Interview with vocalist and guitarist Dave Gregor
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 2, 2016
Heavy weight Death Metallers Morta Skuld, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recorded four albums for Deaf/Peaceville Records during the 90s, all of which were received pretty well among Death Metal fans worldwide. In 1998 however, they broke up and many people undoubtedly thought they'd heard the last of this band. 2012 was the year when the pieces started to gather together again and Morta Skuld was back.
Morta Skuld released a limited edition 5-song EP titled Serving Two Masters on small underground label Dread Records in September 2014 featuring three new songs plus two remakes of old Morta Skuld songs. The band was back in the game and songwriting for the band's next full-length studio album is currently in the works.
The Metal Crypt contacted founding member guitarist and vocalist Dave Gregor to ask what killed the spark in the band in late 90s, what reasons for Morta Skuld's comeback were and some other things as well.
Luxi: How's life in Milwaukee these days?
Dave: Things are good here in the land of cheese.
Luxi: What happened to Morta Skuld in 1998? Why was the band unable to continue back then?
Dave: We went on tour and the first date was an opening slot for Slayer in our town. The next day we were to open for Master in Florida. We got to the gig and our drummer was saying he was sick and wouldn't play so we didn't play and at that point he wanted to come home and refused to do rest of the tour. Once we got home, the band had nothing left. We tried to replace him after giving him another chance but we couldn't find anyone as Death Metal was going back underground.
Luxi: Would you tell the readers of The Metal Crypt why Morta Skuld was dug out of the ice in 2012? Did you feel like the time was right for Morta Skuld's second coming, so to speak?
Dave: No, I didn't feel it was time at all, it was my old producer Eric Grief who got me a deal with Relapse to put out our demo collection and he was like "why not get band back together?" I said I'm fine with what I'm doing and then I ran into a few of the guys and mentioned it and they were on board.
Luxi: Did you, at any point, try to contact Jason O'Connell and Kent Truckenbrod so that they could be a part of Morta Skuld's second coming? Both played on what is currently the most recent full-length Morta Skuld studio album, Surface, which came out in 1997.
Dave: I did ask Kent and he said he couldn't as he has some back issues and Jason O and I were never on good terms and I didn't ask him. Kent wouldn't play without Jason O so it wasn't going to happen.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the new hired guns in the Morta Skuld ranks; Craig Nienas (on second guitar) and Eric House (on drums)? Was it easy to find them and what did they bring to the band? Did they have a clear understanding about how you wanted Morta Skuld to sound almost 20 years since the break-up?
Dave: It just happened after the original guys decided to quit the band again. One by one I stumbled onto the new guys and started what we are today. They knew we had a sound and that we wanted to keep the integrity of the band's sound but with a little bit of a new flavor.
Luxi: Morta Skuld's new 5-song EP, Serving Two Masters, was released about a year ago in September 2014. How has the response been so far and do you believe you managed to capture the same feeling and vibe of your old days in the three new songs?
Dave: It did very well on Dread Records and I feel it captured who we are as a unit and the chemistry we have playing together.
Luxi: There are remakes of "Presumed Dead" and "Prolong the Agony" on the EP. Did you want to bring those two songs back to life not only because you wanted to give them an updated sound but also to prove to everyone that Morta Skuld still kicks serious ass even if it has been almost 20 years since you last recorded with the band?
Dave: Not really. It was the fact that we changed our tuning and we only had three songs and felt the fans would want to hear a few old ones with a modern sound.
Luxi: Can you remember how you felt when you were holding the final product in your hands (this latest EP)? Did you want to scream to the world, "I am fucking proud of this achievement - and for the right reasons. Just give it a listen and you'll all be very surprised!" or something along those lines?
Dave: I am very proud of the EP and what we have done with it. It was great to have fans respond to it the way they did and we sold out of the pressing of it as well. It is such an organic sounding EP to me and it is one of my favorite recordings.
Luxi: When you recorded the Serving Two Masters EP one of the founding members of Morta Skuld, bassist Jason Hellman, played in the band. Is he still involved with Morta Skuld or does he bang his 4-stringer in Dr. Shrinker permanently nowadays? If you look on the internet, there's some mixed information about this matter...
Dave: He did quit few months back and is now in Dr. Shrinker full time. He also does other bands and projects as well and he wanted to explore that. We wish him well.
