The Shit Life Of Former Mayhem Vocalist Sven Erik “Maniac” Kristiansen
The Shit Life Of Former Mayhem Vocalist Sven Erik “Maniac” Kristiansen
PAST INTENSE // When a band is called Skitliv (shit life), you can hardy expect bubble gum pop music. Their debut album “Skandinavisk Misantropi”, however, is next level shit – so dark, it may cause self-destructive behavior and long-lasting feelings of emptiness and frustration. A true masterpiece, created by none other than Sven Erik Kristinansen aka Maniac, former vocalist of black metal legends Mayhem.
His accomplices are the notorious Niklas Olsson, better known as Kvarforth of Shining, and three equally infamous guest vocalists: Attila Csihar of Mayhem and SUNN O))), David Tibet of Current 93 and former Gorgoroth singer Gaahl aka Kristian Espedal of Gaahls Wyrd. Back in 2009 when the album was released AS LONG AS IT’S BLACK spoke to Maniac about his, well, shit life.
How and when was Skitliv born?
Skitliv was born in 2005. I had been out of Mayhem for about a year. I was thinking around that time that I would not get involved in any bands ever again. But at the same time I was making music and writing a lot. I wanted it to be much calmer than anything I did with Mayhem, but as the songs evolved they turned into much of the same monsters that dwelt within me, except that this time I was doing everything myself, and in a way that suited me better. I figured I would need members for the band and Ingvar was the first one to join. I have been working on different levels of Skitliv since then, and now it’s time for the debut album.
“My life was truly shit”– Maniac // Skitliv (2009)
Why did you choose this band name?
At that time life was truly shit and it suited me perfectly to have this name. It means shit-life in Norwegian.
What does Skitliv mean to you personally?
Skitliv is a way for me to express myself and to release much of my aggression. At the same time it’s a very introverted band. For me the whole concept of Skitliv is very personal and I really prefer not to explain too much about it. It’s a slow monster of sorts…
There is an accordion player on the cover. Why?
Let’s just say it’s my Nietzschean way of reflecting on how institutionalized Christianity views life.
“Skandinavisk Misantropi” turned out to be one of the most disturbing and dark recordings ever. Premeditated?
Like I said, it sounded very different at the very beginning, but it kept coming at me from all angles and I just could not deny all this frustration and anger and disillusionment, and sometimes gloom, the right to have a say in what I was doing. I guess, in many ways, this has become a canvas of my feelings through the last years and I’m very happy to have it out. Maybe life is disturbing?
“I do what I feel like, and if anyone finds that– Maniac // Skitliv (2009)
irritating I could not really give a flying fuck.”
Skitliv seems to be an anti-band and your live performances are anything but ordinary. Do you set out to irritate your audience?
but we always leave room for improvisation, and I like the surprise part of it. It’s sometimes difficult for us to play live since Kvarforth now lives in Sweden, but eventually we have to take this beast on the road. I don’t set out to irritate my audience, but I do what I feel like, and if anyone finds that irritating I could not really give a flying fuck. This is my band.
In order to be able to make such music, do you believe it is necessary to feel the way the music sounds?
Yes, I believe this is very necessary. In order to keep it real. All aspects of Skitliv are just different variations of what moves within me. This is one way I have of expressing myself and it is very important for me to keep it real.
What are Skitliv’s primary subject matters?
Disillusionment. Despair. Love. Anger. Hate. Benediction. Logic. Yes. Logic. Commentaries on colors. And the view from somewhere close.
You teamed up with Niklas Kvarforth. Are you friends? How can one imagine this collaboration?
We are very close friends. We used to hate each other. He ended up living with me in Oslo for a while and we just kept turning out songs and commentaries. We have very different, but also very similar, ways of seeing things. To understand it I think people should just listen to the album.
