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Madder Mortem

Madder Mortem from Norway is still not a very well-known name. But I emphasize the word “still”, because I am very surprised that their previous album wasn't picked up by hundreds of thousands of metalheads. That record 'All Flesh Is Grass' (released in February 2001) was their second one, and it was an impressive collection of heavy, complex, but yet very melodic metal. And songs you'll remember. Even more impressive were the powerful vocals of the figurehead of the band: Agnete M. Kirkevaag. Yes, a woman. And what kind of woman! Certainly not an average way of singing you'll hear every day from all those nightingales-chicks singing in those thousands and thousands of gothicmetal-acts. But she's also not from the order of mud-grubbing squealing and grunting pigs. She's more a hybrid between a lion and a wolf. Her mighty and emotional way of singing is the trademark of the band: sometimes sounding like a sister of Diamanda Galas, then she sings with broad power like she's the little niece from Ronnie James Dio. A bit strange maybe, but if you dig it: hell, it's enslaving! Recently their 3rd album “Deadlands” came out, and this one sounds as firm as a Nordic fjord. Agnete brought less of her eruptical craziness into her voice, but concentrated even more on “pure and powerful singing”. And that's even more intense and emotional. I was impressed. Really impressed. Also because of the very eerie, dark and slight progressive (heavy) metal the band around Agnete was playing. Just give this album a change and you'll ears will be addicted to the thrilling and mysterious sounds of Madder Mortem. In the end, I think “Deadlands” is even stronger than the already very, VERY great “All Flesh Is Grass”. A real classic that I don't hear very often.

After some miscommunication about wrong telephone-numbers and interview dates, finally I got in touch with Agnete, while she was calling from a telephone-booth nearby one sort of very infamous blackmetal-club in Norway. She was really enthusiastic about their last effort and told me everything about the last 18 months. For information about the band before 2001: see our archives for our previous interview with this band.

By: Evil Dr. Smith | Archive under

So how was your first European Tour last year? It was just in those weeks that I was on holiday, so unfortunately I couldn't see you.

I don't think that the tour with Vintersorg, Tristania and Rotting Christ was the best musical tour for Madder Mortem, but we had GREAT fun. The other bands and the crew as well were exceptionally nice for us. You should have seen the last night in Munich, everybody was like hugging and crying. Everything was very sweet. So it was high time and we got to play every night. I don't think I have experienced anything better, than playing every night. And it doesn't matter if you're a supportband or the headliner, I don't think that actually matters: you get to play every night. It was fucking brilliant!

And did you played the Europe-cover and Priest's “Breaking The Law”?

No, we didn't play “Breaking The Law”. We didn't play any covers at all. We were the first warm-up band, so we stuck to our own songs. I mean, it was a Tristania-crowd and Madder Mortem could be a bit too heavy for that crowd, so we just tried to play our own songs as well as we could. And then keep it from there. Oh, we did play “Breaking The Law” in Munich actually, on the last day of the tour.

Was there any differences in response of the audience?

I think there is a certain difference between the countries. In my opinion the German audience was the most difficult audience. I think also that the people who came to see us in Germany, were mostly to see Tristania exclusively. But for instance Hungary, Budapest was really great. Some gigs were just like we did our stuff, but we sorta reckon that okay, this is not our venue: we just do our stuff and get off the stage. But at other places it was like: “HEY, they're knowing us! There's a guy in front that actually knows all the words” (giggles). That was very cute!

So what about a second change for people like me who haven't seen you playing live?

Oh, I think that depends on the sales on whether Century Media has the funding for a different tour or not. Maybe in 2003, but unfortunately nothing before Christmas 2002. I'm still a sort of an idealist. When you want to promote a metalalbum, you want to play it. You want to make gigs. We would very much like to. Believe me, we're trying all we can: WE WANT TO PLAY!

No line-up changes for a change…

No, Hallelujah!

And for me, your new album comes really out of the blue. I didn't expect a new Madder Mortem-album, only about 18 months after the previous one. I'm used to wait at least 2 years for a new album from a metalband.

