For anyone unfamiliar with Boston’s Morne, I recommend you educate yourself immediately. Dark, brooding, savage at times and a constant sense of foreboding throughout each composition… Thinking man’s metallic crusty hardcore? I am tempted to use the term “post” but the only time I like to use that term is when the members of the band are actually postmen, Morne may not carry sacks of mail for a living but be sure that they always deliver…
This week I caught up with Milosz Gassan & Max Furst and they gave us a sneaky peak into the world of Morne…
For the uninitiated, can you please give us an introduction to Morne?
Milosz: I play guitar and sing, Jeff plays guitar, Billy is the drummer and Ian plays keyboard.
Max: Hello, I play bass and handle visuals / design for the band.
Morne strike me as a band that has vision, is this the case? If so, did the vision exist during the birth of the band? How has it played out?
Milosz: Right after I moved to Boston I started to look for people to play music with. Meanwhile I was writing songs, collecting riffs and visualizing a basic picture of a band I was trying to put together. I wanted the band to be a personal expression some other way to express emotions, those good ones and those bad ones, lyrics to be personal but also carry some kind of universal value. I remember one day I saw a photo at my friends place in Connecticut, I said then, I want this to be the cover of my band’s first album… I think that picture and the songs I was writing set the artistic direction, mood and personality of what later was called Morne. That photo by the way ended up being the cover of our demo. I wanted the images match the mood of the songs so I suppose there was a vision before the band was even formed.
Max: I joined up with Milosz in 2007. At that time I had been without a band for nearly two years. Over those two years I searched extensively for people to play this kind of music with but had little success. When I crossed paths with Milosz, it seemed we shared passion for dark and heavy music, plus having been a fan of Filth of Mankind, I was very excited to work together. At that point, the blueprint of Morne had already been mapped out. The rehearsal tapes Milosz sent me were very strong and near complete, he even had that visual of the demo cover, the whole thing was more or less ready to go. Morne was ultimately Milosz’s brainchild, but it also became an opportunity for me to pursue my own ideas in a lot of ways as well. There’s definitely a vision, or concept that has evolved since we first began playing, but at its core it has never changed. There’s always been a driving force and an unspoken objective between us, and this has generally lead us to where we are today.
The keyboards lend a massive dose of atmosphere to the sound, they have been there since the early days, was the addition of Ian Shultz a smooth transition?
Max: I’ve always liked the manner in which synth can add texture, depth and atmosphere to music. With the early Morne material, we used it only as such, it was rarely brought out from the background and remained as a subtle, underlying signature in many of our songs. However, when Ian joined as the full-time keyboard player, it changed things entirely. Keyboards became a vital instrumental element of the band, both live and in the studio. It’s hard to imagine going back from this, in fact we’re hoping to progress further with the keyboard/synth element in future material.
Milosz: I wanted to have a full time keyboard player pretty much from the start of the band. It was hard to find someone who would fit the band so Max and I recorded keys for a few of our releases. It wasn’t ideal but we didn’t have much of a choice, we wanted the atmosphere keyboard creates. When Ian joined the band he added another dimension to our guitar driven music, It was a big step forward. It completed the band in a very big way not only sound wise but also music wise.
People love to pigeonhole bands, what style labels has the band acquired? Post crust? Metallic crust? What label is the band happy being labelled as?
Max: I think most people tend to describe music in ways that make sense to them, however, it still seems like every one hears something different in our music. Maybe they hear what they want to hear? As a result we get all sorts of descriptions stemming off punk or metal, which may be a bit misleading to someone who has never heard Morne before. As a musician I tend to hate trying to label my own band, so I can’t really say there are any genre descriptions that would truly satisfy me. I always prefer people approach this band with an open mind and devoid of any set expectations, regardless of those expectations being good or bad. Best to let the music speak for itself.
Milosz: For all the years I’ve been playing music I’ve heard a lot of different tags different names for pretty much the same styles of music. People tend to call us a sludge band, post metal, post rock, what does it all mean? People need tags to navigate better around the bands out there I suppose. We play heavy emotional music and that is how I picture it.
Does Morne see any problems with the punks moaning you are too slow or too “over-produced” whilst metal fans claim you are too crust?
Max: I suppose this goes hand in hand with the previous question. If anyone goes into hearing a band with some expectation that ends up not being met, it’s more than likely they will be let down. To be honest, I think we’ve always been a bit too over-produced for the taste of most punks. The modern wave of punks tend to gravitate towards more raw/lo-fi music, which is fine, but we’ve never been that sort of band. Even if our demo was a bit less polished, the music and the production has always been approached the same exact way. Regardless, I think the disinterest from that scene is rooted less in the production but more so the length of our songs. So I can say that the metal scene has been a lot more receptive to Morne in that regard, and I attribute that to the general attitude towards music in metal culture. Our songs are intended to be heard all together as one complete piece. Sometimes music like this requires a devoted listen in order to give it a fair chance.