”Lately I have realized that my mind actually works the same way, drugs or not.”– Maniac // Skitliv (2009)
The first Skitliv release was entitled “Amfetamin”. In a previous interview Niklas admitted to have written songs for Skitliv under the influence of the drug. Were drugs an important tool during the recording and writing process?
It used to be a big part of it. Part of our drug-induced daily life. About the effect of being awake for days on end and what it does to your mind. Reality comes really fucking close and that can be a rather scary, but also enjoyable, experience. Lately I have realized that my mind actually works the same way, drugs or not.
What else influenced you?
My whole experience of life, including philosophy, art and the music of geniuses like David Tibet and others. It is very hard to put your finger exactly on what inspires you. It’s everything from what I see on the news, to what I feel on really diseased mornings. The small in the great.
Attila Csihar supposedly accidentally stopped by your studio and spontaneously contributed to the song “ScumDrug”. Is it true? What happened?
Attila had been kind enough to lay down some vocals on the song “Amfetamin”. I know him and we are good friends. This time he was supposed to be playing somewhere with Mayhem but it got cancelled and he was at a loose end, so he ended up doing vocals on the track “ScumDrug” on the upcoming album. He’s such a great vocalist and I know exactly how to make use of his voice in Skitliv.
Also, Gaahl did some vocal work on “Hollow Devotion”. How did this come about?
I just asked him. He came to my place and laid down one vocal line for “Hollow Devotion”.
And last but not least: When did you meet David Tibet? How did the very scary and very amazing “Towards The Shores Of Loss” emerge?
I have been a fan of David for many, many years. Some years ago I met up with him in London. For tea, actually. We became very good friends. I really wanted him to guest on the album and when I heard the track Kvarforth had been working on I just knew that this was the track. He recorded it in England I was extremely pleased when I heard it. It just adds another dimension to the song. It’s actually a very straightforward track but in its final version it becomes eerie and otherworldly and very, very angry. Working with David was an honor for me. He is such a dedicated artist and very aware on how he wants things. A true professional. And a true artist.
Apart from Skitliv you are currently working on various other projects: One with Andrew Liles and Czral, another one called Sehnsucht. How do they differ in perspective, atmosphere and, of course, musically?
Maniac/Liles/Czral came about when I went to Heptonstall to finish the mastering for Skitliv with Liles. I brought with me an old DAT-tape of recordings that Czral and I had made many years previously. Liles enjoyed it so much that we finished the album there and then. It’s a weird piece of music and I think it will surprise quite a few people.
I really enjoy working with Liles so I also asked him to join Sehnsucht. It’s a band that I decided to start in order to have a vehicle that would allow me a very different way of expression. I have always liked a very broad variety of music and I have to have different ways of making music. The band is myself, with Vivian Slaughter, Ingvar and Liles. It’s very hard to explain what it sounds like. It will also feature David Tibet on vocals. The album is called “Wüste”.
How do you know which one of your projects you’ll use ideas or melodies that you come with for?
It’s difficult sometimes, but on the whole the difference between the bands is so vast that I usually know immediately. It’s all different parts of me. Apart form which; with Skitliv I work closely with Kvarforth on developing my main ideas.
What are your plans for Skitliv?
I want to tour with Skitliv as soon as it’s possible. Playing live is a great experience. I have started to write new songs for Skitliv, and of course I want to release another album, but all in due time. There’s also a thoroughly fucked up Skitliv video on the steps to contemporary hell.
Are there any contemporary artists you would like to suggest?
Andrew Liles, David Tibet, Steven Stapleton, Mayhem. A Norwegian band called Thule. Bjarne Melgaard, Thomas Ligotti, Slagmaur, Episode 13, Nattefrost, Shining. To name but a few. As far as literature goes, I still tend to read older stuff. My favourite book still is “The Waste Land”.
Are you familiar with the Oslo based artist and writer Matias Faldbakken and his books “Scandinavian Misanthropy I – III”?
I am very familiar with these books and I love them. But I had the title long before I knew of the books. Coincidence.