Yeah, we were pretty quick! I think we're pretty good musicians, but we're not very good at promoting ourselves between albums. But our previous album was released in February 2001 and the tour was in the autumn. And during the tour, we already started with writing new material. But to us, writing a new album is pretty expensive sort of process. We worked very long on it. And we also have a parent in our band from a very sweet 5 years old kid. He's so very cute! So we need to spend some time with him.

A kid? Is it yours?

Me? No, not me! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST: NO!!! Are you crazy? It's from Paul, the bassplayer. Yes, his name is correctly Paul Mozart, and the name is inherited from his grandfather, I think. But back to that album: we recorded 'Deadlands' in May and June. And then we had a lonesome vacation which was really nice. We sort of tend to take this really intense periods of time when we work with the music and work with the new album and when it is recorded we've been completely silent for about a couple of months. So I suppose that's not very good…!(laughter)

So being a bad promoter for your own band, I can't imagine that you already make a living out of this band. So what do you do for a living?

Personally, I'm an accountant. No, not the most exciting part of my life, but it keeps food on my table. But then again: what is art without the every day suffering? To put a little bit of salt on your bread. You have to have a little bit of suffering in your music to make it sound good, right? Otherwise, you'll lose the urgency. When you have all the spare time of the world to write your music, you can sort of fool around. But when you've been going to work for a week, a boring job, and then finally, there's the weekend: you can play, you can rehearse. Then that fulfills a lot of dreams. Finally playing after a boring week of work. And most of the guys are working as well. And Paul is the caretaker of his son, so he gets a bit of money. And my brother M.P. (the guitarist) and Mads (the drummer) have been in this sort of civil service thing, and they recently got out of it. So should be finding jobs about now.

But Bas, what do you think of our new album?

Oh, it's very hard to choose which album I prefer. It's a little bit different than your previous one. Less vocal craziness, but more gloomy and heavy.

They're very different albums. “All Flesh Is Grass” is all out aggressiveness. That album is angry, really, really angry. But this new album is more from a subtle point of view. The view of where you're at when you lost any hope. The point beyond hope. When you knew that things don't get any worse, but don't get any better as well. This is it: all hope is lost.

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So it's kinda like a concept-album?

Yes, there's a sort of concept in this album. But it's not a tale and there's nothing supernatural in it. No spooky evil stuff. There's not one starting point and one ending point. It's more a thesis, all these songs are picked out from the same place of view. When all the “pink” in your life is left and you're stuck with the bare reality, well, let's face it, when you get down to the bare reality, life is never nice.

Well, being an accountant or 5 days a week…

Hahahaha, that's a good point! So the album is about how bad things could get if you're looking at life and the people around you. Personally, I don't think that life is nice. Life in general sucks. And people in general sucks as well. But then again, you have to see this absolute blackness to be able to see the good things as well. Cause there are some people who are really nice, as well as some happenings in your life. And you can't see those bright spots of happiness if you haven't seen the very, very black bits of total despair. But the best way to say this is to see the artwork of the album, which is absolutely brilliant. We have been working with the cover art as long as we've worked with the music actually.

And you worked with the same guy as on “All Flesh Is Grass”, which artwork was also stunning?

Yeah, Christian Ruud. He's my best friend! No, I don't think he worked for other bands as well. Simply because nobody has ever asked him. He does some really great stuff and I hope that people will notice that. He's already a long time friend and he was once also in our band. He played guitar on our first album “Mercenary”.

So are you completely satisfied with the album?

