Meet Tottal Tømming’s Morten Renvåg Müller

Morten Renvåg Müller is seasoned musician hailing from Oslo, Norway. He’s the front man of the idiosyncratic grind core band Tottal Tømming and author the mastermind behind a number of Meshuggah-themed parody albums. Between 2011 and 2018 he played guitar in the “Balcan-core” band Trollfest. Born in 1980, he experienced the boom of the Norwegian extreme metal scene first hand and became part of it in the late 90s. The secret sauce behind his success as a creator and performer is his slightly eccentric but very endearing personality. We talked with Morten about his past and present musical projects, about making over-the-top, slightly ridiculous music, the heydays of Norwegian extreme metal and also about his personal and creative development. 

Hi Morten, tell us first how it all began. Where and how did you grow up and what brought you to music?

Hey dude! Let’s see. I grew up in Oslo with my mom, dad and sister. It was my dad who introduced me to music, indirectly. He was always playing stuff, and a lot of varied styles as well. I was exposed to Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton etc… I also used to record a lot of songs I heard on the radio, and I always had a tendency to dig the harder stuff. Alice Cooper’s Poison was some of the rockier stuff I really liked, but the favorite band of my childhood is Norway’s A-HA. My dad bought me all their albums on cassette. He traveled all over the world through his job, and he would often bring home tapes of rock artists. I especially remember him bringing me a really weird bootleg type tape of Twisted Sister. He also had a guitar laying around, and I was constantly jamming on it. We also had a piano which I made a lot of noise on!

From Thrash to Balcan-core

Tottal Tömming on stage. Foto: Eirik Folkedal

According to a certain online encyclopedia you’ve played in bands since 1998 as both a guitarist and a vocalist. Your main band before Trollfest was the Thrash band Dead Trooper and there were a couple of others, perhaps not all of them were metal bands. Can you give us a recap of your career before Trollfest.

My first band was established in 1995, actually. It was called Scrotum and consisted of a bunch of guys who couldn’t really play all that good. I wrote my first song ever for that band, but it was never recorded. I played guitar, and we mostly played covers of Nirvana and Metallica as well as some Mayhem and Burzum. Yes, Dead Trooper was my baby for years, since 2002, but the foundation for Dead Trooper was laid back in 1997, when I met Birger Larsen, my main accomplice in thrash. Our first band was called Damage, and later Damage SFW. SFW meaning So Fucking What. Both Birger and I were also briefly members of Grimfist, and we played one show together. Dead Trooper was disbanded shortly after Birger left the band in 2012. I joined Trollfest as a session member in 2011, and did a couple of shows with them. Then I left to focus on Dead Trooper, which crash landed pretty soon after that decision was made. So I kindly asked if I could become a permanent member of Trollfest, since that was what I was offered initially. The trolls said yes, and I have done a massive amount of gigs with them since then. And I also released an album with Death Injector in 2007. 


Trollfest was a great way for me to reconnect with the fun and silly side of my personality again.


Trollfest is such a fun band and it seems that your personality matches well with the spirit of that band. Will you say something about your time with them? I don’t know how that went down and wast able to dig it up, and perhaps the readers don’t know either…


I got a lot of the chops I have now from Trollfest. Being with them was such a massive learning experience for me, and it was a steep learning curve. Right now I feel as confident personally and musically as I’ve ever been, and that would not be the case if it wasn’t for my time in Trollfest. I have had a tendency in the past to take myself way too seriously (that is one of the reasons why Dead Trooper crashed, I think), and Trollfest was a great way for me to reconnect with the fun and silly side of my personality again. It was a really playful time, and we established this motto of “anything goes”, meaning that we would not spend too much time pondering the pros and cons of ideas, and rather just go for it. I took that philosophy with me to Tottal Tømming, and blew it up even further. 


Norway Scene in Its Heydays


Norway is famous for being the country famous for “making black metal great again”, to coin a phrase. The story of Euronymus’ murder has an almost mythical status for some people. Tell me something about the Norwegian metal scene during the early – mid 90s when you were coming of age and getting into music. What was the impact of that on the extreme metal scene? Was everyone suddenly a grimm Satanist?  