Luxi: How much new material have you written since Serving Two Masters EP came out in 2014? Do you think that these new Morta Skuld songs pretty much follow the same musical direction of that aforementioned EP?
Dave: We have almost six new tracks and yes a similar vein but different as well. It's hard to explain.
Luxi: Were you happy with how the Deaf/Peaceville staff treated Morta Skuld treated you compared with the other bands on their roster back in the day? Did you get any financial support for tours and how much did they promote you guys?
Dave: Yes, we were very happy with them and the work they did on the first two albums. The third album didn't get much press and/or exposure so I think that it didn't do well for those reasons. We never got tour support but we did get nice recording budgets. I think the first two albums were worked better and supported more.
Luxi: Despite the lack of proper financial support, Morta Skuld played a good bunch of shows around the States. You shared stages with such names as Morbid Angel, Grip Inc., Viogression, Morbid Saint and many others. Can you still recall how Morta Skuld was received by the crowds back then when got to play all of those gigs? Is there a particular gig that has stuck in your mind, for one reason or another?
Dave: Man, you played and people came, end of story. And everyone left with a shirt or CD. The best for me was Slayer in our home town. It was an amazing crowd response for us in front of 3000 people.
Luxi: Surface, which was the fourth studio album from Morta Skuld, was originally released on Germany's System Shock. How did you end up doing this album for them? Was the Peaceville staff unhappy with low sales and kicked you off the label after you released For All Eternity in 1995?
Dave: We were at the end of our contract and we did some demoing and shopped it and no one seemed to want it. Pavement Music picked it up and I believe System Shock was their overseas distributor so it had nothing to do with Peaceville. It was time for us to move on and we really wanted to be on an American label and tour.
Luxi: Which of the four Morta Skuld albums that you have released thus far is the one that makes you most pleased?
Dave: I'd say Dying Remains as it was our first and most raw and influenced record. The EP stands high for me as well as Surface.
Luxi: Back to today. As you have noticed as they are from the same area as Morta Skuld, Viogression and Dr. Shrinker, which was already mentioned here related to Jason's current involvement with them, have both reactivated after many years. How much do you guys communicate with those camps and do you work together to keep the underground flag high?
Dave: Brian from Viogression and I are great friends and I'm cool with the Shrinker guys but I don't know them as well as the Viogression guys. We did do a show with Dr. Shrinker few years ago but that was it. And I think all three bands try to keep the flag flying.
Luxi: As you have surely noticed, Death Metal as an extreme subgenre of Heavy Metal, has been having a second coming for the last few years. Many disbanded Death Metal bands have collected their troops back together and are making new music and putting out new albums. How does this make you feel? Do you believe most of them are back just to feel like being a teenager and/or young again and do you believe some of them are only back because they are trying to earn some easy, extra bucks?
Dave: I can't answer for them but for me it's an attitude and a way of life. I'm very lucky to be playing this type of music at my age and with a good bunch of guys. And I'm sure for some it's a payday and in the end we all have bills to pay.
Luxi: If someone hasn't heard of Morta Skuld, how would describe the band in a couple of well-chosen sentences? Feel free to show your true skills as a marketing man... ;o)
Dave: Wow... Nice one! I'd say old school Death Metal with groove and intense, in-your-face music but with a bit of polish. For the fans that like their Death Metal a bit more commercial.
Luxi: Can you predict how 2016 will look for Morta Skuld? Are you aiming to play at some festivals when the season draws closer? How about getting a slot on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in February 2016?
Dave: We will be doing a new full-length album and trying to tour and get to the UK and we would love to get on a gig like that but we have no label with the contacts or money. We will also be reissuing our albums from Peaceville and we have our EP coming out on vinyl as well as our demos on vinyl, too.
Luxi: Shooting a video is a very good tool to promote your bands via social media sites and other channels. Have you had any talk in the band about doing one? The power of videos simply cannot be ignored, that's for sure...
Dave: Yes, we did one for "Prolong the Agony" and we will be doing one for the new album as well and agree it is a great tool for people to get the visual they need.
Luxi: I think that's everything I had in mind regarding Morta Skuld. If I forgot to ask something, then please forgive me. Anyway, thanks so much for your time Dave and I wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Morta Skuld. If you want to leave some closing words then here's the proper moment!
Dave: I thank you and thank the fans for the support. Check our Facebook and/or Reverbnation page out and show some love. And our tunes can be bought on Dread Records as well. And I look forward to putting out an album for the fans to enjoy.
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