(sighs)…Well, I don't think that you're ever completely satisfied, but yes, we're satisfied. You see, the trouble is, looking back on “All Flesh…” for instance, is that you forget it. After 2 years you don't remember anymore. And listening to that old album and comparing it with the new album, you hopefully hear that you're matured. You hear that you're growing older. You started to do things differently, musically. I'm still very fond of that album “All Flesh”. And I should be, it's the blood of my heart. The 2 albums are just 2 different points in time: A reflection of where you were at that time. And one of the goals of this new album was to make a little more of a groovier record. And I think we managed that. It's groovier and easier to listen to. In some parts. I think, we have renewed ourselves in a way that in what chords goes with what chords and how we put the vocals of me and my brother together. And listen to me: this is a very personal album, so that makes it a bit difficult to talk about it, because I don't think I've ever been this personal. So I can't easily step out of it. Everything of myself goes in this music: just like a little piece of your heart or your life. Music supposed to be emotion. And if you're not completely capable of given yourself away every time you're playing music, there's no point in doing it.

Otherwise it's like going to the Macdonald's eating snacks…

Macdonald's is very nice, but make your own food. Make your own music. Feel it. In my opinion, music should be painful. Painful in the sense that it must be intense. When you make music it must be so intense that it actually is a little bit painful. But don't forget, happy can also be painful! You can be so happy, that it hurts. If you're really, really happy, then you get sort of “oe-oe, ouch, ouch!”

Did you got any help from other persons to write the lyrics? Just with the previous album on '4 Chambers', or did you do it now all by yourself?

No, they're all mine. The "4 chambers" - thing was a one-off, but a rather good one, I think. I normally prefer writing my own stuff, since I need the personal tinge on the music, but I connected with the lyrics for "4 chambers" at once, and it got sort of a special meaning to me.

Was writing this album in any way therapeutical? (The very dark, pessimistic point of view that maybe bothers you in your life?)

I wouldn't describe it as therapeutical, since it there's no healing involved. I rather go for trying to make everybody else just as miserable as me...hehe.. To be serious, I don't think of music as an outlet, other than the sheer physical ecstasy of rehearsing or gigging. I perceive it more as an intensifier of everything, and perhaps as a justification for any kind of pain or confusion. If you can make something beautiful out of your own demons......the strain is lessened when something good actually resurrects from it.

At this point, I stopped asking questions about the music and Madder Mortem. So, if you want to know more about the band: play the album! It's incredible! The rest of this interview is more about Agnete as a person, instead of being just “the vocalist of the band”.


How would you describe yourself in four words.

Stubborn, very stubborn. Definitely! Very intense. And I don't know the word in English, but both happy and sad. No, not melancholy. Not both of the stuff, I'm never sort of in the middle. Either I'm happy and going out of the top of my head, or I'm depressed and laying all day on my bed. Yes, I'm an extremist. Oh, and also I'm a very good cook!

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Is it hard to be Agnete M. Kirkevaag?

Yes, actually. Not in the band, cause I think that's the only thing in my life that's easy. But everything else, I ponder too much about. I think too much about everything. But as long as I can go rehearse or play music, or just do something, it's sort of bigger than myself. Then everything is okay. Yeah, basically an escape from the harsh reality. Pretty pathetic, but it's nice though!

If you can't sing: which talent would you like to have?

Either I would write or I would paint. I paint a little bit, I'm pretty good with that, but not as good as I am with writing. So I would write. Use words. Clever words. No, it's not the same as writing lyrics for Madder Mortem. You use the language very differently when you try to make lyrics, because it's all about rhythm and making something sound good. If you write something, someone supposed to read it. Then it's about language and trying to make things slow and create the right sort of picture in somebody's line. So I think I would like be a writer, yes! Or maybe a cook! A very famous one!

So write cookbooks!

Yeah, that would be great! (giggles). If you're ever in Norway I'll cook you dinner!

Okay, that's a deal! Something else: What makes you nervous?

The people I don't trust. I have this group of friends, which sort of includes my band and which are people I've known for a very long time, and we all have this very deep bond of loyalty and friendship. So I trust them. But then again, somebody comes in that's not very nice, and then I get nervous.

What was the moment that you was ultimately happy?

It happened several times. But the last moment I was ultimately happy, was when I put in the last vocals of the “Deadlands” album. I was looked back on it and thought: “That was GOOD!” I've done the best I could. And if you can say that, if you can say that you did the very best you possibly could do, then you can be proud of yourself. So, I was satisfied. Yeah, that's very happy as well. And that is a very good feeling.

