortiis character, almost like he was writing a novel with sound. Mortiis had built an entire world around his character through his music.

I don’t know why it was important. To be honest, it was something that just came together (in a very basic form) during those two inspired weeks in the summer of 1992, and I instinctively just knew I had a cool thing going, and I just kept building and adding ideas and concepts to it, until I had a something of a world put together, with its myths and legends and what have you. I decided to just keep basing Mortiis records on this world/realm/dimension I had created. It seemed very natural to me, so at the time I had really found my calling, or purpose, so to speak.”

With this world building was he trying to work through the listener’s imagination or was it something else?

“When I was making music back then, it was really all about it coming from the heart, to my hands and onto tape. I’ve never really been the analytical kind, I didn’t think things through too much, so in a sense I think what you hear on those records is very honest. I mean you could say the music is my personal attempt at creating something visual, or emotive in terms of trying to create an idea of these places I was writing about. I always liked the idea that this type of music could be mind expanding, but I also realized that more arpeggiator/sequencer type electronic music like Tangerine Dream, Schulze, Kitaro, and more ‘folk’-ish music like Dead Can Dance did that much better than me… At the end of the day, I went with my heart and gut, and I made music for myself first and foremost.”

This was absolutely the golden era for Cold Meat Industries, where it seemed like every project that worked with the label was doing something special. It seemed to be a great period of creativity but as in all of those brief moments in time those who are involved may miss the feeling of how special it really was. Ellefsen doesn’t appear to be one of those people

“I may not have 100% realized it at the time, but back in those days most or all of the active CMI bands were pretty special,” he says. “Of course we all had our inspirational sources, but each project there seemed pretty unique. We did a bunch of shows together too. I’d go out and do shows with projects like Ordo Equilibrio, In Slaughter Natives, Brighter Death Now, Mental Destruction, Sanctum, Raison D’etre, Arcana, Deutsch Nepal, and so on. All very nice people. Some of those bands are religious too, and I remember having some very amusing discussions about porn and religion, but it was always good natured. I was still the odd guy out though, as I never adapted to any of the “dress codes” in the industrial scene… I was still that odd man out, the heavy metal kid with the bullet belt, motorcycle jacket and tight pants!”

During the time of the third Mortiis full length (Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent), Cold Meat Industry released a VHS containing a short film set to the song “Reisene Til Grotter Og Odemarker,” which was around twenty minutes of grainy footage of Mortiis in a castle. When I was younger, I must have watched the fucking thing dozens of times. It really made sense to me as a visual companion to music which was already itself visual. Ellfsen looks back on the film and why it came into creation:

“Actually, the real reason we made that, was because I wanted to have a cool video backdrop, and CMI said they would pay for it, if they could also release it on a VHS, so that was kind of a compromise, I guess. I personally thought perhaps it was a little drawn out to sit and watch for 20 minutes or however long that song is. But it’s cool that people like it, and even though I would have preferred a lot more variety in it, it´s a nice snapshot from the times then. I kind of walked into that situation not really having much of a plan. We were allowed to film inside this fortress outside of Gothenburg (I lived in Sweden at the time) and I pretty much relied on the guy filming, who I think was also directing and editing. It was a pretty tight budget project.”

Mortiis had released three full lengths, each containing songs clocking in at twenty minutes or more. Then came the Blood and Thunder 7-inch, released on the primarily-metal label Primitive Art. Why do a shorter release now?

“The truth behind the Blood and Thunder 7-inch was that those two songs were originally recorded as intros and outros for a shitty German black metal band whose name eludes me right now. I think what happened was that they were supposed to pay me,  and they never did. Something led to me feeling ripped off, I know that much. After that, I decided to let local record label Primitive Art (they discovered bands like Nifelheim and Gehenna during this period as well) put it out as a limited edition 7-inch”. It was a way for me to regain control, and besides, I loved putting records out a lot,” he laughs.“I think I had already recorded all those shorter songs for Crypt of the Wizard by then anyway, so doing shorter stuff was not new to me then.”

Fermenting Innards? Their Myst  record had an intro recorded by Mortiis. As this was a band who, at the time, were catching hell in the underground for shifting from a guttural death metal band to an atmospheric black metal band, I was super curious and picked up the record. It’s actually one of my favorites now.

