Fuckmorgue drummer Sean Talarico’s cover art depicts a dramatically posed woman, her naked body floats in a dreamlike state. On each side of her there are stage curtains, one dark with all manner of things happening within its detail, the other is a pure ghostly white. Who is she, on which side does she stand with and which way will she go?
This sets a sense of drama for the entirety of Fuckmorgue’s one release; Down Forever. The music works perfectly as a back drop for each track, each part is played perfectly. The drama is given form through the hysteria driven vocals of Morgan Peni; she shifts mood unpredictably and suddenly in perfect sync with the music. This works perfectly to create an album that eclipses many of its influences.
I discovered the band through a friend, Oliver Sheppard, who seems to have a knack of knowing what I like. On this occasion he was more than right, I downloaded the link to the entire Fuckmorgue album that contained the song Dead, I Will Not Be Forgotten, it got me through a tough year.
Fuckmorgue hail from Winnipeg, Canada. Little is known about them apart them being four women, a guy on drums and eventually another guy on bass. They were known to play live and apparently made an instrumental demo prior to recording their album.
Fuckmorgue had no web presence during their lifetime and no reissue of Down Forever has ever seen the light of day. A decade later this album has had a mysterious afterlife of slow burning popularity across the torrents. My research found that members of Fuckmorgue went onto be in some impressive underground bands that included Witchking, Boneblack, Vernix (demo on Boneblack site), Kursk, Praetura, This Hisses, Kindest Cut, and Dead Dogs.
I tracked down and interviewed former members singer Morgan Peni and guitarist Morgan Paradis via email to talk more about their life during and after Fuckmorgue.
Interview with former lead singer Morgan Peni and guitarist Morgan Paradis
What was your prior experience to Fuckmorgue?
Morgan Paradis: I grew up playing instruments; I took piano for 8 years, played flute in high school as well as guitar. I had never played guitar in a band until we started Kursk - I was the singer in Scrapping the Genome, we were just drum and bass and vocals. I can’t say I was a very good front person, and have definitely been most comfortable with a guitar in my hands on stage.
How did you both end up in Fuckmorgue and how long was Fuckmorgue’s life span?
Morgan Peni: Fuckmorgue was a band for a few years. They had a few songs written before I joined as singer, and my time in the band was from around 2003 to early 2005 or so. I don’t really remember how it went, I think I remember pressuring Nancy and Erica to let me sing after I heard of them talking about their band that they had been writing songs in. I seem to remember gingerly suggesting that I had something to bring to the table, even though I had no experience and really just wanted to finally sing in a band, which I’d always wanted to do. Even now I feel like I'm getting away with something as a singer when I compare myself to talented people in other bands from Montreal. I’m pretty un-talented, especially with friends like Megan from Dekoder, Jess from Blue Cross and Paulina from Show of Bedlam kicking around.
Morgan Paradis: I had been travelling for a while and came back to Winnipeg and moved into a house and Nancy and Erica had moved into (the infamous Furby house - anyone from Winnipeg knows about that place or someone who lived there. Sean and Morgan both ended up living there too later on.) Nancy and Erica had started Fuckmorgue with Sean; it was just bass, drums and keyboards at that point. We were planning a house show for Halloween and they asked me if I wanted to sing. There was only one show with me as the singer, and that was it. There was a lot of fake blood to clean up after that show. They started jamming with Sean’s friend Devon on violin and this lady called Suss on flute. In the meantime, I was doing Scrapping the Genome with my friends Andrea and Brad (this was the band that went on to be Kursk) and Fuckmorgue and I went our separate ways for about a year and half I’d say, maybe two. By the time I started playing in Fuckmorgue. Kursk had put out our first 7 inch and Nancy and Erica lived about a block away from me. Morgan Peni had joined at that point and the violin and flute were gone. There was an instrumental demo of that period that I definitely do not have a copy of anymore. I think this was 2004 and we broke up in 2005 I think?