Are you afraid of death?


So what has to be written on your tombstone? “What a relief”?

Hehe, no. It must be only my name in capital letters. And maybe “The one and only”, something like that. (giggles)

Choose between:

Morning person/ night person:

Night person

Shy / Self-confidence:


Optimistic / Pessimistic:


Leader / Follower:


Lazy / Workaholic:


Thinker / Worker:


Alfa / Beta:

Alfa, probably.

Stubborn / Pliant:

As you already know: stubborn, definitely!

Fighting / Running away / Talking:


Jealous / Naive:


Melancholic / Happy:

A little bit of both.

Romantic / Down to earth:

Definitely romantic.

Spiritual / Rational:


Misanthropic / Hippie:

A hippie.

Right wing / Left wing:

Left wing.

At this moment, Agnete was running out of money so the line broke. I send her the rest of the questions by e-mail and the very same day I received the next answers:

Pro-Euro / Anti-Euro

If we're talking about the monetary unit: Ehh...very practical for touring, but not so nice for vacations. I'm skeptical to the benefits for ordinary people in this big, European union...

Environment / Economy / (Or do you believe in a successful mix of them?)

I believe that a successful mix is possible, but not very probable. I'd go for environment any time.

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Bush / Peace

Try this link. You can make your own Bush speech.
The fact that Mr. Bush is the kind of man the majority of Americans wants for president (that's at least the official version...), scares the hell outta me.

Classical concert / metalgig

Both! You can't ask me to choose between it...but I do go to more gigs than classical concerts, since classical happenings are usually perversely expensive.

Sepultura / Arvo Part

Sorry, Arvo....the Seps holds a very, very special place in my heart. "Arise" was my point of conversion.

Beer / whiskey / cola


Shopping / Drinking


Shoes / Handbags

Shoes. I hate the cute, ladylike handbags, I need a big, heavy duty shoulderbag to bring along my entire life in. And I love high heels, just not on stage. You ever tried headbanging on high-heeled shoes?

Lingerie / Granny's underwear

Definitely and always lingerie.

Doing dishes / vacuum cleaning

Doing dishes. You can listen to music and sing along.

Well, getting bored? Maybe it's no fun in answering this kind of questions by e-mail?

Actually, it's great fun! This is not the kind of stuff I get to answer very often, so I'm pretty much enjoying myself. In addition, I'm at work, so right now somebody's actually paying me to talk nonsense...hehe.

Well, here are some other type of questions. What must happen or what has to change "in this world" that you will not be disappointed anymore in society? Or is it like the theme of the album: it's beyond any hope?

A little honesty and pride in one's one decency would go a long way, I think. We also seriously need to reconsider the way we're spending our resources.....but I'm not really a political gal, so I won't start lecturing. On a philosophical note: Despite the bleakness of my general outlook, I'm a sucker for hope. I think hope has it's place only when there is no more any rational foundation for it, so maybe now is the time?

How's it to be a female in this overcrowded male metalscene? (A lot of extra attention, I suppose? ;-) )

Yes....some of it good, and some of it just silly. I, and I believe most women do, enjoy being appreciated, and you often get a lot of both attention and respect by being a genuine metalgirl. It's also nice that people take an interest in our stuff, no matter why. BUT: When the gender issue confuses people to the point where I repeatedly have to explain that yes, I write a lot of music and yes, I write my own lyrics, I get a liiiiitttle bit frustrated. One of the other drawbacks is that you don't see a thing at concerts....I'm not very tall, so my nose ends up in the armpit region of most of the male audience. At one Mayhem show, the guy behind me was wearing really heavy spikes, so after he had been waving his fist in the air the whole gig, my cheek was totally scrubbed up....

And are you still single (don't be afraid! I ask from a strictly journalistic point of view! ;-) )

Oh, yes. I haven't really got the time for stuff like that, and it usually gets a bit in the way of concentration. If I ever met a personable, patient and extremely strong-willed metalhead, though...

