Latest release: Psychology of Death (Riot!)
Australian thrash legends Mortal Sin released their colossal album Psychology of Death a month or so back to wide acclaim and have been taking it to the masses with a run of shows that have proved them to be as good or better than than ever were. We recently caught up to frontman Mat Maurer to discuss the band, their music and the tour with Destruction they’ll be out on this week.
Q: I’ve been waiting for you guys to make a record like this for 25 years, so I’m happy you’ve finally done it.
A: I think we have to!
Q: Your band seems to be a unique combination of the older heads, you and Andy (Eftichiou – bass), working very well together with the newer, younger guys who’ve come into the band.
A: Whenever we get a new member it’s one of those things where you’ve got to sit down and tell them what Mortal Sin is, what it stands for and what does it mean. It’s good getting people in with different styles of music because it makes the parameters of what we can do expand. Getting in a touch of this and a touch of that to what we already have builds on our repertoire. It just sort of throws another light on what we do.
Q: There seems to be a really modern feel to the new album, but also noticeably old school as well.
A: We listen to music. We definitely do our homework. I don’t know what makes it fresh and new. I don’t know if it’s Nathan (Shea -guitar) or the way Luke (Cook) drums… I’m not quite sure what it is. But I know what makes it old school: it’s the old bastards, me and Andy! It’s just that combination, I guess, where me and Andy some from that background, and that’s what we learned. We learnt from that sort of music and, I won’t say that’s all we know, but that’s what we love. When the guys put the music down, and I put my lyrics down, it just becomes what it becomes. We don’t purposely do anything. We just put it out there, and a song comes from it. And that’s what we got, and we’re really pleased with it and it’s good that everybody’s loving it at the moment.
Q: How did you come to write such catchy choruses? Because that’s one thing that Mortal Sin songs have always had.
A: It’s important to me to have a good chorus. I’ve come from that background where all the bands that I like… look, Testament – Testament was a big influence on me, and in the past they’ve always had big choruses. I just think it’s one of those thing that if you have a good catchy chorus, people will walk away from your show and hopefully that will stick in their heads. That’s my take on it. I start a song with a chorus. The chorus sets the tone for the song, it tells me what the song’s gonna be called and I got an idea. The song evolves around the chorus.
Q: I caught Mortal Sin in Wollongong and it went off, so how have the other shows be going?
A: It’s been going off everywhere, man. It’s been really good! I think it’s really funny because there’s been so many people who probably used to support Mortal Sin who are like, “Mortal Sin are still around?” It’s a real challenge for us all the time. Yes, we’re still around. God! What’s wrong with you people? We’re not goin’ anywhere!
So it’s one of those things where, when we go out and play, someone comes along and says, “Oh man, I haven’t seen you guys in ten years!” That’s what makes us feel good, because we’re finally getting people to realise that we are still around, and we’re still good man! Come and check us out.
Q: You’re doing this Thrashfest tour, and I understand you’re only doing the first two albums on it?
A: We’re not doing the whole two albums. We’re just doing songs from the two albums, and we’re gonna slip in a new one as well. Because it’s a “classic” tour, all the bands have been asked to play songs off their “classic” albums. We’re doing nine songs all up, four songs off both albums and “Hatred” off the new album.
Q: Will you be doing any other shows while you’re out there or just those? Because it seems a little problematic when you just have a new album out are you’re only playing old stuff.
A: Yeah I know. It’s a bit weird sort of going out touring and only playing old songs and not plugging the new stuff. We are going back to Europe to play festivals in the European summer, which we’ll get to showcase some new songs and we’ll get a lot longer playing time. I think what we’re probably gonna do to promote our new album over there is maybe chuck some headphones on the merch table and get them to listen to it and check it out. I’m sure there’ll be ways we can promote the new album on the tour. We’ll all be wearing new shirts with the new album [on them], so I’m sure it will happen.
Q: Tell us little bit about South America, because when I spoke to Luke recently he made it sound like quite an adventure.
A: Oh man, it was definitely an adventure that tour. It’s an amazing country… well, continent I should say! We didn’t get to see too much of it, but just travelling over the Andes. We travelled right across the Andes… like, wow! I’m big fan of South American and Mexican history, and for me just to do that was just amazing. But the shows… the first show we played was a sell out, in Chile, in Santiago. We just couldn’t believe there were guys coming up to us hugging us and crying, saying, “We thank you for coming to our country! We waited so long!” It was just phenomonal.
Q: Are there any plans to play South East Asia?
A: We’ve been trying to get to bloody Asia for as long as I can remember. I been in love with Japan since I was a kid. Eight years old, all I’ve wanted is to go to Japan. How the frickin’ hell do you get in there? I can’t believe it. Asia is starting to open up, which is a good thing, but it’s still not very easy to get in there. We’ve been harassing the people who run the Thrash Nation Fest for about four years now to get on that, so hopefully this album might crack it for us. The record company who’s doing this album is pushing it in Japan, so I’m really hoping that we can get over there and I see that other bands like Contrive have made it into other places like Malaysia and we’re like, Oh man, we wanna get over there too!
Q: What would be the career highlight for you so far?
A: I would have to say playing the Wacken Festival in 2008. I don’t know how many people were there. Could have been 50,000, could have been 80,000. Who knows? It was just monstrocity overload. It’s just such an amazing experience, that whole festival. Just to be there and be amongst the people and just walk around and be with headbangers from all over the world. Flags from different countries, people in tents… they’re so friendly. You could spend the whole weekend there and not see a band and just enjoy mucking around with all the fans. Then on top of that you’ve got 120 bands and half of them you’d never, ever see in Australia so it’s just an amazing thing. I think it’s the Holy Grail for any headbanger I think. It’s one of those things you have to do in a lifetime.
Q: So apart from Wacken, what do you think would be the ultimate gig for Mortal Sin?
A: That’s a hard one… but probably getting to play on Sonisphere under the Big Four. That would be pretty cool, I think! I saw bloody Grinspoon playing at one of them this year. That’s bloody ridiculous! How do they get to play on a show like that with the Big Four? I think that would be pretty cool.
Q: How do you gear yourself to keep doing this for so long? A lot of people would have given it up a long time ago.
A: Oh man, playing live and performing is just the dog’s balls. For me, it’s really strange because off-stage I’m a totally different person. But when I get onstage, man, I really love it. I could do it forever. I think you’ll have to shovel me off the stage when I’m a hundred. We’ve got a real passion for what we do and a real passion for what we play and if I could play 365 shows a year, I’d do it.
Q: How many songs did you put down for the album?
A: We wrote nine songs and we put nine songs down. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. See you later!
Q: Mortal Sin has had a bit of a history of line-up changes, but apart from Ryan (Huthnance – guitar) joining recently the band has been very stable for the last few years now.
A: Well Luke is the longest serving drummer we’ve ever had, Nathan is the longest serving guitarist we’ve ever had. Ryan being the new boy, he only joined in August last year. He was in the band and four weeks later we were playing with Overkill. But it does help, man. Stability is one of those things that’s important in any kind of relationship. It’s one of those things that keeps you going. Because once you get new members, they’ve gotta find their rhythm and what you do… Luke and Nathan, they’ve got An Absence of Faith under their belts and that was, for them, a way into the band and now with Psychology of Death they’re established and they know what Mortal Sin’s all about and they do it really well.
Q: And of course you will be going out with Destruction this month.
A: Yes, we’re only doing Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, so three out of the four shows. We did a show with Destruction over in Oslo in Norway at the Inferno Fest and I gotta tell you man, they are an absolute beast live. They are a really intense thrash band that I think if you’re into thrash you gotta go to a show. They’re an awesome band.