It was certainly a magical and sort of scary time for a young man like myself. My mom was always sceptical about the growing list of bands that attracted me. As I got a hold of albums by Sepultura, Anthrax, Metallica, Clawfinger etc she would often ask me “are these guys satanic?!” with a worried look on her face. I never bought that whole satanism thing, but the fact that all the stuff we heard in the media was built around a certain type of music was really intriguing to me. I didn’t really hear Mayhem until years later, but the bassist from Scrotum had a Burzum tape, and we would listen to “Stemmen fra Tårnet” over and over again. It felt exciting to enjoy music that was not really allowed, and that feeling really struck a nerve with me. Although now I think Burzum’s music is rather silly, I remember that feeling very well. As far as the impact on the metal scene goes; yes, of course Black Metal bands popped up left and right. I remember seeing guys with corpse paint for the first time ever in 1994 at our local youth club. We called them “Gore people” for some reason. It was definitely an interesting and exciting time. 


I remember seeing guys with corpse paint for the first time ever in 1994 at our local youth club. We called them “Gore people” for some reason.


Morten performing with Trollfest. Foto: Anne Sofie Vollan

Your new band Tottal Tømming is a grind band and I assume you are into punk and grind. How was that kind of scene in the early – mid 90. According to some people black metal was a Scandinavian answer to anarcho punk, because left wing politics just didn’t speak to the youth in a country known for its welfare state. What’s your take on that?


Yes, I am a huge fan of punk and grind, mainly because of the energy. I don’t really think there ever was a grind scene in Norway, but the punk scene was pretty well developed. We have spawned some pretty awesome punk and hardcore bands over the years. There must have been hundreds of punk bands in the late 70’s and 80’s. Back in those days, Norway was not nearly as wealthy and prosperous as it is now. The oil money hadn’t hit us yet, and the social state in certain areas were rather grim compared to right now. Both Trondheim and Oslo had city blocks occupied by left wing punks/squatters, and the one in Oslo, which is called Blitz, is still there. The Blitz club is sort of infamous, there were a lot of confrontations with the police and Neo-Nazis in the 80’s and 90’s. Black Metal was definitely a way of expressing malcontent with conformity in general, and christianity specifically. The church had a much stronger grip on Norwegians back then than what it has now. 


Grinding in a Free World


Your recent musical projects seem to be somewhat light-hearted or ironic in a way. You even make parody videos. How much do you personally think your musical taste is a reaction to the over-seriousness of black metal? Or do you think your style is driven by your personality and not so much by the social context?

When you say parody videos, I guess you are referring to my Jens Kidman-look [note: Kidman is the frontman of the band Meshuggah]. Yes, in the past couple of years, I have changed a lot. I would go so far as to say that I have gone through a transformation of sorts. I realize now that my mental state has been holding me back for most of my life. When I finally started working on my anxiety and depression, everything seemed to be falling into place. I finally started collecting answers to most of the big questions I’d been asking myself since I was a child, and my life suddenly seemed to blossom, both personally and artistically. I realized that I had taken myself way too seriously, and that I now had the opportunity to create the art that was truly right for me. My music is definitely driven mostly by my personality. I think social context is a factor for me, but not nearly as much as my personal expression. Tottal Tømming is an arena for me, and all the other hippies that care to join me, where there are no limits and the main goal is to have fun. In a lot of ways, I feel like I am making up for lost time. I want to fill my life with as much fun and happiness as I possibly can. That’s why we can’t play wrong in Tottal Tømming. Everyone can play whatever they want. If someone plays the riff on half note up unintentionally, then that’s what the song is that time. It’s glorious.


Tottal Tømming is an arena for me, and all the other hippies that care to join me, where there are no limits and the main goal is to have fun.


You’ve played briefly as a session or live musician in 1349, but other than that you haven’t been involved with black metal much. Tottal Tømming’s drummer Eirik Renton, on the other hand, has played with some of the biggest names in the game. I’ve noticed that Beaten to Death’s Christian Håpnes is a similar case. You probably won’t see grind people and black metal people being so close in other scenes…


Yeah, Eirik has been around the block a couple of times. Christian also, I don’t think there is a genre he has not played… I played with him in Grimfist! 

Yes, in a lot of ways I guess Black Metal and Grindcore don’t really mix that well. But it is not fair to generalize. The Norwegian Metal community is quite small, so everybody pretty much knows everybody, whether they play death, black, grind or whatever. 


It must be evident to everyone that culture goes through cycles and that there is a sort of ying-yang dynamic in these cycles. I find it curious that grindcore can be both very serious and stylize itself as the opposite of “fun music” (the “true grind” bands like early Napalm Death, Insect Warfare, PLF or Phobia come across like that), but then are grind bands that play very fun, playful music (even outright party music, if you count the likes of Gutalax). It seems to me that many Scandinavian grind bands, including Tottal Tømming, have a bit of ironic detachment and playfulness in them. Why did you guys start a grind band and how do you see grindcore as a “musical tradition”?


Yeah, that is a funny balance you are describing there. Again I guess it’s the energy. Maybe it’s fair to say that music with this much intensity attracts a certain type of people? I think that is true for all genres, that every human has a certain type of energy they like more. And to me, music is all about the energy it produces. When I hear music like grindcore, I feel like I lose most of my inhibitions and become very free. And it’s in this state that can be the most creative. Sometimes I take a step back and kind of shake my head thinking about the music that I love the most. Most of it is just really harsh, and the fact that I love that grimness makes me kinda giddy. I smile and wonder what the non-metal man in the street would think of bands like Mayhem or Napalm Death. Every time I see a show with Napalm Death or Cannibal Corpse I catch myself standing there laughing and grinning like a village idiot. Objectively, these bands are ridiculously overwhelming, and that’s why they are so intriguing and attractive to me. It is so far out and so extreme and so absolutely non-conformist. It’s the complete opposite of the society I spend most of my time in. To me, it is the purest release of anxiety, frustration, anger and sorrow. It’s truly cathartic, therapeutic even. I get the same reaction from certain movies, like Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It is so over the top and so incredibly intense that I can’t stop myself laughing. THAT is my artform.

I have to have a release from the grind (huh-huh) of the society around me, which I find incredibly boring, or else I would collapse as a person. That is of course also why I created Tottal Tømming. To be a creator and performer of this music and art form. To deal with my anxiety. And also because I find most of the bands in the Norwegian metal scene to be very stale and safe. I disagree with you when you say that many Norwegian bands have an ironic detachment, I just don’t see it. There are exceptions, of course, like the brilliant Black Debbath. They have a very special sense of humor that is truly genuine. I also have to mention Drittmaskin, they are masters of mystique, which is extremely rare in Norway. I feel like the best metal bands from Norway are the non-ironic ones, like Mayhem, Zyklon, Myrkskog and Audiopain. They don’t fuck around, if you know what I mean. I mentioned earlier in this interview that I feel like I’m taking myself too seriously was one of the reasons that Dead Trooper disbanded, so Tottal Tømming is my arena for going in the completely opposite direction. And Norway needs more grindcore. Makkmat and Beaten to Death are brilliant, we need more bands like them!!!

I feel like the best metal bands from Norway are the non-ironic ones, like Mayhem, Zyklon, Myrkskog and Audiopain. They don’t fuck around, if you know what I mean.

Tottal Tomming and Other Personal Projects


Is it true that Tottal Tømming has seven members? Are you a sort of grindcore ensemble? Haha. Are you involved in the songwriting process? 


Yes, at this time we are seven people. And it’s more of a commune than a band, really. We also have a sister organisation, Oschlo Grindkor, which consists of everyone who has ever contributed to Tottal Tømming in any way. If you want to contribute, let me know: I create everything in Tottal Tømming, let that be clear. I am king, ruler, captain, creator, director and boss. Everyone else is 100% free to contribute on all levels, tho.  



You have a Youtube channel where you’ve uploaded some parody songs. Your Metallica in the style of Meshuggah covers became pretty successful, reaching 100k plays. How did the idea for these covers come about? Is it because you wanted to make videos of yourself making the Jens Kidman face? haha. 


Yeah, my cover of Blackened has exceeded 500k views! I play in a Metallica tribute band called Metal Militia, and one day I was rehearsing for a gig on my 8-string guitar. The song in question was “Moth Into Flame”, and when I played it on the lowest string it struck me how similar to Meshuggah it sounded. So I decided to do a Meshuggah version just for kicks. Turned out to be a good concept, so I kept going for a while. I am really sick of it now, though XD. I’d rather spend my time creating my own original music. And yes, of course I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I look very similar to Jens Kidman! I have been mistaken for him on more than one occasion.


What are your current plans with Tottal Tømming?

I realized quickly that we had to focus our energy on releasing more material and be present online to a much greater degree. So I decided to create, record and release a bunch of stuff. We’ve released a single song EP, which is the longest grindcore track ever recorded, and also a EP titled “Omgangsspsyke” not so long ago. We want to do a lot of recording and writing and creating and playing and grooving and laughing. And play gigs, of course.


Thanks for your time Morten, hope to see you perform one day! Also shoutout to your wife Miriam Elisabeth’s band Ram-Zet! They’re amazing, everyone should check it out! 


Thank YOU, Martin, for this opportunity! I really appreciate the interview and the conversation! Don’t be a stranger! 

Tottal Tømming homepage & merch


A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.