Saturday, November 19, 2011

Morito Ergo Sum: The Interview

This week, Paolo Cito of Sweden's Morito Ergo Sum gives us an immense amount of pleasure with a fascinating look at his band, the music they have created, and a disturbing and disheartening fact about Sweden that no one could have seen coming.

First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking the time out to answer some questions about your work.

It's a pleasure, specially because this is the band's first official interview!

The band name, Morito Ergo Sum, is a derivative of the famous phrase "cogito ergo sum," (I think, therefore I am) coined by Rene Descarte. What was your thought process in choosing this as the name for your project?

I “stole” that idea from my wife. She used it as a nickname on her email address and in a few online forums. She is a big Doom Metal fan, and it was she who actually planted the seed in my head about making my own Doom band. I thought the name sounded really Metal, and fitted perfectly that style of music, so I asked her permission to use it.

I just want to remind that this is not exactly the correct way to say I die, therefore I am in Latin. The right way would be Morior Ergo Sum, but using “morito” makes it sound even more like Descarte's phrase.

As your project began to take shape, what was the overall vision for the band, your music, and the direction you wanted to take the doom genre?

I wanted to do something that was a little different from what was out there in the Doom scene. The first thing that I wanted was a really depressive feeling. I began to listen to all the Doom Metal bands I could find on MySpace (when it was still a good and fun site to look for music), and I noticed that more than 80% of all Doom bands there used only growled vocals. The others used mixed growled and clean vocals. Apart from the already known names, I thought that all the newer bands sounded very similar to each other. It was always the same type of songwriting, with the growls over it. I had difficulties to recognize different bands just by listening to them in a shuffled play list. There were basically no bands playing a really slow and heavy music using nothing more than a good, clean-singing vocalist. The only ones I can recall being the exceptions are Warning and Akelei.

That was around the time when My Dying Bride released For Lies I Sire. I was also listening almost non-stop to Celtic Frost's Monotheist.

So, all this together shaped the initial idea for Morito Ergo Sum.

I don't think I wanted to take the doom genre anywhere. That would need some really revolutionary approach, and all I did was take away the growls from an already known formula. And we are not the first band to do that... I just realized there was a niche for that kind of sound. And, ultimately, that was what I wanted to listen to!

How did Walter Basile come into the fold? How did you meet, and when did you know he was the right man for the job?

Walter contacted me via an online add I put when I was looking for musicians. He presented himself as a drummer. The thing is, when he contacted me the first time, I had already other members in the group. Actually, I had a full band back then, with a drummer, me on the bass, a lead guitarist and a singer who also played the rhythm guitar! So I explained to Walter we already had a drummer, but that the guy was still in a “test” period, and that I would get back to him if necessary.

That line up only lasted 2 or 3 months. The main problem was that the drummer we had was used to play Death Metal and Grindcore, so he had some difficulties on the slower parts. At that time the songs were a little different, they had much more faster parts, and Bolt Thrower was also one of the influences I had added to the mix. Another issue was that the other 2 guitarists had a really different musical background than me, and they were not used at all with the style. So after a while the songs started to sound really different from what I wanted.

So I decided to stop everything and start over. I fired the drummer, and invited the other 2 members to leave MES and form a new band, so I could try to find the right musicians for MES. That's how my other band, Blood Of My Soul, was born.

Then I contacted Walter again asking if he was still interested in trying the drums. But he was still in the process of moving to Sweden (actually he was not 100% sure yet if he was going to stay here or not), so, he had no drum kit he could use for a test. He didn't even had some cymbals and a double pedal, needed if you rent a rehearsal room with a drum kit included. While we were trying to figure out how to test him, he showed me his YouTube page,where he had uploaded just for fun some covers as a singer. When I listened to them, specially his interpretation of Bathory's Man of Iron, I realized that he had a really nice voice, and asked him if he was interested in trying out as a vocalist. He promptly accepted the challenge, and after a few days he sent me some really rough recordings of him singing 2 songs: one from Tiamat and one The Foreshadowing. It was then I knew he could be Morito Ergo Sum's singer!

At the release of your first demo/EP, "I Die, Therefore I Am," the band had a mere two members. What was the process like recording such an ambitious EP with only two people?

There is a funny story about that demo: it was not supposed to be a demo! The original idea was just to take the 2 complete songs we had and put them on MySpace, so it would help us to find the other members for the band. Just so people could listen to real songs, instead of the instrumental parts that were uploaded there in the beginning.

There was actually no ambition at all!

When I started to record the guitars for good, I realized that the songs sounded really nice! Until that moment I had just made some raw and loosely played recordings, so me and Walter got really excited about the quality of what was being built and decided to release a demo instead.