“Ah, Fermenting Innards was the band I did the intro and outro for, and they did something or other to piss me off, and I put those pieces out as the Blood and Thunder 7-inch, so that’s really the story behind that. I remember there was some noise around them back in the day, perhaps that was it. The black metal scene could be pretty elitist at the time, and if you didn’t have the right pedigree, so to speak, someone would let you know about it. I think the idea of ‘being true’ back then was very prevalent. It’s kinda funny looking back at that today, because pretty much all of us came out of some sort of background, and usually it would be in this order: heavy metal – thrash metal – death metal – black metal…So why so many of us turned loudmouth over some death metal bands turning black metal while worshiping others that had done the exact same thing, is a bit of a mystery. “

On the subject of shorter songs, his next full length was Crypt of the Wizard, which was released as a series of 12-inches through the course of a year or so. Because of this, it could be experienced in whatever order the listener chose, providing multiple configurations until it was collected later on. Was this concept a consideration?

“No, I  never thought about that until you brought that up now,” he laughs. “The idea was that I wanted to put out 12-inches, I was really into stuff like Sisters of Mercy and The Mission at the time, their older ’80s stuff specifically. I really loved how uniform and identifiable all those old Sisters 12-inches looked, and that inspired me to wanting to do something like that myself. I set myself this Modus Operandi, to do something exactly like that, but in the spirit of Mortiis. I’not sure if the idea was to ever put it out as an album at the end. They were created specifically as independent 12-inches, but CMI might have been keen on putting them out as an album at some point, so that happened either right after the last 12-inch came out, or just prior to, actually.”

I had seen a shitty VHS of the performance Mortiis had given in Los Angeles sometime in the 90s and eventually got the chance to see him in person during the Stargate tour which always led me to wonder what the biggest hurdles of bringing something like this to a live setting while keeping it engaging.

”I think the biggest challenge was what to do on stage,” Ellefsen explains. “Given my image was as dark and ‘metal’ as it was, it would have looked very awkward to set up a keyboard and stand there playing it. Besides, my skills are extremely limited, and I rely on the sanctity and privacy of the studio to perform on keyboards. I can´t do it live. I´m way too shit at it. I did try during one show at least, and it sucked horribly! So, luckily, the Stargate material is fairly percussive, so I got the guys from No Festival of Light to go on that tour with me, and we all did percussion type stuff, so it came across as a cool band type thing. We also had Sarah Deva doing a lot of vocals, so we were 4 people on stage, and that gave it all a band vibe.”

The Stargate ends the first era of Mortiis. But this time period wasn’t just fertile for his namesake; Ellefsen had several other projects during the 1990s which all stand side by side with his work as Mortiis.


The first target is Vond, which he began roughly the same time as Mortiis, but was bleaker and delved into heavier subject matter. Was this project an outlet to express darker emotions than Mortiis?

“Yeah, that´s pretty much the way it was. Like most other artist types, I get a variety of ideas that I want to get out there, and sometimes they just won’t fit with your ‘main thing,’ so to speak. Mortiis at that time, of course, was very set in its ways, in that it was all based on this “otherworldly” idea, so there was no way I could do an album that dealt with suicide and the journey into the afterlife. The funny thing is, years later, when I abandoned the mask and the old Mortiis concept, Mortiis became what Vond had been years and year before… I effectively killed Mortiis and brought the ideas of Vond back, but still use the Mortiis name.”

He goes deeper: “The Selvmord album dealt with suicide primarily, and while I might have felt some of the seeds of my personal/mental issues that came on strong in later years, thought of suicide wasn’t anything I was serious about. It was more a case of something that came with the black metal territory, you know, seeking out the extremes. I was fascinated by it, the afterlife, and so on, but in terms of where Mortiis as a project was at the time, these very human emotions just didn’t fit in.“

Cintecele Diavouli

Cintecele Diavouli was another project, this time just a one off, of weird and dark songs that had a very strong retro vibe to them.

“Cintecele is actually the project I remember the least, perhaps because in a sense it was a blip in time for me; not much time or focus was spent on it. It was my experimental project I guess, especially those three extra songs that were tagged on to the original five/six songs from the 10-inch. I released the first press of the full nine/10-song CD myself, then CMI did a second press of it. I had this vampire theme going on, so I pretty much created this mini concept for Cintecele, which were these ‘stories’ (songs) told by this old vampire. It sounds cheesy today, but I was really into it at the time. I was probably inspired by the imagery of the old Hammer Horror movies that I’d watch now and then. I remember having these old Hammer Horror and Nosferatu movie posters on my walls back in those days. Cintecele is a perfect example of me starting a new solo project every time I had a new idea!”

Fata Morgana

The final piece of the Era 1 puzzle is Fata Morgana, who released a full length of romantic medieval music and a bizarre 7-inch of Kraftwerk-styled space music. Initially it seemed this was the project that was closest in line with Mortiis, so why a different project?