Can you tell more about the instrumental demo prior to Down Forever?
Morgan Peni: Yes, and I have a copy somewhere. It has a violin and a flute I believe? I haven’t listened to it in years, but it’s far more experimental than the final product. This was recorded long before I was in the band.
Morgan Paradis: There was; no idea where one might obtain such a thing. I don’t even know who recorded it - it might actually have been Sean now that I think about it.
I was impressed by fact you were so young when recording Down Forever, were the other members of Fuckmorgue a similar age? It also explains the quick fire shift of extreme emotion of the vocal. In comparison Boneblack has an immediately more solid delivery; certainly more confrontational and devastating. Whereas in Fuckmorgue you seem to wind yourself up in order to explode vocally and also quickly shift into darker emotive ranges. At times the vocal is also; pleading, upset and ranting. Boneblack seems in the full on zone consistently and immediately. Were you able to replicate your vocal range live in Fuckmorgue, did you have to work yourself up prior to live performance to deliver?
Morgan Peni: Yeah, I was pretty young. I was 19 when it all started. Everyone else in the band was older than me – Morgan [Paradis] is closer to my age, maybe only a few years older, but they all seemed much more mature as musicians and in general life experience. I was a young person who never had been in a band before, I was (and am) vegan and straightedge - so I was hyper-aware of seeming naive or too boring. Plus, I was starting to make music with older, cooler, more experienced punks. Looking back, though, it’s not really all that huge of a difference but from my youthful perspective I was a total baby, lucky to just hang out with these awesome people.
When we played live I always felt that my vocal performance was the same, but I guess I’ll never know for sure- unless someone has the recording of our last show somewhere! My pre-show prep consisted of driving the gear to the show singing loudly to the tape I happened to have in my car. When playing live, I really try to remember what the song is about, and that helps to deliver the song with the right inflection. This is still is my ritual- just to get some alone time and just sing and get in “the zone”, as dumb as that sounds. I guess you could say I worked up to it, but with some solitude and hot tea. The range and delivery in the recordings was the result of my intentionally wanting to sound desperate and terrifying, and maximize the creepiness of repetitive phrasings, and just trusting my ability to know what sounds right, and to go with it.
How did Fuckmorgue work with song-writing? Was there one main writer who wrote the tracks or were they a combination of ideas that were brought to the table and pieced together in the rehearsal studios?
Morgan Peni: Well, I didn’t write any of the music (I can’t play an instrument at all anymore), but it was pretty collaborative between Morgan [Paradis], Sean, Nancy and Erica. Everyone had a really unique musical style that they brought to the table. I wrote the lyrics usually after the music was in place.
We played shows regularly, and so we wrote as we went. When we did record, it was all songs we had been playing for a while together. I remember being very nervous, but consoled by the fact that we recorded in our familiar jam space (Nancy and Erica’s house), and that by the time I was to record vocals, everyone else was very, very drunk and not in a state to judge. When recording, the only feedback I received was quite funny. It was Sean coming in to tell me to sing with “more pain” in my voice.
Morgan Paradis: You know, it’s been so long, but I seem to remember that generally speaking Erica and/or Nancy would come with an idea (they lived together so they had a lot of time to spend hashing stuff out) and we would all sort of work on it together. It was pretty collaborative, but I think the seeds of the songs tended to come from those two. Morgan, as far as I know, wrote all the lyrics without any input from the rest of us.
What was the live reception to Fuckmorgue like? Did you tour a lot?
Morgan Peni: Generally people really liked us. Though I suspect that our positive reception was somewhat due to playing to an audience of friends for the most part. Sadly, we never left Winnipeg, so we were never able to get objective feedback until the recording got some traction on the internet after the fact.
Morgan Paradis: We actually never left Winnipeg but I always felt like we got a resoundingly positive reception. As Morgan mentioned, in Winnipeg there is a tendency towards playing to crowds made up predominantly of friends and acquaintances but everyone we played with from out of town always seemed to be genuinely into what we were doing. Overall it was really positive locally and it’s great that people still get into it.
I believe Down Forever was self released. How many copies did you make? What was the reception like?
Morgan Peni: It was as self-released as it gets. I recall everyone scrambling, emptying our pockets to come up with the cash to pay for the pressed CDs at the shop when we went to pick them up. I think we made about 300 CDs. The reception was good, but limited. We sold all we could to our friends, gave them away, but were left with fifty or so long after the band ended. The remaining copies were in a box in the basement of my old punk house, gathering dust, no one interested in them, until someone finally tossed them in the dumpster. It’s sad really.
Morgan Paradis: As Morgan mentioned - as self-released as you can imagine. We made 300 copies which in retrospect was about 200 too many. We sold a few, gave more away. The rest ended up in a closet somewhere, a basement; I’m not sure. I remember the black ink on the CDs was super crappy and faded into a weird shade of blue.
Again I think the reception was positive but the curse of having a following of friends/acquaintances is that you tend to just give things away. There’s something about a CD too that lends itself be given away. I did this with Praetura CDs too. Generally speaking most people are a lot less likely to hand out 7 inches or LPs than CDs.
What were Fuckmorgue’s Black Metal influences? A friend described you as corpse paint obsessed crusties. Was corpse paint a part of Fuckmorgue's visual aesthetic?
Morgan Peni: Oh my, no. We never wore corpse paint live. I think it was a last minute laugh we were having while trying to get a photo for the album sleeve. We were having a lot of fun, and the idea of a group of lowlife Winnipeggers using this kind of very serious trope seemed funny, at least to me: especially because we loved but were in no way playing any kind of “true” black metal. It’s funny that that kind of defines our visual aesthetic to people who don’t know us.
As far as our black metal influences, you’d have to ask pretty much anyone else but me. I was mostly listening to Deathrock and darkwave, and funny profane existence crust at the time. My influences as a singer were kind of separate, I suppose. I don’t even want to venture a guess as to what was inspiring anyone, lest I misrepresent them and their fine taste in black metal.
Morgan Paradis: The story about the corpse paint photo on the back of the record is so silly. For some reason we were all driving around with Andrea and we ended up going to some county fair type thing in the suburbs. We went on some rides and then took over the face painting booth and did the corpse paint on each other. Then we ended up going out into the land behind the fairgrounds to take a band photo. It was completely unplanned and super ridiculous and I didn’t even know it was gonna be on the CD cover.
As for black metal influence - I can only speak for myself and this was also before the explosion of the USBM scene but at the time I was HEAVILY into Ludicra. I probably listened to Hollow Psalms 8000 times in 2004. I was also really into Immortal’s Sons of Northern Darkness, Bathory’s Blood, Fire, Death, Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. My knowledge of black metal is much broader now than it was at the time and I am not even really sure that I ever consciously thought we were a black metal band. I always kind of thought of us more Gothy/Deathrock. I think probably things like Amebix, Axegrinder, Antisect, that kind of thing were probably a big influence on whatever I thought I was doing ha ha.
I know Sean, Nancy and I were all pretty into Venom, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer - stuff like that. Sean is a huge Mercyful Fate/King Diamond fan as I recall, and Nancy was super into Motley Crue, and not in an ironic way like everyone is now.
There is actually a part in one of the last songs on the record that I referred to as “the Motley Crue part”.
Did Fuckmorgue have any web presence?
Morgan Paradis: Nope, none to speak of. Social media was not the communication leviathan that it is now. We still made flyers and put them up in the street and by word of mouth. But in general, I would say that a n internet presence was probably sort of anathema to Fuckmorgue’s aesthetic anyway. I did a trade with Aesop from Ludicra/Agalloch and he ended put the record up on his blog Cosmic Hearse, and I remember being stoked that it was out there in some format for people to hear finally. I’m glad it’s making the rounds of the outer reaches of the blog world now and that people will hopefully be able to find it if they want to hear it.
Down Forever seems to have acquired a later following on the torrents. I found it on a lot of Blog sites. How do you feel about this?
Morgan Peni: I’m not surprised it happened, as it all stems from my friend Bryan posting it on his blog after I gave him a copy of the CD after we had met in New Orleans, while Fuckmorgue was still active. I was surprised that he liked it so much, however. I’m always stunned that it resonates with people – when I was writing it I was a depressive teenager, but I guess that’s a universal experience, right? I don't want to trivialize it though, I was writing about some fucked up things going on in my life, but also about living in a cold, isolated, city that I hated to its core. Winnipeg is a fantastically morbid muse if you can tough it out. I couldn’t, and I’m pretty sure no one else in the band could either – we all live in other cities now.
Even now I sometimes have friends discover Fuckmorgue who are surprised to learn that I was in the band. That sort of thing would never have happened without it getting so much attention online. The attention it gets is a funny slow-burn, but it’s also the most well-received band I’ve ever been in.
Morgan Paradis: I’m fine with it; I think it’s great that people want to share it. It’s not like any of us are expecting to make that money back at this point (and like most DIY ventures, went into it fully expecting that we never would). Since there aren’t any more physical copies I’m glad that it’s floating around here. I probably need to find a download link myself. Now I’m wondering if Craig, our friend who recorded it, still have the original recordings backed up somewhere.
Generally speaking, if we were still together I would prefer if people bought physical copies of our records and tried to support us that way but in this case that’s obviously not an option.
Who made the amazing artwork for Down Forever?
Morgan Peni: Sean did the cover art. I love it. There is an insert that I arranged, but I don’t know if that part has made the rounds as much.
Morgan Peni, the Fuckmorgue album seems to be a prologue to several other intense bands such as Bone Black and Vernix that you fronted. What was your prior experience to Fuckmorgue? Have you been in any other bands other than the ones mentioned?
Morgan Peni: Fuckmorgue was my first real band, so I really had no prior experience. It’s funny to think of Fuckmorgue as a prologue to my other projects, but it’s not totally inaccurate. Vernix came from my wanting to keep making music after Fuckmorgue ended, and to try to play bass and sing at the same time. I wanted a more explicitly political and stripped down crust sound, but looking back it doesn’t really stand out from the hordes of other crust bands of the time – maybe I found the transition from the totally weird and kind of experimental sound of Fuckmorgue to a more basic Vernix appealing at the time.
Boneblack was a band that I started with Ari (who was also in Vernix) and two other friends, Blair and Olwen, here in Montreal. I’ve always loved really grim music, and I would definitely draw a line from Fuckmorgue as an influence here musically, from the black metal bits to my own vocals. Boneblack was meant to be confrontational and devastating, inspired by our anarchist politics and veganism. Everyone in that band was a fantastic musician, and I think we released a really solid LP. This is the band where I would say I found my stride as a singer and writer.
I am currently in two bands in Montreal, Cop Guts and THREAT, singing in both. I have a pretty broad taste in music. As much as I was (and still am) on a heavy diet of Christian Death, Joy Division, and all things Batcave, Ebullition, and Crass records at the time of Fuckmorgue, I never stopped listening to sloppy punk and youthcrew either. Cop Guts is a faster screechy punk band, and THREAT is an anarchist metalcore band that time-travelled from the 90s.
Fuckmorgue really broke the barrier for me between creating and consuming punk. I always wanted to be in a band, but getting to that point is hard. There is a lot of bullshit to go through if you want to be in a punk band while also being young and female. Having radical and brilliant people to play with initially really paved the path for me, and remains an integral part of why I am still playing in bands, working on venues and still get as excited about punk as I did when I was twelve.
