Via AFM Records the debut album of Ukrainian band Morton got released, and I have to say, the album was quite a surprise. And so was happy to get the chance to talk to Max Morton, the man behind Morton.
Morton started as a solo project, but became a band, so I wanted to know why Max started Morton as a project. "Most of the musicians from former Russia are unfulfilled talent which soon fade away. Many bands fall apart soon, I became a sound engineer and saw many bands coming and going. I had a band, but it also fall apart after 1/2 year, even if we did some concerts. Morton should become a band which got over that level. I recorded the 4-track EP in my studio on my own, but I wanted to play live and tried to get a band together." Max told me. And he obviously did find the right guys. He continued "It was easy to find a drummers and a guitarist, but the rest of the line-up underwent changes. Since 2010 we really became a band, but on the debut I did all but drums. But on the 2nd album that will be different!" Morton did a video for Sleeping King in 2010 on their own - and a real professional looking one - and now a video for Brotherhood Of Light which isn't the typical way of doing things... Coz Sleeping King had a story while the new one is a live performance. "It was a new experience for me, we had 4 cameras shooting and used the sound board recordings. It's always a lot of money involved as well as time I don't see who to do it any other way then on our own. We plan to do another video in 2012... AFM Records is really helping us, they are really professionally working!" I got back to the Sleeping King video, coz I wanted to know a bit more about the way it was done. "I thought I should control the making of the video, so I searched for the location, actors, etc. Actually every young band should do it that way. On YouTube you can watch a lot of videos, but many lack quality. And to stick out you need good quality." And that's so true!
But for Max as a sound engineer it's also easier to present a good record as he has everything at his hands. "Many sound engineers are saying that the computer is doing the job, but it still needs some one to handle it properly. In analog times we would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, I couldn't have done it in my own studio. But now it's possible." And the sound of Morton's album is top notch, so he was right to do it on his own. And he adds "If you listen to old stuff from the 70's and 80's there is a lot of bad quality, now everyone can do it and can be recognized by fans and labels. They can show their skills, but it also means that the competition is 1,000 times bigger." If you look at any social network, there are tons of unsigned bands trying to reach out.
But back to Morton and their sound! Their symphonic power metal shows reminiscences to Kamelot and Roy Khan which made me wonder if this band influenced Max. "It's definitely an important influence" he confessed. "But I'm more a fan of old school heavy metal, you know. Of Biff and Halford. But I wanted to do much more then just heavy metal, I wanted to have symphonic / orchestral parts and when I did the songs they became more power metal tunes. And in fact I heard some comparisons, but we are quite different. It's so sad he left the band... Fabio is a great singer, but I can't imagine Kamelot without Khan." Max added, and I can just agree. And again we drifted away from the main topic. To get back on track I asked about the 4 songs which were on the EP and are also on the album. "We re-recorded these songs, the drums are live and I used a different tuning. Some people prefer the EP versions. Grimoire has a different concept, but I think now it sounds better. I plan to re-record it for the video, it will be something completely new. I always try to re-record stuff and try to make it better." That sounds like Max is a perfectionist and always trying to perfectionize everything...
In my opinion the slower tunes are much stronger, that the fast melodic tracks are good but less expressive, and I told Max. He replied: "I love ballads, for me the ballads are more interesting than fast songs. The album us good, but I will try to do more emotional stuff next time. You have more time to express feelings, like at Weeping Bell, but you get more adrenaline from singing fast songs. I love a nice mix of slow and fast stuff. That's what I try to achieve in future, to combine slow and fast stuff with lots of technical elements. We love nice melodies!"
These days touring is more important and a good way to introduce a new band to metal fans. Max stated "We are trying to go on tour, but not in the Ukraine. Ukraine isn't a metal oriented country, we are a country of musicians. We really try to play more live and hope to tour outside the Ukraine in 2012. I don't plan to record any band in 2012, I did a lot in 2011 to get the money to do recordings and videos with Morton." And we continued talking about Ukraine... "Ukraine is a special case for any musician, we have no professional labels for metal and as I can do everything on my own here, I do it. Legally I can record, release, promote a band here. I need to be in control in the Ukraine, coz the people are lazy. Our album was also released in Japan in summer and I was stunned by the quality of their work! Labels here want to control you, it's different with Japanese or Germans. We were contacted by the Japanese label even before the album was finished after they came across Sleeping King." And that shows that it was the right move to do a professional looking video. But I was curious to learn how they got in touch with AFM Records... "It all happened thanks to a DJ from the USA I have been in touch with. Something which just is possible these days with internet and social media. I really do enjoy this, internet is great! There are things in the past which changed everything like Led Zeppelin changed the music forever. In the 21st century we have to improve more evolutionary, not revolutionary. We do things on a higher quality level and we exchange knowledge via the internet." But everything has two sides, so there is copyright violation and illegal downloading... "It can't be controlled and we have to raise self-consciousness. Even now I speak to people in the US and Europe, they do say 'I downloaded this or that', but there was always an exchange. In future it will, has to change, coz when you buy a CD you get so much more than just the music, you get emotions! Enjoying is important, enjoy the music and support the band, real fans do that. That has to get back in the minds of people!" I can only agree with Max, it's a totally different thing, if you hold a CD / vinyl, can look at the artwork, the booklet, etc. Even if MP3s are more convenient, we have to find a way to get both - convenience and value. I'm looking forward to another conversation with Max Morton - on tour or for their next album, whatever comes first!