“Well the main reason for all the side projects were that the ideas didn’t quite fit in under the Mortiis monicker,” Ellefsen states. “Fata Morgana probably had the closest vibe to Mortiis, this is true…The original idea behind Fata Morgana was that I was coming up with music that sounded and felt a bit too ‘light’ for Mortiis, and I also wanted to do shorter songs… The first Fata music was probably conceived in ‘94 and ‘95, and recorded later in ‘95, so as far as Mortiis was concerned, I was still into doing the 20-minute+ songs, so I figured ‘fuck it’ and just started another side project. I think I also really liked the name Fata Morgana, and wanted to do something with it.”

And the Space Race EP?

“By 1996, even the people into black metal, the bands, and so on, were getting a bit more experimental, and I know I was. I was getting into all kinds of different music by that point. I had recently discovered Giorgio Moroder, and in particular the brilliant Midnight Express theme music. Space Race is a total rip off of that. I mean, it’s light years away from the quality and talent of Moroder, so I chose to look at it as a fumbling homage at best. In hindsight, it is weird that I chose Fata Morgana for this, and not just starting yet another project, as it´s so vastly different, but there you go. These tracks were all performed live, so all the ‘arpeggios’ are all performed by hand, and not by machines, which is pretty obvious when you listen to it.“

Finding balance

Did people (at the time) have a difficult time differentiating Ellefsen as an artist between these projects and his work as Mortiis? It’s not as if the underground has ever had density in short supply.

He ponders the question and thoughtfully replies, “To be honest, I’m not sure. I think some people asked why don’t I just put everything out under Mortiis. I would pretty much give them the same answer as I just did above. I guess that density is natural result of a lot of people being too impatient or uninterested to do some reading. I always did lots of interviews, so it wouldn’t have been that hard to find mags or sites where I talked about this. People that actually became fans would normally get it, as they´d have a natural curiosity about what I was doing and why, so they’d read up on it, and a lot of early fans would write in as well, buying merch from me, and I always tried to write back. That’s actually something I never stopped doing. I still respond to most communication, unless it’s just too dumb to acknowledge.”         

I’ve spent a lot of time picking Mortiis’ brain about music he created and experiences he had two decades ago. Is there anything he looks back on and regrets? What about what he’s most proud of?

“If you had asked me six or seven years ago, I would have said most of the ’90s was a mistake, but thankfully I got my head out of that cloud a while ago. I think what I am most proud of is my perseverance. I may never have been very commercially successful, but in terms of carrying on in the face of criticism and ridicule, I am beyond triumphant! I am still here. I bet a lot of those guys that took the piss are not.”

The Stargate was the final chapter in the decade-long first era, a time after which saw Ellefsen begin to experiment with something approaching more traditional music, first with the dreary synth-pop of The Smell of Rain. Was he conscious that this was the end of something and the beginning of a new musical adventure?

“I had no idea that The Stargate was a closing chapter at the time,” he recalls. “I signed with Earache Records for that album. I self-financed it at first, and then went shopping for deals. I probably got more rejection letters than Twisted Sister in the ’70s. Nobody wanted to touch me. I was that weird to most people, I guess, or just not a stereotype that they could pigeonhole. I eventually had Earache wanting to sign me, and I knew the deal they offered me was brutal, a real one-way contract. I eventually decided to walk into what I knew would be a difficult situation, and sign with them, because at the same time, I knew they could also take me to the next level. It was probably around late 1999, after we came off the U.S. tour with Christian Death and Godhead, that I knew something was bothering me, and I started becoming very disillusioned with my own music up until that point. I was a heavy metal kid at heart, and I really wanted to do something that was closer to that in terms of music and performance. So, I started fucking around with musical styles I had never tried before, and as usual there was nobody else around into what I wanted to do, so I had to figure things out on my own. So, I was doing that, while dealing with this increasing depression and sense of isolation and fear that just kept growing and growing. It would be a huge factor in my life for several years after that. I would occasionally be able to fight it back for a while, but it always came back, and I’d fight back… And on and on it went.”

Mortiis’ influence

There has been a resurgence in interest in the older Mortiis and associated projects material, which I can trace back to the explosion of the various synth subgenres coming into fashion. What’s his take on the modern stuff? Should they be sending him a royalty check? Was it easier when everything was just lumped under the “ambient” category?  