Your brother BP plays guitars in the band: where stands BP for... besides a gas-station (oh, how pore! ;-( )

That's one of the deep, dark secrets of the Madders...

And how is your relation with your brother? Was it becoming stronger when you're on the road together (like during the last European tour), or is it becoming harder: sharing so much time with each other. Or do you have a 'equal vision and mind'? (Same sense of humor, wasn't it?)

It didn't change much, really. After all, we've lived in the same house for most of our lives, so a couple of weeks in a bus isn't all that big a thing. We share quite a lot of opinions, I think, though we differ at certain points, but when it comes to music, we have a common vision from different viewpoints, and the result is greater than the sum of ideas...and yes, much the same silly sense of humor.
I think much of the enjoyment in working with BP is that I have an absolute trust in that he'll always find just the right thing to play, and that he always gets the point I'm trying to make.

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Do you look more like your mother or your father?

My father, I think.

And what do they think of it: having a son and a daughter playing in a "awful satanic metalband that will devastate their lives"? Or, are they not that narrow-minded?

My father is our number one supporter. He feeds and houses the whole band when we rehearse, and is the perpetual driver...and actually, he likes the music too. My mother is not so fond of the noisier parts of the music, and especially not the lyrics, but she's supportive to the band anyhow.

When did you felt that singing was your calling/vocation? (I know you once sang in a bluesband, but what exactly 'started' it? What was the trigger?)

I started singing just for fun in a sort of youth club - band, ages ago, and fun was the reason. I kept doing it just because it's great fun, but I don't think I saw it as a calling until I heard "All flesh.." for the first time. Up to that point, I didn't have the worlds greatest confidence in my own voice, and just kept doing it because of my personal enjoyment. But when we had finished recording "All flesh:.", I started feeling that I had sort of a purpose, and that I had something a bit special to offer and share. Now I never want to do anything else, and I hope I can get myself some more projects to work of the few very satisfying ways to spend time.

What's your own personal favorite song of the new album and why?

Hopeless. They're all my babies, and it depends so much on the mood etc.

And what song (of another band/musician) would you like to have to written yourself?

Hmmm....I think perhaps "Stargazer" by Rainbow. I'm not a big Rainbow fan, but that song is very, very close to perfection. Or maybe "Stripsearch" or "Jizzlobber" by Faith No More.

'Stargazer'! Gee, why don't you record your own version of it on your next album: as a hidden track, without credits and stuff? I'll bet you guys can make a damn fine version of it! Without imitating the exact 'atmosphere' and still be 'yourself' in that hell of a classic song.

I wouldn't dare put my greasy fingers on "Stargazer".....some things are just perfect, and shouldn't be tampered with. Right now we've started rehearsing "Leper Messiah"...GREAT fun!!

And what are your favorite 3 albums of this time? (Let's see if you mention the same 3 as 18 months ago...?)

Two versions:

The three albums I'm listening most to right now are: Opeth - "Blackwater Park", Korn - "Untouchables" and Seigmen - "Radiowaves". All three very good albums, none very recent.

The three favorites: I hate doing this. It feels like I have to discriminate some of my I try to pick three different every time. Faith No More - "Angel Dust" I think this is my all time favorite, both because of the album and all the things I connect with it. Arcturus - "La Masquerade Infernale" . I'm proud to be Norwegian. Sepultura - "Arise". None above in it's genre.

Alright, that's about it. Was a pleasure talking to you again, Agnete! And happy cooking! Do you know any special Dutch recipes that you like? Like "poffertjes" (very small, tiny pancakes), "boerenkool met worst" (a free translation will make this "farmercabbage with sausage") or "snert" (a very thick soup, mostly made of green peas and slices of sausages and bacon: nowhere to find during summer, but everybody eats it during winter).

I don't know many Dutch foods at all....all that stuff sounds nearly kinky, if you ask me...hehe. I do love putting mayo on my fries, though...."Snert" in Norwegian means something like the uttermost end of a whip, or you can use it in the same way as sting in "a sting in his words ". How interesting the verbal world is!

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