So, I programmed some basic drum tracks, and recorded the guitars and bass during my free time in the weekends, and during the mornings on weekdays, before I went to work. Then I sent everything to Walter, who was back in Italy on vacations, and he added all the nice details on the drums, and recorded the vocals. Then, when he came back from Italy, we did the mixing/mastering together here at my place. In that same day we recorded the violins with an invited local musician. The mixing/mastering was a process that took 10 hours, so Walter had to sleep over. The next morning, when we heard the final product with fresh ears, we were amazed with the results!

Looking back at that offering, it was a very stripped down group of songs; no solos, and only a basic framework of what was to come. How do you think it stands up to the initial vision you had for the project?

The reason there were no solos is because I was still learning to play the guitar hehehe! I am originally a bass player, and that demo was recorded only 6 months after I bought my first guitar, a 40 Euros used Cort Zenox, from a guy from my work! So I obviously could not do solos (and I still can't). So, part of that simplicity is due to the fact I was still finding my ways around the 6 strings.

Anyway, all the initial ideas, sounds and atmosphere are there. That's why I said we were amazed with the results: it was basically what we expected to sound like. And it was extremely close to what my original vision was. Already at that point I felt a great sense of fulfillment. Even if the band had stopped there, artistically I was already happy.

At what point did you decide that more members had to be added to the band for you to complete your sound? How did the current line-up of musicians come together?

I never wanted this to be only a project. I wanted a band, a real band! So, from the very first day, apart from writing songs, my main concern was to find the other members.

And I knew I needed a particular kind of singer, and that was the biggest issue, because I could not write the songs properly without knowing how the singer sounds like.

Before I met Walter, and even before the band had it's first line-up, I tested lots of people. Unfortunately, contrary to what many people think, it's not easy to play Doom Metal! It's really a challenge for many musicians, even experienced ones, to play properly that slow.

Our plan with the demo, as I said, was to help to find the right people to join us, And I can say that plan worked! I think it was only one or two months after we released it, I got my first contact with Pablo (Magallanes). He somehow heard the demo and left us a very positive comment on the band's MySpace. When I replied to his comment, I saw that he was a guitarist living in Stockholm, and that he was looking for a band. So I asked if he was interested in give it a try. We met for a small test in my apartment, and I was instantly blown away by his playing! He has not only and incredible feeling, but is also extremely technical.

About that same time I was contacted by a bassist called Alexander Teklemariam. He was really young, so we keep him in the band for about 4 or 5 months, in a sort of test period. But in the end we felt he was still very inexperienced, and some of his skills still needed to be better developed. So, when it came the time to start the pre-production rehearsals for Moonchild, we decided it would be better to find another bassist. That's when Mike Wead came to help by suggesting his long time friend Harry Virtanen to the post. Harry is also Mike's guitar technician when he is on tour with King Diamond, so even before we tested him we already kinda knew things were going to be fine!

Walter still provides the drums for the band, even after numerous attempts to get a full time drummer. Did you ever think it would be so hard to find a drummer that could fill the seat behind the kit?

I am glad you asked this question, because there is something people outside Sweden must know: it is EXTREMELY hard to find musicians that want or can play Doom Metal here! Things are not how they used to be 10 or 15 years ago. The interest for this style is close to zero, and to find musicians who can play this, or that are not already committed in other known bands, it's almost impossible. Hence the fact there are no swedes in Morito Ergo Sum! We are all immigrants here, including our bassist Harry, who is born in Finland.

Even Messiah Marcolin himself was shocked by this reality when he failed trying to find us a drummer. And keep in mind that it took me 2 years of active searching to get to this line-up we have now!

It seems to be only a handful of people who actually supports the Doom Metal scene here. We got absolutely no support from the Swedish underground media (sites and zines) when we released the Demo, and I still haven't received any feedback from them regarding the release of Moonchild... nothing! Zero! And that is crazy when you think how big bands from Sweden are outside the country. Memory Garden, just to name one example, is quite known in Greece, they play there all the time, but they are barely known in their own land. Shame on you Sweden!

The new EP shows a tremendous amount of growth from the previous one, from the songwriting to the recording itself. Give us a little insight into the writing and recording process, and how your vision came to life in these 4 songs.

Well, basically I record some riffs ideas, sometimes only individual riffs, sometimes riffs and melodies I write at the same time, then try to put the ones that I feel that work together in a kind of skeleton of a song. Then I start to add a few details, and show it to Walter so he can help me with the structure of the song. Then I send him vocal ideas so he can test them and we decide if they sound good or not.

In the meantime I use to do some simple home demos and send to the others so they can get familiar with the new songs, and specially to Pablo, so he can work on the solos, and come with ideas. All the amazing solos you hear on the Ep are written by him!

Behind These Tears was one of the first songs I wrote for MES. It almost was included in our first Demo, but I am glad we didn't because some parts were a little different before, and the vocals were totally re-written for the Ep. It sounds much better now!