“To be honest, I don’t know much about the dungeon synth movement,” he confesses. “I mean, I have been very hands on with everything I have done down to the marketing and promo, so naturally I am aware of its existence, and while I’m not sure dungeon synth owes its entire existence to me, I think it’s flattering that it’s obviously somewhat influenced by my early stuff aesthetically. I think that’s cool. This whole thing arose without my active presence, so even though I don’t want to take any credit or anything, it’s still a bit of a mindfuck (in a good way) when people point this out. It’s weird to think about something growing out of something you did decades ago…or were part of making happen…Back when I was putting these albums out, nobody else was really doing anything like it… I mean, some projects arose out of metal a bit later, but really, just a handful. The CMI world and beyond was different, even though I felt like I fit in to some degree there.”

He changes lanes a bit.

“As far as genres, I don’t know, it can get a bit too much sometimes… I honestly haven’t given it too much thought. As far as this retro wave/retrosynth thing: every time I see it, and even though the music seems pretty cool, all I can think of is ‘where were you guys when I tried telling everyone how great all those John Carpenter soundtracks are?’ Nobody cared at the time! I was doing some heavy ripping off of the Prince of Darkness soundtrack on one or two songs on The Smell of Rain[laughs] Same thing about some of Tangerine Dream’s early ’80s records, like Exit, which is a fantastic record.”

This brings to mind his early legacy, nearly a decade of instrumental journeys which he’s still identified strongly with to this day. When artists decide to change or experiment it can create a wave of anger in their fanbase, the people who think the artist owes them exactly what they want. Does it bother Ellefsen that people feel like they have ownership over artists and are the first to complain when said artist doesn’t continually recycle the style they fell in love with?

”Yeah that can get irritating, and that´s being kind. I always did music for myself first and foremost, and starting with The Smell of Rain, I did it, at least partially, to save myself from totally self-destructing. I get that you’re into a band, and you don´t want things to change. I’m like that with bands too. I mean I am way behind, but I love old AC/DC and I recently heard “Black Ice” on the radio and thought “what happened?” All of the sudden AC/DC had this big nice production, they used to be so garagey you know…But that’s me being the dumb fan, the one that only thinks about myself, the one that wants it to be 1979 and Highway to Hell forever. It’s not fair or respectful to the band, and it’s not realistic to think in those terms. At least I’m able to recognize that.”

The same question can be posed about Ellefsen, the man. Much like his old bandmates in Emperor he’s obviously grown older and matured with experience. What does it say about someone who would meet him and be disappointed that he’s not the same man who first put on the prosthetics?

“That’s like me meeting someone like Nikki Sixx and being pissed off he’s no longer a junkie. I mean, it’s just totally retarded, right? If you build up an expectation of what a person is like, based on 20+ year info, you’re not going to be winning the brain on the year award. People fucking change and evolve and that’s just part of human nature and reality. I think if someone truly reacts negatively to that, and don’t get how utterly foolish and thoughtless they´re being, not to mention how selfish they’re being. I wouldn’t give them the time of day to be honest.”

From looking inward to looking forward like many I’m curious if his interest in curating his Era 1 releases has caused him to consider going back into the dungeon for another round?

“I don’t know. I have thought about it. If you refer to stuff like back in the old days… Maybe. I mean I am re-recording the Ånden som Gjorde Opprør album right now, so in a sense, yes I am. I don’t have much unreleased stuff at the moment, some bits and pieces, but not much. We’re doing a reissue of the Blood and Thunder 7-inch a bit later, and we turned it into a 12-inch, remastered so it actually sounds decent, which it did not originally. Also, we added two songs that have been laying around since around 2002-2004, these weird sort of instrumental things, that I thought would be cool to throw in there, even though the B&T material is from several years prior… I thought they fit in fairly nicely anyway.”

With more deluxe reissues coming, festival appearances planned and interest in his music stronger than ever I wanted to know one last thing: what’s the one thing Ellefsen wants people to understand about him as a man and an artist? His reply is concise and to the point:

“I never was much for justifying myself. Maybe I felt the urge to explain myself more in the past. As you get older you kinda go ‘If you don’t know me by now…just piss off!’ I think one misconception that used to float around in the past was that I was a bit arrogant or hard to deal with, which in my opinion could not be further from the truth. I excel at being totally awesome and cool.” [Laughs]

The Født til å Herske reissue is out via Foreign Sounds, and the Ånden som Gjorde Opprør and Keiser av en Dimensjon Ukjent reissues are coming out on Funeral Industries. All reissues are licensed from Omnipresence Productions. Anyone who wants to check out the Mortiis mailorder, visit