You mentioned you listen to a lot of Christian Death, I can see parallels between their albums Deathwish, Only Theatre of Pain, and Down Forever in that genres and wide ranging influences are mixed up and thrown in together, bleak albums, morbid vocals and amazing musicianship. What era of Christian Death do you prefer? Was this much of an influence at the time?
Morgan Peni: I’m a huge Christian Death fan. I think Only Theatre of Pain is a perfect album, and I love that era – right up until Ashes. The pleading vocals and the clever lyrics, they all made an impact. I also fucking love Rozz Williams’ spoken word albums, and still play Dream Home Heartache, the Gitane Demone collaboration, pretty often. I was probably listening to that as much as Only Theatre of Pain during the time I was in Fuckmorgue. Fuck, I can even get into Premature Ejaculation still. So, yes I love Rozz, and he was a huge influence on me.
I’m a fan of his visual art as well, and it was his use of fascist or otherwise controversial imagery in his collages that first made me confront how I can feel repelled and attracted to an artist at the same time. It helped me distinguish between entry-level punk provocation and the employment of emotion-inducing imagery and symbolism to evoke fear, repulsion, shame, and self disgust, not just anger. An “a-political” punk or bonehead wearing a swastika shirt is meant to enrage or proclaim their power, but a D-Beat record that uses atrocity imagery or a Deathrock artist that employs similar themes is likely communicating something totally different: a sense of the consumer’s responsibility, and the unimaginable tragedy of the human condition. It’s communicating a weakness. This was hard for me to reconcile, as I’m acutely aware that so much of punk and goth is created by white people with a white audience in mind, and that white supremacy as a social reality allows these themes to gain momentum, and become ingrained in punk visual culture. Often this is done with little thought to how they may appear to someone who may find the people represented more familiar than the people in the bands, and to whom seeing a swastika may precede a physically threatening and terrifying encounter, not just an asshole using a boring and played-out shock tactic.
Having a love for dark music demands I take punk seriously - and I think everyone who listens to it should. We should ask: What is the context of what you are being presented with? What is your role as consumer or creator of this music? What punk tropes are you replicating, and why? And keep asking over and over. Hopefully the critical mass of punks that aren’t pieces of shit will influence how these sentiments are communicated, and the death rock/coldwave/post-punk explosion that happened in the last few years won’t descend to using vaguely fascistic and cryptically presented “edgy” clichés to manufacture intrigue as many have in the past.
Morgan Paradis, Kursk contained similarities to Fuckmorgue but with a dirtier faster sound, were you in Kursk at the same time as Fuckmorgue or afterwards?
Morgan Paradis: I was in Kursk for a total of about 3-4 years so I was in Kursk before, during and after Fuckmorgue. I left the band when I moved to Brooklyn in 2008. I’m not sure I see too many similarities between the bands with the possible exception of the first 7 inch that had some more melodic songs on it. Thematically they were also pretty different; we definitely didn’t write songs in the same way or I think with the same aesthetic intent. Kursk’s musical influences ran a pretty different gamut as well. I suppose it was three women and a male drummer so we did have that in common.
At the same time as Kursk (and maybe the tail end of Fuckmorgue? This I like a decade ago so I might be remembering incorrectly) I was in a I guess what you’d call a D-beat/punk band called Dead Dogs with Ari from Vernix and Bone Black (Ari plays in Xothogua and Show of Bedlam in Montreal now) and Scott Turner who now plays in Cetascean. I was also in Archagathus for a while, they went on to become global mincecore heartthrobs ha ha. When I moved to New York I was also briefly in a pretty awesome grind/death metal band called ASRA that broke up shortly after but we did go on a pretty awesome tour with Gridlink and Haiyano Daisuke. We did a three way split with Defeatist and Triac from Baltimore that is now totally out of print. I don’t even have a copy.
What was the shift like moving from Kursk which had vocals to the instrumental Praetura? Praetura seems a shift away from the darker sound of Fuckmorgue, and Kurst into something more musically conversational like Black Flag did when working instrumentally on Family Man or The Process of Weeding Out.
Morgan Paradis: I would say the big difference between Kursk and Praetura was the song writing. Praetura was just myself and my ex-husband Joel on drums (he was the drummer in Anodyne and Defeatist, as well as an amazing band from Bakersfield California called Sharon Tate that you should check out if you can find their stuff; currently playing in a bass and drum duo call Radiation Blackbody). I would bring ideas to practice and Joel would just learn them and play them. He’s a phenomenal musician and he definitely helped out a lot with arrangements and some timing issues but there wasn’t much in the way of having a conversation with another instrument. Andrea and I spent a lot of time together hashing riffs out, only to bring them to practice and have Brad say “Hey, what about this?” and that would spawn another idea and it was really quite collaborative. Joel and I both have our own very identifiable style. So it was different in that respect. It’s also really whole other thing to play live and have no one else up there with you or have a singer for people to focus on… I actually developed something like stage fright playing in Praetura because of that.
Morgan Peni, another internet story is that after the demise of Fuckmorgue, you jumped on a freight train, fell asleep in a container carriage, woke up, slept in a field, and hitchhiked to Montreal and stayed there? Is this true?
Morgan Peni: Sort of. All of those things happened but not in rapid succession! The band ended, then I played in Vernix for a while. At some point after that I caught a ride out west with my friend Bryan and Paul from New Orleans, who were on a post-Katrina road trip, flush with FEMA money. They were driving further out west than I could go, so I said goodbye somewhere in British Columbia, and hitchhiked to Calgary, where I passed time in the library all day before flipping a coin in a back alley to see if I would either hop on a freight train going east (and maybe back to Winnipeg), or try to hitchhike home the next day (the safer route, it seemed). The coin was “heads” so I got on the train. Once it started moving and I realized that all I was wearing was a skirt and little ballerina shoes with holes in them. I also had no food and half a bottle of water. I made it to the middle of Saskatchewan before I noticed the train was being pulled apart and I had to get off immediately. I ran through a field and then hitchhiked the rest of the way home. Shortly after that I moved to Montreal and that new chapter started. The story is less romantic and dangerous but I really value spontaneity in life – taking reckless chances and getting into weird situations just makes you a more interesting person.
You mentioned veganism which is interesting was this and the crust punk Anarcho thing a part of Fuckmorgue as a band or was that just your thing?
Morgan Peni: We were all into that kind of music, but I think I was more excited about it than anyone else. They all seemed into more obscure or challenging bands, more sophisticated or diverse music than I was at that point. So, yeah, there is a very obvious crust influence musically, but that’s because it was one of the many things we listened to. And, it’s worth mentioning, as humans we were pretty dirty in general. As far as the Anarcho thing, Fuckmorgue wasn’t an explicitly political band, but we all had (and have) rad politics, and engaged with those politics in other ways. I think that that anarchism only translated to veganism for myself and Sean, though and didn’t make it into the band itself really. I satisfied my urge to make veganism primary element in my later band, Boneblack (the name refers to the charred animal bones that sugar is refined through to make it “pure”).
Credits & links
Live Images courtesy of I’m in love with a Coffee and Company Girl Blog, taken from Winnipeg Uptown paper.
Down Forever (track listing)
- Like the City
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold
- Dead I Will Not be Forgotten
- Chapters Coming Forth by Day
- After Herbie Died
- Where He Goes
- Morgan Peni – vocals
- Morgan Paradis – guitars
- Sean Talarico – drums
- Erica Newman – keyboards
- Nancy Lizuck – bass
- Patrick Short – later bass
Much thanks and absolute gratitude to Morgan Peni and Morgan Paradis for making this article possible, and Oliver Sheppard for wise words and inspiration when needed.
Update: October 13, 2015: the Fuckmorgue album Down Forever is being reissued on the Mass Deadening label along with the two demos as Dead, I Will Not Be Forgotten. More details and ordering information on this Bandcamp page.