This Selfish Act was almost left out the Ep, because we couldn't find vocal melodies for the verses that were up to our standards. I think I sent 5 or 6 different variations to Walter to try out, but none of them were good enough. Then, once day, I had this idea of changing the guitars for the verses, and everything came together naturally. But that was by far the most difficult song me and Walter worked with. At one point we were even considering doing it as an instrumental piece! Also, it contains some really old riffs, from one Death/Doom band I played with when I was still living in Brazil, back in '94.

When The Grass Grows Over Me is the newer song of that bunch. The basic idea for it is a little over one year old, but the whole song was written I a very short period of time.

The recording process was very intense. We only had 3 months to rehearse these songs
together as a band with Walter on drums, and only 4 days to record them.

1 week before we entered the studio, we found out that we could not use the drum-kit we thought we were going to use. Fortunately our bassist Harry found someone who could borrow us the drums. But that kit had no cymbals, so Harry found another person who borrowed us them. Then we needed to buy new skins, which Walter did. But the skin for one of the toms had the wrong size, and we realized that only the day before we started to record. Once again, Harry miraculously found a spare skin somewhere that would fit that tom. And that was at 11 o'clock in the night! From that day on we started to call him Salvatore (the savior)!

The rest of the recordings went as usual. Kudos to Pablo, who came with some really nice ideas on the spot, and for our sound technician Mike Wead, for all his patience and good work!

The title track of the EP, "Moonchild" is a cover of a King Crimson classic. What led you to cover a song of any sort, and specifically a King Crimson track?

It is always cool to play covers, specially when you are a new band and have a limited repertoire. But for me it's important to not make just a carbon copy of the song you are covering. You have to put the band's personality in that song, and make it interesting.

I always was a fan of King Crimson, since I was 14-15 years old, and their debut album “In The Court Of The Crimson King”, is, in my opinion, one of the best albums in history of music! It always fascinated me how dark, sad, even depressive, those songs are.

So I started to listen to that album in the search for a song to cover. First I was working on the song “Epitaph”, but the version I made was way too epic, and I wanted something more melancholic, something that would fit Morito Ergo Sum's sound. Then, when I tried “Moonchild”, it was one of those moments! The whole song came alive instantly! And at the same time I noticed how Greg Lake's voice was incredibly similar to Walter's voice in that song. It was a no brainer. Then Pablo added the solo, improved the melody you hear at the end of the solo, and added that trippy clean guitar at the very end.

After a few attempts that were not up to the quality you were looking for, Martin Powell (formerly of My Dying Bride) recommended Elle Torry to provide the real violin for the EP. What can you say about Elle, working with her for the tracks, and how her finished product sounds to you now?

Elle is great! When Martin recommended me her, I knew right away it was going to work, because, well, she was recommended by Martin Powell, the guy is a legend! Plus, I listened to her other works, not only as a violinist but as a guitarist also. Say no more! I was so confident that I deliberately gave her almost no instructions! All I did was to send the violin melodies I had made using some cheap midi plug-in, and told her I wanted those exact melodies and notes, but with the “human factor”. And she totally nailed! She did the recordings in only 2 hours, and the whole process – from the first e-mail contact to the sending of the final files - took only 4 days.

She was also kind enough to put my mind to rest by sending a clip of one of the songs while she was still in the studio recording. I had told her about all the problems I had to find a violinist, about all the people I contacted and just let me waiting to, at the end, give all kind of excuses to not do the job, or simply never answering back my e-mails, so she wanted to assure me everything was going to be alright.

All I can say is that she played exactly what I had in my mind! I couldn't have asked for a better result!

With the EP now complete and the release date come and gone, how do you feel about the four tracks you have given to the world? Are you happy with the finished product?

Absolutely! I was already happy when we listened to everything while still in the studio, when Mike did a very quick mix to show us at the end of the last day of recordings. I had goosebumps then! The songs sounded exactly as I imagined!

What is your plan for the future of Morito Ergo Sum? What can we expect from the band musically in the future, and when can we expect to see a tour in support of the new material?

I would love to continue to do this kind of music, so I want to keep things going. I think this band have even more to show, but is not an easy task to make all the moving parts to work as one... We had a band meeting a few days before the release of the Ep where we discussed what we would do from now on. And also how we could start doing gigs, because that's what we want the most. All I can say is that we will try to move some things around internally in the band so we can achieve that. I don't know if we will manage to do what we planned, so I can't tell you any more details at the moment!

Musically I think things will only get heavier and slower, and I am not kidding! I already have a couple of ideas that will probably become new songs, but I also want to make the other guys in the band to come with their contributions, as it already started to happen recently.

Thank you again for the time and support. We appreciate the opportunity to ask these questions, and we hope success is in your future!

 Thank you for all the support you guys gave us! I really enjoined this interview!

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