Milosz: I gotta say that we never were a punk band, we played a lot of shows with punk bands and metal bands but we never really meant to be any of those. We were and are influenced by bands like Amebix but that doesn’t make us a punk band. It doesn’t mean that we are trying to escape from something it means that we just don’t wanna be categorized. In many cases it really boils down to the general attitude and approach in which we chose our own freedom, we follow our own rules, we make our own choices and pick our options. We stay true and honest to what we do and that is what matters, wherever we are, wherever we belong.
The art matches the music perfectly, subtle yet profound… How important do you feel artwork is to music? Even the Filth Of Mankind CD has a great layout which is quite rare for crust punk.
Milosz: In my opinion artwork has a big role in bands general image, it completes the circle, exposes bands mood and it’s a visual completion to the music itself and lyrics. Our artwork is very simple, the logo is very simple, it mirrors our music which is also very simple. To me a band’s image is very important no matter if it’s an album cover, logo or stage performance which in our case is totally stripped down. Minimal contact with the audience during the performance creates a cold and moody atmosphere which also adds something and completes the band’s image and keeps people who come to our shows focused on music. I like when band’s artwork, the band itself and everything around it looks the way the band sounds. Artwork carries as much weight as lyrics and music. I remember Filth of Mankind had a similar goal. Designs were very important to us. General image was very important.
Max: I also feel that overall image of a band is incredibly important. The whole package has to be strong and it has to make sense. Despite how simple and minimal it may seem, our artwork has always been somewhat a challenge for us. Finding the right image to fit our vision for the music and the band is consistently a big decision for us. We try our hardest to stay away from clichés and we try even harder not to repeat ourselves. So in time it’s become increasingly difficult to find new ways to keep things “fresh”. I’m hoping we can expand a bit on our imagery with the next album, while still maintaining a linear narrative with our previous work. I’m never too keen on when bands change dramatically with their artwork or music and I’ve no intention on doing that with Morne, but some sort of growth or evolution is always necessary.
What styles of music do the band listen to? Do you all have similar tastes or do you all differ and meet on the common ground that is Morne?
Milosz: I think we all listen to a lot of different bands, music styles. Our taste in music meet sometimes but also sometimes drift so far away from each other. There is a ton of bands that we can listen to together for example when we are on tour in a van but there is also a good amount of bands that we wouldn’t listen to when we hang out. I think it’s actually pretty interesting that there is so much variance but at the end of the day we play in a band together and complete our music as a band.
Max: Though there is some crossover in personal taste, it’s safe to say that that we ultimately have very different styles and preferences with music. This can add certainly an element of debate at times (both in the van and at the rehearsal studio), but I think the various musical tastes and personalities are what make us the band we are. So in that regard, Morne is certainly our common ground.
Milosz: I agree, the band is our common ground though different tastes of music and different personalities sometimes cause tensions that’s why leadership is needed to keep things on the right path, keep everything together, maintain the vision which at the end of the day is our mutual goal. Though I suppose no matter how much different we are as people, how different personalities we have the band should strip us down from the differences and release the energy that creates music, a true craft that releases our true values.
Also personalities? It appears that yourself and Max are the writers behind the music, does the rest of the band have much input into writing/arranging? Do you all live close? I know Ian divides his time between Boston & ST Petersburg!
Milosz: When I started the band I was the main songwriter but then it slowly moved to a mutual effort. I feel that in many cases it’s me who brings most of the riffs to the band but there are songs that were written by Max, Jeff or Ian. Whoever brings a riff it’s the band who completes it. Jeff writes a lot of solos, harmonies and stuff like that, we kinda complete each other in a way. Our guitar styles are very different but that is what makes the songs happen. There are situations when someone comes up with a riff and no matter how much we think the riff is good we won’t use it because it doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t carry the band’s vibe. I think it makes things simpler when one person sets the foundation and the rest of the band completes it. It makes the overall effect uniform and focused. We all live close enough to each other. Ian’s travels to Russia don’t affect the writing but sometimes it affects playing out, we are trying to make it work. We are trying to write as much as we can when we all are here.
Max: Everyone in the band plays a role in how our songs come to fruition. Pull any of us out of the equation and the band would noticeably change. We all have very different styles of writing and I feel that our strongest songs are the ones we construct together as a band. Often times they are the most well rounded and most complete. Though not everything that gets brought to the table will make on to an album, I like to think that we are objective enough to weed out the filler and retain the strongest/most consistent material before entering the studio. In terms of Ian’s keyboard arrangements, working remotely isn’t so much of an issue at the moment. Obviously, we wish he was here, as his input is always valued, especially while writing. Fortunately the internet can really help bridge that distance between us right now.
