Mordor? Or how this band managed to find their way out of the corporate world
A new trend in corporate music is starting to take stock of the enormous social changes the country has seen.
In many ways, it’s the arrival of the corporation that’s had the biggest effect on Poland since 1989. When the Berlin Wall collapsed and the country was flooded with new ideas and foreign capital, the corporation came to triumph over everything.
Gone were the crumbling tenement houses with WWII mortar damage; now there were sleek Norman Foster commissions. Efficiency became key, brunches the rule. Everyone was suddenly stalking the city streets in smartly-tailored suits.
So rapid was the change, that the generations before and after the transformation came to have almost nothing in common with each other. It’s no surprise, then, that some may want to take pause and reflect.
What is surprising is that some of them are doing it through music.
Mordorsi (The Mordors), a five-piece from Warsaw, started a band because they wanted to write about the world they lived in – and the world they lived in was corporate.
“Our thinking was this: we like to sing and play about something that we can observe, and we had a lot of opportunities to observe the corporate life because we spent most of our day there,” says lead singer Mike Majer.
What started as a bit of a joke turned into a more serious attempt at corporate poetics. The group calls their style ‘ethnocorporock’ and their lyrics (‘Just say ‘no’, ‘There is no hell, hell is here’) are a wry take on a world dominated by KPIs and overtime.
Even their name alludes to the new lifestyle. As an indication of just how ironic Poles are about corporate life, the main hub in Warsaw is called – by everyone, the media included – Mordor.
A Facebook page dedicated to it regularly posts memes featuring orcs toiling away in the confines of anonymous tower blocks.
Mordor, by all accounts, does sound awful.
“I traveled to Mordor for every single day for almost four years, to Domaniewska St. You would basically have thousands of people going to work, simultaneously. The metro would be full, the buses would be full. All of the routes would be overcrowded,” says Majer.
Inspired by this, and Tolkien, they wrote a song about a never-ending journey – with, cleverly, no chorus – however their main bugbear was ‘corpo-language’ so they started writing songs in the weird garbled Polish-English (‘ASAP’, ‘networkingować’) that dominates industry conversation.
In ‘Korpogadka’, one verse alone reels off a hybrid language of ‘tasks, deadlines, errors, ASAP, brainstorming and performance’.
I ask Majer and his bandmate, Hubert Mikulicz, what they find most problematic about Mordor life. Overwhelmingly, it’s the way that the corporate world takes over people’s lives.
Both Majer and Mikulicz started off their careers in other areas, but the corporate world inevitably pulled them in. Mikulicz was a scientist, but research doesn’t really pay dividends in Poland; while Majer started off in a normal company in Kraków, before having to make the strategic move to Warsaw.
“It’s natural that you have a corporation lifestyle that you are involved in and it’s good that people are living better,” says Majer.
“But I see a lot of people being dragged into something that is very bad, and I have been there. Meaning, that the corporation makes you work very hard on something that you don’t necessarily much have control over. That's why big companies tend to have all of these perks around the job itself – so that they don’t need to leave the building.”
I say that I find the fact that they can be so candidly and self-referentially pejorative about corporate life, while still working in it, incredible. In other countries, where the ideology of corporate life goes much deeper, it’s hard to imagine you’d be allowed to publicly riff off of your work life without any consequences.
“Well, I think in Poland we’re not so embedded in corporate life, and because we have that contrast from what was before, we are more inclined to see the absurdity of it all. To us, it’s all still pretty funny,” says Majer.
In this way, then, Mordorsi follow in the long-established tradition of Polish cabaret social critique which tends to cast an ironic eye over social change. After centuries of upheaval, Poles tend to have an irony and self-reflexivity about the world they live in – ultimately everything is a little bit weird
So what is the key then to happiness in the corporate world? For Mordorsi, starting a band seemed to do the trick.
“Honestly, if I didn’t have a band, I’m not sure I’d want to get out of bed in the morning,” says Majer, "It gives me energy'.
"You need something outside of your work life to inspire you. Otherwise you can really get pulled in, and then, it's hard to get out."