Name: Maniac / Sven Erik Kristiansen
Nationality: Norwegian
Occupation: Vocalist
Current release: Fearenze LP, a collaboration between Andrew Liles and Maniac, is out now on Archaeological.
Recommendations: Ludwig Wittgenstein “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”; The Beatles “With The Beatles”

If you enjoyed this interview with Sven Erik Kristiansen aka Maniac, check out our Andrew Liles interview, his collaborator on Fearenze.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

In 1985/86. Early influences for starting to do music was Mayhem, Hellhammer and Necrophagia. Before I heard their first demos music was of course a huge part of my life but those were the ones that got me started on my own path. It was the ability to escape a most unwelcome reality that made music so important to me and to enter a most welcome reality.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

There was not much to emulate in the genre I started out in. The process of writing lyrics and songs is an ever ongoing process that can never come full circle. As time went by inspiration widened and came from many many places and still does.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

My non-entity kind of feeling engulfs pretty much everything I do. My music is me. It is merely a different shade of death. A path to the great disintegration.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Lack of equipment to get the sounds that are actually in my head, or the search for such equipment. Still pretty much the same. I always search for words, sentences and sounds. As one grows older the flame increases as does the palette.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

In the beginning I played a little guitar but my main tool was the microphone and the pen. Then that got boring and a never ending search for all kinds of stuff that made sound started. I also went back to the guitar. I used to work a lot with tape machines.  Now my main instruments are still my voice, with the addition of my guitars and my Eurorack. I guess I chose the guitar because you can do unlimited things with a guitar if you have the imagination.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Not really. But as digital recording took over completely it made me question if I still wanted to do music. I miss tape machines and gigantic mixers and the presence of analogue sound.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

Talking about ideas is always good. If it is a band: rehearsing is an absolute necessity. File sharing is easy and cold. I prefer to do work together physically as far as that is possible. There are only a few people I want to work with these days and I am in the process of working with all three of them.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Coffee, always coffee. Then the day shall unfold as it is given. I do not have routines outside of my regular job. Then I discuss ideas with my 7 year old daughter, hehe. Not much to say here. These days it just an endless blur of corona news anyway …

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Recording Deathcrush, Vecause it was my first, It holds a very special place for me because it started everything. Then the first Skitliv album because it proved I could do music alone, and to prove that I could do so much more than cut myself on stage, apparently a lot of people seem to think that is all I did. Cunts. Wacken 2004 with Mayhem. Playing with Risa (Gallhammer) in Tokyo.

Apart from this, a small concert in a church with Liles holds a very special place in my heart.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I wish I could have an ideal state of mind. I am way too restless. I can never plan to work with music and lyrics. I have to do it when my mind boils over. I always found it very hard to work at set times in a studio without the help of amphetamines, which seems to be the only thing that makes me calm. However these days I don`t do drugs so my work is very erratic. I wish I had Nietzsche`s ability to work no matter what. Now I just have to follow my erratic mind.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

Too numerous to mention. I can only quote Nietzsche here: “Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum”.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

For me there is no limit. What would hip-hop be without Kraftwerk? Or Slayer without Chuck Berry? Or Can without Stockhausen and Funk?

As for symbols: The lines are blurred as time goes by … But personally it would make no sense to me to use symbols that are very far from my own culture. That said: art should provoke, stir emotions and never dull the senses.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

To see and hear Iron Maiden, or any other splendid heavy metal band live in the early 80`s and feel every hair on your body risen to salute the universe: that is a feeling that I shall probably never experience again. The body was like one unified organism. As one grows older one gets quite bourgeoisie in the abyss after a while and the senses gets dulled. Yet one strives to get back.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

My life would be a rather empty place without music, art, philosophy and music. My approach is that I always have music in my head and I always look upon nature with a very sensitive approach even though sometimes it all just seems very futile and useless when existential questions loom. But then it falls back to the very point that without gods and religions this is what makes life worth living to its full extent.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Everything that can`t be said. Which I believe is a lot.

“Es gibt allerdings Unaussprechliches. Dies zeigt sich, es ist das Mystische”. –Wittgenstein.