Maniac: My last years with Mayhem (Part 2)

For 13 years, Sven-Erik "Maniac" Kristiansen was the undisputed front-man of the legendary black-metal band Mayhem. It’s all over now; no more recordings with Mayhem, no more concerts and no more tours. In this second instalment of our Maniac profile, Kristiansen tells his story on the difficult split with the band, how it felt to see Mayhem live with the band’s new vocalist Attila Csihar and how becoming a father gave him a new perspective on a life that for years was inextricably linked to heavy drinking.

Maniac på scenen - Inferno 2004 (Foto: Maia Drachensteen)

Written by Knut Steen

Kristiansen explains that the decision to quit Mayhem has been a difficult one to make, but also a necessary step to take. Despite officially quitting the band on 17 November last year, Kristiansen is still very satisfied with what the years as a vocalist and lyricist have brought him: “The role as Mayhem’s front-man has been incredibly rewarding but it has also drained me physically and mentally while on tour. When it was decided that we would increase our touring schedule in the future, it added to the list of reasons for quitting the band” says Kristiansen who’s also struggled with King Alcohol. Today the scarred vocalist is dry, but this has not always been the case.

Waking up on the fourth floor
“I’ve never been that kind of guy that would sit at home and hurt myself, but life with Mayhem has at times also been extreme off-stage. The reason for my current übermillitant relation to alcohol was a scary experience that happened after years of daily drinking. Often, I’d just be waiting for the first bar to open and then it would be the same story all over again. One day I came to my senses hanging from one arm out of a fourth floor window – it was the wake-up call I needed. I had no idea how I ended up there and that scared the shit out of me. After that incident I haven’t drunk a drop of alcohol.”

Family & barbed wire
“I have two children, a daughter from a previous relationship and a son with my girlfriend Hilma – they are my most prized possessions in life. Hilma made me realise that if I didn’t cut down on my drinking, things would go seriously wrong. Initially, the role of being a father was kind of surreal for me, but as time goes on it has become more and more important for me to be there for them when they grow up. My attitude to Mayhem hasn’t changed but I’m much more conscious on what I expose myself to. I’ve become less destructive” Kristiansen says reflectively.

Through his lyrics, Kristiansen has never tried to conceal his hatred for organised religion and, in particular, Christianity. Few would have guessed that Kristiansen would end up with a Christian girl from Norway’s southern bible-belt district. How has it been to have such fundamentally opposing stances? After all, your past is full of offensive lyrics that convey your hatred for Christianity and Christians.

“He, he... it’s been ok, we don’t argue much about those issues. Of course, we’ve had objective and controlled discussions, but Hilma has never tried to convert me and I certainly haven’t tried to covert her either. For her, the worst part has been the tours when she has no idea what’s happening to me for up to six weeks. Mayhem tours are full of surprises and it’s probably easier to live with me now that I’m not trapped in barbed wire at a stage somewhere in a country far away.”

Into the great void
You say that your attitude towards Mayhem hasn’t changed – won’t life be dull now that you don’t have that outlet anymore? What can replace the adrenaline-rush that a dedicated audience can give to a band like Mayhem?

Kristiansen turns silent for a while. He looks down at the table, scratches his neck and looks to the interviewer while shrugging his shoulders.

“I’ve asked myself that question over and over again during the last two months. I can’t find any answer to it. I’ve bid farewell, but at the same time there’s something inside me that can’t reconcile with the fact that it’s actually true. The paradox is that even if I’ve quit the band I’m writing more material now that ever before. I’ve got tons of lyrics that would have been perfect for Mayhem now. Quitting the band has probably made me more conscious and given me more control over my own psyche. But still, this is going to be hard – no doubt about it” says a saddened Kristiansen.

Satisfied with Attila
“I saw a Mayhem-gig at Hamar recently, and it was a true out-of-your-body experience. I haven’t seen Mayhem as an audience member since 1988, so it was pretty emotional at the same time as it was good to see that the band performed so well with Attila. I shook their hands afterwards.”

What do you think of the band’s choice of ex. Tormentor/Aborym singer who did the vocals on ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ as your successor?

“It was fantastic to hear the title track from that record live for the firs time. Attila is the only vocalist I’d be happy with, he was a natural choice. But Mayhem will probably have to omit many songs from their live set now – “Grand Declaration of War” will probably fall out of the set now. I’m looking forward to the release of the new album, my guess is that Mayhem will sound a bit more atmospheric in the future” says Kristiansen.

Who are the new bad guys?
Black metal has been an epoch-making genre, do you see any other current forms of music that carry the same level of revolt, or is black metal in your opinion the last extreme musical and lyrical uprising?

“It’s difficult to say. These days I listen mostly to 80’s extreme-metal, but I’ve come to realise that some of the industrial stuff released some years ago might have been just as path-breaking as black-metal has been. Bands such as Death in June, Lustmord, Der Blutharsch, NON and Clood Axis have also managed to provoke loads of people with rabid lyrics. It’s not that these bands have so much in common with black-metal as it is the misanthropy and contempt of humanity that’s on display. On a musical level there are a couple of punk bands such as World Burns To Death and Skitsystem that are interesting. It’s extreme, ugly and tough as nails” says Kristiansen who also reveals that he has spent the downtime between gigs and tours to study philosophy and music.
His studies can come in handy now that he for the very first time is about to join the ranks of employees working an ordinary full-time job.

“Working nine to five isn’t something that’s natural for me, so I really don’t know what kind of job I’ll end up with” says Kristiansen who reveals that he has sent job applications to a number of Norwegian music-related companies. He refuses to name any of them.

Punk and country
In the meantime, his new punk outfit Bomberos is his main outlet for lyrical and creative needs.

“Since the tunes are so short I’ve got to write lots of lyrics. But it’s fun and definitely something that I’ll continue doing. In addition to Hinkel on Guitar and Pete (Blood Tsunami) on bass we’ve recruited Bård “Faust” Eithun on drums – we’ll migh be putting out more material that the two singles we’ve released so far. Apart from that project, Neddo (Cadaver) and I might get together to play some country tunes.”

The years with Mayhem are definitely a thing of the past for Maniac, and this is a fact that the fans would have to accept. But will we ever see him on a stage in a metal-setting in the future after such a difficult split with his former band?

“Well, I don’t’ feel that I’m done with this genre yet. It’ll take some time to find somebody to play together with, but if it happens I can promise you that it’ll be a fucking old-school, total regressive necro package recorded in minus-mono” Kristiansen concludes.

The final words of this interview come from one of Norwegian black-metal’s true veterans and a person for whom Kristiansen has the highest respect, Gylve Fenris Nagell of Darkthrone:

For me, Maniac was a familiar name as long back as in 1987 when his eminent DAMAGE INC magazine was one of the first underground fanzines that I would buy. He would also do the vocals on what is for me the most important Mayhem album – ‘Deathcrush’ – that was totally insane.

Then he disappeared for some time, but came crashing back to the black-metal scene in 1994 at the height of the turbulent times. Couldn’t have been easy to do that! It could be that he never found his place in Mayhem, but that was never the intention, was it? That such a turbulent band has been one of the most tenacious black-metal bands is nothing short of a wonder – they are the only band to outlive Darkthrone, despite touring massively.

Lately, we’ve been having more contact than ever before, and I bet that both Maniac and Mayhem will survive anything.


Gylve Fenris Nagell

This interview originally appeared at MIC’s Norwegian site and has been translated.

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