One thing that is rarely mentioned by yourselves is the pedigree of the band, which deserves a massive amount of respect. A lot of bands are keen to distance themselves from past material yet are happy to milk the teat dry to get high profile shows despite being a new band. Have you ever felt tempted to exploit the legacies to further yourselves?
Milosz: In our first press kit we mentioned ex-members of this and that but after a very short time we discovered that it was a bad idea. We all have some musical past but it’s just the past and it doesn’t necessarily finds a continuation in what is happening now. What we do now can carry its weight and move forward fast enough without a need of using our resumes. It’s a completely new thing to us it’s new band and this is how we treat it. It’s like starting from the very beginning. It makes it fresh and exciting and that’s how it should be recognized by people who receive it.
Morne’s music is often slow building into backdrops of sheer power and quickening tempos? Do you find it hard to show restraint when writing and playing? When you parted ways with Kevin Adams, was it difficult to find a drummer from similar backgrounds that didn’t want to just d-beat? Did you know Billy Knockenhauer before he joined?
Milosz: Finding a drummer who will have the same vision of music and attitude was very hard. Many drummers out there aren’t interested in playing what we play and be able to tour. Like I said it was very hard. Billy actually moved to Boston from New York for us. There were no people in Boston who wanted to do it. Boston is a pretty big city but I guess the scene isn’t open to what we do. We didn’t know Billy before he joined, he answered our ad, came to Boston and jammed with us it felt right and it still does. Billy’s drumming fits the band very well, it’s simple but has a lot of little details that surface the more you listen to it. It is exactly what we were looking for, a simple and steady drumming.
Does Morne have any kind of affinity and kinship with individuals and/or other bands?
Milosz: We have met a lot of people through our travels, a lot of them stay in our hearts as those who left a mark, were kind and open and what is most important they were honest. Bands like Heirs, Antimaster , Kontatto, Set and Setting or Seas Will Rise were a definite true connection the moment we met them to mention a few.. There are people who we like to travel with like Timo who books most of our European shows and Pawel who I was in Filth of Mankind with, our friends Nate Grande, Ben Barnett and Mark Banfield. Those people are definitely a part of the family.
Max: We’ve been fortunate enough to meet lots of great people along the way. I’d chime in my own selections but I think Milosz pretty much touched on everyone who we’ve grown close with. I feel we should give special mention to Nate though, since he has been filing in on live keyboards while Ian is abroad. He’s been super patient and helpful. Much respect!
I have been a huge fan of Amber Asylum for a long time, I was thrilled when I first heard that she was appearing with Morne, how did you end up working so extensively with Kris Force? Do you lend her ideas to build on or do you give her a free rein? Will she appear on the next record?
Milosz: Even before recording our demo I envisioned using more instruments than just guitars and drums that’s why Max and I recorded additional keyboard tracks even though we were just a three piece band then. We knew that the songs from the demo would be rerecorded for the actual full length record and additions to the sound would be a natural thing .I just thought adding cello and violins would make the sound more intense and completed especially in quiet parts. As you do I also really like Amber Asylum and Kris’ work she has done with other bands. I simply emailed her and asked if she could help us out. We told her about the parts we wanted her to play on and we gave her total freedom. We trusted her talent. We don’t know yet if she will appear on our next record. We are still writing and shaping the sound. If we picture some violin parts we will kindly ask her.
You recently showcased a new song at the Scionfest. How is the writing going? Can you give us any indication of what to expect?
Milosz: The writing goes very well, we are very focused. We are completing songs for our next album. If I said that it will be the heaviest material to date I would sound like everyone who is being asked about their new material. I think the songs are very strong, We put a lot of work so far and there is a lot more work to do. I’m very happy with how this material is shaping up.
Max: Writing new material is always a breath of fresh air for us. It’s exciting and reenergizing for everyone to break away from drilling the same 6 songs every week at rehearsal. So far the new material is coming together nicely. I’d say it’s definitely more straight forward and succinct, but the mood is definitely along the same lines as our past material.
What does the future hold for Morne?
Max: Nothing too crazy in the immediate future. Writing, recording, and working to have the new album out in 2013. Hopefully we will be playing some gigs around the Northeast and perhaps a tour following the album.
Milosz: Next record is definitely our main focus now but we will continue to play shows while working on it. Possible bigger tour next year.
Any final words? Please feel free to plug any upcoming shows/merchandise etc…
Max: Thanks so much for your constant support Jas. Cheers!
Milosz: Thanks a lot Jas.
Keep up to date with Morne over at www.facebook.com/mornecrust.
Interviewed by: Jas Murray