Skip to content

The MK ULTRA Interview: The Power of Morlocks

Interview by John Wisniewski for MK ULTRA Magazine

Sweden’s Morlocks recently dropped ‘Praise the Iconoclast,’ via Metropolis Records, a frenetic and versatile album that merges industrial, retrofuturism, machines and symphonies with shards of punk metallic power. ‘Praise the Iconoclast,’ features a number of guest vocal appearances including KMFDM’s Sascha Konietzko, their long time friend, dark ambient electro queen Karin My, and their drinking buddy: Black Metal maestro Heljarmadr of Grá and Dark Funeral. Morlocks were birthed in the 1990s in Gothenburg, Sweden and are now a trio that features vocalist and founding member J. Strauss and guitarist Innocentius Rabiatus, who is also a member of Dark Side Cowboys. In 2013, Morlocks recruited multi-talented bass player/vocalist Lamashtu and the trio has been the core of the band ever since. Morlocks has been through a great deal over the years and took some time to tell us all about it.

Interview with J.Strauss of MORLOCKS on behalf of the rest of the band.

John Wisniewski: When did Morlocks originally form? Can you please tell us the story.

J.Strauss: That’s a bit unclear, even to us. I formed the band somewhere in the early 90’s with some friends in Gothenburg, Sweden. We were a totally different band back then, we wanted to be Front 242 so badly but of course we weren’t. There was an album in 2001, but it was quite a mess – we couldn’t decide what sound we were going for, the styles were all over the place and the mixing was horrendous. We disbanded some time after that, and I have never looked back.

I reformed the band with Innocentius Rabiatus right away, and initially we were looking for a completely new name. However, as we strolled around Leipzig during Wave Gotik Treffen, some random Germans pointed at us and we heard them say ‘That’s Morlocks!’. I decided to keep the name on the spot, if we were well known enough to be recognized that way, I didn’t want to start over from scratch. Besides, it’s a great name! What we didn’t know was that there was another band called The Morlocks (not much Google back in the 90’s), but we talked to them and we agreed that the names were different enough, so that should be cool.

Anyway. We got our shit together and set out for the sound we wanted and released the album The Outlaw of Fives in 2012, and got some really good reviews and a lot of gigs, so I’d say that apart from having the band name for quite a while before that, that was the real start of Morlocks of today. A year later we had also started working with the multi-talented vocalist/instrumentalist Lamashtu, and the three of us have been a thing for ten years now.

JW: I see that Sascha Konietzko (Käpt’n K) joins you on the new album. How did you end up collaborating with KMFDM?

J.Strauss: Funny story! While working on The Outlaw of Fives, we burned a bunch of demo CD-R:s with three tracks and handed them out to just about everybody. I brought a whole bunch back to the scene of the crime, Wave Gotik Treffen in 2009, and threw them at anyone looking at least a little DJ:y. This landed us a gig at the festival the following year, but we also got Sascha’s attention.

As it were, I had just one copy left when we went to see KMFDM perform, and a friend of mine said “Hey! Throw it on the stage!”. I was reluctant at first, I mean, throwing stuff on artists is generally not something they like, but I gave in.

It flew like a little frisbee and hit Lucia on the leg. Sascha saw it and picked it up, looked at it and raised it into the air, confirming he got it, put it in his pocket and that was it. Or so we thought.

One year later, I got an email from the Käpt’n. He had found the demo again and listened to it, and was apparently very impressed. It was marked with my email and phone number, and he called me to check out who we were. As luck would have it, they were about to go on tour in Europe and were scheduled for Sweden just a couple of weeks later. We decided to meet up, hung out for two days, had many, many, many drinks and formed a partnership that turned into friendship, and the rest is history. We co-wrote the song The Mess You Made for their album KUNST, and when we finally started working on new material, we asked Sascha to join us for a song and he was, of course, game.
JW: Your new album is called ‘Praise the Iconoclast,’ can you tell our audience the meaning behind the title?

J.Strauss: Well, the world is a mess right now. I mean, it always has been – and it has probably been worse from time to time, but one problem that feels extra prevalent right now is the amount of extremism going around. May it be religious, political, ideological, or just the scary amount of batshit crazy tinfoil hats – we believe that this sort of wackiness is at an all time high. These people love to gather around their symbols, leaders, manifests and whatnot, demanding respect and being taken seriously – and we just can’t have that. We can’t look at presidents taken straight out of a comic book, flat out evil mega corporations exploiting absolutely everything they can get their hands on in their constant hunt for maximum profit, crazy-eyed religious fundamentalists fucking around and screaming age old quotes from their dusty tomes as an excuse for treating people like shit, even killing them and other atrocities. We are very staunch on equal human rights, and under the aggressive and angry surface our hearts are genuinely beating for peace, love and all the beautiful things that yet remain in this world.

We don’t like violence, but when it comes to symbols and icons, the game is on. The cultural anarchists inside us have always liked using art as a weapon, and an iconoclast is someone who smashes and blasphemes symbols as a means of a counterattack. When looking for a name for the new album, my eyes fell on the lyrics for ‘Instigation’ – the first song we wrote after The Outlaw of Fives, about mass surveillance and such fuckery – and the phrase was already there. It was perfect, and summed up the whole theme for the album as a whole.

JW: What was it like being back in the studio again and what is a typical Morlocks recording session like?

J.Strauss: It was amazing. For years we didn’t write much at first. So much came in between; families, kids, work and your occasional burn out syndrome – we didn’t have the inspiration, energy or time. But at the start of the pandemic, something happened and the album pretty much wrote itself. Maybe we needed a global catastrophe to get in the mood, who knows?

We live in different cities. Lamashtu and I reside in Gothenburg, Innocentius is lurking around down south in a town called Ängelholm and our newest, fourth member Reverend Grudge (on guitars) is deeply rooted in Malmö all the way down next to Denmark. Most of the recordings are done separately in our home studios and then, thanks to the dark magics of the Internet, we put it all together for the final production with my gear. We mostly meet when it’s time for rehearsal, and those occasions have been known to be a weird mix between very organized, adult instrument practice and complete, chaotic mayhem – pretty much the same formula for how we live our lives.

JW: Do you have any favorite new artists you are listening to that you want to share?

J.Strauss: Too many to name them. The first version of Morlocks were a bunch of die hard EBM kids in our late teens, but over time and the constant changing of the lineup, we’ve found ourselves listening to a lot, lot more. Personally, I fell down the wonderful and scary rabbit hole of Black Metal and Dark Folk, but we appreciate so many different genres these days. May it be old school goth rock, punk, industrial, dark ambient, synthpop, classical, jazzy tunes, electro, some weird techno, grindcore, noise, a variety of metal styles, classic rock, psychobilly, western, folk music, assorted stuff from the 50’s and 60’s and even the 70’s.

My favorite album at the moment is the latest from Coffinshakers, Sweden. They play some kind of gothic country about vampires, witches, mummies and other things that go bump in the night, and they are amazing. Most genres of old have diluted and stagnated over the years, in our opinion – there have, for instance, been few really good EBM albums in a long time – but the magic happens when styles cross pollinate. We wanted to take that process further on, and this time we’ve found the right sorcery to mix many different genres without falling into the sad trap of our distant first album from over 20 years ago.

JW: Black Metal maestro Heljarmadr of Grá/Dark Funeral appears on this album. How did that come about?

J.Strauss: This is the easiest question of them all! We are good, personal friends and have been drinking buddies for years. I’ve known the guy well since before he joined Dark Funeral, and when we wrote Dicks In Tanks and realized that the song was (partly) heading into black metal territory, I simply gave him a call and asked. He was happy to help and he delivered far beyond our expectations – and also appeared in the music video. The man is a force of nature and a very, very talented musician.

JW: Morlocks has an eclectic mix of genres in creating your unique sound. Is it your intent to reflect this mix or is it something that just happens naturally with each member bringing something different to the table?

J.Strauss: I think it comes naturally for exactly that reason! Each of us brings a lot of different things, due to our varied backgrounds. Also we could never have done this album when we were youngsters; we were far too obnoxious about being true to the genres we liked, and we weren’t even half as good at our instruments and the production process as we are today. We are also aware of the risks, so we won’t stray from the paths too much. We’ve got a lot of absolutely stunning reviews for the album, and many pointed out that ‘this really shouldn’t work, but it does anyway’, and that proves that we’ve found our niche. We take inspiration from so many different sources, but the goal is to process all of it in some rusty, metaphorical grinder and see what comes out at the other end. These days we are also self aware enough to ditch material that doesn’t hold up, an acquired skill that hasn’t always been with us.

JW: Any plans of touring North America or Europe anything soon?

J.Strauss: For the moment, let’s just say that certain things are in motion. We’ll keep some of the good stuff under wraps until we have sorted out some technicalities and details, but don’t be surprised if we pop up elsewhere in the world in the near future.

JW: What is next for Morlocks?

J.Strauss: Apart from world domination? Well, that’s today. Tomorrow, the solar system. This is just the beginning, the universe is the limit, and we’ve decided that there’s a multitude of those as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *